In Sunday’s Med City Marathon in Rochester, Minn., I did exactly what I promised my wife I’d do. No, I didn’t promise her I’d run my worst marathon ever. I promised her I’d be careful and take care of myself, the same guarantee I give her before every race. This was my 55th lifetime marathon, and they’re still not easy on my body. When the temperature gets up into the mid-80s it can get pretty tough. That’s what happened today, and I did everything but crawl to finish the race.
I knew going in the temperatures were going to be warm. It was in the mid-60s at the start and the forecast called for it to get up towards the high 70s by the time I finished. I’m not sure on the humidity numbers, but I know that came into play, too. The elevation profile on the course looked like something I would run well. Some early rollers, a nice downhill, and then nothing major for the last 15 or so miles. I figured that with good weather, I could challenge for 3:05, so with the warmer temps, I thought I’d be in for a 3:10 to a 3:20.
We took off and I did OK early. It was one of those situations where any little bit my body would give me on the course I gladly took, because I knew it was going to get tough later. But by five miles in, I knew I was going to have a tough day. At that point, both of my feet were numb and I have no idea why. That lasted a good five or six miles.
I did my best to keep my heart rate no higher than 170, but it would spike pretty quickly to about 177 going up hills and I’d struggle to get it down. I knew I couldn’t do that too much, otherwise I’d hit a wall and that’s not something I wanted to do in the heat.
My right leg and hip weren’t hurting (as has been the case recently) in the first half, but I was just slow as I tried to keep my heart rate down. I was told it was 82 degrees two hours in, so I’m guessing it was in the mid-70s for most of the first half.
I hit 13.1 in about 1:41, which is by far the slowest I’ve done lately. I gave up on my 3:15 and 3:20 goals well before that point, and started thinking about staying sub-3:30. I could go 1:49 in the second half to pull that off and I wasn’t worried.
But by mile 15, my hip started to sting a little bit. I had to alter my stride and I was doing an odd combination of a hop and a limp with every step with my right leg. The words I kept thinking over and over again were “death march,” because 3:30 was looking like it was way gone and I started to set my sights on a 3:40. But even at that point, I knew it would be tough.
I was really feeling the effects of the heat. It was absolutely miserable to be out there. It was the worst physical experience I had ever had in a marathon. In 54 previous lifetime marathons, I had never stopped to walk even once, except when I ran with my wife in Long Beach last year and an injury forced her to back off considerably.
But that came to an end about 17.5 miles in, when I took the first of six walk breaks. I always promise my wife I’ll take care of myself during a race. I’m getting used to marathons, and I know what to expect, but even so, they’re hard on the body. I was thinking about her and the kids and I knew I needed to back down and take care of myself.
My 3:40 was long gone and I was shuffling at about 10:30/mile. Considering I ran Fargo last week at a 7:14 pace, that’s incredibly slow for me. At about mile 21, I started doing the math in my head and realized I needed about an 11-minute pace to finish sub-4. I’m chasing sub-3 right now, and I really think I’m getting close. But here I was, doubting I could average 11-minute miles to finish sub-4.
I drank a ton of fluids late and poured a lot of water over my head to try to keep myself cool, but nothing worked. I’d walk, then do my hop-limp shuffle, then walk again. I was able to pick up the pace to sub-9 over the last few miles and it looked like I was going to make sub-4. I really, really didn’t want to miss that.
I was so beat, though, that I even walked after mile 25. I had nothing. But I picked it up and ran the last 0.7 or so and finished, I think, in 3:57:14. Aside from the run with my wife, it was the slowest marathon I’ve run since a 4:06 in my first.
It was 87 degrees at the end and I struggled to catch my breath. It was hot and I felt like I wanted to throw up, but after about 45 minutes, I started to feel a little bit better. I was trying to see how a friend of mine, Lonnie Butler, was doing. It was his first marathon, and he couldn’t have picked a more miserable day.
Me and Lonnie have a lot in common. We’re both former big boys (he topped out at 300 pounds, me at 261) and we both have autistic sons named Jack! He was aiming for somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00, and I was hoping somehow, even though I had a disaster of a day, that he didn’t.
His was even worse, though. When he was in high school, he tore the meniscus in his knee during a basketball game. At mile 11, he heard it crunch and he’s pretty sure he tore his knee up again. He shut it down at 13.1, which was where the finish line was. Lonnie went to the med tent and called it a day. I hope he’s wrong about the knee and he just has some kind of strain. I’ll find out in the next few days, I’m sure.
So, for both of us, it was just a really tough day. Fortunately for me, I can run next weekend. I have no troubles putting this one behind me and I’ll go out and attack that course and aim for a sub-3:10. With 60 races on the schedule, I’m bound to have one (or two or three) like this. So it’s done, time to move on.
27 down, 33 to go!
That was NOT fun.
Me and the Butlers after lunch.