Sunday I completed my sixth goal race in my "Racing Against Prostate Cancer" series: The Big D Texas Marathon. But since my goal was to run an ultra every month, I decided to run this race twice!
My plan was to run the race once on my own, then join all of the other runners to run the "official" race. This meant I would be running in the early morning hours without course support; this was fine with me except that I would need some water and food on the route. My good friend Megan agreed to sacrifice her Sunday morning (and some of her Saturday night festivities) to drive around East Dallas and meet me every five miles. All she asked for as payment was a Cosmo magazine. Done. One hurdle overcome.
Saturday night I had to pick up my in-laws from the airport at 10:45 PM and drive them back to their house after a long vacation. Before I did that I was able to catch about a 45 minute cat nap at home, then head to Starbucks for a Venti Soy Latte, then the airport. Once I got them settled at home I drove around a bit killing time and getting pumped up to run.
I was really worried about where I was going to park my car. I didn't know if Fair Park (where the race starts and finishes) would be open that early, and I didn't know where else to park in that area. I drove down to the race start and luckily the gate was open. I told the security guard I was there for the marathon and I think he thought I was there to setup for the race. In any case, he let me in and I was ready to go. I parked, put on my gear, grabbed my bottle, updated my Facebook status ("So I took off running, I ran over the hills, My odyssey through concrete and steel. Gonna keep on going, I don't wanna stand still." - The Heartless Bastards) and started running.
The race starts inside Fair Park and quickly leaves the park for the streets of East Dallas. I ran about 0.2 miles to the park exit and discovered that it was still gated and locked! Uh oh. I looked around for another way out and couldn't find one. I was seriously considering scaling the gate when I noticed that there was a gap between the road and the gate; it was a little wider where the road sloped off, so I took off my running vest and my hat and slid under. It was a small enough gap that I almost didn't make it! I reached back through the gate to get all of my gear and get dressed again. I took off running again and then realized I had forgotten my course directions (which were printed front and back on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and laminated)! Back again, got the directions, and I was finally ready to go.
The run itself was uneventful other than being chased by a couple of dogs (which for me is a common occurrence - I'm always being chased (and once bit) by dogs when I run). Megan was waiting where we arranged at about mile 4.2. I got more water, ate a 1/4 PB&J, then took off again. The weather was nice (60s) and it was so quiet and peaceful running by myself. I met Megan again a little after mile 10, then again at 15. At mile 15 she fell asleep while waiting for me; she woke up and got confused and thought I had already been through that stop so she almost left! Luckily she got her head together and waited for me. At this point a cold front started coming in and the wind really picked up. It was a really cold wind. The wind would get worse throughout the morning.
One last refueling stop at mile 20 and then back to the start. I asked Megan to bring me a cheeseburger and coke at the finish/start.
Around mile 20 my right knee and thigh started hurting. I was wearing my Newton Motion shoes, which I love. But I think that they don't have enough support for all of this road running. I was also feeling some rubbing on one of my small toes. So I knew I needed to do some maintenance after I finished marathon 1.
I got back to the finish with a time of about 4:38. I walked to the car, taped my small toe, changed to my more supportive Asics GT 2140s, ate my burger and drank my coke, then walked to the race start to find my brother (who ran the half) and my friends from TNT. I ran into a bunch of people from TNT who asked me how I was doing and were very supportive and encouraging. Philip, one of the TNT coaches and the person who got me started coaching with TNT, told the race announcer about my Big D Double and the he announced it over the loudspeaker! It was pretty cool.
After a few more minutes it was time to line up for the official 8:00 AM start. I spent the last few minutes talking to more TNT friends and then the horn went off and it was time to start again! This time the gate was open and there was no need to shimmy under.
Things started out well and I was running strong, feeling really good and going probably a little bit too fast. I ran into coaches Caron and Philip around miles 3 and 4, and saw Megan again at the TNT cheer stop at mile 4. We left the roads and ran on the path around White Rock Lake. The wind was BRUTAL! It felt like I was running uphill on the flats. After a few miles we left the lake and headed into the neighborhoods of East Dallas for some nice running with a little less wind. I saw coaches Kathy and Manuel here.
I was slowing a bit but still feeling OK. I wasn't eating enough because I was starting to feel a little queasy. I should have tried to eat more but didn't feel like eating what I was carrying (PowerBar Gel Blasts and a PB&J). I really missed the opulent aid stations that we have at ultras.
Around mile 15 I started walking a little more. Up until that point I was running 0.90 miles and walking 0.10 miles, unless there was a big uphill when I also walked. I started taking a few more walk breaks, and they were longer. I walked the most in the next 2-3 miles. I passed another TNT cheer stop and saw several people I knew, including Brian. The TNT people were great.
After that we started running down Mockingbird Lane and I knew I needed to get some more calories, so I ate three PowerBar Gel Blasts. As I was chewing them I accidentally inhaled the pieces and started coughing and gagging. The entire process made me feel nauseous and I thought I would feel better if I threw up. So I stood on the side of the road, made myself throw up, and did feel better. I started running more, getting back to the 9/1 pattern. I entered the neighborhoods north of the lake, where the worst of the hills are, and I ran into Philip again! He ran with me for about 2-3 miles and he really motivated me up the hills. I still took some walk breaks but I took fewer breaks and they were shorter. It was a huge help. I also continued to see TNT people on the course like Janet, Elizabeth, Kim. It's so awesome to have people who know you cheering for you.
Finally I left the Lakewood hills and headed into a nice, gradual downhill on Swiss Avenue and south to Fair Park. I still walked quite a bit but did some decent running in this area. As I got close to the finish I knew I would see another TNT cheer stop and I was really looking forward to one last cheer from people I knew. I saw TNT Coordinator Ryan there who yelled out, and then coaches Kathy and Manuel again. Finally the finish was in sight. A few more turns and I could see the finish line. A short burst of speed and I was across! Official time was 4:47:23, only 9 minutes slower than the first marathon. I had really wanted to do both races in under 5 hours, so I was happy with my time. My estimated unofficial 50 mile split was 8:53, and I was REALLY happy with that.
As I walked back to the post-race area I saw someone carrying a cup of beer. Beer! That sounded so good! I quickly found the beer table, grabbed a cup, then headed to the TNT tent to sit down. Felt sooooo good. After a few minutes I staggered over to grab a piece of pizza, then Elizabeth got me some gatorade and I sat around talking with some of my friends. It felt really good to be finished.
Eventually I motivated myself up out of the chair and back to my car for the drive home. Once home I took a hot bath and fell asleep in the tub. Then I took my daughter Lela to the movies and fell asleep again. After a big dinner at Blue Mesa I went to bed and slept like a baby.
Thanks again to everyone for your financial support and your encouragement. Knowing that you guys believed in me enough to give your money and your time helped me through the rough spots in the race. I can't thank you enough for your help.
It's not too late to contribute. My final race is less than two weeks away and I still need more donations to reach my goal of $4,392. I'm so close! Please consider making a donation to help fight prostate cancer! Click here to make a secure online donation. Thanks!