I’ve never ridden in an ambulance before. More on that later…
The kids stayed the night at the grandparent’s house the night before. That would allow Aubrey (my wife) and I to get up early and be focused on getting everything I needed in the car and to the race on time. We woke up at 4:30 AM and got some breakfast (eggs and toast) and had a cup of coffee. Everything was basically ready from the previous night so we got everything into the van and headed out around 5:30 AM and were parking about 6:00 AM. I was able get one last potty break in and loosen the legs up a bit and it was time to lineup. Aubrey took some pictures and loaded heaps of encouragement onto me. I was ready.
The First Half
After some young person (with a heavy southern accent) sang the national anthem the gun fired (actually I don’t think there was a gun) and we were off. I knew I’d be rolling out slowly so I lined up near the back and just eased out. It was more of a walk at first and then I settled into a nice slow jog. There were loads of people along the way cheering us on and it was such a joy. After around 4 miles of a slow pace I kicked it up a bit into a nice pace. Aubrey met me around mile 6 with cheers and even more encouragement. Just after mile 11 a friend, Jeff, met up with me. He wasn’t in the race, but he needed to get a good long run in and so he joined me for the last half. We coasted through the halfway mark and said hi to Aubrey once again. I felt great; on top of the world! I freely conversed with Jeff; I was smiling and breathing easily; life was good.
Starting to Work
Right after the halfway point though, I had to go up a pretty steep incline and realized something. My legs were getting a bit tired. That didn’t feel to good. I was still OK, though, and we pressed on. There were a lot less people on the track now as all of the half-marathoners had already jumped ship. I was making good progress and even passing a few people along the way. I was definitely starting to feel the work of it all.
The Beginning of the End
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it happened really fast. At some point between mile 17 and mile 19 I went from feeling great to, “crap, this hurts.” For one thing I realized that I was painfully under-prepared as far as equipment, nourishment and hydration. This is when I really became thankful that Jeff was running with me. He’s been running for quite a bit longer than me, and he had a pack with running gels and was carrying water with him. He was generous enough to share these with me. He also helped me pace myself, never pushing me beyond what I could do, but always encouraging. I saw Aubrey for the last time before the finish line right after mile 20. My conversation was done by then, all energy being saved for the task of putting one foot in front of the other.
The Bitter End
I ran the first 20 miles in about 4 hours. That’s a little better than the pace I had hoped for, but generally right on target. From that point on though, my body crashed and it was a battle of will vs. pain. We took it in spurts of running and walking, trying to drink as much PowerAide as I could through the aid stations and fueling up when I could. I think around mile 23 though I starting becoming nauseous because I didn’t think I could stomach much of anything. I tried to drink as often as I could. I had some pretty major leg cramps along the way that halted me completely and I had to stop and stretch a bit. I got dizzy a few times whenever we stopped at aid stations. I had a pretty bad stitch under my left rib. Ah… this is the life!
I’m pretty sure I walked most of the way to the finish line from that point on. I had a few jogs in there, but couldn’t actually go very far before I had to walk again. My vision was getting a bit blurry by this point and I couldn’t focus on much. I wear glasses, so I’m used to the “not exactly clear” vision while I’m running but this was a bit more than that. The finish line came into view and there was hope… hope that I could finally stop this madness and rest. Jeff peeled off to the side as I entered the last few yards of the track. I somehow managed a jog that was just over a walk through the finish line.
From this point on, there isn’t much that is crystal clear to me. I remember some lady handing me a metal and some other stuff and trying to take my picture. I think shortly after that I collapsed for a bit, but was able to stand back up and make my way off the track into the shade. Aubrey came running up to me and I asked her to get my towel. I sat down on the sidewalk under the shade of some small trees. After that I vaguely remember some big burly guy (who it turns out was a medic) asking me a bunch of questions and shoving some orange slices into my hands. I remember trying to get some of them down. I remember my vision became so unclear, almost like a negative photograph, that I couldn’t see anything. Then it was like someone had shoved cotton in my ears and really loud ringing. I sort of remember them putting an IV into my arm and then after a while I started coming back to reality. I remember them talking about an ambulance and how they’d gone down the wrong road and then they were helping me onto a stretcher.
A Ride and Some Recovery
I was absolutely freezing on the ride to the hospital; constantly shivering. They plugged all sorts of things onto my chest, said a lot of medical sounding jargon and asked me a ton of questions. I was fully awake then and knew what was going on, but I was in pain. My head hurt, my shoulders and neck hurt, my legs were in agony. I think that’s just one of the rewards for running 26.2 miles though (well, running and walking). They got me into a room in the E.R. and kept pumping oxygen and fluids into me. There is a lot I could expound on from this point on, because we didn’t leave the hospital until 5:30 PM. Instead, I’ll just say that I was extremely dehydrated and my eloctrolytes were depleted. They fixed those two problems and discharged me and I was off home for some much needed rest and eating.
I’ve been trying not to beat myself up about this too bad, but my finish time was 5 hours 52 minutes. You can see all of the results here. I am thankful that I at least came in under the 6 hour mark. So am I finished with all of this madness? Absolutely not! Even though my mother would love for me to say I’ll never do it again, I don’t think I’m finished with all of this marathon business. I’ve already thought about things I could have done differently to perform better, things I could have prepared a bit more. I definitely don’t want to take any more rides to the hospital though. I think next time I’ll be able to remember what I felt like this time and stop before my body shuts down.
I would like to extend a HUGE thanks to Jeff for being my running partner, encouragement and helper. I seriously would not have completed the race without you there. Thanks for my wife, Aubrey, who is always a constant encouragement to me and is the love of my life. Thanks to all of my family who came out to support me in one way or another and to the friends and family who’s prayers I felt with me. I am one seriously blessed man, to have such a large number of people that genuinely care about me. Praise be to God!