Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Race Day Recap (The Good, The Bad, The Non-Stop Tears)

Remember this girl?  She was so optimistic, so well prepared, so confident, so ready to run.  Well, someone should have told her that she would end up looking like this:
This was taken while I was still debating checking myself into the medic area.  And I would have, if it hadn't been 100 feet away, which at that time was way too far to walk.
Let me start by saying that I wasn't sure how to even write this blog.  In the end, as I was running/shuffling towards the finish line watching my goal fall so far by the wayside, I kept thinking, "How can I tell people about this?  How can I even face them?  How can I admit that the can'ts got me?  How can I, after months and months of writing about preparation and positive thinking, explain that I fell so short?"  I'm still not really sure how to explain it.  I know it's going to eat at me for a long time.  But, as I was laying on my couch last night in some pretty serious pain and even more serious wallowing, I got an email from someone who read this blog and felt motivated to lace up her shoes and take a run.  That's when I knew that even if it wasn't the story that I wanted to tell, I had to share it. 
I started the morning with my race buddy, Michael. 
Who knew he was planning to propose to his girlfriend a mere four and half hours after this picture?!?  Not me.  Because this guy is cool as a cucumber and didn't let me in on what he was planning.  Congratulations Michael and Ashley.
We got a really late start getting to our corrals (I blame last minute nervous pee runs to the port o potties), which is a mistake I will never repeat.  By the time we could get to a corral (they actually closed the corrals we were assigned to), we had to start in the very last corral, with the 12 and a half minute mile pace runners/walkers/etc.  We didn't even start until 20 minutes after the race gun.  With so many people ahead of us, I spent the better part of the first 5 miles dodging other runners and just trying to get a decent pace going.  I started much slower than I'd intended.  But, I had intended to start slower than my goal pace to conserve energy, so I wasn't too worried.  And I felt great.  Really, I felt awesome.  I love the start of marathons.  There is just so much energy and excitement and I have yet to make it through one without getting really emotional (read: tears).
I wish I could describe to you all of the awesome things I saw while I ran.  Hilarious signs that made me laugh out loud, motivational signs that made me want to run faster, and touching signs that made me well up with tears (be prepared this is a constant theme in this run story).  I saw friends literally pulling other runners along yelling motivation to get them going.  One of the fire stations erected a giant American flag over our path (a little teary again running under it).  There were people outside holding up bananas and oranges and candy and water bottles of their own that they brought just to give out to runners.  There were bands and tap dancers and belly dancers and just about every organization you could think of to entertain us and support us as we ran.  It was as if everyone in Houston was out to help us run.  I saw many, many friends as I ran and got high fives, and fist pumps, and cheers of "you can do it" all along the way.  I can't tell you what that support meant to me.  Other than to say, it moved me when i didn't want to move myself.  And how about this sign? 

As the miles went on I continued to chip away at my pace. I was headed in the right direction and I just kept thinking, "This is my race. I'm running it my way."  And I was. By the halfway point, I was just 3 seconds over my goal pace and I was sure I would hit my pace by mile 18. From there I planned to cruise on to the finish. Funny how things don't go according to plan, isn't it?  And by funny, what I really mean is sucky. Really, really sucky. 

I noticed I was having trouble keeping my 9 minute pace around mile 16, but just figured I needed to stay more focused. Then came mile 18. That's where it all started to fall apart. I went from feeling great to feeling horrible just like that. At mile 18 it was as if my body literally shut off. My pace slowed to a crawl. I felt like I was running but my Garmin was telling a different story. I was in PAIN. I remembered at mile 8 noticing the spot where my chin connects to my ankle was giving me a lot of trouble, but I told myself that I wasn't hurt, I was just hurting and I blew it off. Well, after mile 18, I starting thinking I might actually be hurt. Every step felt like shooting pain. Pain in my feet, pain in my hips, pain like crazy in my quads. Eventually, I would loosen my shoes so much that they could easily slip right off just to try to ease the pain in my feet. I couldn't believe it. Where was this all coming from?  And that's when the can'ts set in. The can'ts were all I was hearing. "I can't, I can't, I can't."  I knew better to listen to them, but my body didn't. My body heard the can'ts and really couldn't.  It was probably a little after mile 20 that I stopped for the first time. Not a long stop, maybe 10 seconds to stretch, but it was a stop and it is still eating me alive that I stopped. I would stop another couple of times in the following 6 miles. I can't stand that I did. I woke up this morning before the sun came up and all I could think was, "Why did I stop?"  Here's the conclusion I came to: I stopped because I had to. I stopped because my body couldn't go further. I feel like I didn't have a choice in the matter. I'm still devastated by it though. It was also so hard knowing that I had a big group of my friends and family waiting for me at mile 22. I knew they were seeing my pace slow to a crawl and I felt like I was letting them all down. But, boy did I love seeing them and hearing them cheer and clap for me. It felt so good passing them. So good that I immediately started crying. This is me about 3 seconds pre-tears:

To everyone who was at mile 22, THANK YOU!!  

I thought after that I'd get that finishing stride. I thought endorphins would kick in and carry me home. Again, funny how things don't happen as you'd think. And again, substitute sucky for funny. It was a struggle the whole way after. My sweet friend Rachel spotted me around 24 and ran with me for a minute giving me all kinds of encouragement. Finally, when I turned into downtown and was within a mile and a half of the finish, my legs started to move. Not with great speed and with no ease, but they were moving. 

The emotions that set in while I was finishing are almost indescribable. How can you be so happy and so disappointed at the same time?  So proud and so ashamed?  The finish line was a huge release of emotion for me. So much so that I was asked by two separate volunteers if I needed medical attention. If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm a big crier.  And I left a lot of tears on that finish line. Especially when my longest friend (really, since we were super young kiddos) surprised me by being at the finish line. Uh oh. I'm crying now typing it. The love you feel on marathon day really is overwhelming. 

So what do I say?  Am I disappointed? Yes. Most definitely. I trained so hard and I felt so prepared. None of my long runs were as slow as my marathon run. Not even close. I just can't understand what went wrong. It's hard to deal with. It's amazing what a difference 17 small minutes makes in your mind.  17 minutes was the difference between total success and the feeling of failure.  However, I need to remember that I finished a marathon! I ran 26.2 miles! I was in the top 1/3 of all women!  It wasn't the race I planned.  But, it was the race I ran.  It wasn't the race I thought I was capable of, but I gave all that I was capable of on that day.  I left it all on the line and I need to be proud of that.

Yesterday was amazing. Yesterday was beautiful. It was one of those days you live for. One of those days that makes you feel ALIVE.  I am thankful for yesterday. I will carry yesterday in my heart forever. 

Yesterday was a reminder that things don't always go your way. No matter how hard you work, no matter how well prepared you are, no matter how confident you are. Sometimes it's just not  what you had in mind. Sometimes it is really, really hard. Sometimes it really, really hurts. Sometimes you lose control and you find yourself in tears (over and over again). But it's all worth it.  Every single painful, dreadful, and beautiful step is all worth it. 



  1. girl, you so crazy. you were and are an inspiration to me.

  2. Jessica,
    Don't beat yourself up. So many people you know will never run a mile much less 26.2. And you finished in the top 1/3 of all women. WOW. That is something you should be so proud of. I am not sure anyone's first marathon goes like they planned.
    Ms. Lockhart