Well, the 2012 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon is over for me. It has been quite a day and I am sorry to report another miss.
I’ll start by saying thank you to all of my friends and family who have called, texted, and messaged me to show support and encouragement. Your outpouring of love and support have been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. Please forgive me if it takes me a little while to respond. I am still processing the lessons of today.
As I said last night, I ate something yesterday that either was bad or just didn’t sit well with me. After a few bouts of throwing up, I had a fitful sleep, feeling much better but still a little queasy on and off. I did not have any dinner and this morning ate my Power Bar Energy Bites as planned, feeling like the worst had passed.
In fact, on the way to the race I felt surprisingly strong, confident, and ready for an awesome day. I found my intended 3:35 pace group, after hitting the porta-potty, and felt like everything was lining up perfectly. The gun went off, I tucked in with the group and got ready to just run. All was well through the first aid station, when the pacer plowed through without slowing. Without my belt this race, I slowed minimally to grab the water, but found I had slipped a bit in my position. No matter, though, I could easily see the pace flag bobbing up ahead. I tried to catch up, but didn’t want to burn too much too early, so since I was maintaining 8:05-8:10 pace (which I thought was strange, since the pace group was supposed to be maintaining an even 8:15 pace throughout), I figured I would just sit in behind them. No worries.
At mile 5, I started to feel my stomach. It was rumbling and I started having some reflux. It’s all good, I told myself. There’s nothing left in me to come out. Just run and keep sight of the pace flag. From miles 9-13 there was a lot of headwind. I tried to draft as much as I could off of larger runners, but the wind just seemed to come off of the water in every direction. Autopilot, I told myself. Just dig in. At mile 13 half the race is over and I had earned a half-marathon PR.
By mile 14, the nausea was building to a fever pitch. I felt myself fighting burps that were a bit more involved than your average burp. Lovely, I know.
By mile 15, I was having a hard time keeping anything down and couldn’t even put any of my bloks or gels in my mouth. From that point on, I had no nutrition. I knew this wasn’t good, but really had no choice.
By mile 16, I walked my first step and then fought to get back on pace.
By mile 19, I had cold sweats, felt a little dizzy and just wanted to curl up into a fetal position by the side of the road.
By mile 20, I was in the middle of a pity party to rival all others. I felt like I could barely walk and didn’t even know how I would finish the race. I thought about all the people I was out there to honor. People who had fought, and continue to fight, cancer. They were so strong and brave, and here I was struggling with something as inconsequential and temporary as nausea and dehydration. I started balling. I felt like a disgrace and like I was dishonoring them all more than anything else.
The next thing I knew a woman wrapped her arms around me. She squeezed me tight and close. Then she said, “You just need to be out here and finish the race. Walk if you have to. It’s Ok. I have brain cancer. Just do your best, whatever that is. You can do this.”
I couldn’t even believe the timing and how uncanny the whole thing was (especially given that I had just been thinking about particular loved one who is fighting the same thing). As I watched her run off, I wiped away my tears and began running and walking, running and walking. I might have missed my time goal, but she was right, at this point it was about focusing on simply being the best I could be right then and there, even if it was not what I had planned or wanted.
I tried taking water again right after mile 20, desperate for something to go down, but it still just made me gag. I swished it around in my mouth and kept finding points ahead to run to. I just had to get to the finish – come hell or high water!
By mile 23, my tongue felt like it took up my whole mouth and my mouth was so sticky I could barely swallow. I still couldn’t bare the thought of any bloks, gels, or gatorade, but knew I HAD to get water down. At the next aid station I took a water and sipped slowly. It didn’t all go down, but some did. It was enough to be able to swallow again.
At that point, a woman ran by with the following hand-written on the back of her shirt, “You must do that which you cannot do,” or something like that – Eleanor Roosevelt. From that point on I kept repeating that over and over in my head. You must, you must…. It wasn’t pretty ,but I ran the rest of the way in to the finish. Crossing the finish line I totally broke down again – mama drama.
I felt like a total failure. I crawled into a ball on the grass and cried like my world had ended. I realize now that that was silly and that it is only a race. In the scheme of things, who really cares? But at that moment, it was everything. I felt frustrated, disappointed, embarrassed and weak…in more ways than one. I didn’t even want to put on my finisher’s medal.
That, my friends, is the emotional and physical roller-coaster of my day.
As I started to pull myself together, it was time to see what I could take away from this heartbreak of a race.
Here is what I learned:
– Wear my water belt. No exceptions.
– I don’t like Cliff Bloks. I will go back to using the Powerbar Gels every 30 minutes. I feel that worked better for me in many ways.
– Don’t rely on anyone else for pacing. The 3:35 pace group finished 3 minutes faster than they were supposed to. As I know – but didn’t follow – you have to run your own race.
– MOST importantly, get my pre-race nutrition dialed in. I know you can’t anticipate food poisoning, or whatever I had, but I also feel like maybe if I stuck to things that I had eaten during training I might have been better off. I will have to focus more on fueling for both training and racing. 6 marathons down and I fell prey to a big rookie mistake.
– Lastly, in my mind I kept repeating “Never Give Up” over and over. The moment I realized I missed my time, I felt like I had given up. What I have to accept here is that I know that I can run better than I did today. I know I have the mental and physical toughness to achieve this goal. I am much more fit now than I was last fall. Maybe I had a different race today than I had wanted, but giving up would have been listening to that voice in my head that begged to lie down next to the road and wait for a medic to get me. Believe me, I am not exaggerating when I tell you how tempted I was on several occasions. Giving up would be to stop pursuing my goal altogether. Even though the thought of starting all over again is devastating, maybe it’s not about getting beat, as much as it is about not getting beat down.
There you have it. Warts and all. I am sad and will need to pick up some pieces, but overall I am healthy and, in the scheme of things, life is good. I have to focus on that and shine on.
Live, love, run – If not as intended, at least the best I can.
I struck out today, but the game is not over.
It’s time to clear the slate and start fresh…again.