Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Race Recap: State #2: Wisconsin

Race: Madison Marathon
Date: November 10, 2013
Result: DNF

Going into this race, I wanted to correct the things that gave me problems a month before in the Chicago Marathon – chafed inner thighs, black big toenails, and calf cramps.  This time I was a regular boy scout – I brought up to Madison body glide, better fitting shoes, and a fun run mentality to keep myself from pushing it too hard.  And as luck would have it I also brought a stomach virus up there to make all the other potential problems absolutely trifling.

The day before the race the virus hit me and I was curled up in bed all morning on Saturday.    When we headed up there around 2 in the afternoon my stomach was cramping up in regular intervals, around every half hour or so and I was making note of the time as if they were pregnant lady contractions.  I was hoping the spacing would get further and further apart and they did, eventually hitting me every hour or so. 
Packet pickup was a breeze, with only about 1800 bibs in the full marathon, and the expo was about the size of a basketball court.  We did a lap around the room and got my shirt, a really nice long sleeve maroon tech shirt that reminded me of my high school colors.  We didn’t stick around long though and met with my friend Courtney who was running the half and her husband David for a pasta dinner at Paisan’s next door, which had a great view of Lake Monoa.  We talked about how work was going and next year’s Ragnar and I was feeling pretty good and had a few Capital Brewery Amber Ales and a nice bowl of mushroom fettucine alfredo.

But after checking in at the hotel my stomach wasn’t too happy with the dinner, my only meal of the day, and starting at around 9 or 10 my internal dike broke and the whatever Dutch boy that was holding up the crack drowned.  With each trip to the bathroom I could feel my energy sap out from me and I was pretty sure I was creating matter and breaking some laws of the universe.  Each sip of Gatorade I took to replace the fluids I was losing was followed by what felt like a liter of torrential output, expelled from both directions.  I couldn’t sleep and I kept waking up to the feeling like death had grabbed my GI tract and was wringing it like a wet rag to get every drop of fluid out of it.  This happened like clockwork on an hourly basis – 1am, 2am, 3am, until I finally stayed up at 4am, each time hoping it was the last of the fluid I had in me, but wasn’t.  At this point I figured it would take a miracle to make it to the start line, and I joked with Mae, “You know how Jesus turned water into wine?  I’m turning food into water.”  We checked out of there without taking advantage of the free breakfast and drove to the start line. 

The intimacy of a smaller race like this was great because Mae could be there right at the start line and security was nothing like Chicago’s, which understandably had tons of security everywhere.  There were no corrals, just a chute about 70 yards deep where there were signs for 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 all the way to 12:00 minutes separated every 10 yards.  I snapped a pic in front of the Capitol building, hugged Mae and snaked my way to the 11:00 area a few minutes before start time and waited for the horn.  
I promised Mae I wouldn’t push it at all since this was just a fun run and a run to get Wisconsin off the list, so I told her to expect 10 minute miles.  But the energy and carbs that I had tried to load up on for the race had unloaded throughout the night and a 10 minute mile felt more like 8.  I was drained.

The first mile was pretty much all downhill (in every sense of the word) as we headed toward the Arboretum, and the cramping I hoped – prayed – would be gone came back and punched me in the gut a half mile in.  I began to panic because each step jostled my inner workings.  I knocked out the first mile in about 9:45 and saw my oasis up ahead - the first set of porta potties, a whopping 3 of them after mile 1.  There were 6 people in line in front of me and I kept my watch going and saw my pace for mile 2 go up, up and up.  It took about 5 minutes before I finally gained entry to one of the johns.  The runners waiting for their turn after me probably thought there was a faucet in there based on the sounds I was making. 
I busted out of there and took off hoping I would now be ok for at least the time being, and grabbed a cup of water from one of the awesome volunteers at mile 1.  I was already dehydrated and hoped the drinking wouldn’t bring more cramps but of course it came back and I felt the urge to go again not even 100 yards from the very first aid station. 

Miles 2 through 5 took us runners directly away from the start line and around Lake Wingra so there was no going back.  I was already regretting my decision but there wasn’t much I could do at this point but just run.  So I tightened the old sphincter, put my head down and plowed forward.  I couldn’t shake the infamous image on the net of that poor runner who had shit himself in the middle of a race and the look of the horrified spectators; that was the main reason to not try to do this.  I DID NOT WANT TO BE THAT GUY.  At least the guy in the picture was wearing shorts so it had a place to go; wearing thermal compression tights, I pictured it just coming out and evenly coating my lower half like some sort of scat cast as my worst nightmare was playing out in my head.  
What also didn’t help things were all the well-meaning folks sporadically dotted throughout the course wearing Green Bay Packers gear cheering me on - it just felt a tad icky as a Bears fan.  There was a sign saying that Aaron Rodgers thought I was a champion.  In my head I was thinking, I don't care what he thinks of me.  There was a juggler and all I could think was, fuck off, juggler.  I mean, seriously – who hates on jugglers?  But I wasn’t having any of his nonsense.  I'm slowly dying here, and you're going to juggle?  Externally though I kept my head down and politely thanked them as I trudged past them. 

When I saw Mae at the 7.5 mile mark, I told her I didn’t have the drive to keep running anymore.  But since we were 3 miles away from where we parked, I might as well stay on the course and re-evaluate somewhere between miles 10 and 11 where I’d see her again and kept going.  I had no idea there was about 80 feet of climbing up Observatory Drive at mile 9.    
At the bottom of that hill was the mile 10 aid station and of course I went straight to one of the porta potties for the third time.  While on the throne I looked at my watch.  Wow, I’m a few minutes shy of two hours.  In my first two marathons I have already crossed the halfway mark at this time.  I’ve lost at least 10 minutes to the porta potty visits and it was a struggle to run 11 minute miles.  I was so discouraged and tired I just started walking to help with the discomfort.  Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and I look and see it’s the 5:00 hour pacer that tapped me and he and his band of merry followers slowly passed me like slightly faster slugs trudging past a slower slug suffering from a severe bout of diarrhea.  He probably said something mystical and life changing that would have inspired me to run another 16 miles but with my headphones on I didn’t hear him.  He, his followers and what little morale I had left slowly but surely distanced themselves from me into the horizon.   

When I finally saw Mae again at the 10.5 mile mark, any will I had left in me to go on had slipped away with the 5 hour pace group.  I knew I wouldn’t see her again until mile 19 and that was unfathomable.  I still had almost a 5k to run just to get to the halfway point.  I pulled up on the sidewalk, pressed the Stop button on my Garmin and it broke my heart to see “Timer Stopped” on the display.  I buried my head in her chest and started sobbing.  “I’m sorry” was all I could say to her as we walked off the course and towards the car while I unpinned my bib.
I’ve read a few advice columns about whether you should run while sick, and am now a strict disciple of the neck rule.  If you’re sick from the neck up, go ahead and run.  From the neck down, don’t do it.  Had I listened to this advice and/or remembered anything from Physiology 101 I should have realized the stomach is below the neck, and not to have even tried to run.  But hell, we were already there anyway so I gave it a shot.  But back on the list Wisconsin goes along with the 48 other states.  It’s a beautiful course and maybe next time I’ll get a chance to enjoy it more.   

Registration: $105 + $7.35 Service Fee
Flight: N/A
Hotel: AmericInn Madison West $97

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