Archive for January 23, 2011

Everytime I think that I have this marathon thing figured out, it seems like a new challenge rears its head.

After a great run on Saturday, 11 miles at 6:53 pace all that was left on the schedule was my final 20-mile training run.

After that workout we would be taking it easy this week leading up to next Sunday’s 3M Half-Marathon and then a three-week taper to race day at Austin on February 20th.

I hydrated well after my run on Saturday, took it easy hanging around the house with Dawn, Kayla and Landry, made a nice dinner and got to bed early.  I couldn’t wait for that alarm to sound at 4:30 a.m.  The start of the last real test of this training cycle.

To be honest 20-milers do not put the fear in me like they did when I first started running marathons.  A few years ago each 20-mile run was more or less like its own race day.

In hindsight, I really was making too much out of them.  17,18,19,20 – after a certain point they are all pretty much the same.  But we love round numbers as runners and there is something special about the 20-miler from a mental standpoint when training for a marathon.  Ironically if I were a marathoner in Canada or Internationally, 20-miles would not mean a thing.

I would be running kilometers instead of miles.  Topping out at perhaps an entirely different “round number”.  30 Kilometers perhaps?  18.6 miles.  Or perhaps a long run of 35 Kilometers or 21.7 miles.

At around 2:30 a.m. I woke up to some tummy troubles.  Just a lot of gas or discomfort I thought.  I would be fine as soon as I got out there for my final tough training run.


I went through my morning ritual of stretching, dressing for the elements, loaded up my hydra-belt with water and Gatorade and packed my nutrition for the run.  Two packages of Clif Shot Bloks.  I strapped my Garmin to my wrist, fired up my headlamp and hit the road.  In 2 1/2 hours or so we would be pulling up to the house a “fully trained” marathoner.

I struggled to find my grove almost immediately and even though I ran my opening mile at exactly the pace I was hoping for, down to the very last second in fact, I knew my body was not in good shape.  Something was going on with my gastrointestinal tract and I had no idea how I was going to make it through 19 more miles.

I have been in tough spots before and have always found a way to press on.  In fact I take great pride in the fact that I have never walked off of a race course or a training run.


At mile 2 last night’s dinner made a return appearance.  The remainder of it would show up at mile 8.  I kept holding out hope that the worst was behind me and that I would be able to tough it out and complete my 20 mile run.  But one of the things that I am most proud of over the past year plus is being in tune with my body.

I know when I can push, when I have to back off and how to stay healthy and injury free.

As the miles continued to tick slowly by I could not bring myself to take any of my gels.  Just the thought of doing so made me feel incredibly nauseous.

I rallied a bit at mile 16 feeling as if I can do anything for 4 miles, but as mile 18 approached I was done.

My form was starting to fall off and I simply was not well.  Time to punt.

I slowed to a walk and wrapped up the run at 18 miles.  2 hours, 19 minutes, 11 seconds.

I can’t tell you what hurt worse.  The pain in my abdomen or the fact that I had given up.

Afterall, I would be the first one to tell you that I am a firm believer in the axiom Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

To make matters even a bit worse I am reading a book right now about Steve Roland Prefontaine – titled simply “Pre”.

I have long admired Pre’s tenacity and competitiveness as a distance runner.  One of my favorite running shirts is adorned with a long ago recited quote from Pre that reads:

“I am going to work so that it’s a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I’m the only one that can win it”.

Ironically Tuesday morning would be Pre’s 60th birthday.  It is hard to escape the irony of the situation as I train to run the best marathon I have ever run before in memory of Dom and his fight against cancer, that I had to give up just two miles short on my final training run.

Feeling especially sorry for myself I crawled back into bed when another wave of whatever is wrong with me washed over me.  A final (I hope) trip to the bathroom made me feel just a bit better ironically.  I’m not sure that I should be too hard on myself after everything that I dealt with this morning.

Perhaps this was just the reminder that I needed that none of this is supposed to be easy.  It’s the “hard” that makes it great.

Dom, I’m sorry buddy.  I told myself and you that I would run each and every mile of this training program like I would never run again.  That I would leave nothing to chance.  That come February 20, 2011 we would be as sharp as ever.  Ready to run a tremendous race in your honor.

Fact is I owe you those two miles.  I’ll be sure to make that deposit before race day.