Epic Failures

Oct 13, 2011 by

Like many endeavors, running is a trial and error activity.  You can read tips and advice all day long, but until you actually try them, you just don’t know if they work for you.  Along the way, I’ve had many failures, usually with painful consequences.  I should have known better in some cases, but I ignored advice (or common sense) and went my own way, resulting in various school of hard knocks “learning experiences”.  In some cases, I repeated the mistake and experienced the same result (sometimes again and again….).  Pavlov might have had trouble using me for his research.

To use today’s teenage vernacular, here are my top epic failures:

1. iRecycle Half Marathon 2009: Deciding on a pace at the race.  My first half marathon ever was the 2009 iRecylcle Half in Spartanburg, SC.  It was 2 months before my first marathon, and I figured it was a good test of my fitness at that point in marathon training.  My goal was to break 2 hours, which is a reasonable 9:00/mile pace.  With less than a year of running, I didn’t understand training very well and was not really following much of a plan.  Just run a bit more each week and have a long weekend run was about the extent of my plan.   A few weeks before this race, I had run a 10K at a sub 8:00/mile pace, so I figured why not try 8:00 pace for the half?  This race had pacers, so I joined the 8:00 pace group on a whim.  I did fine the first 4 miles, but the high humidity and pace got to me.  I finished under 2 hours, but the 2nd half of the race was painful.

Lesson learned: Don’t attempt a pace you haven’t trained for.

2. Kiawah Island Marathon 2009: Attempt at blister prevention. In the weeks leading up to my first marathon at Kiawah Island, I had begun to develop hot spots and blisters on my left foot during long runs in the ball of my foot near the big toe.  A few days before the run, I read about moleskin and decided to try it as a way to prevent a blister.  I applied the moleskin the morning of the marathon and set off.  About mile 2,  the moleskin started bothering me.  About mile 6, I had to stop and remove the moleskin, but the damage was done.  I had caused a blister in a different spot and had to run the final twenty miles with the aggravation of a painful blister.

Lesson learned: If at all possible, don’t try something new or unpracticed on race day.  I also switched to much thinner socks after this, which eliminated my blister problems.

3. Kiawah Island Marathon 2009: Bad bathroom break timing. In three years of running, I have only had to stop for a nature break once – at mile 15 or so of the Kiawah Island Marathon.  I had arrived at the race start well ahead of time and was able to use the facilities about an hour before race start.  Being a rookie marathoner and concerned about hydration, I had probably been drinking too much water.  When I went outside for the start of the race, I needed to use the restroom again, but the lines for the porta johns were now too long.  I decided to wait until the course.  On the first half of the race, the toilets all seemed to be occupied as I passed.  Finally, on the second half, with the half marathoners gone, there was a good spot to stop.  Unfortunately, my full bladder took way too long to empty and my legs must have thought we were done.  So, when I set out to resume the race, my legs were not cooperating. It was a long last 1o+ miles.

Lesson learned: Time the pre-race bathroom trip a little better.

4. 2011 Lexington Race Against Hunger: Running a 10K one week after a marathon. I have a soft spot for a local 10K, the Lexington Race Against Hunger.  This was my first race ever in 2009, is a good cause, and they have great race long sleeve t-shirts.  The race is at the end of February, and this year I ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon the week before.  So, instead of resting after a hard marathon effort, I ran.  After all, it is against my rules to wear the race t-shirt if I didn’t actually run the race!  Everything was going OK, and I was running better than expected, so I saw that I would easily beat my goal of sub 50 minutes.  Then at mile 5, it happened.  I recognized the guy passing me on the left.  Oh, no, Jeff.  Not today.  I picked up the pace.  He did, too.  Over the last mile, we pushed each other and had a great finish.  Unfortunately, my left foot, already stressed from plantar fasciitis in the fall and marathon training all winter, gave up on me.  I came up lame.  Barely able to walk, I limped off with severe pain in the top of my foot.  A few weeks later, x-rays showed stress two stress fractures in my left foot that had healed.  I believe the final push in the 10K caused the fractures.

Lesson learned: Nothing.  I’d probably do it again, just not the all out final race at the end.

You’ll probably have to learn some of the hard lessons on your own, but I hope you can learn from my mistakes.  Sometimes, I do; sometimes, I don’t.


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