Quite a day! I knew I was in trouble 2 days ago when I couldn't keep up with my wife's 8:30 pace without noticable pain. Somehow I imagined 1 day's rest with motrin would magically heal me in time for the big race on Saturday. I also convinced myself that I could hang on to my fitness from October's marathon, which in ideal circumstances maybe I could, but I was not able to accomplish either speedwork or volume since that time. I haven't run a 70 mile week since August and I haven't been able to run fast since spraining my ankle 3 weeks ago (until last week and then hurt my achilles). So, basically I limped up to the starting line hoping to accomplish mind over matter (never mind my fitness had suffered and some was "the matter" with my achilles). So, I slept well last night, made it to the elementary school an hour early, stretched, found a secret bathroom in the back hallway, and made it to the front of the pack for the start of the race. I sized up the crowd around me and realized on a good day I could probably make top 20 or so (only 10 finished under 3hrs). Somehow, I convinced my mind that I could do this and ran mile 1 (all downhill) under 6 minutes. Did the achilles hurt? Absolutely! But I was going to give it my best until my body wouldn't allow me to. By mile 3, my body started to say, "enough's enough". That was my last sub-7 mile. One month ago my last sub-7 mile was on mile 16. I completed mile 5 with a time of 34 minutes. Mile 6 was complete in a time of 41:30...uh oh! The next several miles were grueling. All slightly uphill on a trail against a 20mph wind. My achilles was really starting to scream, so I slightly adjusted my stride to a semi-gallup. My goal was to make it to the halfway point with a chance of stil pr'ing (3:09). By mile 12 there were probably only 25-30 runner (of 450) in front of me. By mile 13 there were at least 40-50. I completed mile 13 in just over an 8 minute pace, making it to the halfway point in about 1:35 flat. Somehow, again I thought my mind could convince the body to do the impossible. I told myself that the 2nd half would now be slightly downhill with a 20 mph tailwind, which was true, but I failed to recognize that my right achilles was still hurting and that now my left calf was almost dead from over compensating.
As I made the turnaround, I hooked onto a pack who pulled me along to mile 17 at a fairly decent pace. Not sub-7, but close. Then everything began to unravel. The wind was at my back, the trail was moving slightly downward, but my legs no longer worked. The only good part was my left calf was so dead that I was now shifting my weight back to the achilles which somehow had become more a dull pain. I kept about an 8 minute pace until mile 21 and then stopped to eat a handful of gummi bears. This was almost my undoing. This is the point I decide it wasn't worth the risk of injuring myself and maybe I should just walk the rest. Doing the math, I realized a 10 minute pace would get me back in just over 50 minutes and walking could take me 2 hours. So I decided to just shuffle my way back. Fortunately the trail was very forgiving, so I don't think much damage was being done.
The last 1.5 miles were back on asphalt and I caused a few laughs by climbing 4 feet up an embankment and trotting on soft grass. This last maybe 3/4 of a mile and then I thought I was going to kill myself trying to get back down. Completed the final stretch, all uphill, spotted my family, and grabbed my 10-year-old who accompanied me to the finish. My achilles and calf were sore, but the rest of me really wasn't all that tired.
Am I glad I still ran? Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I actually enjoyed the experience. It was a beautiful course, very well organized, and I can put another marathon notch on my belt. It wasn't pretty, but I learned alot through this experience. I plan now to take 2 full weeks of rest before training again and I'll definitely think twice before running back-to-back marathons or returning from an injury too soon. Fortunately, the achilles doesn't seem much worse and my body feels 10x better than it did upon finishing Boston last Spring. Hats off to you veteran marathoners who run several of them per year. I nowhere near that in this stage of my running career. If any of you made it this far, thanks for reading!