Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rigor mortis

I ran the half-marathon I'd planned, a slower 20 miler than I wanted, and the slowest 10K of my life this past Saturday at the Richmond Marathon.

I was 1:57:02 at the half - on pace to break 4 hours. I was 3:06:17 at 20 miles, which was slower than I needed to be to break 4, but that goal was still within reach.

I finished the marathon in 4:35:58 - the worst time I've ever posted for 26.2.

I felt great before the gun. It was about 40 degrees, clear, and the humidity was low. Wearing a short sleeve Coolmax shirt, split shorts, new sunglasses, my fuel belt loaded with four bottles of Gatorade and four gels, and my trusty Gel Kayanos on my feet, I found the 4:00 pace team and started very comfortably and smoothly with them. I felt great at 6. I felt great at 10. I felt great at the half. Starting to tire at 16, I fell slightly behind the 4:00 pace leader, who turned and reminded me "it's only a 10 mile training run from here." He was still within sight at 18.

Just before I crossed the mat at 20, I got a cramp in my left calf.

Between 20 and the finish line, I couldn't cover any significant distance without a sharp jolt in my calf or hamstring. A discouraging pattern emerged: the cramp would stop me dead in my tracks, I would stretch, then walk, then move as if cross-country skiing, then jog, and then BOOP, the stabbing pain would return and I would have to stop again. One time, I thought to myself, "if I weren't in so much pain, I would be incredibly impressed with the muscle definition of that calf." And most of the time I was thinking, "where's the next mile marker?"

I wasn't alone. I encountered several other runners, men and women, young and old, all stopped and stretching, frowning and limping.

The last .2 mile was downhill but I couldn't take advantage of it. No more than 200 feet from the finish line, I had to stop. A medical volunteer on the side shouted to me "is there anything I can do?" "No" I croaked. I heard the announcer call out "Michael Harvey, from Raleigh, North Carolina!" Grimacing, I hobbled over the finish line. I wonder what the finish photo will look like.

A young boy put the medal around my neck. I wrapped a foil blanket around my shoulders and let them clip the chip off my shoe. I walked around the chute for several minutes, trying to work out the cramps.

I hobbled down the street to the food station. I guzzled a bottle of recovery drink and snarfed two bananas, a bagel, and a slice of cold pizza. Grabbing another two bottles of recovery drink, I retrieved my belongings from the bag check and limped back to my hotel room.

I called home - my daughter had already looked up my time on the web. "Sorry about your time dad." "You can always run half marathons," my wife observed.

I called Christopher, who reminded me "dude, you finished!" We briefly spoke about entering Myrtle Beach in February, but agreed it would be a hard sell to our wives.

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