Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Marathon

By Mud Mafia Member Dave Cihal aka Run DMC

clip_image004My marathon journey started May 6, 2010. Earlier that week I had been talking to Ed Muller who just started running and his enthusiasm about it and desire to get in shape rubbed off on me. This conversation sparked a desire within myself to make some much needed lifestyle changes and to get active. At this point in time I weighed 191 pounds and at 5’3 that was a lot of weight to lug around. Day-to-day activities were more difficult than they should be. It was time for me to make a change and this is just what I needed, someone else to go through this with and that can relate to me and help keep me going.

clip_image002May 6,2010 I completed my  first run, a 1.55 mile jaunt through my in-laws’ neighborhood that left me hurting and completely exhausted. My wife had been running for a while and ran this one with me. I had a hard time keeping up. I would run a couple more days that week and even joined Ed in signing up for the Corporate Cup 10k that was going to be held in September. The Corporate Cup 10k gave me something to work towards and I even set a lofty goal of running the race in under 60 minutes. At the end of the month of May I ran my first ever race, the 5-mile Boys Town Memorial Day run, which featured several hills and a challenging course. Leading up to the race the longest distance I had ran was just over three miles. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run the whole thing but I was going to try my best and see what I was made of. My wife and father-in-law ran it too which was nice having others there with me. Lining up for the first time at a race really got my nerves going. I ended up surprising myself during this race running the whole thing and never having to walk while also topping the 60-minute goal I had set by four minutes. This was a big confidence booster and had me excited to train more and get another race under my belt.

The next race I would participate in would take place at the end of June and was a 5k for the Siena Francis House and was held at Zorinsky Lake. My running had been going well and I was thinking that I could achieve 10 minute miles for this race. I started out with a bang knocking out the first mile in 9:37. Turns out I started a little too fast because my next two miles would get progressively slower and I had to walk a couple of times. I finished the race with splits over 10:20 and was really disappointed that I didn’t hit my goal and had to walk a few times during the race. This was a big turning point for me because I was really starting to hate running. I was becoming too concerned with getting faster and was obsessing over it and not running for fun, it was more like work. I had made such great progress and was losing weight through exercise and eating healthier and I had come too far to quit now. I reminded myself where I started by looking at my work photo on my badge that had my 191 pound fat face. I didn’t want to go back to that. I decided that if I was going to stick with this running thing it was time to ditch the headphones which would give me time/distance audio cues via Runkeeper, as well as music which also played head games with me knowing how long songs are and what distance/speed correlated to them.
I became free of the cords and started running without concern of anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. This along with the support and amazing progress of Ed as well as the encouragement and advice of Gallup fitness trainer Ryan Wolf kept me going that summer. Ryan gave me a 10k running program that had me running three days a week and doing cross training on a dual action exercise bike I owned a couple times a week. I never ran more than three times a week because of shin pain and I enjoyed mixing in the bike to get a good cardio workout that was easy on my shins and knees while helping to build leg strength.

I strictly followed the 8-week training program for the Corporate Cup topping out at a 7-mile long run a week before the race. I was still eyeing that 60-minute goal that I had set when I registered. It seemed like a stretch but I was going to go out there with a plan to run at a comfortable pace the first half and then kick it in if I was able to once I reached the turnaround point. The sheer number of people running the race amazed me and I had to work hard at the beginning of the race to gain a little bit of separation. It was awesome seeing other Gallup runners throughout the race and each bit of encouragement I got from them made me feel all the more stronger. I ran my race just as I planned and surprised myself by finishing in 58:04. This was a huge accomplishment and something that I still look back on fondly. Gallup had such a tremendous turnout for the event and the camaraderie of the team made a big impact on me.

About a month after the Corporate Cup I joined Ed in running in the Governor’s Cup 15k in Lincoln. After running well in this race I started to give serious consideration to the Lincoln Marathon. Ed was dead set on running it and had been talking about it for quite some time. The thought of it freaked me out. Never in my life had I given a thought to running a marathon. It was never a goal of mine and something that honestly sounded horrible. Why would I want to do that to myself? Why would anyone want to do that to themselves? Ultimately I ended up deciding to throw caution to the wind and signed up for the full marathon. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it but I was willing to give it a try. Ryan crafted me a plan to stay active and get in some miles until the marathon training actually started the last week in December.

It was also around this time when Carrie Adams posted something on Facebook about the Beer and Bagel Run at Quarry Oaks and the creation of a running group called the Mud Mafia. I had a blast stepping outside of my normal running and participating in this 4-mile trail run that featured beer at the end of it. Beer will always get me to a race. It was also great to become a part of a very supportive and fun-loving running group. I enjoy representing the group in races donning my Mud Mafia shirt complete with my Run DMC (my initials are DMC) nickname on the back of it. I knew that if I made it to the marathon I would definitely be wearing this shirt because it always gets a good crowd reaction.

December 27, 2010 was the official start of my marathon training. During the next 18 weeks I was scheduled to put in 435 miles, four days a week I would run and then I threw in some crossing training once a week occasionally. Each week built off the previous with several step back weeks built into the schedule where mileage is slightly less than the week before to get your body ready for the next push upward in miles. It was a daunting schedule especially looking at Week 15 which called for 40 miles, 20 of which came on the long weekend run. During this time I received a lot of helpful advice from Jeff Wilber who was in the midst of training for the Boston Marathon. He always took the time to share his experiences and eased any concerns I had at different points in training. He also loaned me a Hal Higdon book about marathons that had a wealth of knowledge and taught me a lot. Marathon training was a definite grind at times but it also featured several great moments. I mostly ran by myself however for my first difficult long run, 12 miles, Jim Collison organized a group run at Walnut Creek. Jim also was training for the Lincoln Full Marathon. Jim, Carrie, Dave and Jodi Seevers, Brett Barnhart and several others came out to Walnut Creek for the run and even though we were dodging ice patches on the trail it was a really great run. This also happened to be the day that Jim and Carrie started the Clock Blocking revolution so it was noteworthy on several levels.

Part way through marathon training and after several beers at Clancy’s I convinced my best friend Dave Batko to sign up for the marathon. He had run the Lincoln Half Marathon last year but hadn’t done much running since then. I’m pretty sure there was some regret the next day but he sucked it up and went with it. He was instrumental in getting me through long runs of 14, 16 and 22 miles during training. We would run laps around both lakes at Zorinsky which ended up being about 7.33 miles. After each lap we would stop at the car to rehydrate which helped break up the runs a bit and made them more manageable. Each week of training and each long run under the belt increased confidence that this goal would eventually become reality. Everything was going according to plan until about three weeks before the race. At this point my left knee suddenly started giving me a lot of pain and caused me to miss a training run which hadn’t happened up to that point. Previously I had dealt with calf pain and some soreness around the ACL but nothing that felt quite as painful as this knee. I started icing it and elevating it every night and occasionally it would feel a bit better but the pain would always come back and was something that I would have to put up with until after the race.

The two weeks leading up to the race started the tapering process and the miles ran started to lessen all the while the stress and anxiety about the race started to increase. I started to eat less since I wasn’t burning as many calories and during this time I increased the amount of fruits and vegetables that I was eating each day. I also started taking Glucosamine as recommended by Jim as a means of maybe getting a little pain relief for my knee. There was a lot of tossing and turning at nights during this time because I had no clue what to expect for this race and it was something that I had been preparing for so long I didn’t want to let myself down or all of those people that have supported me along the way. I put a lot of pressure on myself and knew that my original goal of just finishing wasn’t good enough at this point. My goal had transformed from just finishing to shooting for around 4:40 to 4:30 to 4:25 and finally aiming for under 4:20 which would put me under 10 minute miles for the race. I ended my marathon training having put in 457 miles and I had slimmed down to 147 pounds.

The day before the marathon I picked up my packet so that I could get my race number pinned on my Mud Mafia shirt and have everything all ready for the next day. Needless to say that night I didn’t get very much sleep. I had my alarm set for 4 am on race day and was up well before that. Dave came over and picked me up about 5:15 am and then we made the drive to Lincoln. At this point the nerves were pretty under control, I was tired but I was ready to get after it. I ended up meeting the Gallup crew at Morrill Hall for a team photo and then rushed over to the stadium to drop off my drop bag and use the restroom one last time. Dave and I then went to the start area and found the pace group that we were planning on running the race with. My nerves were going crazy at this point and the wait after the official start of the race seemed like an eternity. At about 7:19 we crossed the start line and the marathon had begun.

Pretty quickly into the race we realized that our pacing group had a couple of really obnoxious runners that talked non-stop and not in a good way. No, they were the ‘only 20 miles to go’ type and made it clear to everyone around how great they were feeling three miles into it. We had a sneaking suspicion that if they kept up this rate of chatting and general douchebaggery that they might not make it. Well, we know that one of dropped out of the race and never saw the other even after the turn at Holmes. Needless to say, eventually we separated from the pace group going faster on the bike trail and ran our own race from that point going forward. During the race I made sure to follow all of the advice I had received, start slow, get water or Gatorade at every stop, take in the crowd and their support. The people that came out for this race were absolutely amazing. I frequently heard Run DMC and Mud Mafia directed cheers which was cool. clip_image006I saw Jeff Wilber and his son pretty early in the race. It was awesome to see a familiar face especially since Jeff did a lot of mentoring for me leading up to the race.
Just after mile eight we encountered the first hills that a runner by us assured were worse than what we would later encounter at Holmes Lake. Getting past these initial hills felt great. Around mile 10 I started to notice that my big toe on my right foot was starting to hurt. It felt like the sock may have needed adjusted or something and maybe that would fix it but I just kept running and decided to just deal with it. Later after the race I would find a huge blister there. We had dealt with so much congestion for parts of the race that I was ready for the half marathoners to split off just so we could get a little more space even if it meant knowing that we were only half done and would have less crowd support. In the coming miles before the stadium I saw Brandon Mueller from Gallup and not far from him I saw my brother which both provided a big boost. Soon we would reach the stadium and suddenly there was only a hand full of folks within site. We ran a couple of pretty quick miles at this point seeing the elite marathoners pass by on our left now and make their way to Memorial Stadium. Earlier in the race I had noticed that my hammies and glutes were feeling really tight which I hadn’t really experienced much of during training and after 14 this became more apparent. I was hoping that we would get to Holmes Lake soon. It was nice on the second half of the marathon having more frequent water/Gatorade stops but I didn’t want to overdo it because I was determined not to use the restroom during the race. I would soon see my parents for the first time which was very helpful at this point. A few miles more and we reached Holmes Lake which would feature miles 19 and 20. Again I saw my parents and my brother and was thankful for that because I was starting to become pretty fatigued. This gave me a renewed energy, for a mile at least, mile 20 ended up being one of my fastest miles.

Around this time I saw Jim for the first time and soon after I saw Ed. I was glad I got to see them both on the course. I didn’t hit ‘the wall’ at this point like you hear is frequently the case but somewhere around mile 22 I think I was coming into pretty close contact with the dreaded wall. I knew I was counting down my last 10k but I was feeling so tired. Mile 23 was a slower mile for me but I refused to walk, I held strong due in large part to the encouragement of Dave. Shortly after mile 23 I saw Jeff Wilber again which provided another good pick-me-up and propelled me to a quick mile 24. By miles 25 and 26 my arms felt like they each weighed 50 pounds and I was laboring. I knew we were close but I also knew I still had work to do. Each little bit of incline seemed like a mountain. With lots of encouragement I made it to the stadium seeing Ryan Wolf right outside of it clip_image007providing support and then making our way onto the field and crossing the finish in a moment of both excitement and relief. That part is kind of a blur. I didn’t get a chance to look up a the video board and see myself I was too focused on that finish line. Receiving that medal afterwards and seeing the family again was awesome. I was overcome with emotion knowing that I accomplished something that would have seemed impossible a year ago. Final time 4:13:40.

Next up is the Lucket Bucket run at Quarry Oaks in mid-May, after that is anybody’s guess. All I want to do right now is rest for a bit and soak it all in.


  1. Great Story. I hope to have the same one someday.

  2. RUN DMC is the man...truly inspiring. Run because we can, and if we hit PR's and -splits on the way, EVEN better, but don't let it distract us from the real reason. Live longer, love longer, last longer! DMC in da house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!