"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Run Like Hell! Bend Half-Marathon Recap

Lots of question marks heading into race last Saturday. Among them:

What would the weather be like? All week there was the potential for rain, perhaps even some snow, wind gusts, sun, and temperatures anywhere from 42-58 degrees.

What would the course be like? The available map wasn't too detailed and wasn't much help in getting an idea of what things would be like. An employee at the store where we checked in did say it was a fast course, with a little bit of incline in the first half but overall fairly flat.

What role (if any) would the elevation play? I live at 150ft elevation. Bend is at 3600ft. Not a huge difference if you're going be watching a movie, shopping, eating etc. Running? It was a complete wild card and I had no way to judge how my body would handle it.

Friday night as we pulled into town, checked in and went to dinner the weather was near perfect. 60 degrees, clear, a slight breeze. There were storms in the area though, and it was evident as I stepped outside the hotel lobby at 6:30am Saturday morning. The pavement was wet and there was cloud cover. More noticeable was the sustained wind and the occasional gusts sweeping through the parking lot. As the morning went on (race didn't start until 10am), the skies cleared, but the wind increased.

I felt good as I arrived at the starting line. I had gotten the rest I needed, had kept my diet to only those things I know work best for me and had put in the miles to be as prepared as possible. I had a 4-stage race plan I felt was more than attainable based on my training runs and knew what I wanted to do.

There were about 150 of us that started the race. The first 1/2 mile as up an incline and I knew immediately that I felt different. And not in a good way. For everything I had done right to prepare myself, I could tell immediately that my legs felt tired and heavy. Not a good feeling to have in the first mile. I focused on getting into a rhythm, steadying my breathing and settling into the pace at which I wanted to run the first 3 miles.

At the 3 mile mark I wasn't feeling any more energy and was struggling to keep the pace. At this point the course started to take us out of town and into the high desert country. With this transition, the wind kicked up, gusting more frequently in my face. At about the 4.5 mile mark we started to climb a hill. This must be what the guy was talking about, I kept thinking. Try to settle in, get through the hill and then stretch out and just run the last 5 or 6 miles.

Well we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. And then we kept climbing. For roughly 5.5 miles we climbed hill after hill, only occasionally getting 100 yards or so of leveling out before starting the next climb. There was nothing but tumbleweed to block the wind and so we bore the brunt of every gust. It was actually pretty miserable and there came a point at about mile 9 when my focus turned to just finishing.

The last water stop was at the 10.5 mile mark. I wasn't hurting from a physical standpoint, but I had zero energy left and was dragging one foot in front of the other. I wasn't sure how spent I was until I grabbed a cup of water and started to walk while I drank it. Problem was, I couldn't walk. My legs just wouldn't do it. I staggered a bit before giving up on walking and started running again, a motion that didn't make me want to fall over.

At 12.5 miles, I did something I've only done one other time during a run: I stopped. After an hour and 45 minutes my body simply wouldn't go any further. My feet had been dragging on the ground for about a half-mile, no energy left to even pick up my foot for each step, when I came to a wooden post sticking of the ground (we were on a trail at this point). Without even realizing it, I found myself leaning on said post. I gathered myself for a few seconds, told myself to get up and finish, and started running again.

The running was short-lived though, as I had to stop again a couple hundred yard later. This time, I walked through a tunnel going under the street above before running the last 1/4 mile to the finish line. For what it's worth, I had two people trying pumping hard to catch me in the last 75 yards. I'm happy to say that I mustered enough to hold them both off.
Immediately post-race, I was pretty dizzy and seeing lots of large black spots. After a few minutes though I was fine. Three days removed from Saturday I feel fine. I didn't have any muscle soreness, knee pain or anything. I woke up the next morning and felt fine. That said, I think the biggest factor was the altitude. The effect of a decrease in oxygen to my blood and thus, to my muscles was something I wasn't prepared for. I didn't particularly like the course either, and it's probably not one I'll run again.

At the end of the day, I finished in 1:54:47. That's just six minutes slower than the Champoeg Half-marathon I did in September. Given the wind, the altitude and the course, I'll take it and move on. Now to find a flat course at sea level....

(on the right, with my dad -- it was his first half-marathon)