I read once that the best failures make the best stories… let’s see if that’s true…
My Rock n’ Roll adventure really began last November when I decided to start training for my second marathon while raising funds once again for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. As a current Team in Training mentor, it was easy to brave the winter with my teammates and despite several bouts of illnesses along the way, I still hit all of my long runs and most of my strength training days and felt great doing it.
I flew down to San Diego on Saturday morning, checked into my hotel room, then walked over to the expo to get my bib. The expo was very large and very rockin’- music blaring over the loud speakers and lots of people to duck-walk through. I picked up a couple commemorative shirts and attempted to get through the expo but it was so seriously packed that I didn’t try too hard to get any free samples and just left, figuring I needed to save my energy for the race anyway.
My next stop was a Ralph’s grocery store a few blocks away where I picked up my required post-marathon rations:
Walked back to my hotel room and settled in for the night. I was really in my head, just wanting to focus, so I decided to skip the team dinner and instead room-serviced a veggie pizza, drank tons of water, watched some horrible TV (where’s “Chariots of Fire” when you really need it, hunh???), and fell asleep around 9pm.
I woke up anxiously at 3am but had one more hour… I didn’t really fall back to sleep, just laid there, heart beating in my chest, palms sweating, until my alarm finally went off at 4am. Suited up and headed off to meet my team.
We piled into the shuttle and headed to the race start. It was early. It was dark. It was surprisingly warm. We took the opportunity to hit the porta potty as the lines were short at that moment, checked our gear, grabbed some pre-race water and bananas (score!) and waited around for the race start.
I was lucky enough to be in the same corral with 2 of my favorite team mates- Erica and Emily- so while we waited, we happily chatted, snapped pictures, debated whether to use the porta potty one last time (given that it took 45 minutes from when the race started for us to actually cross the start line- we really should have!), and held eachother’s shoulders to stretch and waited some more…
Like I said, the race started at 6:15am; however, they staggered the starts of each corral and being in corral #27, by 7am, we finally crossed the start! I was already anxious so hearing 26 consecutive countdowns was enough to make me want to scream!
Then finally it was our turn, finally this was OUR 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-GOOOOO!!!
Everything started just fine. It was pleasantly overcast, it was flat, it was a scenic view, and I was surrounded by a sea of TNT purple from all over the country.
By mile 2, all that water I had been drinking caught up to me and I had to pee. I waited until the half marathoners split from the full marathoners at mile 3 (as the lines were much shorter at that point) and finally I stopped around mile 4.25. Thank you to the 2 friendly non-running strangers that let me cut the line in front of them- so nice!
Feeling much better, on I ran… we ran around the San Diego Zoo and it was very pretty! Strings of white lights lining the palm tree-ed paths, mission revival style architecture that was just beautiful, and then this:
My marathon plan was to hold back on the first half, then pick it up on the second half and I was doing really well consistently holding pace. There were a few inclines but they didn’t even phase me, I even held back on the down hills, just holding, holding, holding that easy, comfortable pace.
Finished the first 5K in 34 minutes, 10K in 1:09, but then shortly after mile 8, hit the freeway…
You can’t really tell from this picture, but the entire length of this freeway (4 miles) was sloped. As soon as the course started to pitch to one side, my left IT band started to speak up, “Uh, Laura, are you listening? This doesn’t feel very good!” I ran along the top part of the incline- still pain. I tried to run in the middle and that was even worse. Then, I tried for the lowest part of the slope, yet my leg still really, really hurt.
I was flustered, I didn’t know what to do, so I stopped on the side of the road and stretched out that IT band. “This is only mile 9!!!!” I thought, “Come on, GET IT TOGETHER WOMAN!” Started up again and again ran to the top, the middle, and the bottom of the inclined road without finding one bit of relief. I started to tense up. I started to get upset. The more the left leg hurt, the more I favored my right leg, and the faster the blisters erupted.
At mile 13, I saw one of my coaches, Coach Rudy. Ran to him, complaining of my pain. I had to use the porta potty again so he waited in line with me, trying to encourage while applying bio-freeze to my IT band. After I emerged from the potty, my tummy did a somersault, and I stumbled to the side of the road. Coach Rudy saw this, came towards me and I threw up either on or near Coach Rudy’s shoes- I was in such a daze I can’t recall. “You’re all kinds of messed up, Laura!” He said. I couldn’t help but laugh… he was SO right! And on I ran…
Yes, you heard right. I said “DNF”. As soon as that thought of quitting entered my head, I couldn’t kick it out. Ran through mile 17, fighting the pain, battling the negative thoughts and at mile 18 was approached by Coach Tim from the East Coast asking me if I was okay. I complained to him, started crying, and he walked with me telling me what was coming up on the course and encouraging me to stop at the next medical tent. After thanking him profusely, I dried my eyes, sucked on a couple orange slices and ran on…
By mile 19, the pain was too great. I could see the medical tent coming, I really didn’t want to stop but I felt like I had no choice. Approached the tent, limping and crying, and they sat me down, started rubbing my IT out, icing it, giving me Tylenol. The nurses really wanted me to take off my right shoe and sock in order to lance the blisters but I screamed at them NO- if I took off my shoe and compression sock, I don’t think I would ever get them back on and then would certainly never finish the race.
They kept asking me how I was doing, offering to call the ambulance to take me to the end, and I just wept and shook my head saying, “Just let me think, please, just let me think!” Sat in the grass with my bag of ice, watching all the runners around me, searching my soul for what to do next.
I asked myself, “Can you run for one more hour?” NO! “Can you run/walk for another hour and a half?” MAYBE! “Can you walk?” Yes… “Today isn’t about you, it’s about the cause, and if you can walk, well, then you better finish this fricker!” After about a half hour, I pulled myself to my feet, took a deep breathe, wiped away the tears, and headed back out on the course. It took every last fiber of my soul and ALL of my physical, mental, and emotional strength to start run/walking again.
But, I did…
I put my blinders on. I ignored the bands and just stared at the road, thinking about my children and my husband and how happy they make me. I imagined that they would be there at the finish, cheering for me, how proud they are of mommy and her running accomplishments. I thought about Team in Training and all the honorees I have met along the way and the friends of mine suffering from some form of blood cancer. I told myself that the pain I was experiencing is nothing compared to what someone living with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease or myeloma has to go through… and on I ran…
Around mile 22 a coach from Arizona came up to me and said, “Laura! You look a little like death warmed over! Are you okay?”
I have no idea what you’re talking about, Coach:
Finally got to mile 24 and decided it was time to finish strong, NO MATTER WHAT so I ignored the pain and started sprinting. Ran into Coach Tim again (who helped me at mile 18) and he said, “Laura! You’re doing it! Great job! You’ve got a good pace going now! GOOOOOO!!!” I could see the finish, I could hear the finish, I could almost touch the finish… despite the physical issues I was elated- I plastered a smile on my face and victoriously crossed the finish line.
I was so very happy to be done- I was crying, I was limping, I was confused, I felt sick, I wanted to sit… hobbled over the gear check, got my bag, and sat on the ground thinking about what just happened the last five hours and forty five minutes, kind of not believing that it was actually over. I called hubby, told him what happened, and bawled. Hobbled over to the beer tent, crawled to the TNT tent to check out, and then barely made it back to the hotel shuttles, stopping for just one more self-portrait along the way:
A lot can happen on the way to 26.2. While I am happy that I dug deeper than I ever have to actually finish the race when quitting would have been so easy, I’m still pretty disappointed at my overall time (Garmin said 5:44, official results state 5:49, and Coach Rudy says I can go ahead and subtract the time I spent in the medical tent). I completed my 18 mile training run in 3:07 and was more than confident that I could do this marathon better than the first one. But, alas, I didn’t.
All the confidence and mental fortitude and motivational music really does no good in the face of physical pain. I realize the course was out of my control, I know that finishing is an accomplishment in and of itself… but… it’s just not enough.
Months and months of training, and I watched all my goals slip away within 4 miles. I had done everything I could to prepare, less of running on sloped roads, I guess. I’m disappointed but am not done proving myself to 26.2. When #3 will be, I do not know, but I am thinking about it and that’s a good place to start!
How do you overcome disappointment from a race that didn’t go as planned? Do you pick another goal and start all over or take a break? Any advice for me and my sudden onset of post-marathon blues?