Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Austin Marathon 2007
I woke up at 4:00 AM Sunday morning to put some food down and have it start digesting before the race started at 7:00 AM. It was about 35 degrees outside. Had some oatmeal, a banana, a Clif bar, and a yogurt smoothie. Put on my running clothes, strapped on my new ankle brace for my tendonitis, got all my race stuff together, and waited for my dad to come pick me up. I hadn't gone to the bathroom the day before, so I tried. Didn't happen. I knew I'd have to before the race, or else I'd have to during.
My dad picked me up at 5:45 as planned. I bundled up and brought a bottle of orange juice and a Tylenol to help counter my swelling ankle. My apartment is inside the loop the marathon makes, so we were curious how my dad would get out as they were closing the streets around us. After some confused driving around, we finally found a suitable parking space in a hotel's parking garage. When the registration fee is over $100, the marathon oughta find a place for participants to park for free.
The race wouldn't start for more than 30 minutes, so we hung out under a tent near the start and tried to stay warm. I took my orange juice and Tylenol. The lines for the port-a-potties were insanely long. Looked like I'd be using one during the race. With 10 minutes to go, we headed to the start line. I passed off my jacket and pants, then did some last-minute stretching. It was still in the 30s. Lined up. Gun sounds. We're off.
I was running well for the first few miles with very little pain, if any. Spent most of the first mile passing people as the crowd distributed itself by pace. Between miles 4 and 5, we were staring directly at the sun, less than an inch above the horizon. Less than pleasant. Around the same time, I was starting to warm up. I took off my gloves and put them in my back pocket, intending to hand them to Athan at mile 11.
At mile 8, I was still holding my seven-minute-mile pace, exactly where I wanted to be. But I was starting to alter my stride to make sure my left tendon didn't have to do much work. The change in my stride was putting a lot of stress on my abs. Since I hadn't used the bathroom, my stomach was cramping up. I spied a port-a-potty and used it.
Right at mile 11, Athan was there, as expected, blasting Thunderstruck. I didn't see him at first, so he had to sort of chase me to pass me a Clif Shot. I grinned. I also forgot to hand him my gloves. No big deal. I'd hand them to Peyton at mile 13.
Not long after I saw Athan, it was getting extremely hard to run in my altered stride. I wasn't sure how much longer I'd hold up like that. Right before mile 13, I needed another port-a-potty, so I used one. I was also thankful to get a short break. My stomach was killing me.
When I got out of the port-a-potty and started running again, pain shot up from my tendon. Not good. I tried altering my stride even more. Didn't help much. At mile 13, I saw the water station, but no Peyton. Where was she? There wasn't even anyone from her team there. I kept up my miserable pathetic jog and wondered where they were.
At mile 14, my tendon was hurting worse. I walked a little while. Up until mile 16, I was walking half the time and jogging half the time. At mile 16, I needed another port-a-potty. I really wish I'd been able to go before. My tendon really hurt now. I decided to walk until further notice.
I hugged the right curb and watched as hundreds passed me. That hurt. I knew I could be running with them if it weren't for my injury, which I knew was mostly my own fault. About every ten minutes, I'd try stretching out my tendon. It hurt. Participants and spectators both tried cheering me on to get me to start running again. I wished I could've told them why I was walking. My head was down.
At mile 18, I spied my parents. They asked about my tendon. I told them I wanted to find a way to finish, but it would be a while. I handed them my gloves. They gave me my cell phone so I could call my friends and tell them not to wait up.
Only about a quarter of a mile later, a spectator running his own personal aid station saw me walking and asked, "Do you need anything?" I answered, "A new ankle." He asked if I wanted Tylenol. I took two and told him how much he ruled.
Not much later, I found an official medical station. I asked if they knew anything about tendonitis. They couldn't do much for me, but asked if I wanted to sag in, then radioed the sag wagon. They were still ten miles back, which meant it would be about three hours before they got there, and maybe another two before they got to the finish. Walking would be way faster. I started thinking about Ky and how much it must've sucked for him to walk by himself all summer while his teammates rode bikes. I was going to finish this thing.
At mile 20, I saw some Texas 4,000 people handing out Clif Shots. I took a few. They asked if I was tired. I told them about my injury. I was getting impatient by then, so shortly afterward, I tried running in my awkward altered stride. Hurt bad. Stopped immediately. Kept walking.
Around mile 21, another spectator handed me three Ibuprofen. Again impatient, I started hopping on one foot not long after that. People saw me doing that and must’ve seen my ankle brace as well, because I got a bunch of encouragement while doing that. Lots asked me what I'd hurt. Lots congratulated me for sticking with it. The funny thing was, since I was towards the back of the pack now, I was passing people as I hopped on one foot. Then I'd walk, and they'd pass me, and I'd pass them again as I hopped. I was staying on pace with these people on only one good foot.
Between mile 23 and 24, I was hopping down a sharp hill and started losing control. To catch myself, I had to use my left foot. It hit the ground a certain way and didn't hurt. Almost involuntarily (this was a steep hill), my feet kept moving in quick, short steps. Again, no pain. I tried keeping it up at the bottom of the hill, after the ground had flattened out. No pain! I could finish the last two miles this way.
I called Peyton when I got to mile 24 to let her know I'd probably finish in about 20 minutes. I kept walking uphills, but did my pathetically slow jog of short, quick steps the rest of the time. I passed people that way. How is it even possible to run so slow? As I approached the capitol, the ground started sloping up again. I've taken that hill hundreds of times in training and never thought it was bad, but had to walk it today. As I got near the capitol, some people were handing out beer. Normally, drinking beer in the last mile of a marathon would make me puke. But since I hadn't been running much, my body didn't feel too bad. I took one. Just as I was finishing it, the ground leveled off again. Once again, I started my pathetic slow jog.
I rounded the capitol and took the downhill on the other side. I had been excited about how cool the last mile would be, rounding the capitol and sprinting downhill for the finish. Not so cool today. I normally stretch my legs on the downhill on the south side of the capitol. Not today. Congress was lined with tons of fans cheering loudly as I approached the finish line. I looked to my right and noticed no one was still running the half marathon.
In Dallas, I felt like a rock star as I finished. This time, I didn't feel worthy of anyone's cheers. But in a strange way, I was still proud that I stuck with it and finished despite everything. I crossed the finish line, looked up, and saw Peyton right in front of me holding an armful of medals. I grinned ear to ear, bowed my head to have her put on my medal, and gave her a hug. Had to keep moving to get out of the way.
After getting my chip cut off, I headed to the finisher's area where I took a Powerade, half a bagel, and some Quaker oats bar. Tried calling both my parents. No luck. Picked up my finisher's jersey. Right after that, I saw my friend Amber, who runs cross country at UT. She hadn't run; her sister did and forgot to get her finisher's jersey, so Amber was getting it for her. She congratulated me on finishing and asked about my tendon. I told her. She told me she was sorry and congratulated me again.
I went to lunch with my folks, Peyton, and Athan, then took a nap all afternoon. Dinner was some leftover Thai pasta. I took it easy all night, watched TV, studied for French just a bit. Went to bed pretty early. My ankle was swollen in the morning.
I'm embarrassed at my poor performance. I feel bad for making people come out and watch me suck, especially my folks, who had to drive down from Plano and get a hotel. I probably shouldn't run for at least another month, which means I'll only have a month after that to train for Boston. I still haven't bought my plane tickets. Considering my situation, I've decided not to run the Boston Marathon.
It sucks. I really wanted to. But I don't wanna re-injure myself and embarrass myself in the process, and even if I knew that wasn't going to happen, I'll only have a month to train (I don't plan on running before Spring Break). The good news is that Boston's qualifying window is a whole year and a half, so my performance in Dallas has me already qualified for 2008.
So what do I do in the meantime? Well, I need to keep training in some low-impact stuff (taking a whole month off entirely is unthinkable). Obviously I don't mind biking. I've always wanted to get better at swimming as well, to add something to my pathetically skinny and weak arms. So I think I'll do those for a while.
Wait a minute, if I'm already a good runner and decent biker, and I become decent at swimming, isn't there some event where you use all of those? Why yes there is! I think I'll take a stab at a triathlon. In late May, there's an Olympic triathlon in Austin known as the Capital of Texas triathlon. Olympic triathlons are a one mile swim, 40K bike ride (about 25 miles) and a 10K run (about 6.2 miles). The biking and running I could do in my sleep. The main thing will be getting way, way better at swimming in the next three months. Changing my biking distance from 80-ish miles down to 25 and running from 26.2 to 6.2 means I'll have to learn how to move a little faster rather than just chug along at a comfortable speed for all eternity.
Whoooo for triathlons. My next marathon may very well be Dallas next December. I don't know of any local ones any sooner than that.