143.1 miles raced in 2012
Race: Kentucky Derby Minimarathon
Place: Louisville, KY
Miles from home: 1595 miles
Weather: 50s, cloudy; cool
Are you recovered?
That has been the number one question I have received from well-meaning friends, family and fans since I ran the length of the coast of Oregon starting one month ago today. As with all questions I receive about my running I always try to answer thoroughly, anticipating not only the next question but why the question is asked in the first place. The short answer to every one of these questions, and countless similar ones is "It depends".
It depends on what your definition of recovered it. Am I limping? Nope. Am I able to cycle and swim? Yep. Is there any lingering soreness in my legs? Absolutely. Can I run a 13.1 mile race? Shouldn't be a problem. But how how fast I run it is where we get into the gray area of answering that initial question.
The real answer is "There is no way in the name of all that is sugary and good am I recovered. For 7 days I ran 50 miles a day over terrain and through wind and rain, stopping to talk to kids all along the way. I am exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. Bereft of energy I am. I expect to be in a general malaise for a few months as my schedule leaves little time to rest or recoup. But will I toe the line at the Derby Mini and find out where I am on my recovery? Let's just say that's a pretty sure bet."
I hadn't the foggiest idea what to expect for this race. Realistically I thought I could make a 1:35 but I would have to make it hurt. Closer to 1:40 seemed more realistic. An even 1:45 appeared to be even more probable. My recovery had been relatively fast, even though I had not gotten my usual number of massages. I had, however, eaten a ton of lean beef and working with the Kentucky Beef Council, I had no problem telling people I think that is one major reason why things not only worked out in Oregon but why I was even standing today.
Prior to the race I had the honor to speak to a fantastic bunch of kids at the Farmer's Elementary School in Louisville. Rarely, if ever, have I had the opportunity to speak to such a well-behaved group of children who were at the same time so intent on asking thought-provoking questions. (Especially the kid who asked me which horse I was going to be riding. I think he was a little bit confused.) It actually got to the point, with dozens of hands still up in the air, where the principal had to final end the Q&A.
I got to meet so many great kids but one who would be actually running the 13.1 distance was EIGHT year old, Blake. This kid was so cool and nonchalant about the entire endeavor that he put me at ease. When I saw him at the end of the race, where his mother actually had to hold him back to run with her, he looked like he hadn't even ran. To Blake and all the other awesome kids at Farmer's, thank you for making my day! The future is definitely bright with kids like you leading the way.
Stage Four Cancer, those who were dealing with the grief of loved ones lost, or soon to be lost, and others who were simply out there pushing past their own boundaries and trying to do as I always say, ignore the impossible. I was flattered to be asked to sign not just my book, but bib numbers, programs and even some of the One More Mile shirts that carried some of my slogans!
When the morning broke, I had to actually be down to the start area very early to assist my best friend Allison with her American Cancer Society's DetermiNation duties. Her father, a cancer survivor and also finisher of the revamped Drake Well Marathon back in 2009 and many others running for those who could not, were on hand to inspire and raise money to battle this awful disease. To see so many people who have overcome so much was beyond touching and more than made up for the 4:45 AM wake-up call.
After posing for a picture with him and wishing him good luck, I did my best to fade back into the corral and try to find my mindset. I was indeed nervous and had no idea what the next 13.1 miles were to offer.
When the gun sounded there was that awkward few-corrals-back-we-have-started-but-we-can't-move-just-yet feeling which I have never enjoyed. But this time it gave me time to collect myself, wish a few around me the best of luck and start my journey forward.
Even as I tried to keep myself in check I felt like I might be able to do some nifty running on this day. I started out right around 7 minutes per mile, or a tad slower and was saying hello to people I had met the previous day, exchanged quick jokes and trying to enjoy the beautiful race morning. Around 51 degrees or so it was about as nice as you could ask for. That said, a mile or so in I was already sweating. Welcome to the life of Dane.
In an attempt to slow my pace, and continue to have fun, I took my water cup (plastic- my own quibble with the race was the use of plastic cups one cannot pinch to drink) and throw it into a trash bin that had fallen over from the wind. Then I grabbed the bin and began running next to other people. "Can I take your cup, Ma'am?" Got some smiles out of that.
A few miles later I happened upon a chap I met at the Hartford Marathon named Kevin. Hailing from Canada, he had done that same double I did that weekend with Rhode Island on Sunday back in October. We had seen each other twice since then but this was the first time we were running together. His pace felt like one I could maintain so I decided to join him for a few miles.
I had forgotten how long the two races would run together but when we were told they would not split until after we ran through Churchill Downs, I was happy. It would be great to experience that with my friend. But first, I fell back a touch to run with another friend named Rob. I had last raced with Rob at the Moab Marathon just about a year ago. I was fortunate enough to win that race after pacing properly and being big enough (180 lbs) that wind doesn't move me as much as other runners. Rob and I ran for a bit and caught up before I moved back ahead for a bit. When you are running 13.1 as opposed to 26.2, it is easy to pick up the pace at mile 7 for no good reason other than you can.
So after not knowing if I would even break two hours, now I was angry I had not saved enough in the tank to break 90 minutes. Funny how perspective changes everything. As I began to chip away at the time, still cognizant of the fact that pushing too hard he would net probably nothing but a whole big basket of foolhardiness, I thought perhaps I could still break 1:31. Passing runners left and right, I had time to think about how wonderfully run the race was. The spectators were out in fair numbers and the water stations were plentiful. Moreover, the course was fast. After some changes from much tougher courses in the past, as well as more logistically challenging, I was upset I wasn't in shape to race this course. One could run a VERY fast time here.
As I made the final turn and headed toward the home stretch, I saw I was going to break 1:31. I couldn't remember what I had run at the ING Miami half in January but I knew I was going to be close in time. Crossing the finish in 1:30:47, I bested that time in Miami by 5 seconds for my fastest half of three this year. Not too bad for a person who probably wouldn't have minded sleeping in that morning.
Interesting fact #2: I wasn't even aware this was the 52nd Half Marathon of my life. Given how much the number 52 permeates into my everyday events, it is only fitting that it somehow sneak in without me even knowing it here. Thank you to all those who made this weekend so special.
Time to go eat some lean beef.