Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - It was about...

So, yes, 2013 was the year I FINALLY ran my marathon .  That was HUGE for me.  Of course.  But, 2013 wasn't just about my marathon and me.  It was so much more. 

It was about some random guy on the internet whom I barely knew for some unknown reason taking on my charity case to be my coach for my swim portion of my triathlon relay team.  He got me back in the pool.  Pushed me hard.  Then pushed me harder. Listened to me bitch and moan.  Then pushed me more.  I found my love for swimming again.  I killed my workouts.  I found my peace.  For 5 months I swam strong and rarely missed a workout.  It was the most dedicated I've been to training since I was a swimmer back in high school.  I think it helps when I'm training in something I don't suck at (hello running).  It makes it easier to stick to it.   He also forbid me from running.  That was a hard one.  But, being smarter (or smart ass?) than I, he was trying to actually let me HEAL from all my injuries.  

When he did allow me to sprinkle in running with my training it was in baby steps.  Slow.  Short.  Unlike the old me who would just jump and and go.  He must have been onto something as with only a few weeks of short and slow I ran a  humid 5k and was only minute off my PR.  I was surely pleased with that considering it had been ages since I raced anything thanks to my constant injuries. 

It was about having post race brunch at coach's with a table full of The Internet.  Giggling hysterically over the inappropriate conversation with people I adore.  Runners. 

It was about my Tridiot teammates and I having another great race.  We put lots of pressure on ourselves to finish near the top.  The competition is tough.  Each time I am proud of how we do.  Each time we have a blast. 

It was about driving across state lines to finally meet a badass chick for only a 45 minute window of opportunity for breakfast.  Only to have it end up being an almost 3 hour breakfast. 

It was about never being alone on my training runs as someone always seemed to be running alongside me.   It was about early morning texts.  It was about late night texts.  It was about people checking in on me.  It was about me leaning on people. 

It was also about showing up for a half marathon with excruciating plantar fasciitis pain, perhaps more so because I wanted to see some of my favorite running friends.  

Sure I pulled out at the miles 6 medical tent.  However, I think that was how it was supposed to be.  I had to wait WAY too long for my chariot to bring me back to the finish/start.  During this time my DM bestie kindly was waiting for me (forever) after he finished and ran into one of our favorite people - someone I had never met!  

It was about meeting people unexpectedly and reconnecting again. It's certainly about making me giggle.  A lot. 

It was about being alongside one of my favorite people cheering on friends once again at the Chicago Marathon.  It was about getting old hugs.  It was about getting new hugs.   It was about walking alongside someone as he finished up the 26.2 miles after he had pushed himself through 9 very painful  and inspiring miles with a sudden back injury. 

It was about having friends from all points of my life standing alongside me at 6 a.m. on a very cold November morning as we were about to start the half or full marathons.  My marathon. Childhood swimming friends.  Running friends.   It was about having friends with me at the start line.   It was about having friends all along the way cheering me on. 

It was about my sweet niece and nephew cheering me on and giving me hugs when I really needed them. 

It was about an Idiot making sure I'd have my running club visor JUST IN TIME for my race.  #IRC4Life. 

It was about someone pacing a runner for 21 miles and then coming back on his bike and waiting for my slow ass at mile 20 to help me at a point I really needed company.  It was about someone dropping her sign at mile 21 and joining my posse and running alongside me.  It was about someone finishing HIS half and running back through the race to round out my posse.  It was about these people keeping me going when I was feeling my worst.  It was about them making me giggle when I wanted to cry.  It was about them getting me to the finish line. It was about a childhood friend waiting for me for hours after her half was done to run with me down the finish chute.  

It was about getting my medal and walking out to see all these people waiting for me:

It was about ending up my year by, after a three year injury sabbatical, running the Turkey Trot with my niece and nephew.  It's only because Ironkid and I ran side by side that I was able to push myself  harder than I have in years to miss my PR by only seconds.  She and I had a blast weaving in and out of people and pushing each other to the finish.

So, sure, 2013 was about my marathon.  But, in reality what 2013 was about to me was THESE people.  Because, without all these people my marathon would not have happened.  

So, thank you, thank you, thank you for making my year an epic year indeed. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


To be honest, I wasn't sure this would ever happen.

On Sunday I became a marathoner.  What. Did. I. Just. Say?  Wow.

For those that don't know, I've DNS the Chicago Marathon TWICE.  I also DNS countless 5k's and one half marathon.  I also had one DNF of a half marathon a few weeks ago after dropping out at a medical tent at the half way point. All due to injuries.

I really had given up on trying to start another marathon.  My body just isn't built for it.  But, then, my hometown announced it would have it's inaugural Marathon this November.  How could I not do this?  How could I not try?

I was hoping the fact that the race date was one month later than Chicago I would avoid some nasty hot long summer runs.  I did a pretty good job of juggling my training and getting those runs in on cooler days.  The first third of training went along well.  I got in my runs.  I felt pretty good.  However, as I got to the midway point of training, per usual, my body started to break down.  Soreness turned to pains.  Just before my half marathon I started to suffer from Plantar Fasciitis. Oh my, is that a painful injury.  Horrible to try to run on.  I did not run at all for almost two weeks.  Then DNF that half  and was off the foot for almost a week.  Ran a 12 the next weekend.  In pain. But, kept doing the exercises and wearing a special sock at night which all quickly made it better.

However, I had lost a lot of my training.  I had to build back up again.  While still suffering from a little pain. What I struggled with more, though, was my mental state.  I was in a pretty bad running funk.  I was feeling defeated.  Once again.  I was overwhelmed with the mountain of miles ahead of me.  I was overwhelmed with my work schedule and my inability to get in runs because I was just too tired.  I was..... stuck.  In all senses.

So, I cut out runs.  I had already cut out one run per week late in the summer because my schedule made it too hard.  I also worried about overtraining for my dumb body.  So, now I cut another run per week.  Nuts, I know.  But, mentally and physically I just could not do it.  I made sure I got all my long runs in.  Then one mid. If I was lucky I did one short.  IF.

I got through my 20 miler. Only because I met up with a training group who gave me the motivation to get out of bed that morning.  Also, because a woman I did not know, Maryann, ran with me start to finish.

Next thing you know I'm at the expo.  I went to the expo three different times.  Once to walk around by myself.  Another time to meet a friend and pick up my packet.  Then back again to meet another friend who decided at the last minute to run her half even though she wasn't trained. 

When I saw my bib with my name on it it really sunk in. The next day I would finally be at the start line for a marathon.  

Needless to say I couldn't sleep that night.  I woke up at 4:30, fifteen minutes before my alarm was to go off.  I gathered up my race gear, got dressed, texted some friends about our meetup and off to the race I went. I met up with my good friend Tom outside the port a potties, of course. We went inside the stadium to keep warm as we waited for the start time.  Warm and cozy in there with all the runners.  Also, real bathrooms.  With no line.  They were right about this being a "boutique race".  ;)  We huddled in there as other friends came in one by one.  

My childhood friend, swimming teammate, and fellow swim coach, Carrie met me there.  I have not seen her in, maybe 15 years?  It was fun to see her again and catch up a bit.   Other running friends, Janel, Melissa and Jim came in too.  Then my running angel, Michelle joined us.  She was not running today.  But, would be taking my place as a cheerleader.  She gave me some encouraging words.  Then, she handed back the band I gave her before her last marathon:

After giving out some of my bands to friends, I had thought I had saved one last one for me.  It appears I didn't.  Michelle was nice enough to lend me the one I gave her so I had one to wear for my race.  I was so glad I had it.

Race start was nearing so we all headed outside to drop our stuff at gear check and head toward the start.  Somewhere in that process I lost everyone but Tom.  We headed over to the start line and stopped short to wait for my friend (and Esprit de She triathlon teammate) Lisa who was texting me that she was on her way.  It got a bit close to race start, so Tom wished me well and went up to his pace time start.  I was just about to walk into the mass of runners when Lisa came up.  I'm so glad we found each other.  We have signed up for lots of the same races without ever having seen each other race day.  So, this was a first. Lisa had signed up for the half but decided not to do it.  She had some life crap going on recently and hadn't been running.  However, I kind of bugged her the day before to just go out and have fun.  With her husband's encouraging, she was a last minute yes to run.

  I was glad she was there with me because she kept my mind of being COMPLETELY freaked out.  Lis was only in short sleeves and shorts, and freezing.  So when I wasn't hugging her to keep her warm she was silently begging people to shed their throwaways.  As soon as clothes started dropping, Lisa started rummaging.   Oh my, we were laughing so hard at her.  Everyone else is shedding clothes and Lisa is picking them UP.   Then our conversation moved to the woman in front of us and her incredibly long false eyelashes.  We couldn't get over them.  And, why someone would wear such things for a race.  Again, it kept me from freaking out.

Next thing you know we are in the next wave.  And, we're off!  We take a few running steps.... and my fuel belt breaks and falls to the ground.  Bottles everywhere.  Runners jumping over them.  And, me.  Yikes.  Thankfully, before I could freak out, Lisa calmly gathered everything together for me, gently told me, "you are alright, you are alright" and we were on our way again.  Exhale. We ran up the first hill together, at which point I told the faster Lisa to have a great race.  Off she went.

The weather was perfect for the race.  It was low 30's to start, mid to upper 40's to end.  Clear blue and sunny skies.  It. Was. Beautiful. Loved it. The sea of runners in their colorful gear running down long stretches of road, snaking through the winding trails of the prairie path as the sun rose.... stunning.  Having a woman on a majestic horse ride alongside the trails as she cheered on everyone running by.... amazing. 

I felt ok starting out.  I never really feel good.  So, I kept it slow and let people pass me as they may.  Around mile 3 I saw Michelle and her sister Bobbi cheering.  So fun to see their smiling faces!   Around this time I also started to loosen up and noticed my pace dropping quite a bit.  I worried about going too fast.  My goal was to just finish.  Under 6 hours was the goal.  Slow and steady.  But, I also wanted this to be over.  Ha.  So, I started to go with the pace I was feeling.  For a bit.  Until I really started to worry I would crash.  I constantly was looking at my watch and slowing myself down.  But, I still felt like I was moving.  I came up on the 2:30 half pace group and ran behind them for a bit.  But, I felt too slow, so eventually passed them.  I could see the next pace group up ahead and was gaining on them.  But, then we hit the trails of Springbrook.  I knew we would have Stripper Hill (what Lisa and I call it when we run there).  I hate that hill.  I wasn't in shape to run that hill.  So, I walked it.   I lost some time here.

I kept a consistent pace going throughout these trails.  I know this area backwards and forwards.  So, I knew where the hills were.  Where the turns were.  It was so comfortable.  I knew there was a slight uphill in the middle followed by a nice downhill.  I couldn't wait.  I coasted down the hill and was ready to make the next turn when I saw someone in the crowd holding a sign.  With my name on it.  And, another sign, with DO EPIC SHIT on it.  It was my friend Greg.  I ran over to him and gave him a huge hug, thanked him, and told him I loved him.  He gave me some encouraging words and I was on my way.

Out from the trails at about mile 8 we headed through a neighborhood.  Again, I saw Michelle and Bobbi.  Yeah! Shortly after mile 9 I saw my family.  My niece, Jess, came running out to me and then they took me in like an Indy car at a pit stop. Jess, taking off my shoe to massage my cramping toes, my nephew feeding me a banana, my sister refilling my bottles.  My family made a great race crew.  Well done family!

Immediately after this, we hit the river path.  Half marathoners headed left and back to the finish.   Full marathoners headed right.... for another 17 miles.  I have to admit, that turn was tough to take.  Knowing they only had 4 miles left..... and I DIDN'T kind of broke my spirit a bit.   But, I had chalked up some motivation on the path for my friends at that point.... and I included one for me.  So, as I ran over it, I stepped hard on it.  And, ran on.

I was getting really tired.  My legs were already feeling it.  I was now heading into a part of the race I did not know . Neighborhoods I did not know.  I didn't like not knowing where I was running.  I struggled to keep going.  I started to take small walk breaks.  But, I kept moving.  It's at this time David passed me.  Talk about inspiration.

Shortly after mile 13 we hit a very long slow gradual uphill road.  It felt like it went forever.  I had no intention of running it.  I walked briskly.  Behind a bearded guy in a kilt.  He was my carrot. The hill never ended.  Thankfully, at the top I saw my family again.  They had just gotten there and were running out of the car.  Jess asked what I needed.  I said I was fine and just ran past them.  It was good to see them.  But, I needed to keep going.

More twists and turns through a neighborhood.  Then onto Green Valley.  Into the woods.  Onto the path.  Kind of in the middle of nowhere.  And, hills.  Lots and lots hills around every corner.  It. Was. Awful.  Shortly after 14 we briefly exited the trails onto a road.  To a beautiful long downhill.  It was wonderful.  I may or may not have raised my hands and yelled "wheeeeee!!!!" as I ran all the way down.  Ahhhh.  But, short lived.  Back to the hills.  Another very long stretch slowly uphill on a road.  It was pretty lonely out there.  No spectators.  Runners spread out.  I got passed by Santa Clause.  Talk about spirit killing.  Sigh.   Having to chase down Santa, well, sucked.

Then, mile 17, back onto the trails.  Thankfully, as we entered was an aid station staffed by a local boys high school cross country team.  They had all the energy and then some.  They were high fiving me.  Force feeding me oranges.  Just generally making me giggle.  I needed that.  Thank you boys.  Back on the trail I met Rob.  A man older than me on his 5th marathon.  We talked briefly.  Then passed each other over and over again the next few miles.

Mile 18.5 I came around the corner of feeling very alone on the trail to see a decent size group of spectators ahead.  As I got a little closer, I saw my family.  *Insert smile here*

I waved and they gave me a huge cheer as Jess ran over to me to give me another one of her much needed hugs and "You are doing great. We are so proud of you".

At this point my lower back was really hurting me.  The pain was going down into my left hamstring.  It was really preventing me from doing a steady run for long periods of time.  So, I asked for ibuprofen.  Then I started to take off.  But, as I did so, all the other friends and families who were silent as I talked to my family loudly started cheering for me.  It was awesome.  

I finally made it mile 20.  I knew the second I walked past this marker it would be the furthest I had ever run.  I got a bit emotional here.

Shortly thereafter, I exited Greene Valley trails.  Oh my was I happy to be out of there.  As I stepped on the road to run there was a small group standing there.  As I quickly ran by them I said, "Well, THAT sucked".  To which they all laughed.  As I took off I realized that one of these people was my friend, Derick on his bike.  He had mentioned to me he would be at mile 20.  But, I figured there was no way he would be there when I ran by.  I was surprised and thrilled to see him there.  He rode alongside me and chatted with me a bit as I tried to get some kind of steady pace.  He had run 21 miles of the race already pacing on a first time marathoner friend to her first finish (3:13.  whoa).  Yet, he was back here at 20.  Riding with me.  He is an uber sick fast runner. I am completely the opposite of him when it comes to running.  Yet, here he was supporting me.  Amazing.  He kept me company.  Talked to me when I felt like it.  Kept quiet when I didn't.  Slowed down when I walked.  Just what I needed. 

At mile 21.5 I saw Greg and Michelle together cheering.  I gave them both huge hugs.  Michelle dropped her sign and started running with me.  I told her I was ok.  She insisted.  So, now I had Derick on one side, Michelle on the other.  She and her bubbly chat kept encouraging me on.  At around 22.5 Tom showed up.  He had run his half.  THEN run back through the race to find me.  How awesome is that? VERY.  So, NOW I had Derick, Michelle, AND Tom on my running posse.  I felt like an elite runner being pace to a marathon win.  Ok, well, maybe not a win.  But, ya know. 

At mile 23 Derick took off.  He was not permitted on the path with his bike.  He had already got in trouble for that earlier.  So, I gave him a hug and thanked him and off Michelle, Tom and I went.  When we turned onto the path I felt a change.  A change of purpose.  Get. Me. To. The. Finish.  Not only were we only 3.2 miles away.  We were now on the path I run every day.  I know this path.  This is my path.  This is my home.  Literally. I didn't have to think about how we were 3.2 miles away.  I KNEW we were 3.2 miles away.  I knew how to get there.  

At mile 24 my friend Julie T was standing at a corner waiting for me.  She yelled my name.  I was surprised to see her.  She ran up to me and gave me a hug.  She was crying.  Oh, shit, don't get me started Julie.  Not yet.  I got 2 miles to go! It was wonderful to see her. 

Tom and Michelle kept me giggling and moving forward.  I'm not sure what we even talked about but I know a few times I had to stop because I was laughing so hard.  It sure helped keep
my mind off my pain.  Oh, I had to stop a few times for that too.  Whatever.  My walking became much faster.  So fast, that when I stopped my running to walk, Tom and Michelle could not keep up with me.  Well, let's state for the record that Michelle has an achilles injury and should NOT have been running.  And, Tom, well, he was into his 18th mile of the day.  So much for not running the full, Tom.  ;)  

One mile to go and the two of them were on me like white on rice.  Every time I stopped to walk they yelled at me (filled with love) to run.  Sometimes I listened.  Sometimes I didn't. I kept looking at my hand.  They both told me to stop looking at my watch.  I tried.  But, I looked again.  Tom gave me "a look".  I told him I wasn't looking at my watch.  I was looking at my hand.  Jay is a mutual running friend of Tom and mine. He recently was involved in a freak accident that left him paralyzed.  I wrote his name on my hand as a reminder when it got tough out there, when I needed to push it when I didn't think I could, that I would think of Jay. Be inspired by him.  Run. 

So, I ran.  And,  I passed Santa here.  Hey, I PASSED SANTA!!!!  

Final turn into the stadium area.  I was close.  I was oh, so close.  Ah, but, I knew what was ahead.  One final hill. A short, but steep and nasty hill.  I used to swim here as a kid.  I remember riding up and down this hill.  I surely knew it wouldn't be fun to walk/run up it.  But, with Tom and Michelle by my side. I got up it.  Swearing all the way I believe.  At the top Tom ordered me to run the rest.  I needed a big inhale and a moment to do so.  

But, just before the mile 26 mile marker I did.  I turned the corner and headed downhill (ahhhhhhhh) to the finish.  As I picked up speed Tom and Michelle let me go.  But, before I did I turned around to thank them both.

Then I ran. With everything I had left, I ran.  With all the injuries.  All the pain.  All the funks.  Everything that had held me back.  I ran.  

I hit the corner for the finish chute to find my childhood friend Julie F, who ran the half, waiting for me.  I was running as fast as I could.  I could not believe I was running into the finish line of a marathon.  Just like my first half marathon in 2008, I started to get emotional.  I started to hyperventilate.  Julie was talking to me, but I have no idea what she was saying.  All I was focusing on was that finish line.  And breathing.  She ran along side me as I ran to the finish, leaving me just before to run it in strong alone. 

I crossed the finish line. Got a huge hug from Julie.  Then I just stood there.  In amazement.  I couldn't believe it.  I really couldn't believe it.   One of the race directors, Bob, was there and came over and gave me a hug.  I had done some of the summer training runs where he was at, in addition to another marathon training group runs where I saw him.  It was very cool to get a hug from him.  He congratulated me.  I believe I immediately said, "Greene Valley sucked".  He laughed and said, 'yeah, I've heard that a bit today".

Julie and I went into the food tent.  Grabbed some water, oranges, whatever I could.  Oh, hey, Italian beef sandwiches? Come on..... gotta love a race with Italian beef!   When I exited the tent there stood my family, Greg, Julie, Tom & Michelle.   Jess ran up to me and gave me the hugest hug and told me she was proud of me.  We all stood around for a bit talking about my race.  It was wonderful to have all these people here at the end for me.  Another race director, Pat, saw me and congratulated me.  I also ran with her on a training run this summer.  She had heard about all my struggles with running a marathon.  So, she gave a quick shout out to whomever was standing around that I finally did it.  Awww, thanks, Pat.  She also had seen my cartwheels I did post training runs.  So, I decided to do one.  Needless to say, on wobbly legs it was not my best.  But, I did it.  Fitting, I think.

Michelle & Tom.  My epic running posse. 
Everyone had told me to have fun while I ran this marathon.  So, I made sure I did.  Even when it got bad.  Even when it hurt.  A lot.   I high fived EVERY little kid that offered them up.  I thanked every single volunteer that handed my Gatorade, water, orange, or just an encouraging word.  I made sure I still laughed and found humor in the pain.  I needed to take every moment in on this race.  I did.

Gradually everyone went home.  Greg stayed with me while I got a free massage.  Then we met our friend Jennie for lunch at the pub across the street.  We sat and drank beers and caught up.  Laughed way, way, way too hard.  It was wonderful. At one point they both went to the bathroom.  Leaving me alone at the table.  I sat there reflecting on the day.  How amazing it all was.  How amazing my family and friends were.

As I told someone today, the two times I have felt the most loved in my life were at my dad's funeral, when my friends jumped on planes and stood by my side and hugged me and fed me beers afterwards (Ironically enough, it was in the same pub and table where I now sat)  - and,  then, my marathon day.

I cannot even begin to express the extent of my gratitude to everyone who was there for me on this day.  Every single person made this happen for me. I may have taken every one of those steps.  But, I did not take them alone. From those physically there with me on race day to all my virtual friends who sent all those texts and messages to me pre-race, during the race, and post race.

Today as I type this I received yet another message.  From an old high school friend whom I rarely interact with, but who followed my posts on facebook:

"You inspire me.  I write a journal entry from time to time. Here's mine for today:
Lots of marathons going on.  I've been supportive from afar.  After all, the only time I run is if I'm being chased.  Conquering a marathon is like conquering life's challenges with a cheering section.  Bliss. I drove past the marathon runners today.  Complete strangers were encouraging each other to succeed.  Imagine if that was commonplace in life.  Oh, the possibilities."

I replied, "Oh, Kris, it is possible.  This I know for sure.  I saw it.  I felt it. It happened to me.  It happens to me.  Just start running.  You will see.  I promise"

I could go on and on an on about this day and the people that made it happen for me.  I cannot stop thanking them enough.  It was a hard road here.  More than a few bumps in the road.  But, I had angels in my outfield.  All along the way.  Different ones at different times.  But, all on my team. Some always sitting next to me on the bench.  Always making sure I got back at the plate.   Finally, I batted.  Sure, it wasn't a home run.  But, I made it back to home plate nonetheless.  And, really, isn't that all that matters? 

You only get to run your first marathon once.  It surely will be something I will never, ever, forget.


It wouldn't be right if I didn't end the day like this.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Ya remember when I told you I wing things?  Well, yeah, so I wasn't lying.  I'm terrible at being accountable to myself.  Needless to say, this is not so good when it comes to marathon training.  Down right horrible, actually. 

When I had a coach from January to June for my swim portion of my triathlon relay I was pretty good at sticking to the plan.  I rarely missed a workout.  I really pushed myself.  Of course, we are talking swimming here, and not running.  Swimming is easy, peasy for me.  I don't suck at swimming.  Running is hard for me. I suck at running.   I no longer have a coach.  I'm on my own.  I'm a shitty coach for myself (awesome coach for others, go figure).

I'm a champ at turning off my morning alarm and rolling back over to sleep.  A champ.  During my first Chicago Marathon (DNS) training in 2011 I actually DID get up and run.  Actually ran before work.  Sometimes, rather long runs (for me).  BEFORE work.    But, since then my job has changed.  My hours have changed.  My responsibilities have changed.   I have more stress.  Work.  Life. Whatev. I'm exhausted.  All. The. Time.  

I know that people have busier lives than me.  Have more stressful lives than me.  I know this.  I'm well aware of it. But, I used this as my excuse.  Hell, when I have a rare time I don't have an injury I need something to keep me from running, right? 

My exhaustion finally took me to the dreaded doctor two weeks ago.  To get blood tests.  To see what was wrong with me.  Well, of course, I didn't want there to be anything wrong.  However, it would explain my physical and mental attitude better.  Turns out all tests came back ok.  Sigh.  So.... no solution to my apathy. 

So, I drag myself out to run.  Now and then.  I've gone down to three runs a week.  Oh, oops, this week it was TWO.  Oh, my, god.  TWO runs a week.  3 weeks before my first marathon.  I'm an idiot.  I ran 5.67.  And 20.  Yes, I said TWENTY.  

I have no fucking clue how I got this tired, sorry ass body to run 20 miles yesterday.  I'm so under trained.  I'm mentally in a serious running funk.  I have no strength.  I have no stamina.  My foot still hurts a bit from my recovering plantar fasciitis. Yet, somehow, SOMEHOW, I got my body through 20 miles.

Honestly, I was terrified for this run.  Like as in sick to my stomach terrified. I didn't get enough sleep beforehand.  I didn't get home from work until 10 p.m. the night before and couldn't get myself calmed down to sleep until well after one.  I was doomed. 

I met up with the local marathon training group.  A group of REALLY fast runners.  People WAY out of my league.  But, they give me the motivation to step on the trail.  Even if it means I'm alone within the first minute.  At least I'm starting.  

They casually line up people by pace and off we go.  I immediately went to the back of the group.  Found a woman, Maryann,  who said she ran 12:30 pace.  Slower than me.  But, I figured it would be someone to run with and keep me going.   We slowly ran together.  Chatted a bit here and there (something I normally HATE doing).  She will be 53 next month.  Has ran a few marathons.  So, she was experienced in this.  We had a nice pace going.  Really slow.  But, steady. 

We shared running stories.  Stories about running friends.  Time went by.  I had some really bad toe pain now and then. I had to stop, take off my shoes, massage my feet, and on we went again.  She was really encouraging to me.  Always telling me I was doing great. I needed that.  I felt like such a slug.  Seriously.  Not that I expected to do this long run fast.  But, I'm still really struggling with the fact that, before all my injuries, I used to run my 5-7 mile runs at a 9:15 - 9:30 pace.  And, here I was running 12:30.  I know it shouldn't matter.  But, it does.  To me.  I miss that old runner.  This "new" runner pisses me off.  

At mile 6 we ran into one of the group organizers of the run.  He was on his bike doing a sweep, checking on the runners.  We let him know we were the last ones of the marathon runners (there were half marathon people, turning off at this point).   He gave us some encouraging words and made sure we safely made it across a busy street we needed to run on for a bit.   He also was there when a beaver ran across the trail in front of us.  Come on.... how many times has a beaver jumped in front of you?!?!  ;)

Before I knew it we were at mile 11.   I knew we would be running by my home soon. I had put my mother on call to bring some things for me at the parking lot across the street from my house.  I had left things ready and waiting should I need them.  I needed them.  Gatorade, bars, bananas.  Maryann was needing something too.  She was starting to bonk, feeling light headed.  Dizzy.  Not good.  Two miles later we met my mother, scarfed down food and liquids, used the public restroom (yeah!) and on our way again.  We really needed that.  

Shortly thereafter my toes bitched at me again.  Again I had to do a quick massage.  Then we were on our way again.  But, now I was starting to feel pain in new places.  My hip.  My back.  I was getting tired.  We had five miles left.  I tried to tell myself that I was just starting my run and running an easy five.  My body knew I was a lying bitch. 

I had to walk a bit here and there.  For 30 seconds or so.  Maryann was great at letting me do so.  But, was always encouraging me to start up again.  For a bit I stopped running beside her and instead ran behind her.  I turned up my iPod, listened to my music, and focused on her feet in front of me.  I zoned out and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Soon we were back on the trail from which we started.  We just needed to get to the other side of the loop.  We were SO close.  I could do this.  I needed to do this.  I HAD to do this. 

We were within one mile and I was hurting pretty badly.  I'm not sure which was worse, my mental state or physical state.  But, both were killing me.  My Garmin had died at mile 12 so I was relying on Maryann's Garmin for our distance.  At this point I literally wanted to know where we were at every point.  God bless Maryann, she started calling out the distance for me, "19.75..... 19.79.... 19.83.... 19.95.... 19.96... 19.97.. 19.98... 19.99.... DONE!"   We finished up about .3 from parking lot.  I stood there on the trail after she yelled done and leaned over (I know, bad) and put my hands on my knees, and started to cry.   In relief.  In pride.  Took a deep breath.  Turned to Maryann.  Gave her a huge hug.  Thanked her.  For getting me through 20 miles.  I would NEVER have been able to do it by myself.  No way.  I would have walked a ton.  I would most likely have quit.  

We walked in that last bit.  I took a picture of her Garmin, so I would have proof. Said quick goodbyes and promised to see each other marathon morning. 

Then I went to sit in my car. Cried a bit more.  I was a bit dazed and out of it.  Not sure how long I sat there.  But, it was quite awhile.  Finally, I got with it and went home.  

Not sure how I did this 20.  Physically it should not have been in me.  Mentally, I should have quit at mile 5.   I'm still terrified for marathon day.  This is so not the race I planned to run.  I'm so not the runner I thought I would be at the start.  Yes, I'm glad it appears I will get there relatively uninjured.  So, that's a win.  But, the runner that will show up will not be the strong runner I hoped would be there. But, she will be there.

Long gone is that 4:30 goal I had for the first Chicago Marathon I was training for.  My goal now is simply to finish.  In less than 6 hours.  I sure hope I can do it.  

Monday, September 30, 2013

State of the Union

As I sit here very late at night with news reports breaking in that our government may be shutting down tomorrow, I figured I would make a state of the union analysis of my marathon training. 

Week 12 of marathon training.  I'm not dead yet.  But, I may be close.  I'm certainly on life support. 

I was moving along ok.  Nothing spectacular.  No speed records. No feeling like I'm a badass runner.  Just getting in the miles.  Check. Check. Check.  Went on some group training runs to keep me accountable.  Met up with running friends to get my inspiration and my runs in. Did some cartwheels. 

Fast forward to today. The last two weeks have been rough.  I have only run TWICE in the last 18 days.  Yikes. 

Cliff notes version: On my 15 mile long run 18 days ago I started suffering severe foot pain.  Could barely walk or stand for the next few days.  Gradually got a little better, but still quite painful.  Plantar fasciitis.  Oh Goody.  

So, next came my half marathon.  I should have never started this at all because the pain was so bad.  But, I'm a bit stubborn, so started with the intent of going 1-2.5 miles.  I made it 6 miles before I gave myself the hook at the mile 6 medical tent.  What followed was a few days of more horrible pain.  Lots of foot rolling.  Weird duct tape measures because I was too impatient to wait for the "miracle" sock I ordered to arrive. 

Oddly enough.... my MacGyver'd leg did help.   My foot quickly felt better.  Great?  No.  But, no longer excruciating.  6 days after I DNF'd. my half marathon I planned to try to get in a long marathon group training run.  I had low expectations.  But, at the same time I planned to try for the 12-13 that was on the agenda that day (cut back week, thank God!).  Low expectations but yet pushing myself to the max.  Yeah, not the smartest tool in the shed.   Made it through about 9 feeling pain, but managing.  My hobble was pretty bad.  But, I was moving.  After that point, I hit a major wall.  Mentally and physically.  2 weeks of no running other than my DNF caught up to me.  I was beat.  My foot hurt.  A lot.  I was in the woods, alone, thinking I was lost.  I doubted I could get those last three miles.  I wanted it to be over.  I wanted everything to be over.
 I reflected a lot about how I used to run fast and fierce, for me anyway.  When I would get out on a trail and just run.  Then run faster.  Push myself further.  9:15 - 9:30 pace on 5.5 mile runs.  Consistently.  I miss those runs.  I miss that person.  I miss that runner.  I mourn that runner.  Sometimes I really hate the runner I am now.  That sounds so awful.  But, it's true. 

I yelled at myself quite a bit.  Seriously.  I was PISSED.  That I once again had gotten this far and my body was once again failing me. That I wanted to give up on myself even though I've wanted this all so badly.  That so many others CAN do this.  CAN get through the marathon training.  CAN get up in the morning and run when I just can't and get it done.  I'm in sincere awe of all my friends who train for and run marathons.  You people are truly amazing.  I mean that.   What you endure mentally and physically to get this done is downright badass.  Truth. 

It's just not in me.  I mean it's in me.  But,  way deep down inside me.  And, it's screaming. 

I'm just not sure if it's screaming for somebody to give me chest compressions.....or, pull the plug.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Relentless. Forward. Motion.

Apparently, my marathon training begins this week.  So, my friend tells me at least. 

It's not like I didn't know it was coming.  However, I was kind of hoping it was a bit further off.  Sure I've been "kind of" running.  Nothing serious.  Nothing planned.  Just a run here or there.  To keep moving.  To keep my feet going.  Forward.  It's not been easy.  But, I've been trying to run free.  Relaxed.  No pressure.  

I guess I've been avoiding actually focusing on this upcoming training.  I guess I'm scared.  Duh.  No shit.  It's me we are talking about.  We all know by now I'm a marathon scardy cat.  We know my history: Signed up and trained for two Chicago Marathons only to break 3/4 of the way through and never made it to the start line.  Epic cheerleader instead.  Always the bridesmaid. With a damn ugly dress. 

So, yes, I try a third time.  Sadly, I turned in my Chicago dream for a smaller race.  It's in my hometown.  It's on my running trails and paths.  I could literally stop and use my bathroom along the race course (and may depending how well my stomach behaves!). I won't have a million of people cheering me along like Chicago.  In fact there certainly will be long stretches of NOBODY cheering.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.  

I need the support.  I value the support.  I couldn't run a single mile without thinking about somebody in my life who supports my silly running journey.  Whether it's the co-worker who got me started a few years ago, or my daily texting buds who lift me up in not only running, but also life, or my little running cheerleaders who no matter what seem to always be in my corner.  Those cheerleaders send me words of encouragement at the most opportune moments.  It's like they know.   They all matter to me.  Every last one.  Hell, if I'm going to climb Mt. Everest I'm going to need some sherpas.  Thankfully,  I've got the very best.

It's funny, people come and go.  Friends change over time. Some of my biggest supporters while training for the last two marathons are long gone.  So strange to think people who were so very important to me at a much needed time no longer exist in my life.   Kind of makes me a bit sad.   Some have sped off to faster pastures, leaving me in their trail dust.  That's ok.  I may not be speedy.  But, I'm on my own little journey.  Slow and steady. 

However, a few have been along for the entire ride.  (Park's closed, moose outside should have told you)  I am so very grateful to them.  They will never know how very grateful.  Truth.   

I have no clue what I'm doing. Seriously. So, I grab the super novice training plan.  I take a deep breath.  I do it the best that I can with my crazy work schedule.  I change up the days a bit.  I run my long runs mid week if I have to.  I run outside at 11 pm.   Oh dear Lord I'll get up once or twice at the crack of dawn and get my bitchy self through some run before work.  I skip a short run from time to time because, well, just because.  Because of life.  Because I want to have fun instead.  Because my brain needs a break.  Just ....because.  

But, I will give it my best.  I will try.  I will certainly cry.  I will puke.  I will feel overwhelmed. I will freak out that I'm about to break.  But, through it all it will be that little text.  That random message.  The stranger running by me telling me I'm looking great on my run.  My niece telling me that she's proud of me.  Perhaps someone will actually come cheer me on race day.  Or run with me when I want to quit.  It all.  Matters.  Every little bit. 

Inhale calm.  Exhale fear.  

Relentless.  Forward.  Motion. 

Here we go......