Dr. J on Running

37 Tri-City Medical Center Marathon, Carlsbad, CA

19 January 2014

Last spring, Debbie decided to run her first marathon in her hometown, and she asked Gina to join her. I offered to make Carlsbad my California marathon if Gina entered it, and I gave Angela incentive to join us. A quick note to Edwards led Maj Dave and Ashley to sign up. Thus, Debbie, Gina, Tony, Angela, David, Ashley and I formed a virtual training group to prepare for the 2014 Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon. Gina, Angela and I ran Perimeter Road with the ACE cadets in the summer and with the snow plows in winter. On our final long run in a blizzard, we made the cover of the Daily Sentinel and earned the anonymous designation of three intrepid runners.

In the weeks leading to the race, I suffered from a tight iliotibial band the entire length of my right leg from the hip to the knee. A gripping knee pain that came suddenly a few miles into a run forced me to walk back from many runs. While on business in Florida, I ran a grand total of three miles in the final week before Carlsbad. The uncertainty of my physical condition added to the stress of the disruptions that plagued our flights to San Diego.

Thankfully, we made it safely to packet pick-up on Saturday. We walked the beach with Gina and Maggie, Angela met up with her aunt for lunch, and I joined David and Ashley at the Olive Garden. The race expo was bigger than I had seen recently, and it featured an amazing array of things that every runner must have, but that I did not know even existed. The long sleeve race shirt fit nicely, but had a vomit gray color. I had pinned my hopes on flame red. The flip-flops were unique.

After multiple daytime naps cut short by stabbing knee pain, I joined Angela to a fabulous sunset dinner at Kis Restaurant in Cardiff. I deferred to race morning any decision on strategy to run as far as possible or to alternate half-mile run/walk from the start. The night brought more knee pain and frequent trips to the bathroom, turning me into an exhausted wreck by race morning.

The 6:15am start for the 2,000 marathon runners and a 7:45am start for the 8,000 half runners gave us exclusive use of the port-a-potties. We parked near the expo tent, and we stayed warm inside the car listening to Air1 in between potty trips. In the final hour before the start, the temperature dropped from 54 degrees to 42 degrees.

The entire team gathered for the first time at 6am near the 5-hour pace group for a team photo, then Angela moved forward towards the 4-hour pace group. Audio problems diminished the solo a cappella rendition of the National Anthem, and off we went. I threw away my throw-away jacket, and I ran in shorts and Maniacs T-shirt. It took me less than a minute to cross the timing mat, a fact that became significant after the race.

The population of Southern California is indeed very fit. The waves of tiny assintights around me took my mind off my own. I breathed 4-and-4 and moved effortlessly in the twilight. Aid stations served water every mile and electrolytes every other mile, so I hit every station and I alternated drinks. Gina, Debbie, David and Ashley were near me in the early going, but went ahead when I stopped at the port-a-potty around Mile 2.

I met Marathon Maniac Jasmine around Mile 3, and we ran together for a couple of miles comparing insanity. A native Californian working in Texas, Jasmine plans to run the BCS Marathon next December, my presumptive 50th marathon. Jim, the 4:45 pacer turned out to be another Maniac, an extremely insane Titanium Maniac who once ran 8 ultras in 8 days. I told Jim that I promised myself not to pass him today. I did pass him eventually, and paid dearly for it later.

We turned off the coastal highway after Mile 4, and climbed 300 feet over the next 5 miles. The descent back to the coast was brutal on my quads and knees, so I let go of caution and ran freely down the hill. I caught up with Debbie and ran with her a bit, then David and Ashley, then Gina, then Jim the 4:45-pacer. We merged with the half runners when we returned to the coastal highway. They must have been running a pace 10-15 seconds faster than ours, so I got carried away and took off with them.

Sunrise warmed the dry air into the upper sixties, and clouds kept out the heat. I ran happy and free through Mile 18, when my Paavo syndrome returned for the first time in 24 marathons. Back in August 2011 at the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, WI, I ran a comfortable first half in 2:20, only to lose control of my right foot at the big church bell. I lost the ability to plant my foot in front of me. I ended up walking the entire second half in 3:20. The floppy foot struck around Mile 18 in Carlsbad, and I screeched to a walk.

I startled Marla when I called for sympathy. She thought I had dropped out yet again. Our phone call ended abruptly when Gina pulled beside me and asked if I was ordering cappuccino. I resumed running with Gina, and my leg permitted me to stay with her another mile. I gave up running at Mile 20 as right shoulder pain compounded leg instability, so I switched to half-and-half until Mile 22. Jim the 4:45 pacer passed me. Debbie passed me. Even Megan, the 5-hour pacer, passed me. I walked the next two miles. David and Ashley passed me.

Angela called to inform me that she finished her marathon in 4:07. I had offered her my First Class seat on the red-eye return flight if she broke 4 hours. If not, whoever between us got closer to our respective goals 4 hours for her, 5 hours for me. Quick math revealed that 5:07 and First Class were within my reach, so I resumed running. It was hard at first, but the promised reward justified the pain. I pushed hard but fell short, crossing the finish line in 5:09:28. Gina finished in 4:50, Tony in 4:54, Debbie in 5:02, David and Ashley in 5:05.

Medals in hand, we booked out of Carlsbad as fast as traffic allowed. I woofed down a large steak-and-eggs burrito at the Mexican take-out near the Holiday Inn Express, and Angela savored the long-promised fish tacos. However, the Tiramisu in La Jolla won the day. The ribs and chicken barbecue at the San Diego airport capped a day of protein reloading.

I could barely walk straight, and I hurt going down stairs, after the 5-hour overnight flight from San Diego to Newark crammed in coach. My massage therapist, the other Angela, noted uncommon tightness in my quads, and worked diligently on resolving it. I managed to run two painful miles on the treadmill on Tuesday.

The official results listed my gun time as 5:09:28, consistent with my watch, but showed my chip time as 4:57. There is no way that I took 12 minutes to cross the start mat. On the other hand, I wish I had that information before the return flight!

Dr Kamal Jabbour dedicates Marathon #37 to Debbie for planting the seed, Tony for hauling 3 kids crosscountry, David and Ashley for driving down from Edwards, and especially Gina and Angela for pushing him to train through sun and snow. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2014 Dr Kamal Jabbour