Friday, April 18, 2008

Retrospective: Marathons of 1997


11 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the year I expected to PR. I decided to repeat the same three marathons as I had run the year before: Pineline, Grandmas and Twin Cities.

My first race of the year was the Winter Carnival, I had a good day a 1:47:56 1/2 marathon which was 2 minute improvement from the year before. I then ran the St. Pat's 8k in 35:55 a PR for that event.

I continued to train and expected a good day at the Pineline. I had gone over with a buddy and our goal was to run a leisurely long training run that would be part of our base build-up for Grandmas. The year before at the Pineline was close to a complete disaster, look for my recap of that event in the near future.

Well, the day threw a twist at us, we got to run the entire race against a 15-20 mph head wind as back then it was a point to point. I was still happy with my time a 4:29 marathon. I don't know how many runners run the Pineline today but that year there were probably only 50 or so marathoners. The one thing about the headwind which was kind of entertaining at least in hindsight was I had this woman right on my heels for what seemed like forever. I couldn't figure out why she was on my heals, then after at least 3+ miles it occurred to me, she was using me to break the wind. I am 6'1", so I think I did a fair job for her. To cap off my day, I ate some oranges and they completely upset my stomach so on the drive home, I had to stop and throw up. I hate throwing up. To this day, if I see an orange at a running event, I decline.

My next race was the New Prague 1/2 marathon about 5 weeks ahead of Grandma's, it was another PR of 1:44:59 (still my 1/2 PR). I was ready, one or two more long runs, a taper and I was set to break 4.

I got to Duluth and was ready, it seemed perfect at the start, not even cold like it had been in years past, I didn't even need sweats before the race. The race began and I started clicking off 8:45 miles, it was my day (or so I thought). I was sweating a bit more than normal but figured it was no big deal until around mile 13 or so when I came around a corner and got a cold breeze off of Superior. I thought to myself that felt great. No problem as I like hot weather, I grew up in it, I would be fine. Keep the peddle down and git er done.

Great plan, until I cramped up at mile 21 and then hobbled my way to the finish. My time ended up being a 4:33:26 and I was a bit out of it as well. I remember my in-laws being at the finish and that I tried to hurry out of Canal park. I didn't quite make it, I ended up making it about 50 feet before I had to lay down on a bench in the shade. It took me awhile before I could walk out. A very disappointing day.

Twin Cities
The summer continued, my next race was the Apple Valley 5 miler, I ran another PR of 35:40. I had recovered from Grandmas and was back on track. I then ran the Highland Fest 10k in early August in 46:40, not a PR for the 10k but an ok day. Followed by a 2:09:49 PR at the City of Lakes 25k. A sub 4 at TCM just might happen.

The day of the race arrived and it was going to be hot. What to do, I made the only choice I could, go for the sub 4, Grandmas was a fluke. All went ok until shortly after I took a GU at mile 14 or 15, within a few minutes, I had severe stomach cramps. I couldn't run, I felt like I was going to throw up. I had stopped sweating, I walked for a few minutes, tried to run, doubled up. My race had fallen apart. I didn't know what to do other than continue, walk, run, double up. Around mile 21, a medical guy on a bike came up and talked with me and asked what was going on. I explained I was having cramps but would make it. The next 5 miles, where an interesting experience and to this day it was this stretch that make it probably the most memorable marathon I have ever done.

At mile 22, you go by St. Thomas University and a lot of the students will come out and watch. I remember two young ladies who called out my number and offered some great encouragement. As I got about 20 feet or so past them, I heard one of the girls say to the other, he looks really bad. I wasn't completely out of it and yelled back, I heard that. They started apologizing but they quickly figured out I was laughing and so they started laughing as well. That helped me get through another 1/4 mile. but the cramps continued, so after St. Thomas, my goal became finish without throwing up in front of people. I continued my crawl to the finish and was in a bit of trouble as I got to mile 25. A medical guy came to check me out, he was walking backwards right in front of me and was trying to get me to make eye contact and to tell him what was going on. He continued to ask me questions but then the girl next to me started throwing up. Thankfully, he went to help her as I think he was about to ask me to leave the course. I was hurting but I still was mostly coherent, as the next thing I heard was that sweet girls boyfriend or husband saying to her as she continued to throw up "hon, you are looking great". If she remembered that, he had to be in trouble.

I tried to get it together as I was at the cathedral and could see the finish, I tried to run, my stomach cramped and I doubled up again. I had to walk down the hill, that is depressing but I didn't want to lose it down the hill, that would have been worse. I made it to the finish in my worse marathon time ever of 4:57:40 (I have since done worse) and yet another medical guy was in my face but a nice young man came stumbling in and he went to help him. I got through the people and proceeded to find a tree and threw up. Wow did that feel good. I proceeded to throw up multiple times and as it turned out I was still about 9-10 lbs lighter, 8 hrs afterwards. Many runners have told me if I had gone to the medical tent and gotten an IV, my recovery would have been much quicker.

1997 did not turn out as planned but to this day it remains my most memorable running year with PRs at many short to middle distances and mostly disasters at the marathon.

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