Saturday, June 7, 2008

Retrospective: Marathons of 1998


10 years ago, I ran three marathons and a handful of 1/2's for the year, one of which is still one of my favorites and I got to enjoy a great moment in college basketball.

My first race of the year was the Winter Carnival, I had an ok day a 1:49:04 1/2 marathon which was a couple minutes slower than the year before but it was a beautiful day with a temp of around 20-25F, not bad for February 7th in Minnesota.

The great moment in basketball was Valpo's upset of Ole Miss on a last second shot by Bryce Drew in the NCAA tourney and making the sweet 16. Why did I enjoy it so much, I went to college at Valpo (Valparaiso University) and I met my wife of now 29 years at Valpo. Valpo is a small university (around 3500 students) located in northwestern Indiana about an hour from Chicago.

To digress for a moment, I need to explain how I ended up at Valpo because without a doubt, my decision to go there probably was one of the most significant decisions of my life. When I decided to go to college (senior year - start of 2nd semester - so much for having a good plan), I knew that I wanted to be an Electrical Engineer and growing up in southern Indiana and being a loyal Indiana University fan I had an issue with going to Purdue University. The issue being, I hated Purdue but even I knew that Purdue had a pretty good engineering school (IU does not have engineering). I had thought about Notre Dame (not Catholic, thought you had to be), Rose Hulman (all male at the time, no appeal and known as a hard school) so I had reluctantly decided on Purdue. I applied, got accepted and was planning on attending when my great Uncle Pat asked if I had looked at Valpo.

First of all, I wasn't sure I had ever heard of Valpo and I thought he meant Vincennes University. When I told him that I wanted to be an engineer, he said Valpo had a program and that I should look at. My dad and I drove up to visit both Purdue and Valpo, on the drive up, my dad tried to get me to keep an open mind on both but was more excited about Valpo. I probably wasn't too excited about either. We drove through Purdue and I didn't even want to stop and to talk to anyone, to my surprise my dad was ok with that, so on to Valpo.

When we got to Valpo we stopped by admissions and they said we should go over and visit the Engineering building as the dean would be there and could explain the program and that after we got done to come back and they would answer any questions. I thought it was pretty cool to get to meet the dean and he made me feel welcome. Valpo 1 - Purdue 0, when we drove around the campus, I liked the look and feel of the campus as it felt more like what I could handle, Purdue was big and spread out and seemed intimidating, Valpo 2 - Purdue 0. So back to the admissions person who asked if we had any questions, I didn't but she went through the admissions process and mentioned the student demographic information. That caught my attention, she said the male/female ratio was Female 61%, Male 39%, for those that don't know, Purdue's ratio is more like Male 65%, Female 35%. That made the decision, Valpo wins.....

Ok one more piece of trivia on the miracle finish for Valpo basketball, how did they get a player like Bryce Drew, a Mr basketball of Indiana?. The answer was the coach, his name was Homer Drew, yes, Bryce's father. Anyway back to running in 1998.

My second race of the year was the New Prague 1/2 marathon and all was going well until around mile 7 when I decided to charge up a hill and pass a few folks, I always love to charge up hills and I usually end up regretting it. As I climbed the hill, I felt a relatively sharp pain across the left hip/pelvis. I remember thinking what muscle do I even have there, I also thought that if this pain doesn't go away I will need to throttle it back. Well, I had been running 8 minute miles and I checked my pace at mile 9 and it was a 9 1/2 minute mile. The problem was I hadn't slowed down yet, yes I had pain but I thought I was still going at my 8 minute pace. I struggled through the remaining 4 miles with the pain and a complete disbelief at my pace. I finished with a disappointing 1:53:59 but I was more shocked when I got to my car. I slid into the seat and when I tried to lift my left leg in, it didn't work. I couldn't lift it, I had to use my hands and pick up my leg. Not good.

Med City
I had signed up for the Rochester's Med City Marathon as a tune up (last long run) before Grandmas. The hip/pelvis thing needed to heal quick as Med City was just two weeks after New Prague. I took a few days off and then tried to give it a go on a 5 miler, it hurt but seemed to work. The next day however, I had some pain walking and decided to wait a few more days. So I kind of decided to take it easy until the marathon. No hard workouts.

I loved the start at Med City as we could see the starting line from where we lined up and it took like 5 seconds to get to the line. The Med City course at the time started and finished at Soldiers park, the course was kind of a looping cloverleaf, very flat and relatively fast course with a lot of turns. My plan was go out easy and not hurt the hip, just a nice easy long run. For the first few miles, all went ok and then it started to rain. Not a light misty kind of rain but a full downpour. I remember thinking this is going to make for a long day and then I thought back to the hot marathons of 97 and I decided that this was better. The rain continued to get harder, I remember at one point I could barely see anyone in front of me. I kept going and I was enjoying it more and more. I changed shoes and my shirt at mile 17, it felt great for a mile or so as my shoes felt like they weighed 5 pounds each. Anyway, the miles continued to click by and I ended up finishing a very wet day with a satisfying 4:30:04. Some hip pain at the end but I was able to walk so I thought I had done a very good last run and could challenge a sub4 at Grandma's if the hip held up.

We got to Duluth and my plan was real simple run a conservative pace for the first 1/2 of the race, get to 15 and then crank it up to the finish. A perfect plan, now I just needed to execute. It was a cool day with a light fog at the start. I went out easy and settled into my pace, the miles floated by, the hip was holding around mile 12 a light rain started and I thought oh no, here we go again. Then I remembered I like running in rain, just relax, hold pace and git it done. I started picking up the pace around mile 15, yes work the plan. I was going to do it. Then as I went through 18 and headed off of Highway 61, I had to go up a relatively short hill. I charged up (yes, I know not a good idea). I got through it and continued until I got to 19 and then the hip basically gave out. I wasn't able to get any push off so I was basically running with 1 leg, the left just got dragged along. I decided to just do my best and not worry about the time. I had held my plan and given myself a shot, what more could I ask. My time ended up at 4:17:40 a little disappointing but all in all a good day.

After Grandma's I took a few weeks off to let the hip recover. My next race was the Rosemount Run for the Gold 4 miler at the end of July. I ran it pushing my youngest daughter in a jogging stroller in 30:13, a respectable time and the good news was that the hip seemed ok.

A couple weeks later, I ran the Gopher to Badger 1/2 to work on some mid distance speed and to test the hip. The race started west of Stillwater at a restaurant called the Gausthaus (good german food) and then skirted Stillwater before we crossed over the river into Wisconsin, finishing on the riverfront in downtown Hudson. The plan was to run a conservative early pace and then pick it up. Around 3 miles into the race, the rain and lightning started, it was raining fairly hard and the lightning was pretty intense. I kept thinking, what should we do? Stop or continue, then I thought about the race officials and what could they do? How could they stop a race with runners probably spread out over 3 or 4 miles, what a nightmare for them. I continued but the rain and the wind that developed slowed me a bit and unfortunately I had hip pain throughout. Not good.

My next race was the Woodbury 1/2, it is a somewhat hilly course and it was a warm day. You guessed it I couldn't hold back and went charging up the hills. Hip re-injured, scheduled the Physical Therapy session. I had four weeks to get it working before TCM.

The PT seemed to help but I still had pain when I ran, so what did I do, I signed up for the Ready to Rock 20 miler, I figured I could use it as my last long run for TCM. The day didn't go well, hip pain, hot and humid for MN, I ended up walking the last 3 miles as I was in pain and dehydrated. Again, not good. A few days off and more PT.

Twin Cities
The day was cool and windy and the plan was to go out easy and just get through the day. The hip hurt throughout and I wore the wrong shoes. I wore my comfortable shoes that had 300+ miles on them versus my newer shoes which had around 100 miles. Why, I am not sure but the worn out shoes seemed to amplify the jolt of each step to my hip. I changed shoes at mile 22 and the pain was slightly less the last 4 miles. My time was a 4:45:04, considering everything it wasn't even that disappointing.

1998 is an interesting year to look back on, I ran a lot of races and probably did too many with the hip injury. I ran 2 races in heavy rain and loved both of them. I learned that you need to take what you get for weather and make the best of it. A positive attitude is everything. I would like to say that I learned that you should take time off when injured but I haven't to this day.

I continued PT on the hip throughout Nov/Dec and it ended up causing issues into 99 but not what you might expect.

So look for the 99 retro and you will see where the hip ultimately took me.............

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