The weather was one of the better weather days and I started running with discipline, within mile 1 buckling down that I was going to just hold pace and if I had anything left at the end kick it in. Before the race I had asked the 3 hour pacers that if they ever saw me slowing down to heckle me as they pass me. I didn’t need niceness I needed motivational pushing. The playlist was fine and I knew this race was important. I wanted to break 3 for me but I also wanted to not let down the fact that I’d called 3 to friends and training groups. At mile 4, my ipod died. I’d actually taken” an insurance” on things that had previously gone wrong and had a second ipod on me. It somehow apparently was too sweaty to come on. A few miles later and everytime I had a friend I tried to get them to give me a phone to put on Pandora but none of them had it on them or I passed by them too fast. Late in the game I even ran backwards for a little while cause I thought I saw friend listening to an ipod but it wasn’t who I thought it was. So the guy who trains with music… had none but I kept going, holding pace within the sound of silence. I was going to conquer this race. There were friends with great signs. He’s a great runner, a cancer survivor, and a great dad. There was a Leonstrong sign. The first water stop was the livestrong one, there was a yellow mile. There were bracelets all over the course. There was a less than appropriate one that said If marathon was easy it’d be called (censored)’s mom. Each one made me both smile and grateful that yeah I’d put off brain surgery to run one of these. I had done that because I thought that would be the last one and guess what there’s been 3 more since. I have to take extra anti-seizure medication on the days before, of and after sporting event I do this and sometimes that messes with my stomach and sometimes it doesn’t but hey my doctors let me do marathons so I’m not going to complain or make any excuses.
About mile 17, my stomach was feeling less than fine and I stopped to vomit. The 3 hour guys would pass me and I, in desperation mode, sprinted to get them back within eyesight. Shortly after the next waterstop, I’d vomit again and did the same thing. This would occur 4 times and they were within eye sight till mile 21. I was weaving on the side of the course just to not vomit on anyone or on the course itself when I got my favorite heckle ever from someone I didn’t recognize, what no stroller this time? Apparently I need a stroller to do well.
A friend would join me at mile 22 and I asked him if he had his phone, he did not and I tried to get him to go home to get it which he tried but I’d never see him again. At mile 24, I had a friend who handed me his phone with music but I was too far behind to break 3 at that point and I stopped for about a minute trying to figure it out. For the last couple of miles, I don’t know if I’d just lost too much nutrition or too much hydration but I kept trying to moderate the goal. Okay 3 isn’t going to happen, let’s go for 3:05, still boston qualifying… The 3:05 pacers would pass me at mile 24.5 and tell me come on J. I sped up and kept up with them for a quarter mile maybe but I just couldn’t seem to generate the speed. Then I moderated the goal to well okay a pr which would be 3:07 and under. Then realizing that wasn’t going to hold and having 1.2 miles to go I said look I’m at least going to get under 3:10. Everyone who saw me those last few miles thought I looked fine but I guess I understood the phrase No guts, no glory in a way I never had before because with nothing in my guts, I could not generate the power for the glory. I made a rookie mistake of trying to recatch the 3:00 guys instead of focusing on my watch but other than that, I don’t know what I could have done to make it better. And for whatever it’s worth, I have previously on races where I wasn’t going to get the time I’d set out to do or call where I turned it off and walked too much I walked through the last few water stops trying to get the Gatorade or water to stay. So if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s that when things don’t go your way or the way or your hopes or even with what you’ve put effort into, you don’t give up. It’s not all or nothing. Marathons, like life is hard. It may not go to the soundtrack you designed or sit well with your stomach all the time but you keep going as best as you can, as best as you know how till the finish line comes.
Still, after I crossed the finish line there was someone there who told me I had repeated as the men’s marathon cancer survivor. And, I was proud to defend the title, and proud to have taken 7 minutes off last year’s time. It was my second best time out of 6 marathons. And last year I took the title with only a minute or so. If you look at the results in the cancer survivor division, http://www.wetimeraces.com/RacingSystems/Results/2013/AustinMarathon2013/AustinMarathonResults.htm#/results::1361195508774, the women’s half was decided by 14 seconds, the men’s half by about 2 minutes, the women’s full by 8 seconds, but I led the men’s marathon division by 22 minutes. Last year when I crashed so hard, I said something incredibly childish, upset with myself for not hitting my goals, and when a close friend called to talk to me about the marathon and congratulate me about taking home the cancer hardware, I said yeah I came in first out of us losers that have cancer. He called me out immediately and said someone who gets cancer and survives it is never a loser. I felt guilty immediately and before this race started I had told the director who could tell I was upset as I crossed the finish line that no matter how this year went, I’d be smiling and I was. Well, I was until I went over to talk to some of the people in the bleachers at the VIP section, and then I threw up four times. You gotta love that I ran to the side of the course to protect the runners from my projectile but stunk it up for the VIPS. Amusingly, appropriately enough, it apparently had enough smell to where they covered the “Leon’s” vomit, in kitty litter.
Afterwards, I went and had brunch with some running friends, checked in with team Livestrong and let the trophy sit there for a while because I really do think it’s a team trophy. A friend of mine had his post marathon party and it turned out that he had proposed to his girlfriend during her first marathon at mile 24. I went and had a drink with Amy Dodson who I had met at the Livestrong challenge in Davis and had done the half while having to take off her artificial leg 3 times during the race. I went to Matt Cotcher who had to relearn to walk and talk and had finished his first marathon in 4:19. I went and had a few moments with the Livestrong staff at a dinner. I never did eat a meal again yesterday because when I was about to, I threw up right before and well I don’t know what to do about that.
There were people who didn’t throw up and had not their best marathon. There were people there without cancer that would have been grateful for my time. There are people like Matt and Amy. There are people who were there doing their first half or full on behalf of someone who had run out of time. So I threw up some on the course and didn’t get my best time. But I ran as well as I knew how under the circumstances. And anyone who reads this blogs regularly knows I’m not about to give up trying hard. Some days you leave your guts out there and it doesn’t come with the glory you hoped for. But as a cancer survivor, a great attribute though a far distant second to being Kiana’s dad. So no guts, no sub 3 hour glory but the gratefulness continues.