May 09, 2012

Awww C'mon Bananas | A Bruising Marathon Story

So we all know Marathon can take your best laid plan, chew it up, and spit it out before running off into the sunset of your broken dreams. And in the five marathons I’ve run before Eugene, that’s happened to me twice before.

 And so I had a new plan. A plan so radical it involved crazy non-competitive adjectives like “fun,” “relaxed,” and even “enjoyable.” It also involved putting the word “bananas” on my race bib instead of my first name to A) remind me not to take myself too seriously, and B) hopefully hear the crowd yell, “Go bananas!” for 26.2 miles, which I thought would be very funny while also helping me reach my goal of 3:15. (Previous marathons: Seattle 3:37; Portland 3:02; NYC 3:05; Portland 2:59; Portland 2:59).

So the first sign that my plan would go awry was the bib number itself. My number, 440, was BIG. And the word bananas was small. And sure enough, for the first 22 miles, not a single soul uttered “Go bananas!” except perhaps...the banana. (Thank you Meghan. Seeing you equaled the highlight of my race.) But beyond that, just quiet, 3:15 pace group crickets. But no biggie.

The 7:25-ish miles felt beyond easy. At 16 miles I got the joyous news that @oiselle_mac had gotten her Half Marathon PR of 1:19/3rd place and Oiselle athlete Marci Klimek had taken the win. I immediately felt a rush of joy and happiness (if anything, over the past 10 weeks, I had been more excited about Mac’s goal than my own). All seemed well with the world...I took off my arm warmers and felt ready to bring it home. But at 21 miles, something changed. I could feel a tightness building in my right quad. And by 22 miles, both quads felt as if they had been shot with an elephant gun. So tight and painful, they were unrunnable. Not an ease-off-and-run-a-few 7:45 miles here and there kind of unrunnable. Just simply could not get them to stride without searing, tight pain. And so the walking ensued. The walking and the self-doubt. I went down the list of what I thought I had done right: pace (check), training (check; light at 45 mi/week but I had done the long runs), fuel (check, 3 gels at miles 5, 14, and 19), water (check, almost every station, a half a cup). But there I was. Walking. By then, the volunteers had plenty of time to read bib names, and with earnest sympathy the sweetest looking high school girls looked me in the eyes and said,“Ohhhh c’mon bananas...you got this...” “It’s okay bananas, you’re almost there...” “Aw bananas...”

Ah, sooooo ripe.

After seven cups of fluids, I was able to run the last two miles. This was the only relief, and a small salvaging of my race time (3:24). That, and getting to run onto the track at Hayward, with its iconic silhouette hovering on the sky like a beacon of running hope and heritage.

Of course the after-party was amazing...

The other salvaging part was every other aspect of the weekend...pics better than words:

Before heading out of town, we stopped by a special venue...

So one week later, this is where I’m at: I am humbled and grateful for the experience. Much like my less than stellar NY Marathon experience, I felt the hard times of mile 22-24 took me to a dark place that I was then forced to find my way out of. A big part of what drew me forward was the love of the Oiselle Family... which equals our staff, customers, team members, online peeps, and the marathon volunteers. There was never a time when I felt alone in the true sense of the word... and for that I am eternally grateful. I love this business. I love the people. I love where Oiselle is at in its growth and evolution. Go Bananas!