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Not So Random Writings

Cycle of Lies

I came across this book while browsing through an online bookstore. I never really followed the story of Lance Armstrong as it all was happening, so it piqued my interest. But like a juicy, scandalous novel, I couldn’t put it down…

This book has nothing to do with running, right?….RIGHT?!?! I had no idea how involved the sport of cycling as a whole was in substance abuse. Reading this book really opened my eyes to professional sports and drug use – especially endurance sports. How many professionals dope or use some other form of illegal performance enhancements? Lance and his team had such a smooth system, how do we really know the current drug testing really works. What about political gains? We may be better at testing these days, but we also have to assume drug users are also getting better at hiding the truth.

The author, Juliet Macur, did a wonderful job telling the story from an objective standpoint with a variety of sources. Honestly, after reading the entire story, I feel bad for Lance. He had a rough start at life, and didn’t have the best of influencers. He had a disrespectful attitude toward other people even before he really started competing. But none of that mattered after we figured out that he was good, fast, strong – the best in the U.S. He was a poor sport, but that didn’t discourage his fans or sponsors.

Lance wanted to win because he loved fame and he loved money. We wanted him to win because he was American, then we wanted him to keep winning because he overcame cancer. We wanted a representative. But in order to compete and win at a world class level it was obvious he had to use drugs. I’m not saying he was forced to pull the trigger, but did we load the gun? Did we give him too much glory he couldn’t let go of? We put him on a pedestal that made it impossible to be honest and come out unscathed. He was not alone in all this, and yet we let the sport use him as a scapegoat – probably because we felt fooled, angry, and hurt that he lied to us so much and he wasn’t a very nice person. But that doesn’t mean everyone else, his teammates and sponsors (especially you know who), should have gotten off so easily.

What Lance did was wrong, and I would never condone illegal substance use, but I think it is worth noting that we are all fallible. Lance claimed if anyone else was in his situation, they would have cheated, too. I don’t think that’s true, but it’s a fair statement. We can’t really know what we would do when faced with that kind of pressure and temptation. But a big part of Lance’s downfall was his lack of hope. He felt it was hopeless to try to train and compete clean. Though I am more wary now of how clean professional runners really are, I have hope that illegal drug use is fading. Maybe I’m a fool for thinking so. But if I get to a place where I have to choose between winning and racing clean, I pray I choose the latter.

My husband once asked me if, “If you could take a pill (legal) that would guarantee you’d win the Olympics, but die at the age of 60, would you take it?” “Of course not,” I immediately answered. “That’s like…that’s like taking away my cake!” My years of training, sweating, struggling, growing, failing, and learning are my “cake” (chocolate). Racing is my buttercream frosting. Winning, and running fast…that’s just my rainbow candy sprinkles. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rainbow candy sprinkles, but they don’t taste so great by themselves. I think what I hate most about substance abuse is that it steals away the hard work, dedication, and natural talent that athletes have, and you end up competing against lab science and wealth.

I didn’t mean for this blurb to be discouraging. I apologize if it came across that way. It’s healthy to question, but dangerous to doubt. There will always be cheaters in the world, but they don’t have to outnumber those that play fair. On a side note, the book really is interesting – a good read for a plane travel or a taper period. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon, but I got mine from bookoutlet.com for pretty cheap. Anyway, moral of the story, don’t let cheating and/or cheaters bring you down. Running fast doesn’t have to mean running dirty.

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Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier My Story

Breaking the 3-Hour Barrier, Part 3

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I knew before I started this training cycle it would be my last time using this plan. Not that I ever end up sticking to the original plan anyway, but for the last several marathon races I’ve had similar training plans. I felt like my body was almost ready to switch things up.

My last summer race was a half-marathon at the end of August. It was time to “get down to business” and put in some early, long, hard miles. I missed my first 20-miler due to illness, but I was able to pound out a 22 the next week. Going out for a 20-miler again, I quit at 18. It sounds silly to stop just 2 miles short of what I was supposed to do, but I was done. I could tell I was getting stressed with work, life, and running in general. I didn’t have time to take a break from training, but the break came anyway. I left the house the next week with the intention of doing 24 miles. I did 4.5, walked home, and ate almost an ENTIRE pint of fudge mind ice cream – and it was only “almost” a full pint because my husband had apparently already had a few bites. Otherwise, it would have been the whole thing. Physically and mentally, I couldn’t. I didn’t run the next day, but I squeezed in a 10-miler on Sunday (which is normally a rest day). I needed to get my head together. I only had a little over a month left to train. However, I made those last weeks count – 22, 24, 26, 20, 16, RACE!

For the first time in a training cycle, I did a prep-race – two days after that last 20-miler. It was a small 15k, and the point was to see what I could do on legs that didn’t have much time to recover from a long run. I also thought it would be good for me personally to get some competitive energy out of me so I wouldn’t get overly excited and go out too fast again for the marathon. The race went well, with a 6:41 average pace. My legs were tired when I started, but not sore. My recovery routine was working out pretty well. With that and the past four weeks of solid long runs, I was getting excited for Charlotte. I tapered, I carbed up, I packed, and I was off. In and out of the expo in record time, I enjoyed the time I had with my family. My mom and brother were running the half together.

Looking back, I had a few rough patches in training, but overall I PR-ed a lot in my long runs this time around. I had gotten faster. My mid-week runs remained solid, and my nutrition strategy improved. I increased HoneyStinger intake and added Pasokin (a peanut butter candy) around miles 14 and 18.

Race morning I woke up feeling great. I knew the weather would be cool, so I packed arm warmers, but generally high-thirties, low-forties seem to be when I perform the best – even when I don’t live/train in that weather. Everything was perfect. This race was going to be so good – I was going to break three hours, and I was going to win (small race).

Leaving my mom and brother in their corral, I made my way to the front to get behind the 3-hour pacer. I was wearing my watch (for the first time during a marathon) to make sure I took it easy, but since there was a pace group I wanted to run with the extra support. There I go.

Immediately, I lost the pace group. I thought they were in front of me, so I figured I’d catch them after the pack dwindled. My first 2 miles were too fast, but then I quickly settled at my 6:50 goal pace. I was confused at why the pace group would be so far ahead, but whatever, I had my watch. I felt great through mile 9, and then suddenly the pace group came up behind me. How did I get ahead of them? I don’t know, but now there were two other female contenders. Just before the half, I started realizing something wasn’t right. But I couldn’t tell what it was. My legs, feet, and joints weren’t giving me any issues, and my breathing seemed okay. Nutrition was fine, and the weather conditions didn’t change. I just started feeling…awful. And almost sleepy tired. Identifying the problem in a distance race is half the battle because as soon as you identify the issue, you can use your mind power to start battling it. I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure it out. My goal pace began slipping away and I couldn’t bring it back.

At mile 19 they had a race clock, and when I looked at the time, my first thought was that one day, I will have just finished the marathon by then – I will have run 7 more miles by that time. My second thought was on that day, I hope I will remember how miserable and defeated I felt now. I never want to take fast for granted and forget what I had to do to get there.

The second place female dropped out, so I took her spot. I plundered on through mile 24, but had to start walking/jogging. I quickly fell into 3rd, but not before I gave one last “sprint” to try and keep my standing. It last for about 10 yards. I had nothing left in me and couldn’t compete. My stomach and head started to ache and then came nausea. I threw up in my mouth a bit. Even thinking about eating or drinking anything made it worse. And then it hit me. I was severely dehydrated. I hadn’t thought about how much (or little) fluid I’d been taking in, but I realized it wasn’t much. The cooler weather made me not feel thirsty, so I didn’t hydrate like I should have from the start. I understood. But it was WAY too late. Dragging myself the last few miles, I finished 4th female at 3:19:18 (small race). There was no hiding my disastrous mistake – into the medic tent I went.

Disappointment trumped any frustration I might have had. I had nothing to show for my training, and my next full wasn’t until June. I made a terrible mistake that ruined what would have been a great race. I was ready to break 3 hours, but I didn’t. It was a completely empty Nutella jar in the cupboard. It was there. I smelled it. But I didn’t taste it.