17 June 2011


Time flies so rapidly when you’re swamped. Truly timely topics upon which to opine stack up, but I’m big into chronology, so first in, first out, let’s get to the bottom of the stack (assuming you pile things on from the top). And that would be… Vindication!

Let’s go back in time, my golly, almost three weeks have passed since that Any Given Sunday in Buffalo (and no, I’m not a big NFL fan, I just like the phrase, though yes, I do watch the Patriots if they’re winning, and yes, dear reader, I do owe you the honor of catching up on your writing as well, but I digress…). Right, where was I? Yes, Vindication! It’s a wonderful thing.

Yes, it was a hot day in Buffalo. Yes, it was a humid day in Buffalo. And yes, I largely blamed said conditions for what could only be described as a horribly executed race, a race with splits so entirely not negative that, well, you couldn’t write a script for collapse much better than what I turned in that morning.

The firm that did the chip timing was kind enough to set up mats every 10K, which only served to remind me just how bad it was. First 10K, under forty one minutes, six and a half per mile. Good start. Second? Nearly forty three, approaching sevens. Crashing already. Third? Pushing forty six, up to seven and a half pace. Leaning toward the Death Shuffle with a quarter yet to go. And the fourth? Don’t even talk about it. Fifty minutes. Eights. Booyah. My pace chart would have been beautiful had it been a progress chart for summiting a major peak.

Blame it on the heat. Everyone was feeling it. I noted that it was my perception that despite the crash, few passed me in the second half. But I really wasn’t sure. Perception is pretty lousy in the high miles of a marathon, especially one as rough as that one.

Ah, but that scoring firm took splits every 10K, and reported them for everyone, making for a truly huge results document. Eagerly I attacked said tome seeking that vindication. And I found… bafflement. At 10K, they spotted me in 41st place. But for the next 10K, they again reported 41st, then again 41st for the third, 38th for the 4th, and 37th for the last leftover 2K. Lovely to be sure, except that I finished 32nd. Go figure.

Puzzled, I sought out truth and justice. And to their credit, the fine folks at Score This! (I love that name) replied very quickly. After some give and take, push and pull, yin and yang, what emerged was that they reported each runner’s relative performance for each 10K. So for that 3rd 10K from 20K to 30K, I ran the 41st fastest for that leg. Someone who may have been twenty minutes behind me but bolted for a few miles from twelve to eighteen would have affected that number.

Interesting, but useless. I really don’t care about that guy who left it all on the course and sprinted the last two kilometers to record the tenth fastest final 2K en-route to his 200th place finish. What I really care about is what place I was in at 20K compared to what place I was in at 30K.

Again to their credit, after some more push and pull, said scorers absolutely agreed. And decreed that they’d change their reporting for races going forward. A small victory for the forces of truth, justice, and useful data. Better, they sent me the raw data from their mats, and I was able to do my own analysis to answer that question of, “Was it the heat, or was I a wimp?”

And the answer, to paraphrase Dick Nixon, “I am not a wimp.”


As it turned out, at 10K I was in 41st place, but eight of those in front of me would not finish (DNF). You can argue this either way. Finishing the race by definition means beating a DNF. But it’s nice to consider your performance against those who ran the whole race.

At 20K, four of those eventual DNFs had already DNF’d, but I was in 39th place, so I’d lost two places to the survivors. So sad. But this was before the calamity began at the half. That’s where I really, really, wanted to know what happened. And…

By 30K, up to 35th place. Three more of the DNFs dropped in that leg, accounting for three of the four places I picked up, which meant even when my pace dropped to seven and a halfs, I still picked one off. Woo hoo!

And at 40K, the eighth DNF was gone, and I’d moved up exactly one place to 34th. It wasn’t that simple as I know there was a little passing and being passed going on, but the net was even.

Finally, in that last 2K, I nailed two more to close it out in 32nd place.

OK, that’s a lot of numbers, so if you’re still reading, you’re either resilient or bored with time on your hands. The point? From start to finish, eight dropped and I picked up another net spot, but in that ugly second half, even excluding the DNFs, I gained ground. In other words, it really did hit everyone. In other words, it really wasn’t just me. This doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t exactly a great race. But it does tell me that given the conditions, I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Vindication. Sweet.

See it Live! My friend Mike, who calls himself the Why Guy, has created a motivational web site with video interviews of marathoners known as WhyMarathon.com. He’s done some great work, even after you give him some leeway for allowing my worn-out voice to grace his pages. Check out the video interview he conducted with me right after the race in Buffalo by clicking here, and consider pulling him in for some motivation at your next gathering!

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