Remember that hill Megan and I were joking about? Well turns out we had to run the opposite side. It's that hill of infamy from Hospital Hill Marathon in June, the one that we approached at mile 12 that stopped us dead in our tracks. There it was. We hiked it, and our pacers stopped to walk and said "We'll need this energy for later" Little did I know how right she was. This was about the time when an old high school class mate passed me with her mom. We picked up the pace, and mile three was done. Thirty minutes were behind me, three miles complete and I felt okish despite my nagging bladder. I saw my husband, elated I waved and he pointed to the opposite street where I saw my mom holding a giant sign.
This is about the time where I started to really panic. My stomach started to hurt because I had been holding it for so long. I started asking volunteers where the next bathroom stop would be, but no one seemed to know. Mile five was approaching, and it had nearly been an hour of running with a full bladder. There were plenty of businesses along the route, but I wanted to stop in a race sanctioned stop, ya know? So I just kept going and going. Finally, it got to the point where I had to pee so bad that running was nearly impossible. I stopped because the even a jog was putting an immense pressure on my bladder. Of course the second, I stopped running I lose momentum. I knew in my head if I lost my pace group, I probably wouldn't recover either so it was so hard for me stop-but physically I had to.
The second I stopped, I saw my mom and husband again who just looked at me like what the heck are you doing?! I yelled at them why and I hoped they understood. Coming up on the course I knew there a few gas stations, and I KNEW I had to stop. I pulled to left, out of the pack and ran up to the station store, upon entering I saw two other racers in line. Dang it. We stood there for about five minutes waiting on someone else in the bathroom. Frustrated and adrenaline pumping all three of us decided that if whoever it was didn't emerge in 1 minute we would knock, and finally that time came around. The girl first in line knocked to see if the occupant was ok. The response we got was less than desired, especially after waiting for what was now nearly 10 minutes. The lady screams (not even exaggerating) "I'M IN HERE AND DOING MY BUSINESS I'LL BE OUT WHEN I'M DONE!" Well alright. Nothing like getting yelled at while someone is clearly having pooping issues. I waited another five minutes before giving up and moving to the next gas station, which was a Quik Trip less than a block away. I got there and it was basically the same situation, I waited another five minutes there and finally had relief.
The damage was done though, the grief from holding it in for over an hour had fatigued my abdomen and used a lot of energy. I tried to recover quickly with a GU, and luckily there was an aid station pretty quickly thereafter. Mile eight was approaching, and I was still on target for a 4:20 finish, I saw my cheerleaders again who got a wave and an emotional nod. Now, I have to mention that even though I was still near my target time at this point my attitude was miserable. I wasn't feeling "right" something in me was internally irritated and irrational, like the sun got in my eyes and it pissed me off-or a song on my play list that I love would piss me off. The big 8 passed and I was looking directly into the sun, and had a headwind. I just got angry. ANGRY. I felt my jaw tensing, my lips pursed and then the weird phenomena: my arms went completely numb. My hands weren't purple so I couldn't blame it on circulation, it was my tension.
This is actually coming up on mile 20
I can't tell you how irritating it is to have two limbs you can't feel. I need my arms to propel me forward, and I just couldn't even feel them. annoying. So there I was: Mile 8.2 pissed to hell because of a rude runner in the bathroom, fatigued as crap already and with numb appendages. I convinced myself that I should walk a bit to calm down, regroup and pep up. I closed my eyes, shook out my arms and inhaled then exhaled. We ran through the beautiful plaza for the next two miles, y'all have seen a few of my races down there (trolley run, dog-n-jog). Then this wave of indescribable sickness and pain hit me, I was approaching mile 10 when it happened. It was like getting struck with an emesis lightning bolt-but as quick as it hit, it was over. I clenched my tummy, bent over and hurled just missing my timing chip. My mind couldn't help but focus on what other people were thinking, they probably thought that I was under trained or over ambitious.
Mile 20 marked my BFF Megan guarding a street. I had waited the whole race to pass her by, and all I could feel was shame. She waved at me as a motorist tried to get through on the course. Miles 21-24 were lucky enough to contain my fourth puking episode and I was lucky enough to meet a fellow struggler named Steve. I noticed we were both following the same pattern of agony, so I asked him how many of these he had done. It was his 5th. We shot the poop for the next mile or two, and the conversation was distracting enough to get to mile 25.5. I gave him my laundry list of go-wrongs and he laughed and said "Yup, you've had a bad day" I quickly told him that I don't think I'll ever being doing this again, half marats were for me. He again laughed, knowing the certainty that this could not be my only and last marathon. He encouraged me to stop by the medical tent WHEN I finished. When? Oh that's right? He then said "Guess what? In less then 6 minutes you'll be able to sit down" Glory!
I pulled out my phone and sent a text to Logan "i just puked mile 11 is coming" and he responded he'd be at mile 14. I started getting really overwhelmed, Today I was WALKING a marathon crept into my head. I just kept trying to put on foot in front of the other, and then I remembered my dedication. I looked up and "Waka Waka" by Shakira came over and I had this minute of inspirational push. I gritted my teeth, and felt this urge to cry due to abdominal pain but tears wouldn't come out. I knew if I could let go of the tears, I could move on. If I could just let them out maybe I'd be able to get over the anxiety and pressure and just RELAX.I kept curling over in absolute agony, as pace group after pace group passed me. I started hoping that Eric would catch up with me, so I wouldn't have to be alone anymore. I quickly went from finishing in under 4:20 to just finishing. Sure enough, I started up another hill when I looked down and saw Eric. Heavens to Betsy, relief. I was comforted to be able to have just someone there. He could see the agony in my face, asked me if I needed a hug-apparently I looked like I did. We tried to push the next few miles with a walk-jog-run-walk combination. At this point, I had stopped sweating and couldn't really walk a very straight line. We crossed the threshold of the half way point. As we were approaching, there was this couple who held hands and asked a stranger to take their picture in front of the mile marker. It was really sweat, their first marathon together.
After mile 13, Eric told me to go ahead my legs were turning to stones and I knew walking wasn't doing me any favors. I struggled onward, it kept me going knowing that Logan and my mom were ahead somewhere. Then it hit again, the emesis lightning bolt. Numb arms, bent over perpendicular to the group and revisiting my strawberry-banana GU, if you know what I mean. I stood back up, walked if off and kept going. All these stops, all these attitude adjustments-all these things were totally harshing my marathon experience. I kept wondering: Where's my magic? Where's my emotional breakthrough? I wanted to be able to soak every ounce of this, every inch of the 26.2 and all I could focus on is how I wanted this over. I so badly wanted it to end, but it was a marathon-they are like never ending, and that's kinda the point.
What killed me was that at mile 13.1 we didn't turn around and started heading toward the finish. That makes sense no? Apparently that's psychologically too easy. We had to run another 4 miles south and make a hypotenuse like return to the origin. That messed with my head so bad, it's so easy for me to mentally tackle a split on an out and back-but for some reason I just couldn't do the math on this. Yeah, I had reviewed the course before but it's a whole 'notha story once you're out there. Mile 16 came and this is when things started getting really real. The crowds had thinned, but there were still people along the way: high school cheer squads, volunteers and neighbors-everyone. The runners now were more spread out, and now each time you'd pass they could see your bib and cheer you on personally. I felt like the most pathetic celebrity alive, they'd say my name and it felt good and shameful at the same time. These strangers kept telling me to keep going and sharing in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. I have never ever felt so weak, so tired and so sick and here they were telling me I was strong and to take it home.
I kept trying to think of certain monuments to look forward to, to keep me going. I knew where people would be and knowing that would keep me running temporarily. I couldn't hold my pace for very long, but every time I'd stop I would at least try to start again. Right after 16 passed, I saw my family including my sister in the distance. They all had signs, they were screaming their heads off. I wanted their energy. I wanted it refuel me but more than anything I wanted to stop and let them sweep me off the course. I kept going, anyway-but I admit, I really really didn't want to.
The next few miles were about the same, equally tough but I started a new battle with fatigue. I literally started falling asleep while running. I would forcing myself to run, and my eyes would droop and I felt like I could just nod off. I fought this giant internal war to not take a nap, you can not nap and run and finish a marathon. The muscle fatigue in my core was no better even, and right around mile 18 I started feeling full on muscle failure in my obliques and transabdominals. They vibrated like they were receiving texts messages, and holding myself up became a chore-but throwing up a third time was even more of a chore. Mile 19 came, and I saw volunteer friend Scott who I think could see things weren't going right. I tried to choke out that I've been puking to offer up an explanation-but I'm pretty sure my face was reason enough. He told me to take it home and I started to count down the miles.
I figured that once I saw mile 20, maybe I'd be able to just have this complete out of body experience and have the last SIX MILES flash forward. FAIL Worst assumption ever. Mile 20 is when things only got really more realer. My family was starting to get worried that I wouldn't finish in under 6 hours, and until that point I had never even thought about it. They shouted at me how much time I had left to get those last six miles in-and I thought Today, you FINISH a marathon. I had to finish, but I couldn't help be discouraged. How did this happen? How had things gone so wrong? How did I go from a 4:15 to worrying about making the 6 hour time limit? This is what I had trained for? This is what the last three months had been all about?
This is The Man, Steve!
We turned a corner and I saw Logan and Emily running toward me, screaming my name. They were saying the finish line was just here and I have 15 minutes to finish. I picked up, and according to my garmin I pushed that last quarter mile at an 8:30 pace. I don't know how. Megan, came in the shute with me and people were just screaming at me. I couldn't hold my head up, and halfway there I doubled over in pain. I heard a "NO! GET UP!" and I did. I saw the blue mats, then I saw my feet touch the blue mats and then I stopped. I was done.
Finished. That was it. Where were my tears? I still just couldn't let go. I think part of it was I didn't want to waste my tears on such an experience I was totally unsatisfied with-but I think it was largely due to dehydration. I gathered my medal, my finished shirt, and some food that I knew I wasn't going to be able to eat. I walked away from the shute and found the closest patch of grass and just laid down.
It was finally over. I finished in 5:48 and some change, a full hour and thirty minutes off my goal time. I did everything right in training a prep, but when you mentally wear yourself down and your luck plays out like a series of unfortunate event, it happens. I wanted to badly to be happy with finishing, but in my heat I felt cheated. I wanted better, and I know it's natural to be slightly disappointed. I knew I had to do some major reflection on accomplishment and the like. So I returned home from the race to do so.