Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ray of Light :-)

I finally got the “go-ahead run” from my orthopedic doctor this week. I, the girl who could hardly go two consecutive days without running, made it eight months. And I’m not institutionalized. I’m not fat. And I’m not depressed.  I’m free. I’m healthy. And I’m happy. I’m sure most people assume that as soon as I got the green light to run, my New Balances were laced up, my Garmin was strapped on my wrist, and I was on the road making my way towards my next 26.2 audacious goal. However, that couldn’t be farther away from where I was when the doctor told me I was completely healed.  Instead, my mind went back to those seven weeks.  Those seven weeks I couldn’t walk nor drive. Those seven weeks when I was completely dependent on my loved ones. Those seven weeks that shed so much light on who I am and what life is all about. 

Those seven weeks. I’ve experienced physical hardships in the past, and I have to say that the temporary hurdles within those seven weeks were by far the most challenging. I learned quickly that not being able to walk was much more complicated than “just” not being able to walk. Without two functioning legs to move me, my hands had to take over the job. With both of my hands on crutches, that meant that they were too busy to take on any other task. That meant not being  able to carry a piece of paper (let alone a stack of papers or a book), not being able to push a cart through a grocery store, not being able to carry a plate of food or a cup of coffee, and not being able to hug someone without losing balance and falling into their arms. And that’s not it. It was not being able to go to the bathroom without holding on to the rails (In fact, to be completely honest, I never noticed those rails until I needed them). It was not being able to walk up or down stairs without hopping on one leg and praying I wasn’t going to tumble down (or up). It was not being able to shower without balancing on one leg while the other leg was covered in a garbage bag (And, trying to shampoo with one hand was no easy task!). It was not being able to drive and being completely dependent on everyone else to take me where I NEEDED to go (forget about where I WANTED to go!). It was needing the handicap ramp when going into a restaurant.  It was almost having to go on leave from work because teaching on crutches seemed impossible. It was feeling so incredibly lonely, helpless, and distraught. It was falling asleep at night with the guilt of knowing that all of the pain I was enduring and the pain I put on those who had to care for me was a consequence of something that I had done to myself. It was those seven weeks I thought of when the doctor told me I was completely healed.

But, with God and my loved ones to be my hands, legs, sanity, and light, I made it through it all. My faith in God and the kindness and generosity of my family, good friends, and my darling, sweet students saved me during those seven weeks. Without their help, love, care, and sacrifice, I could not have done it. You all know who you are, and please know that I am eternally grateful for all you did for me. I am tremendously blessed to have had you all by my side, and that this whole experience was just a temporary, short period of time in my life. 

For the moment, I’m enjoying walking, riding the bike, and powering through on the elliptical. Maybe I will run again someday. Maybe I won’t. At this point in my life, training has turned from empowering to downright abusive. With my migraine/passing out issues and now recovering from a broken fibula, continuing to put my body through training would be masochistic. But, that is not to say that running has been a complete detriment in my life. If you have followed my journey, you know that running has done so many wonderful things for me, and as I have said over and over again throughout the years, has shaped me into the woman I am today. What I have been holding onto with running hasn’t been the medals, trophies, race t-shirts, or all of the pictures posted on Facebook. It’s those intangible moments. It’s waking up at 5:00am on a Saturday morning with the excitement and anticipation of a 20 mile run (yes, I loved those long runs!). It’s the energy of pushing through the hardest parts of the marathon.  It’s that feeling of accomplishment when I crushed the goals I had set for myself. It’s all of the kind, supportive, positive people I met along the way. It’s overcoming hardship, and learning how to see the light in every circumstance thrown my way. Because, you see, throughout my journey, it was never about running. It’s never about the things we do. It’s about those intangible moments, the people we meet, and the lessons we learn along the way. That’s what shapes us into who we are, making us better people prepared to take on the journey God sets out for us. So, with that said, maybe this running-induced broken little fibula was a part of God’s plan for me. Maybe not being able to stand on my own without falling into someone else's arms wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe those experiences that seemed to hold me back were there to push me where I’m meant to go next. Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than what I can even expect or plan for. Maybe I don’t have to have it all figured out, because He has it figured out for me. 

Had you told me when I graduated college ten years ago that I would be a passionate science teacher, with 10 Boston Qualifiers under my belt, I likely would have said, “Are you kidding me? And what’s the Boston Marathon?” We need to accept that our lives are bigger than what we can ever expect them to be. We all have our own journeys here on Earth, and it most certainly is not a linear path. The path is windy, with many peaks and valleys, but it’s in those twists, turns, ups, and downs that the best of who we are is brought to light. We need to have faith in God and let Him take control of our paths. We need to have confidence in who we are, do the best we can with each day, love and appreciate those God puts in our lives, and listen to that little voice in our hearts as we make decisions that propel us forward. 

Will I ever run again? Maybe. Running is just that: running. Whether or not I do it again doesn’t really matter. I feel confidently equipped for whatever challenge God has set for me next.  For now, I am feeling blessed than ever for my loved ones, for health, and for all of the lessons that came along with my temporary hardship.  It seems like it happened in just a blink of an eye, but it shed such a tremendous, great light on my life. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I’m free. I’m healthy. And I’m happy.  I wish all of the best for everyone and can only hope to be a bright, shining, ray of light to all those facing hardships as all of my loved ones were for me.

Happy New Year, everyone!!! Love, MP :-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fibula Road to Recovery

April 29, 2014
WELP. My lil ankle-that-could has turned into the cankle-that-cant. By this afternoon, my ankle was out growing my calf and the pain was O.O.C. I finally sucked it up and stopped by the ER, and apparently I have a fibular fracture. :-X BAHHHHHH! Looks like I'll be taking up some new hobbies over the next few weeks. Perhaps chess? Table tennis? Crochet? ‪#‎stayingpositive‬ ‪#‎itsmyonlychoice

April 30, 2014
So's looking like no surgery is needed! Apparently I had a stress fracture in my fibula, not a sprain. Doc says it likely broke at some point in the marathon. CRAZINESS! I was BEYOND blessed to finish, let alone manage a PR! I'll be on crutches for a while until it heals, and seeing the Orthopedic doc every week. I'll be taking it easy, staying positive and patient a long the way because it could be much worse. I have SO much to thank God for. I will miss running, but crutches are great for cross-training in the meantime!  


May 9, 2014
It has been a rough, LONG week. I've been needy, crabby, exhausted, sore, and at times completely irrational. One minute I'm laughing, and the next I'm crying. I'm so happy to end this week with good news from the orthopedic doctor followed by dinner and cheesecake with my favorite lady! With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I feel luckier than ever to have been blessed with a Mom as patient, loving, supportive, and sweet as my Mommy. I don't know what I'd do with out her! I love you, Mom! Thank you for putting up with me, and thank you for being YOU!!!

May 16, 2014 
Doc said the fibula is healing "perfectly!" I just can't put any weight on it for 2 more weeks. But by then I'll start physical therapy and he thinks I might be able to start walking! Just gotta keep crutchin' in the meantime...

May 30, 2014
Doc says the healing is "excellent" but I need stay on crutches for another two weeks. I was pretty disappointed because I went in assuming I'd be leaving walking (and maybe driving). But despite the little let-down, I started physical therapy and am excited that I was able to stand on it for the first time with no pain! This whole process is not easy and quite the rollercoaster ride, but I'm trying hard to take a day at a time and focus on the positive. Keeping my fingers crossed that I will be walking in two weeks!!! (...and hopefully driving sooner than later, pllllllease!!!)

 June 1, 2014
Crazy to think I haven't walked, let alone run, in 5 weeks. Doing my first PT stretches, simple inversions and eversions of my foot, has been incredibly humbling and has got me thinking. It's amazing how, in just a moment, your life can completely change. The only constant in life is change. So if you're in a funk, don't worry because it's temporary. And, if you're having the time of your life, cherish the moment because it's temporary. Life is unpredictable, but it's all a part of His plan. All we can do is believe, in God and ourselves, and know that everything happens for a reason. 0:-)

June 13, 2014
The good news is that my ankle looks pretty normal (ignore the powder)! The great news is that the x-ray shows the same; Doc said the bone is starting to callus! The super great news is that I can start walking! The super DUPER great news is that I can start driving!!!! YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!!! Wooooo weeeeee!!!

June 30, 2014
10 weeks in and all looks good! Doc said I can give the boot the boot! I've been upgraded to an aircast for the next 4 weeks. Although I now have heel-toe walking mastered, I still have to continue on with Physical Therapy focused on strengthening the area. He said it will be at least 4 more weeks until I can run again, but I can start biking and swimming. And that is fine with me! I have to admit I'm enjoying the break from the regimen more than I expected. I'm in no hurry and am content following the doctor's orders until I'm 110%. After all, I've made it this far and I'm still breathing/haven't been institutionalized despite no running or working out over these past 10 weeks!!! Lolllll Running has taught me that the long journeys always have the best rewards. Keeping faith, staying patient, and focusing on the positive!

July 30, 2014
It's been over three months now since I broke my Fibula. I saw Dr. Cohn this morning to check in on my progress. Prior to seeing him, I had a bone density scan and will have to wait at least a week to get the results. I also had an x-ray, which he kindly shared with me during our visit. The bones are aligned, but are still not completey fused. I no longer need to wear my aircast, however I will not be able to run for at least another month. The good news is that my pimp limp is completely gone (sorry, 50 cent!), I graduated from Physical Therapy (I even got a t-shirt!), and I can start power walking on the treadmill (watch out, old ladies!). The greatest news is that I'm progressing, although it is slowly. Dr. Cohn has given me complete faith that I will be back to where I was, eventually!!! Just need to pray for a little bit more patience until I get there!


September 1, 2014
The time has come to say good bye to another summer. I expected this summer to be one I would have to "just get through." Little did I know how truly wonderful it was going to be. It is true that some doors have to close in our lives in order for others to open. I have learned that happiness comes when we are able to surrender the control we believe we have in our lives, and focus on doing the best we can each day with what God sets up for us. Our plan is truly in His hands, and we have to keep faith that there is nothing he will throw our way unless we are equipped to handle it. The toughest of situations always show us that we are stronger than we believe. However, this summer has taught me that no matter how strong and independent we may be, we need to accept our vulnerability. We have to let others into our bubbles because we can't get through life on our own. We just can't. We have to love those God has put into our lives for exactly who they are, and let them love us back for exactly who we are. Nobody is perfect, and so we shouldn't waste precious time expecting that out of others nor should we be expecting that out of ourselves.

So much has seemed to come full circle in my life these past few months and I am so excited for all the new doors that have opened. Life isn't easy, nor is it fair. But life is too short and precious to "just get through." When we can find it in ourselves to focus on our blessings, life is REALLY good! Happy almost Fall, everyone! Make it the best one!

 September 10, 2014
It's now been 4 1/2 months since the onset of my injury. I saw Dr. Cohn today and got some great news. I had a bone density scan the last time I saw him, and was shocked to learn that I have osteopenia (which means I have low bone density). Although it is a precursor to osteoporosis, he assured me that it is nothing to be too concerned about because it is common in smaller-framed individuals. I just have those dang Irish genes to blame once again, LOL! All joking aside, it is a relief to know I didn't do anything to cause it. I just need to continue eating lots of milk and cheese and taking calcium/vitamin D supplements.

I also learned that the gap between my bones is sealing, and he thinks that the walking is helping! Although I am showing progress, unfortunately the bones are still not completely fused together. He said that if I start running now, there is a really good chance I will end up with another fracture and will be back to where I was at the end of April. With that said, running it is out of the picture for at least another two months. There is no feeling worse than being told you can't do the thing you love most. It's like a dagger piercing right through your heart. But, although I am very disappointed and my heart is aching, I am accepting it for what it is. I CAN walk. I CAN bike. I CAN drive. I CAN coach...and I am LOVING it! Coaching my cross country kids energizes me more than any race I've ever run on my own. I feel lucky to say that everyday I'm graced with my all-time favorite aspect of this sport: the people. Whether their 14 or 80, runners are truly some of the kindest, most uplifting, passionate, driven people in the world. For that reason, despite the setbacks, I am feeling very blessed for all the things I CAN do.

 November 26, 2014
It's now been 7 months since the onset of my injury. I saw Dr. Cohn today and am blessed to announce that the bone stimulator did its job. I AM COMPLETELY HEALED! He wants me to start using the elliptical, and thinks I will be okay to run by the end of December. However, truth be told, at this point I don't care about running. Not even a little bit. Maybe I will run again someday. Maybe I won't. After all I've been through, it's no longer enough of a priority to me to have a plan in place. All that matters is that I'm HEALTHY, and for that I am SO incredibly thankful!!! 


July 26, 2014

This past week, my siblings and I were blessed to be able to take our entire family down to the Outer Banks to celebrate our parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Oddly enough, in retrospect the vacation seemed to mirror our parents' lives together in many ways. Our drive down started out perfectly. The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in sight. But after several hours of comfortable cruising, we were stuck in traffic. And we were stuck for hours. Somehow, we failed to plan ahead to coordinate the most efficient way to travel. To top it off, Kristin and Dennis' car broke down and they were forced to take a detour to a random Toyota dealership in PA to service their car. But despite the setbacks, we made the most of it. Several hours later, we suffered our way through the traffic and Kristin's car was able to be fixed. We eventually made our way to OBX.

But when we got to OBX, the sunshine didn't follow us. It was POURING rain. The kind of rain that makes you worry and wonder, "Is it going to be like this every day? We didn't plan on rain!" But our big brother Paul minimized our worry and insisted that the bad weather was good luck. His optimism couldn't have been more spot on; our vacation was absolutely beautiful. The weather was not perfect each day, but we made the most of whatever it happened to be. The rain came and went intermittently, but we somehow always managed to get in exactly what we needed to when the sun was out. Throughout the week, there were laughs, tears, adventures, disagreements, "guided tours," relaxation, sun burns, broken glasses, Jack Nicholsons, toilet paper shortages, a missing egg crisis, and so much more. And with everything, we made the most of it. All 16 of us. Under one roof. Together.

We were lucky enough to have a bright, sunshiny day for our last day, and we made sure to take advantage of every second of it. After spending the entire day at the beach and at the pool, we decided to skip our official restaurant dinner plans and ordered pizza. We followed it up with a dance party starring our little ones; they have a way of making everything so bright and sunshiny! In accordance with the absolutely perfect weather, we got everyone together and took some pictures together on the beach. And the pictures were incredible! But the pictures were incredible for more than the great lighting on the beach. They were incredible because they were of all us. Together.

If my parents have taught us anything, it's that marriage is not easy. It's hard. REALLY hard. Some days the sun will shine, and other days it won't. The hourly forecast isn't always a perfect predictor, so there's no way you can really know ahead of time the type of weather you might have at each moment. And for that reason, you can't worry about when it will rain. You have to appreciate the moments of sunshine. You have to make the most of each day. Together.

When we finally made our way back to the CLE tonight, I saw my Dad hug my Mom and I saw her hug him back (a rare occurrence if you know my parents). While hugging, I heard my Mom say, "This was the best time we had in 40 years."

I think we did good, kids. I love you all!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How I Got My P.R. -- Part 5

The Aftermath:

But, by the next morning, more bruises on my ankle had appeared. It started to swell, and so I decided to wear flip flops to work instead of squeezing my foot into a shoe. Well, that was just a totally stupid decision. I hobbled around in pain all day, and made an appointment to see the chiropractor on Wednesday. By that afternoon, the hobbling turned into complete immobility and extreme, excruciating pain. I grabbed some old crutches from my parents attic, and figured I could use them until the swelling went down. I ignorantly went to bed that night, hoping the pain would be less by the next day. It was just a sprained ankle, anyway….or so I thought!

Monday night...

I don’t think I slept one consecutive hour that night. I woke up every 45 minutes, wide awake, in SO much excruciating pain. When I woke up that morning, excruciating was an understatement.  But I got up, got ready, and was out the door for another day of work. It was pouring rain, my ankle was blowing up, and I was trying to use crutches for the first time in my life. I’m sure I looked like a complete freak, but I hobbled my way into school. I showed my coworkers what I was dealing with and it was apparent that I needed medical attention and that the chiropractor was not going to be able to help me. After a day of teaching in complete and utter pain, the high school trainer took a look at my foot. He kindly gave me the number of an orthopedic doctor to see, wrapped my ankle, and told me I did not need to go to the ER. It was exactly what I wanted to hear, because the ER is the last place I wanted to be seen. With his advice, I hobbled my way to get my brother’s birthday present after school and made my way to my parent’s house to celebrate his birthday.

Once I made my way into the house, the pain was just unreal. My foot look deformed, and I was praying I could hang on until the  following Monday for my orthopedic doctor appointment. My sister, who is a nurse, immediately looked at my ankle and told me what I did not want to hear. She told me I needed to go to the ER. I was frustrated with her assessment, but I knew she was right and I had to suck up my pride. I promised myself I would NOT end up in the ER this time around, but it was what it was. I got in the car and drove myself to the ER with my Dad along for the ride in the passenger seat.

As soon as we parked the car, I climbed out, grabbed the old crutches I pulled out of my parent’s attic, and hobbled through the parking lot into the ER. I prayed I wouldn’t see any of the doctors or nurses who had seen me before, and I hung up my head low as I moved through the movable doors. The nurse at the door directed me to the registration table. As I walked over, I gave a faint smile to the friendly lady waiting to check me in. Soon thereafter, I was overcome with weakness and pain, my good leg that brought me in gave out, I lost balance, and with a squeal I was on the floor. A sweet man in the waiting room helped pick me up, I checked in, and before I knew it I was back getting an x-ray.

Ankle in the ER...

Almost immediately after they did the x-ray, the nurse came over and told me the unofficial results: I had had a fracture. My face flushed and my stomach sank. What!?!?! How the heck did I break a bone? I don’t know what I expected them to tell me, but a broken bone was not it. Before I could really process the information, the Physician’s Assistant came in and confirmed the unofficial results. I had a fibular fracture that required immediate orthopedic attention. He said that it was going to have to be casted, and there was a good possibility I would need surgery. They wrapped it in a splint, wrote a prescription for the pain, and then I was on my way. I was in such shock I couldn’t even think. I had no emotions. I just wanted to see an orthopedic doctor as fast as I could.

My sister had a great orthopedic recommendation from her nurse connections, Dr. Cohn, who was willing to take me the next day. I was so beyond grateful! I ate a quick breakfast, it was raining once again, and I hobbled my way to the car. Despite getting a little lost in the chaos of the pouring rain, my Mom and I found Dr. Cohn’s office. Once we arrived, I was just overwhelmed, overtired, and sopping wet. As soon as we checked, I turned around to head for an x-ray and ONCE AGAIN my good leg gave out, I lost balance, and BOOM I was on the floor. This time, I howled in pain so loud it echoed through the entire office. Every doctor and nurse ran to pick me up and it was SO SO SO EMBRASSING! But, they got me a wheel chair and then I was good to go.
I had my x-rays and then they unwrapped my splint. My ankle had outgrown my calf. It was hideous. I looked like a Dr. Seuss character! After waiting a bit, Dr. Cohn came in to see me.

Ankle by Wednesday...eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

He immediately shook my hand and said how amazed he was with my marathon performance. He was not just impressed with my marathon time, but impressed that I ran 26.2 miles on a broken bone! When and where I officially broke it cannot be identified, but what he could confirm is that I did not have a sprain prior to the marathon. The pain I had felt was stress fracture. I had never had any type of injury (with the exception of my migraine/passing out issues) so I simply had no reason to think it was anything besides a sprain. After all, that’s what I was told! It was a complete break, but did not look at that point to need surgery. PHEW! He said the swelling was too much for a cast, so he wrapped my fat little ankle into a splint. He said I needed to come back that Friday, and once a week until it completely heals.  He said that I will be on crutches for a while, and won’t be able to drive for at least the next four weeks. He is hoping by that time he will be able to put me in a boot.

All wrapped up...
I went back for a check up that Friday, and the doctor unfortunately said surgery is not completely ruled out. I need to continue to stay off my ankle, rest it, and hope it will heal correctly. He will be closely monitoring it to ensure it does. If it doesn’t heal correctly, there is a chance for permanent damage and that I could have a pimp walk for the rest of my life. EEEEEEEEEEEK! No, thanks, LL Cool J! I'm doing everything I can to stay off of it and am hobbling around on crutches. It's exhausting. I'm trying to stay positive, but it is not easy.

To best describe how I feel right now would be one word: frustrated. I’m frustrated that I did this to myself. I’m frustrated that I have lost my independence and need everyone to do everything for me for the next few weeks. I’m frustrated that I am getting frustrated with people throughout all of this. I’m frustrated that I can’t drive. I’m frustrated that it hurts. I'm frustrated that I have to resort to hopping around with one leg. I'm frustrated that my hands and arms are sore from the crutches. I’m frustrated that teaching is so difficult.  I’m frustrated that I might have to get surgery. I’m frustrated thinking I could bump my leg wrong and do something to damage the healing process.  I'm frustrated that I'm crabby. I'm frustrated that staying positive takes work. I’m frustrated that I’m frustrated.

But all in all, I know it could be MUCH worse!  Yes, I’m bummed about my ankle and recognize that these next few weeks aren’t going to be in my memory of favorite moments. But words cannot describe the gratitude I have for the lifelong lessons that I gained not just from this marathon P.R., but from the training that got me my P.R. It's hard to put all of the lessons into words, but it was through the acquisition of these eight lessons over the past 16 weeks that I got my PR.:

 (1) Live in the moment, don't dwell on the past, and don't worry too much about the future. You have to force yourself to let go of the past. Life isn't always fair, but that's just how it is. Everything happens for a reason, and things always seem to work out the way they were meant to. Life is much easier to manage if you appreciate the present, focus on each moment, and know that God will guide you where your meant to go.

(2) Mind truly is over matter. Your attitude is everything. Focus your mind on the things that are good. Even when it is really, really hard, stay positive.

(3) Pain is temporary, but the glory in pushing yourself through those insurmountable walls is eternal.

(4) Always keep faith in God and trust in your precious loved ones, because it’s with their support that you can get through anything.

(5) The race is not against anyone else but yourself, so don’t run anyone else’s race but your own. 

(6) The glory is not just in the race, but in the journey that gets your there. Enjoy it. If you don't, change your journey if you can. If you can't change your journey, change your perspective. Accept the things you can't change, and change the things you can. Life is too short. Trust your instincts, choose your journey wisely where you can, and most importantly choose to be happy.

(7) If you really want something, work hard, and believe in yourself, anything is possible.

(8) The heart conquers all battle, so when in doubt live with all your heart and never, ever give up.

As I’m in this healing phase, I’m going to apply my marathon mentality and pray that God gives me the strength to get through this next battle. All I want right now is to get my ankle back to 100%. I’m not worried about running. I’m still not sure if and when I will get back to training. My mind is just not ready to go there yet. For now, I have new goals in mind, and plan to transfer my running into something new. The timing is finally right, and I am pleased to announce that I will be serving as a high school cross country coach this fall! Running is such a huge part of my life, and continuously helps to shape me into the woman I am. I’m SO excited to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and guide my students as they learn all of the lifelong lessons running has to offer!

With that said, I will absolutely NOT be training for any marathons this fall. I got my PR this spring. When all heals and the cross country season is over, maybe I’ll consider training again. But, I just can’t think that far ahead right now. I’m choosing to apply my marathon mentality and just live in the moment. I have faith that God will guide me where I'm meant to go. I just plan to keep hangin' in there and see what happens!

And, well, that’s it. That’s how I got my PR. :-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How I Got My P.R. -- Part 4

The Glass City Marathon:

Each day leading up to the marathon, the nerves were kicking in. Everyone around me had been struck with the norovirus, and even with my knowledge of virology I was beyond paranoid I was going to get sick again. I was super nauseous Thursday and Friday, cautiously eating my food and praying it was not going to come back up. Once Saturday rolled around, my tummy was filled with butterflies and there was no holding me back. I packed my bags, rounded up the troops, and off we were to Toledo for my twelfth marathon. It meant so much to me that my family, including my norovirus sickened nephew Benjamin, was coming to my marathon. I chose to focus on the joy in having them there the entire day, and to let go of any pre-race anxiety.

After a day of crazy adventures with the family, I hopped into bed around 9pm. My sister came into to check on me before I went to bed, and at that moment I decided to verbalize my thoughts. I said to her, “If I put all of what I have in me I’ll run a 3:05 tomorrow. I know I have it in me. I can’t decide if I should go for it, or just go for a P.R.” She said to me, “MP, don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. We’re here to see you finish and we’re proud of you no matter what. That’s the most amazing accomplishment in and of itself. Don’t kill yourself out there to reach that kind of goal.” Her words eased me and it felt good to get my thoughts off my chest. She gave me a back massage, and then I was fast to marathon sleep soon thereafter (Marathon sleep: you’re not sure if you’re sleeping or awake the entire night, get up to pee about every hour, and then the alarm goes off).  

My amazing sister and me!

When I woke up that next morning, I did not have that unique, instinctual “I’m going to kick a$$” feeling. I was super dehydrated despite drinking a crazy amount of water the day before and just did not feel totally on my game. But, regardless, I did my normal pre-race routine and then I was in my car and ready to head to the University of Toledo’s campus!

After getting myself lost, I arrived to campus a little bit before 6 am. I found a parking spot, and made my way into the campus’s arena. I walked around a bit and moved towards the back part of the arena where the crowd was minimal and a hidden bathroom with no line was available---JACKPOT!  I decided to hang out there and skip my pre-race warm up. I was playing Russian Roulette on my busted ankle, and had no clue how many miles it was going to give me.  I had not run more than 10 miles on it in several weeks now, and was praying it was going to hold up. I decided warm up miles might be taking away from the 26.2 miles I needed to get on it, and it was better to risk a slow first mile then dropping out in the last.

As I sat and people watched, I prayed. I prayed God would give me the strength and courage to push through the pain. I was not willing to accept anything less than a P.R. out there, and was going to be so beyond disappointed if I saw anything over 3:16. It was time to prove what I had in me. It was time to kick a$$ even if I didn’t feel 110% to do so.  As I prayed and reflected, I started thinking a lot about life. We spend so much time in our life searching and striving for that perfect moment, that perfect person, that perfect job, etc. But, if we wait around for perfection we will be spending our time doing just that. Waiting. Moments aren’t perfect, people aren’t perfect, and jobs aren’t perfect. Sometimes, you just have to embrace the imperfections in life, appreciate the moments for what they’re worth, and give it all you have. It seems like there is always going to be some kind of road block that gets in the way , and the road blocks can be so blinding and make what we are trying to achieve seem so insurmountable. But, if you give what you do all of your heart, then there is no road block that can get in the way of what you want to achieve. I decided that my focus for the marathon was going to only be on  I what I could do at each moment in each mile. I was going to try to enjoy those miles as much as I could despite any pain and free my mind of worrying about the miles ahead. I was just going to give it my all and see what the marathon would give me back that day.

After my third or fourth potty break (I’m a psycho), I started heading to the start line. I turned on my Garmin, peeled off my sweat pants and t-shirt, and lined up in Corral A. When I arrived at my Corral, I found one of my super speedy running buddies, Katie. As soon as I saw her, I had full confidence that she was going to kick a$$ out there. She had the vibes, and my instincts were telling me this was going to be her race. She has gotten very close to her goal of breaking 3:00, and the time to make it happen was now. After a quick hug and some words of encouragement, I took off my heat blanket and said another prayer. I had hard core cotton mouth, which made NO sense considering my pee was clear (sorry for the overshare). I forced myself to calm down and then the horn went off and off we went!

As I took the first few steps in the first mile, I could feel the pain in my ankle. It just didn't feel right. I had no idea how much mileage I was going to be able to cover before the pain got bad, so I just focused on what I could do at that moment. I ran through the first mile around a 7:05 pace and held on to that pace through mile three. I knew I was over-pace, but I figured my best bet was to run as fast as I could for as long as I could. I continued on mile after mile, and once mile seven rolled around I started to feel like I was in trouble. It really hurt, and I was doing everything I could to avoid hobbling. I took a gel, and started contemplating dropping out if it still hurt around mile eight. But as I was going through the mile, a very kind spectator said to me, “It is DISGUSTING how smooth you are running at that pace. You are amazing. Keep going, girl!!!” I thought to myself, no matter how much it hurts, it’s not showing. I can do this! And so with that, I kept going.

Chugging away...

Once I got to the 13.1 mile marker, I was in pain but feeling good. I was so strong everywhere else in my body, that the nagging pain in my ankle seemed to dissipate.  I decided from that point forward I was going to focus on the parts of my body that felt good, and ignore the parts that hurt. And with this mentality, I kept going…

Once I made it mile 16, I knew I was golden for a P.R. The wind was picking up, but I felt strong, and was comfortable in my 7:10ish pace. I had a ton of confidence, and just kept clicking away. I took my second gel.

Enjoying each mile!

When mile 18 came around, things started to change. The wind REALLY started picking up.  It was the worst kind of head-on wind that feels like it might knock you over. The parts of my body that felt good suddenly felt the intensity of the speed and the intensity of the distance. I pushed, and pushed, and lost pace between mile 18-20. Once I arrived to mile 20, I did the math. I knew that even if I ran an 8:00mini/mi the rest of the race I would be good for a P.R. I decided I was going to ignore my watch, and run the last 10K like a typical long run. I knew I could push for a strong finish, but there was so much uncertainty with my ankle and I had already run such a strong race. The last thing I wanted to do was blow my hard work in the last 6 miles of the race. I decided to listen to my instincts and focus on hanging in there.

Those last 6 miles were tough. They were by far the longest 6 miles I had ever run. I didn’t want to push too hard, but didn’t want to cave either. I had to force myself to take one mile at a time, push through those crazy winds, and pray that God was going to get me to the finish line. I took my last gel at mile 21, and just prayed and prayed that I could hang on.

Once mile 25 came around, I knew I was going to break 3:15 and that I was in for a decent PR. I asked God to stay by my side and to give me the strength to keep going. I’m pretty sure I said this out loud by this point! The headwinds were pretty strong in this last mile, but I pushed and pushed until I turned onto University of Toledo’s campus. I am not a tangent runner (I need to get that figured out) so my watch went off before the finish line and I was 3:11 and some change ( I REALLY need to get that figured out!). I was making my way towards the stadium when I saw my family’s faces on the sidelines. It was the exact boost I need to carry me to the finish line. As I rounded the corner, I saw the clock with 3:13 on it. I knew I could trip and fall and STILL break 3:15! It was an incredible, indescribable feeling of ultimate conquer! Then, I heard my friend Maria shout "YEAH MARE-BEAR!" from somewhere in the stadium. As I made those final few steps towards the finish line, there was no peeling the smile off of my face! It was one foot in front of the other and BOOM!!! I DID IT!  I earned my PERSONAL RECORD: 3:13:27, 7:22min/mi!!!!! My ankle was ready to fall off, but I couldn't even think about it. I was just too exhilarated to have completed the race and nailed the P.R. I had so worked so hard to attain!  I put the marathon medal around my neck, and immediately ran off the field to try and find my family to share in this glorious moment.


I Got

My P.R.!!!!

Once I found my family, the pain really started to set in. I tried stretching it a bit, but I could not move my ankle without screeching in pain. I hobbled over to the finisher’s tent where I was informed that I won my age group, and that I was the 11th overall female finisher. With my bummed ankle and norovirus infected intestines, I was excited I managed some extra accolades to my P.R.!  Once I grabbed my award and chugged a bottle of muscle milk, the pain really started to kick in. I could hardly walk, and my super awesome brother-in-law offered me a piggy-back ride. It was exactly what my ankle had earned after carrying me through my fastest 26.2 mile race to date!

PR smiles!

One of my cheerleaders!

My awesome Bro-In-Law!

After we made the commute home, I noticed a bruise forming on my ankle. It looked as though someone clubbed me! It definitely hurt, and I was hoping the pain wasn’t going to be too awful the next morning…

Uh oh...
**Above the bruise is my washable Shamrock tattoo tradition! I got a bunch of them from the Boston Marathon in 2011 and I have been wearing them for all of my 26.2s since. I had two left, and so I blessed them both in Holy water the night before the race. I gave one to my nephew and put one over my bummed ankle! The extra luck came in handy...0:-) ** be continued...