Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 14, 2008 - Disasterous Championship Race

well, the day before an official marathon is always a tense time. just trying to relax and mentally prepare myself for the big day ahead that i have worked so hard for. i had a 30 minute swim at the pool to keep myself loose and then went up to the beach and relaxed in the sun for a few hours. i spent the evening doing some house cleaning and tried to settle down to sleep early.

it was a very restless night. i hardly got any sleep. at 4 am i decided to give up and start my morning routine. i had an upset stomach and assumed it was nerves, but later figured it may in fact be some sort of stomach virus.

anyway, i got myself to the race and sat inside the fitness building in a chair just shaking and trying to get rid of the stomach problem.. by race time, i was feeling a little better and got off to a great start. 1 km into the race, i found myself leading the race with a 4:20k.

suddenly, several marathoners passed by me. i didn't worry and just tried to stick to my game plan. the goal was to run a 90 minute front and that would give me 106 minutes to do the back.

at 10k, i was still running quite strong, clocking in on pace at just under 45 minutes. in an effort to ensure i wasn't going too fast, i carried a 710ml bottle of gatorade with me for the first 15k, which also came in handy given the sparce water stations (only 1 every 5-6k for this run).

the first 15k were relatively flat, featuring a couple of laps around an industrial mall area.. i was at 67 minutes by this point, a few minutes slower than i had planned. it was at this point where i started to suffer. the halfers made their short loop turn and i soldiered on and was caught by one of my long time rivals, Mack, the gentleman who edged me out in June for the Eastern Marathon title, our only other marathon in this province. eager to keep the pace with Mack, i pushed hard to give it all i had.. and it sort of worked for a while, i caught a second wind and Mack and I stormed down the highway (the marathoners have an extra 10 k down the highway and of course, 10k back to the city).

i hit the half mark at 97 minutes, and by this point, i knew it was not going to be easy.. my knees and legs felt fine, but the affects of taking estrogen and testosterone blockers was really starting to show now. the strength and energy levels had been seriously depleted. i decided to slow it down a little in hopes that i could save some strength for the very challenging last 10k.

at the 24k mark, the leaders had already started their journey back to the city and one by one, i got a chance to see who all was ahead of me, and by how much. turned out i was sitting in 7th place, about 10 minutes behind the leader, and he was really looking good..

the highway was full of rolling hills which had been challenging going down but a killer on the way back. slowing me down substantially. one more runner caught up to me and overtook me for 7th. i had slowed down to a pace of about 10 km/h. as i hit the 35k mark, i knew that not only was the race out of reach, but BQ was gone too. looking back and not seeing a soul in site, i decided to keep a gentle pace to keep 8th place. i ran as hard and as fast as my body would allow. the knees still felt great, this was so frustrating.. all last year, the knees forced me to slow down in 2nd halfs of marathons, and now, the knees were fine but the body couldn't keep up.

at 41k, i entered the park and headed down the ramp towards the finish. some of the finishers had already claimed their medals and were walking back to the parking lot. last year's Eastern Marathon winner and today's 3rd place finisher Peter was among them, and he had a sparkle in his eye as he told me that he had yet another PB, just slightly over 3 hrs. not bad for a guy who's gotta be 55!

as i approached the finish line, the disappointment that i had been holding in was about to be unleashed. there was a crowd cheering me on, but i had this stoic cold look on my face. i accepted my medal at the finish line with a very dissappointing finishing time of 3.36.12 (unofficial). although i had the past 30 minutes to sorta let it sink in, it all sorta hit me all over again, and i grabbed bottle of water and fired it against the wall in disgust and let out an angry roar.. then i sat down on a park bench slouched over and cried for a few minutes before making the long walk back to the parking lot.

i went to one of my favourite ponds up in the woods and had a quite sit in the sun and swim before heading back to the park to attend the awards banquet. as poor as my time was, i still placed 8th overall and 3rd in my age catagory - thus landing me an additional bronze medal in addition to the finishers medal. they had a nice BBQ so i had a nice plate of food and chatted with a few of the other runners.

afterwards, it was off to the beach for the rest of the day where i literally fell asleep for a while. then drove back into the city and walked around and swam in yet another pond, where i saw a live bunny rabbit and several ducks. i really like seeing the wild animals here.

well, i guess today was a wake up call. things just won't likely be the same ever again. i'm going to have to work 1000 times harder than ever before if i ever expect to set another PB.

with such a poor result, i'm leaning towards not coming to toronto for the waterfront. i had felt that if it was a close call, that i would give it another try, but now, there's really "nothing to play for." i'm going to give Boston a call and see if i can beg my way in with my 3.16.59 that i ran in July. that's only 60 seconds over their cut off, and i've heard they can be generous at times.

if boston says no, then this may be the last marathon i run in a long time, perhaps even the last that i run as a biological male. i found myself asking whether or not i wanted to run them "just for fun" with poor times, and the answer i came up with was "probably not". i am a competitor and i have tons of pride, and i won't want to go out there again (other than Boston 2009, if allowed to compete) until i get myself in much better shape to the point where i can handle and overcome the disadvantages of these meds and still have chances to improve my times. i'm also going to have to get into better shape before running more of these. i expended moreenergy than ever before and my body took a clear pounding.

oh well, a disappointing run, but still nice to have completed my 10th official career marathon.

so now it's back to some hard training. time to drop the 5 pounds that keeps coming back every time i lose it, and time to talk to my doctors to see if there's anything we can do about the challenges of losing endurance.

the Newfoundland and Labrador Athletic Association road running series concludes with a very challenging hilly 20k in October, so that will likely be my next formal race. i will also be turning my attention to the bike and the pool..


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