Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jan.18: Shock 'n Awe

Sometime this past year, when exactly I cannot really remember but perhaps early summer (?), I was talking to my brother on the phone when he mentioned to me that he along with two of his work buddies (James and Cory) had signed up for the Houston marathon! The line went silent. "Are you still there?" he asked.

I was shocked.
"Yeah, I am still here. Are you serious?!!"
"Yep," Jon replied, "but we are not really sure what we got ourselves into..."

Now, the story as to how 3 non-runners one day, or shall I say one night at the bar, suddenly decided to run a marathon has yet to be clearly explained to me by either one of them. So, I have concluded that they just, simply, cannot remember that fateful night of bravado and trash-talk. Needless to say the following Monday at work they were all comitted less they hear the wrath from the other two...

Still shocked and not knowing if I should take him seriously or not I replied to Jon, "Do you want a pacer?" I thought that if he was just joking that he would not allow me to make travel arrangements to travel half-way around the world to come run with him, if he was not running.

"Sure man! That would be great!"
The line fell silent again - I was still shocked.
"Are you still there?!"

Since that night and that phone call the boys started to train. I would hear updates and was continually impressed with the level of dedication that they all had. I even had the pleasure of joining Jon on his longest long run in England on Christmas Day. It was then that I saw first-hand his dedication, which got me excited about welcoming him to the club in just 3 short weeks.

The time past quickly and soon it was the eve of the marathon. We had a pasta lunch at Jon's place to talk strategy and to give last minute tips. I could tell that they were all a little nervous but was, again, impressed with their resourcefulness to get to this point. For example, on the subject of nipple chaffing, Cory mentioned that he would just use duct-tape! James was quick to suggest that he use 2 strips per nipple and put them on in an 'X'!!

Here is James, Jon, Cory, and myself the day before (everyone is still smiling!)

After the pasta load we headed to the Marathon Expo to pick up our goodies. Below is Jennie, Jon, and my mom. As an aside, it turns out that my parents were as equally shocked about Jon's marathon running news and felt that this was a "see it to believe it" moment and also made the trip to cheer him on.

Leaving the expo. Myself, Jon, mom, and dad.

As most marathoners know, other pre-marathon activities are pretty boring. You sit, you eat, you hydrate, you pee, you hydrate, you pee, you eat, and repeat...

Finally, marathon day arrived and the weather was perfect (for the first 2 1/2 hours!) The 4 of us all decided that we would start running together. The longer all of us could stay together, the easier it would be. After running with Jon on Christmas I knew that 8:45-9:00 min/mile pace would be achievable - so that was the goal.

Cory (black), Jon (red/blue), and me (orange) at mile 6-7.

Up to this point I could tell that the boys had a lot of zip in their legs and I felt like I was yanking on the reigns of thoroughbreds as hard as I could to keep them back with me. I stood fast in my conviction that the difference between an experienced marathoner and a rookie is the manner in which the first 15 miles is run. Since I flew all this way to help them "run like a pro" and to avoid many of the common marathoning mistakes (which I still make myself all the time, but I digress) I was a little nervous about screwing this up for them!

Cory (black), James (black/red), Jon (red/blue), and me (orange) at mile 6-7. As you can tell, the mind and body were still in a very happy place!

I think the reason why the mind was in a happy place was that Cory soon mentioned to the rest of us that he was "in his spirit world". Keeping with the native tradition my mom later asked what animal he connected with and subsequently chose as his spirit guide while he was in his spirit world. My brother responded on his behalf by saying that he connected with whatever animal gets repeatidly kicked in the groin!

Luckly I did not visit this world during this marathon but I have been there plenty! It is where you can see yourself running the marathon from a 3rd person perspective (just like many role-playing computer games).

The 4 of us were still together, running as a cohesive unit through Rice. It was to everyone's benefit to keep the group together as long as possible as it made time pass quite quickly and, dare I say, painlessly. I recall Jon even mentioning that "this is sure an interesting way to see Houston. It is a completely different perspective." This sums up exactly why I continue to run marathons and continue to find new cities to experience them in. It was really neat to see these "rookies" discover over the course of 4 hours many of the thrills of marathoning in which I have fallen in love with over the past years.

At mile 17.5 the group finally cracked. After regrouping after the water station we could not find Cory. We had a fallen soldier but we had to march onwards. We were all quite disappointed not to have him with us during the final surge but were confident that he would fight strong and get back over enemy lines shortly after us.

Jon, James and I continued onwards. Never ceasing in our resolve. Never being distracted from our goal despite the many distractions of the surging cramps, the belly dancing ladies, the pain striking the achilles tendon like a lightening bolt with each foot strike, the budweiser beer, the dizzyness, and did I mention the pain?

Running like veterans James and Jon ran a negative split for the marathon (by 4 seconds) and were NOT passed beyond mile 20. All the road kill belonged to them - they were in the kill box.

Jon (in sun) and I (orange) at mile 26.

Jon (red/blue) and I (orange) - mile 26.
Here is a video of Jon and I at mile 26.

With a cheering squad like this, how can we not be motivated?! (D and D cheering on their sweaty heroes!)

Finally we made it! Here is the proof! First you will see James (red and raising his arms), then Jon, and finally myself (arms raised and quick to hit my lap button on my watch!) cross the finish line. Keep with the video until the end because you will see my final lesson as a pacer. Each good run ends with a solid pound dawg!
Shortly after regrouping ourselves we found our parents so that they could officially congratulate Jon on his debut!

Usually I really do not like the "official" photos taken along the course as I usually find that these pictures usually capture me in compromising positions, which historically have only provided blackmail material for friends and coworkers who get their hands on them. Normally I have an eye half-shut, dried-spit across my cheek that did not quite clear my face from 5 miles ago, crusty salt somewhere, and a look of complete dismay and/or pain painted across my face. But they managed to capture a few decent ones this time around...the links are here:

The best way to celebrate is, of course, barbequed carcus and a Shiner!

I have learned that there are 3 separate levels of appreciation for what a marathoner does. The first level is that from a non-runner. They really respect the fact that you can run (and they "could never do what you do"). The second level is from a fellow runner/marathoner who really understands what you put your body through and has an easier time relating to your tale. The third level is from your fellow runner who shares every footstep, every breath, and every struggle with you. The one who is shares the foxhole with you and knows in intimate detail how the battle was fought.
I am so honored that I could experience this last level with Jon. I think I have yet to mention that he did not complain once, or walk, or even break pace during the marathon. I was in complete awe in the manner in which he and the boys prepared for the race and the class in which it was run. He not only completed the marathon, but he ran his first in a way that took me 4-5 marathons to figure out how to do. I am in awe.

Shock 'n awe baby!


Sonia said...

Wow Congrats to your Bro!!

Loved your report, I could sense how proud you were of him =) Acting as a pacer is really rewarding and as a great one you let your rookie finish first. Very cool.
I really like your final analysis of the level of appreciation to marathoners. My Mom who has never run thinks I am insane, my Dad who has started running now knows what it implies, 26.2 miles is not short lol

I am trying to convince him to run one when he turns 60.... this is not a done deal.

Anyhow, congrats to you both! Great job!!! =) I'm sure he's not done with this marathon business, not hitting the wall, finishing so strong. Good for him. Now when can I ask you to pace me to a 4:30 marathon? ;-)

June said...

i saw your butt on the marathon wrap up show and almost fell out!!! i was like wtf? David is here?

shame on you guys for not coming by lukes to say hello.

Minken said...

June...we dropped by to say hello (Monday) but did not see you. The rest of the week was pretty full. Perhaps next time!

I heard we made the tellie...good times!

Simon Anderson said...

It's no way near as painful as a pacer is it! I once jogged a marathon in 3:23 and was out again the next day.