Why I’m Sad and Not Sad About My Marathon

I’ve been quiet on here for a while – it’s not been on purpose.  Life has just been steering a bit more than what I’d like.  I was also hoping to have my next post be an epic account of my fantabulously amazing marathon experience.  I have been working with Coach Dai for… 4 years, now?  Originally, I came to him with the goal of running a Boston Marathon qualifier.  In those four years, I failed multiple times to make it to the STARTING LINE of a marathon.  On June 20th, I finally made it!  I towed the starting line at Grandma’s Marathon.  It didn’t go as planned.  I didn’t make the wisest nutrition choices the days prior to the race; I was away from home and doing my best to carb up on what was available and it turns out that my soon-to-be-34-year-old stomach ain’t what she used to be.  I had a pretty severe stomach ache the night before the race but I took some probiotics and an aka seltzer and felt better so I thought I was in the clear.  Race morning came around and I felt ready to roll.

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See? Looking all bad@ss and confident in my Betty Designs gear!

 Justin hopped on his elite (oo lala) bus to get to the start line and I hopped on a regular ole school bus with the masses.  We arrived at the start and it was pouring rain.  I had 45 minutes before the race started by the time our bus got us there and I had nothing to keep me dry and a desperate need for a portajohn.  I was tempted to use the surrounding woods but there were threats of DQs should we be caught using the woods because they were privately owned and it turns out that a bunch of athletes using someone’s yard as a bathroom isn’t great for community relations.  Who knew?  The second I was off the bus I started running to the bathroom lines.  I stood in the bathroom line for nearly 35 minutes!!!  It was so frustrating.  I HAD to go to the bathroom.  Additionally, I was standing there getting cold and tight because I was getting rained on and couldn’t go for cover without forfeiting my spot in the bathroom line and starting all over, again.  SO very frustrating.  I finally got to use the bathroom and then had to immediately run over to the gear drop, strip down to my race attire and turn my bag in.  After that, I had just enough time to weave my way to the 3:25 pace group.

Based on my training, I knew I could reasonably maintain a 7:50ish pace so I went with the 3:25 group thinking 7:49 would be doable and having a group to hang on to would keep me on track much longer than a solo strategy.  Our first mile with the group was a bit slow (8:00) due to congestion but we started to pick it up as the crowd dispersed.  Then, a little bit into mile 2, the 3:25 pacer just TOOK OFF!  Initially, I went with the group but when I looked down at my watch we were doing a 7:25 pace.  I thought maybe he was just trying to get around a few people so I kept hanging on but he wasn’t slowing down and we were about a half mile into the 2nd mile.  I looked at a girl I had been chatting with and wished her good luck, said that if I kept going at that pace I would be writing a check I couldn’t cash, and I backed down.  I settled in, probably still a bit too quick, somewhere in the 7:40s and it kind of took a while for me to get my rhythm after that weird start, especially after not really having a warm up.  Any who, I was chugging along… not feeling awesome but thinking that I would probably feel better after I was warmer and more accustomed to the weather.  I felt kind of bloated and uncomfortable in the stomach but not TOO bad and I thought it would go away with time.  Around mile 5 I took my first gel.  It went down with a burning sensation and I had trouble not gagging it back up; it was my favorite Honey Stinger gel and I usually have NO problems getting those down!  I had that burning/acid reflux sensation for a while and then it started to lessen.  I just kept chugging along.  I took another gel at mile 9.  It got worse.  I couldn’t keep it down… if you’re not into runner TMI or you have a weak stomach, skip the next paragraph…

After my gel at mile 9, I started throwing up in my mouth.  Sometimes I would spit it out.  Sometimes I would try to swallow it, thinking that I really needed that nutrition.  I decided to wait a bit to take another gel because, I thought, maybe not taking one for a while would settle my stomach.  It did settle somewhat but by mile 13 I knew I was in trouble if I couldn’t get in more nutrition.  I walked through aid stations at mile 13 in the hopes that slowing sipping some water and some poweraid would be more manageable.  It WAS more manageable until I started running, again, and then the same acid reflux sensation came back.  I tried to take another gel around mile 17 (I think – I was getting a bit delirious by then since I had been running hard with not a lot of nutrition) and it was pukee-mcpuke all over, again.  I kept going, even though I was drastically slowing down and even though every time I saw a sign that said “medical/drop out station” I wondered if maybe I should stop.  I was doing weird, low-blood sugar math in my head as I swallowed my own vomit and I thought I could still come in close to my goal.

I’m not really sure what happened between miles 17 and 22 other than a lot of slowing down and a desperate porta potty stop.  I just know that when I reached the top of the hill at mile 22 and a quarter, I was done.  I knew I had no chance of being anywhere remotely close to my goal.  I could barely walk at that point as my body started shutting down and tightening up since I hadn’t been able to take in the necessary nutrition.  I had made my decision… some cheerful volunteer said “Welcome to the top of lemon drop hill!  You’ve made it!” which was supposed to be awesome because it’s the biggest hill on the course.  I looked at her and said “where’s medical” with a glum face.  Despite having decided my fate several miles before, I lost my cool and began crying the second my foot stepped on the grass and off the course.  It became real.  It was over.  I spent the next hour or so (again, not sure since I had the whole low-blood sugar thing going on) in medical.  They gave me a shot of Zofran for my nausea and ended up wrapping me in about 12 blankets because, apparently, my body temperature was quite low when I got there.  I called my husband, who had already finished, to let him know where I was so that he wouldn’t worry.  He had not met his goal for the day either.  My good friend Renee had also dropped out (another elite – oo lala).  Nobody got what they wanted that day.  It was sad.  But also, it was okay.  Here’s why:

I had spent the week prior to the race in Illinois with my family.  We celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday!  My sister and I both flew in from the West and surprised her – she cried.  It was awesome.  I spent time with my husband, my parents and my sister.  I saw extended family that I very seldom get to see and to connect with them in a different way that I could when I was years younger. ❤

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I hope I look as good as this woman does when I’m 90!  Still gardens and mows her own yard!

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Justin got to enjoy my family home, Hilltop Acres, without mounds of snow and below freezing temperatures.  I was reminded of just how beautiful the Midwest can be!

Before the race, I got to spend time goofing around with one of my best friends.  I got to enjoy the benefits of being married to an elite athlete!Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.15.15 AMOn the course tour with Renee and Justin! Renee and I got to spent some girl time together while Justin graciously shared a seat with a friendly stranger… though when you’re on a bus full of marathoners, who is REALLY a stranger? 😉

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Elite goodies!  “Marathon Blend” coffee!  Um, yes please!

While I was laying in medical, shivering and being forced to eat some tube of goop that basically tasted like sugary vaseline, I was sad about my race but I was okay.  I was okay because I knew that I had my wonderful husband waiting for me at the finish.  I knew that we both had some wounds to lick from the race and that we would do it together and help build each other back up.  I knew that I had this cuteness to come home to:

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Reunited and it feels sooooo gooooood!  The ride home from doggy daycare after being away from our pups for 10 days!

And in case I needed a further reminder that there are more important things than races and race results, my sweet Mr. Tibby (on the right in the pic above) became ill after we got home.  He seemed like he has some sort of bug and we were going to let it ride its course but by Tuesday morning he was very sick and had to be taken to the vet and from there to the animal hospital where he has been treated for the last 5 days for pancreatitis and aspirated pneumonia!  He really only started to improve yesterday and we were very concerned that we would lose him.

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After 4 days of petting my sweet boy through a small opening in an oxygen chamber, I was finally able to hold him!  It was only for a few minutes while they replaced his bedding but it was precious to me, especially since only two days before he had not even responded to my presence!

The thing that makes me the saddest about the marathon is that it was my last race with Dai as my coach, at least for now.  We had discussed it a few months beforehand and I had decided that it would be best for me to start working with a local coach in San Diego to improve my triathlon, especially the swim.  I wanted to continue our work through the marathon.  I had hoped/expected to come away with a BQ, or at least something very close, that would give Dai and I some beautiful closure.  I wanted to make my coach proud and I wanted to be an athlete about whom he could brag.  Coach Dai is a great man and he is an absolute professional when it comes to his interactions with his athletes.  He has undoubtably gone above and beyond for me and for Justin over the several years we have worked with him.  I KNOW that he is still a proud coach, but I also KNOW that we would both have preferred a better outcome from the race.  After a lot of reflection, I’ve decided that my 22.26 mile run actually shows just as much growth as a BQ would have.  I was not mature enough as an athlete 4 years ago to make the decision to DNF.  (Btw, this was my FIRST DNF.)  I would have hobbled all the way to the finish and clawed my way over that finish line.  And for what? I know I can FINISH a marathon.  Why would I put myself through that just to not reach my goal and potentially cause a lot more damage to my body?  How did I become so wise?  I’ve had a great coach.  Really, this transition has been hard for me and maybe one of the reasons I haven’t blogged for a while is that I didn’t want to address it. It’s hard.  Dai is a part of our family and to not talk to him weekly or even daily about my training is going to feel strange and a little sad.  I don’t think I have the words to capture and describe the impact he has had on my life.  So, I’m sad that I didn’t give him a BQ but it’s okay.  I’m also NOT sad because our coach-athlete relationship has given me something far more valuable than faster times; he has taught me patience and helped me to develop wisdom and perspective.  These are things that reach much further than my training and racing; these are things that will shape how I live my life.

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Coach Dai, I look forward to a continued friendship and will always be grateful for your kindness, dedication and patience.