Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marathon As a Metaphor

This past Saturday I ran the Utah Valley Marathon. That is marathon number five for all of you who are counting out there. Leading up to this race, I thought I was feeling pretty good. I did a moderate amount of training, had incorporated more strength training, and had a few good long runs in preparation up to the marathon.

***If you want to skip race specifics, then skip down to the next set of asterisks.

For some reason I kind of took the last few weeks off during the taper. Part of it was our trip up to Vancouver over Memorial day weekend. Most of it was probably me just wanting to be done with the schedule. I just had had enough with the rigors of always feeling like I had to work out and do more.

So as the last week arrived before the marathon, I, of course, wanted to partly make-up for the lost fitness, so I went back to my normal Monday work-out, although I did cut-down on the weights and reps I was doing, and the length and intensity of the run following. But even that proved too much. I kind of shredded my calves and they ended up being sore the next 5 days, and sore enough on the day of the marathon that I knew within the first ten minutes of running that race that I would not be having a PR kind of day.

The Utah Valley Marathon is a really good race. It's well-organized. The expo was small, but seemed to have some nice booths as I quickly passed through it while picking up my packet. The parking was easy for the shuttle buses up to the start. The major downside was that they were leaving at about 3:30 AM. Yikes. I knew I would have a tough time sleeping, but this made what little rest I got even shorter than what I would have liked.

I got in bed just before midnight, but laid there until at least 1 AM before I ever fell asleep, then woke up at 2:11 AM, only to fall asleep intermittently until about 3 when I just decided it was time to get up.

The temperature for the race was pretty close to perfect, about 70 degrees or so. The only thing I didn't like was the strong headwind while running through the canyon, which is about 9 miles in the middle of the race.

The course, however, was beautiful. The start is up past Wallsberg, UT, which is beyond the Deer Creek Reservoir. We started at six and ran with the sunrise peaking over the rolling hills. The course is mostly downhill, but not as steep as Deseret News, so that was really nice.

I was running pretty well in the beginning. I had a 7:30 min/mi pace for the first 8 or so miles, and then started to slow down as I started to approach Provo Canyon. My left knee started feeling pretty tender, which has never been a problem for me, so I thought it might be a result of my shifting my running because of the soreness in my calves. I think my running mechanics shifted a bit to compensate, and I feel confirmed in that thought because the knee doesn't hurt at all.

By mile 18 or so, I was feeling very fatigued, my legs just worn out completely. It didn't feel like a fueling problem. It just felt like a pure fatigue problem. My first half marathon split was 1:48, which was only 2 minutes off of my St. George pace, which was also my best marathon. The big difference being that my second half of St. George was actually four minutes faster than the first half, while this second half was 20 minutes longer than the first. Fatigue.

***Marathons always have a way of making me feel grateful. I went on at length about my experience in my first marathon in Chicago, and how grateful I just felt for Dave and Caitlin that came to support, random people who cheer along the course, and all of the wonderful volunteers who help out.

This time around, I was really feeling it for my wife, Amy. I first saw her at around mile 13, and she made the effort to drive down the canyon and meet me several more times along the way to cheer me on. I saw my sister-in-law Elisha running back along the course to support her friend and run with her to the end, and I saw Amy at the end with her brother Scott.

Marathons are hard. They're long, and they take months of preparation, and even then, sometimes you're still not entirely ready. It turns out marathons are really, really long. Dumb things can mess up a race. Last year it was just a super steep drop in elevation, and this year it was probably just working out a little too hard, too late in my preparation for the marathon. I ended up running just barely under 4 hours. I walked a lot at the end.

From the very start of the race I had a really hard time not thinking negative thoughts about how I was feeling. Part of me wanted to quit, and in these last two marathons in particular, it's taken a lot for me to not just want to give up. The novelty of getting through a race is lost on me now. I've run five of these. I'm getting to be kind of a vet with these things, so it turns out that isn't any kind of motivation for me to do these anymore.

The thing that has gotten me through these last couple of races, however, is just the thought that I know my wife wants to see me finish. I know that she will always support me, even 6 months pregnant, by herself, and at early hours on a Saturday morning, to drive along canyon and yell for me encourage me to go on. I can hear the emotion in her voice every time she yells for me, and that becomes enough fuel for me to finish even when it feels impossible to pick-up my leaden thighs and trudge another step towards the finish line.

And that's the difference now. I'm married to the sweetest person I know, and she will always cheer me on and want me to succeed, even if I no longer want to do it for myself, because the luster of just finishing for my own purposes is no longer as vibrant, but if it's her expectation that I make it, well, then I guess that's just what I'll do. Sometimes that means finishing another mile when you've already run 25.2 of them.

I went into this race thinking that I would take a long break from marathon running, but not even a day later, I started thinking about other races that I would like to run. I'll probably take this next year off from doing another marathon, but I know I'll be back. Not even three days later and I think I can run again already. And I'm actually even excited about it. We'll see.


Amy Silva said...

I sure am lucky to be married to you!

Laura said...

Congrats in #5!!

Sarah Walton said...

It was interesting to read this, having just ran my first race that same day:) I can't ever imagine running a marathon though!! You are quite amazing:)

Lisa said...

It really is amazing. Great to hear the story, Chris.

Charlotte Bennett said...

Clicked over here to see if you still kept this blog and noticed the "marathon" link. I'm glad I fell upon it. Great entry. Made me miss talking training back in the day. I signed up for St. George after weeks of telling Aaron I'm not going to do marathons again. I can't help myself! We'll see how post-baby racing goes. Maybe I'll catch Boston someday.