Frankfurt Maraton Blog

 

I have written a few times after marathons, mostly disappointing ones. Those blogs came easier to me than this one. I don’t know why that is but it seems more natural for me to write about disappointment in running than success. Maybe that’s a product of getting more practice at disappointment, thus more thoughts and words on the subject. Maybe it’s that I have always been a competitor (from a very young age) where losing brought on more feelings of anger, rage, etc, than winning brought feelings of joy, elation, etc. Maybe it’s because I’m an overly competitive arse-hole who yells “Ball don’t lie!” at my brother’s girlfriend after I accuse her of scratching one stroke only for her to actually scratch the next during a meaningless game of cut-throat billiards (this is my public apology Julie, I’m sorry). Maybe I need to talk to someone about all that, but for now that’s my self-psycho-analysis on why it was difficult for me to finally write about a successful outing at the marathon.

I crossed the line, checked my watch, and by my unofficial time, had just pr’d by a lot. Over two minutes a lot. I turned to see my teammate Scott Fauble finishing just strides back in what would tie Meb for the 12th fastest American debut of all time. Shortly after our teammate Matt Llano finished. Matt was understandably disappointed, but I know for sure Scott and I wouldn’t have ran what we did without him. And I can say with even more confidence that I wouldn’t be running anymore had I gone through the amount of injury, surgery, and rehab he has. I am a pretty big believer in making a firm delineation between consolation and excuse. Consolation can be derived from reasons as to why a particular result was less than desirable, while excuse allows you to take false comfort in an unknown result. “If these things didn’t happen, that would have happened,” is an excuse. “These things did happen so this happened,” is a reason. The distinction can be confusing and nuanced, but important. Excuse makers rarely create results, and result makers rarely create excuses. I may have just inadvertently created or plagiarized the back of a high school cross-country shirt. I think there is great consolation to be found in Matt’s race and he is definitely not an excuse maker. There I go ranting about disappointment again.

On paper I had just pr’d by two minutes and nineteen seconds. In my head I always operated as if I had run faster than 2:14:40. So the time didn’t really surprise me but it certainly was nice to finally have that validation of a time closer to the runner I knew I was. This was actually the worst training segment I’ve had for a marathon, yet my most successful race, a strange but promising paradox. People would ask how training was going and outside of immediate family and girlfriend, I attempted to feign confidence that it was going well. If I could convince others, maybe I could convince myself. That being said I definitely unloaded a few ranting and frustrated texts onto Nicole questioning the celestial running beings why they were cursing me with day after day of feeling terrible. You see, I always thought I was better than I was on paper, but in the world of running the number on paper is a fair and just reminder of how good everyone else perceives you to be. We were also making a big deal on the team-side of things about this fall and the marathon. I was a 2:14 guy getting to do things 2:14 guys just don’t get to do. We were going to run an international marathon, go to Switzerland to train for the final lead up to the race, and there would be a documentary and a book being made about it all. I began to feel like a bit of an imposter. Doubt that I actually wasn’t better than my time on paper crept in with the subtleness of a drunken high school elephant trying to sneak back into its parent’s house after curfew. This doubt took me to a dark mental place somewhere in the middle of the build up, a dark enough place that started having me question if even starting this race was fair, to not only myself but my team, coach and sponsor. But Ben began to adjust some of my workouts, and I began to have a more positive mental outlook on just accepting who I was on whatever particular day. Translation: I don’t have much control on how I will physically feel today, but I have complete control over how I mentally respond to that. This isn’t revolutionary stuff, folks, but in the moment can be tough to execute. This race would determine a lot about what my future or lack of future in running would look like and instead of letting that put undue pressure on me, I became at peace with my running career thus far. And probably most importantly the people around me continued to exhibit unwavering support in my ability – ability more in line with the runner I was in my head than the one I was on paper. I caught some decent workouts the last few weeks of the build up and felt great on our last couple easy workouts. Maybe the elephant was sobering up.

The day before the race was actually pretty fun. People ask a lot about the 24 hours before a marathon, or days leading up and everyone has a different outlandish anecdote about their buddy eating 27 bananas and PR’ing, or getting loaded on beer and sushi two nights before. So here’s maybe my only piece of advice: do whatever eases your mind and relaxes your body. We woke up and went for a run as a team, joined by my girlfriend Nicole, Scott’s girlfriend Hayley, as well as our coach Ben, while Matt’s parents met to walk while we ran. It was a very easy 3 miles with little chatter about the upcoming 26.2 miles. Also, here’s a small disclaimer to this advice: if you’re a person that is relaxed by intensity, stay the course there. Scott and I decided to get haircuts. We had watched a series of Brad Pitt movies in Switzerland and in an attempt to overcome the language barrier, we showed pictures of Lieutenant Aldo Raine as an example of what we wanted to look like. The language barrier may have been a crack in the ground compared to the wall our barber would have to surmount to make us resemble Brad Pitt. It would be as if I took my Kia Soul to a car wash and pointed at a picture of a Ferrari. Or maybe like a restored rugged old land cruiser or something. We can discuss what kind of car Brad Pitt would be at another time, but for now it’s safe to say it’s DEFINITELY not a Kia Soul. We ate dinner as a team at the pre-race dinner and then Nicole and I watched some Arrested Development before falling asleep.

Race day we woke up to windy and wet conditions, but for a guy who had run a string of warm ones these conditions were more than welcoming. I don’t remember a whole lot of specific detail from the race, probably from waiting too long to write this. What I do remember is getting to 20 miles and telling myself (censored for the younger readers, for the older readers insert the “f word” every third or fourth word): “This is as good of a shot as you’ve ever had, don’t blow it.” For whatever reason my body felt great, maybe it was apologizing for so many days of feeling awful in the buildup. It was the first marathon I felt like I was actually capable of attacking the final miles, and I pressed my body for every second. Every time I pushed my body responded, so I would push again, and again. Until I ended up in the “festhalle”, one of the most extravagant finishes in running. There is literally a red carpet. It would have been nice to savor it a little more because the finish was incredibly cool, but running faster is cooler. After embracing with Matt and Scott for a little while, I think the next person we saw was Ben, who in a fervor of self-referential excitement proclaimed, “That’s a boom!” I then found Nicole who claims I started crying while we were hugging. I disagree. I admittedly got a bit emotional having just gone through a marathon and had begun to process what had just transpired out on the course, but also over my career that got me to this point. I am not much of a crier (not out of any sort of machismo deal, crying can be very manly) but in Nicole’s defense I may have cried had I not been so dehydrated, but I will maintain that no tears came out. No tears, no cry. All in all it was a great day. I hope I did a decent enough job writing what it felt like to be successful for once, and I intend to get more practice at it. Now it’s time to become mentally better than a 2:12 guy.

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2016 Olympic Marathon Trials

8,253 seconds was how long it took me to finish the Olympic Trials Marathon in 14th place. I loved every single adrenaline filled, excruciating, disappointingly heartbreaking one of them.

Leading up to the race:

I was heading into the trials with little to no media attention, and rightfully so. That was fine by me, especially because my career thus far has done little to warrant speculation that I had a chance to make the team. However, the day before the trials I was invited to the press conference, which was surprising to me. I went only to find out the reason I was there was because I was born in Santa Monica and they had invited myself and a female competitor as the local connections. So I expected I would sit at my table for 30 minutes, probably not answer any questions, get back to my room and rest up for the next morning. However, Kevin from Runnerspace was already waiting at my table, then Runner’s World, and later on LetsRun came over and asked me some questions. In the middle of those a couple Japanese guys were asking me quite a few questions, so I obliged them as we worked through a bit of a language barrier. I thought it strange and maybe undeserved to get this sort of attention, but interestingly enough that is kind of what LetsRun was asking me. They had heard my name from a few other competitors as someone to look out for. They ended up calling me the “Budweiser Long Shot” and the “hottest 2:14 guy at the trials.” My girlfriend got quite the kick out of that one. The morning of the trials they used a quote of mine as their quote of the day. Essentially I said, “despite not having the documented pedigree of the others in conversations to make the team, I have convinced myself I can.” I have had a quote of the day on Letsrun once before, from a blog I wrote after being extremely disappointed with my first marathon, and questioning whether or not I believed I was good enough to do this (running in general as a career). The juxtaposition of these two quotes, although years apart, is a personally intriguing introspection. Being confident without substantiation is something I have struggled to be in the past, although it was necessary (hopefully not foolhardy) as just a 2:14 guy believing I could make the team. I went to the line resolute in my belief that I had a shot to finish top 3 and would be disappointed with anything short of that.

The Race:

The race plan was simple: cover everything after the first 6-mile loop. The first 14 miles of the race were pretty uneventful. However, after the u-turn just before 14 I had realized some of the pre race contenders were already losing contact with our group. I was feeling fantastic at this point and got a boost of confidence seeing that the race was already taking it’s toll on some. The next mile between 21st and 22nd st on Figueroa was probably the high point of my race. My mom had gathered 65 or so family and friends to line the street here, all wearing “Scott Smith fan club” shirts and they were losing their minds seeing me in the lead pack. Each time I would run by this stretch of course I would ease to their side of the road to try and take full advantage of the energy coming off the sidewalk.

A mile or so later the “real” racing started. Heading into the water station just before USC, I noticed Tyler go to the lead of the race. I just assumed he was getting clear of the group to get his drink, as there had already been some hectic water stations. I think others may have assumed this as well, but after I grabbed my drink and turned right onto USC, I realized this was for real. I made a mistake in not recognizing it sooner, because this was the move and I was already back a bit when it happened. As soon as it registered with me that Tyler was indeed blowing the race wide open I had no choice but to do my damndest to try and cover. I knew I may be going to the well too early, but I desperately hoped it was deep enough. After Tyler tore the race open and things settled out I was in 5th place with my eyes laser focused on Jared’s back. I knew Jared was in a great position to make the team as he is smart, calculated, wrote a thesis on optimal marathon pacing, but most of all is tough enough to put all that together (he ended up earning a spot on the team by finishing 3rd). Indeed, I had gone to the well too soon and it dried up on me around mile 19, which from the finish in the marathon may as well be the distance between pluto to the sun and it was starting to feel increasingly like we were running towards its surface.

I want to thank Tyler for making that move. We could have continued running our current pace through 20 miles and the field probably would have whittled down further, and I would hope to not be one of the shavings brushed aside. It would have been far less exciting. It also wouldn’t have allowed me to prove to myself that I had it in me to attempt to cover such a move. Had we continued to just run even paced the decision would have been easy: just run up front for as long as you could. I shocked myself with how simple the decision was for me to go with it relatively early in the race. Tyler allowed me to walk the self-talk I had with myself leading into the race. I can honestly say that I didn’t try to cover that move just so after the race I could say “well at least, you know, you tried.” In the moment it was “you better go right now if you want to have a chance at making this team” (I severely censored that as the actual thought was laden with profanity). As mentioned earlier, that self-confidence is something I have struggled to possess at times, and if Tyler didn’t make that move I wouldn’t have had the chance to demonstrate that to myself. I would be remiss if this paragraph served solely as some self-serving ego stroke. Tyler is a competitor I respect very much, and he is not alone in this distinction. I think maybe the greatest respect Tyler was offered was that Meb covered his move (Tyler made the race and still fell barely short of making the team). When a guy as experienced and savvy as Meb takes you serious enough to go with you, that’s a huge sign of respect.

Ultimately, I finished a forgettable but maybe respectable 14th place. Although, I take no consolation in the notion that 14th place is “still pretty good.” Doing so would be taking comfort in a blanket woven with the deceitful strands of complacency. I am proud of myself, an emotion I don’t always have post-race. It was far from the result I wanted, and not even close enough for a pot-shotted Tonya Harding joke (although, if anyone knows if she offers a baker’s dozen discount, let me know). As I came through the finish to see the top 3 draped in the American flag, the reality of my failure set in. That may seem like a strong word, but I disagree. If the goal was to be top 3 and I didn’t do it, I failed. I’m not scared of failure. Much like in the same way I’m not scared of traffic. It sucks, but when it happens you just deal with it, and maybe try to find a different route next time. It’s a strange feeling to be proud of a failed effort, but I am at peace with it. I left myself with no excuses, and when your result can’t be clouded by excuse it stands as a fact. This may be a simplistic view, but when the simple fact is you weren’t good enough there is only one logical conclusion: get better.

*****This would be a really good place to end but I would be leaving out some things and to me would be an incomplete recap, so feel free to discontinue reading. I totally understand.*****

Post Race:

 Shortly after the race I met most of the family and friends I mentioned earlier at the yard house. As I walked in 60+ people stood and clapped for me. Feelings of being embarrassed by being the center of attention quickly subsided for an enormous feeling of gratitude (a word that will most likely soon be more exhausted than the athletes who ran the trials). That will stand as one of my all time favorite memories. I was completely overwhelmed. I gave and received 60+ teary eyed hugs and heard with wholehearted legitimacy “I’m so proud of you.” Family from as far away from Seattle and friends I hadn’t seen in 10+ years, all came to watch. For such a selfish endeavor as running is, I can’t count the number of times I heard “thank you for letting me be a part of today.” People were saying the nicest things I have ever been told about myself. That is a difficult dichotomy for me to wrap my brain around. Why are all these people telling me “thank you” for watching such a selfish pursuit? I don’t fully understand this, but maybe I don’t need to. My freshman high school cross-country coach had this to say and maybe some sort of explanation: “I want to thank you for sharing this moment with me and my family. Being around your family and friends that believe in you. It gave me hope that my kids can dream big and be whatever they want to be.” Now, it’s entirely possible my friends and family are blindly enabling the silly dream of a kid who just can’t let go, but I think beyond the scope of competition one of the main tenants of family and friendship is support. Perhaps that’s what coach Dunn is appreciating.

Thank-yous:

Nicole is my girlfriend of nearly 6 years and her support of my sometimes not even break even running career has been unwavering. We moved to Oklahoma in the fall of 2013 coming off the most difficult time in her life. We were moving to what may as well be a foreign country for us California brats, (disclaimer: we have grown increasingly fond of OK and love all our friends here) and she was starting an extremely challenging educational journey: medical school. She has yet to roll an eye at me leaving her for months at a time to pursue a career that is far less sustainable than hers. Not only that, but she came to play at the after party. She was ravishing. This is a term Nicole herself has misused before. For being one of the smartest people I know, Nicole’s grasp of SAT words is not always the strongest and she has been known to mistake the word ravishing for ravenous. She would be the first to admit the times she intended to use the word “ravenous” she was not quite “ravishing.” Coincidentally, this night, she happened to be both. Anyway, my other career goal is to win the lottery, but in a way with Nicole I feel like I have. (The following set of ellipses (those are the triple dot thingies) will serve as a break to stop reading and wipe the vomit off whatever device’s screen you were reading this post on, sorry.)

… … … … … … … …

Julie is my mom of nearly 30 years and main orchestrator of this whole “Scott Smith fan club.” Greg is my Dad of nearly 30 years, and Nic and Alex are my brothers of nearly 27 and 19 years, respectively. They also have been unwavering in their support of my running career, and I thank them for gathering a bunch of our friends and family (as well as all those people) to go nuts on the streets of LA. People make a lot of an underdog proving people wrong, and it would have been a mistake to think of myself otherwise. Being my immediate support system they believed I could become an Olympian and I had hoped to prove them right.

Northern Arizona Elite is the team I have been a part of for just over 2 years. Along with Hoka One One, I owe this organization an un-payable debt of gratitude. Coach Ben and his wife Jen truly believe in us as athletes. It is easy to want to strive for greatness when people like that are in your corner. I have always and will probably always love being part of a team, and this is no different. Thank you to my teammates for believing in me. When athletes of such caliber who see you on a daily basis believe in what you are capable of, it instills true confidence. In particular to Ben, Matt and Kellyn; thank you for making the grind of marathon training less terrible and dare I say enjoyable at times?

I toyed with the idea of naming everyone who came out to the race as well as anyone who sent me any sort of good luck message. Fortunately, for me that would be an enormous list, so I have decided to cop out and say I would be scared to accidentally leave anyone off. So in the spirit of the Oscars, “you all know who you are.” (and at this point I’m probably already screaming over classical music from while being forcibly dragged off stage) Seriously though, every single one of you is extremely appreciated. I honestly am truly from the bottom of my ugly-mangled-hobbit-toes grateful for every single person who reached out to me in one form or another to say “good luck,” “you got this,” or “I believe in you.”

If appreciation is one end of the pendulum of emotions from the weekend, somewhere along it’s trajectory it hitches on heartbreak. My heart breaks not only for my own personal shortcomings, but for all my teammates, training partners, and friends who fell short of their goals. And for some incredibly tough runners who were forced to scratch prior to the race. Now that I didn’t make the team it is easy for me to say that I wished they had toed the line. But I had such a great time competing against the rest of the best marathoners in the country that the competition felt a bit shortchanged in their absence. There is an unparalleled camaraderie in this sport. While in the heat of competition I want to beat everyone, afterwards I realize they are some of the people I have the utmost respect for.

What’s next:

Although I ended up not accomplishing what I set out to do, I do feel encouraged. And while I don’t have any concrete plans of what I will be doing, I am excited to see where this mindset takes me. In college, after a 1.5 year period of subpar performance and attitude I was actually was cut from the team, which forced me to become more committed. My coach asked, “who is this new Scott?” I laughed it off and thought, “this is actually the old Scott.” This is kind of how I feel again, and I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. The blog I referenced earlier ended on a pretty somber note. I will leave you here being highly disappointed but will be moving forward with a rejuvenated optimism.

 

Thanks for reading,

Scott

 

 

if you dig deep enough…

  
“Oh sh*t man, sorry to hear that.” Text from a buddy who had previously lived in China, after I told him the World Championships Marathon would be in Beijing in the middle of August, arguably the hottest month of the year.

After being offered the spot my coach and I discussed the potential ramifications as well as potential benefits that come along with the decision to run in this monumental race. The negative is that, flat out, it is going to suck. Probably why my friend is advising against it. Summer heat, humidity and pollution are a recipe for zero fun, sir. However, after discussing and weighing the negatives and positives, we decided to go for it. The positives are many, and the big negative is that the race itself is going to be extremely challenging physically and mentally, but that’s why we do this sport, right? Right. (I’m working on my positive self-affirmations… Normally the voice in my head when things get tough is a crass, oppressive and foul mouthed self deprecator.)

Originally the plan was to do a good amount of the training segment in Flagstaff, where I am very comfortable and confident. My Southern California weather-weenie DNA makes training in adverse conditions challenging. I do alright in colder weather, as you can layer up. But when it comes to heat and humidity there’s only a certain level of nakedness you can get to before the authorities are called on you, and Oklahoma probably doesn’t rank near the top of the country in “dudes in short shorts tolerance”. So Flagstaff seemed like the clear choice to go for training. Unfortunately some factors outside of my control forced me to stay in Oklahoma for the majority of the segment. Positives of training in Oklahoma are also the negatives. It’s hot and humid, like Beijing. It will challenge me physically and mentally but that’s why we do this sport, right? Right.

I’ve heard it said that if you’re good enough at something you won’t have to talk about it, others will. Clearly I’m not at that point as evidenced by this blog I’m writing about myself. I am kind of at the level that if I have kids in the future I will eventually tell them, “You know, back before your dad was so out of shape he was a pretty good runner.” That schtick, I imagine, will get old quickly. Coming from their dad, it’s boringness will certainly lose out to whatever futuristic device is devouring their attention at the time. The level of running I want to get to is one that will lead to other people telling my potential future kids, “You know, back when your dad’s diet didn’t consist so largely of Budweiser and Oreos and he didn’t look 11 months pregnant, there was a time when he competed with the best guys in the world.” Potentially just as boring but hopefully less self-aggrandizing. The world championships will give me the opportunity for scenario number two, and like my future physique that is something I will not be taking lightly. 

The Coolest Race I Ever Saw…

(This blog entry didn’t quite turn itself into the literary masterpiece I had hoped for. So before you continue and potentially waste five minutes of your life on an undetailed account of a middle school mile, I must warn you that on an “entertainment scale” of 1-10, 1 being contestant stories on jeopardy and 10 being pretty much anything Charles Barkley says, this is “Monuments Men,” at about a 5. If you haven’t seen “Monuments Men,” it’s kind of like a weird back-to-the-future-esque prequel to the “Ocean’s” movies, where ringleader Clooney ropes a bunch of his buddies into heisting some stuff from a bad guy. I’d recommend just watching “Inglorious Basterds” again, or any of the “Ocean’s” for that matter.)

 

…and I can’t even remember who won, let alone the winning time. I actually remember being pretty let down by the performance at the time. The race also only had 3 entrants. However, maybe now that I’m older (I don’t want to commit to more mature just quite yet, I still love a good fart joke) I can appreciate that what made this race so cool was not the race itself, but what led to it’s manifestation some 14-15 years ago on the dirt oval at Niguel Hills Middle School.

 

Niguel Hills is a rather large middle school, home to such notable alumnus Carson Palmer. PE was a required daily subject for every student. About once a month, to 99% of students’ dismay, we had a timed mile. The training for this consisted of one lap around the track the other days of the month, two if the teacher was mad at us. There were many periods throughout the day and within each period a few separate PE classes. So, when you ran this timed mile you were only running against kids in your class. There was a leaderboard in the locker room, with the leading time for each period. I had the unfortunate scheduling of being in the zero period PE class, and battled with the soon to be introduced entrant number 1, for the top zero period spot. If you think middle school brains are undeveloped to begin with, getting kids to be active at 7ish in the morning is dealing with a whole other level of zombieness. Every morning we would change in the locker room, and stumble out to our painted numbers on the blacktop for roll call. Side story to really bring this early point home: one morning I was having a particularly underdeveloped brain day. I got to school, went to the locker room, and changed. Only that changing process was underdeveloped as well. As I was walking from the locker room to my number on the asphalt still trying to wake up, I looked down and realized I was missing a pretty crucial part of my PE uniform. I was walking to my number in shoes, socks, my PE t-shirt, and a pair of heart print boxers my mom got my brother and me every year for valentine’s day. If I wasn’t years away from talking to girls this could have been detrimental to that pursuit, but you can’t really ruin a pursuit that doesn’t exist. Massive embarrassment however, did exist.

 

Anyway, myself and another kid, Entrant 1 of 3 in the coolest race I ever saw battled back and forth for zero period mile supremacy, though since he was in a different class we never actually raced head to head. Now entrant number 1 was not the greatest all around athlete, in fact his thing was band. Not to say kids in band are all un-athletic, but he fit the stereotype. What he did have going for him was he hated not being the best, and he had hit puberty. To give some insight into the competitive nature of Entrant number 1, here is the scenario in which I came to run my possibly illegitimate middle school mile PR. It took me years to realize that my middle school mile PR of 5:49 may have been assisted. That year I believe my last chance at zero period mile supremacy came after Entrant number 1’s, and he had ran 5:50. The thought of potentially not having the fastest time of the period did not sit well at all with Entrant number 1. While I was running he left whatever activity his class was doing that day to come scream, “You can’t do it Scott! You’re not going to do it! Slow down!” I just remember thinking, “his teacher is going to be pissed at him for leaving their class” and “he really doesn’t want me to run faster than 5:50!” PE teachers liked me because I worked hard and actually tried during the timed miles, but mostly because I kept my mouth shut. Entrant number one didn’t do at least one of those things. This is what leads my to believe I may not have actually ran 5:49. As I’m closing the final few meters I hear my teacher, Mr.M., belting out 5:46,5:47,5:48, as Entrant number 1’s discouraging remarks are reaching a panicked fervor. “5:49!” Mr. M exclaimed as I crossed the line. How convenient. At the time and for years to come I innocently believed I ran 1 second faster than entrant number 1. If I had to say now, I probably didn’t. I hope I have illustrated Entrant number 1’s unwillingness be anything but the fastest.

 

Entrants 2 and 3 are essentially the same, so much so actually that they are twins. They had a more reserved level of confidence than Entrant number 1. Being the product of a large, stern, Catholic family, they worked hard. At youth soccer practices they could be found running before, and after. It showed, and while I can’t remember specifically what their mile times were, they were a good bit faster than Entrant number 1. Entrants number 2 and 3 were possibly part machine. During Presidential fitness tests they had to be removed from the pull up bar or they would still be there doing them. They were in a different period though, so entrant number 1 never saw them race let alone race them, and he just couldn’t have this.

 

Now, I’m not exactly sure how it all started, but somehow it got brought up that Entrant number 1 believed he was better than Entrants 2 and 3. Despite there being time evidence who was the fastest, it actually was just speculation as to who was the best. Trash talk between the three eventually escalated into a three way battle royale for best Niguel Hills miler. Like an old western the three set a date and met at high noon for a shoot out. Seeing as most of the teachers needed electric cattle prods to get kids around the track 4 times, this was quite a rare occurrence. Three 12-13 year old kids voluntarily running a race just to prove who was the best? Unheard of, especially as this was the generation on the verge of slipping into a coma-like-sedentation induced by a myriad of brain energy sucking devices.

 

I wish I could say that this was a clash of gladiator like epic-ness. But it wasn’t, and I can’t really remember what happened. Although I didn’t participate (I was still going to be a back up NBA point guard, so I didn’t see the point of running when I didn’t have to), I was curious to see how it went, so I was probably the only spectator. Myself and maybe some confused oglers trying to figure out why these idiots were wasting their lunchtime running. What happened in this race wasn’t as important as why it happened, and the why is what made is so cool to me, be it years later. Three kids each thought they were the best, and running is one of only a few sports that you can objectively find out who actually is. I will forever respect the 3 entrants for their willingness to find out who was the best, but more so to find out who wasn’t. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any of the 3 took their running past middle school. Entrant 1 went the Carson Palmer route to the local private school, where I think I remember hearing band and academics had pushed running to the wayside. Entrants 2 and 3 continued on to the public high school where they played football and wrestled.

 

While the 3 entrants didn’t continue their running pursuits past middle school, I’m thankful I got to see their short-lived careers. I didn’t know it at the time, but the competitive inception of this race is really what lies at the core of track and field: the desire to beat people. This desire encompasses the entire spectrum of running, from weekend warriors to gold medalists. Entrants 1-3 were not running for a finisher medal, which will most likely be boxed up and imprisoned in a dark corner of the attic. They were not running for a race t-shirt which will most likely join the finisher medal in the attic until it becomes cool again in 30 years, but more likely will end up on a Goodwill sales rack. And they certainly weren’t running to hold hands across the finish line after meandering 5k through a swarm of flatulent fairies farting clouds of rainbow pixie dust everywhere (or however the color run does it). They were running to see how good they were and test their limits against each other, and that really is the purest form of competition.

 

thanks for reading

scott

marathon musings

Seconds were accumulating, and the pace was slowing.  I was 23 miles into what seemed like a great idea 4 months ago: the marathon.  My time, like the poor college freshman girl who falls victim to the buffet style servings of the cafeteria, was inflating, and it felt like she had jumped on my back.  For 22 miles I felt very comfortable.  “The halfway point of the marathon is mile 20,” I heard and repeated as my mental mantra countless times in training and during the race.  At 20 miles I felt fantastic, even a mile or two past all systems were go and I was on my way to my goal; an all expenses paid vacation to an unknown destination in potentially the spring of 2016.  An opportunity to tow the line with the greatest marathoners in the country at the Olympic trials.  We had gone out slow but by 20 miles we had got the pace down to under 2:15, the Olympic trials “A” standard.  I was extremely confident I was on my way, it was just a matter of how high I would place. Then things changed, and they changed fast.  The band was on the field and I was the sorry Stanford trombone player about to get leveled.

“Why do you run?” is one of those almost existential wonderings like the meaning of life or “does a bear shit in the woods?”  Or wait, I think it’s “if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?”  A bear definitely defecates in the woods but a falling tree may not necessarily make a noise, right?  One reason I like it (running, not existential pontifications) is that your goals are very blunt. There’s no gray area.  You did or you didn’t.  I didn’t run under 2:15.  When you set a time goal and it’s not accomplished there really are no excuses.  It’s not like you can say “Man, I was playing really well today, but the marathon just played better.  You really have to tip your hat to it.”  Finishing a marathon was not some monumental unchecked box on my bucket list.  I was not running to cure cancer, bring awareness to autism, or to save the endangered polk-a-dotted carnivorous tree frogs of South America.  Although, those are all noble reasons (save for the last one I made up), I was running for myself.

Trying to make a living at this running thing isn’t easy.  The guys and girls who “make it” are incredibly gifted and hard working individuals, and there are a lot of incredibly gifted hard working individuals not “making it.”  For the past 3 years I have been fortunate enough to be supported by adidas and train in what I considered running paradise, Flagstaff, Arizona.  I worked part time because I wasn’t quite “making it.”  Life changes have led me to the plains (or current frozen tundra) of Oklahoma City, as of September of this year.  I opted to not search for a job until after the marathon.  I was putting all my eggs in this marathon basket, hell I even borrowed some eggs.  Funds became insufficient and I had to ask for a loan from my parents.  I was extremely frustrated.  Here I was, 27 years old with a college degree, I am not a drug addict, I feel like I’ve made decent life decisions, I try to treat people right, and I was asking for handouts.  I hated the feeling.  The gratefulness I have for my support system cannot be overstated.  My girlfriend, whose job the past year was working for Goodwill trying to place homeless people in jobs, drove this point home when she said, “You’re very lucky you have a supportive family, that’s how people end up homeless.” I see my friends, most of whom took the long way to their late 20’s not necessarily settling down, but also not wondering if they were going to be able to pay rent next month.

Although disappointed in myself for not running faster or placing higher at races to avoid this dilemma, I worked very hard to make sure this marathon would go well.  Never having trained for a marathon before, I compared notes with fellow friends and teammates who had, and I was ready.  Training indicated sub 2:15 was a very strong likelihood and even that a faster time, one that may attract the attention of a shoe company, was also a possibility.

My final time for 26.2 miles was 2:16:04.  It could have gone much worse.  By my calculations I was still on pace for sub 2:15 through 23 miles and only lost a minute the last 5k.  Experienced marathoners will tell tales of encountering much more catastrophic destruction.  When a race begins to go south there’s different coping mechanisms I will draw on, when its going Antarcticly south I begin to fear that the first women will catch me.  Fortunately for me I was pretty sure this race I would avoid that fate, although I did miss out on the women’s world record.  In a heated argument a while back with my mom about the superiority of males in athletic endeavors she accused, “Well I’m sure the fastest girls ever are faster than you!”  To which prompted, “No Mom! No woman in history has ran faster than I have, EVER!” (That had to be qualified at the time to any distance from 800-10k, because anything shorter than 800 I would get smoked by lots of women, and high school girls. And now the marathon.)

Congratulations poured in.  If texts, calls, Facebook posts, and “likes” were dollars, I may make rent next month.  I think people genuinely recognize that although my goal was not accomplished, a lot of work still went into this effort. That doesn’t make the result any more or less disappointing though.  It’s a sobering thing realizing you weren’t as good as you thought.  The notion that maybe you aren’t even good enough to be disappointed with a particular result becomes a thought with the grappling ability of a mixed martial arts master.

Legs locked up and 65 extra seconds ticking on my watch put me in a state of bewilderment as I neared the line and finished, “Wait a second, what?  Hold up, what just happened?!” Similar to the feeling of waking up from a night of over indulgence without the relief of realizing your phone and wallet are still on your person.

Speaking of over indulgence, the CIM people love their after party.  As my Kenyan roommates and I poured liquid recovery carbs into our gullet, silver linings started to emerge.  They were very complimentary of my race and even Weldon, the race’s eventual champion told me I looked very strong and that he considered me a threat despite his credentials being significantly greater than mine.  As the night wore on my new Kenyan friends and I decided that it would be in my best interest for me to go to Kenya and train next summer. “You must come train in Kenya, my friend. If you come train in Kenya, 2:10,” they assured me.  I do think it would be an awesome experience, and I hope to make it happen someday.

Maybe the symptoms of the marathon bug are a delayed onset type of reaction, but I’m not convinced I’ve been bitten.  Maybe once the task of walking down stairs stops being as daunting as repelling down a cliff face, the marathon’s infectious bug bite will start to reveal itself.  I did go under the Olympic trials B standard, and I will most likely try to go for the A again sometime in the future, but for now the only marathon I’m partaking in is a South Park one on tv. I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to send me some form of congratulations, it’s nice to have an effort acknowledged.  It sure makes a guy feel good, but trying to figure out where those 65 seconds went will be something that pains me for some time to come.  The marathon seems to be a great teacher of patience, and I’m doing my best to listen to its lessons.

Thanks for reading.

Scott