I had just completed 14 kilometres before I realized what was happening. My motivational running mantra better work I thought, this is going to be a long day.
The fact that I could not breathe and the stabbing pain in my back rib cage was so intense that tears would stream down my cheeks was not helping my pace. I know, I would have to retreat to the pain cave and find a new gear – My legs were spinning, maintaining the BQ pace I had taken to heart, but I could feel it building and attacking me with it’s full power and might.
When the 24th kilometre struck, the cramps hit in a different location, threatening to lock me up completely. My legs wobbled and I cried out in pain. I had been running for just over two hours and was on the down hill of the Red Valley Hwy section of the course.
“You can do it,” I stammered between breaths. “come on, not this,” I said, wishing, willing the cramps away.
oh please help me, not this…..
18 Days BEFORE THE MARATHON, I ran with my coach to see how race ready I was for the marathon. My training run was a ran with two outcomes. The first was run until the avg pace went over 4:46 and the other was run until 8:30am when we both had to leave for work related tasks . We had agreed on a 3:20 marathon plan, which was the goal time I set back in August. In my mind, my fitness had me right where I needed to be. We ran until 8:30am with a avg pace of 4:42 for 15 km in 22C and 90% humidity. YES….I was ready!
My build up this season went almost flawlessly until I pulled my calf. I was getting stronger, working on my stride and running technique on the track. I was paying attention to the details — strength work and healthy diet. I was listening to the body. Summer races where awesome, including a my first trail race. I had run long enough runs to be confident in the distance — even with the injury and the reduced mileage early in the season.
Yup I was fit, healthy and ready to race.
13 DAYS BEFORE THE MARATHON
I woke up with a sore throat, aching muscles and a head cold to boot! No…. this was not happening was my first thought second thought was, oh no.
I decided I would I would take a cold remedy of essential oils. Mix my own, get lots of sleep and eat well. Over the next couple days it seem to work. I only missed one 10 km run. I was even able to get my Saturday and Sunday runs in that week as well.
Then on Tuesday another one hit me this time even harder. The headache never went away, the body chills, coughing, tightness in my chest, muscles aching. I was a mess. I didn’t run the rest of the week which was fine because it was only 2 little 30 minute shake out runs that I needed to do. I skipped both and got 10 hours to 12 hours of sleep each night. I did my best to eat as well as I could.
I was getting better but still it would not go away….I was hopping I had enough time.
By the time I woke up on race morning, I was not feeling my best and I didn’t want to focus on feeling crappy. I looked at the weather and it was going to be a gorgeous cool race morning. There was a wind but it was a mere 6km/h and the temperature was calling for 7C at the start, rising to 11-13C by noon. Perfect weather conditions.
Cough, cough, cough..
I picked up my friend that was going to be filming my attempt for a BQ at the great old time of 3:30am. Then we spent the next 1.5 hrs driving to the the race. I was planning on dropping him off at the start line then drive back down to the finish, park the car get read and take the bus up to the start line.
I arrived at the start line pumped, confident, focused. But something was off. My body was telling me something and I was not listening.
At the start line I was surrounded by so many friends — teammates. It was awesome. I was excited to run. 10 minutes before the race was about to begin I found my friend Jeff who was kind enough to pace me for the whole race. I was not going to run this race solo I had a great support crew and I had a feeling I might just need it.
THE GUN went off and I settled on the pace, trying to find the easy running feeling and finding it quickly. The grade was uphill & down hill. I saw that my first two splits were around two to three seconds on pace of 4:38s. I was golden. The weather was stunning, no wind and it seemed everyone had seeded themselves properly, so limited weaving was happening after the 1.5 km point. As we passed 2K and headed across ridge rd, I was in a pack of about 15 runners all going for a 3:20. The pace was good, my pacer was good but was I?4:38, 4:40, 4:40, 4:47
I knew I had settled down from all the excitement at the beginning, and that when I hit the 8K mark I found my rhythm like I always do. I’ve only ever run 1 marathon to date so I knew what to expect as far as the distance goes but you never know until your running, what it might play out –The country roads were wide, nicely paved and the sun just rising. Not only that but you could see Toronto and the finish line from high up on ridge road.
These are the easy miles, I told myself. Easy, I said to myself as we hit the 10K, headed
Keep it easy, I told myself, even as the emotions started to surface. From 10k to 15 I found my pace starting to slow, I had lost the pack of runner that I was with. My pacer Jeff was telling me that when We got to 16kms I had to pick it up and get ready for the downhill. I kept asking when we would be at the top of the hill….he said soon and with that I put my head down and thought “there is no real up hill anymore, your just getting slower”.
Km 16 came and went and the pace was no better. The pain had come in the form of not being able to breathe. My rib cage was screaming but I was running. Ok, Dave it’s go time I heard Jeff say….then it was silent. I could not even will my legs to go any faster….and still my pace slowed. This continued and as I passed the half way point I realized that I was behind. I needed to run a 1:38 first half but I crossed in 1:41:18 and I still got slower.
Splits: 4:46, 4:50, 4:51, 4:53, 4:49, 4:52, 5:03, 5:01, 5:10, 5:09, 5:12
10K (Actual 49:23 / Target: 46:40:) +2:43
Half Marathon (Actual 1:41:45 / Target: 1:38:00) +3:45
Pace for 10-21K : 4:50K +:10
21km – 31km
When then it came time to run down the Red Hill Parkway, I was so happy but then I looked at my pace and found I was running a 5:37 pace….NOT good. There was a bit of wind but I didn’t care. I was so far in the pain cave that I didn’t really know what to think. That was until my quads locked up and I went from running to walking and almost falling down. WTF just happened.
Jeff, “I can’t breathe and my quads just locked up” I yelled. “Don’t worry he said take these salt pills and drink your tailwind” he replied. I snap back “I’m out”. I looked at my friend Wade who was my bike pacer and he said “I’m all out as well, I’ll give you water”. The pain I was in was shockingly intense, tears were running down my checks and my BQ was shot! What had just happened!
Al I could muster was power walking down the Parkway. All the while watching runners pass me.
I’m going to quite, no your not, yes I am! I was having this crazy conversation in my head. I walked 5km down the hwy.
Ok, I feel better I said lets give it go. Its run time I pronounced when I was about to run down the trail. I was now off the hwy and about to run the 2km trail over the QEW.
300 metres later…….I had to walk, I can’t breathe AGAIN! and so this was my fate from 30km to the finish. So many runners had passed me, it was a sinking feeling watching the pace bunnies 3:45, 3:55, 4:00 all go by. I should just pack it in and go home now.
I had some time to think it over and while I was running/walking over the QEW. I decided I was done and needed to just go home. I was very sore and messed up. I was going to see my wife and my daughter in the next few minutes and they must have been worried sick because I had told them I would be at the 30km at 9:44am…..it was now closer to 10:15am….
As I approached the spot that we agreed on meeting at I stated to get the sinking feeling that they would not be there….but as I got closer I saw them both cheering me to keep going…….
“I’m done..time to go home I thought”
I was in arms length of them now and starting to move towards them…Their embrace was going to be so awesome. But then something happened. I was in so much pain I couldn’t talk, I whispered “I LOVE YOU” and I turned the corner onto the path that took me away from the finish line and on to the 31k mark. Tears filled my eyes, I now had to finish what I started and run for the volunteers, my wife, my daughter, for all the kids that could not run…this was a charity run and I needed to finish it. If I could put one foot in front of the other then I would!
Splits: 5:37, 5:20, 5:22, 6:42, 8:02, 9:09, 8:07, 8:09, 7:47, 5:56
10K (Actual 1:10:11 / Target: 46:40:) +24:31
Pace for 21-31K : 7:01K +2:30
32km – 35km
The next 5 kilometres we were running north, into what I call no mans land. Not much to say about this other than that it took lots of effort to keep up going but I was doing it. My legs were better but the pain in my back was screaming at me to STOP RUNNING. I retreated into the pain cave and looked at all the houses at where falling into disrepair next to the new ones that had taken up the lot next to them. Such a very interesting sight to see.
Turning the corner onto the path that runs along lake Ontario was such a wonderful feeling. I was now running to the finish line. I saw a friend of mine who had fallen on the hwy section (he was ok). We talked for a bit and then he was gone. As I watch him run away from me I decided I would use him to get me to the finish line.
I ran by feel and watched the runners who I passed who then passed me when I walked. I played leap frog until the end.
Reaching the 39K mark was a major boost and my friend was still just ahead by a few hundred metres. I had passed a runner that was sitting on the grass next to the trail and watched as the paramedics attended to her. I hope she was going to be ok….that could have been ME or another runner. I’m running this for you I thought. Tears again filled my eyes.
Of course, the last two kilometres took forever to get there. It was a long slow flat section just like the last 10km had been but I was running on fumess and I just wanted to be done. I powered through, enjoying the crowd support and saw that I was gaining on more runners..LOL.
Believe me when I say this, saying ‘looking strong’ to a runner at the end really helps. Thanks spectators!
As I was coming into the last 400m I saw my wife and daughter taking photos of me as a approached them. As I passed them I heard my wife say…you can do this sweetheart and then she started to run with me for a bit.
.2 01:10 sprint…
10K (Actual 1:21:02 / Target: 50:00:) +31:02
Pace for 32-42K : 8:06K
And as I was powering down the last few hundred metres, heard my name being called out by friends and family, and I was going faster, pumped up my fists as I heard my name being called. This is it I’m finished….I FINISHED IT!
Final time in 4:14:39
I wonder if I was healthy and didn’t get sick a week before, how I would have done today. Could I’ve held at 3:20 pace? Probably, but this this race was not the BQ race I had envisioned. It was about going the distance and completing something I started. I’ve learned a lot about what my body can do when I put the pain aside. Two marathons both with different outcomes can get you to a place where you know what you can comfortably do and what you can push though.