Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Marathon

Settle in, this is going to be a long one.

The race started late and it took forever to get across the start line. I was already anxious about the 6 hour time cutoff so taking so long to get across the start was nerve racking.

Once I finally did cross the next few miles went by quickly I was going fast, but figured it was okay because the first several miles of the course were pretty flat and I should make good time where I could. My heart rate was also pretty high but I was still feeling good. I was having a great race, I had put a ton of time between myself and the 6 hour marathon pacer. At mile 5.5 I was joined by my friend Sarah, and it was so great to see her. I was enjoying myself, we were chatting up a storm, and just enjoying ourselves. Not to shortly after another friend, Jamie, jumped out of nowhere. I was shocked. Jamie was supposed to meet me around mile 20 or so, and her she was at mile 6.5!

The three of us continued on. I was so distracted by the two of them that I didn't noticed I had skipped a couple of my walking intervals. My heart rate was still high, but I still felt good, so I wasn't too concerned. In the back of my mind I thought, "Well, maybe I should be pacing myself better, but you know it's probably okay." I also ended up seeing my awesome husband Nathan on his bike and my good friend Emma at this point.

Sarah had to leave at about mile 8.5 and Jamie continued on with me until about mile 9.

Right before mile 10 the marathoners and the half marathoners separated. I felt adrenaline at this point because I knew that it was about to get serious and to a no turning back point. As I'm following the arrows to continue on the course and not turn back towards the finish an official abruptly stops myself and another marathoner and informs us that we didn't make the time cutoff and we have to complete the half marathon course.

I was livid. And the conversation went something like this:

Me- "NO!!!! NO!!!!!You can't do that!! The race started late! I'm MINUTES ahead of the 6 hour pacer."

Race official- "I'm sorry, I can't let you continue."
Me- "NO!!! NO! You !&*#$ ?%7*?!?^!? !?$$&&7!? ! How can you do that!?! I'm ahead of the pacer!?!?! I'm going, please let me go!!!"

Race official- sighs "OK, I didn't see you....go."

Now, I have to digress her for a second. In my 27 years on earth I have never really screamed at someone. Harsh words, possible elevating tone, but not like a full out scream. All that changed on Sunday. I REALLY ripped into that Race Official, and I honestly felt bad about it later. He was just trying to do his job, and I screamed at him and said things that were, um..... pretty freaking bad.

But anyway, I kept going but I was totally on edge after that. I was worried I was going to end up getting pulled from the course now because I screamed at the official (because yeah, it was bad). But I was also angry, that it was completely unfair. Then I quickly thought that for some reason Nathan and my friends that were supposed to meet up with me at later points in the race would hear that they started turning runners around at the 10 mile and would assume that I got turned around too. I grabbed my phone and called Jamie because I knew she probably had her headset in and would hear the phone. I quickly told her they tried to turn me around, but I kept going and to let Nathan know to continue.
The race quickly got very, very lonely. This particular event had 12,500 half marathon runners, 3,000 marathon runners, and 400 marathon relay teams, so once I broke away from the half marathon runners the course was pretty empty. At this point, I was running through Forest Park. I was still making incredible time and realized that I was close to hitting the halfway point and that I was going to easily going to beat my last half marathon time by a couple minutes.

Right before mile 14 things started going downhill though. I was starting to feel the heat that I wasn't used to running in and then I started feeling nauseous. At this point Nathan was with me and I told him I was feeling rough. I then started to panic a bit. I was drinking water but by now what was in my bottle and what was at the aid stations was warm. Nathan offered to ride ahead of me and go to a gas station to buy cold water, but I told him I didn't want him to leave me.

At mile 15 I was so relieved to see, Jordan, another friend that offered to run with me. I told him things were going kind of rough. Jordan told me I looked like I was doing good. The next few miles were all kind of a blur. We hit lots of hills. LOTS.

I couldn't run up most of them, so while I tried to stick to my planned walking breaks, it didn't always happen. I tried to get some speed on the downhills as much as I could, but it was tough. I was still nauseous and hot. At some point in the next few miles, the 6 hour pacer caught up to us. I tried to stay with him but it just wasn't happening. My legs were getting cramped and I was pretty sure I had a toe bleeding because my feet were in pain.

At this point, I felt pretty defeated. The cutoff team was ahead of me and even with Jordan doing awesome to keep me going I knew I couldn't catch them and maintain that pace for the rest of the race. We were hitting more and more hills and they just didn't' seem to end. The "sag" wagon pulled up beside us and asked me if I planned on completing the race. I thought, Oh God, this is it, they are pulling me off the course. I said, "Yeah, I want to complete it if that is OK." Yeah, I don't know where that girl was that screamed at that race official two hours earlier, cause at this point I was a totally different person. Sag wagon nodded and proceeded to hang out behind us for about a half a mile more. He then pulled up and told me he had a few runners that he needed to drop off and he would come find me in about 30 minutes in case I couldn't continue.

Even with the defeated feeling lingering, I was still in a pretty good head space. I had ran an amazing 13+ miles and was so happy about how I had done thus far. At around mile 20 Jamie met up with us again and I was still nauseous, hot, and cramped but by now the cramping was happening from my shoulders to my feet. My heart rate was still high considering how much I had been walking. I really wanted to throw up and thought I was going to a couple times but it wasn't happening.

Another van pulled up and Race Director/Official (Mike) jumped out I because I had read the rules 1000 times I know exactly what he was going to say. He told me that I could finish the race but I wasn't going to get a medal, finish time, and I would have to take a detour because they had to open back up Forest Park Parkway and their weren't sidewalks I could go on. When he said the part about not getting the medal my heart hurt just a little. It sucked to go through everything I was going through and not get a medal. But I told him that I was aware of the rules and I did want to continue. I thanked Jordan for everything (he had already been with me a lot longer than we had planned) and he went ahead and left since Jamie and Nathan were both with me. Jamie ran to get me a bagel thinking it may help the nauseous feeling and Nathan continued on with me. The bagel did help with the nausea, but the cramps were still there and getting worse.

The last few miles were the worst, my whole body was tense and the heat was just awful at this point. Nathan left Jamie and I at around 24 to ride ahead and let the people waiting at the finish line know that yes, in fact, I was still coming. When Jamie and I finally got to the last block and we could see the finish line, Jamie convinced me to run the last part in. As I was getting a few hundred yards away Race Official Mike pulled up in his van and told me he was happy that I finished. I thanked him best I could and continued on over the finish line as my mom ran up to greet me.

(Even though it's super shaky....Nathan apologizes, he told me he was excited....here is the finish line video. That white van on the right is Race Official Mike)

I tried to get happy and excited, but I was soooo exhausted. (as you can see from the video) It was so good to see my mom though. She was just beaming with pride and was very happy to give me (drumroll please) A FINISHER MEDAL!!!

From what my mother told me, she had been waiting at the finish for me and the volunteers had thought the last runner had finished so they were going to start packing up. When she informed them that I was still out there and I WOULD be finishing. Not only did a volunteer offer her a medal to give me, but the guy doing the timing left the mat up, and the volunteers said they were happy to leave the finish line up. An EMT even stuck around to make sure I wasn't dehydrated or collapsing. I was shocked and so happy about this, and it certainly made my day.

Also cheering me on at the finish and taking pictures were Kristal, Chad, and baby Isaac, who had been patiently waiting awhile for me to finish. Kristal managed to get this picture of my mom and I and even though I have total ugly cry face, it's still one of those amazing moments I am really glad was captured.
My Garmin time was 6:40:14..... yep, way past my goal time of 6 hours because of all the walking I had to do. At this point, I'm going to get brutally honest with you about how I feel about the marathon. I am so proud of myself for completing it. I truly did give this race everything that I had, but it still didn't turn out the way I wanted it to and I see three major reasons why this is the case:

1. The heat. I don't care what anyone says, with the combination of full sun and the temp it was HOT on Sunday. And because none of my training had ever been done in that kind of weather, it killed me.
2. The hills. If you are a long time reader of this blog you know that hills scare me. For the first 14 miles of the course I feel like I rocked the hills. I was especially proud of myself for not giving up on the ever scary Forest Park hills. But when I hit Clayton and the hills just kept coming and coming and coming, it killed me. I knew hills would be a challenge, but I wasn't at all prepared for the challenge of this course... I admit it.
3. I had really been burnt out on running for a good month. Don't get me wrong, I do love running, but it became painfully obvious that I wasn't in love with marathon training. Even when I switched to what I thought would be a better plan for me, it still seems like I lost a lot of my running love. I think mentally I wasn't prepared for the race and a lot of it had to due with the burn out. But that isn't to say if #1 and 2 didn't happen that this would have been my demise, but I think the combination of the 3 really hurt me.

What it all comes down to though, is that I did complete it. Again, being brutally honest, part of me feels like I was a bit of a let down (to others, not really myself) for walking so much at the end, and I know I am not beaming with pride and calling myself a marathoner because of this, but I still feel like a completed an honest race and I didn't have much more or anything left of myself to give. I am just going to have to learn to deal with the fact that to the running community may not think my marathon was as much of an accomplishment because I walked so much. But, I just need to get over that. In 18 weeks I accomplished great things, and I need to focus on that and not what others have accomplished.

So many people have asked me if I would do another marathon. At this point, I can't really imagine going through the training again, but I'm still in a place of being really burnt out. The plan now is just to get my running love back, because at this point, it's gone. I'm going back to basics and going to try and get out of run/walk intervals and into more running with a fluent pace. I'm planning on a couple half marathons in the Fall and then I'll just go from there. I also REALLY want to start triathlon training, but it's an expensive sport and I know jumping into it too quick will just cause more burnout. However, I did just purchase a nice bike and plan on doing more cycling.

Now, I know this post is already a novel, but there is no way I could have made it through today without some amazing people helping me, so I'm gonna take this chance to say thank you.

I have some great dailymile friends that have been not only helpful but inspiring in my training. All of them are awesome, but a special thank you to Ann B., Christopher B., Doug M., Ali W., Samantha, and Jason E. You guys have all at one point or another kept me going.
To all my friends that recorded messages for during the race. I laughed, cried, and enjoyed them during race and I still am. They were all so awesome, thank you for recording them.

To Sarah, you have been such a good friend the last few weeks and you truly helped me keep my sanity and I was overjoyed that you were able to run with me on some of my "good" miles. I can't wait to do the 20 mile walk with you. And of course, Sunday couldn't have worked without your amazing husband. :)

To Lauren, if I ever had any doubts about myself or my abilities I just had to think that you were one of my biggest fans. It kept me going more than you know, and I can't wait to be at the starting line with you of a half marathon, because you are doing one! :)

To Kristal, thanks for doing Couch to 5k, because if you hadn't I probably never would have started. You have made me feel like I could do anything, your confidence in me has been a blessing.

To Ali, you are the greatest cheerleader a runner could ever ask for. I could always depend on you to give amazing running advice and do whatever I needed to feel confident in my abilities. I'll never forget the first time I ran outside was with you in South City (that was only 11 months ago, that's CRAZY!!!), you were a huge help then and a huge help now. Thanks for calming me down and keeping me sane.

To Jordan, thank you for your company, stories, and laughter as you ran beside me on Sunday. I would of had a very scary several miles had you not been there, and I truly mean that I have no idea how I can ever repay you for the support that you gave me for those 5 miles.

To Jamie, I don't even know where to begin.....in the last year of marathon training you have truly seen me at my best and my worst. Sunday you were the most patient friend anyone could ever ask for. Thanks for getting me a bagel, putting up with that annoying chick, and keeping me calm those last few miles. I have no idea where I would be without your friendship and support.

And finally to my amazing husband, Nathan. You probably won't read this, but I love you so much and after Sunday, you definitely get husband of the year. I would have been lost without you and certainly would have died of thirst. I'm sorry you only got two hours of sleep on Saturday night, but if you hadn't been there Sunday, I don't think I would have finished the race. I can't wait to cheer you on in your bike race next month.
If you are still with me at this point, thanks for reading and the support. :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick update from a Marathon finisher!

I plan on writing a much bigger, longer post with pics and perhaps some video. But here's the quick cliff notes version I posted on my dailymile page:

I COMPLETED THE MARATHON!!! Wow, what a race. I did amazing the first half (went too fast though), PRing by a couple minutes, but around mile 15 I started declining quickly. It was wayyy hotter than I had trained in which kept making me feel like I was going to vomit. And I wasn't prepared for all the hills in Clayton and U city. By mile 20 my entire body from my feet to my shoulders were cramped, but I was determined to finish even if I had to crawl across the finish.

Because Go! has a 13:44 per mile time cutoff, I had to move to the sidewalks at mile 20 and take a detour off the course at one point (because of not being able to get on FP parkway), but I have to give huge props to the race director that coached me back to the finish line. He was so supportive and met up with me at least 6 different times on the course. Right before I finished he pulled up in his van and told me he was really happy that I stuck it out.

I crossed the finish line with a great group of people waiting for me. I don't know how she did it, but my mom managed to talk the crew into keeping up the finish line and saving out a medal for me.

Even though I didn't finish when I wanted to or how I wanted to, I still finished. Do I wish the race had gone better? Of course. But am I still proud of what I accomplished? Absolutely.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to get a little more positive!

You know what instantly makes me feel better? Surrounding myself with friends that love and believe in me. Genius, right?

Last night I was fortunate enough to have a bunch of really great people in my house for dinner and to help me with a small "project". Near the beginning of my training, my awesome husband, Nathan, came up with the idea to record my family and friends saying messages that he would convert into mp3s and put on my iPod for during the race. I LOVED the idea. So last night I cooked a massive amount of lasagna and a bunch of my really good friends came over to help me carb load and do some recording.

I am not listening to any of the messages before Sunday, but everyone got super creative and really into the whole thing. I had a friend bring a banjo, one wrote out a speech and another recorded a message that was well over 6 minutes long. I am so excited to hear them and I think it will be a great distraction and awesome motivation for the race.

Even though I didn't hear the messages, everyone that was in my home was just so encouraging. I lost count on the number of times I heard them say they were proud of me, they thought it was awesome, etc. I cannot even begin to express how much I needed last night. I have always had an amazing support system in my friends and family, but last night just opened my eyes to how many people are behind me completing the race. Am I still nervous? Absolutely. But I feel so, so good about the race now and I know I wouldn't have gotten that attitude change without last night.

So if you were at my house last night. Thank you...you all are the greatest and I feel so much better about the race.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Marathon is Sunday

I expected to write this post later in the week, but what the heck, no time like the present. I apologize as I know it is going to be a little all over the place, but that is kind of how my mind is working right now.

If you couldn't tell from my last post, I am pretty burnt out on running. In all honesty, I have been for the last few weeks and it's finally hitting me super hard. Not much of me is excited for this Marathon on Sunday and that really upsets me. I really want my running joy back. Even getting personal bests on my short routes doesn't excite me, and that used to make my day (or week).

In order to get in a better head space I have been trying to remind myself of why I decided to do the Marathon in the first place. More than anything I wanted to do the Marathon because I thought if I could do it, then I could do anything. After running a Marathon it seemed like nothing would be impossible for me.

This Marathon isn't impossible. Just because the last few weeks haven't been great doesn't mean that I can't do it. I just need to keep reminding myself of that and beat it into my brain. I need to think over and over that 15 months ago that running 3 minutes seemed impossible and that I kept going. I need to think about those completely humbling times that someone told me I was an inspiration to them.

The last week has been a roller coaster of emotion. I have completely flipped out and considered unofficially dropping down to the half Marathon because of the last few weeks. But if I do that, I know I would never forgive myself for not at least trying. For my sanity, I need to give everything I have on Sunday, and if for some reason it isn't good enough, I just need to know that I gave everything I could and I can move on with no regrets. In fact, I think No Regrets is the new motto for my Marathon. I may write it on my arm or pin something on the back of my shirt that says, "Please cheer at me and say, No Regrets!" so that random Marathon watchers can remind me of my pledge.

Thank you to all of you for sticking around during this crazy time in my life. Those of you that have taken the time out to say something encouraging have meant the world to me. I certainly I hope I make you proud and cross the finish line fist pumping and having ran with No Regrets.