Dandelion Growing Wild (Part 2)
Today we're posting Part 2 of the excerpt of Kim Jones' memoir "Dandelion Growing Wild." Jones (pictured) is a two-time Twin Cities Marathon champion, winning the race in 1986 (as Kim Rosenquist) and 1989. In the excerpts, Jones tells the story of running the 1985 and 1986 Twin Cities Marathons. Find Part 1 here. "Dandelion Growing Wild" is available in Kindle format and can be ordered at Amazon.com.
By Kim Jones
People expected a lot from me after placing second in the 1985 Twin Cities Marathon, but it wasn’t their pressure that got to me. I had been through a turbulent year and I was mentally drained. I went into races tired. I raced tired. I looked tired. It was a struggle to place even in the top ten to earn prize money.
When my coach, Benji Durden, noticed that I was dragging in many of my workouts, he asked, “What’s going on?”
“It’s not from over-training, the pressure of racing or proving myself. I’m going through a terrible family crisis, a life-altering situation. I’m unsure of what to do.” I didn’t tell him the full story … I was too ashamed.
“You’re going to have to pick yourself up out of this slump and get fired up about the marathon,” said Benji in a strong decisive voice. “Put all of this wasted energy and frustration toward your training and racing. You need to pull things together and focus on Twin Cities. This is the most important race of your life.”
Shortly after that, I had to run the biggest and most crucial marathon of my life – All the while, I tried to focus. I had no idea what I could do in the Twin Cities, but I was going. I knew I was prepared and as always … I was hoping for the best.
All I had was hope. No one had ever taken that away from me.
“You need to pull things together and focus on Twin Cities.
This is the most important race of your life.”
The week before the Twin Cities Marathon, I went through my pre-marathon routine. It worked so well in 1985 that there was never a need to change it.
Sunday: 17 easy miles, to start a depletion process. After that run, I would eat mostly protein and fat to starve my system of glycogen – carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles and used for fuel during exercise. That was fine with me, because I love steak, burgers, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts, which are the main ingredients of the depletion diet. I also ate a lot of vegetables and salads, which are low in carbohydrates. I would eat just enough carbohydrates to keep me sane. That was my diet through Wednesday afternoon.
Monday: 4 mile run
Tuesday: 7 mile run, which included a one-mile time trial at 4:40.
Wednesday: 13 miles very slow around noon to ensure that depletion was total before beginning my carbohydrate loading, which would allow my system to start hoarding glycogen/carbohydrates because it was starving for them. Before and during that run, I was irritable, lightheaded and forgetful. Running was a huge challenge with so little glycogen to burn for fuel. After the run I ate everything I’d been craving during those three days of depletion, and then some. I’m sure I did most of my carbohydrate loading in the first hour. I was beside myself, eating everything in sight. I ate as many healthy, and some not-so-healthy, carbohydrates as I wanted: potatoes, pasta, rice, cereal, pancakes, breads and many desserts. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, along with a big glass of skim milk, was my favorite. I also ate a few vegetables, many fruits and a small amount of fish, steak or chicken for protein.
Friday: 4 miles easy
Saturday: 4 miles easy with 4x 20-second strides at marathon pace
Sunday: The marathon
The day before I was to leave for Minneapolis, Mom set out to drive the seven hours from Port Townsend, Washington, to Spokane to take care of my daughter Jamie while I was away. Just 90 minutes out of Spokane, in Moses Lake, she managed to crash into the wall of an underpass on I-90. Mom was trying to get her life back in order after the death of my baby brother and seemed to be doing much better, and I thought a chance to get away from Port Townsend would help her. The crash certainly wasn’t what I had in mind.
My husband Kelly drove to Moses Lake to pick Mom up and bring her to Spokane. She was a little bruised and beat up, but seemed fine and reassured me that she could take good care of Jamie. I knew she was OK when she started joking around about the accident. She told me that when the police officer helped her out of the car, she had been in shock and couldn’t answer when he asked, “Is there anybody else in there?” When he leaned through the window into the back seat to check for himself, he put his hand directly into a spilled container of fresh oysters that Mom was bringing for us.
“It was awful, Kimmie,” she said. “He screamed like a girl when he jumped back from the car. He thought he put his hand into somebody’s guts or brains.”
Twin Cities Marathon ~ October, 1986
On Thursday, Kelly and I left for the Twin Cities, along with Don Kardong and Mike Brady, who also planned to run. It was good to have them along as a distraction because I was worried about a lot of things. Leaving Mom and Jamie in Spokane, hoping Mom was OK and not hurt too badly. The pressure was on … I felt I had to prove myself after placing second the year before. Twin Cities was the U.S. Championship Marathon and I would have to place in the top three to make the Rome World Championship team. It would be my first big race as a Nike athlete and I wanted to run well enough to justify the decision of Keith Peters, the Nike promotions coordinator, to take a chance on me. What’s more, I was concerned about wearing new racing shoes. There was so much stress around me that I had to sit back and mentally push it away. Perhaps I became mentally tough and able to handle stress from dealing with so much craziness as a child. Surprisingly, I managed to focus, relax and wait patiently for marathon morning.
I attended a press conference on Friday and spoke with a few reporters, but the only one who seemed to take me seriously was Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon back in 1967. She and Frank Shorter, an Olympic gold medalist, would be the commentators for the live marathon coverage on ESPN on marathon morning.
"It’s tough to be in the spotlight, the stress alone can drain a person."
The main topic at the Friday press conference among the athletes and media was “How are you going to run in these conditions?” The race day forecast was for subfreezing temperatures with snow and wind. As for competitors, the media spotlight was on Nancy Ditz, the #4-ranked runner in the U.S. who was being coached by New York City marathon champion Rod Dixon – I wondered if he remembered kissing me while handing out awards at the Honolulu Marathon.Most of the media seemed to think my second place the year before was a fluke, so no one asked me much of anything, which worked to my advantage. It’s tough to be in the spotlight, the stress alone can drain a person.
Over a relaxing dinner that night, I told Kelly, Don and Mike my plan for dealing with the freezing temperatures and snow. “I’m wearing my shorts and singlet, and no hat,” I announced. “I’ll wear gloves and my new invention – long tube socks on my arms, with the foot cut out to make an opening. This way I can take them off if I need to, but keep my gloves on.” It would be much better, I was sure, than wearing a long sleeved T-shirt and having to pull it off later once I started to warm up in the race. “Besides,” I added, “Wearing white tube socks on my arms along with my white gloves will make it appear as if I’m wearing long, elegant evening gloves.” We all laughed.
Mike said he was wearing just the bare necessities, as well. “We’re used to running in this weather in Spokane,” he reminded me.
My outfit was figured out and ready. Most of my competitors were going back and forth that night on what to wear and all the “what ifs” about the weather, but I had no second thoughts. I went to bed so exhausted from the turmoil of the past several weeks that I slept better than I had all year.
I woke up Sunday at 4 a.m. and enjoyed a pot of coffee with cream and maple syrup, a bagel with cream cheese, a big bowl of oatmeal and a banana. I was ready.
The U.S. Championship races started in the early morning hours, well before the citizens’ race, with the elite U.S. men starting several minutes before the women’s race. I walked out of the hotel lobby and directly to the staging area a few blocks away, where we could stay in a warm building until braving the miserable conditions to run to the starting line. I stayed in that building until the last possible moment, then headed out in my shiny royal blue uniform and “elegant evening glove” look.
All of the women in the race respected my accomplishments over the past year and knew that I paced myself well, and from what I could tell all but Nancy Ditz were keying their races on my race strategy. I had beaten most of them at shorter distances; however, the marathon is a totally different type of event. Experience is the key to a successful marathon, and a recent, positive experience really helps. Most of the other women had run more than two marathons, but I’d had a positive experience in both of mine.
As the men started their race, I noticed that some of them were wearing heavy uniforms. One of the favorites, Jon Sinclair, had a long-sleeved thermal top under his singlet and warm tights under his brightly flowered running shorts. He also wore a warm winter hat and warm gloves. I could barely recognize him. Suddenly … I was a bit concerned about my scantily clothed body. Those long elegant evening gloves weren’t going to keep me that warm!
"We ran together, flowing along under the darkened skies,
our colorful uniforms glowing like beacons."
It was windy and just above freezing as we started out onto the dark streets of Minneapolis, with snow occasionally turning to rain. Nancy Ditz took off right away, while I stayed in my comfort pace. The pack of women stayed with me. We were by ourselves, with the elite men well ahead of us and the men who run with us in most marathons starting later, in the citizens’ race. We ran together, flowing along under the darkened skies, our colorful uniforms glowing like beacons.
At 5 miles, Nancy was running along with the press vehicle, only 100 meters in front of us. She wasn’t running any faster than we were, but she had the road to herself and could negotiate the tangents and dodge the puddles and slippery autumn leaves instead of fighting for space and bumping into a pack of nine other women all battling for the same pathway. At 6 miles, even though we were running at a 2:34 marathon pace, I decided I was running slower than my comfort level. I sensed that I needed to listen to my body and run off of perceived effort, regardless of what that might bring. With clean, fresh air from the snow and rain clearing out any pollens, dust or pollution, I was breathing as well as my competitors with no worry of having an asthma problem.
I ran right up on Nancy and then hesitated. We glanced at each other as we ran stride for stride, nudging, elbowing and clipping one another in an attempt to control the pace as we avoided the puddles. She lengthened her stride as I lengthened mine. She seemed to have a bit of an attitude. Hmmm. I immediately passed her. As I was hugging the corner around the next turn I almost tripped over something. I turned back to see Rod Dixon, her coach, kneeling on the side of the road. What the ... he’s analyzing my stride! He got up and ran with Nancy for a short time. After his feedback, she let me slip away, possibly because she knew it was cold and slippery and that I would have to brave the wind alone. She seemed content to stay in second place, believing she had the best chance of winning the race because she was more experienced and I hadn’t run faster than 2:35:59.
We'll post the third and final installment of the excerpt from Kim Jones' "Dandelion Growing Wild" in a few days. The book is available in Kindle format and can be ordered at Amazon.com.