Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Portland Marathon 2011
The 40th annual Portland Marathon last weekend was my 21st marathon since 1998 and honestly meant a lot to me. It was less than 11 months ago that my future was very uncertain as I was going through heart surgery. Sure, I knew god had more plans for me, however I didn't know if I would ever swim, bike, and run again. I viewed the Portland Marathon as my chance to finally run a solid race on this course, unfortunately it wasn't my day, although it's this challenge that will drive my motivation this winter to challenge myself as I look forward to IM AZ 2012!
As I began training for the Portland Marathon in July I knew I had a long road and many miles in front of me to get back to where I wanted to be. I was actually surprised after 4 weeks of training just how much fitness I regained. My confidence and fitness continued to build through the training to the point I was running times I ran before heart surgery! I was running more 45-50 mile quality weeks than ever before, so I thought I was really ready to run a solid half marathon in Sandpoint on 9/18 and then I proceeded to go out too fast which lead to me going symptomatic with a heart rate of 182. I also experienced tightness in my right calf that continued through the race. I was disappointed with the results, although I realized this was completely self inflicted. In retrospect I should have rested more right after this race instead of trying to get back to training again.
Unfortunately in the 3 weeks following this race my right calf never recovered even though I tried every treatment approach I knew. I rested, iced, elevated, compressed, used anti-inflammatory meds., aqua jogging and even resorted to the goofy compression sleeve. The week before the marathon I ran 12 miles to test the calf and felt great for 10 miles, but then the calf tightened again. So, I decided to take the entire week off running and aqua jogged/swam before the marathon as I thought it was my only hope of running a solid 26.2 miles.
On marathon morning I actually felt great with no pain or tightness for the first time in 3 weeks! As I arrived at the starting line and saw other Team Blaze members (Daniel, Scott and Gretchen) it great to be there again taking on the marathon challenge! We'd all decided to run together for the first part of the marathon, which work really well. I went through the first 10 miles in a comfortable 7:15 pace and my HR was only 162, however my calf was starting to tighten, so after stopping to stretch it I told Daniel to go ahead as I knew couldn't maintain that pace without pain.
I stayed fairly steady through mile 16 until the 1.5 mile climb up the St. Johns Bridge which lead to my calf balling up. As I reached mile 18 I thought about throwing in the towel as I knew the cramping wouldn't stop and my pace was slowing with a jog/walk approach. I soon realized that I was better off to keep going as I was closer to the finish by pressing on. During the last 8 miles I had time to reflect and search for motivation to keep going to the finish, unfortunately my left calf and hamstring were now cramping too, so I would jog about 1/3 mile then walk/stretch to prevent cramps.
At mile 24 for the first time in 21 marathons I came to a table and sign that read, "free beer". I thought to myself why not, I'll take two cups please. I had to laugh when one of the guys I was walking with ask if he could have the whole pitcher. After drinking a few shots of beer I pressed on to the finish, although I kept cramping which resulted in more walking. Once I was 1/2 mile from the finish my new goal became running under 3:50, so I pressed on to finish in 3:48.
I was pleased to learn other Team Blaze members had great races with many new PR times and first time marathoner! It's a great feeling to help guide others to achieving their goals and frustrating when I see athletes I coach that I know trained really hard experience a day similar to mine when it doesn't go as planned. We all desire those days when it all comes together, however as anyone knows that has raced many races that things don't always go as planned.
What did I learn through this experience?
1) If I continue to stay focused I will continue to improve my fitness.
2) Learn about the injury by going to the Dr. right away instead of trying to manage it myself.
3) Rest means complete rest from running or the injury won't get better.
4) Take responsibility for your injury and stay positive as feeling sorry for yourself doesn't help you recover.
5) Maintain a positive attitude as research shows this will in fact help your recovery!
6) Get support from others which is something I learned during heart surgery and still attribute to my quick recovery.
7) Set appropriate goal- I learned that although I know I can run sub 3:15 again that I need appreciate bring able to participate and not focus on old times. (This is really tough for me.)
8)Maintain my fitness through cross training activities like swimming, cycling,aqua jogging, elliptical, pilates etc. is key to keeping my sanity.
9) I learned once again I can finish what I start when the day isn't going as planned. This is a tough decision as I feel sometimes athletes should stop before risking further injury. I was basically at point the marathon of no return as I had an 8 mile walk back to the finish either way so why not finish.
10) I need to listen to my body and rest so this doesn't become an ongoing injury.
So, my new post heart surgery marathon PR is 3:48, which as my wife reminded me is a time many people would love to run and I just had heart surgery less than 11 months ago. I really appreciate all the support, encouragement and perspective from everyone. My whole life the challenges I've faced have always driven me to work harder and continue to persevere on my journey.
As I finished the marathon the first thought that came to mind wasn't I never want to run another marathon, but instead it was focused on when my next marathon will be to establish a new PR! My new goal right now is to run the marathon in Ironman Arizona Nov.20, 2012 faster than I ran Portland!
Thanks for reading!