The Long and Sordid Tale of My Marathon – and a few training tips

Thank you all for being so supportive. When it comes to the line between “I did it!” and “I failed to do it the way I wanted to” I am still closer to the latter than the former but as of this morning there is a new twist. A twist that told me loud and clear ‘it could have been worse’.

I got up at 4:00, got a cup of coffee, grabbed the BodyGlide and started greasing up everything that would have an elastic band around it. Then I greased up my left foot and just as I was pulling my sock on decided I needed to trim and file my toenails. Have you ever needed to get across the room when your foot has been slathered in BodyGlide? I have – several times but I just never seem to learn. I hopped across the room, got the goods, fixed up my toenails and reapplied the BodyGlide. Then I did my right foot. Grabbed my Garmin (evil beast!), pinned on my bib, put my chip on, brushed my teeth, and headed out the door – anxious. So anxious.

I drove into the city, parked (after almost steering a bunch of followers into a shipping bay and then having to back up out of there and down 1/2 a block) and walked over to the marathon area to find Waddler26.2. She wasn’t quite there yet so I headed for a porta-potty but the line was really long so I went back and found her. We met and then headed over to the starting line together. I was in panic because I couldn’t find the sweat check but then I found it and all was well.

I lined up in a wave ahead of mine (bad, bad, bad) and waited to go. I bid Waddler adieu and I was off. The pack ran past the water and up the hill and it went like buttah. “Ahhhh”, I thought, “that hill training really paid off”. Of course it was a short hill but still I was feeling good. Sort of. I still felt not warmed up but I was happy with my ability to manage the hill. Across Crissy field where the sprinklers were going and getting us wet. It was kind of funny. Along the water and up, up to the bridge (much bigger hill but still okay). I love this part of the race because they close 1/2 the bridge to traffic and let the runners run right on the bridge. I just think that’s cool. I ran down to the far end then turned around and came back and 2 things happened that made me glad I was still running.

First I saw a woman on the side of the bridge who had fallen or something and it looked like she had broken her nose. There was blood all down her front and a cop was putting a bandaid on her knee. I guess they moved the runners still coming onto the bridge on the sidewalk and sent an ambulance for her. Her race was over.

Then a cop car was clearing the traffic lane closest to the runners lane. I thought that was odd and wondered why he was there when all of a sudden a wheelchair runner came screaming along at a really fast pace and then BAM! I think his front tire blew. What a bummer for him – he was really hauling until that happened. An SUV started to pull up so I hoped that was his support crew and they could get him going again. Anyhow – I was still running and quite glad of it.

Off the bridge, up the big nasty hill and to a water station. I took my 2nd or 3rd little cup of Cytomax. Such a big mistake. I motored on. At this point I was just looking to hit the half before 2:30 and I made it – yippee!! But as I said, I started feeling queasy and icky and not happy at all. Honestly – for the rest of the race I was struggling and trying to make myself run instead of walk. I just couldn’t force myself much, though.

Some good hearted people had set up speakers in the park and they were playing music and I realized that the music really helped so I took my iPod out of my pocket and started listening to my music and it did help. I even had a sub 12 minute mile in there.

When I got out of the park and in to the Haight I realized that I wanted water when I wanted it and I wanted it to be cold so I stopped into Happy Donuts and bought a bottle of water (I always keep a couple of bucks in my shoe pocket for just such emergencies). I almost bought a donut hole just to get something solid and high fat in my stomach but I couldn’t fathom the act of eating anything so I nixed that idea. Not too long after that I encountered a woman passing out tortilla chips to runners so I took a couple. I took a bite and worked really hard to chew and swallow but it was like eating dust – I had no moisture in my mouth. I did manage to force down 2 whole chips with the help of my water and I started running again – it was downhill – whee!

My big mistake was going past the Hashers and not taking a beer. I’ll bet a beer would have helped. I just couldn’t manage it, though. I was also a little afraid I’d get drunk on 2 sips and say “F#ck It !” and call a cab. On I went. Finally I could see the ball park in the distance and that made me really happy because once you get around the back of the ballpark you are almost there (note to people on the sidelines who start with the “almost there!” at mile 20. No we’re not – we still have 6.2 miles to go. Cut it out!)

I had been sticking to a group doing the run for the AIDS Foundation for pretty much the entire run and they started to get away and I started to think about sticking with them. Then a horrible thing happened. The 5:00 hour pace group blew past me. At that point I decided that the 5 hour ship had sailed and all I could do was try to keep the 5:30 pace group from passing me. They never did but they probably started 10 or 15 minutes behind me – but I digress. I watched that 5 hour group go by and wondered to myself “Why didn’t you just line up with those guys to begin with” Arggghhh!!

On I went, around the ballpark and along the promenade and there I saw a woman not 1 mile from the finish, sitting on a bench having her blood pressure taken. And then I heard an ambulance. She was so close but she bonked and would DNF and I was glad to be running/walking still.

Finally I could see it – FINISH! And then I found my sweet Pookie holding up a big orange sign that said, “My Mom Is a Stud!” It warmed my heart. I slowed just long enough for her to get a picture. I look far better than I feel – trust me. I yelled out “Meet you on the other side!” and took off for the timing pads.

So what turned me around this morning? I opened the paper to read about a guy who died in the last 2 miles of that race. He was trained. He was healthy. He was only 43 years old and he died – just like that. He was William Goggins, a former deputy editor of Wired Magazine, a hip guy with a hip life full of people who adored him. He died of a heart attack. It’s so incredibly sad. I didn’t die – I made it. Not as fast I would have liked but I made it and I’m still here to tell the tale and I feel some obligation to appreciate that reality and so I do. I’m not probably ever going to celebrate it because I had a goal and I failed to meet my goal but I did cover 26.2 miles and I did it feeling lousy and I didn’t quit. I finished. And that’s good.

Marathon Training Tips (or – what I should have done but didn’t)


1). Listen to your training. The fact that my long runs all got so hard at the end should have been a clue that I was running too fast. I had every intention of running my 2nd 20 miler slower than the first but did I do it? No. I just repeated the same hell I experienced the first time and lo and behold – my marathon went south on me. Listen to your body.

2). Train with what you will race with. That means figure out what sports nutrition works for you. If you get nauseated on one thing try another and keep trying stuff until you find something that keeps you going without making you sick. Then pack it along on your marathon. I scoffed at the people with the fuel belts and the 22 packs of Gu flopping up and down in their shorts with the back pockets but I’ll bet they didn’t get sick.

3). Watch it with the Garmin – I would have done well to (as I had intended) wear it on my upper arm while training so I got the data but didn’t burden myself trying to hold a pace that wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t do myself any favors with that.

4). Avoid comparison shopping for validation or prediction. By that I mean don’t go plugging numbers from training runs into predictors and expect it to work. There is no reason to think you can suddenly outperform yourself on race day. If you can’t handle 20 miles at the race pace you need to make your time then you will not likely be able to handle 26.2 at that pace. I don’t know who decided you could run a long race faster than you trained for it but I think it’s daft. That might work for a 10K or even a 1/2 but a whole marathon is long, long way. Train at your race pace and live with whatever that is. If you have something left in the tank for the last 10K go for it.

What’s Next?

Aug 20 I have a metric century on the bike. How I am going to train for that is beyond me. I have no time expectations and it isn’t a race so I’ll just do what I do and you can rest assured I’ll be happy just to make it.

Sept 30 – See Jane Run is having a teeny-tri. 500 yd. swim, 11 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. Sounds like a blast.

Oct 22 – possible for the Nike Women’s 1/2. This involves serious fundraising so I’m not totally committed yet. I want the bling, though and I’d like to have a meet up with Juls and company.

Nov 26 – Run to the Far Side 10K. I’d like to do this in an hour.

Train Smart!

lap splits:
first 1/2 – 10:29, 10:30, 11:12, 10:46, 11:02, 12:07, 10:24, 11:09, 10:55, 11:40, 10:14, 12:33, 11:40

second 1/2 – 10:55, 14:39 (bathroom break), 13:41, 14:35, (I’m toast), 11:47 (thank you iPod), 14:56, 16:23 (water purchase), 14:15, 11:53, 14:13, 14:26, 13:37, 13:43, 11:91 pace to finish.

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20 Responses to The Long and Sordid Tale of My Marathon – and a few training tips

  1. Firefly's Running says:

    Way to go! It’s so sad that someone died during the marathon. Be thankful for what you do and just learn from it. I did and will use that knowledge for the next marathon.

  2. Firefly's Running says:

    Way to go! It’s so sad that someone died during the marathon. Be thankful for what you do and just learn from it. I did and will use that knowledge for the next marathon.

  3. Lisa says:

    You really are my hero. I thank you for your insight, and I plan to put all of your tips to use. 🙂

  4. Bob says:

    great job and great tips. Thanks for sharing, that sounds like one tough course.

  5. Bolder says:

    ‘My mom is a stud.’ You’ve got a good Pookie. There’s nothing like having someone you love at the finish line. Remember that.Great race. Great Report.Well done.And, lessons learned for the masses. What more can you ask for?

  6. Mother of Chaos says:

    You so rock. I’m so proud of you!!! I never would have made it past the doughnuts, let alone the beer… 😉

  7. Vickie says:

    NEVER, NEVER pass up a beer stop.

  8. jeff says:

    those tips rock.congrats on finishing, not quiting and most of all, not dying!

  9. Juls says:

    Great Job. I like your story and your tips. I read about that guy who died as well; it sure makes you think doesn’t it.

  10. YaYa says:

    My Mom is a stud too.

  11. Rose says:

    What a fabulous attitude you have! Your upcoming schedule is really inspiring, too! And the guy who died – it really does make one think. Thanks for sharing!

  12. jeanne says:

    wow, you got yourself some GREAT comment love there! I, too, am glad you didn’t die. People forget that marathons are serious business (not that i’m saying that guy forgot or anything..i’m just sayin…they can be life or death endeavors.)I think your tips are great, and you obviously learned a lot and the greatest of all things is that you’re not beating yourself up, you are moving right along! that, my friend, is the mark of a true champion.rock on!:)

  13. Jessica says:

    Good for you! Moreover, if it weren’t for you, I would never have heard of “BodyGlide”.

  14. David says:

    good tips. you forgot to remind us all of the mighty powers of a cold beer in the second half of a race to see us through.

  15. Anita says:

    Congratulations to you, and thank you for such a great marathon report! It was almost like being there except without the strained calves or sweat!

  16. Stillwater Heron says:

    I am so proud of you!And your Pookie is a real gem!Enjoyed your report and tips.Next time stop for that beer :)The fellows who work for me always say “everyday is a good day when you wake in the morning and are still alive”.My heart goes out to the family of the runner who died on what should have been a good day for him….

  17. Steve says:

    Nice chatting with you.I’m sure you passed by me because I was one of only two racewalkers out on the 2nd half. BTW I loved the way you described the course…so true. Congrats!

  18. David says:

    P.S. I think the picture is a keeper. Good one.

  19. Dori says:

    Great race report! And great race. I would like to do that race just to have the opportunity to run on the Golden Gate bridge without any cars. And I’m with you on the Nike Women’s races. I’m hoping to race it in 2007–I want that Tiffany finisher’s medal.

  20. Laurel says:

    Two things are funny about this.1. My husband calls me pookie2. I was at San Francisco for this race. I was even wearing your hat!I only ran the 5k, but my husband and friends ran the half and some other ran the full.What a great post. Wonderful tips, I will definitely reread this one again as I train for my first half. Oh, and I know you didn’t get the time you wanted, but you ran a marathon. You need to celebrate!

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