Saturday, February 9, 2008

Don't Let The Wall Stop You

A little photoshop fun tonight. As I look back on my '06 20K run, and forward to this years 20k in May and the '09 Half.

Have you ever watched a runner hit the wall? Not a physical wall, but that point of exertion where it looks like they’ve given it all they have.
Perhaps you’ve witnessed this happen and felt bad.
Perhaps you’ve witnessed someone push through, overcome, and have been inspired.
Perhaps one of those statements rings true for yourself.

In early June of ’06 I hit the wall somewhere around the 10th mile marker of the Dam to Dam 20K.
I managed to get through the last 2.4 miles by wogging it out.
I had trained beyond that point, and even had completed a 12 mile jog two weeks prior.

So what happened?

Well a combination of things. But first, let me first say that I did achieve my primary goal of simply completing the 20K. Something I never imagined I could do.

This was the first event of its kind I had ever done. It was a benchmark that I set while working on health goals. On the morning of the race I was able to meet up with my pal Larry from work. He and I had discussed doing this event and being that we shared a similar pace, we met up in the same starting corral to run together.

We maintained a nice 10min pace for those first 10 miles.
But those 10 miles where different than anything my training had prepared me for.

I had always trained at night during the cooler evening hours. Never in the Sun.

I never trained for hills. Dam only has a few hills but the one at mile 8 took some of the wind out of my sails as we pushed through it.

In training I had one speed and once there I tried to just keep my rhythm. I found that slowing down for water stops not only threw me off pace, but it was awkward too.

Although there were no rules against it, I did not bring my IPod. (Which is something I was very used to having) I purposely left it at home because I figured Larry and I would most likely be talking to each other and motivating one another during the race.
The motivation and support was great but all the talking winded me more than I expected it to.

Around that 10th mile I made a decision that had I kept going, might have kept me from hitting that darn wall. I slowed down for a cup of water and decided to take a quick nature break. I told Larry to keep going and that I would catch up. I was back on the road shortly but I just could not comfortably fall back into my previous pace. I just felt zapped. I saw Larry up ahead looking back and waved at him to continue. Which I am glad he did.

Here is a picture of me taken between the 11th and 12th mile.

Looking at my stride you can see that I am dragging a bit here. But you know, there was never a point when I said enough or I quit.
I stuck it out and as I made the final turn, I could hear the drum line of a local high school band playing. It charged me up, and with renewed energy I sprinted that last ½ mile.

So Donald and his brick wall represent that darn wall I hit. My goal this coming May is to not only finish this race, but to avoid hitting that wall. I have a feeling that on race day it will be lurking in the back of my mind. My intention is not to break through it, but to train smarter for it and simply never hit it.

This year Larry and I are both planning on some long outdoor runs once the weather turns nice.
Although I do not think Ipods are banned, I will follow mgreenes earlier advice and leave it at home again. This time I want to soak it all in, and I feel that I can do that since I have been there before.
This year I have you guys to help spur me on when things get tough.

I certainly want to encourage you all to picture our friend Donald in the months ahead.
Push through those things that challenge you. I can't wait to see you all at that Disney finish line in '09.


Joggerblogger said...

gotta break on through to the othet side - as Jim would say.

Kate said...

I like the picture. I am not capable of doing things like that. I'm so far behind with the technology.

I have no idea why you posted it.

megreader2003 said...

Jeff you post the coolest stuff.

Kate said...

I love this post. What a great story.

If you had already run 12 miles at a 10 minute pace then it sounds like you just had a bad day.

The other thing I was thinking is that maybe you were so excited that you actually were running faster than your normal pace for those first miles.

In any case, you pushed through it. Congratulations! Great picture too. :-)

caballerofan said...


I'm not sure why that did not occur to me but you are correct. In training I was averaging between a 10.5 and 10.75 pace.
So yes, I was working harder in that respect. And it was exciting.

One thing I have learned to do over the past months is to warm up with a walk before jogging. Nothing much, perhaps a half mile or so. I visualize it as actually starting a crowded race. From the corral and through the starting line everyone is walking at first anyway. I find it helps greatly instead of breaking into a run cold.

Great catch there. Thanks for all your support.

mgreene said...


I've experienced the wall once in a half-marathon. Went from running 7:10s to 12:00s the last two miles, so I know about it!

Our national running organization, RRCA (Road Runner's Club of America) and our local club (Huntsville Track Club) are both really cracking down on headphones during races. It is a safety and insurance problem. It has come to the point of being disqualified and prevented from participating in future races if the rule is not followed. It just makes sense - you need to be aware of your surroundings.

caballerofan said...


I agree. In fact when I do use headphones while jogging outside, I have been keeping the volume much lower. Low enough in fact that one night while listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and jogging past a local creek. I could heard the creek above the music. It was actually a nice effect. On the TM I do bring up the volume to drown out the machine though. I feel that there are too many elements to a race that while an ipod is tempting its not worth the risk.

I copied and posted a link you provided over on Raes blog regarding headphones a few months back.

Rae! said...

Hi Jeff!
I hit that wall in the tot 13k. I was headed to the bench after we entered the park and E came over and said we are down to a mile and a half,he had to pull me from the bench to keep from sitting down, and waiting for the medics. I have learned a lot since then. I have done a couple 5 k's since then, but I do worry that I am going to do that again.
Break down the Walls!!!

DebWDW said...

Great recap, and good points to ponder. So many things to "practice" -- running outside, hills, drinking water, changes in pacing, re-tying shoes -- and hitting the wall.

I think I'll add this to my collection of things to re-read later in the year.