Sunday, May 26, 2013

So Help Me God: CLE Marathon 2013- Part 3

We all have in our hearts some areas of unbelief. Let us say to the Lord: I believe! Help my unbelief.

Pope Francis tweeted this yesterday. Yes, even the Pope is on Twitter (so join if you haven’t already!). And yes, I follow the Pope. He’s dope. *Knee slap followed by over-exaggerated eye wink* I definitely put my belief to the test in this marathon.

When that alarm went off at 4:00am, I sprung out of bed. I got into my super cute Nike singlet and shorts, popped my little pony tail into a visor, and tied up my shoes. I felt excited and told myself I was only allowing positive thoughts in my head. Despite my personal fear, I was SO excited that my sister was going to be with me running her first marathon. My sister is my best friend, my rock, my confidant…my everything. Having her there was going to make it okay. That’s what I kept repeating to myself. 

So, my sis picked me up at 5:30 am and we headed downtown! We parked her car and decided to go on an easy run to the Brown’s Stadium. As we were running, my legs got that jittery feeling and I started to freak out. I was in tears and was so worried. If a simple warm up has me freaking out, how the heck am I even going to make it past 5K? My sister put me in my place, as she knows exactly how to, insisted that I was going to be fine and that it was in my head. It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear, and I started to calm down.
Pre-race with my sis! Mara-twins!

We used the rest room a few times, and then headed to the start line. We were assigned to separate corrals, but I NEEDED to start with my sister. I asked the security guy (okay begged…I think I said pretty please, LOL) to let my sister start up front with me. I received a BOLD “n-ah-n-ah NO!” from him. But, the good news was I was able to start back with her! We hung out, laughed at all of the crazy runners, and it really helped get my mind off my fear. As the clock got closer to 7am, I asked my sister to give me something to focus on if I got scared while running. First, she suggested the thick, oddly shaped mole on some guy's back standing in front of us. I asked her to give me another, LOL, and she said, “Whenever you feel like you’re going to pass out, just focus on the feeling of your feet hitting the ground.” And that is what got me through the marathon. Thank you so much, Kristin. I could NOT have made it beyond that start line without you and your wise advice. I love you so much.

I prayed that God would have an extra guardian angel available for my sister and me, and then the gun went off! I right away just started focusing on my feet. I also focused on the encouraging words of my dear friend and running buddy, Jen. She was SO confident in my ability to run a strong marathon despite what had happened, and believed in me when I lost all faith. Thank you so much, Jen. Your loyalty and kind heart will never go unnoticed by me. LOVE YOU! With Jen’s words in my head, I started out right around 7:30min/mi. This was more conservative than the 7:15min/mi I would need to break 3:10, but I was set to run what felt comfortable but still a decent pace.

Every single mile of the marathon was filled with fear and also exhilaration. I was having SO much fun running through the streets of CLE, but also incredibly paranoid that I wasn’t going to finish. Whenever those fears came into my head, I prayed and just focused on my feet…just like my sister said! The first half I was rocking an average 7:15min/mi pace, the weather was overcast with a comfortable breeze, and I was gaining confidence. I thought perhaps I may just surprise myself and not just finish…but pull off a P.R. for this one!

Gaining confidence at the mid-way point!
As I came to mile 16, the sun started to come out. I started feeling pretty sweaty…and at some points wasn’t sure if I was dripping sweat on my legs or peeing, LOL! I was sticking to the constant prayers and feet concentration, and suddently heard a volunteer YELL at me as I almost skipped a water station. He said, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?! IT’S 80 DEGREES AND A RED FLAG DAY! NO SKIPPING WATER STATIONS!” I obeyed, and grabbed two water cups! At that point, I started feeling the distance, the heat, and the overwhelming constant need to stay positive. I saw one of my favorite, inspirational running buddies, Rose on the course, who gave me encouraging cheers and totally lifted me up! Thank you SO much for that, Rose! Seeing you at that moment was perfect timing.

Feeling the HEAT
After I sucked down my final gel at mile 19, I said ADIOS to the time goal. It was SO hot, my legs were aching, and the most important goal I had throughout all of this was finishing. Annie and another student of mine came all of the way to Downtown Cleveland from Aurora the day after Prom to see me finish. I knew I could risk it by running at a hard pace, or slow down and just guarantee the medal that had become SO important and significant. I was talking to God just about the entire race. We talked it over, and I decided I needed to have faith in Him and myself that He was going to help me finish. There was no need to continue praying, God and I had this. I just needed to stay focused. With this mentality, I pretty much just jogged the last 6 miles. And those last six miles hurt. BAD. My feet were KILLING me for pounding on them so hard when I needed to take my mind off of my fear. My legs hurt. I wanted to throw up. I was dripping sweat. I was watching people pass me. I was watching people stop running and walk. I was watching people limp and drop out of the race. Those last six miles were brutal, to say the least.

Brutal finish!

But, as I came back downtown, rounded the corner and saw the Rock Hall…I knew I was golden. I turned off my Ipod, and heard the cheers of a friend of mine who is dear to me and brings out the best in all aspects of who I am. Jeness, your sweet,  free soul, loyalty, multi-faceted down-to-earth nature has been the best blessing in my life. I’m so lucky to have you as my friend!  It was such an awesome moment of triumph for me crossing that finish line. Knowing a friend who has become family to me was there to witness that moment was amazing. Thank you for always being there for me, Jeness. I LOVE YOU!

Caught me at the finish!!!
When I crossed the finish line, I threw my arms in the air and gave thanks to God. This was one of the all-time best moments of my life. Chills went down my spine and tears flowed down my cheeks. I can honestly that up until this moment, I have never experienced a true runner’s high.  It was a great, indescribable feeling. Everything fell into place! My commitment to Wigs For Kids- DONE!!! Plus, I CONQUERED MY FEAR!!! Despite all of those negative feelings hovering over me, I did it. But, I certainly didn’t do it alone! After getting my medal, I heard Annie and Luke cheering on the side. It just sealed the awesomeness into the whole experience. I ran over to them, climbed over the gate, and gave them the biggest hug. None of the things that I accomplished over the past few months for Wigs For Kids would have been possible without Annie. That busy December afternoon when I learned about her condition and the courage she had to represent all individuals with the same need, something in me ignited. I truly believe God talks to us in mysterious ways, and He was talking to me that day. Until that moment, it never occurred to me to donate my hair.  It also never occurred to me that I could raise as much money as I did. But I did both things, all while successfully conquering 26.2 miles of my 11th marathon, the CLE Marathon! I finished 3:23:07, 7:45min/mi, and was the 17th overall female!

All-time worse marathon finish line picture and all-time greatest marathon moment!

My Wigs For Kids Inspiration!
This whole experience shed light of the true kindness of others. The support that came from my family, friends, colleagues, students, and even people and organizations that I have no personal relation with was truly amazing. Whether it was through kind words, prayers, or monetary donations, none of this would have been possible without the help of others. Thank you SO much to all of you for everything. Most importantly, thank you for believing in me. God bless you all. :-)

So, where am I now? My feet were killing me for about 3 days straight early this week, but it was a constant reminder of what my sister did for me to help me finish the marathon. I embraced the pain! I will never be able to stop thanking you, Kristin, for what you did for me that day. I LOVE YOU and am SO proud of your accomplishment! She rocked her first 26.2 experience despite allergies, a bacterial lung infection, and falling at mile 22. She is all-around amazing, and my hero!

LOVED seeing her cross the finish line!! Big hugs and an awesome moment!!

Marathon #11 and Marathon #1 DONE!

After my feet and legs healed, I decided to make it official: I’m on a marathon training sabbatical. Indefinitely. This is a COMMITED break.  Not one of those “breaks” I’ve taken in the past. I am not sure I’ll get any medical answers regarding my passing out issue, but I’m seeing doctors and hoping for the best. In the meantime, I’ll be focusing on new adventures…whatever they may be! Traveling, biking, other charity activities, meeting a decent guy (…perhaps I’ll run into that ER doctor somewhere other than a hospital…), and getting other aspects of my life spiffed up! I don’t plan on discontinuing running all together unless medically advised to. However, I refuse to run alone until I get some medical answers.  I don’t’ want to take any risks. There is just too much to live for.  :-)

New hair, new MP! :-)

And Nothing But the Truth: CLE Marathon 2013- Part 2

They say whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. So Imma get stronger.

Right on, Will.I.Am. And those words will resonate with me until the day I die.

So, on the 6th day leading to the CLE Marathon, I had a very busy day coming from a busy weekend. After teaching all day followed by grocery shopping, I got home, threw some running clothes on, and was out the door. As soon as I got to the second mile of my scheduled easy run, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I decided to cut down a side street and just start heading home. No sooner I made that decision, I felt like I was losing control of my body. In the past, when this feeling came on, I tried to push through it…and then ended up face first at the bottom of a hill. This time, I stopped, turned off my watch…and that’s all I remember. :-( The next thing I remember, I was in an ambulance heading to the hospital. I remember using the paramedic’s cell phone to call my little brother to come to the Emergency Room, and I remember them telling me it looked like I had a seizure. That is what they ALWAYS tell me, and the test results ALWAYS contradict their hypothesis. I was too scared and overwhelmed to panic right away. When they wheeled me into the room of the E.R, I started to freak out. I needed to get the heck out of there. I didn’t want to get stuck there all night, have them run all of the same tests again (that are NOT cheap), and just have them tell me that they don’t have any answers. I almost took the IV out myself because I had lost all patience, mainly with myself. How could this have happened AGAIN!?!! This is the THIRD time in three years. What in the HECK is wrong with me? The nurse came in to take out my IV as I was insisting on leaving, followed by the ER doctor (who happened to be a total hottie). Regardless of his hotness, I had to go. LOL. And, so I did, despite the crazy looks I got from that entire ER. Maybe I am psycho, but I just couldn’t do it again. So I went home, tried to keep to myself about it without upsetting my family, and maybe slept 5 hours that night (maybe). I felt so alone, frustrated, guilty, worried…to name a few of the emotions I felt that night.

On day 5, I was a mess. I had a late night at school. I knew something was wrong, and was trying to go through my daily routine pretending like I was fine. I was paranoid the ENTIRE day and night that I was going to pass out while I was driving, or while I was teaching, or while I was walking…just TOTALLY paranoid. I kept getting this jittery pain in my legs, in my arms, and in my chest.  This extended into day 4. Fortunately, I was able to go home right after school that night and was in bed at 7pm. That was the first day this ENTIRE school year I JUST went home, watched TV, and RELAXED. My body was desperate for it. 

On day 3 until CLE, I attempted a 30:00 easy run. There was NO way I was doing this alone, or any run again alone for that matter, so I recruited my little brother to go with me. Thank you SO much for everything, JP. I couldn't have done it all without you! I LOVE YOU! It was the longest 30:00 easy run of my life. I was SO paranoid with each step. Some moments, I felt fine. Other moments, I felt like I was going to <maybe> pass out again. I had lost all confidence in my ability to run. I felt out of control of my body and truly didn’t know if I could even run a mile. But, regardless of my fear, I felt that I HAD to run the marathon on Sunday. Not for me, but for Wigs For Kids. I had accomplished so much, my student and inspiration Annie was so excited, and the P.R. people were making plans to capture each moment. Not doing the marathon wasn’t an option for me, and I was SO scared I wasn’t going to be able to do it.          

On day 2 til the marathon, I did another 30:00 easy run. I did this one solo, but up and down half of my street. Everything felt good, but I couldn’t get the fear out of my head. Even that night heading to the Expo, my chest was SO tight and my legs and arms were so jittery. I couldn’t calm myself down. Running, one of my biggest passions that I have loved so much and has brought me so much joy, had suddenly become something I feared. All of this happening THE WEEK before I was to run 26.2 miles for a charity that meant so much to me. Murphy’s Law, I suppose. Just awful.

When day 1 came, I did everything possible to put aside my fear and headed to Phases Hair Salon. With my sisters, my brother, Mom, Annie, and her Mom by my side, I donated 15” of my hair to Wigs For Kids! It was an awesome moment, and I was so glad to have all of those wonderful women there. It was especially awesome that Annie and her Mom came out, and just made everything that I had done and was planning to do that much more worth it. Annie’s strength, courage, and kindness has had such a positive impact on me throughout this entire experience. I used that energy to get me through the day and to the start line the next day. Time didn’t matter to me at that point. The temperature was expected to be in the 80s and with this overshadowing health issue, I just wanted to cross that finish line. I prayed and prayed and prayed that night…I REALLY needed God to be with me. 

With my inspiration!
15"+ of hair! Can't believe that was mine! :-)

Then, my alarm went off at 4:00am on Sunday, May 19, 2013…the day of the CLE Marathon

…to be continued…

The Whole Truth: CLE Marathon 2013- Part 1

It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. 

That quote, so eloquently and passionately asserted by Tom Hanks during A League of Their Own, is the most succinct way to describe my 11th marathon, the Cleveland Marathon. It was that mentality that got me through what has become one of the greatest mental, physical, and emotional challenges of my life. It's upon accomplishing hurdles that seem so bleak and insurmountable that something you didn’t even know existed in you shines. Some may call it your inner spirit, some may call it your soul, and some may even call it the incarnation of God. Regardless of what you call it, always have faith in yourself that it’s there, and it’s the challenging moments in our life that allow it to manifest. Okay, so what happened this time around that has me thinking this deep on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Let’s go back to the beginning…

If you have been following my scarcely updated blog or frequently updated Twitter account, you likely know that I’ve dedicated the CLE Marathon to a charity that has become very dear to me, Wigs For Kids. I was fortunate enough to be able to raise $3,096 and donate over 15” of my hair! My initial goal was to raise $1,800 and to donate 12” of my hair, so exceeding it was beyond my expectations. When I set my goal, I was very nervous that I might not be able to reach it, and was SO overcome with emotion when I realized I was able to do it! The amount of support I received through the kind words, prayers, and monetary donation from so many was overwhelming.  I learned that anything is possible with good intentions, hard work, and a positive network of people to support you. I’m SO grateful to have been able to do what I did for Wigs for Kids, and I hope I was able to inspire others to do the same! There is more to come about this experience in my next blog post. :-)

I used a Greg McMillan custom designed training plan to prepare for what I expected to be the easy part of my journey, the marathon. Prior to this marathon, I’ve successfully collected 10 marathon medals. Each marathon was a distinctly different experience, even on repeated courses, but I never doubted my ability to finish. My goal was to finish the CLE Marathon in 3:10, and my training leading up to the marathon was getting me there. I was nailing every work out, feeling healthy, having fun with the variety, and ran a pretty solid half marathon at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. I finished 1:31:25, and was the 47th overall finisher out of 15,000. I didn’t P.R., but had the most amazing 13.1 experience! It was an all-girl event (although there were some guys that ran it, too) and Nike totally nailed every aspect of it. The Tiffany's necklace finisher medal was just the icing on the cake. The best part of the experience was running next to Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit-Samuelson! I even got the chance to talk to them! They took part in the event, just “jogging” it…which turned out to be my race pace! Lucky me!!!  I was running on air the entire race. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity.  I felt great crossing the finish line, and was confident that the remaining 3 weeks of my training would get me to my goal. I had no idea that some old health issues were brewing and about to sneak back up on me in the worst way…
NikeTown party time!! :-D

Beautiful start line!

Yep, that's me upfront in the pink!
With our Tiffany's necklace finisher medals!!
So, what happened? I'll try to be brief: 2 weeks out, I was still running strong, but anxiety started taking over. I wasn’t sleeping through the night, stepped back from 3:10 to 3:12 as my finishing goal, and was just super busy in my personal and professional life. I was reaching the point of exhaustion trying to manage everything. Then, on the Thursday 10 days out from CLE, I was on my way to Chipotle. I just didn’t feel right, and felt this overwhelming sensation in my body that I was going to pass out. It's hard to explain in's the strangest feeling. I called my sis to save me, did not pass out, but also did not sleep sound that night. Something just felt “off” and I couldn’t figure out why or what to do to try to fix it. 8 days out I had my final long run. Again, I just did NOT feel right and had this fuzzy, jittery feeling that I was going to pass out. My legs felt dead and I was SO wound up. I couldn’t calm myself down. Running has always been the thing to chill me out, and now it was just stressing me out. I cut my long run down to 10 miles, hoping that extra rest is what I needed. Later that day, I drove down to Marietta for the weekend for my brother's graduation. I was doing everything I could to relax, but it was near impossible. Too much was flowing through my head, and I couldn't let go. 

Graduation dinner!

With the whole family at our Lil Bro's college graduation!

Then, just 6 days out from the marathon, what I feared most happened to me for the 3rd time in my running career... be continued...