Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quad Cities Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 21st Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 316.2 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Quad Cities Marathon
Place: Moline, IL
Miles from home: 1960 miles
Weather: 60s; bright sunshine

Writing this recap of the Quad Cities Marathon as it is a single race wouldn’t really do it justice. It was, more accurately, the final stage of my Dane to Davenport which I had started on the Wednesday prior.  But as I am not quite ready to go into detail about that 160ish mile run just yet, I will treat this recap as a separate entity with a nod to the warm-up prior to it. Consider it nodded.

Race Morning:

I can count on one hand the number of times in 145 marathons run where I was even remotely close to not wanting to run a marathon as I was when I woke up the morning of this race. I was wrung out. I was sick. I did not want to leave the bed. Whether it was illness brought on from being tired or exhaustion brought on from being sick, I know it took everything I had to get out of the hotel.  A little bit of dry-heaving seconds before I left definitely did little to persuade me.It also surprised the heck out of me. All I had was my usual strawberry milk and my body was rejecting it.

I found myself walking to the start with my expansive and numerous crew for the Dane to Davenport (my best friend, Shannon.) She was also running the marathon after safely helping me navigate my run and I can only imagine how tired she was. After making sure I got to the finish line of my 3-day trek, with just as little sleep as I had, all while tending ot every need I had, I knew she wasn't at her best either. But in spite of a bad foot, a week's worth of travel, and ushering me around the expo for both a book signing and a speech the night before the race, she was heading out the door.

We parted ways at the corrals and I tried to steady myself for the upcoming 26.2.  Could I do it in roughly a Boston Qualifying time? Would it take me north of four hours to traverse the course or would I be somewhere in between? I really and truly had no idea what to expect.

First Six Miles: 8:23, 7:42, 8:16, 7:37, 8:22, 7:56

If you don’t know about the Quad Cities Marathon you should really learn about it. It is truly a one of a kind race that needs to be run if you are a running aficionado. 4 cities, 3 bridges, 2 states, and 1 island, all along the mighty Mississippi River.  It starts off with the first of these bridges in the first mile as you leave Moline, IL and head over to Bettendorf, IA. Here the largest of the not-so-numerous and far-from large hills await you. I was far from feeling well but after a few miles and a few hills, I hadn’t gotten any worse so that was a positive. While the starting temperature might have been in the 50s, there was not a single cloud in the sky.  It was going to be an absolutely beautiful first day of fall, which means it was going to be far too warm for me running.

After a few ups and downs of hills, we found ourselves heading back to the Mississippi to run one of the very few miles of this great river which runs east to west.  It is rather disconcerting for many who think of the Mississip as being north-south only. Personally, I needed a bathroom and wasn’t too keen on observing anything but where those wonderful blue oases might be located. During my run to Davenport I had randomly seen a portapotty on the side of the road and tried to use it. A padlock on the door kept me from doing so and I decided right there that was the cruelest thing I had ever seen in my life.

Running a pace much slower than normal for me, I was experiencing a totally different race. I describe this phenomenon of how two runners on the same race on the same day can experience two completely separate races in my book. Here, I was experiencing just that.  While the portapotties were very plentiful, I was always getting to them right as another person was entering one or I could see they were already occupied. When you are one of the first runners and nature calls, this is not a concern.  This was different.
Finally, around the 5th mile, a free bathroom awaited me.  I far from hurried as I did my best to do what was necessary and also use it as a respite from my exhaustion.  I was already drenched in sweat and it wasn’t even 60 degrees yet. I was curious if I could peel off at the halfway point and plead my case to the race directors at the end to give me a half finish and not a marathon DNF.
To the Halfway Point:  7:40, 7:41,7:48, 8:00, 7:42, 8:11, 8:20

Coming out of the bathroom I befriended a runner who was about my same pace named Stefanie.  She asked me what I was hoping to run today and I laughed.  If I finish, it will be a miracle, I said. Then suddenly, I felt fantastic. I began passing runners and picking up the pace.  The next three miles felt wonderful and I thought perhaps it only took me a bit of warming up to get my engine running.  I passed a guy wearing violent green toe-shoes and thought “Well, at least that guy isn’t going to beat me.”

We skirted passed the Modern Woodman Park where I had ended my Dane to Davenport just 36 hours prior and did a quick out and back.  I could see some of the runners I had started out with and wasn’t too far behind them. A quick loop through Davenport and we were now crossing our second bridge of the day. This bridge had been what my eyes had looked for the entire last hour of my run on Friday night as the end point of my goal. This time, however, it was just mile 10.

Going up over the bridge slowed me a bunch and Ninja Turtle Toe Shoe guy slid by. It is hard to dislike a person because of their shoe choice but it is hard to run 150 miles in 3 days and I did that. So what I am saying is don’t doubt my abilities to do the absurd. Luckily, the downside of the bridge into Rock Island allowed me to repass him. Now, I didn’t hate him so much.

But just as suddenly as I felt great, I felt bad again. The next mile or so had me really beginning to wonder if I could even finish. I debated a small walking break to gather myself. The weight of the previous 160 miles really were taking their toll.  I wasn’t all that sore. I was just wrung.the.heck.out.

And then Toe Shoes passed me.

Around the 12th mile I tried to pick it up a touch and was rewarded with a stop, grab your knees and vomit situation.  Twice I dry heaved a whole lot of nothing but pride and thought I might have my first DNF in a marathon ever. It was getting bad.  But I pulled myself together and gathered my wits. I began doing math tricks which allowed me to press on.  I knew the last 6 miles were an out and back along the very same road I had finished the Dane to Davenport. All I needed to do was get to mile 20. That was only 7 miles. I could walk these final 13 if I had to do so.

Another bridge took us onto the Rock Island Arsenal and I was halfway done.  Hang on, big fella. Only one more bridge to go.

On to Mile 20: 7:40, 8:06, 8:17, 8:07, 8:27, 8:08, 8:13

Not soon after entering the Arsenal, we joined half-marathoners coming from a different direction. While it was not an exceptionally small path we were running on, we were running into people who weren’t exactly sticking to the slower-runners-to-the-right maxim. Somehow this invigorated me for the next few miles even while it infuriates me to this day. I love people of all speeds.  This is not an elistist rant (especially since I am not elite.) But runners, remember, the race is absolutely positively not solely about you. Do your best to think of others when you can. And if you absolutely must veer all the way to the right of the path, take off or turn down your personal listening device (which you should have off to enjoy the damn race anyway!) But I digress.

More math games were played and more miles passed by.  I needed to use the bathroom again. But as I finally spotted a portapotty, I saw another runner slip inside of it.  I saw I had about 30 seconds of running to get there and hoped he would be done by the time I arrived.  He wasn’t. I waited.  I made loud throat-clearing noises.  Finally, I just had to leave. I couldn’t wait any longer.

We once again joined the half marathoners who had not done the tour of the Arsenal. Once again I had to skirt a fine line between running over the 5 abreasters and running in the other lane of traffic.  Luckily, the other lane was on this military installation and there wasn’t another car coming our way. Nevertheless, I was doing my best not to break laws around people who are allowed to carry firearms.

As I readied myself for the final bridge crossing and onto mile 20, I was met with a sobering visage.  Up ahead, two police cars were pulled to the side and the officers were administering feverish chest compressions to a downed runner. It was an awful sight to see.  You don’t know whether to stop or simply get out of the way.  You could see the body language of every runner who wanted to do something, anything, but did not know what. I finally decided to let the men in blue do their thing and keep going. Fortunately, it appears this runner, Jeff B, was saved by these fine officers and will live to run another day. I did not know this cheery outcome at the time and I can say it was a bitter pill to swallow.  Who cares about running this far when I might have just watched a person die. I decided to suck it up and finish this race as hard as possible. I used this brush with death to make me realize how lucky I was to be moving forward.  I decided to move forward a bit faster.

Heading Home: 8:39, 8:07, 7:58, 7:50, 7:44, 6:31, 1:29

After crossing the bridge and into Moline again, we headed away from the finish line on the out and back I mentioned earlier.  Finally a bathroom appeared.  I swung the door open and discovered another runner occupying the facility had neglected to lock it behind him.  Fortunately, his business had been completed and he was on his way out.  Honestly, with modesty being thrown out the window in a marathon I wouldn’t have minded if he had just let me go next to him. Relief ensued and the tightening in my lower stomach abated. It was time to bring it home.

By now, some of the elites were heading back to the finish. I did some math and realized that when I hit mile 21, if I had been running my marathon personal best, I would have been done. That crushed the spirit a bit. But what lifted it was seeing many runners who had passed me earlier, or who had been in front of me for miles, were coming back into focus. I pushed forward with an eye towards doing nothing rash or stupid. Unfortunately, my math brain kicked in and I realized I had an off chance to get a sub 3:30.  You see, I have completed 145 marathons and 130 of them have been under 3:30. I pride myself on not simply completing marathons but giving all I had at the time.  Granted this was indeed all I had but to get a 3:2x would just be the icing on the cake. I promised myself that the last four miles would be consecutively faster.

It ends up that not only the last four miles but the last six were consecutively faster. Also, at mile 25 I passed Mr. Toe Shoes. I would be a liar if I said that did not feel particularly good. With just about .2 to go, Joe Moreno, the race director for Quad Cities and a guy you wish you could clone to either run or help direct every race out there, appeared by my side. I decided I wanted to pick it up and see if he could sprint next to me.  He started laughing and kept pacing so I picked it up more.  I had forgotten about the time on the clock.  I had also forgotten that Joe had had a heart procedure about three weeks ago.  What kind of jerk am I to tell him to sprint with me?  But run he did and we shared a hand shake as I crossed the finish line – 4 seconds over 3:30.


It is something to the mentality of a runner that they can wake up not even wanting to leave the bed and then be disappointed by a measly four seconds just a few hours later.  But that is what racing is about. This ended up being one of my slowest marathons ever (131 of 146) but I have never been more proud of very few, if any, in my career. Throw in both the 160 mile run prior to it, a trip to Ecuador just three days prior to that and a half marathon personal best the week before and I think I may have earned myself some rest.

That, for those who have asked, is what is next.


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