Flying Pigs in the Time of Swine Flu*, Part III

*With apologies to Mr. Garcia Marquez.

I’m breaking this race report into sections for logistical reasons: it would take me a whole other week to write one long all inclusive post. So I’ll start at the beginning, continue through the middle, and then finish at the end.

The flying of the pigs, continued

Miles 13-17: The wheels start falling off the cart

Mile 13: 8:50
Mile 14: 8:58
Mile 15: 9:04
Mile 16: 9:15
Mile 17: 8:54

I got a stitch on the approach to mile 13.

You know stitches are my mortal enemy and have plagued me forever. However, this one was sneaky—sinister even. It came on quickly and suddenly, but only somewhat strong. It was weak enough that I seriously though I would be able to push through it within a mile.

But then a mile became two. Then three.

I was holding in my side with my hands, breathing to relax my diaphragm, but nothing. Spectators (“squealers”) looked at me and wondered what the hell I was doing. This was the easiest part of the course—lots of squealers, less runners, no hills—and I was struggling like the worst of them.

I fought hard to not stop, to not give in. It was way too early to walk, because it would take forever for me to get back in stride. The hunger pangs came back and I downed some more Clif Shots. I tried listening to my music to get into a rhythm but every song just made the stitch feel worse. I tried telling myself over and over again, “you can get through this, you’ve done it before.”

I started to make a comeback in mile 16, the stitch was subsiding and the negative mental fog that had settled in started to clear. But then we left Mariemont and entered Fairfax on a series of hills and turns that knocked me out.

Miles 18-22: Mr. Shit meet Mr. Fan

Mile 18: 10:21
Mile 19: 10:50
Mile 20: 9:37
Mile 21: 9:29
Mile 22: 9:11

The turn onto Columbia Parkway killed me. I looked ahead and saw the no man’s land of mile 18: a stretch of highway without any squealers or distractions. In general, the wall is at mile 20 of a race, but I think The Pig’s wall is mile 18.

The bleak view ahead combined with everything that was not working forced to me walk. My thoughts flew back to MY FIRST MARATHON EVER where I made the mistake of starting off fast and not anticipating the hills or the difficulty. Here I was 1.5 years wiser, one perfectly executed marathon under my belt, and I was in total fear that I had committed the same mistakes.

But I refused to let those demons take hold of me. I forced myself to suck it up and run to the water station. Then I took a deep breath and headed (very slowly) to the next water station. I knew the water stops were roughly a mile apart, so I could run the mile and then walk through the station.

I was making progress (my splits were heading down) and there some squealers that were amazing. There was one girl in particular who looked me dead in the eyes, knew that I was hurting something fierce deep inside, and said “you can do this, you are looking real strong, you are going to do great!” That charged me through until the next water station. Amazing what a few words delivered in just the right way can do to you.

Miles 23-26.2: Two talks and a port-o-potty

Mile 23: 9:28
Mile 24: 10:05
Mile 25: 14:18
Mile 26: 9:26
Mile .2: 1:22 (7:07/mi)

The miles were just getting rougher. I remembered during The Breakers Marathon being surprised by the mile 20 marker, as if the first 20 miles were a jog. But here at The Pig, there was no such bliss, every mile was becoming increasing harder earned.

After walking though the water station at mile 23 I started chatting up another running under the auspice of misery loving company. As we started talking I managed to direct the conversation south. I was saying how hard the hills were, how it was a rough run, how I was not running the race I want to. I realized (with retrospect) that vocalizing my demons was not helping her or I and that I was talking myself into the ground.

Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a port-o-potty about 150 feet away. Just the sight of the port-o-potty triggered my stomach to cramp and stop me right there—I was going to the bathroom, NOW. I wished my brief buddy good luck as she trudged on and I hurried to the port-o-potty.

I thought I only spent two minutes in there, but according to Fenny the Garmin I was in there for about four minutes (see mile 25).

I came out and started running. I tried to muscle over the next hill, but didn’t have the juice. I ended up walking next to a guy from Austin, Texas.

After a minute or so the guy tapped me on the shoulder to signal that he was running and that I better get running too. We got to the last water station and started walking again. I could clearly see the buildings framing the finish swine from this point. The crowds were growing slowly, but I felt the energy just gone from me; each step was a chore. We started running again just before the “one mile to go” mark.

I turned to the guy and told him “this is not my race.”

He immediately turns to me says “What do you mean? Of course this is your race! You are going to finish, you are still standing and able to move. You don’t have any injury. You are going to finish and you are going to get that medal.”

That was what I needed.

Once he said that every pain and every nagging thought shrank into nothing. It was true. It was so very true. I was running the race as best I could and Goddamnit I was going to finish and you better believe I was going to get that big pig medal on the pink ribbon around my neck.

I told him “You’re right, I am going to get that medal!” I charged off and wished him good luck. It was just me and The Pig for the final mile.

I hit play on Liam and skipped all the way to last set of songs, the gravvy songs. I landed on 25 Miles by Edwin Starr. Very appropriate.

I started singing, loudly. I didn’t care, I was running the last mile of a Marathon and I had the right to do any eccentric thing I needed to do to finish. I started yelling “come on!” and “we’re tired!” and the crowd responded and fueled me ever faster to the finish swine. I didn't want to move, but I pushed anyway. I charged up the last little hill—there was no reason to leave anything on the plate, there was only 800 meters to go. After clearing the hill I could see it all: the bridge marking mile 26, the flying pigs statues at bicentennial park, and the big red FINISH SWINE sign.

There were flashes of faces, rays of sunlight breaking between building, posters, cow bells, music. Those last few minutes involved a lot of yelling, some tears, and a whole lot of pain. It was a difficultly that I hadn't felt in a very long time. A little piece of me died during those last few minutes, but in it's place grew something stronger.

For the first time ever I heard them call my name as I crossed the finish line and for those two seconds I was superhuman.


Jess said...

It's great you got that encouragement from a fellow runner in the end. Congrats on finishing strong even though you were hurting!

FLYERS26 said...

No better feeling than crossing the finish line!

great report, by the way!

The Laminator said...

Congrats on finishing strong, superman. We all die a little at the late stages of a marathon. The hope is that we recover well enough in between them to die a little less at the next one. Great race report! Thanks for sharing.

Marcy said...

4 minutes in the pot, eh? Damn.

CONGRATS on the strong finish my friend. Another marathon in the books :-)

Adam said...

You know, sometimes pushing through the types of issues that you had is much more valuable that having the perfect race. This way, you know that you can do it in the past.

That said, having a race like that is a real raw deal. You should sign up for a new one right away to redeem yourself!

Irish Cream said...

I got chills when I read that last part about miles 23-26.2 . . . seriously, dude, that was AWESOME. I am so impressed that you pushed through to the finish like that--it takes so much guts and strength to do so when you are hurting so badly. Great job and AMAZING report!

RunToFinish said...

that guy had the perfect attitude!! we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to finish in certain times...but shoot for anyone who has ever DNF'ed the finishing alone is pretty amazing

Nitmos said...

You fought to the finish and that is all that is important. Congratulations! There are other races for PR's and such...this was a tough course that demanded respect just to finish it.