Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dragon Dogs, Pain Anguish and Exhilaration! Oakland Marathon

I think I've created a huge amount of pressure on myself too soon with my grand plans of completing a sub 4 hour Marathon and qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2014. Neither came to pass after running the Oakland Marathon. So now the self-flagellation over the past couple of days has been quite spectacular.

I've come to the realization that counting on a couple of days rest and a good nights sleep before a Marathon is a complete impossibility for me. There are too many variables in my life to develop any kind of logistical game plan of action on any given day. There's always a wrench that will be thrown with timely precision in my direction. 

Saturday was a day where I wanted to rest, go to the Oakland Marathon Expo to get my race packet eat a lot and go to bed early. Simple?...Nope! By 11:30 at night I was still trying to get myself organized and prepared for Sunday's race. Some how even with all the noise and goings on outside and in my building I dropped off to sleep around midnight. I woke up at 3:30 and my mind began racing. I gave up around 4 am and just got up put on coffee and put some yogurt and fruit together for breakfast. I got on the computer for a little while and checked my Facebook, email and re-read the race day logistics. As my sleepy dogs watched me in wonderment as I walked back in forth  getting dressed and double checking everything I needed I then kissed them each goodbye and headed out to warm up my leg muscles and walk down to the 4th street Marriot to grab a cab. Fortunately the cab driver was brilliant and got me over to Lake Merritt in Oakland in about 15 minutes! Still cost me $45. Oakland is hard to get to with out a car and Bart not running early in the morning.
I was actually the first runner there and with plenty of time on my hands I found a park bench and just started doing some yoga, stretch and breathing. At about 6 am things began to happen fast as people arrived. I checked my bag, chatted with some people I met and headed up to the start to find my 3:50 pace group. It was a nice surprise to see Sarah Lavender Smith waiting for her 3:40 group to assemble. I spoke to her a little but, didn't want to take up too much of her time. I knew she had a lot going on and needed to get prepared with her group. I did manage to get a quick shot with my camera.

As the countdown began the energy level was crazy. At ten seconds to go I set my Garmin sports-watch and realized It hadn't made a satellite connection. I hit the start and hoped for the best.
My pace group was being led by two experienced Ultra runners. I was a bit worried about the pace being too hot in the climbs and I was correct on my assumption. The first 4 miles were quite brisk and my heart rate was already up around 160 in the high aerobic territory. At this point just before the climbing began I made a stop at the water station, grabbed a GU pack (chocolate Uuggg)! Chocolate GU is the worst. Unfortunately I lost my pacers and I had to run even faster until I finally caught them going up a steep section. At this point my heart-rate was 180 and I knew I'd be suffering later on for this.
3:30 pacers - can't remember their names.
One issue I had been dealing with was that my allergies were a real problem this past week. I now was really feeling it. A bit of heaviness in my lungs. I also felt a little light headed at the start and at one point during the last part of the climb I actually felt like I was listing to the left and almost fell into my pacer a couple of times. I was praying I wasn't going to pass out before the top. Right before I got to the summit I checked out my heart rate...187! Pinned!
If you look at my heart rate throughout the race you can see that I'm in the anaerobic zone or bordering on it for most of the time.
By the way, my Garmin didn't sync up at the start and it missed the first mile.

As we finally started to descend I stopped again to get water and a GU. After that I just could not get back to my pace group.
"Houston...we have a problem". At this point my mind was like a meteor shower of negative thoughts pouring in. Half Marathons are where I'm best. I can max out my heart rate to that point but now I was trashed.
It's funny how I would get a surge of energy whenever I passed one of the many bands and DJ's. After a couple of blocks the music would be gone and I'd drift back into my stupor. I checked my splits and I was still doing pretty good. If I could just keep it under 9:00 minute miles I still had a chance.
...and then mile 17!
I started merging with the half marathoners and the 5k runners. It was difficult in my stupid state to negotiate around everyone and it slowed me down and made me use more energy than I had left.
I also had a couple of emotional episodes. I get like that when I go into my dark. I thought of my life experiences, people who I miss and the thought of not hitting my time in combination with some of the music I heard just shattered me. At one point my wind pipe just started closing up and the water works were beginning but, I would just fight it off and keep checking my splits which were now falling rapidly.
It weird how pushing yourself to the limit can become something that's so emotional and in what could be a spiritual event. Just naked to the Universe.

I also started to overheat which added to my misery. At one point I was starting to get into that spacey, dreamy zone and suddenly I heard some pretty cool techno music and looked over to see a giant steel dragon (GonKiRin-Burning man dragon) with orange eyes and fire coming out of it's nose. It looked just like my dog "Lady Gaga"! I thought about her and how she saved me from my massive depression back in 2009. She's so strong and intense but damaged in many ways yet we've brought her back to what she is now. A real fighter that had been an abandoned bait dog. It was an omen. That was it...everything just locked up and I stopped and let the rain come down. I lost a minute trying to compose myself but somehow I  felt more energized thinking about her and my other little dogs. I wanted to run like those bitches and howl as I crossed the finish line. I was on a mission. 

As I approached Lake Merritt, I just kept telling myself,
"Just don't stop"!
I never really thought about how long around Lake Merritt is. I had it in my mind to be much smaller and as I started going around realized how far away the finish was. I checked my split and realized I'm not going to get my BQ. Once that thought popped into my head, it was game over!
Now I felt  like I had cinder blocks on my feet and I was getting agitated trying to get around runners and actually had someone almost run up my back. 
I stopped for 20 seconds just to stretch out my hamstrings and It was almost impossible to get moving again. Finally I reached the bottom of the hill going up to the finish. I couldn't see the finish gate and that really annoyed me for some reason. When I crossed the finish I couldn't even manage a smile. I felt like I was going to get sick and there were so many people right in front of me, I thought this is going to be a disaster!
I managed to hang on, grabbed a water and just went flat on my back in the grass. Every time I tried to get up all my muscles in my stomach and legs would cramp up.
After some time I got up to cash in my beer coupons as I started across the park I ran into Sarah again and I mumbled,
"I'm trashed"
Sarah responded
I repeated what I said and she laughed because she thought I said I was "so drunk"!
That was pretty funny but, in away I was ready to be that.
I should have taken more pictures but I just wasn't all with it. I hung out a while and chatted with some runners. Finally I just hobbled off to the BART station.

On the way home I thought about, even though I didn't attain my goals, it was just an amazing experience. This was my third Marathon and it gave me some fresh confidence. I think I'll get my Boston qualifying either in San Francisco or Santa Rosa. Just need to train a little harder but, I'm getting there. I've only been doing this running thing for just over a year now so I'm happy with how it all turned out.
The Oakland Running Festival is a fantastic event. I have a whole new perspective on the City of Oakland and the people who live there.
I would highly recommend to everyone, put this on your bucket list.
I'll be back next year to maybe shoot for a 3:40! Who knows.