Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marathon Day

Well, Saturday was my marathon. The title of this post was supposed to be something like, "I am going to Boston!" or "I am the coolest runner ever, and I am going to Boston." In fact, I have to admit that I was feeling confident enough . . . maybe just cocky enough to be about 99% certain that was what the title of this post would be. My past two marathon times were qualifying times and I had no reason to doubt this one would be the same. This poor marathon didn't even get its fair shakes because I wasn't actually training for it and running it for its own self, it was all to qualify for Boston. And then . . . I didn't.

Before I give the run down (no pun intended) on this race, I should add that out of the four marathons I have ran, this was by far the most miserable and so this should not represent what a marathon is to those of you who may be considering doing one some day. I felt much better on my first three and had much better times on my last two. Whether it was the training troubles I had with my ankle, or the cold and slight stomach upset I'd had all week, whether it was the fact that I ran the first half much faster than I should have, or just a case of elements combining less than perfectly for a little old fashioned bad luck I can't be sure, but it was rough. It was miserable.

Clearly I didn't just up and run 26.2 miles with no preparation. For the last four months, I have run very consistently during the week and slowly increased mileage and endurance with long weekend runs, but there are a few reasons why the marathon itself still ends up being so tough. First, you always run faster on the actual race -- I don't know if it is just adrenaline or what, but what would be a fast training pace feels painfully slow during the race. Second, very few marathoners actually run 26 miles in training. The standard longest training run is around 20 miles. That might sound contrary to reason -- surely you'd want to have your endurance up to the full 26, right? Well, yes, but the problem is that as you reach those 20 mile type of distances you begin walking a fairly thin line -- increased endurance on the one hand, injury and inability to recuperate enough to keep increasing your running ability on the other hand. So, a 20 miler about three to four weeks before marathon day is usually the peek of your training -- you then taper off til the actual race so that hopefully your body will be recovered from those training runs in time to give it one last miserable push.

Anyway on to the marathon . . .Here I am at 4:00 am on race day. Incidentally, anything in the four o'clock hour still seems like night to me. 5:00 am is insanely early, but at least it's morning! I got to bed at about 10:30, was woken at midnight by a slew of high-schoolers loudly painting some homecoming stuff on the road outside our house. Woken again at 3:00 by Goldie (I don't recall why). Nerves wouldn't let me fall back to sleep and I was up at 4:00 so I could get ready and drive the 50 mins. to where I would wait in the dark in a long line with thousands of other marathoners to board one of the TONS of buses that would take us up the canyon to where our run would start at 7:00 am. (The lack of sleep wasn't that big of a deal though -- I don't think anyone plans on a great night of sleep the night before a marathon).

Oh here I am at 4:00 am showing off my temporary marathon logo tattoo and trying to look a little more pumped for what lies ahead (but mostly just succeeding in looking a little creepy).Our bus driver was the peppiest lady imaginable -- particularly for that insanely early hour. Maybe it was her personality . . . or maybe she was just happy that she would be driving (rather than running) from where she would be leaving us.

It was a bit lonely what with the dark and not knowing or recognizing any of the other 2000 some odd runners. My first two marathons I had sisters to giggle with while we waited to start, and even my marathon up in OR had a few girls that I knew from training a bit together. Here, I only recognized an old microbiology professor from college, and I should have told him I was one of his students and made a little small talk, but I was feeling too nervous for small talk.

At 6:45 am they told us to toss our numbered bags (with water bottles, sweatshirts, etc.) on the bus. So we left the bonfires (it was cold) and began lining up at the starting line. The gun went off for the wheelchair racers -- which meant five minutes to go for us. I kept my eyes on the steady stream of people frantically running down the hill from the port-a-potties and I wondered if they'd get to the start by the time the gun went off or if the race would wait for all of them before it started or if they didn't really care if they started the minute the gun went off anyway since their final time maybe didn't matter so much to them as the fact that they ran 26 miles.

I don't recall if they got there or not. The sun was coming up now, and I was looking around at the canyon and mountains and listening to the talk of runners. Then our gun went off. A cheer went up from all of us and we were on our way . . . sort of . . . when you are in the middle of 2000 people, it takes a bit to actually get going. It probably took me 30 seconds to even get across the starting line, and we were still pretty closely packed even at mile seven . . . which set me to wondering how on earth things would ever thin out enough to get into a smooth gait with the 20,000 runners at Boston (which I was still sure I would be going to at that point).

I felt great for the first miles. I was running about an eight minute pace and it felt just right. In the past, I have forced myself to go much slower than that for the first nine or ten miles -- just to make sure I'd have enough energy to see me through. I'd usually be chomping at the bit to really take off though and by mile ten I would. This time, since I was so set on a certain time, I felt nervous to do my first miles so slow -- thinking how much faster those middle miles would have to be to make up the difference -- so I started at about the pace I wanted my race to be. Which might have been fine, but then I did a dumb thing, I still took off at mile ten. I felt so good, and I just felt like I could go faster . . . and I could . . . for about six more miles. I got a bad side ache by mile 15 and by mile 16 was starting to think, "OK, I'm hurting . . . just keep this up to mile 20 . . . and then . . . well, I don't know what then . . . but maybe then you can just will yourself through the last six?"

At about mile 17 when the "just focus on getting to mile 20" was starting to seem much too difficult, I started hearing my name shouted. My eyes were a little blurry and I couldn't tell who was cheering for me, but as I got closer I saw this (notice how I used the paint program to scribble out my uber top secret last name from blog land):My sister Megan, my niece Ashley (the one who has tended for me during the past FOUR months of training runs), and my niece Karin were there. It was a total surprise and made me so happy. Things are a little emotional during the race -- there is some tie between our spirits and doing something that so forces them to conquer our bodies that is well . . . like I said, emotional. So, having them there to support me even though they must have woken very early to get up there made me start to cry . . . only for a minute though because I couldn't afford to start gasping for air!

That gave me an extra boost, but by mile 18 the side ache was still going nowhere and my body was really really hitting a wall like it never ever has before. I truly was starting to want to just quit, but I didn't want to disappoint them and I knew Mike and the kids would be waiting at the finish, so I kept going.By mile 21 I was pretty well over Boston and only wanting desperately to even finish. Every fiber of my being was screaming "QUIT!!" Seriously, it was like it was shouting in my head. I can't go back and pinpoint exactly what was wrong. My breathing was OK. My ankle was stiff and sore, but it wasn't just one single or even several pains or aches that you could name. I think I had just totally exhausted my bodies reserves and it felt like it was saying, "Alright, will yourself on if you want, but I'm no longer giving to this effort. I'm done."

I'd taken a Gu (carbo/energy gel things) earlier and I should have taken one again, but I didn't feel like my stomach could handle it, so I just kept up with water and Gatorade. I'd run through the other water stops, but at mile 23 I stopped to walk through. This was a mistake of course. The minute I stopped, the full weight of my muscle aches and ankle aches crashed on me. And I found myself pretty much unable to start again. I kept walking for about a half block wondering how long it would take me to finish if I walked the entire last three miles. Funny. At the start, miles fly by and three miles seems like nothing. At this point I couldn't even really fathom what it would take to make my body move through three more miles. But, some little spark made my awkward legs start moving again. And, for the next few minutes I felt -- OK. It didn't last long, but really, for a half mile maybe I felt like I could keep going. I truly felt and was sure that a little wind of prayers was blowing all around me. I kept thinking about that and wondering -- is it just that my family has been praying for me, or is someone really praying hard for me at this moment? I wasn't sure, but I was just happy that I could physically feel the buoyancy prayers were giving me. Once again, there is something spiritual about doing something so physical.

Later, it brought tears to my eyes to find out that at that very time, Ashley was panicking as they waited at mile 24 -- I wasn't there yet and she knew I should be to get the time I wanted. She and Megan and Karin got in the car and said a special prayer for me. Ashley also texted pretty much my whole family to tell them to pray. Also, unbeknownst to me again, I had another surprise group of cheerleaders waiting not far off and likely praying and willing me on as well. My sister-in-law Kimberly and her family also came quite a long distance at an early hour to support me. When I saw them I started to cry a little again. They were waiting at about mile 24 as well with Mike and the kids. It was so cool to me to so literally feel an awareness of the prayers and thoughts aimed at me. Really, I did, and it makes me cry again to think of it.So, honestly, I think it was Mike and my kids and Kimberly and her family and Megan and Ashley and Karin (as well as others' prayers) that allowed me to finish. It didn't take me to Boston. And that was OK. Every step of those last miles was nearly impossible. If I'd had it in me to give one more ounce of effort, I would have felt regret about not having given that effort and made the time I needed, but I crossed that finish line with literally nothing left. Cute little kids were along the last stretches holding out their hands for high fives, and I felt obligated to oblige little ones being so cute and encouraging, but even stretching out my arm to them was a massive effort. At mile 26 -- with only .2 measly miles to go -- when I should have been feeling like, "the end is in sight! You can do it!" I still really truly wanted to quit. That is how zapped I was. So I maybe could have run a smarter race and done better, but I definitely could not have given one ounce more to the effort than I did.

My final time was 3 hours and 44 minutes. Four minutes off what I needed to qualify for Boston. It isn't a bad time really. My overall pace still works out to be about 8 minutes and 33 seconds. Even at mile 20, with all the misery I was already feeling, I could have run super slow miles (for me) and made the time . . . I just couldn't run super SUPER slow miles (which, apparently I did). Judging from how slow those last six miles were and the fact that my average pace was still in the eight minute range . . . I must have run those miles between ten and eighteen very fast . . . very too fast. Oops?

Anyway, it is OK. It has felt great to push myself so hard for the last couple of months. It has meant so much to me to have my training runs made so easy by my sweet sweet Ashley -- to just be able to get out and do them with out having to juggle everything. And I have so much appreciated Mike who has had to get up with our little ones every Saturday for weeks and weeks because I was gone at the crack of dawn to get my long runs in before the Summer sun got too hot. It was great to see loved ones rooting for me (even though I would have preferred they had seen a more triumphant finish) and to see Ashley crying not because she was sad I didn't make it to Boston, but because she was so worried I was going to be too sad.

Some of the women of my family have had a little ongoing email discussion lately about the gift we have in a body. I don't know that all of you reading this share my same faith, but we believe that when Satan chose to rebel against our Father in Heaven, he was cast out -- he lost the chance to move forward in our eternal progression. He lost not only the chance to come here and be tested, but to gain a body. Somehow we needed these bodies to be able to fully continue progressing. They aren't perfect here, and won't be until they are resurrected, but my wise sister Amy reminded us of how lucky we are to have these bodies -- even with their aches and pains -- to feel the things they can feel, to push them and occasionally conquer their weaknesses. Satan, and those who followed him will never get to experience the things that we get to experience with these physical bodies, and at the moment I feel amazed at the range of experiences I've been able to have with this body in the last year or so -- from creating a little living baby, filling it kick inside me, nursing and snuggling him; to pushing my body from the three miles it could barely do after his birth to a point of being able to go out and run 26.2 long and exhausting miles through some of the prettiest scenery around.

So, it hurt, and the not doing as well/feeling as well as I have before was a disappointment, but really, amazing to even have had the experience. Saturday scared me enough that for most of the day I was sadly thinking how I would never dare to try that again, how I was too terrified of having another experience so hard . . . but our pain memory is a little short because already I am thinking how before too long I will need to prove to those darn marathons who's boss.

Now for a few last marathon pics:

My shoes honestly did get several compliments shouted at them during the race.How is it I look so smiley in these? That is not going to convince anyone I was dead at the end. Trust me, I was. All I could do was lie there on the wet soggy ground.

Oh, yes, and Megan's little Reed screaming his tiny little head off for me.

20 comments:

Perla said...

that was a great description and thoughts regarding the marathon, nanz. it is the closest i will come to one, i'm sure. i really loved everything you wrote. and i pretty much already said what i had to say about everything else in other e-mails. i love you. :)

Jill said...

I think you are amazing. This post reminds me of why you are one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Getting to cross paths with you for a few months in Jerusalem and count you as a friend is a great blessing in my life.

Tia Juana said...

OOOOHHH... I am just so proud of you. I kind of feel all motherly of you right now - pleased to have seen you succeed, despite not getting the time you expected, and seeing you learn and appreciate life more through the experience. I am sorry it was tough but look at what you've done. I have a little tear in my eye for you - happy for you and the experience it was. And glad it was not me running because you know how I hate to run - could that mean I am of the devil???

At first glance I thought that perhaps your family put obscene things on your signs and then thought better of it and crossed it out. I was trying to think of what they could possibly have called you - turns out, only your last name???? HA!

And, it is people like me who yell things about shoes during marathons. I'm glad someone 'filled my shoes' since I couldn't be there. Pun intended.

Congrats, Nancy #@^$%%#!! I'm happy for you!

Kelly said...

You are so awesome. Too bad that you didn't make it but you had to be the best looking runner out there!

I love your part about bodies. They are so special and amazing. I remember thinking that when I looked at my father-in-law's hands. Think of just hands and all the things that they can do.

You are so great.

BS and the Kids said...

Love the post. I am so proud of you. It really is such an accomplishment and you can still kick all of our butts in running. What a great pace! Anyway, thanks for being so inspiring and putting new perspective on life.

BS and the Kids said...

Oh, how I wish you lived in my neighborhood who is an ultra marathoner like you and is trying to qualify for Boston, and missed it by 7 minutes last year because of the rain (St. George). She is super fast like you.

Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

Submit this baby to the new yorker!

Great blow by blow and congratulations on not dying or giving up.

Have you read/heard about the book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by
Murakami?

You might enjoy it...

jocelyn said...

well, it's beyond me how anyone can run a marathon even at a turtle's pace, so needless to say, i'm impressed. i'm sorry for you that you weren't able to qualify for something you worked so hard for, but it's amazing you finished! good job!

Lara said...

I'm still convinced you will run Boston, its all timing, and maybe the run didn't qualify this time around, but so many other things in your life did this year. I don't know too many mom's peaking athletic performance so quickly after birth. So give your self some credit for an awesome attempt! You ran a marathon!

Sarah said...

Nancy I have a novel I'd like to type to you after reading that post. My heart feels for you and all of your effort. I know it'll pay off somewhere. You are simply amazing. As to all my other thoughts in my mind, I think we just need to get together and have a real conversation. How about it, now that you're running schedule is slowing down.

I just noticed Jill's post. Now I have to say one of the things I was saving for later. Remember our roommates that liked to "stay up late." I remember all the times you and I actually did stay up late and yet every morning you were up and running. I think I may have made it out a dozen times the entire time! Yet, that memory and the memory of so many other runners in my life inspires me. Seriously, it gets me out the door in the morning to exercise and for that I am so grateful!

jami said...

wow. i'm so very impressed by this. my brother-in-law ran this-his very first marathon ever, and just hearing all about what goes into the prep, and then the run itself makes me much more in awe of you runners out there! woot-woo! and way to go!!! (and even though it was a little shy of what you were hoping/expecting/wanting, your time is amazing and i'm so very impressed!!)

Liz said...

I don't know why but this post had me crying. I don't know if it is because I felt bad for you feeling so much pain or because I wanted you to do well and qualify. But, I still think you kick some major butt running that far. I still have only ever ran 3 miles at the most. I can't even imagine 26.2!

Nancy said...

Geez! So much love and niceness in these comments! It makes me want to cry all over again! Thanks every one of you!

Karen said...

In my entire life, no part of me has desired to run any sort of race or marathon of sorts until I met you. There are parts of me now that have a desire to have that experience. Reading your adventure made me think how much like life, running a marathon is. The easy, the hard, the endurance, the emotions, the push, the family that makes it so you can finish what you start. What beautiful post Nancy. Thank you so much for sharing your Marathon Day.

Mugsy said...

That was avery cool post Nac. You really are such an insipering person and it makes me proud to know your my sister. Also I am glad to see that Reed made the blog! love you, MEg
P.S. Your really fast and stuff!

Mugsy said...

O and I am glad that I spell things really cool and so so wrong

Crysta said...

Nancy-you are amazing! My friend Naomi saw you at about mile 24 and cheered you on. You did awesome and what a great time. Screw the BOston Marathon, we all know you should be there. Remind me to never run with you- I would die!

marzee said...

Nancy -
I really am so impressed with you. Working so hard to fulfill a dream - but being a little sidetracked. Even so - you are so strong that you see all the wonderful things in that experience: the prayers, the gift of our bodies, our spirits, the love of our Heavenly Father, gratitude and recognition of all the love and support, and so forth. You're amazing! Truly. I so wish that you could have completed the race as you had hoped - but at the same time - would never want you to lose such a wonderful experience either.

It's funny how we often pray and work so hard for something - and sometimes Heavenly Father sees something even better that can come through the process that you never would have seen. I hope that you'll still train to qualify for the next Boston Marathon - that you'll still be able to fulfill that goal.

I love you - you're amazing - and thank you for sharing such an awesome experience. And shoot, 8+ minute miles for 26.2 miles? You were flying! My goodness - you are going to be running circles around Heaven with that perfect body!

"Has anybody seen Nancy?"
"Yes - she was that breeze that just flew by."

Nancy said...

Marzers! Too nice! I'm almost embarrassed.

Crysta, I totally saw your friend. That was so nice of her to cheer for me. I wish I could have mustered her a more cheerful smile at the time! Oh, and you could run with me easy. In fact, how about you run the Ogden next year with me!?

Karen, If you decide to do a marathon I will totally do your miserable long runs with you!

Madsens said...

Oh, 26 miles!! I think I did 4 the other day and wanted to die! But it felt good, I wish I had the desire to run while you were around, but it would have been no fun for you, I'm pretty slow! I'm sorry you didn't make your time, but you seem pretty content about it, which I'm so glad. What an accomplishment to finish that, though, HONESTLY!! Great Job!! Love ya!

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