Monday, February 15, 2016

Nike! Also, foot pictures for Gregori!

Yesterday, I ran a marathon.

That's right.  Screw you, asthma.

First, a bit about the historical marathon.  According to legend, when the Greeks beat the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., a soldier by the name of Pheidippides (also named as Philippides, Thersipus, or Eucles) ran the entire distance from Marathon to Athens, where he burst into the Senate, yelled "νενικήκαμεν!" and then collapsed and died.  Supposedly the distance from Marathon to Athens is the marathon distance of 26.2 miles but this is actually probably incorrect.  See, there's two routes from Marathon to Athens.  One of them is about 21-22 miles, running northwest through steep mountain terrain, and the other is about 25.4 miles, running south and around the mountain.  When the modern Olympics began in 1896, a "marathon" was 25 miles, to represent Pheidippides' route south along the Marathon bay and then west, past Mount Hymettus and Penteli and downhill to Athens.

At some point during the run he lost all his clothes apparently.

Between 1896 and 1924, no one in the Olympics seemed to be able to agree how far a marathon should be.  It changed each game, with the shortest distance being a measly 24.85 miles and the longest being an agonizing 26.56 miles.  But they all stopped drinking in 1924, presumably due to Prohibition, and settled on the 26.22 mile course we now know and love.

Last historical tidbit:  Pheidippides's famous words, "nenikekamen," is the inspiration for the name brand "Nike."  People always say that "Nike!" means victory, but this isn't entirely correct.  Nenikekamen means "We have won" or "we have succeeded."  Thus, "Nike" is not a derived from a noun at all but a verb: νῑκάω, which means "to win."

Now, about my marathon.  This item has been on my bucket list for a while and I have the following positive things to say:
  • I crossed the finish line.
  • I did not shit my pants.
  • My nipples did not bleed.
  • I did not vomit.
  • I did not need to use my rescue inhaler even once, before, during, or after the race.  My breathing was perfect!  

 I ran this marathon without any preparation and so I'd like to take a moment to tell others who plan to do this what I have to report.

5 Tips for How to Train for a Marathon Like a Moron Without Any Training Whatsoever
  1. Invest heavily in your gear.  I got a very, very supportive sports bra, sunglasses, and some imported Swedish insoles for my shoes.  I also had a sweatband for my head, and sweatbands on my wrists so that I could look like Pickles the Drummer from Dethklok.  The wrist sweatbands did nothing, but having good shoes and a good bra absolutely did.  I also got some compression socks for ankle support.  No one explained to me that they cut off circulation and should be worn after the race, so I wore them for the first half and then ripped them off later.
  2. Invest heavily in your diet.  In the week leading up to the race, I stopped drinking caffeine and liquor and focused on "healthy" fats like avocados and walnuts.  I also took fish oil tablets, a small concession to my vegetarianism.  By race day, I was taking 4 pills every 12 hours, for something like 6 grams of omega-3s. 
  3. Use pseudoscience.  I bought a yellow crystal.  As an actual scientist, I don't know if I got the right crystal or not, but since yellow seems like a pretty positive color, I thought it would do in a pinch.  I also did a lot of mental gymnastics to get myself pumped.  For example, I figured that if the first guy who did it died, I only needed to run half as hard as he did and I wouldn't die.  I got some "energy gels" for the race from Clif that are basically caffeine suspended in a cake icing matrix.  I read a lot of articles about running to inspire myself and learned some mantras ("Pain is weakness leaving the body!") and made note of the fact that some dog ran a half marathon without even trying and so I just had to be twice as strong as that dog to do it.
  4. Have a playlist.  Andrew made my playlist for me.  It was upbeat and perfect for running and interspersed with messages from my friends encouraging me, including Jeff from D&D telling me not to bring dishonor from my family, Andrew imitating Obadiah Stane and telling Tony to "finish what he started," and my dear friend Dr. Forbin singing "Go Go Power Puppy... You're a Mighty Runnin' Power Puppy!" to the Power Rangers theme song. 
  5. Tell all your friends.  Talking about the marathon constantly in the days leading up to it ensures that you will be forced to follow through lest they all judge you.  Accountability was a big part of running this race for me; once I'd decided to do it, quitting was no longer an option.
 I also wrote this on my race bib just in case.
I will also say that racing with someone, having low expectations, being in generally good health, and pacing yourself are also good ideas.  But it is absolutely possible if you loathe running and just want to check it off your bucket list.

Here's the route we followed:

Each mile was supposed to be a Los Angeles landmark but the only ones I remember clearly were mile 7 (Silverlake, where my mechanic is), 10 (the Hollywood walk of fame), and 11 (Grauman’s Chinese Theater, featured in Iron Man 3).

As we scooted off, I felt good.  I had once run eight miles and felt great so I figured I would just do that three times and be good to go.  Unfortunately, Google Map miles appear to be much shorter than Official Marathon miles because it seemed to take forever to get to mile 1.  I was pacing myself at a slow jog but by mile 5 I felt tired.  Every single mile, a gamut of volunteers shoved water and Gatorade at us, yelling at us to hydrate, and I shot the water like whiskey, unaware that this would unsettle my stomach.  I began to switch between bouts of walking and jogging because my asthma medication can cause tachycardia if I push myself too hard, and I knew if that happened I would be out of the race entirely.  Also the Gatorade gave me a bloated feeling; my insides were liquefying.  Sometime around mile 7 or 8 I had to pee, desperately.  I found a Port-a-Loo, waited in line with 4 other women for five to ten minutes, said "screw it," and squatted and peed right there.  Relieved that they weren't the ones to suggest this measure, all the other women did the same, and we went back to the race.  My urine was clear, a good sign.  I wondered why everyone said marathons were hard because I was obviously owning this race like a total badass.

By mile 9 or 10 I felt pleased that I had gone father than ever.  I was in the double digits!  Unfortunately, with regards to things that are doubled, my bad ankle was beginning to act up.  See, I have Accessory Navicular Syndrome, and my extra navicular bone isn't meant to be weight-bearing.

I have 207 bones in my body! 

Sorry about all the foot pictures today!

My other foot, compensating for it, began to feel weird; my Achilles's tendon felt like it was made of taffy and was pulling much farther than it should.  Finally, around mile 13, my bad right foot collapsed.  It refused to bear any weight.  I tried to walk it off, leaning on Andrew and limping/hopping, but it was useless.  We walked back to a CVS we'd passed and bought Ace bandages.  I wrapped up the foot for support and removed the compression socks to improve circulation, and we limped on.  It was basically like having a prosthetic because the foot was useless.

Oddly, though, shortly after this disastrous setback, we felt a lot better.  We began our jog-and-walk routine again.  We were more than halfway there and aside from our feet feeling like Hamburger Helper and our legs being sore, we both felt we could finish strong.  At mile 19, I felt hypnotized, like I was in a trance, like I was a zombie.  Around us, everyone was shuffling dutifully forward.  The sun was high in the sky and beating down on us, and we dumped water on ourselves as often as possible.  I ran the last 6 miles at a crawl, but damn it, I ran them without stopping.  Actually I was scared of stopping; my body felt like it was under a spell and if I broke it I would never walk again.

Those last six miles were a death march.  There was no "wall," just a gradual realization that I lacked the capability to either stop my legs from moving or to move any faster; I was jogging at perhaps 3-4 miles per hour, more of a walk that involved a jogging motion, and my body was mechanical and powered by determination.  I had been eating ice and sipping water at every mile but I was no longer urinating at all because of the sweat.  Everything below the waist ached.  Andrew and I weakly mumbled things to each other like, "Pain is temporary; glory is forever," and "You're doing great, we're almost there," and "This is the end, let the sweet embrace of death take me, tell my wife I love her."

The ocean, which was the final destination, only appeared in the last mile.  We felt the breeze by mile 23 but the ocean only came into view by the last mile.  Aching, we shuffled forever, not really happy or sad or anything except for numb, mindless running machines.  We saw the finish line.  It approached faster than we could have expected, and we joined hands and ran over it together.  Our time was seven hours and twenty minutes.  This isn't a good time but, considering my foot crashing out and our total lack of preparation, we were pleased.  Pleasant volunteers put heavy medals around our necks, and we wandered around in a daze with our medals, unable to stop moving our legs.  When we finally sat for a few minutes, getting up was nearly impossible.

Due to the weight of the medals.

Once home, Andrew soaked in the bath while I popped three blisters the size of quarters.  One had erupted twice already and reformed, making my toe look like it had some sort of terrible disease.  Perhaps gangrene.  The other two blisters, throbbing like fluid-filled bubble wrap, hadn't yet popped; I lanced them and they squirted fluid in a thin but rather powerful stream out before slowing to slow, viscous drip.  I have since lanced them three more times because they continue to fill.

 Look at these fuckers!

Legend has it that there was once a toe here.

Am I sore today?  "Sore" isn't quite accurate.  It would be better to say I'm "stiff."  My legs don't bend right anymore and I walk like Frankenstein's monster now, but overall I feel pretty good.  If it weren't Presidents Day, I would be able to go into work.

So overall I'm going to give this experience a 7.5/10 and say that I might just do it again, and actually train so that I can finish it in under 6 hours.

Noteworthy signs I saw along the way:
  • Thanks for running so I could hold this sign.
  • This seems like a lot of work for a free banana.
  • Run like you stole something!
  • You're beating everyone behind you.
  • Worst parade ever.
  • [accompanied by a picture of Grumpy Cat] I ran once.  It was awful.
  • Because 26.3 miles would be ridiculous.
  • Kick asphalt!
  • That outfit makes your butt look fast.
  • If Trump can run, so can you!

1 comment:

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