Tuesday, May 22, 2012

behind every marathon...is a funny story



Alrighty, I am completely convinced that you can't train for a marathon without a bunch of funny things happening.  Or maybe I just need to take it more seriously.  I don't know, but my first marathon experience turned out to be a pretty funny journey.  One where I learned a lot.  So I eagerly set out to do it again and thought if I could just fix my mistakes, I could run at my best and have a better experience.  (if you are interested, you can read the story of my first marathon  here.) I couldn't possibly have anticipated a whole new set of funny circumstances leading up to and occurring throughout the second marathon.  In fact, my second experience just might have been more funny than the first.

It all started in December.  A mere four months after running the first marathon...a mere four months after vowing to never do it again.  Well, I got all excited to do it again. hmmmmm. 

Dane and I planned to run together...until Dane had that pesky injury rear it's ugly little head again.  Sound like deva vu?  It totally is - the same thing happened last time.  Problem is, this time my excited ass already paid the non-refundable $110 entry fee.  If I could only learn to wait patiently.  Ughhhhh.  Poor Dane.  He decided to do a half marathon half way through.  It was a cold and rainy day, and about half way through the race he felt the familiar pull of his soleus muscle.  I think I registered us about one week prior to that.

The first few weeks of training went well.  There was the occasional snow storm run and more treadmill running than I care for, but I felt good and completely motivated.  I bought books.  Three to be exact.  Hal Higdon's Marathon Training, Four Months to a Four Hour Marathon and some nutritional book for marathon runners.  I loved Hal's book - lots of stories and totally motivational.  I gave up on the Four Hour Marathon book when it repeatedly gave no brainer advice like, "if you are a woman it is completely acceptable if your sports bra shows under your tank top"  Really.  Ok then.  Since nutrition was the main "thing I did wrong" the first time out, I thought I would totally get into the nutrition book.  I didn't.  I can't even find it to tell you the name of it.

Then I was blessed with that nasty stomach virus that went around, minor setback missed one run.  This was followed quickly with strep throat.  A bit more of a setback, missed a couple of runs.  This was followed by bronchitis.  Major setback, missed several runs including two long ones. Ughhh.  Things suddenly were not going my way. 

The first attempt at a long running (while still doing quite a bit of hacking) was fifteen miles on a very windy day.  Beautiful route though...beautiful that is, until I was attacked by three dogs.  Interested in the details?  You can find them here.  I won't re-tell the story except that screaming for help and yelling at these dogs to go home at mile ten took my breath away.  It was a very rough run.

Heidi - sister in law, partner in crime!


Then there was the visit by my super fun sister-in-law.  When she came for the weekend, I was getting a little burned out on running on the treadmill and/or getting up the nerve to run in the dark (I REALLY don't love running in the dark...or on a treadmill).  I thought I was going to get up early and go for my long run on Saturday - and then stay up late with her Saturday night.  Problem was, I ended up staying up too late Friday night...and there may have been wine involved.  By midnight I had myself convinced that if I downsized to the half marathon it would be OK.  Saturday night was another late one and by Sunday I was just tired enough to not care.  Then came Monday.  I beat myself up a bit for being crazy and weak, then agreed with myself that another two weeks of sticking with the program would determine the final distance.

The next few weeks went great.  I loved the runs, especially the long ones.  The days got longer so running in the daylight in the morning was becoming more of a reality.  I kept up on my speed workouts, cross training workouts and gave special attention to my nutritional needs during the long runs.  My confidence was building.

Then, there was the run when I saw a car pull over to the side of the road.  It happens.  The fella who got out was rather old and dressed head to toe in camo.  It was turkey season...so again, it happens.  I don't think he saw me coming up over the hill.  I noticed him because I was running up the same side of the road that he pulled over.  I wasn't quite sure what he was going to do so maybe I looked at him a bit longer than I should have.  Then, thinking he lived in the house across the street, I figured I should say hi (it was one of my regular routes...I wanted to be neighborly).  Truth is, I really don't know what triggered what happened next.  As I approached I made slight eye contact and said, "good morning".  He responded with a not so friendly, "why don't you stare at this".  He then proceeded to whip out his thingy and go potty (that might be the mommy in me talking).  Really?  I ran home in a P.R., the whole time contemplating what I would say to him when he pulled up.  In hindsight, I don't think he was a perv...just some old guy who pulled down a dirt road to take a pee and was really irritated when my presence delayed it from happening. 

I don't know, but come on.  A dog attack and a thingy...what is happening to my roads?

me, desperatley looking for Dane for a chaffing stick
Dane, taking my picture while I am desperatley looking for him

Now, let's catch up to marathon day.  Oh wait a second, I don't know if I stressed the fact that I trained in cold weather enough.  I ran almost every outdoor run in my thermal running pants.  I purposely signed up for a spring marathon for the cooler weather.  For the love of Pete, I bought black running shoes.  I assumed I would be in pants for this race.  No one can wear black running shoes with shorts and feel good about themselves.  When Dane saw this ridiculous get up he called me Mike Tyson.  Obviously, I was nowhere near ready for the 90 degree forecast that came our way marathon morning.  I convinced myself it would be fine ("nice and cool in the morning" is how I pictured it) and it wouldn't hit 90 until I was cooling off and sipping beer.  I was a bit wrong about this.

mile 7 - feeling good -
see the guy behind me holding the sign?...he is Chris, the pacer...
about 2 miles from this I began realizing my limitations...and the sun

I began the race following the 4 hour pacer.  His name was Chris (not sure his last name) and he was amazing.  He said all the right things, was completely motivational and told us all sorts of fun facts (like that fact that he didn't run his first marathon until he was 45 and how he suffered a  mid life crisis last year and ran 3 marathons in 6 weeks).  I loved it because there was nothing cocky about him.  He was just telling stories and making us all feel like we could do it.  Around mile 8, there was a small hill and I started to wonder if I could keep this pace.  I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat and began contemplating whether it was worth it to try for 4 hours.  At mile 9, I stopped at a bathroom...and never caught back up.  I wondered who from the group made it and missed the camaraderie that was forming.  I was also relieved to be free to run at my own pace.

 By mile 11, I burned through all the nutrition I was carrying and realized that I missed one of two GU stations.  I saw Dane back at mile 7 where he offered me a pack of GU chomps...which I stupidly turned down thinking, "I feel great!  I don't want to carry them!"  Since we didn't really come up with a solid plan and I knew he still planned to go back to Saginaw to gets the kids, I didn't know if I would see him again.  I felt a bit panicky since I suddenly remembered with uncanny clarity how awful it felt to hit the wall...and there was NO nutrition on this course.  By the half way point, I decided that living to tell this story was more important than any time goal I might have had.  I reluctantly decided to walk through every aid station and keep walking until I felt "right" again.  I no longer thought about finishing, just making it to the next aid station. 

me begging for food

Somewhere around mile 18 there was a bowl full of gummy bears.  I quickly blocked out the visual of hundreds of sweaty runners sticking their hands in the bowl adn desperately grabbed two handfuls.

Then a miracle happened.  At mile 19, I spotted the unmistakable form of Oakley's pink sun hat, the bright and confused eyes of Truman and the brilliant shape of Dane's... backpack!  Don't get me wrong, I was happy to see Dane too, but oh, his backpack!  He had my chomps.  I stopped for a minute and got some much needed words of encouragement, some super valuable nutrition and a glimmer of hope that I could do this without hitting the wall.  Imagine how surprised and excited I was to see them again just few miles later at 22...I was revived and more fatigued than I have ever been - all at the same time.



Knowing how close the finish was kept me going despite the heat climbing into the high 80s.  Oh yeah, one fact that I forgot to mention...there was almost no shade on this route.  None.  We ran into the beating down sun almost the entire race.  Thank God for the good people of Midland, Bay City and Saginaw for spraying hoses on the runners, writing encouraging chalk messages in the road and enduring the heat to cheer everyone on.


Okay, so back to the story.  Somewhere during mile 23, I was approached by an angel.  A real live angel.  Her name was Suzi.  I remembered her from the beginning of the race (we were in that same 4 hour pace group).  I don't know why she chose to run next to me and strike up a conversation, but I am so grateful that she did.  She chatted a bit about her hamstrings bugging her and asked how I was doing.  I think I said something about knowing I can do it now that I was in the home stretch.  We exchanged marathon stories (her story took a bit longer to tell...this was her 22nd).  She proclaimed that she has never run in worse conditions ( high heat and no shade), she has done the "marathon shuffle" but never walked before today and some other stuff that just made me feel better.  For the two miles that we ran together, we went out of our way for hoses, hit drink stations for a little break and continued to utter words of encouragement.  Suzi made me smile.  She made me smile so much that people on the sidelines commented on the fact that I was smiling.  Together we ran past an official race photographer and I know I was smiling.  I can't wait to see that picture.  She pulled away from me at mile 25 and began her run for the finish.

Suzi in the blue.  number 414.

  It took me a bit longer to get there.  But I got there.

This finish was sweeter than anything I have ever experienced.  The crowds were calling my name (it was printed on my number).  I felt great knowing that I could see the end.  I was sure that the clock would say 5+ hours...but I didn't even care.  It was the proudest moment of my life...knowing that I made it through when, as early as 11 miles, I doubted myself. 

When I looked up at the clock, imagine my surprise when it said 3 hours and 45 minutes!  Then I realized that the clock I saw was the half marathon time...heee heee.  I looked to the right and saw that I was right around 4 hours and 35 minutes...holy shocker.  I was sure it would be way worse.  Five minutes slower than my first attempt but in WAY worse conditions...I'll take it.

I saw Suzi hanging out by the bananas.  I reached out and touched her arm.  She turned to me with a smile.  I said, "thank you".  There was a tear in my eye.  We bantered about the conditions.  I made the analogy that today was about survival.  She agreed.  I love that Suzi.  I told her it was great to meet her and good luck.  She winked and said, "I'll see you again".

Maybe she will.

I had to tell this story...thank you for hanging in there.  I know it was a long one.
so happy it's done (the marathon, not the blog post...although you are probably happy the blog post is done:),
td

p.s.
wouldn't ya know it that the very next day was breezy, overcast and a high of 70 degrees?
made me want to do it again...one more time, in better conditions.

2 comments:

  1. Great story!!! You are amazing! Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to hear about the next one!!! ;)

    ReplyDelete

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