Victorious Defeat

July 4th, 2015. Sauvie Island Flat Marathon. High of 94 for that day. Temps at the start were in the 70s. Not too bad but I knew I had a challenge ahead of me.

I wish I could say I rose above it and ran my goal of 3:15. There were certainly people who did. Steve, for example. Steve chugged through it and ran a 3:15. But I’ll come back to Steve later.

There were several factors that contributed to my demise on Saturday. I’m trying very hard to list things like lack of discipline, giving up, natural limitations, and fat. It’s easier to focus on the weather. Less accountability.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw myself a Medium-style pity party.

Dehydration was the biggest factor. I ran my race. I didn’t go out too fast. I hydrated days before. I trained for 16 weeks. Harder than I ever have before.

At mile 18 I felt really good. Even without the promised 3:15 and 3:05 pacers, I was hitting my splits and felt like I could maintain for the final 8 miles. “Only 8 more! You got this!” I told myself. And I believed it.

Mile 19 was a little slower but I still felt okay.

Mile 20 is where the meltdown began.

I found some shade on the road and walked a bit. That’s when I realized I was in big trouble. In Eugene last year, I didn’t walk once. Maybe that’s what killed me.

My head was pulsing. I waivered. I walked until the 20 feet of shade disappeared.

Steve didn’t stop. Steve wore a camo compression top with a flag grasping an American flag on it. He wore basketball shorts. He was thick. He grunted past me after the turn around at mile 10 and I followed him for a while. Marathon Maniacs cheered him on as they passed going the other way. Steve is obviously an inspiration and it was fun to run in his wake of good vibes.

The guy I’d been pacing for most of the race came in to and aid station and started berating the volunteers.

“NUUN! NUUN! NUUN! GODDAMNIT!!” He shouted. I decided I didn’t need that kind of energy and stepped it up. I could hear him in the distance behind me still cursing at the volunteers. Not cool.

I left Steve behind too. Something about running with someone working that hard stresses me out. I felt good so I hit it.

I caught up with a woman runner who had glided past us all early in the race. She was serious. A gazelle. She had support at specific points handing her gels, water bottles and wet sponges. Hard core.

We ran together for a while. No one was talking. Too much focus was needed in this heat. This wasn’t a joyful marathon where everyone was laughing and smiling. We all were just trying to make it out alive. Sauvie Island is beautiful but it makes for a lonely marathon. There were long stretches where I felt completely alone. Spectators were only a couple spots. Aid stations were plentiful but even though the shouts of “water!” and “electrolytes!” were welcome, I wouldn’t count them as cheers.

At about mile 18 Miss Gazelle dove for some bushes and I’m pretty sure blew chunks. This made it more amazing when she huffed by me around mile 23.

Steve steamed past me soon after. Watching him disappear ahead of me shook me. He looked like a rhinoceros. Maybe he was better acclimated to the heat. His thick leathery skin protecting him from the sun. I remember looking at someone one running at 5pm on a 90 degree day and asking why anyone would do that. What benefit does it have? I guess I know now.

I did some runner math and realized I would have to run a PR 5k in order to get a 3:15 BMQ. I walked. I whimpered a little and got back going a little. No use in spending more time out here.

At mile 25 my quads and calves started cramping with each stride. I dug a little deeper and bumped up the pace. I wanted to cross the finish line and I felt like if I walked I might end up on the ground.

As I came in to the finish at The Pumpkin Patch I saw my family and friends cheering me in. I choke up a little just writing this out. Seeing my wife and all four of my kids made it all worth it. They missed the 4th of July bike parade! I’m sure I looked like hell but I had made it.

Last year, coming in to the finish at the Eugene Marathon I remember seeing all the people laying on the ground with space blankets and thinking, “wow, maybe I didn’t leave it all out there.”

Now it was my turn to writhe on the ground in agony. My turn to suffer a victorious defeat. I definitely left it all out there. I finished.

On the ride home I started planning my next attempt. First thought, be like Steve. Never stop.

P.S. — Never saw Mr. Volunteer hater. I don’t wish any harm on the guy, but I’m glad I beat his lame ass.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated David Stewart’s story.