I think what I love most about Vince is how powerful he is. And I don't mean power over other people type of power. I mean power over himself. He has a strong mind and a will to accomplish what is important to him. He executes with diligence, intensity, and commitment. He rises up to a challenge with vigorous enthusiasm. And oh yeah, by the way, he's not even old enough to drink yet.
For any of you runners who haven't paced someone yet, if this doesn't get you fired up to do it, I don't think anything will. Leading a friend (or being lead) through an endurance event is a feeling quite unlike anything else I have ever experienced.
I was told once that the Marathon is not about the race, but the journey to get to the finish line. From the point you decide you want to attempt the feat to the time you step foot on the across the finish line. The Marathon is not just the 26.2 miles and to only write about the race would not do the experience justice.
After my first marathon I was determined to avenge myself by crushing my previous PR and pushing my physical fitness to the limit. After a very successful half marathon in Vegas I felt I was ready to tackle just that, train diligently and cross the finish line faster than anyone could have predicted. Did it happen? No.
With LA on my to do list, Monique's interest started to grow. She knew that with someone to train with and a coach at her disposal she could do anything. Monique decided she would also train for LA. Now I will be honest, this is not what I wanted. I wanted to focus on my training, my race, and my PR. I wanted this to be my thing, and didn't see someone tagging along in my master plan. But I would never discourage anyone from doing something to better themselves. I kept my reservation about her running it to myself and wanted to do everything I could to help her.
Training only went as well as I allowed it. If my head was in the game, I was fast, focused, and diligent. If I had other concerns on my mind, I was lazy, frustrated, and distracted. Nothing less than what you would expect from a 20 year old Marine in a newly founded relationship. The first few weeks went great, I was focused. Hitting my mileage, only missing workouts when I had to and giving it everything I had. My best week was when Monique was out of town. She didn't pose a distraction, I made her a distraction. I wanted to spend as much time with her not running as possible. This put running for me on the back burner. I skipped runs that didn't need to be skipped and ran with Monique when I should have been running on my own. I started to stress out, trying to be the perfect boyfriend, the perfect running partner, and a Marine. Now this is no hit against her, she was so dedicated that she often got me running more often than not. She was focused and she motivated me to run even when I had no desire. I had my mind other things that didn't involve hitting the pavement and running only stood in my way.
As all this started to build disaster struck. Dave noticing my lack of dedication to my own training program decided to test me, scheduling my workouts in a different location than Monique's. Now Dave had been more than accommodating through this entire experience and when asked to change the workout he refused. After a series of emails, Dave expressed his lack of desire to train a couple, we then ended our coach/athlete relationship. I was bitter. I looked at the situation at the time with extreme anger. I was furious that someone I considered a friend would set me up for failure and forced me to chose between my self and my girlfriend. Dave didn't want to coach me until I was ready to focus on only myself. And I wanted Dave to be understanding of the dilemma that causes when being in a relationship with runner that is tackling her first marathon. We never could reach a compromise so we decided it would be best for him to coach only Monique and for me to train on my own.
After a lot of reflection and getting the full picture, I cooled off. Dave had been overloaded, stretched so thin trying to help everyone, he snapped. It's no wonder that he didn't desire coaching a couple, it's demanding and caused to much worry, plus he knew what I was capable of and he didn't want or expect anything less of me as an athlete and was not going to give any less as a coach.
Now with all this on my plate I tried to adjust, but I was unsuccessful. The reality of how much Monique needed someone to run with her set in. On the first long run without a coach supporting me i realized how impossible it was for me to get my PR and Monique across the finish line. At mile 7 of a 14 mile run, Monique didn't have it in her to finish the run. It wasn't her lack of fitness, she is a sub 2:00 half marathoner, it was a complex situation that forced her run to a screeching halt. I was running 16 miles, and 10 minutes in to my pick-up I saw her waiting for me, unmotivated and in pain. I knew she needed me and she reluctantly asked me to finish the run with her. I of course did, toughing out 7 miles at the only pace that she could manage. I was in pain, the pace strained m body, my stride was destroyed and I ached all over. You wouldn't think it would be hard to run slower, but going from your normal 9 minute mile pace to 12 min miles causing some wear and tear. We finished and we both suffered. I hurt for days after. We decided that running together was not a good idea.
My runs were all tailored to fit Monique's schedule. I got some solid workouts in, some took some poking and prodding from Monique. It was going well but new problems emerged ,running be came a stress inducer not a stress reliever. On top of that my car was losing its reliability. Breaking down twice causing Monique and I to miss 2 workouts in one week.
The next week started off pretty weak. I didn't write down my workouts, thinking back I may not have even done them. Later on that week I noticed a lot of back pain and soon found my self in the hospital with shingles. Stress compromised my immune system and left me with a horrible rash and excruciating pain in my left side. This put me out for 3 weeks, I missed the last build cycle before tapering for the race, confidence was out the window and I knew that any hope I had for running a great race for myself was out the window. I gave up on my goal and began to focus solely on Monique, motivating her and tackling the long runs by her side. I still was not enjoying running. I didn't want to do it anymore. Monique used my desire to please her against me, unconsciously, dragging me out to run. I thank her for this though, I needed the push.
We prepared for our 20 miler and she knocked it out of the park. She finally got to experience the pain she needed fell. We suffered together, but I didn't express my pain with her. 3 weeks of ZERO running and then tackling 20 miles is physically and mentally demanding, but I knew I needed to be strong for her. I thought back to all the heroic leaders I learned about in the Marines. If they showed pain, exhaustion, and misery, would there troops have done the things they did. Would they have won battles with leaders wallowing in there own sorrows? I think not. I would be strong and motivated and enthusiastic for her. We finished the 20 miles but we suffered far beyond the discomfort of pounding asphalt. After horrible idea to go in the hot tub, Monique's already low blood pressure plummeted. She called for me while showering and I ran to her. Once I got her she collapsed, I caught her preventing a deadly fall in the shower. At that point the marathon was off the table, but after recovering from the ordeal Monique regained confidence and motivation. She wanted it again.
The two weeks of taper flew by, very little running and very little stress. The race was upon us before we knew it. I was terrified, I had no confidence, I had no mileage and no idea that I could play my role on race day. I was forced to play football and basketball at work and I was extremely sore going into race weekend. My mind and body were far from where they needed to be and I took that out on Monique at one point. She was thinking about what marathon swag she wanted to buy at the expo, All i was focused on was finishing, and all i wanted her to focus on was the same thing. I didn't have complete confidence in her to complete the race. I believed that any snag encountered on the course would be disastrous. I harshly tried to refocus her attention to the race and she reminded me that she still wants to enjoy the experience. I was wrong in how I addressed the issue but my message was received.
We departed for LA on Saturday with horrible weather and expecting a horrible race experience because of it. We checked in to the hotel and waited for dinner. After a few hours of relaxing we went to dinner. I was less than social because of how much was on mind. We finished dinner and went back to the hotel. I was relieved that we had so much time to sleep and Monique wasn't suffering from any stomach pain. We got our race gear ready and went to bed. Getting a solid 6 hours of rest was amazing, we were excited to get the adventure going.
We woke up optimistic and got ready. We ate lots of food and departed for the shuttle. We got on the bus and arrived the start 2 hours early. Freezing and wet we huddled in a tent. With a handful of trash bags we made a place to lay down. We cuddled in the cold and waited for the start time. Monique and I got up to use the bathroom and were greeted by a huge line. After 30 minutes of waiting we finally got to use the bathroom and headed to the start.
I was excited inside, but stayed reserved. I knew what I was about to endure. I have done it before, but was fearful for Monique. She never tackled the challenge before and she only had a taste of the task before her.
Reflecting on the 4 and half hour race seems harder than the 14 weeks of training. The race started off well we worked through the crowd and busted out solid splits. The hills slowed us down but over all we were doing well. I kept the pace and Monique worked hard. I remember very few points in the race. Nothing stood out, nothing was unexpected. I was running strong, I was who Monique needed. She started to suffer around mile 16 and I stepped away from caring boyfriend to coach. I didn't let her slow down. She did everything she could to keep up and I admired her effort. The pain in her leg made me nervous. I had the fear that she would soon be out of the race but she persevered. Though her pace slowed, her effort stayed the same. She continued to suffer and continued to run. As we got closer to the 20 mile work the pain became to much for her to take. We had a few minutes of walking and some water works. At times she hated herself, she hated her decision to do this and she just wanted it to end. Witnessing this caused me to laugh inside. This is what the marathon was about, this is the experience I am glad I could share with her.
After the moment of feeling sorry for herself she picked up the pace to the best she could. We walked one hill after that and once more to fix her bib, then we were ready to finish. Mile 20 to the finish were my favorite miles. The last 10 k would be the hardest and the most revealing of a persons character. I wanted to see what the girl I share my life with had in her. She painfully cranked out next few miles and reached the final 5 k. It was all downhill from there, literally. Doing the math in my head I knew that if she gave everything she had and more she could beat 4:30:00. She needed that, she needed a PR worth having. Anything more than 4:30:00 i think she would have frowned upon. My efforts to get her to run faster I feel was thwarted by June and Levs presents on the course. It would have been nice to see them for a second, but when they accompanied us for over 2 miles It was difficult to play the role I needed to. I finally told June that she need to leave. Now that I had Monique's full attention I told her she needs to hurry up. I was relentless,I would run ahead of her, she would catch up we continued to play that game until the last half mine. When she saw the finish and I told her the time she had left she kicked it into a gear I didn't think she had. She said "lets go" and ran hard. It gave me goosebumps, I was so happy and proud of her. We finished she got her sub 4:30:00
I am so proud of her. Words cannot explain the joy that I got from this experience with her. The fact that I played a role in her success makes me so happy I would not change anything about the last 14 weeks. Seeing cross the finish line brought me more enjoyment and pride than any PR could.