Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Med City Marathon

Last fall I decided to train for a marathon, within days after the race I was already picking out my next race.  I failed to mention to everyone that my crazy ass decided to run another marathon 29 days after my previous race. I just hated the thought of starting over, and wanted to "use" some of my training for my first 2014 marathon to pull me along through marathon #2 of the year.

So on April 29th I started talking to lots of runners via Facebook, asking their opinions, if it was possible, if I would fall flat on my face and regret making such an insane decision.  I decided I would go for it, but planned to see how my legs felt for a couple weeks before actually coughing up the $80 registration fee. I talked with the race director and he said that even if the race cap was reached before I registered I could call him back and he would let me in.  Awesome!  So I ran the alumni mile 10 days post marathon, 6:25-6:26ish, legs felt okay. I ran a 20 miler 2 weeks post marathon, holy leg cramps--to be expected still.  Then after my last "long run", a 13 miler, one week before the race, I finally registered for my 3rd marathon, only 3 weeks after completing my 2nd. 

I had prepared myself mentally much better this time around.  I didn't have an INSANE goal of 3:33. I didn't have all the pressure of performing up to a certain standard. I hadn't told very many people about the race, so I didn't feel like I would be failing anyone.  (I know, I'm irrational, you all think I'm crazy for running marathons, regardless of my time, hehe)  I told myself it was just another run, don't fret about every bite of food I take, how many miles I do or don't do, how much sleep I get, JUST RUN! 

Friday I had to work, so we woke up bright and early Saturday morning and hit the road for our 8 hour road trip to Rochester, MN.  I was pretty excited because the race was right near the Mayo Clinic, and me being a nurse, hello--that's awesome!  The hubby and kids came along this time, as did my awesome running buddy, race super fan--my sister, April.  We got to Rochester around 2:30, got my race packet and headed to the hotel to rest.  After a yummy carb loading session at Olive Garden we headed back to the hotel to rest up.  My sister-in law and her soon to be husband drove down from Minneapolis to watch the race and visit with us, so we stayed up a bit late hanging out with them at the hotel pool. I didn't swim, just sat on the side of the pool and chatted.  We finally climbed into bed at 11pm which didn't bother me at all because I figured I wouldn't get a ton of sleep anyway.  I passed out and slept like a rock for about 3 hours, then tossed and turned for the next 3 hours waiting for my alarm to go off at 5am. 

Off to the drop off area we went.  I had to catch a bus from Rochester to a town called Byron that was about 6-8 miles outside of town. April took me to the drop off area and my nerves were okay. We snapped some prerace photos this time.

For my Josee girl in Australia. Spreading DS love all over Minnesota.

A Memorial Day Marathon in memory of my incredible friend Andy Habsieger who was KIA in Iraq in 2008.
This little girl inspires me every day!

Minimalist today, no arm warmers, no calf sleeves or compression socks. Prepared to beat the heat!
So off to the starting line I went, chatting with other runners and waiting for marathon #3 to get on it's way.  The National Anthem played, I closed my eyes and managed to not cry as I waiting for the gun to go off.  Then we were off! I started with the 3:45 pacer, not because I planned on caring about my pace (I didn't use my GPS, just my stopwatch, as to avoid any satellite glitches like last time), but because I just wanted to make sure I didn't bolt out of the gates too fast.  The first five miles were super hilly, up a huge hill, down the backside of it, back up, back down. For five miles it was up and down a hilly country highway.  We ran past farms, the smell of cow manure filling my nostrils, and I was happy.  I felt awesome.  I know my first mile split was 8:15, the rest are all just guestimates because my watch wasn't spitting them out at me this time.  Up the last big hill at mile 5 I told myself how much fun I was having. I wasn't sweating yet, I wasn't breathing hard, I was just out for an awesome run with a lot of other awesome people!  Then we descended the massive hill, I tried to let my body glide down the hill without increasing my effort.  The plan was to ease into the first 13 miles, hang on for 3 more, then try to pick it up for the last 10 miles.  It was already high 50's at the start with the high temp reaching 80, so I knew I'd have the heat to contend with later in the race. 
As we got closer to Rochester I got more excited about seeing my family.  We ran past a lot of pretty lakes and creeks, through parks, on nice paved trails, over bridges, under overpasses. It was a beautiful course.  From about mile 7-12 I don't remember much because I was just running. I wasn't thinking, I wasn't getting worked up about any of it.  I sipped my first Gu from mile 6 to 7 and drank water at all of the water stations.  I crossed the 10k around 51ish minutes.  I didn't care. I knew I had 20 more miles to enjoy.  As I got closer to the 12 mile mark I started to get a little anxious about seeing my family.  Then there they were, yelling for me, waving flags, clapping and cheering my name. Woo! I threw my arm up in the air and ran past, almost half way done!

At the half way point I was around 1:51ish. I hoped to run even splits or even negative splits. It was getting hotter.  By now I had started taking two cups of water at each water station and had taken my second Gu.  This is where the race got interesting.  I knew I'd see my cheering squad again around mile 15 so I kept looking forward to that as we ran through the sunny streets of Rochester.  At mile 15 Jordan stuck his hand out to give me a high five. I still felt strong and wasn't dreading the next 11 miles at all.

I told myself to stay calm and collected for the next mile, then I was planning to get after it after mile 16. I wasn't going to race my watch, I was planning on chasing the people in front of me and racing hard for the last 10 miles.  I hit mile 16 in the sun and couldn't move much faster.  The end of mile 16 through the beginning of mile 18 were pretty shaded and the shade brought sweet relief from the bright sun.  It was in the low 70's by now and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. In the shade I worked on picking people off.  I knew the half marathoners were gone so I was chasing marathoners, 20 milers, or the ever peppy and energetic relay runners.  As I would pass someone I would get a surge of energy and kept telling myself I was rocking this race, even if I wasn't moving much faster than last time.  It was such a mental game. I was out there all alone, running 26.2 miles, trying to redeem myself from the misery I had experienced a month ago.  As I left the shaded creek path and headed up a hill I saw the 18 mile mark. It was so hot, the sun was a killer, I told myself to just keep moving. No walking, no giving up allowed. I trotted on, the 3:45 pacer was still behind me at this point, but not far behind. I was trying not to get hung up on time but I also knew I wanted a 3:40's finish if I could help it.  I tried to push but the miles were getting hard. If I was going to mention "the wall" it would be between miles 18 & 19. Thankfully I saw the fam again after mile 18, shortly before I had to dodge the traffic of church goers letting out, and April ran a little way with me, telling me I was doing good and to keep pushing on.

That SUV had me pissed off, I didn't care if they hit me or not at that point.

April had just finished running with me and snapped a few pictures as I gladly approached mile 19.
So here I am, 8 hours north of home, fighting the same battle again a month later.  Dealing with the heat, wishing I didn't like marathons so much.   I thought, "If I can just make it to mile 20, the last 6.2 will be in the bag."  Mile 19 may have been my slowest.  I think it took me 10ish minutes but my mind was foggy from the heat so it was hard to keep track of the stopwatch time.  I was sad that I wouldn't see anyone again til the finish. It was hard to keep pushing on knowing I was alone for the rest of the race, but I reminded myself how bad I felt after I gave up last time, and I refused to let that happen again.  I kept focusing on other people and trying to catch them. By this point the 3:45 guy had passed me, I was unaware, but he was a couple minutes slow for pace (Jordan asked him) and so it wouldn't have mattered anyway.  I just kept pushing.  Kept drinking water, and "picking them up and putting em down" as Jordan had yelled for me to do at mile 18.  :)  Quite the motivator.  I tried to sip my last Gu around mile 20 but it made me feel like puking so I only got half of it down and then pitched the rest. {Thank you volunteers for cleaning up my mess} Miles 21-25 were a blur of heat, foggy thoughts and desperation for the finish line. We were doing a lot of running over bridges and under overpasses, so the small constant hills (small inclines, barely a hill but they seemed huge at this point) were aggravating and my hamstrings were hating me at this point.  At one of the water stops during this point I reached for a cup and the kid/volunteer wasn't ready for me. He didn't have a single cup in his hand and I wanted two.  I snapped, "I need two" and he quickly grabbed one as another grabbed a second for me.  I hated to sound mean, but gosh dang it, I'm running a marathon, GIVE ME WATER! I had to pause for a split second as I waited, and could have slowed to a walk but kept trotting along through the water station, pouring it over my head and sipping it as I went along.  Jordan told me after the race that he saw this happen from afar and was laughing because he could tell I was annoyed and crabby about it even from far away.  They saw me but I never saw or heard their cheers at this point. 
As I passed the 24 mile mark a woman sitting in a reclining lawn chair yelled at me to "pick it up, you're almost done. 2 miles left. pick it up." She was trying to be encouraging. I wanted to kick her.  I ran by and grumpily told myself to pick it up.  After the 25 mile mark I was almost in tears in search of the finish line. I saw a woman who had been running with 3:45 guy at the beginning. She was wearing a yellow "Marathon Maniacs" top and a running skirt. I had stayed ahead of her almost the entire race and she passed me somewhere between 18-21 miles. I decided I wasn't going to let her beat me. I'd been staring at her yellow top for the last 4 miles, trying to reach her, and now was my time. I pushed hard, caught her and kept going, I didn't want her to hang on to me. I pushed down a hill, up the next hill and around a corner before I looked back and saw she had let me go.  I slowed a bit but then I saw Jordan around the bend, waiting and yelling for me.  He started running with me and telling me I was almost done.  I responded, "I'd better be!"  I'm a crabby marathoner apparently. Haha.  I begged him not to leave me, so he ran about a half mile with me and then let me run the last stretch alone to the finish. I rounded a corner and heard lots of people yelling my name. The rest of my family was on the corner, and must have told the other spectators my name because they were all yelling for me. "Come on Jessy, Come on you're almost done!"  I was never so happy to make the last left turn to the finish line.  I hadn't run a 3:33. I hadn't qualified for Boston, again. I hadn't run a 3:35 or a 3:45, I was worried I wouldn't even PR, but I had ran the entire marathon. All 26.2 miles. I didn't give up on myself. I didn't let my head give up. I ran with my heart.  As I crossed the mats and the announcer started saying my name I could do nothing but laugh as he tried to pronounce my hometown, Herculaneum. "And here comes Jessy Beard from Hercu-whoa! Hercu, Hercu-lay, Hercu-lAy-knEE-Yum, Missouri." It was hilarious. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and grabbed my knees. I wasn't out of breath but I was SO tired! My legs cramped immediately as I stumbled through the finisher's shoot to get my medal and my finisher's shirt. I looked at my watch: 3:51:46. PR!  (Official time was 3:51:44) A wonderful woman opened a bottle of water for me, I chugged it down as I searched for my family. April had been at the finish line to take pictures and I saw her first. The rest of the family caught up quickly as I was moving slow by now.  We found a grassy area and I fell to the ground, legs turning into tight balls of exhausted muscle. I couldn't move any farther. But I had done it, I was done. I had finished two marathons, 4 weeks apart, PR'd and learned more about myself during those 26.2 miles than I had in all the months of training leading up to the race. 
I thought about never doing another marathon again, but that thought left me quickly. I'll be back for more, when the weather is COOLER! :)
And I leave you with the remainder of my race pictures, thanks to my super fan, April.  If you read that entire thing, you rock. Thanks for taking the journey with me, painful as it may have been. :)


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Christie Clinic Marathon

I don't know how to start this post or what to really say about my race without sounding ungrateful or like a sore loser.  I've had so many words of encouragement before and after the race, reminders of what an inspiration I have become for some people, and I am blessed to have this gift. So I will attempt to avoid sounding awful during this post.

In the days leading up to the race I paid extra attention to every bit of food or drink I put in my mouth, every ache or pain or twinge I felt in my body, I was drinking fluids like a mad woman, and critiquing every step of every mile leading up to race day.  I studied the course, I made plans for my race, I wanted everything to be perfect.  Guess what, life isn't perfect.  A race is rarely perfect.  26.2 miles, there is no way that can always go perfectly.  What I should have been doing was training my head to adapt and overcome when things DIDN'T go perfectly instead of expecting everything to fall into place.  My last long run was a huge reminder that I am capable, but I forgot how to adapt to things I cannot control during my race like I had done during that long run.

We headed out to Champaign, Illinois after an easy 3 mile run with two of my favorite people and my race companions, Erin and April.  The ride up was fun and we talked the whole way about life, running, racing and plenty in between. After we got to the expo and picked up our packets, had some supper, and settled into our hotel, the nerves really set in.  I laid out all of my clothes and gear for the next day and April helped me write my prayer list on my arms for the next day.  I had 26 names for 26 miles of prayers, with plans to run this race for someone other than myself. 

I did not get a wink of sleep that night, with my alarm set for 4:45am so I could eat my breakfast ahead of time and be ready to leave the hotel at 5:30am for the 7am start. I last looked at the clock at 1am, it was a useless night of sleep. I tried not to let my lack of sleep bother  me, I'd rested well all week and I really felt fine when I woke up the next morning. We headed off to the starting line after multiple potty breaks, and Erin and I talked about the race and our plans and goals. We went to the bathroom 4 more times once we got to the starting line area, what can I say, I have race day IBS.  And then we headed to our corrals.  I gave Erin a hug and told her good luck! and gave April a hug and told her I'd see her in a few hours.
Trish and Izzie (fellow running buddies) and I found our spots in Corral B near the 3:35 pace group.  Our goal was to start with the 3:35's and try to catch the 3:30's pace group, since our goal was 3:33. We listened to the National Anthem and I almost cried.  There were no more nerves, only feelings of happiness and readiness, I couldn't wait to start.  The race started, we crossed the starting mats and started our watches and we were off.  I tried to focus on effort and not pace, but ultimately failed at that.  I run best when I ease into a pace instead of pushing a pace from the beginning, and that just isn't how I started the race.  We weaved in and out of people because the start was crowded with all of the 8 minute mile pacers for the full and half marathon.  We were always in front of the 3:35 group and caught the 3:30 group by mile 5.  The first 10K flew by and I mentioned that we were half way done with the half way point. We crossed in an overall average pace of 7:56/mile.  Too fast to maintain for 20 more miles.  I was trying not to let myself get discouraged and tried to ease into a little slower pace, but the heat was picking up and I was already feeling tired.  I gulped as much water as I could at the water stations, which made my stomach hurt instantly.  I tried to sip but it was so warm and I had cotton mouth pretty quick so all I wanted was water.  Around the 8 mile mark we headed into a park with a small path to run on.  Trish and I looked for Izzie between 8 & 9 miles and couldn't see her anymore.  We kept pushing forward and hoped that we'd see her again but knew that we  had to keep moving to stay on pace ahead of pace.  Around the 9-10 mile mark I felt myself slowing and I just couldn't keep that 8 minute pace anymore.  The 3:35 group was right behind us Trish reminded me, and we needed to push ahead.  I couldn't do it, so I told her to go on and I would try to hang with them.  I stayed with the 3:35 group until close to 11 miles and then fell off of their pace as well.  More than anything I should have ran a couple slower miles, drank and ate my Gu's and recomposed myself, I still had plenty of time to regroup and run the rest of the race well.  Instead I just got pissed. But not a good pissed that fuels the fire, a pissed that ruins the day.  I started throwing myself a pitty party, complaining in my head about the heat, and how the starting pace was way too fast, and how the whole race was ruined. 
I saw April at the half-way point, with my "Jessy runs for Josee Hope" sign and the sign she made us that said "Boston Bound" and I just wanted to cry and quit the whole damn thing.  I smiled at her but rolled my eyes and told her so much for Boston.  I was totally defeated and gave up before I was even halfway there.  What a fool I was for giving up so early.  The next 7 miles are a blur of negativity.  Around the 15 mile mark I was running with another guy and we talked about our goals for the day, I told him I had set out to run a 3:33 but that wasn't happening anymore. He encouraged me and told me we had just run an 8:30 mile and that is still a 3:45 marathon so to not give up.  That made me feel better and worse all at once because 3:45 was still so far off of my goal.  I should have listened to him.  Instead I listened to the a-hole behind us who quickly remarked, "3:33?! Well you can kiss that goodbye!"  Thanks dude, I was unaware that I was running a shitty race, your reminder woke me up from my daydreaming.
Around the 18 mile mark I remember feeling really sorry for myself.  I had 8 miles to go, and it had been 8 miles since I dropped off pace and the suffering had begun. I didn't want to go any farther.  I kept looking at my arms, all of these people I had promised prayers to, and they are what kept me going.  I prayed for each one of them during their assigned miles, but also spent way too much time feeling sorry for myself when I should have just focused on those prayers and moving forward. 
The heat was terrible. Starting around mile 14 I had begun drinking a whole cup of water and dumping two over my head at each water station.  By mile 20 I was soaked, running through every mist station and enjoying all of the awesome people who were spraying their garden hoses in the street.  It could have rained like crazy and I would have been happier than the heat I was enduring. It was in the high 60's by mid-race which doesn't sound hot, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky so we were running in full sun after training the entire winter in freezing temps, my body just wasn't ready. 
My Garmin was acting like a fool and said I had run 23 miles at the 22 mile mark.  I wanted to rip it off my arm and stomp on it at that point. If my thoughts had been audible there would have been a lot of F-bombs flying I'm sure.  We had 4 miles to go and they seemed to drag on forever, partially because I was running/walking so much slower than I had trained.  With a 5K to go I tried to give everything I had left.  I pushed forward for all of those people on my arms and for the hope that a finish line would eventually come into sight.  Mile 24 included the one real hill we had to climb and I tried to use the downhill to my advantage while it lasted.  The spectators and signs were awesome and they are the one thing that brought joy to my race.  People kept screaming my name (it was on my bib) and I smacked as many hands as I could find.  I gave a thumbs up to the camera guy somewhere between mile 25 & 26.  The end was near.  My Garmin froze at 24.96 miles and never moved forward after that, remind me to never rely on technology again. As I crossed the 25 mile mark, knowing my last 1.2 miles was all for Josee, my feet began to fly.  I probably wasn't running very fast but I felt like I was and I was passing people like crazy.  Someone yelled "Good push purple (color of my tank), keep it up!"  I finally felt encouraged and was going to give it my all for the rest of the race, short as it may have been.  The last 0.2 miles seemed WAY farther than a lap around the track but as soon as I entered the stadium and saw the finish I felt sweet relief.  I ran as fast as I could, almost cried, and crossed the finish line of my second marathon.  3:54:14.  A far cry from my 3:33.  I hobbled forward, received my finisher's medal, patronized the volunteer handing out medals until she agreed to give me a second for Josee (I had already gotten permission from the race director via email but she wasn't around to give the okay at the time) and found April in the stands.  A hug and a cry, a quick picture and then I went to find the other runners. 
I was thrilled to hear that Trish had qualified with a 3:35:05 (she needed 3:40 to BQ) but was worried to hear she was in the medical tent.  I flopped down on the stadium turf and pulled out my phone to text my husband and inform him of my failure.  I posted a picture online with my feelings of defeat and cried.  What I received after that was beyond anything I could believe, 118 people "liked" my picture and over 40 people responded with words of encouragement, reminding me that I had done what most people cannot fathom. I had run a marathon!  26 point freaking 2 miles. 
The days following the race have been hard.  I've made every kind of excuse in the book, beat myself up like crazy, and crabbed endlessly to my family.  But in the end, I simply didn't have it on April 26th.  I didn't run my race. I let myself give up.  Two of the best comments I've received after the race were from some online friends. One said, " i know you're disappointed you didn't qualify for boston, but you should be proud of yourself. i think you did an amazing job, and i love reading about your running adventures. boston isn't going anywhere, so there will always be another chance to qualify"--thanks Erin Morgan! :)  Another reminded me, "So you didn't run a 3:33, so what.  You ran an awesome time and this will just give you more fuel for next time." True story Kate, this gives me even more incentive to bust my butt and not give up next time.
Was it a good race?, hell no. Am I glad I did it?, Of course.  Practice makes perfect, right? I will qualify and I will run Boston.