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Mind over marathon: Part III

I crossed the starting mat about two minutes after the gun went off. I was surprised it went that fast actually. And the flow was good. It wasn’t too fast, because I wasn’t in he front or anywhere near. I was making good time. Or I thought so at the time. It turns out I as going out way too fast.

Mile 1: 10:30 — A gentle downhill, through an intersection. It’s deserted, but nice.

Mile 2:10:36 — The path started going uphill a little, but not bad. Still moving along fine.

Mile 3: 10:30 — The gentle downhills seems OK about right here, but I’m starting to feel the burn in my thighs. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m just starting to warm up.

Mile 4: 10:58

Mile 5: 10:54 — Hitting some small hills here.  I slow to take a Vanilla Bean Gu.

Mile 6: 10:49

Mile 7: 11:50 — Here’s where the nerves start getting me. I can’t tell if it’s because I did the Gu too quickly or because my stomach is still in knots. But I start to slow a little over the next couple miles. I feel fatigue. I realize feeling tired with 19 miles to go is not good.

Mile 8: 11:46 — Trying to pick up the pace a little, still feeling queasy.

Mile 9: 12:19 – An uphill here. We were heading into Fair Oaks at about this time. It was a cute little area that turned into more up and downhills. People kept saying “Don’t worry, it’s all downhill.” No. I knew there was a difference between “downhill” and “net downhill.” California International Marathon was a “net downhill” race.

Mile 10: 11:28 — The quad burning continues. This was about the point I noticed the 4:55 marathon group was passing me. I decided I, perhaps, needed to slow down. Why? I was thinking I’d finish this around 5:30 in time at some point. I knew, only at that point, I’d gone out to past and not consistent enough.

Mile 11: 13:06 — I hit my half marathon wall here. This is usually when I pick it up, but I was feeling a little tired again. I was slowing. I did another Gu, despite the fact that I was feeling queasy after the first one.

Mile 12: 12:07 — Speeding up a little. There were a lot of people cheering me along here. I started to get motivated more.

Mile 13: 12:45

HALF MARATHON: 2:31:53 (This would be my third best half marathon ever if I was running a half marathon.)

Mile 14: 12:58 — At this point I hit my real metaphorical wall. I can’t describe it outside of panic and insecurity. My feet started to hurt. I slowed a little again. But I kept pushing. I was trying to not get below the 13:45 average that would mean I didn’t finish in six hours. I was really worried about that time limit.

Mile 15: 14:23 — It didn’t help that I decided at this point that I needed to go to the bathroom. I only did so because there were six portable toilets lined up and only four people standing in line. In between the water stop and another Gu, the pack of people I was running with passed me.

Mile 16: 11:18 — I had to pick it up again.

Mile 17: 11:40 — Still moving.

Mile 18: 11:53 — My last good mile. I say that will a lot of pride, but there’s a reason why that was the last good mile. My IT band, which had plagued me greatly when I moved from 5Ks to 10Ks. All of the sudden I was feeling it.

Mile 19: 13:09 — I slowed and walked to try to get back the leg a little. I spent the next few miles using that method. Run, walk, run. When I ran, I was averaging 11-12 minute miles.

Mile 20: 12:52 — “The wall” literally. We ran through an area that was marked by a fake wall. I looked happy, but the smile was masking my pain.

Mile 21: 12:54 — I thought of this mile as a plane descending into the destination point. This was the point where we buckle our safety belts and put the tray table  in an upright position. This was also the point my feet started killing me. My IT band wasn’t behaving either.

Mile 22: 13:47 — Run/walk continues.

Mile 23: 13:20 — And more.

Mile 24: 13:07 — This was actually a very frustrating time for me. People were cheering me on from the sidelines. One guy kept yelling “if it was easy, everyone would do it!” I liked that. But it wasn’t enough to pull me out of my funk.

Mile 25: 13:18 — Still moving, but getting more excited. Someone asked me when I knew I’d finish. I didn’t for a long time. When the IT band started throbbing and I knew my feet were blistering, I didn’t think I’d make it. I had four moments where I wanted to stop, cry and call Thomas to come get me. “I don’t need to finish this,” I thought. “I have nothing to prove. I knew, as I started to make my way toward the 26-mile sign, that I’d make it. It took me that long.

Mile 26: 12:46 — And then I really knew. Thomas ran across my path. I felt a huge smile stretching across my face. I had made it.

Mile .2: 3:35 — Here I pushed. I saw the clock reading 5:22:13. I could make it before the clock turned to 5:23, I thought. I picked it up.

Gun time: 5:22:39.

Chip time: 5:20:41

I wish it was like Ironman and someone said “Tara, you ARE a marathoner.” No one did. I was handed my medal and my space blanket, which I really needed at that point if just because I wanted some comfort. I saw Thomas, kissed him and handed him my water bottle (it always gets in my way at the end even though I love it).

Then I teared up a little. I had a moment. I had done it. Less than two years after I set out on my treadmill and started running. I had run a marathon.

I was surprised at how good I felt. My feet hurt, yes. My leg was killing me. And my shins were throbbing. But I felt good.

So good I even opted to get my photo taken at the end. I NEVER do this. I always say “it’s a waste of money.” But I felt compelled to do so. You only run your first marathon once.

I found Thomas and immediately walked over to the merchandise booth and he bought me an awesome shirt that said “26.2 finisher.” I can’t wait to wear it when I run. (I haven’t done any running this week to give my legs a well-deserved rest. I’ve also been eating a ton of food,which I feel bad about, but I also deserve it.)

I didn’t find any of the requisite food that I was told was popular. The food vans were closing down as well. (That was really discouraging, especially when I finished with 40 minutes left for the finish line to be open AND it actually stayed open longer.)

We opted to head to Red Lobster on Howe Avenue after we found the car.

And then we headed home.

I was exhaustion and in pain for about two days. Not a bad pain. A good pain.

And, four days later, I’m still in awe that I did it. I ran a marathon.

Every insecurity that I’ve ever had about my work as a journalist, as an editor, as a instructor and as a person diminished during those 26.2 miles. They say it changes you. I think it makes a person stronger. You have to get mentally past barriers. You have to keep going when you want to quit. And you have to believe you can do it when you’re body is failing under you.

I ran a marathon. And for it, and all those things mentioned before, I’m 100-times better for it then I was the day before.

Mind over marathon: Part II

Another warning: This post may now be more than two parts. I think the whole “race” will be its on separate post.

My alarm for race morning was set for 5 a.m. I woke up at 4:55 a.m.

The lights outside were bright. It wasn’t daylight. Not even close. But the La Quinta in Rancho Cordova was in a well-lit area. So the lights shined through the window. I kind of hopped out of bed. I don’t know why.

Part of me was excited. Part of me was still worried.

These are the moments were the doubt really gets you.

“I’m not ready,” I thought. No way.

“I can’t do this,” was another.

I put my clothes on, somewhat methodically. I woke Thomas up, though he dwelled in the bed for about 30 minutes before really getting out of bed. I looked outside and it didn’t look cold. I knew, though, that would be deceiving. It was near freezing.

I had asked Thomas to get me a banana the night before. And a blue Gatorade. I don’t know what flavor blue is, I think it’s Glacier Freeze or something, but I like it. Thomas forgot the banana. I had a Peppermint Luna bar in my gym bag, though. My stomach was turning knots, but I knew after my Big Sur Half Marathon no-food beforehand debacle that I had to eat.

I tweeted my nervousness at close to 6 a.m.

Jennie sent me a text message saying she was ready. I told her to come on down to the room. She was there for a good 10 minutes before we packed up and left.

The moment we stepped out the door, it was cold. It wasn’t windy, despite the fact it had been for days. I felt the sting of the cold on the few parts of my skin that were exposed. I was wearing my Zensah compression sleeves with my capris. I had my new gloves on too.

The drive wasn’t that long. Not even a week later and I don’t remember much of it. Thomas made quick work of it, though. I’ve learned one thing about my husband in the past year of racing: He’s very good at getting me to the start and showing up at the finish.

But he didn’t get us close, exactly. We saw people walking toward what we thought was a start area.

Turns out it wasn’t.

It was the place where the buses from Sacramento were dropping people off. Another set of school buses were taking people up to the actual start line.

Suddenly Jennie and I were in a line.

“Where are we going,” I asked.

“TO THE START,” responded an overly enthusiastic volunteer.

And we were put on a bus. Jennie and I both had “we didn’t pay for this bus” moments. “I think we just hijacked a bus ride,” I said to her.

No matter. The bus was warm. At least for the 5 minutes or so it took us to get to the start.

There were two huge arches to mark the start. It looked a little something like this:

The photo above is from the California International Marathon website. I’m not trying to steal it or anything, but I didn’t do a lot of shooting photos in the morning. I knew it would come back and haunt me later.

The start line was actually very nice. I was way in the back. Further behind me was a gigantic line of portable toilets.

The California International Marathon Facebook page include a photo of  it earlier in the week. This is that photo, cropped:

OK, enough stealing photos. That’s what it looked like. Jennie and I got in a line. It wasn’t too far back, but not close up either.

It was about 6:32 a.m. We literally waited in line until the 7 a.m. start.

In fact, there wasn’t much standing around at all. The start was quick. All the literature says the start line closes exactly five-minutes after the gun goes off.

I started my Garmin fairly quickly. I only had 10 seconds of time off between my chip time and the Garmin at the end.

I started near the back. I worked my way forward. And I took off.

The first part of the course is downhill. I got into a nice stride. One foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other. Keep moving.

And, as everyone had predicted, my nervousness all started to fall away.

Little did I know, this run would test my mind and body in ways I’d never been tested before.

Mind over marathon: Part I

This is a fair warning: This post is going to be long and over two parts. I may ramble in parts, but I’ll try to keep it together. Two days after crossing the finish line for the California International Marathon, I’m still in a little disbelief that I did it. But I did.

My time wasn’t spectacular. It was 5:20:41. But I’ll own every minute of it.

I’m now a marathoner. I can’t believe it. I don’t feel changed at all. But I know this means the beginning of something new.

But I digress.

Our journey to Sacramento started at the Sacramento Convention Center. That’s where the expo for the 29th Annual California International Marathon was being staged. My husband and I seemed to walk in at a busy time. The number/chip lines were packed in some areas. My “C” wasn’t bad. We got my number in about 5 minutes. I was also picking up my running buddy Jennie’s chip. It was her first marathon too.

The line for Jennie’s last name was much longer. And the volunteers seemed a little flustered by people coming up without their numbers. I knew mine. I knew Jennie’s. I had printed both out. So it was a breeze. The volunteer actually thanked me for having the number and not making him search by name.

I was surprised I didn’t have to do much else outside ask for Jennie’s number. I didn’t show identification. No one asked me to confirm I was me.

Even in the “chip check” area when my husband scanned Jennie’s chip, no one said anything. It was odd. to say the least.

We were sent over to the shirt table. I believe we had the choice between short/long sleeve shirts if we registered before a certain time. I opted for the long-sleeve one because I enjoy my race long sleeve shirts. It has a bear jumping out of the California flag and into the race. It’s a light blue color. And, unfortunately, I’ve already snagged it twice. That sucks because I love it! I think that might just be first marathon high still.

We walked around the expo for about 45 minutes. I scored a new pair of Zensah compression socks in purple for $32. I also got a California International Marathon shirt.

I also grabbed a pair of gloves at the expo. The temperature at the start was expected to be around 37 degrees. Cold. Very cold. And I’ve never had running gloves before. They were reasonable at $18, though on second thought I should have probably bought the size medium instead of large. But my thumb injury (which I’ll blog about at some point here) made it where I have a nearly impossible time getting gloves on and off. So I opted for the larger ones.

We spent about 15 minutes looking for where to buy posters too. It was at the same booth where people could buy $20 bus tickets. Thomas was dropping us off at the start, so we didn’t need to worry (though we ended up finding ourselves on a bus anyway, more on that in the next post).

I found the poster for this year, and another with the route. I bought both.

I can’t tell you how nervous I was at this point. This was happening. No more training runs to prepare. It was happening in less than 24 hours. I was a little freaked out. OK. More than a little.

I was having panic moments. Everywhere I turned I was reminded that the word “marathon” did not have “half” in front of it. Nope. This was the full 26.2.

Yikes. OMG. Yikes. Breathe. Yikes.

There was a lot of that happening over and over again.

Do I look nervous? I really am. I was trying to stay calm. Thomas is used to my neurotic tendencies, but I think I was on a bit of overload with this one.

I was glad then, when he suggested we go for dinner earlier rather than later. Why? I figured my stomach wouldn’t be turning as many knots if I ate early. I didn’t want to chance it.

So we headed over to Old Sacramento. Our hotel reservation was in Rancho Cordova (halfway between Folsom, where the race started and Sacramento, where it ended).

I wanted pasta. But we haven’t been to Old Sacramento in years, so we didn’t know where would be a good place to go. We walked by some pub-style places, but I didn’t want “bar food.” We found a restaurant called Ten22.

Thomas ordered the steak special. I had the chicken with pureed butternut squash and vegetables. It was amazing.

Thomas also had wine. I just had a couple Diet Cokes. I was still feeling the butterflies in my stomach when we left. Thomas wanted to walk around the waterfront for a couple minutes. It was chilly, but beautiful in Sacramento.

I’m counting myself lucky that I’ve had two overnight-type adventures lately. The trip to Monterey with my mom was a nice getaway. And this one-night away with Thomas, despite having to wake up really early, was also nice. It’s just nice to get away, even if I’m running 26.2 miles.

Thomas snapped a photo of be with the newly painted Tower Bridge in the background.

It was getting really busy in Old Sacramento. The holiday lights were beautiful, but Thomas and I were also a little tired. I’d slept in Saturday morning to prepare for what I knew would be a long night before the marathon.

We hopped in the car and headed up Highway 50 for the short drive to Rancho Cordova. Our La Quinta was nice. We stayed on the fifth floor where I saw a bunch of other marathoners.

We kind of relaxed the rest of the night, waiting for Jennie and her husband to come and get her number. Then we checked out the spa for about 30-minutes. Overall, I was just trying to calm my nerves.

When I got back to the hotel room, I laid out my clothes for the day. I had a Nike Thermal long sleeve, black Nike running capris, NikeID “I run to be powerful” shirt, Equalons, iFitness belt, timing chip on shoe, race bib, gloves, Garmin, RoadID and all my Vanilla Bean Gu was there.

I was just trying to take it all in. I wanted to take it in. But I also knew I had to make some significant strides early on in the race if I wanted to make the six-hour time cutoff. I didn’t want to go out and not be able to finish.

I tucked in with my own blanket (a tip from another runner’s blog who said it would help me sleep better and it did) and went to sleep around 10:30 p.m. Thomas went downstairs to the lobby to watch television. He came back in at around midnight.

And I slept pretty good, until about 4:55 a.m. on Dec. 4.

Race day.

More important, my first marathon.

 

A SLO marathon: Part I

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I realized when I was printing out my confirmation for the San Luis Obispo Marathon that I registered on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. By 7 p.m. that night, I was laying in a hospital bed curled over begging the emergency room staff to give me something for that pain.

When they finally did, the marathon I had just signed up for was the farthest thing from my mind. I was pumped full of Dilaudid and sent home. A week later, I was back in the hospital being rolled into an operating room having my gallbladder removed.

Ominous beginnings, right?

Good thing the San Luis Obispo Marathon didn’t turn out anywhere near bad. It was actually an amazing, pleasant experience. I had fun. I felt good. It turned out to be a great weekend, actually.

My husband and I left home at around 11 a.m. I completely forgot how long the drive down to the San Luis Obispo area was, a total of about four hours with a pit stop for lunch. The drive was relatively uneventful. In fact, we hit very little traffic on the way down, likely due to our late start.

By 3:30 p.m. we were driving down into central San Luis Obispo on Highway 101, passing right by the tented expo at the Madonna Inn.

sloexpo4

I should explain why I decided I wanted to run this race.

One of the issues I’ve had lately is with running really large races. Nothing spikes my anxiety more than being around a huge group of people. So I’ve been avoiding large marathons. I’m lucky that California International Marathon only has about 8,000 people. I was slightly hyperventilating at the beginning of CIM. The fear was masked by the rain, thankfully.

I read that the SLO Marathon had a cap of 1,200 marathon runners. The half marathoners were capped at 4,000.

I hate to say this, because it’s a great race, but I knew that the races wouldn’t sell out. The event is only in it’s second year. I heard about it from another runner’s blog, but otherwise there was very little Internet chatter about the marathon. I signed up when I did in order to avoid rising prices, though it still wasn’t cheap.

On Sunday, only 672 people ran the marathon. It started at 6 a.m. It was still dark. By the time I was hitting mile three, the half marathon was starting. Most of my time on the course, I only saw one or two of the fastest half marathoners. Small. Nice.

Plus, I love the SLO area. My husband and I went on our first vacation together in Morro Bay. We went back for years before our lives became too busy (note, we need to go back more now).

I ignored the elevation chart. I just wanted to run somewhere beautiful.

And it was beautiful when we arrived at the expo. It was also easy in and easy out to get my race packet. The only people lined up for the marathon were two misplaced half marathoners. It took me about five minutes from start to finish to get my race packet and number, which was assigned the day of. The race organizers then wrote my shirt size on the bib tag for me to claim my shirt.

I initially signed up for a medium. On race day, my husband went and exchanged it for a large. It was way too tight across the chest. But it was a beautiful green color, very similar to my CIM one (see above).

We made our way through the expo, which actually didn’t seem all that big. I found the race gear booth and admit that I went a little crazy. I’ve been so good at not buying anything running related lately. But I always consider marathons different. I don’t do a ton of them, definitely not as many as the half marathons I do. So I bought myself a nice jacket, my first nice race-related jacket.

sloexpo1

The nice logo was embroidered on the front. It’s a nice jacket, with a fleece lining and no hood. It’s kind of a windbreaker material, but it’s really, really warm.

So I splurged a little. The back of the jacket also had a basic logo on it, but simplistic design that I loved enough that I was sold pretty quickly on the jacket.

sloexpo2

I also bought a hefty water bottle. I’m already using it. Like I said, I haven’t been buying any running items lately, so I figured this would be my gift to myself for running the marathon. Incentive is always a plus, especially with 26.2 miles ahead.

We didn’t stay at the expo long. The area is too nice to stay inland. And we were staying in Morro Bay, which was only 20 minutes away. I had told my husband I would have preferred to stay in SLO, but I’m glad we stayed on the coast.

We actually headed out to the peninsula area and went exploring for a little while before dinner.

sloexpo3

You’ll notice the difference in atmosphere here. It was nice and sunny inland. Last year the marathon was run on a relatively foggy day. This year it was beautiful the entire time. The coast, though, was layered in fog. We went for a quick jaunt along the peninsula, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.

I did get to take in some ocean calm.

It helped to soothe my nerves, though, a little before my run. We ate at an Italian place overlooking the ocean before heading back to the hotel. I settled in for bed early, at about 10 p.m. Why? My iPhone alarm was set for 4 a.m. The marathon started at 6 a.m.

And you know what? I slept really, really well. The bed was super comfortable, comparable to my bed at home.

I felt like this whole marathon lead up was different than the three times before. I felt as if I was much more calm. I wasn’t cranky. The anxious nerves were being kept at bay as well. I was taking it moment by moment.

I’d like to think that’s what led me to PR success the next day.

Worst. Marathon. Ever.

No. I didn’t run a marathon and forgot to tell on here. Though, if there was a marathon that offered a medal of Domo, I’d be all in. Like right now.

The marathon I’m running right now isn’t even one I have to lace up my Nikes for. It’s the marathon happening in my life.

If you could equate a lifetime to 26.2, I would be hitting “the wall” relatively early. Right now, I’m hitting it everyday.

Simple things are hard at first. Deciding when to wake up? Difficult. Getting out of bed? Tough. Getting in the car to drive? Scary. Trying to have some semblance of life before the panic attack? Seemingly impossible.

Five days after it happened, I realized I was different.

“Did I have a breakdown?” I asked my mom.

She responded in the affirmative.

Well crap.

A friend the other day referred to it as “the episode.” People ask me how I am. They don’t know that by the time they see me, I’ve usually had to overcome four or five moments of sheer terror before I can even get myself going in the morning.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not doing well. I thought, three weeks out, I’d be better. I thought the confidence in my voice would return. I thought I’d be cleared to return to work. I thought this would all be past me.

Yesterday marked the first time since “the episode” (sounds funny like that doesn’t it?), that I was able to talk about it without completely breaking down. Progress? Yes. Enough? No.

I got in my car on Monday to go to the store only to sit in it for 20 minutes while I figured out what, exactly, was making me so worried. Why was I so anxious?

I’m told I have to retrain my mind to get past the objections and the fear. I told my therapist that I’d been avoiding filling my gas tank up in my car. She asked why. Because I’d have to get a full tank. Then I’d have to wash the window. Then it would just be better to wash the whole car. And what if, at the gas station, I realized I needed something from the store? I’d have to go.

It sounds irrational as I type it. But I still don’t want to go get gas.

It took me six days to make a phone call necessary to my recovery. Six days. I would normally not have a problem picking up the phone.

A letter from work tells me I’m “required” to apply for disability. Fine. Doing the actual paperwork was a lesson in humility.

I couldn’t get through the little red boxes for days. And all I was doing was entering my name and other basic information.

What happened to me? Where did I go?

Today I’m angry about it. Today I’m upset that the people who should have noted a change in my behavior instead ignored it. Today I’m heartbroken because there were so many chances for someone to intervene.

I didn’t hide it. Not at all. My self-destruction was evident. I joked about my anxiety initially. It’s not so funny now. Not when it’s become paralyzing.

I was told to journal my thoughts. That part is easy. In written words, it flows. I feel more normal than I typically do. I’m able to reach a part of me that seems distant. But in person, I’m still clinging for familiarity. I can be in larger environments, because anonymous people don’t bother me.

But the thought of signing up for a local 10K Turkey Trot? I don’t even want to go there. I’ll see people I know. People who read this blog. People who want to ask how I’m doing. And I’ll shut down.

In Kindergarten I had a teacher who pin notes on my back so I’d remember to take it home to my parents. I’m tempted to pin a note to myself that says “leave me alone” and leave it at that.

I’m trying to grasp this in a way that will help me see through it, so I know there will eventually be an end to all of this. That’s where the marathon comes in. But this one is much worse than San Diego. This one doesn’t just rub your feet raw, it also hurts your lower back and breaks your will. This marathon is mean. And it knows it to.

So how do you attack a mean marathon? Training. Lots of training. Distance runs. Speed work.

It’s like running a race and powering through the water stops where they’ve run out of water, or where you can’t feel your toes anymore.

You just keep going. Right?

Second marathon sophomore slump: Part II

I usually don’t start out posts with the “after” photo, but felt in this case it was necessary. The above photo comes from near the finish line. I’m beyond spent at this point. I don’t even think I can describe how tired I am at this point. My feet are killing me. I’m near tears. I just wanted it to end.

At 4:45 a.m. I woke up to my iPhone alarm. I usually have to set two, but since I didn’t sleep at all I didn’t even need the second one. I rolled out of bed and started getting ready for the 6:15 a.m. wave starts. I was in corral 25, so I’d be heading out later, obviously, than 6:15 a.m., but I still wanted to be down to the start area with enough time to go to the bathroom (necessary, always) and warm up.

I ate an apple in the hotel room and most of a Chocolate Peppermint Luna bar. I also wrapped my feet. My shoes had been giving me a lot of problems, more than my Nikes ever did. I kept thinking I’d break in the Saucony Hurricane 14s before the marathon. By the time I hit the streets of San Diego, I had put about 80 miles on them alone.

Broken in? No. Not at all.

My pinky toes were completely raw. I also kept getting blisters on the inside of my foot. All of this would come back to haunt me during the 26.2. But at 5 a.m. I thought wrapping my feet with moleskin and then doing a once around with tape would make the world better.

Thomas drove us away from the hotel on the less than 10-minute drive to the starting line.

The portable toilet lines were ridiculous. I’ve seriously never seen so many people waiting to use the bathrooms. This was a complete 180 from the Oakland Half Marathon earlier this year where there ALWAYS seem to be ample bathrooms and no lines.

The bathroom wait ended up being about 30+ minutes. That was actually fine, if only because the waves went off every two minutes or so. By the time I was done using the bathroom, there were still six or more waves in front of me. I lined up with Corral 25 and set my Garmin.

Nerves were taking over. I downed a Vanilla Bean Gu before I crossed the start. It didn’t help soothe my stomach.

I figured they would get better once I started running.

Nope.

But either way, close to 7 a.m., we were off and running.

It started out promising.

Mile 1: 10:59 — I was hoping I wouldn’t start running and suddenly have to go to the bathroom. Thankfully I didn’t. The first mile is downhill straight until a quick turn onto University Avenue. I hit Mile 1 and was feeling OK.

Mile 2: 11:08 — The first water stop comes pretty quickly here. I bypass it because I’m carrying my 20-ounce Amphipod water bottle.

Mile 3: 11:12 — We’re in Balboa Park for parts of miles 2 and 3. It’s beautiful. Nice architecture. I’m still feeling OK. We’re passing the zoo. This is also the point is seemed like every guy on the course seemed to be running off into the bushes to go to the bathroom. The women on the course talked about how they were envious they couldn’t do that.

Mile 4: 10:54 — This is what split the course between the half marathon and the marathon. I suddenly felt so much more comfortable with fewer people around. A little more than 7,000 were running the marathon. There were more than twice that many in the half marathon. I took a Gu, hoping the fatigue I was feeling would level off.

Mile 5: 11:10 — Lots of street, few big sites.

Mile 6: 11:10 — We ran through Petco Park, which was pretty nice in itself. This is also the point where I started to feel tired. The Gu seemed to be working too.

Mile 7: 12:48 — And then, just like that, it wasn’t working anymore. A gradual incline started here. My body wasn’t having it.

Mile 8: 14:52 — Things went from bad to worse here. The stable group I was running with was suddenly gone. I was still moving up an incline. Then I had to go to the bathroom. I was lucky that this mile wasn’t longer really. I got lucky and ran into a portable toilet that was behind a performer’s stage. I don’t think we are supposed to do that, but there was no one stopping me. And by the time I ran out of the toilet, there was a line of people waiting to use the bathroom.

Mile 9: 13:15 — We got onto Highway 163 at this point, which is banked for most of the surface. I wasn’t down for the count yet.

In fact I still looked pretty happy despite slowing down again on the inclines. Everyone was starting to look a little fatigued here, but I was still in good company.

Mile 10: 14:12 — I had done a Gu at mile 8, like planned. But my body wasn’t having it. I did another here.

Mile 11: 11:37 — The Gu, with a nice long downhill allowed me some speed here.

Mile 12: 13:58 — But not long enough. By this time, the tape I had secured around the moleskin was wearing into my foot. I’m not talking about a slight wear. It was a painful searing. I didn’t want to stop, though, because I already knew I was quite a bit behind my goal.

Mile 13: 12:07 — The Gu caught up with me, but my half marathon time was somewhere around 2:41. I was spent. Two runners tried to help my spirits, but I wasn’t having any of it

Mile 14: 13:36 — The slowdown continues as we start moving back uphill.

Mile 15: 11:37 — I did another Gu here.

Mile 16: 14:30 — Here we start an excruciating out and back area. By now I can tell my foot has been rubbed raw. I also know my baby toes are completely trashed. This is also the point where I stopped at an aid station and had a woman re-tape my foot. I thought, maybe, it was at mile 19. That’s where I nearly melted down. A nice woman at a medical tent along the way told me that I could give up. But if I did, the sweep crew would be nearly two-hours behind. I had a moment here where I almost did give up.

Mile 17: 13:32 — Gu. This was probably the most depressing part of the run. I was so tired. I didn’t want to go. Every step was painful. I wanted to cry.

Mile 18: 13:17 — More of the same.

Mile 19: 13:07 — I started to feel as if this run would have an end. I did another Gu, before I was supposed to, but I kept going.

Mile 20: 11:42 — The Gu propelled me through a beautiful park area. I couldn’t help but be propelled to move forward.

That’s about the point in the run where I knew that if I put my mind to it and forgot about how much pain my feet were in, I could get through it. That would prove harder than I thought, though. The photos are my purchases from MarathonFoto. And they get better, just wait.

Mile 21: 12:07 — “Keep moving,” I kept telling myself. More Gu. I’m surprised I finished with one Gu left for all I was taking down.

Mile 22: 13:19 — This part was discouraging. We moved from one island, full of support, onto another where it seemed the crowd thinned out so much that we were the only ones there.

Mile 23: 13:43 — Then, I couldn’t do it anymore. My feet were killing me.

Mile 24: 12:56 — The pain took control.

Mile 25: 15:05 — Those photos? Yeah. That happened. I didn’t care who was taking my picture. It hurt. My legs felt fine. But my feet were not having it. Not at all. I was so mad. I was mad at myself. I was mad at my shoes. I was mad at the run itself. I was just hoping to finish at this point. I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records. I knew I wouldn’t be better than my previous time. I was pissed. I can’t even say how pissed I was. It was depressing. Considering I’d spent more time preparing for this run than the first, I was depressed. I did a Gu.

Mile 26: 12:28 — It’s here, I decided to pick it up again after another Gu. Yep, another. I just kept taking them down.

Mile .2: 3:53 — Pushing it here. Trying to run it in. The finish line seemed so far away.

I ran over a very uneven part of road/sidewalk here. You can see it in the photo on the left. That one little imperfection at the end just added insult to injury. Finally, after all that pain, I crossed the finish line.

Garmin time: 5:34:26

Chip time: 5:34:14

I walked in a daze through the finish area and collected my medal. I had enough energy to smile for the photo at the end, but no more. I was done. It was over. And I hated nearly every minute of it.

So what went wrong? I want to say everything. My training was strong. I went out conservatively.

The shoes were the biggest problem. I had blisters everywhere at the end. I could barely stand after I sat down. The bottom line: After nearly a month of trying to break my Saucony Hurricane 14s in, I was getting nowhere in making them work for me. Instead, they put me in excruciating pain the entire way through. My small toes were rubbed raw. I had gnarly blisters. I even had two blood blisters. It was a mess.

Something I wish I knew before the marathon: My shoes weren’t working for me.

I’m a big believer that the bad runs make the good ones all that much better. But this was ridiculous.

My husband tried to reassure me that I should be proud. I ran 26.2 miles. He was proud. Yet, all I feel is defeated. Defeated by a distance that only months earlier I ran 14 minutes quicker.

I contemplated this as I sobbed on a curb. Thomas had forgot my backpack with flip flops in it. I didn’t want to put my shoes back on. So I sobbed while he went and got the backpack. It was kind of like Pink’s “Just Like a Pill” when she says “I haven’t moved from the spot where you left me, this must be a bad trip.”

And it was a bad trip indeed.

Like that, it was over. I waddled to the car. We started on our way home. Nearly eight hours in the car later, and suddenly realizing I had a gnarly leg sunburn, the weekend was over. I’ve never been so thankful in my life to have taken a Monday off.

I wish I could say I learned something from this run about my training structure or what I need to do in the future. But the truth is, nearly a week later, I just want to put it out of my mind.

I’m thinking it will take me awhile to get over the disappointment my second marathon.

Second marathon sophomore slump: Part I

To say I’ve been dreading writing my race recap for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon would be an understatement. Part of me was hoping, maybe I could just not write anything about the race outside of saying that it sucked. It was not fun for me. It made me work every minute. And I was miserable the entire time.

But that wouldn’t be much of a race recap.

I keep having these “I should have known” moments. I don’t do travel races all too well. I proved that during the Big Sur Half Marathon in November and again during the Big Sur 21-miler. (Or maybe I’m just not up to par for Big Sur races?) Somehow I managed to do OK with California International Marathon last year, though.

The plan was that we’d go down to San Diego on Saturday, early and head back after the race on Sunday.

So we ventured down Interstate 5 in the wee hours of the morning. We hit the road around 5:30 a.m. We sped past Los Angeles, which is about five hours south of where I live, before the noon hour. And, after only two stops along the way, we made it to San Diego sometime after the noon hour.

The happy buzz kind of started to end there as we hit traffic along Harbor Boulevard in downtown on our way to the Convention Center where the expo was happening.

I’ve been to three Rock ‘n’ Roll expos so far. This one was the biggest. This was also the biggest of the three races I’d run.

The check in process was simple. I was handed my blue “marathon” bib.

Rock ‘n’ Roll generally has a pretty efficient system. Bib. Shirt. Reusable backpack.

I got lucky this time with the race shirt. It was a female size. And it even fits good. My one from Pasadena seemed to run a little large. It’s also a nice blue color and basic enough for me to want to wear it again. (I should do a post on what makes race shirts wearable, seriously, because I have quite a few I want to send in and have a quilt made from because I don’t wear them.)

The biggest thing I noticed about the expo was that there was a ton of free stuff. Free milk. Free swag. Free Jamba Juice drinks. Free cake. Even free tuna fish.

Speaking of tuna, I even got a photo with Charlie the Tuna, the mascot from StarKist Tuna.

So that’s a pretty awesome photo. I walked around for about an hour, making a purchase of a 26.2 shirt at the Brooks booth and a new roller for my legs.

The new roller was actually on sale. It’s called a TigerTail and it’s somewhat like my Stick roller from another expo. But it has a solid roller in the middle instead of the beads. This is amazing because my Stick roller pinches me every now and then.

That’s what it looks like. I’ve used it multiple times since the marathon. I’ve also taken it to work to roll my legs out when I need to if I am sitting for too long. At $25, I feel like I got a deal on it.

I didn’t spend too much money at the expo. I just didn’t see anything I really needed, outside of the TigerTail, and maybe some items here and there. I should note that I bought a new container of Glide, but not the name brand. I had forgotten my Glide at home and my fat little arm on my right side has been chafing pretty badly. My arms and gut are the first places I gain weight and where it usually stays, so even when my stomach is looking more svelte and my legs are bulked out, my arms are still chubby.

Before the exit, the videos of the course were playing out.

It was then I had a moment where I realized “I’m running 26.2 miles tomorrow.” And I was nervous. And scared. I’d like to think it doesn’t how many times you do this distance, the  likelihood is that if you are more mortal, less Olympian, you never really full comprehend how long it is when you sign up for it.

It’s a bit of a distance.

We left the expo and headed into the Gaslamp District in San Diego for cupcakes. For me. Because I love cupcakes and I knew specifically where a shop was since I was down in San Diego overnight for an American Society of Newspaper Editors conference in early 2011.

Then we headed back to the hotel. It’s there that a headache started to flair up. But I went and had a pasta dinner, usual fuel, and decided not to head out for a night on the town. Instead, I’d try to tuck in early and see if I could catch up on sleep.

That’s where my experience in San Diego all goes down hill.

I got into bed at 9 p.m. and couldn’t sleep. I turned every which way. I put on the fan for white noise. I was comfortable, but I wasn’t sleeping.

So I laid there. For seven hours. Eyes closed, but never fully falling asleep.

There was nothing I could do about it. My mind kept wandering. Every time I thought “this will be the point I’ll fall asleep” it didn’t happen. I just kept staring at the ceiling.

There was no way I wouldn’t be exhausted running this race. I knew it then. I’d woken up at 4 a.m. the morning before and hadn’t slept the entire night. When my alarm clock went off at 4:45 a.m. I considered not running.

But I’d trained so hard. I’d come so far.

Part of me thought I could pull it together and get it done. And that’s all I thought about as my husband drove me to the start line. My mind wandered. My stomach turned.

It wouldn’t get any better going into the race.

 

It’s not like I’ve never done this before

I’ve run half marathons before.

But even so, I’m incredibly nervous about running a half marathon tomorrow.

This will be my 25th half marathon since 2011. I’m completely aware some people run more than that in a year. But this one is the first one I’ve had a complete training cycle for, a ramp up, a taper down, etc. since my daughter’s birthday.

Even with that, I don’t have a “goal time” because of my treadmill training. But I’m hopeful I’ll do OK, at least.

I remembered today when I used to run to wear the cool race shirts. My husband picked up my shirt yesterday at pre-race packet pickup. It’s really fun.

loveshirt

So I’m playing some mind tricks on myself today to ease my pre-race anxiety. I’m telling myself I’m not running for time. I’m just running to wear the shirt. And I’ll wear it all day after the race is over.

Because it’s really, really cool.

That takes away the pressure, right?

A new direction

After my daughter was born last April, I decided I wasn’t going to turn this blog into a space about being a mom. People close to me asked the question throughout my pregnancy. I stayed firm and said that while my posts would include my adorable offspring, I wasn’t going to fall into the trap.

This would not be a mommy blog.

The problem is that I had become a mom. The moment my daughter was handed to me the first time I fell head over heels in love with her.

direction1

And suddenly everything became about her. If not about her, I was thinking about her.

When I went back to work in August, I had a full four months off with Cecilia. It was so very hard and so easy to go back all at the same time.

It was easy because I finally felt as if I had some “me” time after spending nearly every waking moment with her since the moment she was born. I’ve been teaching for five years. My job goes beyond the typical lecture, lab, test, correct, etc. I supervise the campus newspaper and news website. In the spring, I was pulled out of work two hours after we sent our pages to the publisher for the fifth issue of the semester. Five days later, Cecilia was here after I was induced at exactly 37 weeks.

I missed six weeks of the school year. I missed two issues with a staff. Those were the first issues I didn’t directly supervise since August 2010.

I was happy to see my staff. I was excited to get back to work.

But my body yearned for my baby. My C-section scar hurt.

direction2I remember coming home and scooping her up from my mother in law as quickly as I could.

And on that day, I knew two things: I couldn’t be me anymore without being a mom.

So I had to make a choice. I had to decide whether or not I was going to continue this blog or let it completely die out, just keeping it as an archive of my marathon training and three years of my running. As much as it pained me to think killing it off was a good idea, the thought crossed my mind.

Then it took a backseat to work. During weeks my students produce a newspaper, I’m on campus 30-plus hours. I’m a part-time employee, so those weeks are particularly hard for childcare. I thank everything that I have a loving family that watches my daughter for free so I don’t have to leave her with people she doesn’t know and it doesn’t hit my pocketbook drastically.

That means, though, that during the weeks my students aren’t putting out a newspaper, I’m working on WordPress websites on a freelance basis. When you stare at WordPress-based PHP, diagnose problems and generally maintain more than 50 websites on a regular basis, it’s easy to get fatigued by it.

Bottom line: I didn’t have the time or energy to blog.

Because all the time and energy I had left goes to my daughter.

Every time I felt an inkling to blog, I stopped myself because I’d be writing about Cecilia. Because I’m her primary caregiver. But more because she’s the biggest part of my life.

So I’m not going to fight it anymore.

I can’t.

And it was foolish for me to think I’d be able to.

But in the process of really getting into the flow of being a working mom after four months home with my newborn, I’m also woefully out of shape. I ran two more half marathons after the San Francisco Marathon Second Half Marathon last year – the Ventura Half Marathon and the Big Sur Half Marathon.

At Ventura, I broke my femur. Because I WOULD break my femur right when I was starting to find my running stride again.

At Big Sur, I ran a strong ran, but finished in the 2:32 area. I know I’m far from where I was. I know I’m 20 pounds over my “marathoning” weight. I’m promising to take better care of myself in addition to my daughter this year.

That starts with taking this blog in a direction where I can talk about being a mom, running, fitness and, at times, my failures at all of those things.

This is not my body

body1

I don’t want the title to sound like a complaint. My husband likes to remind me that WE WANTED to have a baby. We consider this little girl a huge blessing. And we are incredibly excited to welcome her in a couple months. (Also: I look like crap in that picture. I don’t even care.)

What I didn’t know, though, was how difficult it would be to see my body change so dramatically in such a short time. My “baby belly” didn’t really show until December when I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. But I started feeling “pregnant” nearly immediately.

Consider my last long run before I found out. I was exhausted. I could barely keep my pace. I kept stopping and sitting down. What was supposed to be a 15-mile run turned into a 12-mile run when I just couldn’t go on anymore. I stopped my Garmin and walked back to my car, thinking, perhaps, I was just having an off day.

That weekend I took a pregnancy test and immediately suspended my marathon training. I had 15,18 and 20 milers on the schedule for my next three weekends after that. I took the test because I could barely get up in the morning. I was having problems staying awake during the day. I knew, only weeks into the first trimester, that there was NO WAY I would be able to run a marathon at the end of September.

The positive pregnancy test meant that I slowly started pulling away from the running world, and this blog, and retreat to my everyday life. Why? Because, despite signing up for a bunch of races in that first trimester, I kind of knew I wouldn’t be running long distances for awhile. If I would have accepted it earlier, I likely would have been able to unload some of those race entries.

I’m finding, though, that at 30 weeks, my body is betraying me more than I ever thought it would. Health worries I thought I didn’t have anymore and coming back. My body is changing daily now and I never know what to expect. It’s exciting, because it means she’s coming soon, but it’s also so foreign to be in a body I don’t feel like is mine anymore.

DIABETIC WORRIES

I haven’t been on medication for four years, but the fact that I once was comes up in nearly EVERY appointment with my OB. At the beginning, it frustrated me. Now it’s just part of life.

Early in my pregnancy, I was given a new glucose meter to measure my blood sugar. I hadn’t owned one since right after my husband and I bought our house in 2010 and I purged a ton of stuff.

I was supposed to use it four times a day. But my hands started mildly swelling, and I couldn’t get any blood out. None. I would massage my fingers, put a rubber band around the finger I was poking, run my hands under hot water, etc. Nothing worked. I would get more upset with it than was really good for me or the baby.

So I stopped. Instead I opted to get my blood drawn for regular average sugar tests. So far? All within normal. But I can’t get past the fact that I’ve been on the medication before.

What irked me more than anything was the “you need to work out X amount of minutes a day.” I was already. The fact that my doctors didn’t seem to listen to me during my appointments when I told them I ran and did yoga was even more bothersome.

THE LEGS AREN’T WHAT THEY WERE

I lost 15 pounds when I first got pregnant. I didn’t have morning sickness. Instead, I just couldn’t eat anything. I picked apart my food for the first 14 weeks. I only ate small meals. I’d start eating something, then stop and give the rest to my dogs.

I was also too fatigued to run a lot at first.

The result of those two things was a decline in my leg muscles. It didn’t take long, particularly because I went from running 100-plus miles a month to 20 or so. My husband always told me that I really wanted to lose weight, I’d have to stop running as much. Turns out he was right.

When I did get back into it, in the second trimester, there was a noticeable difference in my running. My legs felt tight, and weak. They haven’t recovered.

EVERYTHING IS SWOLLEN

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My feet, my hands, etc. Before anyone jumps to “that could be a sign of something bad,” I know. My doctor and I have had numerous conversations about pre-eclampsia. We’ve talked about me going in for twice-weekly monitoring of baby girl’s stress level. My blood pressure is checked regularly.

Swelling is part of pregnancy for some women. I’m one of those women.

My running shoes don’t fit. Neither do any of my heels. In the past four weeks none of my flats have fit me well.

Worse even is that my wedding ring has been in our home safe for weeks because I haven’t been able to wear it out of the house.

The swelling makes me very uncomfortable. When I clinch my hands, it hurts. Obviously walking around is painful after awhile as well.

BABY GIRL HATES RUNNING

Maybe she doesn’t, but she sure seems to. My husband is concerned about pre-term labor (which is a real concern for us with my health history) and asked me to NOT run during the third trimester. Yoga is fine. Walking is fine. But no high impact. The funny thing is that I’m OK with it. I’ve been fine with it since I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions in the middle of two mile runs.

I also started responding to the baby when I feel as if she is sending me messages. Some runs were fine. I felt as if the movement had rocked her to sleep. Other days, I felt as if I was making her incredibly uncomfortable. She started kicking my bladder uncontrollably and then didn’t calm down about an hour later.

She would kick me relentlessly after. I started feeling as if she wasn’t all that comfortable when I was running, particularly in the past couple weeks of running.

So I stopped.

Now I’m sticking to yoga, but even that is becoming harder. I’m 30 weeks today. I’m going back and forth about registering for another few sessions of yoga. At this point I only am looking at five sessions at a time … because I had a couple weeks were I was too uncomfortable to go.

All of these things are making it hard to feel like “me” right now.