Friday, November 23, 2012

Unfinished Business

Running nightmares are the WORST. If you’re a dedicated marathon runner, I’m sure you have experienced these and you know what I’m talking about. I usually have these before big races, and rarely experience them during the off season. However, for the past few weeks, I’ve been cursed with multiple variations of running nightmares. Although each nightmare has been different, they each have had the same theme—I veer off course and can’t get to the finish line. I’ve been waking up in sweats with a pounding headache, accompanied by extreme frustration. This has not exactly been the ideal way start my day!

My first nightmare occurred about a week after Columbus. In my nightmare, I was running the Cleveland Marathon with my Dad (who hasn’t exactly been my biggest cheerleader throughout my running adventures), my little brother, and my little sister. We ran together at a steady pace until mile 20, where we came to a fork in the course. There were no signs, the crowd was clueless, and we couldn’t agree which way was the right way. So, we split up and I ran off by myself. Unfortunately for me, I ended up heading in the wrong direction! All three of them made it to the finish line, and I just ran in circles frustrated and in panic-mode. Eventually, I found a long tunnel with a shining light at the end of it. My family was waiting at the front of it, yelling at me to go through it to get my medal. I woke up before I made it through. I was really freaked out, with a pounding headache, and was sweating. YIKES!

My second nightmare occurred a few weeks later. This time, I was running the Cleveland Half Marathon. I was running solo, and was OWNING it. I was on my way to break 1:30, felt great, and was just chugging along. Then, once I got to mile 10, I got confused and ran off course for an extra half mile. I was SO agitated, and couldn’t figure out how to get back on course. I was running aimlessly and was just getting more frustrated knowing that my chance for the P.R. I deserved was blown. Eventually, I figured out how to get near the course. However, there were Race Marshalls lining the course, they wouldn’t let me back in, and they kept telling me I had to go around in order to get back on course. I had NO CLUE how to get around and could hear all of the people cheering at the finish line. AGAIN, I woke up not crossing the finish line and was medal-less. This led to another morning of frustration and a pounding headache.

Then, I had a third CRAZY nightmare, not really in line with the theme of others. In this nightmare, I was arrested for planning to wear a washable tattoo pace chart for a marathon. The police took me in handcuffs from my home, put me in a jail van, and sent me to “juvie” because the jails were too full. It’s ridiculous and somewhat hilarious that my subconscious came up this one, right!?! I called my friend from work to set up my lesson plans for school since I was going to be “locked up” for an unforeseeable amount of time. I was so devastated, the experience felt so real, and I was praying that I was stuck in a bad dream. I truly felt like my life was flashing before my eyes as a result of this absurd arrest. As I was getting registered to enter “juvie” with my sister by my side, all of the head administrators of my school district walked past me!  I hid so they wouldn’t see me, and then…I WOKE UP! I woke up this morning BEYOND freaked out and was granted with another pounding headache to start my day.

LASTLY (yes, there’s one more), earlier this week I had a dream I was running a 5k. I was, again, OWNING it and on my way to break 19:00 minutes. THEN, as I was coming to the end of mile 2, there was no sign pointing the direction of where the finish line was. I remembered the previous nightmares I had and freaked out. I knew I had little time to make a decision, and so made a right hand turn. I then looked back, and saw all of the runners running in the opposite direction. I was devastated; I was on my way to a P.R. and the opportunity was once again blown!  I had to turn around, and I was so angry that I decided to drop out of the race. AGAIN, I woke up that morning with a pounding headache and a feeling of incredible frustration.

After my last nightmare this week, I started reflecting and began seeing a similar pattern between each of these nightmares, with the exception of the weird washable tattoo scandal (haha!?!). What exactly my subconscious is trying to tell me, I’m not totally sure. Opinions are welcome. But from my own personal dream-analysis, I believe it is clear that I have some unfinished business when it comes to  the goals I have set  for myself regarding running. Also, it appears that although I have the skill to get me to my goals, something out of my control is preventing me from getting there. This is pretty much in line with how I feel. The truth is, after my accident last March I haven’t had ONE Personal Record. NOT ONE.  Maybe it was my poor training during the hot summer, maybe I’m just having an “off” year, maybe I just really need a break, OR maybe it’s the Beta Blocker tarnishing my endurance and speed since it prevents my heart rate from becoming elevated. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I feel that something is holding me back and I’m stuck in a “running rut.” I know I have the potential to get better and I'm incredibly frustrated with my race time regression this year. I plan on using the month of December to reboot and try some new things to figure out what it is that has held me back. I’m going to mix things up this Spring, and see if these changes catapult me past my old P.R.’s into some new P.R.’s!!! I am feeling a burning inner-desire for a breakthrough year; I just need to figure out the steps I need to take to get me there (and still be healthy/not pass out along the way!).
It's time to move past these nightmares, and LIVE THE DREAM!!! :-)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blow Me (one last kiss)- Columbus Marathon 2012

Oh, Columbus, if I ever needed a wake up call of who I am and where I need to go, you gave that to me. But, I can’t say I’m ready to say I don’t hate you….yet…:-)

Two weeks post the disaster which was the Columbus Marathon, I think I’m ready to blog my race report. Initially I told myself I was going to leave it in Columbus and just move past it. However, failure is just that without any kind of real reflection. Additionally, I would be doing all of my blog followers a disservice giving them the false impression that all marathon experiences are as glorious as the Akron Marathon was this fall. I’ve always been respected for my honesty, so I will be just that. I will try to avoid making this a depressing rant about how terrible it went, and instead focus on this as a reflection of what I think caused my performance and where I plan to go from here.
Akron Marathon finish- all smiles!

After the Akron Marathon, I was on a high. I had expectations of taking it easy and just completing it as my 3rd 20 miler before Columbus. I knew it was a tough marathon and so I had been avoiding the challenge for years. With my not-so-great training this summer, I thought I had nothing to lose and just did it. It turned out that I was completely ON that day and I ran a marathon that exceeded any expectation I had going into the race. I finished with a strong 3:20 and I was so proud of my 26.2 performance. I will forever wear my Akron jacket with great pride! However, I definitely put out more than I anticipated on a challenging course, which had consequences later on down the road.

The weeks following Akron, I continued through with my training to Columbus. I did not recover as quickly as I expected. Nothing in particular was strained or sore, but I was just REALLY low on energy. I was having difficulty sleeping, and felt no motivation at all to run Columbus. Plus, I had my 30th birthday celebration which ended up being a little bit too much fun! It was worth it and truly amazing, but it took a lot out of me.

Made it through 30 years alive! HA :-)
 I contemplated dropping down to the half, but it had already sold out and that wasn’t a possibility. Then, I contemplated just not running it at all. I ran the idea through my head a few times and just didn’t feel right about it. SO, I booked my hotel, sucked it up, and headed down to Columbus.

The night before the marathon, I was really trying to just get myself pumped up. Akron went so well, and had it been a flat fast course like Columbus I would have P.R.’d…and then some! With that mentality, I thought I could get myself to the finish line and potentially make something great happen. Plus, it would put me it into the double digit marathoner category as I would be collecting my 10th marathon medal. However, I was just still NOT enthusiastic and I couldn’t focus on it. So, I didn’t. I did some school work the night before the marathon, headed to the start line the next morning, and then the gun went off!

As soon as I started running, I just didn’t feel comfortable. It was VERY cold, I felt tired, and had no surge of adrenaline to push. I decided to push anyway to catch up with the 3:15 pace group. This required three fast miles, around a 7:15ish pace, and my first side stitch of the marathon. I NEVER get these when I train, so I was SO frustrated to experience it during the race. I rubbed it out, tried to focus on everything else, got some water at the upcoming aid station, and eventually it went away. The 3:15 pace leader was very chatty and I was just not vibing the energy. So, I pushed ahead and kept going. Once I got to mile 6, the side stitch was BACK. And, the 3:15 pace group came back. I was REALLY frustrated and contemplated walking out the pain. It was hurting very badly and it was SO early in on the race. But, I was afraid that stopping would throw me off the momentum I needed to keep going. So, I kept going…and eventually the side stitch went away.

Once I got to mile 10, I was still FREEZING---but could feel the sweat dripping down my head. Everyone else in the 3:15 pace group looked great and had good stamina. I, on the other hand, was starting to feel tapped out. Had this been a ½ marathon, I would have been disappointed to feel tapped at a 7:20ish pace only at mile 10. Considering I still had 16 miles to go, I was beyond disappointed. I was starting to get very concerned.

Once I reached the 13.1 mile marker, I let the 3:15 pace group go. Once I reached mile 14, I let myself go. I was done. My legs were dead. I had no steam, no pep, no fun---just not MP at all. For the first time in 10 marathons, I have officially met “the wall.” What does “the wall” feel like? Every runner’s worst nightmare. It’s ugly, heavy, negative, and is YELLING “it’s time to quit—you’re done and  you can’t do this.” With 12 miles left to the finish line, I was worried and thought dropping out was my best bet. My legs LITERALLY had nothing left, and I had no clue I could possibly finish. But, I just couldn’t drop out just yet, so I kept going…

I decided to let go of any time goal, and just focused on taking one mile at a time. I dropped my pace WAY back to around an 8:00ish min/mi, and at some points a 8:30ish min/mi…and at some REALLY low points a 10:00ish min/mi. I watched as people less fit than me, who I knew I should be WAY past, were passing me. It was KILLING me. Then, everything started to hurt—my butt, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and my back----EVERYTHING. I was in so much physical, mental, and emotional pain—I did everything possible to not break down crying. I was literally dragging my body through each mile. I can only imagine how terrible I must have looked. Even if I didn’t feel strong, I still wanted to keep it together to look (somewhat) strong. So, I kept my head up and wouldn’t let myself shed a tear. I figured that would keep me going…

Once I got to mile 22, I did the math and saw I was on track to break 3:30. I was VERY surprised, and decided to use this as my goal to keep myself moving to the finish line. I was still REALLY hurting, but I held on to a pace just around an 8:00ishmin/mi pace. The spectators were AWESOME, and their cheering and positive encouragement helped me to stay as strong as I could until I crossed the finish line.

When I crossed the finish line, there was no feeling of triumph. I had no positive thoughts going through my head. I was…well, PISSED OFF. I didn’t feel any pride putting that marathon medal over my head—and thought for a crazy second of tossing it in the garbage can. I was just so angry with my performance, overly exhausted, sore, and not thinking rationally at all. Fortunately, maturity has helped me overcome impulsive decision making processes, and I did NOT throw out my 10th marathon medal. And now, I am grateful I will always have my 10th marathon medal to remind me of WHO I am.

Yes, I am grateful. After weeks of reflection, I definitely learned something about this 26.2 experience. A few of the things I learned include the following:

(1) Attitude is everything. I didn’t want to run Columbus in the first place. I was trying to find external reasons to get me through it. You need to have internal motivation to complete a successful marathon. If you don’t have it, it’s not worth it.

(2) Careful with goals. There are MANY things that influence one’s 26.2 performance. As a result, a runner has to be willing to be flexible with his/her goals. I should have had more realistic goals in Columbus. I knew I was exhausted, unmotivated, and coming from a strong Akron experience. 3:15 was not an unrealistic goal for me this fall, but on that day it certainly was. I know I will break 3:15---this fall was just not my time to do it.

(3) Recovery takes time. Running 26.2 miles becomes second nature to us seasoned running folks, but it takes a lot out of you. My glycogen stores clearly were not ready for another 26.2 miles 3 weeks following Akron. There were many signs telling me this; I just refused to listen. BIG MISTAKE.

(4) I love running. SO MUCH. When I see 20 miles on my training log, I can’t wait to do it. I love the feeling that comes from running through each mile. Some people dread it, I am invigorated by it. It’s not a job or a check off the list for me. It’s my passion! That being said, there are going to be good days and bad days that come with running. But it's important that you don’t celebrate your successes too much, nor berate yourself too much for you failures. Just keep it simple. You have to take the good days for the glory that they are, and the bad days for the lessons they have to offer.

(5) There is a lot more to accomplish in a marathon beyond a P.R. For the first time in my running experience, I truly experienced “the wall.” Initially, I didn’t feel much pride in conquering “the wall.” As I said previously, I wanted to throw my marathon medal in the garbage can! But, in retrospect, making it through that experience without dropping out gives me the courage to know that I can tackle any challenge thrown my way. As long as I can focus on one mile at a time, there is no challenge bigger than me!

So, where do I go from here? Since my marathon adventures began in 2009, I’ve been a non-stop running machine. I have logged well over 5,000 miles and have run 10 marathons in just 3 years. WOW. I am only 30 years old, and have lots of years left to do amazing things with running… and who knows!?! With that being said, and my lessons gained through Columbus, I have decided not to run the Boston Marathon this spring. Boston is an AMAZING marathon, but this spring it just has no “spark” with me. So, what’s the point in putting myself through 18 weeks of hard work and dedication for something that I don’t really want to do? Maybe in 2014 I’ll feel differently, but this is just not going to be my year for Boston.

Although I definitely am out for Boston and feel good about that decision, I’m holding off on making any other official decisions on 26.2 plans this spring. I definitely plan on doing some ½ marathons, and am hoping to run the Nike Women’s ½ Marathon in DC in April with my sister! The Nike Women’s Marathon has been on my running bucket list since I’ve started running, and I would LOVE to be a part of it (and, of course, get a cute Tiffany’s necklace as the finisher’s medal)! I also want to get involved in my more strength training this spring, and have thought about doing that Crossfit everyone is talking about. I have NO muscle strength AT ALL. I can hardly do a push up. SO, I think it would be a good challenge for me.

So, Columbus, I still hate you. However, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to REALLY gain perspective of the person I am. Marathon #10 will always be in my memory as my TRIUMPH over “the wall.” So for that,  Columbus, I love you. :-)

Columbus Marathon 2012 (3:28:09, 7:57min/mi)-- Triumph over "the wall"!