Fast forward 3 years, and I was watching 60 Minutes, I believe, about the Marathon du Sable in Africa. I remember watching people run through sand and pushing themselves, only to rest in the medical tent getting IV fluids, then going out and attacking the dunes some more. My first thought seeing these athletes was "this is bad ass" - that's when I got bitten by the ultra bug. I ran throughout high school, college, and graduate school. Not competitively, mind you, but just ran for fun. I'm not particularly good at it - I just derive great pleasure from it. I like being outside, even in there rain, moving across the ground. I played other sports as well, wrestling, tennis, rugby, but I always enjoyed running. I've always felt liberated that I can, if I needed to or wanted to, just go by my feet. Unfortunately, I am not built like an archetypal runner, but rather, more like a flanker in a rugby scrum (which position I played). I ran anyway, even though I'm sure I look like a trash barge sailing off towards Staten Island.
I ran until we moved to Texas when graduate school finished. That was in May 2005, and it was still cold in Colorado, but already steamy in Houston, at least to my temperate senses. I tried running, but couldn't keep my paces and quickly got discouraged. Couple discouragement, a first child, starting a career, and frequent travel and you start to put on weight. I was probably about 190 lb. when we moved to Houston. I peaked out last November when our 4th child was born in November 2012 at about 275 lb. Too much brisket, duck, and sloth (the deadly sin type, not the animal).
At the behest of my best friend from college who works in the same facility as me, I began running with her at lunch. Three times a week, and man did it suck. Any fitness I had was laid bare out there on the running path behind my office, and it was pitiful. Kind of like trying to gather kindling, and coming up with 5 cents and some pocket lint. With a little help from my lovely wife (who was still recovering from a caesarian birth), I continued running. Finally, a co-worker asked if I'd like to do a half marathon with them. I didn't have enough time to ramp the milage up, but I found another one in April. She signed me up and put together a plan from modifying a Hal Higdon plan.
My last half Marathon was the 2004 Nike Boulder Backroads Half Marathon. I trained and finished in 2:07 hrs. I was pleased, and didn't run another one until the April 2013 race - the 2013 Davy Crockett Bear Chase. I trained and strictly stuck to my training plan - only missing workouts for a short bout of strep throat. Finally April 21st rolled around, and a friend of ours came up to the race as well. We raced, and I was able to pull out a 1:59:10 half. With no speed work, I was able to trim about 8 minutes from my half PR and I felt electrified. I would have been happy to make roughly the same time, but for me to drop under two hours made me feel giddy. At this point, I decided that I needed to try for something that I had meant to do for years but never worked out the courage to try.
Brynne signed me up for the Soler's Texas Endurance Trails Race. In previous years, this race was the hallowed Sunmart - a huge ultra marathon in Huntsville State Park just north of Houston. Near the famed facility where many a murderer met their untimely demise. I signed up and told co-workers that I had done so. I wanted accountability. I wanted to basically remind myself that if I let myself down, then I'd have to fess up that I blew it. I trained and diligently worked towards this race.
This last Saturday, I towed the line at 7:30 AM in 35 degree weather in a forest. A lot different from the last time I raced there in June for a 15 km trail race. Hopefully different, because last time I raced there I needed 2 shots of steroids to help clear up a poison ivy rash that made me look like a lycra clad leper. The race began and I started talking with people around me. Another guy like me who had lost about 75 lb. running this year, a guy who was a personal trainer, and psychiatrist, and lots of other friendly people out on the trails.
In the sake of friendliness, I turned around at 18 miles to encourage a runner on the 20 km race who looked like he was having a terrible time. I tripod, and caught myself, but felt a pain in my right knee. The pain subsided, but soon I felt twinges in my right quad. Soon thereafter, I'm sure because of a modification to my gait from the pain, I started to feel another pain in my other quad as well. This pain haunted me through out the last 12 miles of the run. Where I had started at low 10:00 min/mi and worked into 9:50 min/mi for the first & second 10 miles, I was reduced to a Fred Sanford hobble after several hills. The pain was relieved by stretching the quads, as well as lots of pleading. Finally, I was able to run without stopping for about the last 5 km, when the pain vanished after 3 minutes of stretching. And several salted bananas.
One feature I had heard about endurance running events was the veritable smorgasbord of food at aid stations. This race was no different. Fritos, Wheat Thins, chips, cookies, bananas, and a bowl of salt. I know that bananas have salts that help with muscle soreness, and I also had read that salt seems to help with cramps. I thought to myself, why not roll the bananas in salt and eat it? These yellow hypertension bombs went down pretty easy, and I have reason to believe they carried me to the finish line in about 5:37 hrs.
I've learned some lessons for my next 50km race in February.
* Don't turn around. Just don't.
* Salt is your friend. I'm not going to make that mistake. I didn't intake much salt, and I have a fairly low salt diet. My blood pressure is like 90/60.
* LIFT YOUR DAMN FEET
* Eat early and often.
* Lose 20 more lbs. Even if it means going to bed hungry. Your body will thank you on the hills.