Saturday, October 22, 2016

Get it together, Mom...and other things you say to a marathon runner



Pre-race...timing tattoo that I refer to on inside of left arm
I ran my first marathon over a year ago. I decided to run it because I was going to be 40, and it seemed like an impressive thing to have on my bucket list. My bucket list has romantic ideas like "Go to Fiji" on it, but then it also has things like "Become a high-powered executive" on it.

I'm nothing if not high-achieving.

I had been running for almost ten years and two very consistently for the years before my first marathon. My goal was to enter the Chicago Marathon. Either I get in and I run it, or I don't get in and this wasn't a bucket list item to be checked off quite yet.

I got in.

I ran.

My time was 4:20:24. It was pretty impressive for someone running a first marathon. Experienced runners told me that now I knew the course, my time would only get better, there was speed training I could complete to get faster.

I entered the lottery again this year. And again, I was selected to run. Chicago Marathon 2016, my goal was a sub 4-hour marathon.

I ran intervals. I ran mountains. I ran intervals on mountains.

I also increased my strength training.

And you know what? I got faster. Sub 4 hours was not a pipe dream. It was a very realistic and achievable goal.

About three weeks before the marathon, I started getting lower back pain. Very weird, unexpected, so I backed off of running a bit. It was about time to taper anyway, so no big deal. My chiropractor said I could stand to increase the strength in my glute muscles. Sure, I will get right on that...after my marathon.

The week before, I had a twinge of pain in my knee...but I had had that before...it went away after a couple strides. Nothing that I worried about.

I ran normal mileage my taper week. I ran a 5k the day before my marathon with a pace of 8:03 per mile.

I felt good.

I felt REALLY good.

Race morning, I made sure I went to the bathroom RIGHT BEFORE THE RACE (this was an issue the previous  year, despite NEVER having to use the bathroom during ANY of my training runs...even the 24 mile one).

I was in the corral, feeling strong.

I came out easy, didn't push mile one too hard. I had my pace tattooed to my arm and I listened to Siri tell me where I was in time every mile...I was under my goal pace by two to three minutes! It helped that the crowds LOVED WONDER WOMAN.

I then heard someone cheer for Batman. What? Why? My superfriend wasn't there...or was he? A fellow runner turned to me and said, I am glad you're beating Batman. I turned around and there he was...in full Batsuit. We ran side by side (not on purpose) for about three miles. It caused quite a raucous.

I'm not going to lie...if people wonder (haha, not on purpose) WHY I run as Wonder Woman...here it is...completely selfish...the crowds cheer loudly for me. It's like an injection of motivation at every step, around every corner. My time shows it. I can remember how big the crowds were at miles 1-4 and my time shows this. How big the crowds were around mile 16 (they put up a jumbotron there to send us messages from our fans) and that was a very fast mile for me.

Crazy thing...I've NEVER not listened to music during a run...For this marathon, I listened to the crowds, the people cheering, my fellow runners. I was so enjoying taking in the sights AND the sounds simultaneously. I had no reason to put in my earbuds...until I had a reason...I didn't listen to music during this marathon until mile 20.

Mile 20.

Around mile 18 I felt a twinge in my knee. I had been feeling so good for so many miles, I thought it was like past twinges. Something that, after a few strides, would just go away. I kept on. But by mile 20, I was in pain. Severe, run stopping pain. I tried walking for a half mile. I knew my time, and I knew I had a good 8 minutes or so that I could give up and still make it in under 4 hours. Mile 20.5 I tried to pick running back up.

Nope. Wasn't going to happen. The twinge felt like a surge going up my entire leg at that point. I didn't want to give up, so I tried speed walking. I noticed the difference between the two motions of walking and running and how my knee reacted. I realized the impact of my full body on my knee hurt, but while walking--much lower impact--my full body never left the ground. Less pain. I tried to speed walk for another half mile...then attempted running again.

I did this on and off for two miles. Tears started to swell in my eyes. Actually, they're swelling in my eyes right now as I type this. I looked down at my tattoo and realized my sub 4-hour marathon had slipped away.
The goal was gone...at this point, I just wanted to finish.

I was dressed as Wonder Woman, and very publicly undergoing a devastating and painful moment in my life. I choked back the pain and the tears and forged ahead. The crowds as I moved from Pilsen to Chinatown supported me graciously. I am sure they saw the pain...but their cheers were only encouraging. "You got this, Wonder Woman." "Go, go, go, Wonder Woman! "YESSSSS!!! WONDER WOMAN!!! I LOVE YOU!!!!" It was almost too hard to listen to. So I had to put my earbuds in and turn up the music. I didn't feel like I deserved those cheers, that love, any of it. I wasn't feeling so wonder-ful. I was embarrassed to be a superhero...and assumingly failing.

But, the crowds were the reason why I attempted to jog. If I was Wonder Woman, I would move forward...no matter what. Slow jogging and fast walking were how I got through miles 22 and 23...along with biofreeze, which WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT THE GLORIOUSNESS OF BIOFREEZE AT MILE 20? I slathered that stuff on at EVERY medic stop. Like, slathered. Graciously. IMMENSE AMOUNTS.

At mile 24 I almost started to cry on the course. A cheering woman on the sidelines looked at me and said, "You got this! You didn't come this far not to finish." She was right. I choked back the tears. A runner came up beside me. "You got this," he stated very matter of factly. He seemed to stick by my side and I realized, he is pacing me. I got some pep in my step. I had support. The pain started to fade just a little...maybe my body sending out endorphins because TOO MUCH PAIN?  He stuck with me. He was maybe thirty-ish. He was wearing a heathered grey dryfit shirt. I wish I got his name or his bib number. I ran the last two miles and actually finished ahead of him, but never would have had the strength to run if he hadn't been there.

I love the running community.

While I was walking, I pulled out my phone. I started texting people, responding to people on social media. I mean, might as well. I told my eldest son I was hurt, that it hurt bad, that I wasn't sure I could finish. He told me I could and said he'd call me back.

The second I crossed the finish, my eyes filled with tears. I started to sob. I wish it was a good sob. An "Oh my goodness, I just finished a marathon, how amazing is that" sob. But it wasn't. It was a letting go of a dream sob. It was a "But all that hard work" sob. It was I fought so hard for so long sob.

While I was sobbing, Joey called. It was too much for me. Someone who loved me called!

Here is the transcript, pretty exact word for word...

Joey: Mom! Congrats! You just finished a marathon! 
Me: *sobs* Nooooooo. The pain. *sobs* *sobs* *sobs* 
Joey: Mom. I can't understand you. What are you saying? 
Me: *sobs* My knee! *sobs* So much pain! *sobs* I didn't get my *sobs* time. *sobs* I was on time *sobs* to finish *sobs* in under *sobs* four hours. *sobs* I didn't. *sobs* 
Joey: Mom! Are you crying? 
Me: *sobs* Didn't even beat my *sobs* time from *sobs* last year. *ugly cry* 
Joey: Mom. You just finished a marathon. Get it together, Mom. Call me back when you're done crying. *hangs up*

Real talk. That's my first born.

So, needless to say, I am pretty sure I needed to hear that. I mean, there are probably different ways to have said all that, but I am pretty hard headed and I need things delivered straight, no bull shit. Hey, I finished a marathon. This year's time? 4:28:40. Just 8 minutes short of finshing it UNINJURED last year. Faster than other runners with no issues this year. Get over it, right?

I hobbled over to the after-race party. After an hour, my knee stiffened up pretty badly. I went to the post-race medic tent, saw a doctor, and they said IT band swelling. So, I am looking at IT band syndrome and lots and lots of PT and rehab.

No fun.

Of course, I've already started. I can run 3 miles no problems on pavement. I could run six miles on the good treadmill. But, I will have to become a different runner. I will never be the same. This changed me...emotionally, physically...and I learned about myself.

I learned, that despite being painfully injured, I could still finish a marathon. Which, check that off my bucket list.

After getting it together, this mom learned Wonder Woman is bad ass.
Can you tell I had just ugly cried?

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