Marathon morning arrived bright and early, 3:15am to be exact. Of course, because of nerves, I fell asleep after midnight. Not much sleep, but I expected that, and got a great sleep the night before.
I went through my normal running routine, getting all of my stuff together, double checking everything, saying a very heartfelt, grateful, nervous, and anxious prayer, taking my shakeology, and heading out the door.
I got on the bus at the Zermott Resort in Midway, and I was on my way to the starting line. I sat by a girl that is trying to run one marathon in every state. She was really nice, and cool. This was her 21st marathon. People are so amazing!
I really don't like being at starting lines alone, especially before big races. It makes me kind of mellow, and my nerves can really get in my head, but this time I tried really hard to talk to people and just enjoy the moment. We had a LONG wait by several fires. The smoke was killing my eyes and my lungs, but the warmth was worth it. Not sure how healthy it is to fill all of our lungs with smoke for 90 minutes before we all ran 26.2 miles, but at least we didn't shiver all of our energy out. I'm a total pyro anyway, and fire gets me all happy and excited, so for me, it was great. I met some really cool people, and we talked and pumped each other up, and the time flew by.
The running community is a very cool group of people. I love runners and their fun energy, good positive attitudes, and their mostly crazy addiction to something that I love as well. We all really feed off of each other's energy, and it helps a lot.
After quite a long wait, we finally lined up at the starting line.
I had made a playlist on my phone, just for the marathon. I had been adding songs on it for months, and I purposely chose an app. that could play offline, since most of our run would be in the mountains, out of wifi range.
I turned on my app, and to my horror, I had not downloaded the playlist!!! We had no internet connection out in little Walsburg. I seriously about lost it. I ended up listening to the same two songs over and over again for the first 6 miles. They were terrible, explicit rap songs, and I hated them, but if I hear myself breathing hard from running, my brain tells me I am tired, and I slow down. I had to have music. I was so incredibly grateful to hear my tunes start working at mile 6. Hallelujah!
When the starting gun went off, I reminded myself that I was extremely prepared for this marathon. More prepared mentally and physically than any marathon I have done in the past. I knew I could PR if everything went smoothly, and it felt like things were going to be pretty good. I was really excited!
I forced myself to start out at my normal pace. It is so easy at the beginning of a race, to just take off. All of the built up energy, caffeine, and tapered legs, makes you just want to blast out of there. But, I paced myself, and just settled in for a long run and tried to enjoy the gorgeous scenery around me.
The first 7 miles were way more hilly than I expected. I had to run on the side of the road in order to pass people. That forced me to run lopsided, with one foot on the road and one foot off the road. I had no idea that this little thing would be the reason for an epic disaster. IT bands and lopsided hilly roads do not mix.
At mile 7, we turned out of Walsburg and entered into Provo canyon, right into a very big hill. I expected this hill, and knew it was coming. I drive this canyon regularly, and the month leading up to the marathon, every time I drove it, I tried to memorize the course, so I would not be surprised by anything.
The hill was a killer, just like I expected, but I paced myself and made my way up it. I noticed that my hip was acting up, but it wasn't anything that I hadn't felt before, and I knew I would be fine.
I finished that hill, and that's when my stomach went nuts on me! I was taken by surprise by this, because I trained very hard on my nutrition, in order to avoid the dreaded "gut bomb." Sure enough, my stomach was a wreck. I ended up in the lovely Honey Bucket at the mile 8 aid station.
I ended up there again at mile 10. Again at mile 12. All three times, I unloaded everything that was in me, or so it seemed. I kept thinking that surely that would be the end of it, only to have my stomach act up 1/2 mile later. I quickly realized my mistake. I had broken the golden rule of running, as far as nutrition. NEVER do anything different on race day. My mistake: shakeology that morning. I normally have it as a recovery drink, but at 3:15 that morning, it seemed to me like the only thing my stomach could handle. I was dead wrong.
At mile 12, after I finished "unloading" again, I started running, and I felt the worst pain in the side of my knee that I have ever felt. I had no idea what was going on. I was also totally crashing, from a serious lack of nutrients and the beginnings of dehydration. I panicked, and forced myself to refill my waterbottle with my nutrition supplement (tailwind) that I use, and I drank a ton of it. I started trying to run again, and the sharp pain in my knee literally made me yell out when I tried to take a step. I couldn't believe it. I truly couldn't believe it. I tried to stretch on the side of the road, and rub it out the best I could, and then I tried to run again. Again, my knee felt like I was being stabbed right into it. Each step was excruciating.
I thought that maybe I could just run it off, if I ran through it for a while. I spent the next mile in horrible pain, and to make matters worse, my stomach acted up again, just a few minutes after I started trying to run. I could tell things were bad, really bad. I checked my time, and realized that up to this point, I was right on track to PR and have an amazing marathon time. If I could just pull myself together, I could hopefully make up for some lost time, but I was really going to have to rally.
At mile 13, I had to go to the bathroom again. I could not even run normally on my right leg at all. My knee was screaming!!! I tried to stretch it out again, and the volunteer medic at the aid station rubbed some icy hot into my knee. I also forced myself to drink the rest of my water bottle. I was completely dehydrated, and feeling like crap everywhere.
I texted Ben, and told him things were not good, and that I was struggling. I then took a minute to try to pull myself together, and I started running. My first step into my run was so incredibly painful that I immediately yelled out again. The aid station medic came running and helped me sit down on a chair they had at the station. He tried again to rub out my knee. I this point I saw the 4 hour pacer and his group run by. My PR time is under 4 hours. I knew that I had lost my chance to PR, and I wasn't even close to being able to catch up in this condition. My heart completely dropped, and I got really, really upset. Being dehydrated, and undernourished (from 5 bathroom stops) and running 13 miles, my mind wasn't able to handle it, and I broke down. I just started crying right there on that little stool at the aid station. The medic wanted me to get in the car they have to take people down to the finish line, but in my heart I knew I needed to finish the race.
I got up off the stool, took some extremely painful steps back to the road and forced myself to start running the best I could. I was crying and very upset and in loads of pain. At that point, Ben drove up, with the kids in the car, and pulled into the middle lane. I made my way over to him, and he got out of the car. He just held me for a minute as I cried. But seeing all of these little blonde haired, blue eyed babies of mine watching me, made me decide once again, that I would finish this race. I was going to show my children that I can do hard things...we can do hard things.
I gained strength from seeing my family, and I started running once again. I forced myself to run 25 excruciating, terrible, painful steps, and then I would walk/limp for a while until I could muster up enough courage to start running again. Then, I would go another 25 steps, and walk again. Of course, my stomach acted up again as well.
At mile 15, I was in the bathroom again. Completely weak, drained, and baffled that I had anything left in me to lose at that point. I got out of the bathroom, drank as much as I could, and started running again. After those first few steps, I started crying again. It hurt so badly, and I was so heart broken and devastated! I had trained harder and smarted than ever before. I was more than ready for this marathon. I knew I was capable of crushing it, and here I was, at mile 15, where I should have still been feeling great, but instead, I was crying, dehydrated, limping, and in terrible shape in every way.
I ran/walked/limped my way for another while, where I again saw Ben and the kids. It helped me so much to see them. I would go to them, cry to Ben, build up some courage, and tell myself to make it another two miles to the next aid station.
This was by far the hardest mental game I have ever had to play while running. I trained really hard this time around to be able to be mentally strong enough to continue running if I hit the wall around mile 21-22. The wall is something that all marathoners dread, and it can shake up even the strongest of runners. It is where you are completely depleted off all of your glycogen stores, and your body pretty much tells you that you are done. It also messes with your head and your emotions. There is a saying that there is the first half of the marathon, and then the last 6 miles. It is SO true. I trained and trained and trained to be able to handle those last 5-6 miles of torture.
Little did I know that I would have to use all of those mental games, all of that emotional toughness, and all of that physical pushing, for 12 miles! It was like running through the wall for almost half a marathon.
Around mile 23, I was barely hanging in there. I was profusely sweating, from so much pain and so much distress for so long. I felt like the running/walking dead. I literally was worried that I was going to pass out, and it sounded like it would be so wonderful if I did. I also watched as the 5 hour pacer and his group passed me by. This was like a punch in the gut! 5 hours! I had NEVER run a marathon this slow, or even close to it. I was also still using every single bathroom at every single aid station (which were every two miles through the entire course). I had nothing left but sheer will power, and that was fading fast.
I only had 3 miles left, but it may have been 100 with the condition I was in. I could see the finish line off in the distance, but it was like a mirage. I would run a tiny bit, then look up, and it seemed like I was further away than I previously was. I was in and out of crying, being devastated, dealing with horrible pain in my leg, and then scraping up whatever I had left, deep down inside, to make me keep going.
Pretty soon a 79 year old guy came shuffling past me. This was his 115th marathon. Yup 115!
He asked me how I was doing. I just looked at him. I was horrified that I was being passed by a 79 year old that was running slower than I normally walk. He was so sweet to me though. He offered me words of encouragement, told me to try to just run to the next tree, which was about 100 yards ahead, but may as well have been a mile away. I tried to, but my leg would not let me. He then offered me an otter pop, haha! Where he got it, I have no idea. I didn't take it, but I thanked him, and told him that I wanted to doing what he is doing when I am 79. He then shuffled past me and on toward the finish line.
Finally, I was at the very last .2 of the race. This is where I have always kicked it in, and tried to run my hardest for one last push. It always feels like I am sprinting it in, but I am usually so dead, that it is a slow jog. Either way, it feels good to kick it in.
This time, I was ready to walk through it, I simply didn't have the energy to care. I was devastated, in loads of pain, frustrated, and tanked out of nutrients and hydration.
But then, out came Mary and William!! They each took a hand and started running with me/pulling me. I had nothing left, but they did, and I used it. They helped me run through the finish line, and even with some sort of a smile on my face.
When I crossed the finish line, they put the medal around my neck. Usually, this feels so amazing to me. It is the coolest feeling in the world. This time, I felt nothing at all. I actually felt surprised that they gave me a medal. I did not feel like I earned it at all. It was a very foreign and weird feeling for me. I was pretty confused, but almost too tired to care much about anything.
I went straight over to the medical tent and basically begged for painkillers of any kind. I finally got some Advil, and some ice wrapped around my knee. Mary was so sweet, and did not leave my side. Ben tried to keep the other kids occupied while I kind of recovered. I did not look at the time clock when I ran through the finish line, and I didn't want to. I knew it would just frustrate me even more.
I was pretty pouty, and ticked off. I wasn't in the mindset of being positive, proud, or relieved at all. I was just sad and in a lot of pain and shock. I was kind of numb.
I really just wanted to go home. I didn't want to be around everything anymore. I was just done.
This is not normal for me. Usually after a marathon, my favorite part is to cheer on other runners coming in, talk to other finishers, congratulate people, and just bask in the awesomeness of it all, and the feeling of accomplishing my goals.
I honestly think I was just in shock physically and mentally.
I went to a few different medical tents getting different treatments on my knee, and then we headed home.
Even though I was very malnourished and dehydrated, I was not hungry at all the rest of the day. I was just tired in every way. I took it easy the rest of the day and tried to drink and rehydrate the best I could.
Ben and Brittany Light (my message therapist, and self-appointed running and nutrition coaches) stopped by and brought a sweet gift. I had texted Brittany throughout the marathon, so she knew what had happened. It helped to talk to them, vent to them, and have Brittany finally diagnose what had happened to my leg. It was my IT band. They are both avid runners. They do ultra races, like 50 miles, 100 miles, and even 200 milers. They told me about a few of their races that just went horribly wrong, even though they trained perfectly. It really made me feel a lot better.
I also talked a lot to Ben, my Ben. He listened as I talked my way through everything, mentally processing what had happened, over and over again. He was so good to support me, tell me how amazing it was that I actually finished, and helped me to feel a sense of accomplishment that I hadn't felt when I finished.
I have good people in my life.
It has been two weeks since the marathon. Now that I am hydrated, getting on top of my injury, and mentally normal, I can see that my IT band freaking out on me, was not any reflection on how well trained I was, and how well I really can run a marathon. The timing of it was absolutely horrible, but I can't change that, I can only learn from it, and do what I can to prevent it from happening again.
By the time I hung my medal on my marathon wall in the garage, I looked over my other medals, and I was more proud of this one than any of the others. I pushed deeper than I ever have before, I fought harder than I ever have before, I cried more than I ever have before, I felt pain like I have never felt running before, and I finished. I basically ran a 13 mile wall. I am extremely proud of that.
I can now see that all of the training I did to be mentally and physically strong when the going got tough, was not in vain, in fact, it was the very thing that made it possible for me to finish a race like that, in the condition I was in.
I did nothing at all the week following the marathon. My leg was in a lot of pain. I was sore all over, but the rest of my body bounced back very quickly to my surprise and joy. This week, I have done a lot of biking and elliptical. I was thrilled to be able to do the elliptical with minimal pain to my IT band.
I now have to incorporate a ton of stretching, foam rolling, and at home physical therapy in order to strengthen my IT bands, and to try to prevent this from happening again.
By again, I mean the St. George marathon in October. Yup, I am signed up to do this again. Before this marathon, I was seriously second guessing doing another. Now, I am so, so, so glad I am.
I am going to train the exact same, but also incorporate a lot of IT band exercises and strengthening. I start training July 17th. Until then, it is all about getting my leg completely healed, and mentally working through some anxiety and worry that I now have about running.
I had a friend message me something a few days after the race that meant so much to me. I have thought so much about it since then, and it helps me through when I start feeling bad about the marathon.
She said "there is a difference between a win and a victory. You can win without a victory and you can be victorious without a win . . While you didn't "win" this race by any traditional sense, you my friend most certainly came out victorious!!!! So proud of you!"
I may not have won this marathon in my sense and my idea of winning for me, but this was the biggest victory I have ever achieved.