I woke up at 7:30 am and awoke to my obnoxious iPad "alarm" alarm. I taped my nips, charged my iPod, laced my shoes, and headed down to the dining area for a hearty breakfast. The breakfast hall was packed full of Germans in spandex and sweat-wicking clothes. Carbo craving runners filled the dining area and German speaking excitement filled the room between the clanking of dishes and silver wear sounds. Everybody was preparing for a day of running. All of the eggs had been consumed by the time I arrived, so I defaulted to rations of bread and cucumbers. Blah. I was able to grab an apple on my way out, but that was it...
|Bob, Michelle, and Me (aka. Luc)
The first 5 miles were effortless. I ran steady and strong. After a while I came upon a crowd of runners who were gathered near a woman wearing balloons strapped to her waist. The balloons read "4:00"... This meant that I had been keeping an 4 hour marathon pace up to this point. I though "Hell, this is easy". I figured as long as I could keep this balloon lady in my sights for the next 3.5 hours, I'd have a new PR under my belt. A few meters back ran a dude holding a flag which read "3:59:59". Apparently, they didn't coordinate with one another before the race. Shouldn't he be in front of her?
|Beautiful Day for a Marathon
Around mile 6, I found Bob and Michelle off to the side and they were cheering me on to keep running strong. This helped immensely. I had been in the zone for so long with my only friend (my iPod nano) that I hadn't really realized there were other people here. I was "in the zone". My music helped me to stay focused on my form and my breathing; everything else was German.
As I approached the 10 mile marker, I was still keeping up with the balloon lady, and the flag dude was creeping up on me. Eventually he passed me around mile 11 or 12. I still felt strong, but my calves were starting to tighten up a bit. They weren't screaming expletives yet, so I continued to push forward with diligence.
|On pace for a sub 4 hour marathon!!
As it turns out, my calves and my will had taken a beating from this crazy-for-a-chubby-dude pace and I found myself slowing down with each passing "K". Keep in mind that this was a European race and all of the checkpoints were in kilometers. By the time I'd reached the 25K mark, I'd lost sight of the balloons and my will to pass her...
I thought to myself, I still might beat the flag dude... Needless to say, he passed me shortly thereafter and I never saw them again. I was approaching the 30K mark now and my pace had slipped even further. I was hitting the wall.
By the time I reached the 20 mile marker I found myself doing a walk / jog regiment. I'd walk for 50 meters and then jog for 200-300 meters. Running was a thing of the past at this point. My quads and calves just weren't in it anymore. Around mile 22 I started looking around each corner for the finish line. It was nowhere to be found. The 4:15 balloon dude passed me, then the 4:30 balloon dude...
The ailments of this distance run tacked on more and more pain to my calves; I continued looking for that finish line for the next 5-6 miles. Kilometers just didn't make sense to me anymore. My legs were pissed.
Eventually I came to a point in the race where the finish line was in sight, but there was still another 2 miles to go before I could cross it. Talk about gluttony. The race directors did this on purpose! I just knew it! I wanted their names and their addresses. They were clearly distance runners who found joy in this "false hope" game. I see the humor now, but didn't see it then.
Around mile 24 I was able to see the 4:15 balloon dude pass me, but he was passing me on the other side of the road; heading for the finish. I looked at my watch and realized that I was still on a sub 5 hour pace, but my dreams of crushing my PR were just that; a dream. My goal now was to "not die" and just finish. I continued with my jog / walk regiment, but by this point, it was almost easier to jog. Walking took more effort. Ironically, it's more difficult to walk on sore legs than it is to jog. Ask any runner and I'm sure they'd tell you the same. Once you get to a certain point, the mechanics of running are less painful than the mechanics of walking. Weird, I know.
|Less than 1 mile to go!!
|2013 Dusseldorf Marathon
Eventually I found Michael and then I saw Bob. Luckily Bob had my coat and that was a good thing. The shade was still cold and I was drenched with man-sweat. I immediately put my coat on and we all enjoyed a tall beer with Michelle's relay team near the finish line.
After the race, I went back to my room, showered, and fell on my bed. I tried to catch a few Z's, but I'm not sure if I ever did... I laid there for a while and eventually I got up. Again, I'm not sure if I ever actually saw the sand man though...? Let's assume I did.
|Me, Bob, Michelle, Becky, Erin, and Barry
After dinner, Bob and Michelle dropped me off at my front door. I hobbled up the steps and fell on my bed again... I definitely saw the sand man this time.
This was a great experience. I'm proud of the way I ran the race. I pushed hard in the beginning and pushed even harder near the end when all of my energy was gone; I left everything on the course. Once the 4:30 balloon dude passed me, I knew it was time to just enjoy the run since all hopes of a new PR were gone. I will remember this run forever. It's the run that I didn't (ok, couldn't) train for, but still kicked ass on. :)
Thank you, Bob, for allowing me to run this race again! Maybe I'll set a new PR here next year??? :)