by John Schrup
Normally, I am not one to write race reports. I like to read other people’s, some good, some not. There are so many components to a good race report. I don’t know, really, what makes one, but I know it when I read it.
So this is not my race report; it is my report on another’s race. And I only saw about 50 minutes of it, probably less.
Trey Hamlett is a good friend of mine. He has trained with Team Rogue now since, I think, late June or early July, I can’t remember which. Over the last several months I have grown to really love the guy. He is funny, modest, friendly, entirely helpful and generous of his time; just an all around good guy. Nobody doesn’t like Trey Hamlett. He is a Badger, a self named trio within Team Rogue: Trey, Brandy, Jessica. They are friends, confidants, competitors. Were they not training partners, probably they never would have become such good friends, so different they are from one another. Differences are acknowledged, but appreciated.
Trey’s goal for last weekend’s Dallas White Rock Marathon was to qualify for Boston. Not an unusual goal, specifically within Team Rogue, where the majority are generally faster than the average. Meeting as a group three times per week, Team Rogue trains at higher volumes and greater intensities than most. So Trey’s goal was not uncommon within the group. His performance Sunday, was uncommon by any standard. He needed 3:30. On a dismal, cold, wet day he ran a nearly perfect negatively split race (in Team Rogue we’d call that a good progression run) and squeezed from his body every single ounce of energy possible. He said, afterwards and after collecting himself, there was simply nothing left to give.
In truth, I almost expected it. His training, most of it over the most ridiculously hot summer imaginable, was right on. Beginning a few weeks out, however, it became clear that Trey was nearly cooked. His last long run was at San Antonio, the last 20 miles of the marathon course, where he later told me he thought the run was “brutal.” I was concerned that he was burnt out, that he was tired, that perhaps I’d given him too much and he was just this much over done. But we pulled the plug on training in the last two weeks, really allowing him to regenerate and refresh, having him do only two moderate workouts in the last two weeks. He had responded so well to that dramatic taper, texting me about his appetite, his mental and physical well being, the weather, the whatever it was, that I knew, had no doubt really, that he was good to go.
I drove up to Dallas from Austin on race morning, leaving at 3:30. He texted me when he woke in the hotel, and we exchanged a few words on the phone, mostly agreeing that the weather would not be an issue and that despite only about four hours of sleep, he felt really, really good.
And in that dismal, cold, wet day we waited first at the marathon/half marathon course split on Greenville Ave–Jessica, Christina, Michael and Minh. I was nervous and cranky. They, the Toxic Twins plus two, were upbeat and happy. Trey came by–this was at almost mile 9–and Jessica and I ran with him for a couple hundred meters. He was his relaxed, happy self, and we knew he was in a good place. He ran on his own with about a dozen others, in between the 3:25 and 3:35 groups, relaxed and strong. I remember noticing first that he had on an Aggie ski cap and carried in his gloved left hand his VESPA, for use at halfway, in the original container, and not in the travel shampoo bottle that I’d recommended. Just before the turn at 9, we let him go and I was immediately anxious to get to him at mile 20, where I was to join him for the last 10K.
On the drive down Mockingbird, we saw Trey at just past the 15 mile mark. I looked at my watch and calculated that he was averaging right at 8 minutes per mile, and was able to relax for a brief moment. Often, the lake is windy and I worried that he might have to work a bit extra here and use up valuable fuel. Due to the road blocks, it took us an extra few minutes to reach the 20 mile marker, and in those extra few minutes, my stomach began to swirl and cramp, and so I very reasonably slammed the last of my venti Americano. Toxic plus two dropped me off in the parking lot of the gas station at the hard right turn from Garland Rd, just past the spillway, the gateway to the hills. I jogged very slowly up the trail next to the road, cold and wet but now very, very excited for all the runners descending Garland Rd. to 20, beginning the best part of the race. Knowing that they were now in the thick of it, I yelled and clapped and tried to be as obnoxious as possible, anything to help them. I saw Don, I saw Jordan, then Todd and James, then Mandi, all Rogues. Of those, only Jordan, in full PR mode, looked really, really good. Todd, not far from his bitch wolf performance in Chicago, was on pace duty for James, and so I won’t include him in assessment.
When I pick up Trey at about 19 and a half, there was the obligatory exchange–how are you feeling, how is it going? He noted that at 19 he was 10 seconds behind pace and that he was going completely on feel. He said something about missing several mile markers, likely due to his own poor observations.
We rolled quickly past James, encouraging him to run with us. Over the timing mat at 20 I hit the split button on my watch and we began to run downhill toward the spillway. Brakes off, I urged, just float. Right on the corner, we passed Mandi, and soon after, Todd. About this time, Trey said the last thing he would say during these last miles: Just get me over the hills and I’ll make it. I knew that he was going to that place we all go in the last few, lonely miles. When the focus on the run becomes so intense, so totally encompassing, that almost everything else ceases to exist.
I miss a cup of water for Trey, and return to grab it, but thankfully Todd has already handed Trey the last full cup of water he will drink in the last 10K. Tall! Tall! Tall! we bark at him as we climb the gentle slopes of the Dolly Partons. I grew up in this neighborhood, and these hills are entirely unremarkable in the middle of an easy hour jaunt, but after nearly three hours of running, they would seem much, much more Partonesque. We turn left up Tokalon, I think it was, and climb a bit more. Every few minutes a glance at my faithful Soleus GPS tells me that we are running up hill right at 8 minutes per mile, but our rhythm is the same as it was on the flat stretch just before the hills, where the watch told me that we were hovering around 7:40 flat. Past Carolyn and Ruth, et al, in their striped Cat in the Hats, and I notice that we are catching people quickly. It is here also that I notice that Trey is no longer talking. At each water stop, I ask if he wants any, and all he can give is a quiet, short, “no.” He runs two or three steps behind me, and I can hear the occasional grunt in effort as we round a turn, or cross an intersection. My watch is set to beep every half mile, so I can check our pace, but I miss the beeps often enough that we are running on effort almost exclusively.
Tall! Tall! Tall! I preach each each time the course turns, or we cross an intersection, or when I feel Trey drop another step back. His breathing, his footsteps, his energy all tell me that his rhythm is solid and that we are in a good place, albeit tenuously. Swing your arms! as we exit a turn. Watch the walker! as we roll up on a cramped runner.
We are on Swiss, the long, gradual downhill, passing the beautiful old houses and stalling runners. It is here that I note that Trey has not been passed once; he is rolling through the field quickly, running easily half a minute per mile faster than everyone else in front of him. Down Swiss, I try to get all up with people on him–we’re going downhill, stand up tall, stand up tall. He never responds of course, and I begin to feel that he is finally beginning to really suffer, as the grunts and gasps become more frequent. Down Swiss I notice the pace in the 7:30’s, once seeing 7:20 high and the concern that we are going full gas too early.
Three point one miles to go, and I do some calculations in my head. C’mon Trey, C’mon, less that 25 minutes! Let’s go, brother! Let’s go, twenty-five minutes! There is a little bend in the road there, which I miscalculate as the last turn. I feel bad that I’ve prematurely put us in the last stretch, but he is unable to say anything and so I overcompensate with other, more enthusiastic support. Two point one to go, c’mon Trey, just 16 minutes left, c’mon you can do this, c’mon brother. He has skipped the last two or three water stops, and I wonder how dry his mouth is, if he is even aware of it. The last left turn and I notice that it is a gentle downhill, and that surely can help. But we are now within the throngs of stumbling, bonked marathoners and walking, talking half marathoners. Trey is now five or six steps behind me and he is grunting, suffering obviously. There are people all over the road and Trey is forced to weave between them, still in freight train mode, so I nudge a person out of our path here and there. To keep him rolling, I’m talking nonstop, mostly urging him to be tall and swing his arms.
The announcers voice is now clear and I tell Trey just a few more minutes, you can do anything for a few minutes, C’MON BROTHER! On the giant screen at mile 26, I see Trey behind me, looking more mechanical that fluid. We barrel past the 26 mile marker, and I hear Trey retching, throwing up whatever fluids were left in his stomach. C’mon Trey, let’s go, two minutes! Ninety seconds! Let’s go now! I remember there were two or three hard turns in the last couple hundred meters, and it frustrated me that there were walkers all over the road, clogging our path to the finish. C’mon Trey, thirty seconds, let’s go!
As we approach the finish, I look at the clock to check our status, to check to see if he’d finished the task. 3:30:38. I knew that his starting corrall was far enough back that likely his chip time was considerably faster. Tick. Tick. Tick. I stop my watch when Trey’s right foot steps on the mat. His face is white and he is hunched over, stumbling a bit. The effort of the last thirty plus minutes is completely written on him, and he holds himself up on the fence as someone drapes a mylar blanket over his back. He says nothing for at least a couple of minutes, just holding himself on the fence, his forehead on his forearm, his back heaving from the effort.
I’ve never seen an effort like that, so close up. He was full gas from almost the moment I saw him at 19 something. The pace went from eight flats, to seven forties in fifty steps and it stayed there for the last ten kilometers. He ran out of gas exactly at the last moment possible. He timed it perfectly. My eyes got a bit wet after that, and I applauded to no one the effort I’d just seen. One minute back of pace at the half, he bulldozed the second half of the course more than three minutes faster. His slowest mile in that last 10K, the one climbing in Lakewood, was still faster that any of the previous 20. He’d shifted gears and not let up, and as he put it, he could hear the clutch slipping, the rods clattering, the machine was coming apart.
After the race, in the giant, open building where the spent, hungry runners gather to recap the glory or nurse their wounds, Trey is bundled in dry clothes–gloves, hats, fleece shirts, jackets, all together he looks vaguely homeless. He lies on his back, shivering, convulsing, the muscles in his quadriceps visibly cramping, like a lightbulb flickering. Unknown but still familiar people notice his difficulty and ask if he’s ok. “I qualified,” he says.
Ultimately, his effort is the reassurance that we are all capable of more than we think. Of course, Trey is wired a bit differently than the rest of us.. He doesn’t comprehend “quit.” It is not that he won’t; he doesn’t know how to. He probably finds it amusing, baffling that others do.
Nevertheless, I was reminded on Sunday that each of us can answer “Yes” when asked the question, “Can you give more?”