Sunday, March 23, 2014

DNF at 2014 Oakland Marathon

Note: Hand goes over your HEART
Last year I had an amazing run at the 2013 Oakland Marathon where I shattered my marathon PR and finished 15th overall in a time of 3:04:39. You can read that race report here.

This year things didn't go nearly as well. I found myself struggling (and walking) by mile 15 and eventually dropping out at mile 18.

Where did it all go wrong? Sure, the obvious choice is to blame my choice or racing attire. Clearly the cape was not very aerodynamic and should take all the blame, right?

But not so fast, the drag of the cape was likely more than balanced out by the weight and aerodynamic savings of my extremely tight and short racing shorts (Full disclosure: technically these are not actual running shorts).

Most likely my dismal performance today was the result of one or two of the following factors:

1) I simply went out too hard (no short-shorts pun intended)

These are not actually running shorts
I purposely tried to avoid going out too hard and held back as the pack of lead runners rocketed off the starting line. I was probably in about 20th to 30th position, which I thought was appropriate based on my 15 place overall finish last year.

What I failed to account for however was that (as I would only later learn after the race) the field was much faster and more competitive this year. Also, I failed to realize that many of the people ahead of me were running the 4 person marathon relay, and hence would only be running about 6.5 miles each.

So in reality, I probably went out too fast and fell apart. This would be the simplest and most likely explanation. However, I think it is only one factor. The other being that I am mentally weak, particularly when things aren't going the way I hope/expect.

2) I am a mental weakling!

Sure, I can dig deep and endure tremendous suffering when I am in a dog fight battling for a top position in a race. My amazing performances at 2014 Way too Cool, 2013 Quad Dipsea, and 2013 Ohlone have shown me that I am capable of exceeding my own expectations and pulling amazing performances out of my ass when something epic is on the line.

I walked through downtown Oakland in these!
However, as I have seen in many other races (too numerous to chronicle here) I also have a tendency to shut down mentally and give up when things aren't going my way, particularly when I am failing to meet my own expectations.

Today I had a goal of breaking 3 hours. Never mind that my PR is only 3:04 and that my next fastest time is 3:12. Going sub 3 on such a difficult course would have been a major accomplishment. Only a handful of runners did it last year at this race.

So, when I saw my split of 1:31:30 at the half way point, I was quite disappointed. In reality, my half-way split time was not so bad considering that first half of the course contains all of the hills while the second half is relatively flat. And, my split this year was about two minutes faster than I ran last year at this course. But nonetheless, it became obvious to me that I wasn't going to meet my (rather arbitrary) goal of sub 3 hours. So I gave up mentally.

The aftermath

Somewhere around mile fifteen I stopped running and sat down on the street curb. It was in a rather shady section of Oakland. I looked around and saw a few people smoking crack. Not wanting to get arrested and I got up and starting jogging again.

It's 4:20 somewhere!
Finally around mile eighteen I'd had enough and decided to call it quits. Rather than run the last 8 miles, which basically just meander around in circles around downtown, I decided to take a shortcut directly to the finish line. What I hadn't realized initially was that this route would take me off the official course with all of the police monitored intersections, aid stations and cheering crowds and into the heart of Oakland.

You would think that a guy wearing only a speedo and a super hero cape would feel uncomfortable and unsafe strutting down the sidewalk past drug dealers, prostitutes, and tough-looking guys clad in Oakland Raiders jackets? But no, I simply did my best beauty-pageant contestant wave, graciously accepting all of the "Boy you look good... real good" cat calls and accolades.

Eventually I made it back to the start/finish area, unharmed and unmolested. And, while I don't think I will be back to run the 2015 Oakland marathon, I did make some new friends along the way and have an open invitation to shoot dice on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 7th Street anytime I want.

Even though I did not run a PR (or even complete the race) and hence did not earn a celebratory beer, I decided to "award" myself a compensatory beer. Granted, it wasn't quite noon yet. But what the heck, it's 4:20 somewhere, right?


Lorenski said...

Marathons are easy. Fast marathons are stupid hard. It happens. Love the gear. You should come out with a line. Keep up the good work. Eyes on the prize, homey. Bigger fish to fry, although I love a good, impossible, haphazard race goal as much as the next guy.

Trail gal said...

Thanks for sharing your race story. Did you see you made the Mercury News?

Big Johnny Burton said...

Ha ha. Thanks Sarah. I hadn't see that. Too funny!