The Road Back Begins…

By now, you have no doubt read my cautionary tale on how not to run the Boston marathon, here.  Now begins my journey back for a shot at redemption.

But first, to reiterate just how bad things were for me, allow me to share this finish line pic.  I have no recollection of these joyous girls whatsoever:

What’s that line from ABC’s Wide World of Sports – the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? Here they are, simultaneously, at the finish line.

Post Race

Monday afternoon, after the race, I sipped Vitamin Water and laid on the couch.  Nathan and Derrick set out for food, but I wasn’t going anywhere, with the possible exception of a hospital.  I couldn’t get very comfortable as the slightest movement of my legs resulting in cramping.  Lie one way, my quads cramped, lie another way, my foot cramped, and so and so and so forth.  And yet I felt at least a thousand times better than I had hours earlier.

Eventually, I started feeling well enough that I thought I might try to take a shower.  So I limped into the bathroom, turned the water on, and eased my way in.

I couldn’t stand for more than a minute or two without getting dizzy and/or nauseous.  I sat down in the shower but it was too late – I puked up my strawberry milk and Vitamin Water.  Lovely.  You’re welcome for that sexy image.  Hey, but at least I did it in a  self-cleaning environment.  Please everybody, let’s agree not to send this blog post to the condo owner.

The shower incident turned out to be the last of the worst nausea.  I finished cleaning up, albeit while seated, quickly toweled off lest I pass out or puke, and made it back to the couch where I spent the rest of the night blissfully fading in and out of consciousness (well blissfully except for those times when I’d be snatched awake by a cramping calf, foot, or quad).

The next morning, Nathan and Derrick had early flights so I was left alone by about 9:00 a.m.  While still weak and sore, I felt oh-so-very-much better.  I spent the morning exchanging texts, phone calls, and emails with Meagan on how and when to get to their place in Marblehead where Jay Holder, Justin Breland and his wife, and I would be staying that night.

A Place Where They Burn Witches

I took the subway to the train station and hopped a commuter train to Salem where Jordan would pick me up.  I had a slight altercation with the train lady who chastised me for not purchasing a ticket prior to boarding the train, but she sold me a ticket anyway so it was no big deal.  I was in Salem within an hour of leaving the condo.

I called Jordan who directed me to the happening corner of Washington and Essex, a better spot than the train station to hang out until he arrived.  I found the spot and plopped down in the shade – wow, there is shade in Massachusetts – and waited for Jordan.

While I sat there, a woman dressed – how to say this in a politically correct manner – in slutty, I mean provocative, attire approached me.  Here’s a question I hope my readers can answer – why am I always approached by the destitute seeking funds?  Anyway, this woman who I assumed to be a prostitute, approached and asked me for spare change.  I had 50 cents so I gave it to her.  She accepted the 2 quarters and shoved them into the pocket of her way-too-short jean shorts (somewhere Daisy Duke screamed, “Damn girl, those shorts are too short!”)

I expected the transaction to be the end of our encounter, but she just stood directly in front of me, invading my personal space, and looking at me.  Then she stuck out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m (insert some prostitute-sounding name here.  Candy maybe?  My apologies to any Candies that may be reading this).  I, very hesitantly, shook her hand and said, “Hi.”  “What’s your name, silly?” she responded, holding my hand for much, much longer than was necessary.  “Um, Allen”, I said as I prayed that Jordan would arrive soon.  She finally let go of my hand, but continued to stand there.  Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, apparently realizing that I was not much of a prospective customer, she said, “It was nice to meet you, Allen” and sauntered off.

Here’s a pic of the exact spot from Google maps:

I sat in the shade behind this fountain where I was approached by a prostitute.

She hovered nearby and kept looking at me so moments later I was grateful to see Jordan come walking up.  We threw my stuff in his car and started off in search of lunch.  Jordan asked me if I had any change for the parking meter and I responded, “No, I gave all my change to the prostitute” which garnered quite a few looks from locals walking by.  I can only assume that they rushed off to find her and burn her at the stake.

Jordan and I enjoyed a peaceful lunch while I gave him some of the highlights of my race.  I was ecstatic to be alive and finally able to eat solid food again.

A Night in Marblehead

After lunch, Jordan drove me around and showed me the sights of Marblehead, a beautiful, coastal town.  Think one of those quaint little New England towns in a Stephen King novel, minus all the blood and dead bodies.  Then we went back to Jordan and Meagan‘s house, directly next to Fort Sewall.  Jordan and I sat around and drank Runners’ Coke (cola-flavored Nuun) and listened to some bizarre demo CD that a random musician had given him.  I pulled out my laptop and started taking some notes for the blog until a virus attacked my PC.

I’ve never been less stressed out about a virus.  Normally, I would have flipped out to the point of nearly breaking down and stomping on my laptop.  But having recently survived a near-death experience, it just seemed insignificant.  And with views like this, how could I possibly be stressed?

The view from Meagan and Jordan’s living room window.

Soon, Meagan showed up with Jay whom I was quite jealous of for a couple of reasons: 1) He beat me in the Boston marathon by nearly 2 and a half hours and 2) He had just come from the Sam Adams beer tour.

We all sat around and talked, Jay and I keeping Meagan and Jordan entertained with horror stories about the race.  A few minutes later, Jay was filling out the online survey for the marathon when he was posed a question like “Besides the heat, how would you rate your Boston Marathon race experience?”  “Besides the heat!?!”, Jay exclaimed incredulously.  Then he caused me to burst into laughter when he said something along these lines: “Besides all the commotion with the gun, Mr. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”  Perhaps the greatest analogy of all time.

Soon, Justin Breland and his wife Kim showed up, so I finally got to meet my Shamrock Marathon teammate who 2 years earlier had led us to the team title (Justin, not Kim, in case there’s any confusion).

When I told the story of my marathon, complete with all the gory details, including about staggering down Boylston Street in front of thousands of spectators, Meagan asked me if I had worn the Karhus.  When I answered, “No”, she, clearly relieved, said, “Whew.  Probably for the best.” And then she and the gang laughed.  “Meagan, I can hear you!  I’m sitting right here!”, I cried.

Meagan, our wonderful hostess, was relieved that I hadn’t worn Karhus while staggering across the finish line in front of thousands of people.

That night, we had a delicious dinner at a seaside restaurant, and afterward hung out at a cool little neighborhood bar.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and nearly forgot (I will never actually forget) the agony of the day before.

Affairs of the Heart

Meagan drove me to the airport on Wednesday morning and I was sad to go back to my humdrum life.  It seemed like a cruel joke when I stepped outside of the Charlotte Douglas airport to find 55 degree weather with cloudy skies, perfect marathon conditions.  Apparently, there is a God and he likes messing with me.

For the next week, I had chest pains.  Reading Alberto Salazar’s memoir, 14 Minutes, where he tells the story of how he experienced a massive heart attack and basically dropped dead for 14 minutes before being revived, didn’t help ease my fears.  If it could happen to the greatest marathoner of his generation, probably the greatest American marathoner ever, it could happen to me.

Still experiencing pain a week later, I finally broke down and scheduled an appointment with a doctor.  Of course, the doc found nothing serious, told me the pain was probably due to intercostal muscle strain (which I attributed to the violence of vomiting, maybe even occurring when I jerked to avoid puking in the race drinking water).  He gave me the go ahead to start running again, which I did.

Climbing Back on that Horse (aka Karhu Shoe Review 2)

The second Saturday after Boston, I was anxious to run fast again – I had taken 1 week off completely and done nothing but slog for another.  Nathan had emailed me a link to a small 5K, which strangely offered $100 prize to the leader at the 1-mile mark.  While I was pretty sure I couldn’t sustain a fast effort for an entire 5K, I thought that if the race was small enough, I might have a shot to lead at the mile.  My plan – race a mile and then cool down for the remaining 2.11 miles.  My apologies to the Runners’ Lunch crew on Friday – when various people asked me if I was racing Saturday, while never out and out lying, my answers were a little evasive.  If any of those fast folks – Caleb, Kahn, Théoden, etc. – showed up, I could forget about any chance of winning the cash.

Friday, I drove over and jogged the course.  Albeit a little phallic – see the course map below – it was easy to remember and, other than the first uphill bit, relatively flat and fast.  It was a good first race back course.  I signed up.

I swear this is not a joke – this is the actual race course.

That night, the race director emailed everyone with a list of all 62 pre-registered race participants.  I didn’t recognize a single name which meant none of my fast pals had signed up (yet?)  I had a shot!

Saturday morning, I drove over to the site of the race, got out of my car, and closely checked out the gathering crowd as I made my way to the registration table.  Lots of older, chubby folks in basketball shorts and cotton tees.  Not a young, svelte runner in split shorts and flats to be found.  I started daydreaming about what I was going to do with my prize money.

I wore my still new Karhu Flows (Flow_Fulcrum-Ride Formula-One/Scream, to be exact), anxious to get a few more miles on them during my warm-up and cool-down.  I planned to break out the appropriately named Racers for the actual race.  I removed my sweats, pinned my bib to my Reckless Running singlet, and I started to warm up.  I broke into a jog and hadn’t gone ten steps when who should round the corner but none other than Chad and Danielle Crockford.  Flash back to Ada Jenkins.  I yelled to Chad, “I knew it!”  I knew it had all been too good to be true and that one of the fast kids would show up.  And I was right.

Oh well, I could forget the win, but at least all pressure was off and I could enjoy some friendly company during the warm-up.  Besides, I hadn’t seen Chad or Danielle in forever.  We chatted about Boston, cherry-picking, and whether or not Nathan’s earlier cryptic text message meant he might show up any minute to race.

Since Chad had arrived, I decided to test out the Flows under race conditions, instead of changing into the Racers (after all, it wasn’t like changing shoes would be the difference between winning and losing).  Danielle snapped this pic just moments before the race:

My Karhu Flows were so light that I nearly floated away. None of my competitors seemed the least bit impressed by my levitation miracle.

Moments later, the starter abruptly yelled, “Ready, set!” and everybody on the front line false started.  The race director said, “Hang on, hang on” and we all lined back up and waited another minute or so before the starter had a do over, this time yelling “Go!” like you’re supposed to.

Some kid in cargo shorts and a black shirt – see him in the pic above to my left – took off like he was shot out of a cannon with Chad following closely in second and another guy, a real runner complete with black compression socks, fell into third.  I went out pretty fast but was a good 50 meters behind the lead pack of 3 before we had gone a quarter mile.  Cargo shorts guy was way out in front but I thought to myself, “I’ll see you again soon my friend”.  I had no such delusions regarding Chad.

A quarter mile in and cargo shorts kid still had a big lead but was starting to slow.  It was obvious to me that Chad would pass him on the half mile or so hill we were now climbing.  By the time they made the first right, a little before the mile, Chad was in the lead and obviously about to become a $100 wealthier.

I never saw those first 3 guys the rest of the race.  I fully expected to lose sight of Chad, and probably even compression socks guy, but I completely planned on encountering Cargo again.  But I never did.

I settled into no man’s land.  The Karhu Flows held up great against my pounding stride.  To me, the mark of a good running shoe is the same as that of a good sports referee – if they’re doing their job well, you shouldn’t even notice them.  Light and comfortable, I never had to worry about the shoes.  Instead, I tried to breathe comfortably in my first 5K in what seemed like forever – it’d been months since I ran a mile this fast.  Danielle kindly cheered me on and graciously took another photo as I neared the mile mark:

Not sure what’s going on with that twisting around of the torso – this is probably how I strained my intercostal muscles in the first place. At least the shoes are doing their job!

I came through the mile in 6:22, well over a minute behind Chad, Cargo, and Compression.  I tried to settle into a comfortable pace and stay relatively quick, but 6:45ish pace was the best I could manage.

I was in no man’s land – the leaders in front, and 5th place behind, all out of sight.  I tried to push the pace but the fitness simply wasn’t there.  I hoped that I would see Cargo coming back to me.

I hung on the best I could, but I have to admit that I was a little miffed when I crossed the line in over 21:00.  I didn’t expect a blazing fast time but thought I could at least go sub-21, something I have yet to do since 2011 (I went sub-19 last April).  But all things considered, after that complete butt-kicking that I took in Boston, and after the fears of chest pain, I was just grateful to be out there pushing hard and running a few sub-seven-minute miles.

Spoiler alert – Chad won (in around 17:10 – a virtual jog for him as I believe he was going to do a triathlon the next day).  Compression got second in a very solid 17:20-something.  And perhaps the most impressive of all, Cargo shorts came in third in a low 18.  He’s a pair of running shorts away from a sub-18 and probably just a few 30-mile weeks away from low 17’s.  God help us all if he finds a good training program and/or coach.

Trying to gut it out near the end. But hey, at least I ran across the finish line this time.

I followed Caleb’s first two Rules of Cherry Picking – 1) Find a small race the same day as a big Grand Prix one (Skyline) and 2) Make sure it’s the inaugural year.  But Chad and 2 other faster guys followed the same rule.  I am adding a # 3) Make sure there’s no monetary prize.  Money attracts fast people.  I don’t care about the money – I’m just looking to experience the thrill of victory one more time.

Seconds after my finish, I’m still breathing hard while Chad has cooled down, dried off, and changed. Fresh as a daisy and ready to race a triathlon the next day.

That’s it since Boston.  For the next month or so, I’ll mostly take it easy during the week and jump in a few races here and there during the weekends.  At some point, I’ll start getting serious about finding and training for another marathon.  But for now, I’m just going to enjoy running again.

Karhu online store 10% off code: 10off (use it at check out page)


One Response to “The Road Back Begins…”

  1. Caleb Says:

    Ah yes, monetary prizes definitely attract talent! I’ll add this to my rule list…along with Rule#4: Never run a race course shaped like a penis.

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