Go Big or Go Home (Sometimes means you limp home)

We’ve all have our motivational slogans that fire us up pre-game or before a big challenge: Just Do It. Go For It. Just Say No. (ok, scratch that last one). The point is, these mantras can help each of us push our limits and achieve epic new highs – and sometimes we crash & burn.

During the afterglow of setting my new marathon personal best at PF Chang’s Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, I decided to join my friends for the Arizona Road Racers Desert Classic less than 2 weeks later. While my close friends and Ragnar teammates chose to run the half, I decided to “Go Big or Go Home” and run the full. Not only was I planning to run 26.2 miles on 12 days of rest, while riding high on this wave of confidence I set my sights to trim :24 off per mile and set a new PR under 3:30… Go Big, right?

Now, I’ve been overconfident for marathons before – San Diego, Tucson… they all ended in disaster – but this would be different. I’d finally figured out my nutrition and pacing and shed the “over 4:00 marathon monkey” from my back since my Vegas and Phoenix breakthroughs. No problem-o, right?

With my trusty GPS watch and heart rate monitor, I’d dial in my pace early and keep tabs on my power output throughout the race. I lined up with Manoj at the start line just as I’d done at PF Chang’s and off we went. Without checking my watch, I knew we were on a little bit of a quick pace, and it wasn’t until after mile 1 when I noticed we were at a sub 7:30 pace. Oh well, I felt good so I did some quick math and figured that this pace would get me into the 3:20′s – Now that’s really  “Going Big”!

Speaking of going big, here’s a video of my co-author Lewis Elliot’s younger brother Blair who’s a pretty kickass freeskier “Going Big” in Big Sky:

On that, his second hit of that kicker, Blair decided to go bigger than the first time and lay out that back flip – unfortunately he didn’t stick the landing and blew us his knee and broke his ankle. Season done.

Blair’s video was foreshadowing for my day to come – while I didn’t nuke my knee & ankle, my overconfidence and bravado led to a less-than-favorable end to the marathon.

By mile 6, my buddy Brian Burns had caught up to me and was running really strong – but he was one of the smart ones choosing to do the half. At the 6.55 marker, my heart and brain turned with him… yet my stomach and legs had to keep going the additional 6.55 before I’d get the chance to return. Here I was, a quarter of the way through the marathon and I was already fighting to keep my mind committed to punishing my body to hit a new PR.

By mile 11, my quesy stomach was winning the battle and forced me into a 3 minute “pit stop” at one of the few port-o-johns on the course. Even though I hit the 13.1 turnaround within 10 seconds of my goal (I checked my watch 3 or 4 times because I couldn’t believe it) the realization was dawning on me that I would have to punish myself even harder to keep up this pace. Within the next mile, I knew I just didn’t have anything left to keep pushing the needle into the red – tummy, legs and mind – they were all gone along with my PR. Now, it would be miserable to just drag my body to the finish in under 4 hours. Pride was the only thing that kept me going, and when you’re forced to walk with stomach cramps even that can’t keep you going for long.

So, was this an epic failure or a positive reminder that success is never guaranteed? Was this a lesson to stop trying to “Go Big” and be more conservative? Did I really figure out my nutrition at Vegas and PF Chang’s, or were they just flukes?

My takeaway is simple – keep pushing my limits, but pay a little better attention to my body. Did I know that I only had 13.1 fast miles in my legs? If I had, there’s a good chance I could have set a new half marathon PR and had a great time pushing myself alongside my friends Brian, Manoj and Dan. Failing that, I decided to “Go Big” and as a result, I ended up limping home. Lesson learned!

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