Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ode to the Wall

On October 25th I ran in the LOCO Marathon in Newmarket, NH.  My goal for running this race was to set a new personal record and break 3 hours in the process. This course is very conducive to doing just that.  I’ve been running marathons for over 30 years and know the importance of proper pacing. That being said, it was also important to not hold back too much, otherwise I would risk having an excessive amount of ground to make up.  So I went at it with controlled aggressiveness, knowing that I would either be successful or “crash and burn”. 

Unfortunately I crashed and burned, which involved “hitting the wall” very hard around mile 20, something I haven’t done in 15 years. If you are an endurance athlete you are no doubt familiar with this term.  For those unfamiliar, “hitting the wall” refers to the point when your muscle glycogen (the body’s most efficient fuel source) is depleted.

While at first I was upset that it happened, it turned out to be an empowering experience. Having an extinct fuel supply, yet still having over 6 miles to travel with nothing but your feet to carry you, makes one find out how deep inside themselves they can dig for strength. It also puts life in perspective, making everyday stressors seem petty.

While I would have loved to have achieved my goal, I must say I am happy I hit the wall, as it recalibrated me. Despite the effort it took I was able to finish in a respectable, Boston marathon qualifying time of  3:20. Most importantly though, post race I am approaching each day with more passion, calmness and confidence, knowing I can handle anything life throws my way.  I also learned what I need to do in my training going forward, increasing the odds that my next attempt at a personal record will be successful.  This inspired me to write Ode to the Wall.

The “wall” represents more than just a runner depleting their fuel supply. It is anything in life that stands in the way of you achieving your goal. Therefore, it is my goal and hope that my Ode to the Wall is a source of inspiration for anyone who has had a setback in pursuit of their goals,athletic or other.

Ode to the Wall

The horn sounds and racing begins. With strength and speed the hills and valleys are effortlessly traversed. Hopes run high that this will be standard fare. Yet as time passes and heart rate rises, the threat of your appearance lingers faintly in the air.

Kilometers and miles pass with no credible hints of your arrival. My imagination erupts with visions of race day glory. Could I set a record, could I win!

I confidently run on.  I feel good, I feel strong, “Bring it on!”

Hold that thought. Stay cool. I think to myself. The experienced marathoner knows that after mile 18 is when you notoriously strike.  Like a lion attacking its prey, you wait until the moment when your victim appears weakest.

Miles go by, no indication of you in sight.  With cautious optimism I power on.

Mile 16, Mile 17, the legs, they start to feel a bit heavy, my pace begins to waver. 

Have some water, have some GU, that’s what I need to do. 

This process re-energizes me. It was a false alarm. My hopes and dreams return. I run on.

I cross mile 20, you waste time no more, with the velocity and abruptness of a snipers bullet you strike. A pace once mighty becomes feeble. The day’s hopes of glory segue into hopes of survival.

I dig deep within myself for the power to propel myself forward. The hare has become the tortoise. Seconds feel like minutes.

Walk, jog, run, repeat, just keep the legs moving. Your blows are powerful but I will not be broken. I can still finish respectably.  

After much perseverance, in the distance I finally see it, a sign that says finish. Is this for real? Or did I die and enter heaven?

It is in fact for real, yet they are one in the same. The finish is heavenly on this day.

Today I was your victim, but little do you know that your attack has made me stronger and wiser. I have learned more about your ways and what it takes to defeat you.  Mark my words I will return and it will be with a vengeance. There is a crack in your armor and I’ve got a hammer.

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