From Zero to 26.2 miles in 18 months…

Austin Marathon Starting Line... Ready Set Go!
Austin Marathon Starting Line… Ready Set Go!
(click on me for full size pic)

Brian’s Story – From Zero to 26.2 miles in 18 months…

Short story: So last week I finished a marathon.  The Austin Marathon.


Who would have believed it? Not me.

I executed my plan and it worked out, doing 10:07 min miles all the way to a nice 4 hour, 24 minute, 21 second overall time (10:05 min/mile pace).

Long story: Going in to this race I knew my training was spot on, and after the Rogue 30km race I knew what pace to shoot for. The big question was if my right calf was strong enough to take me thru. It had been hurting off and on since mid January so I had no idea what to expect. Would I only make it 2 miles? Would it not even be an issue? Or something in between? One thing I did was put a small insert in my shoe to keep the heel elevated slightly (thanks

The pre race went perfectly. I made certain to have bananas in house for my breakfast this time! I also bought 5 or 6 gels. Got downtown with almost no difficulty and was thru the restroom and on the starting line eating my gel bloks 15 mins early. I had a plan to take in lots of carbs today.

We made it across the starting line 10 mins after the gun and my pacers were already ahead of me. I reeled them in and stayed more or less even with them. I would lose ground to them at every water stop and catch up again before the next one.

The first 8 or 9 miles were uneventful. Just running along, enjoying the sights, watching people. Then I hit mile 10 and suddenly I started to feel a tightening or something in my right calf. I was not happy with this. I had to make it to mile 18 and get my Peanut Butter Gu gel from Joel and Leah and this calf stopping me would not do! I tried a few things and changed up to a very short fast stride for awhile. This seemed to help, but I still was feeling the cramping or pulling or something.

We quickly reached the point where the half marathoner’s cut right and we went left. I almost thought of…. nahhh. First thing after we split off are two miles of fairly steep hills. “So many hills, my calf doesn’t like them.” I just kept chugging along with short fast steps and seemed to hold off any more pain. Once it flattened out things got better. I don’t even think my calf was an issue after mile 15; it just seemed to fade into the background. From there on everything went smooth. Just stay with my pace group. Early in the race I had to force myself to not get too far ahead of them, but later I really couldn’t.

There were so many people cheering from mile 16 on it was great. People giving us oranges, bananas, cupcakes (I had to have a chocolate one!) candy, grapes… so wonderful. Saw Joel and Leah at mile 18+ and got a PB Gu gel!

Shortly after that we hit mile 20. I started worrying. Is this when you hit the fabled “Wall”? What’s gonna happen? My race plan was to start off slow and take in lots of carbs to make sure my body didn’t run out of carbs and hit the wall. And my plan worked. Whatever this wall thing is, if I hit it I didn’t notice.

I really tried to pour on some speed the last 3 miles. I think I did one in 9:30. But I really couldn’t put any space between me and my pace group. Mile 24 was a bit tragic, as I saw a runner twist his ankle badly. He tried to hop on but sadly I doubt he finished. I felt really bad for him.

800m to go and there is one last big steep hill.

More hills? Really?
More hills? Really? I have proof!

Where did they get this thing from? Okay, chuga, chuga, chuga, chuga, choo choo, made it up, and then… I had to go down a hill. At this point I really just wanted flat pavement to lessen the chance of any cramping or tripping or of my calf finally giving in.

Made it to the bottom and I was at the finish line! Woohoo!!!!!!

Made it.  There are no limits!
Made it. There are no limits!

And now the highlight of the day: my favorite pacer, the guy who saved me from certain doom at the Rogue 30k and who I thanked profusely at the expo yesterday, and who I ran with all day today… he gave me the pace sign! Greatest marathon souvenir ever! Only 20 pace signs and 20,000 people and I’m sure most pacers keep them….

People kept thanking me for pacing after that and I kept explaining my story about how it was my first marathon and he gave it to me. They all said 4:25 was a really good time for a first marathon. That was nice of them. Next year I hope I can do 4:00.

I’m not really a pacer…
… but this isn’t proof.

After finishing my calf was really tight and I had to limp to the Austin Runner’s Club food tent. But after a bit, I walked around, stretched it out and was able to walk fairly well. And I parked 10 blocks from the finish so I had lots of time to stretch it out.

So yeah. I did it! Marathon Man is me. I really can’t believe it.

So what next? No running for bit. Probably a lot more biking and swimming in my near future.

— Race Recap Part 2 —

Two days after my mind is still on the marathon… I keep thinking: “From Zero to 26.2 in 18 months!” I’m still amazed.  Hard to believe I couldn’t run a full lap 18 months ago.

I wanted to share some quotes I had in my head while running the Austin marathon:

“Pain is only temporary, but failing to finish you will remember forever.”

“Just skate it off, you’ll be fine” – what I was thinking when my calf started hurting. I’m sure my dad remembers all the hockey coaches (and probably him too) saying that to us players when we got hurt.

“From Zero to 26.2 in 18 months” – yes, I came up with that phrase, around mile 20.

And of course my personal mottos: “There are no limits” and “Inspire!”

Probably missing some… oh, the theme from Rocky 1 – “dada da, dada dada da… ”

One more quote, from around mile 10 where my calf started tightening up: “If I can just make it to mile X I can walk the rest if I have to!” I was going to finish no matter what.

Who knows maybe something here will help or inspire someone!

Other thoughts… outside of my worries about my calf giving out the race was really anti-climactic.  It definitely went better than my previous race.  I never felt at any point that I was beyond myself or my abilities. I seemed to have hit the sweet spot on training, pacing, nutrition, weather, everything. Guess the plan worked.

Good Times!

Ps. I will probably be resurrecting my site, soon, so check it out in a week or so. I don’t have much time but will cobble something together 😉 .



Brian’s recap of last week’s Rogue 30km race

Following is my recap of last week’s Rogue 30km race (Jan 27th).  It’s a long story as it was a long race 😉

Rogue 30k Medal

Short Story: I finished the 18.64 mile race today

Long Story: Talk about trials and tribulations….

Today’s race started off just a little bit rough. For some reason I just wasn’t feeling real strong. I blame it on being out of bananas as I always have a banana as part of my pre-race prep. Or maybe it might have had something to do with that 28 mile bike ride I did on Thursday? I figured since the weather was so good that wouldn’t count against my tapering…. well really I just went out to far before I remembered the whole way home was against the wind

But I had done my research, knew the course map, and the pacers and what their paces were. All the pacers had marathon pace signs, so a 4:10 sign meant they would be running at the pace that would finish a marathon in 4hrs 10 min. I was debating between the 3:55 or 4:10 (8:57 or 9:32 pace). The 4:25 (10:06 pace) was also an option. I knew I had finished the 3m half marathon with an 8:38 pace and I was only going 5.5 more miles. Since I wasn’t feeling the best I opted for the 4:10 pacer.

This seemed to be working out fine for the first 10 or so miles – I kept up a steady 9:34 pace although there were some times I felt I was pushing a bit – definitely not running at my regular all-by-myself long distance run pace of around 10:30 ish but also running slower than at the 3M.

Feeling strong at mile 6
Feeling strong at mile 6

Unfortunately around 10.5 miles the wheels started to fall off. I had to let my pace group move ahead as I was starting to feel sore in all sorts of places. Over the next few miles my paces were dropping to 9:54, 10:12, 10:47, but I wasn’t even caring. I just wanted to finish the race… and was questioning if I could.

Would I cramp up? Would that sore calf or hamstring come back and get me? Did I start off too fast? Was it that long bike ride? Was it because I didn’t take in any carbs the first hour? Can I make it 8 more miles or 7 or 6…

People started passing me… but I kept chugging along hoping that putting in a few slower miles would let me reset. I made it thru the 13 mile mark at 2:06:40 (overall pace down to 9:44 now). I also started to see other people walking here and there, but I wasn’t going to stop til I had to. “The pain of running is temporary, the pain of giving up is forever”, I thought. No pain no gain, and blah blah blah…

My original plan was to run 18.6 then run over and hit the track for 5 laps and get in exactly 20 miles. Now I just wanted to make it. Forget my plans to try a full marathon in 3 weeks; I’m not even going to make 18. I’ll just have to switch to the half, no way I can do a full as I can’t even do this. My mile times kept dropping 11:12, 11:12, 11:28 and lots more people walking and my legs hurting and I’m trying not to cramp up by trying different strides and things and … then it happened.

The 4:25 pace group came chugging thru and I heard the pacer calling out to his pace group “Come on, it’s only 2 miles, keep up now, don’t let yourself fall behind us”. This guy was a deity of some sort. I looked up at that 4:25 pace sign and noticed it said 10:00 min/mile on it. I can do that! I picked up the pace and stayed with them, saying to myself I’ve got to hold on. You know what, it felt good, way better than 11:28 felt; it was using the right muscles in the right way (insert story here about how form is usually better when running faster – and how mine had probably been falling apart).

Airborne at mile 18

Can I keep this up… apparently I can. We kept going along and now instead of running alone I was in a group of about 10. That surely helped too. I was feeling strong.

“Almost there, only 4 laps around a track left!” he called. It felt really good. “Two laps around a track to go”. I passed them up and started pulling ahead. “I got this – and I got the 20 miles”, I thought. I rounded the next turn and saw the finish line and sped up even more. I kept pushing and cruised thru the finish line but got stopped by someone who gave me a medal, then I kept running… ran to the track, did my 5 laps and finished off an easy 20 mile run. Or not….

My last 3 splits were roughly 11:19, 10:19, and 9:27 with a final time of 3:08:16 for an overall pace of 10:05.  Also set a distance PR as 20 miles is my new longest run, up from 16.5.

Now, just 1.4 more miles...
Finish line, now just 1.4 more miles…

It’s amazing how much of what we do is mind over matter. This was a great run for me, and if you read this, thanks for letting me share it with you.