This was my big day. If this was poker, I was going “all in”. My hip hasn’t healed and I may not have many chances left to race well before taking time off. But I am in the best shape of my life and if I could get to the starting line I knew I’d run well. I had been gearing up for this race since May. I was strong and I had speed (evident in a 5k PR 3 weeks ago). On Tuesday I did 3 miles at goal pace (actually just a tad too fast) – 5:19, 5:17, 5:15 and I felt great, albeit a sore hip. My goal on race day was “even Steven” 5:20s.
At 7:45am the horn sounded and teammate Jason Dwyer and I surged forward. The pace seemed “right”. Teammate Patrick Reaves soon came up on our left and the three of us pressed ahead behind the elite pack (Kenyans and top Americans) and the chase pack (5:0X pace people). I guess we were the pack that chased the chase pack? There were maybe 20 of us. I hit mile 1 in 5:15 and felt perfect; a little fast but content. We weaved around city streets and I tried to follow the tangents. Mile 2 was 10:30 and 3 was 15:43 (5k =16:14). Sometime around here I heard some polka band playing the E-A-G-L-E-S song. I hate the Eagles, but I was an Eagles fan from mile 2 to 3. I was a bit faster than game plan but I’ve surprised myself before in longer races like this and thought I was doing the right thing. By mile 4 (20:55) I was 25 seconds below pace – either I was going to PR big time or...this was suicide.
Soon our pack split up and 6 guys started after the open abyss in front of us. I held back as I was already well under goal pace and I still had 9 miles to go. I ended up in no-man’s-land and drifted up to guys ahead and back to guys behind. Soon thereafter my stomach started to hurt. My stomach hurts in some of my races (or immd after) so this was no big surprise. Mile 5 was off and mile 6 was 31:29. I was actually picking it up just a tad. Right around mile 6, Dwyer finally came back up on me. He greeted me with “you have a friend”. I nodded and together, again, we chased down the ghosts ahead of us. My stomach began to deteriorate but I couldn’t tell if it would be “deal breaker” or not. I knew soon, however, that the pain was taking over. My 7th mile was 5:21 and my third was 5:31. Jason motioned that we had to move, but I waved him ahead and he drifted away. Others soon came up on me and I wasn’t able to go ahead. I would have surged with them if the distance was 10 miles and not 13, but I still had 5 miles to go and my stomach wasn’t getting any better. For the next couple of miles the demons in my head multiplied and gave me fodder for dropping out…but I pushed on...though the pace deteriorated and I stopped looking at the clock. While the battle in my head to stop waged, my eyes darted around for a restroom. We’ve all been there and we know that once you hit the restroom, with the exception of the marathon, you might as well throw the race away. My stomach told me to stop and my head told me to stop but my legs weren’t done yet. Could I press forward? My next 2 miles were a dismal 11:30. The wheels were coming off and I was dying a slow death, but I still couldn’t force myself off the course as that would been the same as dropping out. By mile 10, (53:49) my stomach was howling. I was now 30 seconds slower than goal pace! At mile 8 I was still below pace which means I had lost everything in the past two miles. Feeling dejected and with my interiors now severely fatigued, I ran off course and opened the door of an “extremely used” port-a-john. It was so used, that I walked right back out…but then in panic mode, opened the door again and walked right back in. (email me privately for the R rated version).
There is a scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in which Indy is battling a giant Indian guy twice his size (the conveyer belt scene). Not only is the bad guy stronger, but there is someone with a voodoo doll in the shape of Indy in the corner stabbing the doll with a knife. Indy reacts in excruciating pain to these stabs as he is being pummeled by the ferocious bad guy. Finally the knife is taken out of the doll and Indy, now furious, starts to beat the shit out of the bad guy…and wins.
90 seconds later I opened the bathroom door and hammered furiously towards the finish line. The “knife” was out of my side and I could finally fight again. I was enraged. My legs “clicked” right back into pre-stomach pain pace and I pushed ahead banging away what were likely 5:20 miles. I passed about ten runners in the next two miles. I didn’t take any more splits and tried to focus on at least salvaging my day and finishing the race with some form of dignity. I ended up running 1:12:12; well off my goal of sub 70-minutes.
I didn’t eat or drink anything out of the norm and if I could do it all over I don’t know what I’d change – unfortunately, I just had one of those days. I wish I had stopped for the restroom around mile 7 (when things started to hurt) but it’s extremely difficult to force yourself off the course for a bathroom break before you really need it. If I subtract 90 seconds from my time I was "only" off by goal by 30-45 seconds. All told, the stomach probably cost me 2 minutes. I put all my capital into this race and came up bankrupt; a colossal failure of a race. My stomach still had lingering effects from the race over 24 hours later.
Thank God I still have Army Ten Miler in 2 weeks. I wouldn’t want to end the season on this sad note. All you can do is pick yourself up and fight another day.
1. 5:16 (5:16)
2. 10:30 (5:14)
3. 15:43 (5:13)
4. 20:55 (5:12)
5. 26:12 – a guess since mile 5 was marked incorrectly (5:17*)
6. 31:29 (5:17*)
7. 36:50 (5:21)
8. 42:20 (5:30)
9. Mile 9 unknown
10. 53:49 (2 miles in 11:29…5:45s)
Bathroom Break…no longer looked at watch