I’ve literally laid in bed every night this week trying to find the right words for this recap. I felt like I nailed it last night in my head and now it’s all left me. I should have gotten up and headed to my dark office to get it all down. But I chose to sleep instead. I’m just trusting the right words will flow out of my fingers as I go.
If you have read my blog for any amount of time then you know I’ve been training for the Dallas Marathon for the past 5 months. I did my first marathon this past March in Napa with patella tendonosis in my left knee(for that race recap, click here). It was my “I haven’t finished my training and I have an injury so I’ll be thankful just to finish this” race. Not to say that all marathon’s shouldn’t be celebrated upon crossing that finish line, because they should. However, I had trained for a different outcome. And I had trained hard.
I’ll do a full review of the Hanson’s Method here in the next few days but in short, the method builds cumulative fatigue as you train. You run 6 grueling days a week and you do 3 runs at a hard effort and 3 at an easy recovery effort. As the marathon got closer, my body was screaming for a break. I took one week and backed off of training a little and it did wonders for me. I had some area’s that were bothering me in more of a potential injury kind of way which is why I cut one week back a little. I finished my last hard week of training and was feeling great. I started to examine the Hanson’s taper and panic began to hit. It’s not an easy taper. I decided I would finish it out through week 17 and then take the final week and back off. I was scheduled to run 26 miles the week of the race, not including the marathon itself. I ran 8.
I felt surprisingly calm the few days before the race. I knew I had done the work. I knew I was ready. When I chose the Hanson’s Method I had to choose a goal race pace to base all my workouts off of. I chose a 9:45 which would put me in the 4:15 range. I had been running faster than that but figured this was “safe.” So, as I went through training I found all my runs except my scheduled easy runs were faster than the scheduled pace. It made me feel as though my chosen marathon goal pace was right on target because I could easily hold it for my 10-13 mile tempo runs(and most ended up faster than that). I only had one bad 16 mile run where I ran slower. So, all in all going into race week I was extremely confident that I’d have the good experience I’d been dreaming of all these months. Wrong. So wrong.
I wanted to enjoy the race. I wanted to be present. I didn’t have any injuries going in so I assumed that I’d have some fatigue going into the last 7-8 miles but overall I felt confident that my body would hold up. It had endured hundreds of training miles, so why wouldn’t my body tolerate the actual race? I cut back my mileage during race week, took care of a sick toddler and did the normal December crazy mom routine. Christmas was right around the corner and there was so much to do. A few days before the marathon I noticed one of my running shoes was missing. I didn’t think much of it because I wasn’t running much but Friday morning I needed to go run. It was still gone. I have 3 kids. Losing stuff is as normal as breathing around here. Things always turn up. Always?
I didn’t have a back up pair as this was my first pair of this particular shoe and the only shoe I had trained in. Crap. Crap crap crap. How was this happening. I didn’t really panic. I wore an old pair for my Friday 3 miles and figured it would show up in the fireplace or refrigerator or at the bottom of a dirty pile of clothes. Saturday showed up and I still couldn’t find it. We decided the only legitimate option was to go buy a new pair. So I did. I had jumped into training with the previous pair pretty quickly with a little soreness in my quads but it went away after a few weeks. I figured this pair would be fine. Wrong again.
Sunday morning I woke up really calm. I had slept great for the night before a race and felt as ready as I could possibly be. I had been worried about the weather because Dallas is CRAZY. We had a strange warm front the day before and rain coming in on Sunday with a cold front. This means one thing…humidity. I have asthma and a severely deviated septum. Humidity is enough to sideline me on any given day, regardless of how well I’ve trained. It felt coolish that morning and I didn’t even check the humidity. I decided to run my best, be present, look up and enjoy what was happening around me. It all sounded so great in my mind. I tend to be a fairly positive person. I’d much rather think about the good outcome instead of dwell on the potential of something going wrong. The race started and I started with my running buddy and friend Karlye. We had decided to start together but that we were going to run our own races and not try to stay together. A few minutes in and Karlye took off and I decided to hold back a bit.
I knew I wanted to start out slow. This is my norm. I’m a negative split runner. I start really slow and gradually work into my pace. It’s usually a great thing for long distances. I started the first few miles at race pace but it didn’t feel fast so I decided to just hold onto it. By mile 3 I knew. I just knew I wasn’t in it. I decided it was probably just nerves and to keep my head in the game and keep running. At mile 6 the cramps hit hard and fast. I’ve never cramped. Ever. I was insanely well hydrated going into this race and had hit up the electrolytes and water so I knew I shouldn’t be cramping this early. The only logical explanation was the shoes. My quads felt like they were going to explode inside my leg. What. In. The. World.
Not only were my quads screaming, and exploding, and about to leap out of my leg, my gracilis(upper inner thigh) muscles were seizing up. If you run, you know this is disastrous. How can I run with these two major muscles not working? I was only 6 miles in for crying. out. loud! Panic hit and my mind went insane. I’ve trained so hard, how is this happening so early, do I keep running or stop, do I quit at the half(I came so close you have no idea), how can I run 20 miles in this much pain and discomfort, what went wrong, why is this happening today, I’ve run so many stinking miles and this happens today of all days. Those were all the thoughts going through my mind. I was mad and disappointed and ya’ll, I could just tell this wasn’t the type of thing that would go away. At that point not only was my body not showing up but my mind was out. I was done. Over it. I didn’t want to run and I sure as heck didn’t want to run 20 more miles that day.
I decided to get to the half way point and reassess. I knew there was a half route that I could take and just be done with it if I decided to. But I wrestled with that for the next 6 miles. I couldn’t quit. I could. not. quit. I knew my goal time was out the window. I came to the fork in the road…literally ya’ll, it was a fork. So appropriate considering what I was dealing with. I could turn left and go with the full or I could go straight and call this thing a day in less than an hour. I went left. I literally drug my body to the left. I decided my next goal was to get to Rob and the boys. I knew they would be somewhere between 14-17 so that was my next goal. I had to walk some when my muscles would seize. I’d walk a few minutes, it would subside so I’d start to run. I’d get a mile or so, sometimes less, down the road and it would hit again. At that point I was holding back tears. It was windy and rainy and humid.
Finally around mile 15 I saw Rob and the boys. They were cheering and I immediately broke down into tears. I think I had been holding in so much emotion, so much hard work, so much sacrifice, so much training over the past 5 months that I was more disappointed that I wasn’t enjoying the experience than I was about how slow I was going. Yes, I had a goal time. However, I had told myself going in that if that didn’t happen, I just wanted to be present and enjoy the race. I had worked hard and I was ready to go out there and run and enjoy the experience. I think that’s what got me the most. I was miserable. I got a pep talk from my biggest fan, my husband. He told me I could stop but that just made me want to keep going even more. I felt so bad he and the boys were standing out in the pouring rain waiting for me to finish. I knew this could take a while. So, no more tears. Suck it up and run…or walk. Whatever, just finish.
I kept going and found a system that seemed to work. When I was running I was passing people like crazy. That’s when I felt my good friends the Hanson’s coming to my rescue. Cumulative fatigue. It works. When the seizures in my legs(slightly dramatic but that’s what it felt like) would subside I could run. I’d fall right back into a good pace especially considering how far in I was. Then, it would hit and I’d walk. I power walked my hiney because the more I kept moving the better it was. I stopped several times to try and rub out the knots but it didn’t work at all. Looking back on it I probably spent an extra 15-20 minutes stopping to stretch, pee and talk to Rob and the boys. It is what it is but man, if I had only realized then that the stretching wasn’t helping. Hindsight is 20/20.
After my meltdown I decided to get to mile 20. Those next few miles were along White Rock Lake in Dallas and I had never been down there. It was so pretty and nice to run somewhere new. Granted there were 20 mph winds and heavy downpours(because at this point, why wouldn’t there be?) and I almost just had to laugh. I remember throwing my hands up at around the 20 mile mark when the rain really started coming down. Ok, Lord I said. I know you have a purpose. I know I need to stop throwing a fit(because I had literally been throwing a toddler sized tantrum in my head since mile 6) and I know I need to put my focus back on being thankful to be out here. Done. I ran those last 6 miles and honestly besides the leg situation, I felt really strong. In my mind I knew I’d be just fine if my legs were working. I felt the positive affects of my training and was passing people left and right, until I had to stop and walk. Blah.
Coming into the home stretch I saw one of my sister in laws best friends cheering on the side of the road. Bless her. She had no idea she’d get a giant wet and sweaty hug from me. She said you are so close and you are doing this!! I started crying…again. Good Lord. Get a grip already. She had no idea she was the person that got me to run that last mile. Someone I never expected to see and who I don’t know extremely well became this insane motivator. I just needed to see someone I knew and God knew that. How cool is He? So, I kicked it into gear and just decided to run. I hit a gear I didn’t even know I had at that point. I was like for real running! Who knew? Coming into that last .25 mile I passed a girl in a wheelchair. I had heard about her!! She had been in an accident weeks earlier and I had heard that her family and friends would be pushing her across the finish line. If I had been where I wanted to be at that point, I never would have seen her.
Going into this race my goal was to be thankful. I lost that. I lost it in those first few miles when my race got derailed. My focus went to myself and my disappointment. I knew my focus had shifted to myself and it took seeing this amazing girl to regain my perspective. The crazy thing is that a friend from church had told me about her weeks earlier. My goal going in was to be positive and thankful. Please tell me out of the thousands of people running this marathon, what the chances are that I would run right past her…at the exact moment she was coming to the finish line? God knew. I was running a marathon. Period. Be thankful. Period. As I ran up behind her I knew immediately who she was. And I immediately started crying. Sensing a theme? But seriously, perspective. That’s what it gave me. That could be me, but it’s not. I’m running and crying and she’s the one smiling. More tears.
I began to give thanks and feel joy that I was doing something I love. I’m crying just sitting here. So many things came to my mind and so many people that I know can’t be out here doing this. And here I am. Running. Healthy. Ann Voskamp says it’s impossible to complain when you are giving thanks. That’s the truth that started ringing in my ears on that last stretch of my second marathon. My second marathon, this year. So much to be thankful for. As I was coming down the hill through the massive crowds toward the finish line I didn’t even feel tired. I was flying. I know I probably wasn’t, but in my mind I was. The cramps went away for that brief time and I felt like a real live runner crossing that line. The sun popped out. So appropriate. I crossed the finish line and had already had my good cry so I grabbed my medal and water and tried to find Robbie.
A lady came up to me and said, “did you just run the half or the full? and I said the full, she said “that is amazing! You don’t even look tired!” If she only knew. I found the boys and we hugged. Jake and Josh were so sweet and supportive and concerned since they saw me lose it at mile 15. It’s something I think is so valuable that comes out of this process. My kids see me and my husband doing hard things. Things we love. It doesn’t always go our way. They may lose a game or fail a test or fight with a friend. It’s life. They supported me and got their focus off of themselves for a little bit. It’s healthy and something I think we never thought would come out of this crazy racing life we started all those years ago.
So, this wasn’t the race I wanted. However, God seems to have this way of teaching me through situations that are just hard. I knew that yet again, He was going to use my marathon story in a different way. It didn’t involve me crossing that finish line in 4 hours, not even close. But, the things I learned and was reminded of in that 26.2 miles will go with me forever. It was perhaps the worst race I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t my last. I’ll tackle this marathon thing again. I have a lot of life going on and need a break from the distance for a while. I need goals that are challenging and fun but that I can fit into a packed schedule and that I can do while also studying for my PTC. I’ll focus on the half and getting stronger and faster. For now. During the race on Sunday I said to myself I’m NEVER doing this again, as I’m sure many runner’s say during the course of a marathon. And yet it only took a couple days for me to decide that it’s not the end for me. I’ll have another chance. And I’ll take it with gratitude and thanks regardless of the outcome. Oh, and in case you are wondering….