There are some race days when everything clicks – when you go out feeling strong and spirited, and maintain a steady, even pace all the way to the finish.
Today was not one of those days.
All week I’ve been fighting a bronchial flare-up, something I’ve come to learn is part of my fall routine. A couple weeks of tight-chested, deep-coughing, raw-lung(-ed) fun that tends to creep up around the busiest part of the semester. Last year, it hit smack in the middle of the Odyssey AR-ogaine
and cleared up (with the aid of a z-pac) a couple days before the Philly Marathon.
This year, I thought that if I ignored the early signs, I could will it to hold off until after today’s marathon. But I can’t say that I was surprised when I woke up this morning with a hollow cough and tight lungs. My inhaler(s) did little to relieve the pressure, but still I ignored it. I just had to get to the start, I told myself. Adrenaline and Dean Karnazes would get me through.
You see, music hasn’t been doing much for me recently, so I decided to download the audiobook version of Ultramarathon Man and transfer it to my ipod. I thought that if anyone could motivate me through 26.2 miles, it was Dean.
But when my wave took off and I fell into my pace, I could tell it wasn’t going to be that easy. With 20,000 runners taking to the narrow historic streets of downtown Philadelphia, jockeying for position was inevitable, and I spent the first two miles shuffling, bumping, and weaving my way through the crowds.
My legs were moving well but my lungs weren’t cooperating, and by the third mile, I knew that I wasn’t taking in enough air. My fingers began to feel tingly and my body heavy, and the deep cough was coming with increasing frequency.
I passed by the fourth mile marker, and made the decision.
I knew I probably could have slowed down and shuffled comfortably for the next 22 miles, but I wasn’t doing this race for the love of marathon-ing (seriously, if I’m a broken record on this blog about anything, it’s the end of my love affair with road running…). I didn’t need to prove to myself that I could cover 26.2 miles, and I didn’t need to go into the final weeks of the semester with a serious bronchial infection.
So, by that fourth mile marker, I knew what I had to do. The next time I saw Brent on his bike, I would pull off. I was done.
I ended up spotting him about a quarter mile later, at the intersection of 2nd and South. We walked over to a bench 10 yards off the course to regroup, and then began the 5-mile walk/jog/shuffle back to the car, stopping briefly at the finish to watch one of Brent’s students come through at the half and catching the first-place marathoner as he rounded the final corner.
On the drive home, I tried to gauge my emotions about the morning. I was disappointed and annoyed that the day turned out as it did, but I wasn’t aching to be out on the course, or itching for redemption.
I’ve known since I registered for Philly that this would be my last marathon for awhile. Sure, I wish I’d gone out with a bit more bang, a bit less whimper, but more than anything, I’m relieved that it’s over.
(I was a little bit sad to say goodbye to Dean, though – I was enjoying our time together.)
There are some big plans in the works for 2011, and I’m eager to see what the race season will hold.
For now, though, I’m excited for some downtime, and I kicked off the off-season in grand fashion, with an afternoon spent with my favorite cheerleader
, watching True Blood
, reading Dennis Lehane’s latest Patrick and Angie adventure
, and “re-fueling” on green tea and freshly-made pumpkin cornbread and apple-cranberry sauce. Tonight, I’m looking forward to cracking open that Golden Monkey (good thing I was warned ahead of time that the beer Val dropped off had a 10% alcohol content! I opted for Strongbow cider last night instead) and watching the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.
And as for tomorrow? The sky is the limit.