Tag Archives: Marathon

Safety Pin & Preparation

Here is a guest post from my friend, the great Mike Nawrocki.  It is an interesting story about how even “experienced runners” make big mistakes!  Enjoy!

I helped coach the MDRA Fall Marathon Program this year.  During the week leading up to the Medtronic TCM, I e-mailed the members of the training group about 262 inspirational quotes to ponder in the days leading up to the marathon.  Or better yet, as they trudged up Summit Avenue for four miles.  And I opened the list with one of my all-time favorite quotes, this one by Roger Bannister.

“Sport is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool. Sport is about adapting to the unexpected and being able to modify plans at the last minute. Sport, like all life, is about taking risks.”

Little did I know just how much this quote and all the people who I helped “coach” (I use that term loosely) this summer would pull me through my own race: the TC10.

My goal for the TC10 was two-fold: finish in under an hour, but also finish with a smile on my face.  I got to the Metrodome about 90 minutes before my race.  Every time I got up to walk somewhere, I noticed my sock was sticky.

And here is a typical conversation I had with myself every time I re-discovered my sock was sticky.  “That’s weird,” I thought, “And kind of gross.  Feels like peanut butter.  Yum I like peanut butter.  Especially peanut butter cookies.  Oh and peanut brittle.  Not really made of peanut butter.  But brittle and butter sound the same.  Hey!  Which one do I like better?  Peanut brittle or peanut butter cookies.  Gotta go with the latter.  Easier to eat in mass quantities.  Eating in mass quantities.  Awesome.  I like fried cheese sticks….”  As you can see it didn’t take me long to forget “The Mystery of the Sticky Sock.”

Image from wickamoo

For years I have had a reputation for being somewhat of a flake.  The fact that I kept forgetting to investigate “The Mystery of the Sticky Sock” has done little to dispel this reputation.

In fact, I forgot all about my sticky sock until about a mile and a half into the TC10, when my sock became conspicuously “unsticky.”  I had started my race beautifully.  I went through mile one in 5:45, which admittedly was 20 to 30 seconds faster than I had planned.  But given my track record of going out 200 to 300 seconds too fast in races, who was I too complain?

Well, me.  I began to complain once I realized what was now “unsticky” in my sock.  And by “complain” I mean “curse a blue streak that would make a sailor turned red.”  I had cracked the case of “The Mystery of the Sticky Sock.”  That sticky thing in my sock was now a very loose, but closed, safety pin bouncing around the inside of my sock and the bottom of my foot.  So now I had a new mystery:  “The Mystery of How the *%#$@#!$! That Safety Pin Got in My Sock.”

But I had had more urgent matters to address.  We are all familiar with the “five stages of grief” we supposedly go through after a loss.  And in the thirty seconds it took me to realize there was a safety pin in my sock to finally deciding to sacrifice seconds and take the pin out of my sock, I hit all five stages.  I had to accept the possible loss of my goal: breaking 60:00 in this race.  So much for debating cheese sticks vs. peanut brittle!  Instead this is what I said to myself…

“What the *&%^$#@! is bouncing in my shoe?  It feels like a safety pin.  No way.  How the *&%^$#@! did a safety pin get in there!?  I’m still sleep-walking in the Metrodome.  I’m dreaming this. Seriously, how the *&%^$#@! did a safety pin get in my sock?!?! (stage 1: Denial)…

…*&%^$#@! That really is a safety pin!  I mean seriously! How does a safety pin get in my sock!!! &%^$#@!*&%^$#@!*&%^$#@!*&%^$#@! *%#$@#!$! (stage 2: Anger)…

Image from ~k~

There’s no way I can stop.  Every second is precious.  Here’s the deal.  If I move the pin around a bit, I’ll find just the right spot for it—a safe little nook for the pin to be where it won’t bother any toes.  And if I run just right, who’s to say it will ever open?  … (stage 3: Bargaining)…

…You know what?  That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever told myself.  And I’ve told myself some dumb things.  Wow a lot of dumb things now that I think about it.  Seriously how the *&%^$#@! did a safety pin get in my sock?!?! What kind of a rookie error is this?  I’m an idiot (stage 4: Depression).”

And of course the final stage is Acceptance.  I came to accept that the prospect of a pin stuck in my big toe was quite a bit worse than the prospect of not reaching my goal-time.  So it took me about a minute to get my shoe and sock off, shake the pin out, and finally get the sock and shoe back on.

As I hopped back up and started running again, I debriefed a little. I took stock of where I was at. Unable to answer the burning question of the moment (how the *&%^$#@! a pin got in my sock), I tackled bigger issues.  I thought about how I had a built-in alibi.  If I didn’t break 60 minutes, I could explain away any seconds over the one hour threshold to “The Mystery of How the *%#$@#!$! That Safety Pin Got in My Sock.”

But I thought about it a little more.  Part of racing is preparation.  Some of us take it for granted.  I have learned I can’t.  If I can’t get my socks on without endangering myself, that has to be factored into my time.  I thought about many of the e-mails and spoken advice I preached to the training class.  And they all had two central themes: 1) Prepare for every possibility, as much as you can, logistically and mentally, and 2) what you cannot prepare for, adapt to it quickly and smartly.

Not only had I preached this to the people in the MDRA training program, but I had seen them practice it.  I needed to be like them.  I had failed myself in terms of the first half of the message (preparing logistically), and it was now up to me to follow-through on the second-half and adapt.

I made it to the two mile mark in just over twelve minutes.  Close to where I wanted to be.

My mind went back to both the Bannister quote and to so many runners in our training program who had talked with me about how to train through injury, illness, and personal setbacks.  And I saw so many of those same people that morning in the Metrodome ready to toe the line for the marathon.  And thanks to them, I was able to put “The Mystery of How the *%#$@#!$! That Safety Pin Got in My Sock” behind me, and adapt to a new plan.  I could have quit my goal.  I had the alibi.  But I told myself I had to factor my own carelessness and distractibility into my time.  The risk was to go for my goal, even though less than two miles into the race, my entire plan blew up in my face.

And like Sir Roger Bannister said, isn’t that sport is all about?  Learning to take risks and adapt to adversity?  So I did it.  I finished in under an hour, and with a smile on my face.   But I do not believe I could have done if I didn’t spend all summer with the people in the training program.  I saw people adapting and taking risks on a regular basis at our practices.  So I just want to say thank you to everyone in the class for that.  You guys did a great job just by signing up and taking the risk that is training for a marathon.  You were the inspiration I needed at mile 1.5 of my own race.

It seems silly to think that preparing and running in a race will help me for life’s bigger challenges.  To quote the Mighty Mighty Bosstones: “I’m not a coward; I’ve just never been tested.  I’d like to that if I was I would pass.” But every day we lace up our running shoes to train for a race.  And every race we run, where there are no guarantees, we are training ourselves to step up to the bigger challenges life will throw at us.  And that is why I run.

But seriously, how the *%#$@#!$! did that a safety pin get in my sock?  Some mysteries, I have come to accept, go unsolved.

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Running from Apathy

rural school
Image by crossn81 via Flickr

Today, Dec 1 is World AIDS Day.  You really should read this article about hope from Relevant

I left Desalech with an amazing sense of hope, and also urgency. She had seen her life turn around. But I could only imagine how many other women there were like Desalech who desperately needed help: life-saving help.

I had traveled to Ethiopia with a couple of other World Vision staff who worked solely with Team World Vision. They basically recruited people to run marathons in honor of people like Desalech in Africa, raising awareness and asking for financial support in the process. This marathon thing, to me, was an absolutely ridiculous idea.

In seventh grade, I was the girl who faked being sick to avoid running one mile in gym class. Chalk it up to all the classic reasons: self-consciousness, fear of failure, embarrassment. I dreaded that one mile so much that I probably wasn’t actually faking sickness at all. The thought of running for even 10 (OK, maybe 14) minutes, coupled with the resulting humiliation of it all, was enough to make me physically ill. Let’s just say that my aversion to sports did not improve throughout high school. Or college.

Be sure to read the whole article.

[tags] Relevant, World AIDS Day, World Vision [/tags]

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Meb on Letterman

Did you see this yet? After winning the NYC Marathon and $170,000 Meb Keflezghi was on the David Letterman Show. It is a little funny, his Top 10 list is so true!

[tags] Meb Keflezghi, Meb, Letterman, NYC Marathon [/tags]

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Almost DQed for a Catheter

Jerry Johncock

Jerry Johncock

I’m not sure what I think about this whole situation.  According to the Pioneer Press Jerry Johncock was almost disqualifed from the 2009 Twin Cities Marathon for using a catheter at mile 21.

The report says he couldn’t urinate and from past experience knew he had a blood clot which prevented him from going. If you need more information, visit http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org.   Based on USA Track and Field Rule 144.3(d) (pdf) TCM officials decided not to disqualify the 81 year old who ran a 5:22. Johncock holds the U.S. marathon record for men aged 80-84 with a time of 3:59:12 and placed 1st in the the age group this year. Officials were initially unsure whether using a catheter was improper assistance.

The story gets stranger.

Johncock asked for a catheter at a medical tent.  They don’t carry such a device, for obvious reason s – check out the pictures.  Then a random spectator offers a spare one from his car.  1) Who carries a spare catheter? 2) Would you use someone’s spare catheter? Evidently the guy had a spinal cord injury.

Then according to this “explicit” picture, he would have to stick it up his penis (while running?) while standing on the side of the road. In a near by ambulance – obviously.

Then he ran 5 more miles.

Here are his race stats:

Jerry Johncock
bib number: 171
age: 81
gender: M
location: Shelbyville, MI
overall place: 7682 out of 8432
division place: 1 out of 2
gender place: 4584 out of 4922
time: 5:22:17
pace: 12:18
chip time: 5:22:11
5k: 28:20
10k: 59:04
half: 2:09:25
30k: 3:16:52
20 mile: 3:38:49

Jerry Johncock earned his finisher’s medal.  Based on my calculations he lost about 40 minutes with this incident.

Pioneer Press Articles:
Results stand for man, 81, who used catheter during marathon
No DQ for marathoner, 81, who borrowed catheter
Man borrows catheter from stranger’s car to finish Twin Cities Marathon
Picture Credit

Here is a random update on the catheter story.

[tags] Jerry Johncock, Twin Cities Marathon, TCM, Catheter [/tags]

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TCM 2009

TCM Expo
TCM Expo

I finished my second marathon. Pretty worse for the wear, but I finished. I had pretty modest expectations going into the race based on my training over the last year. I felt that 3:30 was pretty reasonable since most of my longer runs had been at 8 minute pace.

A friend from college, Pez, was debuting this year and he’s a pretty smart guy and decided to run with me for the first 3 miles around 8 minute pace and slowly build up. He had an excellent race finishing in 3:19. I felt really good during the first 5k, I did stop for a quick bathroom break and had to force myself to not try to catch back up.

I passed fellow classmate Kevin on the north side of Lake of the Isles. Staying pretty consistent at 8 minute pace. The 3:30 pace group was pretty far ahead now, because of my potty break – but they did take it out fairly fast from the start. I passed Deb on the north side of Lake Calhoun and the ran with Anne and her friend for awhile on the south side of the lake. I probably should have stayed with any of them and continued running at an easier pace. But I was hitting my splits pretty accurately.

At some point early on the Minnehaha Parkway part of the course I started catching up to the 3:30 pace group. At which point it got really crowded. Marty was towards the front of the group and we slowly came together as we went through the rolling hills stretch. I was taking it easy and hitting 8 minute pace. Marty and I ran together for a couple of miles. He said he was struggling and right before Cedar he said he would see me at the finish and dropped off.

I maintained my pace through 13 but started to hurt around 12. It started in my hips and throughout the race slowly worked its way down my legs. Mostly on the left side (where I have plantar fasciitis). I got through the half in 1:44 so pretty much right where I wanted to be. I slowed down a bit and I think I stopped to stretch it out before leaving Nokomis. From here my splits slowly slowed down as I struggled with trying to loosen up my legs, staying mentally tough, and not bonking.

As my paces show I quickly deteriorated and never really recovered. Part of me wanted to quit, part of me wanted to walk, part of me knew I had to fight to the finish. I made a mental decision that I would finish, even if I had to walk the rest of the way, but also made the decision that I would run for at least a mile in between walk breaks. I started just trying to walk through water stops, but then gave up on that and just started walking when I didn’t feel like going any farther.

I saw my wife and friend at mile 16 and gave them the thumbs down. I think they knew I was off pace but the thumbs down was a clear sign that I was struggling. I heard a couple of my students cheer for me and a former student gave me a needed/welcome Gu pack around mile 17.

Blood Filled Blister!

Blood Filled Blister!

The rest of the race is a blur of struggle and pain but I finished. And I was running at the finish. I finished in 3:56:00 officially. Deb and I passed each other back and forth throughout the last 8 miles. She served as much needed motivation to keep on pushing. A first time marathoner chatted with me a bit as we were getting ready to go up the St Thomas hill. I told him I was doing terrible but he kept talking. As we started up the hill he asked, “Is this the big hill.” I replied, “One of them.” He was caught of guard by that, and I felt a little bad, but I was out of it and didn’t really want to chit chat about the intricacies of the last 6 miles.

One high point of the final stretch was my wife and friend were just in front of the Target Cheer Zone. Summit Ave is already pretty packed with people and can be very encouraging. So I passed them and they were really cheering and the whole block or two was extremely uplifting, especially as you pass through the Cheer Zone. I got a boost in my step, which didn’t last near as long as I was hoping!

Seeing the cathedral top made me happy because I knew it was almost over. Then slowly making the turn and seeing the capital. I dug deep and found something and pushed hard. The crowd roared and I finished. Then I shuffled through the chute getting water, fruit, chips, a banana, a heat sheet, vegetable broth, and finally a finisher’s shirt. Marty and I hobbled and talked for a bit before I tried to find my wife and friends to go home.

It is amazing how much pain you can be in after running that far. My body hurt during the run, but hurt even worse right after it was over and for the rest of the day! When I peeled off my sock I found a nice blood filled blister pictured above!

Thank you to the thousands of people who cheered!! Those who knew my name, those who cheered for “MDRA” (my jersey), my race number, and even those who yelled for “MORA” (because evidently the D looks like an O). Each and every one of you and all of the volunteers helped make this race successful.













































































































































[tags] Twin Cities Marathon, TCM, Marathon [/tags]

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