December 10, 2013

BCS Marathon

My third marathon is now in the books!  I finished strong and missed my goal by only a few minutes, 4:07.  I'm happy with that considering the conditions and the fact that I was in the medical tent right after finishing.

The night before saw a lot of ice and winter storm.  In fact, I was introduced to ice fog and we apparently got a lot of it.  I had originally planned to drive up early that morning, since BCS is only 1.5 hours away.  I'm glad my wife talked me into getting a hotel room and that there were still some available.  It was a precarious drive over but I got there safe and settled in.

I woke up the next morning and, from everything I could tell the race was still on.  I drove over to the start and sat in a traffic line for a good 30 minutes to get in to park.  I made my way over to the start and, despite all of the trips to the restroom I took before I got here I had to go again.  Of course, the line was super long but I had to do it.  As I was in the port-o-can, I could hear the national anthem and then as I was getting out I heard the gun go off to signal the start.  I was not off to a stellar start.

It's 32 degrees, I'm getting on the staging line of my third marathon. A last minute cancelation of my planned race led me to this completely different race. I've got a bib with someone else's name on it, I'm prepared, focused, and excited. Let's do this!

I quickly ran down to the start line and to my relief, I wasn't the last one to start.  There weren't many behind me, but there were a few.  It was 7:00 AM. I was in a different city than I planned to be in 48 hours ago, a different race.  My race plan was pretty well out the window except for being a relatively generic one.  "Run the first third at this pace, second third at this pace, etc."  I was now off to chase down a major PR.

The cold weather felt great.  The first few miles I was a little ahead of my plan, a little faster.  I was basically running what I should run the second third in.  It felt so good I decided I would stay at that pace and just not speed up on the second third.  I would then get back on plan.  I just kept remembering my coach saying "bank energy, not time!"

We had one small bridge early on that had some black ice.  That was pretty scary.  Other than that, there was no ice or freezing precipitation to speak of.  My toes didn't thaw out until about mile 7.  I should have worn thicker socks, or at least doubled up.  Other than that, I felt great.  Base layer, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve over that, gloves, earmuffs, hat and shorts.  I probably looked goofy but I was practical and it was working.

I got to the second third and just kept on the same pace.  I had the half way point and I was right on plan.  Exactly where I wanted to be.  Everything seemed to be working and falling into place.  There was not much crowd support, which we expected.  It's a relatively small college town.  Everyone who is in to running was in the race.  There were some though.  A van full of about 5 people seemed to show up every 3-4 miles and they were loud.  I'm not sure if they were following anyone in particular or if they just randomly were moving along the route.  They were awesome though.  A good portion of the route goes through the Texas A&M campus.  The student organizations have a contest of who is the best support group.  We had winter wonderland complete with dressed characters, people dressed as cows, and just people being as loud, boisterous, and overly encouraging as they could.  One group was at the bottom of a hill (and I use that word loosely, it's a very flat course) and had person at the top of the hill.  He was reading bib name and communicating that via cell phone to the group below.  So, when you got to the group they were all cheering your name.  Of course, I had a bib with someone else's name on it so it took me a bit to understand that they were cheering for me.  I appreciated all nonetheless.

Getting through campus and hitting around mile 20, things started to get rough.  Of course, this is to be expected.  I kept on and pushed through. I focused on my breathing and got into a very hard, rhythmic breathing pattern.  Almost like a metronome that I was running too.  The breathing here was very forced and this would end up being my downfall.  Slowly, I started feeling a tingling in my arms and hands.  I started to get a little concerned but just kept going.  I felt myself slowing down.  It looked like if I was going to break 4 hours, it was going to be close and could go either way.

The last couple of miles were really tough.  The tingling was getting worse and had now also moved to my face and head.  I couldn't understand because I had been nailing my nutrition plan and felt fine from that perspective.  I pushed hard and finished with everything I had.  4:07 by my watch; a 33 minute PR from my last marathon!  Once at the finish, I got my blanket, medal, and tried to get as much carbs and sugars in as I could.  It was getting much colder.  I kept telling myself that I would feel fine in a bit and just relax and wait it out.  I went and sat down.  It didn't get better.

I decided that since I had to drive back after this, I should probably get checked out by the medical staff.  I walked into the medical tent, told them what was going on and they immediately rushed me over to a bed.  They wrapped me in more blankets and gave me a warming pad to hold to my chest.  Eventually, they explained that I had become over oxygenated.  I had too much oxygen in my system and my body was trying to equalize.  I can only think it was the forced breathing I was doing is what did it.

Regardless, I was fine in about 30 minutes and was able to walk back to my car. I had a great celebratory lunch and then headed back home.  I felt accomplished, cancelled race, adversity, and crazy last minute changes or not.

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