Gut Check Time – Two Miles Owed

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Training
Tags: , ,

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.

  1. ally says:

    youll get your 2 miles, I am totally amazed you did 18 feeling like that

  2. kym klass says:

    Smartest thing was listening to your body. You know that. I hope things ease up a bit today for you, and that this stomach issue doesn’t linger. Sorry for the run — but 18 is a pretty proud accomplishment considering how ill you felt. Most people would have stopped at 2. Or 10. Or long before you did.

  3. tbrush3 says:

    The fact that you went as long as you did feeling how you felt showed all the guts it takes and it is why you are as prepared for this marathon as you are. Way to hang friend.

  4. Jodi Higgins says:

    First of all you didn’t quit. You made the right decision for your body and mind. 18 miles during which you “tossed your cookies” twice is certainly NOT quitting!! If I remember correctly, when you designed your training plan you had no plans of “tacking one on” as often as you have been so as I see it, you are not two miles short and Dom knows that and he would have been so very proud of you today! Rest well and hydrate my friend!!

  5. Wow! First, I can’t believe you made it through 18 miles with the stomach flu! Really. It’s not like a cold, where you just feel crappy – stomach issues are the absolute worst. You should be proud of doing what you did! Now rest up, and take care of yourself!

  6. Matt says:

    You shouldn’t have anything to feel bad about. You toughed it out with GI issues, wow you are strong. Hope you are feeling better soon.

  7. Brendan says:

    You’ll make Dom proud on Feb 20th!

  8. Laura Scholz says:

    I know how you feel, because I am equally stubborn and also run for a cause bigger than myself. I ran my first marathon with stomach troubles that started around Mile 15. I puked, ran, walked my way through the last 11 miles. A lot of people wondered why I couldn’t quit. Honestly, if it were for myself, I wouldn’t.

    But you were doing a training run. And an important one, psychological, yet really, no different that the dozens of runs you’ve done in prep for your race. I can’t believe you gutted it out that long–and yet, I can. But don’t beat yourself up over two miles, than over several hundred, make you no more or less prepared than you were 24 hours ago. That marathon is yours, and Dom will be proud.

  9. You’re focusing on the wrong thing. Should be proud of the fact that you made it 18 miles in such a condition, not that you didn’t make it 20. Every runner has to pull out of a run once in a while due to circumstances beyond your control. Your training has been stellar to date, this “rounding error” run will do nothing to hurt that. Good luck next weekend!

  10. Oh boy Joe! I saw this on DM but wanted to wait until I had time to read the full post. Well, you sure left your guts out there on that run…no one can say you did anything except your very best. I sure hope you’re not saying that. Better this happened during training than during the race. Better this happened than an injury that would have prevented you from racing. Those two miles were run in your mental fortitude and your listening to your body. I hope I have as much courage when I run my very first 20 miler.

  11. onelittlejill says:

    You know as well as anyone that listening to your body is the smartest and right decision. And that the smart and right decisions are usually the hardest to make in the first place. You’ll make it up and you’ll be posting in that glory soon enough 🙂

  12. Lara says:

    Hi Joe,

    I just read through all the comments and am glad to see people calling you on your stuff! You needed to stop running, obviously. It had NOTHING to do with your strength, stamina, will-power or desire. You do NOT owe Dom 2 miles; you owe him your best, and your best will ALWAYS be good enough. The miles are by-products and not even worth mentioning. You KNOW that there are things outside your control, and this was one of them. Your training has gone so well, and it will continue to go well, as long as you listen and heed. So get off your back, and rest. You’ll run when you’re ready.
    Your friend,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s