Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Soldier Marathon – Lessons learned, a candle lit and an injury…

          The story of how this marathon came to be run is much more important than my events on race day. In August I assume responsibility of the Regimental Communications Company. Becoming a first sergeant in the Ranger Regiment has only been accomplished by four people in the history of the Ranger Regiment. It is an honor and the crowning achievement of my time thus far in the military. I give praise the God that it is in His providence to bless me with such a wonderful position and great responsibility over the most professional men I have had the pleasure of leading in my entire time in the military.

          When I took this position, as every leader does, I took a look at what the company was doing, where it may need some guidance and made adjustments to an already outstandingly efficient company. Part of this was realizing that some personnel were lacking physically and needed some personal mentorship to achieve Ranger standard and meet the Army height and weight standard. Now, I am sure that many are thinking, “how is it possible for someone to be in the Regiment and not be able to meet the standard, or more so….be OVERWIEGHT!?” There are many things that could lead to such an instance. First there are injuries, possibly from jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, or work/deployment related. These take time to bounce back from. Secondly, to perform at the level in which we have to it is necessary to carry a bit more weight than most to be able to have that strength “to fight onto the Ranger objective”. I myself am above the Army weight standard when my weekly mileage is around 30 miles a week, it is just a fact of life that we deal with.

          One of my young leaders was overweight and according to the way the Army makes its assessment he was over on body fat percentage too. We have a Bod Pod and he is within the parameters dictated by the Army according to it, however the Army does not recognize the Bod Pod as a means to measure body fat percentage. Near this time I was doing a little “homework” and came across the Hadd Post, which is probably the most useful piece of personal health information that can be applied across all spectra of exercise. Needless to say we got to work on making progress, increasing his volume and focusing only on running for our hour and a half workouts in the morning, then getting him in the gym to focus on strength in the afternoon. Sometimes we would throw a curveball and invert the schedule just to keep his body guessing. After 4 weeks of me taking over we were ready to start working our cardio solely along the Hadd Post guidelines. Within 3 weeks of him starting he had shed three minutes off his 5 mile run, scored 292 out of 300 on his APFT and told me he wanted to run a marathon. I recommended that he pick a spring marathon, however he elected to run the Soldier Marathon which was such a short time away (2.5 months). That being said, we remained on task with the Hadd Post and elected to lengthen his long days to ensure that he would get to the finish line.

          Between that time and the time of the marathon he shed 3% body fat according to the Army measurement system, 8% according to the Bod Pod. He lost 2 pounds, but improved his overall functional strength immensely. Having been steadily building our base according to the guidelines in the Hadd Post I knew that we both would have a great race until near mile 17 and it would then become exponentially painful, merely because we did not have enough time to build up our aerobic capacity to be able to crush a solid intensity marathon effort. I was anticipating being able to hold a 3:25ish pace through mile 17…then just mutter through the final miles knowing that a 3:25 or better is easily within reach so long as I remain disciplined and patient with building the base for at least a full 20 weeks before starting the true training for a race season.

        I made the conscious decision that I am going to run a marathon for each of our fallen Rangers from the Global War on Terror, a number that stands at 58 today, at the pack pick-up the evening before this race. I have run every race ultras, marathons and triathlons with the name is a Ranger, except for but a few…the thing is that I only have run three marathons that I received medals for completing for fallen Rangers. CPL Timothy Shea, my Ranger School Ranger Buddy and B Co. 3/75 Ranger, KIA 25 August 2005 – the Snickers Energy Bar Marathon 2009. SGT James Regan. C Co. 3/75 Ranger, KIA 9 February 2007 – the New York City Marathon. SSG James Patton, B Co. 3/75 KIA 18 April 2010 – The Soldier Marathon 2011. Once I complete this daunting task I will donate all the medals on a custom hanger to the Ranger Regiment as a token for observance that none of our men will be forgotten, that their families are in our hearts and prayers and that we will and do endure their pain with them.
Mile 2
Mile 5.5
          Given that lengthy intro I am willing to bet that all reading this can predict what the outcome was.  Yes, I am capable of attaining a 3:20 or better marathon. I was on pace to do so all the way through mile 17. I started falling off pace shortly before that, however, I lost the pace officially at that point. I hit the half split at 1:42:32 and felt as though I could have run a half much faster. This is my fastest half to date, since I have not ever run a real half marathon it is a solid 2 minutes ahead of my other half bar I had set years prior.
Mile 12ish

Mile 9

Feeling the pain at 24.5
Between miles 18 and 21 I was holding an ok pace but knew I had slowed considerably. From mile 22 through the finish my legs were in such great pain I was reduced to a walk/run cycle. I was not truly keeping track, I was just running as long as I could handle and then walking until I would get angry at myself for hitting the wall so bad. My hydration/nutrition strategy was solid as I took on water or Power Aid at every aid station and took in a total of four GU’s over the middle miles of the race. My pain I was in was solely because of my lack of base. I mustered a chip time finish of 3:44:57. Still a respectable time, but I lost 20 minutes on the return trip which frustrated me greatly initially.

This is NOT a smile
          After the finish I was in a large amount of pain and hung around the finish line to see my junior sergeant finish. He came through the finish chute a 4:04:37 which is awesome considering he had only truly “training” for this merely 10 weeks prior. He has already decided to put in the full 20 week base cycle and run one to improve his time to the 3:40 mark which I know he can easily do. This event is validation on why I want to become a coach and my first success story as a “coach”.
So worth it.
The day following the race my left hip was all but seized up. Today, over two weeks later, it is still in intense pain. Xrays show that my disk is bulging between my L4 and L5…an injury from when I fractured my back in 2005. It also shows degenerative signs in my right hip, go figure…that one does not hurt. I cannot take more than a step running and for the first time since I had my SLAP surgery in 2003 on my left shoulder I am on pain meds. I have an MRI scheduled for 14 December in which I pray to God that we are finally able to find out what is wrong and how to fix it…after all, I still have the run across Georgia coming up on Memorial Day next year…I want it…I want it BAD!

Pained expression, thank you Jimmy for your sacrifice, Rest in Peace my brother, you are sorely missed...

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