Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not the Marathon I had Envisioned

At least 6 months of training.  That's what it took.  And serious training.  Not diverting from the schedule runs unless it was due to serious injury, reading and studying pace, stride, nutrition, learning how to embrace the fartleks and sprint intervals and celebrate the hill training.  Figuring out what worked best for my body and mind.  Learning to overcome the mental tricks that your brain likes to play on you.  Communicating with the hubby about pace, nutrition and what our strategy would ultimately be.  Running with my eyes closed on the treadmill envisioning the harder parts of the course.  All of this would definitely make me a premiere (albeit older) first time marathoner.  Right?

What it ultimately did was prepare me mentally and physically for a challenge that only 1% participate in over the course of a lifetime.  It taught me that I can be disciplined from nutrition to training, to scheduling the rest of my life around these two things and to embracing the quality time I devoted to the family.  It proved to my children that if they set their mind on a goal, that with hard work, they would achieve it.  It intensified my relationship with my hubby who became the perfect pacer - as he was already the perfect partner.  But it did not prepare me for the end result of the marathon.

During the last few months of training, I would find myself emotionally drained - envisioning the finish line of a marathon can make one cry.  Realizing that I had completed a very long, intense journey often made me cry.  My mind jumped back and forth from "preparedness" to "definitely not prepared", and my body jumping back & forth from "injured knees" to "amazingly ready".  And again, what I did not realize is that these were all vital keys to training.

The morning of San Antonio Rock & Roll marathon, we left our youth at Oak Hill UMC (where they were participating in a Dive N Deeper Retreat) after sleeping on an air bed the night before and headed to San Antonio.  Packet Pick Up was a breeze (never happened this easy before) and before we knew it we were making our way through the expo.  Sampling stuff here and there - eating a PerfectFit Protein peanut butter cookie (my fave) and meeting (again) Chris Gillispie of Team 413!  

We have mutual friends in Georgia so that's always cool to connect with someone like that.  And he pretty much is a Jesus Freak - always something we enjoy as well!!

We then proceeded to our hotel for the weekend.  Chosen because of price and location - we could've gone cheaper, however then we would've had to drive and park and once you count all that into the situation, it just makes sense to choose convenience.  After all, it was .6 miles from the start line and 1.5 miles from the finish.  Made sense, as well since they had free breakfasts and appetizers (which became a carbo loading zone for the marathoners).  However, what we hadn't counted on was the Latino Festival at the church next door with it's live music going till midnight!  That's a whole other story tho...

We went to our traditional Carbo loading zone that night (Olive Garden), where as usual we made new friends with those sitting close to us and I custom ordered my pasta (go figure - naked, whole wheat tortillin) and Chris got his massive man size steak (which I eat off of when he's not looking).  A few bowls of salad and the rest of my pasta and an entire bread basket to go made the evening complete.

Marathon Morning went as planned: up at 5:15, breakfast at 5:30 downstairs (I said free, right).  Oatmeal and 1/2 bagel with PB for me (nothing new here folks).  Back upstairs to get some rest, showers, dressed and down the elevator at 7 for a 7:30 start time.  Gear check went smoother then glass, found our corral super easy and met up with a friend who still claims "I'm only running because Becky told me to".  We agree to all run our own race, said a prayer and off we went.

It was great.  Best line I'd heard was "it's more fun to pass people in the final miles, then it is in the first miles" so we just set out on what we thought was a pretty average pace.  Until we hit mile 6 in under 59 minutes.  At which point we realized, we were smoking and had this thing in the bag.

Until mile 10.  Mile 10 is where the halfers go one way and fulls go straight.  Chris asked how I felt and I had to admit to a sore knee - same ITB issue as before.  He told me to make the decision.  And I knew I could suck up and finish our goal - after all - it didn't hurt that bad.  Until Mile 15.

Mile 15 is where things started falling apart.  We ran into our friend from the start who had blown her ITB as well, and maybe patella.  So she was walking.  Chris shared that his calf was spasming and by his definition "had divided into two".  My knee was throbbing in pain and so we decided we'd walk a mile and then start back so the three of us set forth with good intentions.  The time thing was now a non-issue.  It was about the finish.

After about 1/2 mile, I decided we should run - after all, I had already had all 3 blisters patched (stupid thor-lo socks) and my stride was overcompensating for my knee so now the outside of my feet hurt.  I figured if I ran, just the knee would hurt and I'd finish sooner.  It was evident that between the three of us, none of us could sustain any length of a run and was just causing more damage.  So we spent a mile or so pretending to run, followed by walking.  Finally, we just accepted the inevitable and walked.

We met people along the way - saw way more walkers then we did runners, and shared our love for Christ, fitness and food with anyone that wanted to chat.  We frequently said thank you to the water stop workers, the medics and the police escorts.  We enjoyed a few ice rub downs along the way and talked about how crazy we were.  We enjoyed long sustained silence as well.  Chris managed to share Christ with several injured runners (now walkers) and even walked most of the way with Carlos - a new believer, who asked Chris if he would walk the rest of the race with him.

It was at the final turn that Chris would shake his hand, give him a hug and declare their brotherhood in Christ before sharing with Carlos that because the two of us had begun the journey together, that the two of us would finish it together.  He waited for me & Carlos went on to limp/run across the finish.  Our friend's boyfriend jumped the barrier at that moment (he and a few of our other cheerleaders who had been at 4 significant mileage markers with smiles, posters and words of encouragement) and holding hands with her, helped her cross the finish line.

It was at that point, we saw our favorite cheerleaders for the last time, and began to run towards the finish line.  Together.  

And after the finish line, we received our medals:

And I got one of these: 

And then we walked the longest 1.5 miles of our lives - back to the hotel.  

It was definitely not the marathon experience I had envisioned.  
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