Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cool Runners I Know, Episode 3: Gary "Runner" Walker

Gary "Runner" (I don't even call him Gary Walker anymore), my best running pal, who always manages to put up with me, keep up with me and outrun me more often than not was kind enough to grant me the first peek at his 2008 Lincoln Marathon Race Report! But, before I let you read that--a quick note to Gary: Thanks for inspiring me, always willing to hear my next crazy training theory, admire shoes that no one else would care about, never being late and no matter what, wearing one more layer than "dress the runner" recommended.

GARY'S RACE REPORT 2008 Lincoln Marathon
We stayed in the downtown Holiday Inn, a good location close to restaurants, entertainment and the start line. The area reminded me of Wesport. However, this particular weekend the hotel was packed, not just with runners, but there was a wedding, a different wedding’s reception, and the reunion for St Mary’s Class of '61–right across the hall from me on the 16th floor! It’s really amazing how poorly you sleep in a
hotel room–the AC cycling, the noisy conversations in the hall and the room next door, and the motorcycles with no mufflers blaring through downtown at 2am!

The race was pretty well organized, lots of water and Gatorade stops, and enough GU to feed an army. There were plenty of cheerful volunteers at the aid stations and fan support was better than I expected, primarily around the first half of the course. Also, the whole police force must have been out to control traffic and impatient drivers, and good medical support was provided.

The expo was small but well stocked, with packet pick up conveniently located near the exit. We finished in time to hear Dean Karnazes talk, which was interesting. What an amaz
ing runner he is.

As far as the actual race goes, there were two main hills, neither as big as Broadway in the KC Hospital Hill run, but they were enough to provide challenge for an old guy with cramping calves and a flaring IT Band. The weather was beautiful, starting at 40 degrees and warming to 65 by 11:30…clear and sunny…and direct enough to burn a bald pate. I promised myself to use sunblock on future runs where there was a c
hance of sun.

I started with Dave, keeping up with his 9:
15 pace, but I walked through the water stops, only to have to try to catch up--Dave ran through the water stops. He now has the title of Super Dave the Marathon Champ! I lost Dave around mile 4, but tried to keep up the pace. As it turns out I probably went out too fast.

Miles 6 and 7 were the worst as all runners for both the half and full were routed along a bike path (paved) that was about 3 runners wide…passing was nearly impossible, but some bold souls did step into the wet grass, oblivious to the possibility of uneven terrain hiding under the un-mowed tufts. This pretty much locked me in place in the pack for 20 minutes. Then the course took a righ
t turn and started up a hill, not bad, just a long, steady pull. At about mile 8 point something, both calves started to cramp, although they never went into full “Charlie-horse” type cramps, they were on the verge from that point until the end. My pace slowed and before the turn-off for the half, my IT Band started to get tight and threatened to stop me. This is a classic “syndrome” for me…the training goes well, but on race day, the IT Band flares up. Even our last 20-mile training run was fantastic, no issues. And calf cramps never have been an issue. But go figure, I try to push it and “boom goes the ITB.”

I seriously contemplated calling it quits at the turn off for the half, but talked myself out of it…”don’t be a wimp,” “you told everyone you were doing a MARATHON,” and other positive self talk…so I continued to slog it out, requiring 7 stops to stretch either the ITB or calves (sometimes both). Oh, and for a little more delay, throw in a port-a-john break – guess I was fully hydrated and then some! After the half marathoners turn off, the course seemed nearly empty--I think only one sixth of the 6,000 entrants were doing the full marathon. The last 13.1 was an out and back, which seemed to take forever to get to the turn around. The route went by the Lincoln Zoo (nice aroma), and Holmes Lake (refreshing breeze). Also, the out-n-back was done mostly on a single lane of roadway. Runners heading each direction shared half the lane making it rather tight sometimes. However this arrangement did allow the “mortals” to get a glimpse of the leaders which we never would have otherwise.

The last 6 miles for me consisted of run, walk, stop & stretch, run, get fluids and walk, repeat. I don’t recall exactly where, but once at a water station and once by a bicycle-mounted support-staffer, I was asked specifically and more than once on each occasion, “are you okay?” “are you sure you’re okay?” Hey, I appreciate the concern, but aside from feeling worse than I ever had in my life, I am fine damn it! I will finish this run even if I have to crawl…okay?

At mile 24 the said it looked like I still might have a chance at beating Oprah, my marathon nemesis. I tried to run for longer periods and tried to pick up the pace. Mile 25 had a slight incline to it, but that gave way at mile 26 to a slight downhill. I crossed the finish line at 4:29:40…bettering my previous marathon finish time by 38 minutes (improvement is good!), but still Oprah’s 4:29:20 taunts me.

After the race we watched for John Sheppard and Verna Troutman, but saw neither. Dave and I both got in for a free massage, which were really pretty good. Then it was a half mile walk to the hotel for a quick shower and check out. At this point I was delirious, starving and “significantly” disappointed by the leg issues. We stopped at for a gourmet burger and drink, I even had fries! I’m not a Burger King fan, but it was DELICIOUS! While at BK, I heard from Alex who was asking about our finish times and the whole experience. I bluntly informed her that I didn’t know why I would put myself through this again, and that I would NEVER do another marathon. I’m sure I sounded like I belonged in a car seat with a pacifier in my mouth--waaaaa! What a whiner I was--sorry Alex; but seriously--thanks for being a good running bud and asking!!

Dave drove and I slept--for at least an hour--and woke up feeling quite a bit more human.

It’s been two days since the finish and my left knee is starting to feel normal again, the nail-through-the-knee sensation is dissipating. My calves are still sore…but overall I can honestly say that I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I did after my first marathon. Who knows, after a little more recovery time, I might get crazy enough to “consider” another--just to beat Oprah.

Well, Gary, I sure hope so! I'm counting on dragging you through at least one more someday. You are a 4 hour marathoner in my mind. And you can definitely beat Oprah! I'll be posting a racing pic of Gary soon.. as soon as he sends me one! (Note: The Badge picture will tide us over, Gary, but send along a race pic ASAP! Bonus points for one with "Super Dave Marathon Champ" and John "Ouch at mile 20" Sheppard with your race medals!).

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