Mixed Emotions

There’s no real rhyme or reason to tonight’s post. Up front, I’ve got to say that I’m happy. Didn’t run today, but I will run tomorrow. I’m psyched I finished, I’m unbelievably blessed and know it, and, thanks to my lovely wife, am the happiest man in the world. Tonight, I just want to hash out a couple thoughts in public. That, and try to stay up to see the Astros struggle back.

As one of the wise men in my life said: “(D)on’t let yourself get too blasé over the whole thing.  A marathon is tough to finish.  Marathon training is tough to do.  You’re well on your way to your 6 impossible things before breakfast.  =) ”

I feel great today – even started taking the stairs again at work. Although that was probably defensive against loss of power thanks to the early nor’easter we’re getting. Could have run, but didn’t. Will run tomorrow. Gots to taper again…

Q1. Hindsight being 20/20, I had to ask the question: Would I do a first marathon again? Was the whole thing worth it?

A1. Yes, overall it was. Marathon is, in fact, a huge thing. It’s physiologically at the limits of what people can do, ultras nonwithstanding. There’s a reason the first guy to do it died – it’s a long, long, way. I now know there’s a huge depth of will in my chest that I don’t tap often enough.

Q2. What would you do differently?

A2. Stick completely to a training plan. Not make any excuses to put off or re-arrange the schedule unless absolutely necessary.

Longer long runs, and more of them. I only did one 20 miler. I made excuses for all the 18 milers. And I would have pushed through to about 24 miles.

Better planning on training runs. The “Circle K” water stop plan is nice in theory, but leaves a bit to be desired. Works for cycling, but in cycling, an extra 4 or 5 miles is like scratching your nose.

Set a reasonable time goal. Based on New Haven and my long runs, I don’t think it would have been unreasonable to shoot for, say, a 4:30 or even a 4:20. It’s probably just a personal thing, but finishing is kind of ambiguous for me personally. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone – believe me, I completely buy the “personal race” thing – but, for me, a reasonably fit guy in my early 30’s, with a history of at least attempted athleticism, an affinity for backpacking and manual labor, and a stubborn streak a mile wide, a six hour marathon (equates to between 4 or 5 miles an hour) should be something I could do almost without training, and with a week’s pack on my back. (This theory would also explain why most of my backpacking trips tend to turn into “death marches”.) Your mileage may vary.

Concentrated more on losing weight in May-July. I’m still 10 lbs or so above the top end of my BMI. 10 lbs I didn’t need to carry with me on the marathon. But food is so tasty…

Started with a bigger, better known race. Not to take anything away from the folks who put on Mystic Places or the valiant efforts of my younger brother, but a pace group and a better marked course would have been hugely helpful. Ditto well-known course. I’m still having chills about the last set of hills – dude, I felt mugged.

Continued to cross train. Running just completely burned me out. I said mean things about running, which has helped me through more rough times than anything else. I think I could have gotten away with switching one of the weekly runs for a ride or a swim. And, once I’d logged the 15 miler, I should have done the “short” weekends on the bike (10 minutes of riding for every mile of running scheduled).

Been better about using a course from either the house or the office instead of relying on Jamestown so often. Too easy to keep driving if timing is off…

Q3. So, why the long face, buckaroo?

A3. Partially exhaustion. Largely confusion. A wise man, discussing his own experiences, once said about a major accomplishment “(it) was far from what I had expected.  Its hard to put it out there just yet, but it wasn’t the glorious feeling I wanted.”

You’d think I’d have learned to have more realistic expectations by this point. Top 10% in high school. BS in Engineering and Math minor in 4 years without summer school. Strings of certifications and qualifications in the Navy and real world. MBA. Yet somehow each new thing I accomplish leaves a bigger gap.

In large part, it’s my own darn fault. 33 years old, and I’ve spent most of my life letting other people set goals for me. High School and College were givens. The Navy had a nice career path laid out – I played that as long as it was appealing to me. Since resigning from active duty, I’ve just kind of been floating, looking for someone who could use me, rather than figuring out how I wanted to drive my life.

At the same time, I’ve been somewhat stubborn and obstinate in wanting to find a way to live my life on my terms, instead of trying to listen to the still, quiet Spirit. The next phase of my life is going to try to concentrate on Him more than me. Dedication.

Q4. So, what next?

A4. New York.

After that, I’m not quite sure what I’ll be training for. Likely December to March will be weight loss. I’d like to drop from this morning’s 166 down to 150 before racing next year. Entirely within the realms of health and possibility.

Next year’s campaign is going to be focused on the Terramuggus Tri series. I cannot emphasize how much fun I had last year. Love the bike, love the run, tolerate the swim. Running for sure will include Bluff Point and New Haven, and I may have to squeeze in the trail half-marathon that Chris pimped earlier this year.

Q5. Any marathons?

A5. Not in the near future. I’ve done it – the box is checked, I can now sign my letters “Bill Jankowski, Marathoner” even if I get fat and lazy again.

For the record, that’s not a blanket “No, nuh-nuh, nada, nyet, never, rien.” 48 hours on, and only a dozen or so aspirin down the hatch, I’m kind of happy about the whole experience. But for the near future, there’s a ton of other stuff I’d like to do with the time. Not all fitness related. Actually, most of them not fitness related. And I’ve just got zero interest in sinking that much time into running again.

Q6. Should I run a marathon?

A6. (The following is an option by runmystic, and should not be acted upon without consulting with a physician, a physical therapist, your second grade teacher, preacher, two ex-girlfriends/boyfriends, and a half dozen people selected at random and paid for their effort in a half-day focus group. Any plans hatched after reading this opinion are the responsibility of the chicken who sat on that egg, and the writers, editors, staff, and investors of runmystic accept no liability beyond the price paid for the content. Which, last we checked was running us $5/month for hosting. Which, as a proxy for a shrink, is a pretty darn sweet deal for us.)

Absolutely, you should run a marathon. Why? Because you can. Because it sucks. Because pain is temporary, and can be overcome.

That’s it. Love watching baseball at Minute Maid with Bar in the box behind home plate.

10 thoughts on “Mixed Emotions”

  1. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing them with us. I’m kind of in the same boat, pondering what’s next on my list of life’s goals. Since I ran my marathon’s this year my list has grown as I gained confidence in what this old body can still do. Good luck in NY!

  2. lists of over-achievers’ goals, check a box, move on to the next challenge :)
    Thanks for sharing your marathon story, mine is so close it’s beginning to creep me out.

  3. Really excellent post Bill. Whenever I find another running blog by someone who can really write I bookmark it immediately. Thanks for sharing =)

  4. Nice self reflection; I should do that sometime.

    As for your training, one 20 miler is all you need. Doing more is asking for an injury. The trick is to be consistent and to then give your body time to mend. I am going to put together a few different marathon training plans, but I have not had a chance to do so yet. I did review one that I found on the internet (http://news.runtowin.com/2005/10/21/marathon-rookie-reviews.html) which seems like it would have been pretty good in your situation.

    I totally agree with the starting on a bigger and better known race. If you want a good one, my PR (before Mystic Places) was at Cleveland, and their new course (as of 2004) is great. You start downtown, do a small loop and go west 60 blocks or so, then you go south a few blocks and go east 110 blocks or so, then you go north to Lake Erie and follow that back downtown where you loop around a bit to finish where you started. Fairly flat, great run support, pace leaders, and all that jazz. I had a lot of fun there.

  5. Bill, thank you so much for your honesty. I agree with the cross-training, and how running takes sooo much time! Can we ever find a balance? Keep concentrating on Him and I think we can.

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