Disappointment vs. Accomplishment

December 13, 2010 § 4 Comments

Months of training, two colds and some recurring knee issues were all battles I endured while training for the California International Marathon. Little did I know that those hurdles would be just a taste of what I would suffer during the race.

Leading up to the race, I felt pretty good. I was a little nervous that I had to take off nine days of training a few weeks before the race due to a nasty cold that would not loosen its grip on me, but I knew I had the miles under my belt and I felt confident that I could at least knock off a minute or two from the time I put up in January. The week of the race, I was frantically checking the weather in Folsom/Sacramento. The reports showed a 50% chance of rain and temps in the 50’s, which meant I needed to make sure I packed extra gear just in case it ended up raining. Living in Phoenix, we don’t experience too much cold and wet weather, so it was a bit of a stressful challenge for me to figure out what to wear to stay somewhat warm and dry. I settled on a new hat, some 3/4 length running pants and a running tank layered under a long sleeve top.

We arrived in Sacramento a few days early to get settled, pick up my race packet, rest up and visit with my sister who graciously put up with all my crazy running talk! The few days before the race were good. I slept well, I ate and drank all the right stuff and I relaxed as much as possible. I felt anxious for the run, but overall, I thought I was ready.


Race Day
4 am my alarm goes off. I decided it was going to be best to have my sister drop me off at the buses that were taking racers from the end to the starting line, so I needed to be up and ready to head out by 4:30. I got a good night’s sleep and I felt good. As I put on my gear, I heard the rain hitting the roof of the house and my nerves started to build up, but I knew it was game time — rain or shine! It was nice to have my sister in the car on the way there so I could chat with her and keep my mind off of my nerves. As we headed downtown, the rain had stopped and the temperature was cool, but bearable. As hundreds of runners filled the buses that lined the dark street, I said goodbye to my sister and said I’d look for her on the course.

The drive over was dark and fairly quiet. The person next to me was engaged in a conversation with her friend, so I sat in silence and stared out into the darkness to see if I could detect any rain. 40 minutes later, we were at the start and my nerves continued to build but I was getting excited. When I got off the bus it was a quick quarter mile walk to the porta potties and the start and I was right on time. I was worried about waiting around in the cold for a long time, but the bus got us there with about an hour to spare before the start and it took 45 minutes to get through the line for the restroom. The timing couldn’t have been better.

And We’re Off

Miraculously, the skies were blue and clear for the start of the race. There was quite a bit of moisture in the air, but I’ll take that over the rain. Even though there were approx. 8,000 runners, there didn’t seem to be much need to dodge anyone to get a good running spot. I was feeling great at the start and I was consciously working to control my pace so I could save my energy for later when I know I’m going to need it. So far, so good.

Wait…Something Doesn’t Feel Right
After I passed the first mile marker I started feeling a little off. I couldn’t pinpoint what was going on so I decided to just keep running and see if it would just go away. Unfortunately, with each mile, it wasn’t passing; it was getting worse. My stomach was feeling nauseous and I was feeling lightheaded. By mile 6 — even though I was on pace to hit a PR — I came to a halt and all of the sudden I was getting sick on the side of the road. I have never had that happen to me before. Afterwards, my entire body felt empty and it was difficult to take a full breath. I tried to compose myself the best I could, drank some water and headed back into the race.

At mile 8 I was struggling. I was no longer feeling nauseous, but I felt spent – even after taking a gel and lots of water. My breathing was not getting any better and my attitude towards finishing was deteriorating, but I knew I’d never forgive myself for not trying my best to finish. So, I kept going and around mile 9 I saw my family and I put on a happy face.

Can I Finish?
Each mile seemed to knock me down even further. My mind was reeling with the notion that there was a good possibility that I wasn’t going to make it to the finish line. At mile 13 I saw my family and as I passed by I whispered to my husband that I wasn’t doing well. At this point, I had given up looking at my watch for a time and just hoped that I could keep going and finish. At mile 16 I saw my family again and instead of my giving them my usual smile as I ran by them, I stopped running. My head was spinning and I could only take half-breaths. I crouched down and told my husband that I felt like I was going to faint. As I stood there trying to catch my breath a very nice runner stopped to check on me. She offered me her inhaler to help me catch my breath and a mini Payday bar to replenish my salt and get some calories in me. I know she was sacrificing precious time to stop and help me and for that I am very thankful. (Thank you anonymous runner, where ever you are!)

Once the kind runner was on her way, I had a decision to make. I still had 10.2 miles to go to reach the end. I was moving so slowly and I felt like crap. Could I make it? I decided to push myself to run the next four miles to the “wall” and meet my family there. At that point, I could choose to bail if my condition worsened.

The Wall
The four miles between 16 and 20 were brutal. My run had become a shuffle; my energy level was hovering just above zero; and I developed an unquenchable thirst that had me stopping at every possible water station. My wall came well before mile 20, but once I hit the infamous marathoner’s wall I saw my family. Knowing they would be at this checkpoint was giving me another reason to keep going. I mustered up a smile, gave them a thumbs up and as I ran past them I told them I was going to finish. With only 6 miles to go I just couldn’t find it in me to quit. I had made it that far; I could eek out the last 6.

The Home Stretch
My sluggish pace got progressively worse during the last 6.2 miles and I still had difficulties breathing. My legs were aching so bad that I could only make it about half a mile before I had to walk for a bit. I started to notice that the weather had gotten colder and the skies had turned grey, which gave me motivation to keep going and make it to the finish before it started to rain. I took the last several miles a half mile at a time and shuffled my way along. With only three miles to go, I saw them: my family! I wasn’t expecting to see them until the finish and yet there they were to give my one final boost of encouragement. It was so great to see them. I told them I’d see them at the finish line and I was off (still at a slow shuffle, of course).

The final miles seemed to last forever. I wasn’t sure how much further my body would allow me to go and I was longing to see even just a glimpse of the finish line. Then I noticed the groups of spectators getting thicker and I knew I was almost there. With about half a mile to go, I could feel my calves tensing up and just on the verge of cramping. It took every last bit of my energy to keep shuffling to the end and not stop until I got there.  With the last .2 miles to go, I see my family again and I know I’m almost there. All I had to do is make it around the corner up ahead!

I headed down the finisher’s corral and I could see my husband waiting for me. Then…I crossed the finish line. I don’t know how I made it 26.2 miles, but I did it. I was devastated by my time, but overwhelmed by the accomplishment of finishing. This was nothing like my first marathon and I learned a lot about myself as a runner.

My Breakdown
After enjoying a nice lunch, we all headed back to the house. Once everyone got settled and was doing their own things, I took the opportunity to get a nice relaxing shower in. As I washed away the sweat and dirt, it felt like I was also trying to wash away my disappointment. Feeling deflated and defeated, I ended up sobbing to myself. All of the emotions from the day rushed back and as I cried to myself, I started to come to grips with everything that had happened. It felt good to let it out, but once the flood gates were open it was tough to control them. I didn’t want my family to see me like that, so I kept to myself until I knew I was just about cried out. Was I disappointed in the way this marathon turned out? Yes. Was I frustrated that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t go any faster? Yes. But on the flip side, I finished. Under all the circumstances, I finished. And the best part was that I had the support of my husband, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces along the entire way. I don’t know if I would have made it to the end without them. As I enjoyed a champagne toast with them before heading to bed, I was reminded once again that they were proud of me and loved me no matter how I finished that race.

What’s Next?
The CIM was going to be my last marathon for a while so I could concentrate on starting a family. I will still run, but not be in training-mode all the time. But after the abysmal ending to this race, I knew I couldn’t end on that note. So, two days after the marathon, I decided that I am going to run the P.F. Chang’s Rock n Roll marathon in Arizona again. The race is on January 16, so I have a month to continue with training and take another shot at beating my time. Fingers crossed that the next race will be less eventful than this one!

p.s. I forgot to mention that one of my gel packs leaked inside my SPIbelt early on in the race, which oozed out onto my shirt making it look like I peed my pants!

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