Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Self, Spirit, Soul

As I got back home and walked into my room, my eye caught sight of something.  It was the bib number, framed and still standing on the shelf, with the last name printed on it.  "2014 USA Half Marathon Championships." Jesus, had it already been 9 months since that race?  Suddenly I had a flashback of me out-sprinting a competitor to the line.  Man, what a great race, I thought to myself.   There is no greater feeling than giving your all and performing to the top of your ability.  Though the winner of that race, Meb Keflezighi(& the 2014 Boston Marathon Champion), had finished 6+ minutes faster than me, I knew I gave it everything I had.  That satisfying feeling that is so hard to get.  What a great feeling.  It assures you all the hard work you put in pays off.  In running, there is no greater feeling than that.

This feeling is also why I love coaching.  I want others to experience what I have experienced.  The joy of accomplishing more than you have ever dreamed of or thought you could achieve, surpassing your perception of your limits, seeing how far you can push yourself.  It is why I continue to love and feel an even deeper love for this sport.  The ups, the downs, the so so's.  This is what real running is about.  You just never know what is going to happen, and that makes it terrifying and exciting at the same time.  But I believe the journey is more about discovering oneself, and one's true limits.  This discovery is only made when one devotes themselves to the sport, in victory and defeat.  The defeats are JUST as important as the victories.  They may be more.  I learn more about myself when I fall down, or "fail" if you wish to use that word.  This is how we push ourselves.  A great example is Jake Krong, who I roomed with over the weekend in Chicago, went for the much harsher trials standard of 2:18:00(it used to be 2:22:00), going through the first half in a blazing 1:08:47.  He payed for the fast start a bit later, but still finished in a superb 2:21:12.  Had he not gone for it though, he would have never known.  I respected him tremendously for his courage and congratulated him on a great effort.  He aims to repeat the 2nd sub 1:09 next time.

As for my race plan, I was looking to take the race out in about 1:10 for the first half.  My coach and I knew I was in low 2:20's shape.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  I woke up Sunday in the middle of the night with a terrible sore throat.  Really?  I thought.  Why now??  Nevertheless, you push it back and go for it.  I had flown all the way out here, just like I had flown all the way to Houston back in January.  Gotta go for it.  Push through.  At the start, Jake and I made our way to the American Development tent and did a warm-up jog for 10 minutes.  I could already tell I wasn't feeling good.  My breathing was heavy, and I felt like I was sinking.  As we got to the start, I stood there, with that sinking feeling, suddenly thirsty.  I sipped on water.  I tried to be optimistic.  Just push past it, I thought.  You can do this!  Go for it!

The horn sounded and the crowds were roaring.  I went out 5:28 for the first mile, perfect pacing and right where I wanted to start.  My goal was to start 5:30's and gradually work into the 5:20's.  But by mile 3, I could tell I was already not feeling good.  My energy was zapped, the power I normally feel before a race was not there.  It will pass, that's how the marathon is.  I went through 10K in 33:55 or so, still not feeling good.  Mile 8, 9, 10.  I went through 10 in 55:00-barely 5:30 pace.  Feeling awful, but still trying to block it out.  I felt like I was running in sand.  I noticed I was starting to slow down, hitting halfway in 1:12, certainly off my target of 1:10 for the first half but I told myself to just settle for a 2:25.  My breathing was labored.  By 25K, I was done.  My body was in complete shut down mode.  It was not happening.  I took gels and they didn't do a thing.  There was nothing I could do.  I had no choice but to drop out at mile 16, with an hour and 29 minutes on my watch.  I luckily found a station right where I had to stop and they drove me back to the finish.  I was cold, weakened, and shivering.  A woman put a blanket around me.  But all the while I was being driven back and feeling defeated, the back of my brain knew I had made an incredibly smart decision.  Perhaps one of the smartest I have ever made in my running career.

"Keep going, son, keep training, keep the dream alive. Don't listen to anyone who tells you you can't. You've gained lots of fitness and are completely healthy and injury free. Look how far you've come since running in high school and college.  The ones who keep getting back up are the ones who achieve their dreams." -Dad

Despite the marathon not going according to plan, the training cycle I did this summer and fall has helped me achieve amazing new levels of fitness.  I have a great amount of aerobic strength stored in my system right now.  More often than not the previous training cycle's gains do not show until the following season(s).  It is the body's way of adapting.  I took yesterday off, and have been resting up to recover from the cold I have, but my legs feel ok.  I'm glad I pulled out of the race when I did because I will probably recover pretty quickly.  My future racing plans will most likely be the Richmond Half Marathon.  I do not feel it is necessary to jump in another marathon until perhaps next spring.  I also feel like with the tremendous aerobic strength I have developed, I could really crush a fast half right now.  To be developed more soon.


  1. Get well soon Chris! Love your training and perspective. Go use that fitness as often as you can, race your butt off over the next couple months! You're awesome!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dave. It's great to get that advice from a pro like yourself. Congrats on all your recent racing. Hope to meet you sometime.

  3. Was wondering what happened. Smart decision. Glad you're running at least the half in Richmond. Would like to see you run the full and crush it, though. Best of luck.

  4. Chris,

    Could this simply be a case of going out too fast? While I think low 2:20s is possible (someday), it's also very ambitious. As you know the marathon is always a gamble and it's very easy to get caught up in the race day hoopla. I think 26.2 miles is as similar to running 13.1 as the shot put is - I guess what I am saying is that's it's really tough to "convert" your 13.1 time to a marathon, since there are so many factors involved. I haven't reached what I think my potential is in the marathon either, but, with that caveat aside, had I been in your shoes, I would have gone out in 1:14-1:15...certainly if I were feeling sick. Had you kept this pace up, it would have been a 6-7min PR...beating your previous best by over a mile. Had you picked it up there was the possibility of running mid-2:20s. Either way, I doubt you would have walked away miffed about a 2:29...or even a 2:31.

    You mentioned Jake Krong going for it. He did, but he also went into the race with a PR of 2:20 (not to mention a 1:05 half time). He was "only" trying to chop off 2-3 mins from his time, not 10-15 mins.

    Anyways, I think you have a good marathon in you, but I'd run the 26.2 like you run Duel Ferries...gradually picking it up.

    That's just my two cents.

  5. Jake, I really don't think it is a case of going out too fast in this one. I shouldn't have raced to begin with- I really came down with something very bad. But I gave it a shot because I had flown all the way out there. Even if I went out slower(because of feeling sick) I don't think it would have made any difference, I felt terrible running in general. I also see myself making a big jump instead of chipping off little 2-3 minute segments here and there. That's what happened to Karl Dusen(he jumped from 2:39 to 2:20 or something similar to that). Maybe it will take me 8 tries, but I am confident what I can do. And, I was running with Conrad for the first several miles who ended up running 2:27. If my first mile was 5:15 it would have been too fast, but not 5:30. I went out in 4:57 when I averaged 5:08 pace for the half. Yes different distances I know but I really think I went out very smart. Also when I run hard 20 milers or at duel ferries I basically build into the pace very quickly(like a minute or 2) and then pretty much run that pace the rest of the way. It's not like I start out 6:00 pace and work down. When I did the 1:51 20 miler(average 5:30 pace) I built into 5:30s almost immediately, and just held it the whole way. Most of these controlled "quick" long runs were run very even the entire way, because the pace I built into was like clockwork for me. Kind of like autopilot. When I run like this I run the best way. If you watch me run my best races I run a little faster in the beginning but maintain a strong pace the rest of the way. And yes, I wouldn't be happy with anything over 2:25 at this point. Even Bert has run 2:26, and his half PR is just under 1:11. I just haven't had the right day, but one great thing I know is that I am doing the right things to progress my running overall. I think perhaps, what I look at is that I benefit from marathon type of training, which helps me develop no matter how the marathon itself goes. Yes it sucks, but it wasn't meant to happen on that day. It's similar when I dropped out of the Philly HALF marathon last September 2013. I didn't go out too fast in that race(I went out slower than what I would average for Houston 4 months later). I think that when you're ready to run well, it's actually very hard to screw it up. You're in that zone and it is meant to happen on that day. I wasn't ready on 10/12.

  6. I think Jake raises a good point about trying to run a "good" marathon before running a huge +15 minute breakthrough. While you might have been in low-2:20s shape, there's also real value in "only" hitting a 2:25-2:27 and feeling good about it (I say "only" because that's still quite fast). I'd wager you'd feel happier with that than a DNF. Getting sick the night before a race sucks, but it could have been a good call to adjust the gameplan and go out more conservatively. There have been a lot of fast marathons (including world records) run as negative splits.

    A lot of weird stuff happens in the marathon, and the fatigue is a much different feeling than a half marathon, so just executing a good one--albeit with a more conservative goal--can give you the confidence to really nail one to your fullest potential. There's something to be said in just knowing what a good marathon feels like.

    You've made such incredible progress over the last few years. It's only a matter of time before you crank out a fast marathon. We're pulling for you man!