2016 Prairie Fire Marathon: C+

George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But I do remember. I write it down. And I repeat it anyway.

In this marathon, the old mistakes I repeated were going out too fast, not carb loading, and not taking enough fuel during the race. Dumb mistakes. Avoidable mistakes.

And I made new mistakes, I got to the starting line late. This led to a lot of anxious walking around right before the start and forgetting to drink my starting-line coffee. I was nervous, unfocused.

This was not a step toward my goal of getting into Boston. And I didn’t just make race-day mistakes. There were chronic mistakes, too.

Frank Shorter said, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” It’s the opposite of what George Santayana wrote, counter-logical. I don’t think George knew anything about marathons. I’m convinced that I should forget the past. At least some of it.

I used to think Frank meant you must forget the pain of the race. You must forget that you promised yourself you would never put yourself through a marathon again. But there is more to forget than just that. I must forget that I know how to do a marathon when I begin training for the next one. This time I was too confident. I thought I knew what I was doing.

The weather could not have been better, but there are some what-ifs that haunt me. What if the course was marked better and I hadn’t gotten lost for a tenth-of-a-mile?  I picked the course, but what if it had been straighter? I ran on trails and sidewalks. There several ninety-degree turns, a hair-pin or two, and a couple of pedestrian bridges. (This was my longest marathon by a tenth of a mile at 26.54 miles.) What if I had gone out conservatively? What if there had been a 3:25 pace group? Tucking in with a good pacer can save 2% of your energy, some of it mental. What if I had drunk my coffee?

The coffee could have helped.

And worse, it was like I had a failure-wish. I knew I was right on the edge of my goal given my training runs, but I was afraid to run that fast for that long. I had over-reached before and blown up. I remembered. Once was too many times.

Even before the taper, I was nervous about the race, and I was over-eating; I had already put on a couple of pounds. And then there were too many calories in the taper, adding another pound. Before races that I am ready to take on, I cut my weight, becoming an animal that is ready for the trial.

After reviewing the race and my heart rate data, I figured I could have run 7:45 / mile that day, even without the coffee, which would have been a 3:25:41, but I would not have been happy with that, not even qualifying for Boston, far from being accepted.

There were some little victories. I got several low-fives from the grade school demographic. I thanked the officers who were controlling traffic. I had a great brunch with my support crew after the race. I did not curl up in the pain-cave and go into a brooding hibernation.

What is it about me and the marathon? It is just outside my natural abilities; something that I long to master. Something that I feel I can rise to, but I’m tired of doing marathons. It’s back to the half for a year.

My motto is “Watch out! You might get what you’re after!” And, as I’ve matured, I’ve started thinking, you might get what you’re afraid of. Among the goals for this marathon were not becoming an asshole during training. But now I am not afraid of that. Honestly, the goal was to finish, to run 26.2 miles; and I did. And there were times when I was afraid I would not be able to do that. The next goal is to train hard enough to get into Boston without becoming an asshole. It’ll be a stretch.

When I do another marathon, I need to practice the end. That was the key to my successful 2013 Kansas City marathon; I did several long runs that finished on the final miles of the course. My body needs to know how far it must go.

If I do a marathon where I can’t practice on the course, I can simulate the end on my treadmill with google-street-view; that’s what it’s for!

During the training, I must become a marathoner. My body must learn to burn some fat in those first miles; conserve those carb-stores! And I need to practice getting enough fuel at marathon pace.

The biggest regret of my running career is from long ago, when I was a serious runner. While on vacation at Disneyworld, I was in hard training for some race. I fell asleep in the hotel room right after dinner, because I was so wiped from training that morning. My wife and kids watched the fireworks from the hotel balcony. And I missed the whole thing. I missed my family the most; they missed me.

I wish I could forgive myself for that, live it down. Forget it.

I think it can be done. I think I can get into Boston based on merit. The long-term goal is to qualify in the Spring of 2018 for Boston of 2019. But 2017 will tell me a lot about what kind of runner I am. Can I go the distance? Can I stay balanced and fit?

I’ve got to fit it in. I must fit running and training in with the rest of my life: work, family, fun, friends, God. Fit it all in. Big rocks first.

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