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...

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