Sunday, December 9, 2007

Humbled by the Rock

26.2 miles, 3:11:54, 7:19.5 pace

I'll break down and analyze the race later, but right now I'll share my general thoughts.

This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. At the start of the 1956 Olympic Marathon, running legend Emil Zatopek said “Men, today we die a little.” The White Rock Marathon humbled me today. I left everything I had on that course, and I am a changed man because of it. Today I died a little. But rather than the typical understanding of death as a reducing agent, I feel as though I’ve gained instead of lost. I’m a better person now that I’ve paid the marathon price.

My result was not what I wanted. I hoped to meet or exceed the Boston Marathon qualification time for my age group of 3:10:59. Instead I missed the qualifying time by 55 seconds. I felt strong through about 24 miles until I could no longer keep my pace. I felt dizzy and disoriented during the last mile. After crossing the finish line I could hear people talking to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was like I was drunk and trying to understand a foreign language. All I wanted to do was eat anything in site, but I could barely will myself to take a single step and I couldn’t speak a coherent sentence.

After I picked up my finisher’s medal and took my race photo, I was tapped on the shoulder by a good friend. Unfortunately I wasn’t much of a conversationalist so I couldn’t catch up like I wanted, but he helped me out by letting me lean on him. After that I headed straight for the food inside, taking a tremendous amount of time negotiating a long stairway. I had an insatiable appetite for anything, and ate like a pig. After I got some nourishment I found a chair and sat down, tightly wrapped in my metallic blanket handed out at the finish.

Then something else happened to me. I broke down and started crying. I’m not sure if it was disappointment at missing my finishing time, or relief and/or despair that my journey has come to an end, or elation for completing my task, or just random stress-released hormones rushing through my veins. But I sat there at the table shivering and crying.

I girl saw me there and asked if I needed any help. I declined a few times, but she kept insisting and I broke down and let her take me to the medical area because I was very cold and couldn’t warm up. She told me she was a lifeguard and that she had an eye for people in distress. I am very fortunate that she recognized my distress and took action.

At the medical tent they took my temperature, and their digital oral thermometer wouldn’t register. So they put something under my arm which also wouldn’t generate a read-out. My body temperature was too cold for their thermometers to work. They stuck me under some blankets and a bair hugger (hot-air blanket) and took my temperature a few minutes later. It read 92.3 degrees. I spent about an hour there and finally got up to about 96 degrees before I left -- still shivering, but in a state that my body could finally generate its own heat. My nurse, Kendra, took great care of me, and I am thankful for her gift of volunteering her healing hands.

I greatly appreciate the help and support I’ve received from all of my friends and family through my training. The phone calls, the text messages, and blog comments and the unspoken support were greatly appreciated. Thank you for being there.

After I left the medical area I found my way back to the post race party and did a few laps looking for Julie. At this point it had been at least 1.5 hours since I finished, and I still hadn’t seen her since she cheered me on about 100 yards from the finish. Then I saw my lifeguard friend again, and she checked up on me. I thanked her for her help and she loaned me her phone so I could call Julie. Minutes later I was reunited with my wife, and ready to make the drive back to Houston.

If I wrote a hundred pages of prose I could never accurately describe the joy I get when I see Julie after we’ve been separated for any amount of time. She lifted my spirits with her smile and support four times during the race, and I got a spring in my step each time. She was a sight for sore eyes.

Julie is my inspiration, and the reason why I was able to accomplish what I did today. Her support never wavered when I was grouchy and tired from running too much, and antsy from running too little while tapering. She stood through cold and hot to catch a few short glimpses of me during multiple distance races. She pushed back her hunger countless nights because I worked late and had to run before dinner. She was the first to offer encouragement when my spirit waned, and advice when my spirit waxed too high. I could, and probably should, go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this – I am a better person because of Julie, and for that I am forever indebted to her. I’ll pay her back with a lifetime of love.

1 comment:

Cory said...


Congratulations on your most impressive run!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to your full report (via blog or in person ...)