Monday, 5 May 2014

2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon Recap

Well, full marathon number 4 in the bag!!

I will start off by saying that even though no personal bests were made, given certain factor of the race, I am still very happy with the result.

First factor.  The Training.

Back in February I started a new job.  The project (Sin City 2) was/is very demanding.  My work schedule did not allow for much training.  I got some 10Ks in and some 25Ks in but nothing much over that.

I remember thinking the same thing before The Goofy Challenge (I had only done one long run during training, about 35K), but still did really well.  Plus, I knew about 90% of the course from lots of local 10Ks, Half Marathons, and my own training runs.  I felt this would be beneficial.

We will come back to this factor later in the race. 

Factor 2.  The Weather.

For some reason I was under the impression that it would rain in the morning and clear up around 11 or so.  Well. this is Vancouver.  I should have checked the weather the morning of and not gone by previous forecasts.  It was pouring rain.

I took the Skytrain to the start line at Queen Elizabeth Park to cheer on friends who were running the half.  On the walk from the Skytrain to the start line, I made a startling discovery.  My waterproof Under Armor jacket was not 100% waterproof.  When I was close to the start line I found an overhang, where I stayed until my start time.  I texted my friends apologizing for not making it to see them off, but I had my own race to think about.

The rain began to subside, but then it got very, very cold. I luckily had a throw away jacket with me and put that over my legs as I huddled on a bench. For a brief moment I though about just getting back on the Skytrain and sitting this one out. But I am no quitter. Cancer did not stop Abi from being who she was and doing what she enjoyed, a little rain will not stop me from running a race I was looking forward to and had fundraised for.

When it got close to my start time, I managed to grab a gear check bag, tore some holes in it, and made a make-shift poncho.

I was told there was a hill at the 9K mark.  The Dreaded Camosun Hill!!  When I reached it, it was more of a gradual incline.  But then again, I have run a marathon in San Francisco and Anchorage.  Hills do not concern me.  Although, this one was pretty early on.  I decided to walk it and conserve energy.  Then I saw Karen!  With a sign! And I had to run.  To be at a part of the course she knew as going to be rough and support her fellow TNT runners meant so much to me! Some much needed support there. Thank you Karen!

At kilometer 16 the rain had stopped and I had taken off my jacket.  From behind me I heard:

"Dad look!"

I turned and saw an older couple and their daughter (my age) running up behind me.  She was pointing at my calf.  I looked up and saw that her dad was wearing a superman hat.  She said that they were trying to catch up me to ask about my tattoo.  I told her Abi's story.  They smiled and told me how great it was that I was doing so much.  I answered the same way I always do:

"I wish I could have done more."

At the 18K mark, a paramedic on a bike cycled up beside me and asked about Abi.  I told him her story and he told me his.  He rides for the Ride to Conquer Cancer.  He asked me if I had heard of it and I told him I had.  He asked when I was going to join.  I answered "One race at a time.  Let me finish this one"

From that point on, every time he saw me, he yelled to his cycle buddies: "That's Joe! He's gonna ride with us next year! I know it!"

The rain let up a bit until about kilometer 21....... The halfway point. 

That was when I crashed for the first time. I rounded the bend as the trees opened up to reveal Spanish Banks.  The rain began to pour again and the cold wind followed suite.  I tried to keep with my 10-1 run-walk intervals, but could not keep up with it.  I found that I was running out of steam after about 8 minutes.  So I reset my watch to an 8-3 run-walk interval.  I hobbled and trudged along until kilometer 26.

As I approached the aid station I had to stop.  I could feel a blister forming on the ball of my right foot.  I sat on a barricade, took off my shoe and sock, and applied some body glide (a runners best friend) to my foot.  Once I got back up and started running again, I noticed that I also needed to re-apply some body glide to another (rather tender) spot that was chaffing. The rain was reeking havoc on my initial application.  The good news was that there was a porta-john at the aid station.  I would duck in there and re-apply. 

Now, I make it a point to thank all the volunteers who work the races.  From the police officers blocking off the roads, to the people working the water/medical station.  As I was approaching the (much needed) porta-john, I thanked a volunteer who was standing beside a Road Closed sign.  I thanked her.  She smiled back and asked me why I was thanking her.

"You are out here all day volunteering your time to support us." I answered.
"You'e the one doing all the hard work!  Thank you for running!" She replied.

As I ran past her to my pit stop, she read the back of my shirt and shouted to me:
"And you are doing it for a loved one!  I am sure she would thank you too!"  

I made it to the porta-john and shut the door just in time for the volunteer to not see me break down in tears.

After my re-application and pit stop at the aid station for a water/power-aid refill, I found my second wind.  I was still keeping with an 8-3 interval, but man was I trucking.  For a while I feared I may have been trucking a bit too fast.  But I knew the course and knew what was ahead.

During this time there was no rain and for that I was grateful. I needed to make it to the Burrard Bidge before the 5 hour make.  I made it. The bridge was at kilometer 30.... 12 more to go.

"An easy 12" I told myself. "Just a quick jog around Stanley Park.  I've done this hundred of times!"

This is when Factor 1 comes into play.  Here I thought that knowing the course would give me a motivation feeling of knowing just how much more I have to go, but instead I got the agony of knowing just how much further I had to go.

At kilometer 31 (just outside my apartment), I met up with the TNT sweeper, Phil.  I had a feeling I was the last TNT participant on the field and I was right.  But I always knew I was slow.  It had never bothered me.  Hell, I am out here doing this.... And this was my 4th time!

Phil doubled back just make sure no other TNT runners were behind me.  While I pushed on, I noticed a younger guy struggling.  I slowed and walked with him for a bit.  He told me about how he had blown out his knee at kilometer 18.  I looked at him wide eyed and told him how impressed I was that he kept with it.  This guy was walking hard.  I could see the determination in him.  I asked him if this was his first marathon (knowing full well by the look in his eyes that it was).  I encouraged him.  

"The only true way to be prepared for a full marathon is to have already run one.  Think of this as a training run for your next one. The next time you decide to run a marathon, you will be surprised how well you do!"

I told him about my first marathon experience and told once again how impressed I was with his tenacity. Every now and then, from now until the end, we would pass each other. He would ask how much further. I would tell him, "X more kilometers more! You got this! You've already done Y kilometers!"

At kilometer 36, my spirit broke. This is the northern most point on the Seawall around Stanley Park. The rain was a torrential down pour. The temperature dropped (what felt like) 5 degrees. The wind kicked up hardcore. And I was spent.

Phil was still with me and at this point Andy (a TNT coach from the National Flex Program had joined us).  Andy asked all the Coach questions.  Have you been hydrating? Have you been eating? What hurts?   I answered.  I knew what I was doing.  This was, after all, not my first rodeo.

Nothing was hurting, I just had no energy,  The Wall.  It hit.  Now I'm not stupid (some may argue with that).  I knew not to expect a repeat of Goofy, where I did not hit the wall at all.  I knew it was going to happen.  

Now you would think that a running coach would try and rev you up and get you going.  Push through the pain!!!  But TNT is different.  The coaches focus on getting you across the finish line feeling proud, good about yourself, and injury free.  After all, first and foremost TNT is about fundraising and doing something bigger for an amazing cause.  

Andy let me walk.  We spoke about our experiences with TNT, our races, our training, what got us involved in the first place. It kept my mind off of my lack of energy and kept one foot steadily moving in front of the other. 

At kilometer 40, Phil ran ahead, but we ran into Dave and Grace Jackson.  Grace is a TNT alum and the mentor for this season's team (and not to mention a good friend).  Her and her husband walked with Andy and I until around the 41.5K mark.  

As we were approaching the finish line, I kept saying to Andy,"I am going to run across the finish line.  With whatever energy I have left.... I am going to cross running and smiling."

He was very encouraging, but reminded me that it was "my" finish and I could do it how ever I felt.

At this point I hear a very loud  "JOE!!!!!!"

I looked over and saw Ruth.  Ruth was briefly mentioned in an early blog post (see 'My New Running Tattoo').  She had just finished undergoing chemo and surgery for breast cancer. Although Abi's picture in on the back of my shirt, and she is my initial reason for running, it's also known that I run for Ruth.  

I ran over (not sure where that energy came from) and gave her a big hug!  It meant so much to me for her to be there.  I started back toward the finish line, turned, and through tears shouted back "I am so glad you are here!"  It was only later I realized the many meanings that one statement held for me.

About a block later I see a whole group of my co-workers out in force with signs.  Work was only a block away and they had taken time to make signs and be there for the finish!  

Later I learned that my supervisor had come up with the "Renders Failing" sign (which was on my desk when I got to work this morning).

Once I saw them, I found the energy I needed to run across the finish line.  I got my medal and met Atul (the new TNT director) and Ruth had made her way up as well.

Atul noticed right away that something was wrong.  He asked me how I felt.  I told him I was exhausted but felt fine.  Neither Atul nor Ruth were convinced.  Atul told me that I needed to get some place warm.  I nodded and said ok. 

Only then did I realize that something was wrong.  I was cold.  Really, really cold.  My body was exhausted, depleted, spent.  I was shivering like mad.  

We made into the lobby of the hotel that many of the TNT team members were staying,  It was warm, but not warm enough.  Ruth brought me a warm drink and a blanket and tried my best to cool off my muscles while simultaneously warming up everything else.  It was the weirdest and possibly the most worrisome feeling I have had.

Ruth's parents where in town and staying nearby.  They were kind enough to let me use their shower and dryer (as well as feed me).  ;)

While warming up I began to recap the race in my mind.  What aspects would I write about?  What do I remember?  But I kept coming back to one question: How do I feel about the race? 

First and foremost (as always) I did it for Abi and so that others and their families do not have to suffer the way she/we did. I am always proud that I can cross the finish line and know she is right there with me.

Then I began to think about my performance/time.  I never run with any particular time in mind, but all my previous marathons had been fairly consistent (about 6.5 hours). 

I went through the factors in my head and realized that I did not do bad at all.  Running a marathon is as much an emotional and mental feat as as a physical one.  The rain and crummy (I wanted to use a different word but you get the idea), broke alot of our spirits early on and set a "crummy" mood from the starting gun onward. Given that, 15-20 minutes over my usual time did not seem to bad.  Relatively, it seemed pretty on par. And besides........

I finished.

I finished my 4th full marathon.  I got to share Abi's story with other people.  I did something beyond myself and succeeded. I did something most would never attempt, and I did it 4 freaking times!

Yes, this entry does seem to have several negative aspects to it.  But so many times in life, the best things come out of the worst situation. If you take anything away from reading this entry, I hope it is that.

Thank you again for taking the time to read Abi's and my journey in running for their lives.

Next race:  The Scotiabank Half Marathon June 22nd 2014.  

1 comment :

  1. Sooooo proud to call you my friend, Joe! Congratulations :) xo