Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Syracuse Half Marathon: My First DNF

On Sunday I ran - or tried to run - the Syracuse Half Marathon. I'd signed up for it - and for Lake Effect the previous month - in the hopes that it would be an apocalyptic snowy deluge. It wasn't. The weather was pretty nice for a race (almost 40!). The announcer at the race start even mentioned that it was the best weather the race had ever had. My friend David, who was standing next to me, joked, "he could've just said it's the nicest weather Syracuse has ever had and he'd still be right."

Upstate New York joke. Right at ya.

I met David at his place at about 5:45am. He made me eggs and coffee. We parked at Destiny mall and hopped on the shuttle to the race start. There were over 6000 runners in the race, so we were pretty jazzed. The sun started to come up as we rode the bus, giggling in anticipation (or something equivalently manly). That sentence was a little vague; was the sun giggling? Who knows.

We got to the Oncenter and it was swarming with people. All of the bathroom lines were already hundreds of millions of people long, so we went outside to the port-o-potties. Then we went back inside and traversed every square inch looking for coffee. Finally we found it. Outside. I don't see why they couldn't have parked their truck inside. There's enough space in the Oncenter to park a jet. Maybe even an ocean liner.

We did an easy warm up mile and then hit the johns one more time. We got got into the starting corral with a couple minutes to spare. We fought through the massive crowd like jerks trying to get to the section for our paces. We were pretty excited! I hadn't seen any of the other LUNARs running the race, except for Charlie, who happened to park right next to us at Destiny.

Two jerks in a massive crowd.

My goal for the race was to run it faster than I had run Lake Effect. Preferably by a large margin. I had carb loaded - INSANELY - before the race. I had originally planned to eat a lot just on Thursday. But then I had a work meeting Wednesday where there was a ton of food, so I though, screw it, and ate a bunch Wednesday too. But then Friday came around and I had all this ravenous momentum going so I just kept eating. My one day binge turned into an almost full week binge.

It turned out to be a really bad idea.

I'd had an awful stomach thing in January that I've mentioned a couple times. I finally got antibiotics for that and recovered. I was OK for about a month and a half and then it started creeping back. I knew that one of the things it caused was malabsorption, which was part of the reason I ate so much (but mostly because I have zero willpower).

I had a moment of divination this morning and realized what had exacerbated my issue. Sugar. I had eaten a ton of crap over the holidays and early this year, which caused me problems originally. Then I took a break from ice cream and felt good. But then I ate a F@#KTON of sugar while I was "carb loading." I just need to quit sugar forever.

But the stomach issue caused another problem: dehydration. Super bad dehydration.

The first mile I was OK. I had to fight through the huge number of runners to get up to speed, so my pace was all over the place. Sometimes too slow and sometimes too fast. And then I ran up the hill probably too fast. I started to feel cramp-like twinges throughout my legs, but they weren't bad enough for me to care.

Then, just before mile two, I got a massive cramp in my right quad. I tried to run through it and failed. Then I tried to walk through it. Fail. Then I stopped and massaged it for a little and started moving again. Super fail. It wasn't just the excruciating pain. I physically couldn't run. I couldn't even walk without a big limp. I stopped and waited for a couple minutes, hoping it would pass on its own.

It did not.
And now for something completely different...

So I got on the sidewalk, and walked back. In my mind I kept thinking that the cramp would go away right as I got back to the starting line, and how funny that would be. But it did not. The leg ended up hurting all day. A bunch of LUNARs waved at me as they ran past. I was highly visible in my kilt. In retrospect I wish I had taken it off. It was pretty humiliating.

Fellow LUNAR and scarf-knitting extraordinaire Emily actually stopped and came over to me to check that I was OK. That was super nice. She was taking time out of her race to show her support and care (and to make sure I wasn't going to die). That meant a lot.

A few blocks from the start I put my bib in the trash. Then I got a TXT from Shawn saying his wife had seem me limping dejectedly and checking that I was OK. I walked over and joined him at the Oncenter.

It turned out be exactly what I needed. Had it not been for Shawn, I probably would've fallen into a negative thought spiral and gotten super depressed. But Shawn had been struggling for months to get back into running after his third brain surgery, and that gave me a lot of perspective. Plus he's just a super cool guy. So we hung out and talked a lot and I ended up feeling pretty darn good.

Plus, I'd been racing for almost six years, and I was about due for a DNF. Even at LehighValley I'd managed to finish. Barely.

So I was disappointed, but I got over it pretty quickly. I had gotten really dehydrated and my legs broke. It happens. And beating myself up over it wasn't going to help any. I went back to the finish line to wait for David to cross. Then we headed home. I spent the rest of the day relaxing, and watching Netflix and eating too much food, because I had given up on the week.

I had a good swim and bike ride Monday morning and then spent the day walking around waterfalls with my cousin who I hadn't seen in ten years. I'll get back to my old self soon and life is pretty good, all things considered. Plus, this gives me an excuse to run Syracuse again: To get my sweet sweet vengeance.

This, and several other recent experiences, have taught me to not be overly attached to minutia. To not obsess over any one workout or any one race. To not pin my self-worth on always being able to perform to some ridiculous standard. These are all just stories. And I can tell the story of how I blew up at mile 2 of the Syracuse Half if it helps someone feel better about their own challenges.

These failures don't define us. They teach us. So that we can become stronger and more courageous people. So that we can accept that things don't always go our way. That life doesn't suddenly end when one bad thing happens. It's long and full of adventure. And we have plenty of opportunity to be happy and successful.

A photo of adventure!

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