I did it all right.
Strength training...check, for the most part.
Lots of long runs...check.
Sleep...check, well kinda.
Banking it all on one race...check.
I lived boldly. I dreamed. I put my goals out there for the world to know. I tried
The morning was beautiful and peaceful. Train was nearly empty, didn't have to wait in line for the port-o-potties, starting area was clear from it's usual madness when I arrived, and the sun was just beginning to rise above the lake with the rays slowly bringing alive all the race day magic.
Surrounded by 45,000 individuals that all had the same goal as I did, a GIANT support crew stationed throughout the city, and taking the chance to run fearlessly in the city I love, I felt ready to hit it.
An easy pressure free start was my goal for the day. I've never benefited from going out with the masses of people, my legs are slow to wake and easy to shake. The first 10 miles I felt like I was really on target for the day. While it was difficult for my mind to focus, my pace felt relaxed and I was seeking comfort in how fluid the pace seemed to be pouring out of my body. My mind felt cluttered by the chaos that was going on around me; blaring music, neon signs, men dressed as women dancing on stages, too many faces in dense layers of the crowd, cowbells ringing like madness.
|All race photos via marathonfoto.com|
14 race pace miles were all that my body was willing to comply with on Sunday. 14. Tightness begun to creep up on my groin area for the first time EVER in my life after the halfway point. I tried to fight it for as long as I could, but the crotchel region is more important in running then one may think. If I am being truly honest, I had a feeling that I was going to experiencing muscular discomfort during the race. Once my taper weeks hit I found myself fighting some really strange knots in my left calf and quad that never quite let up. My thoughts about these pre race nuisances where if I foam rolled and stretched enough without any acknowledgement or declaration about the discomfort I was feeling then come race morning they would fade away and become an after thought amongst the race day glamour. The truth of the matter really is that I ignored how much the constantly flexed calf and tennis ball sized knot in my quad were changing my gait for those precious few tapered weeks. I pretended to not know that my muscles were unfamiliar of how to run 26.2 miles with a left leg that couldn't handle it's share of the stress that caused the right side of the body to overcompensate and produce the majority of my power.
|Oh foot how you did me wrong|
So indeed it did all add up right, right into one beautiful disaster in the middle of the race I had been pining for all year long. The race that made my heart flutter and my spirit sing had turned into the race that I knew I just had to get my body through and continue to make "forward progress".
The groin area became so enraged with me at times that it honestly felt like it was on fire and I could barely walk. At one point the pain became so unbearable that I was walking with my eyes closed so tight hoping that this was all just a dream and praying when my they opened I would be in my bed at home half asleep. But it wasn't a dream, instead it was the sad reality that there was not going to be a sub 3:10 marathon for me at that particular moment in time.
Mile 15 was when I first realized that some major adjustments to my race plan were going to be necessary to make it through the remaining distance, and my heart wept a bit. There was nothing I could have done at that point to change what was going on with my body, I just had to accept and make it through this experience with a smile on my face. My body was making it very clear that it would not tolerate low 7 minute pace any longer and that each of the remaining miles had to be evaluated separately.
Passing 16 I saw my husband and some friends. D could tell from the look in my eyes that things were starting to fall apart for me. He asked if I was okay to which I could only reply "I'm just trying to stay positive". My mind was yearning for silence but with the crowd roaring and my iPod blaring Emenim in my ears I knew that I wasn't going to find it here.
|Smiling to not let the pain get me down|
When the point in time came where I needed to let go of any notion of a finish based on numbers and to start thinking about surviving this marathon in one piece, all I could think about was "I am a forever runner, I am not a right now runner". The best decision I could have made for myself in the late miles of the race was to stop forcing myself to race this thing and just cross the finish line, so I walked. A LOT. I decided that I would rather let one race go down the crapper finishing in a less then ideal time so that my body would still be able to run for future races. I have no shame in that, and quite honestly I am proud that I stopped pressing the pace when I did. It is now four days later and I am still having abnormal hip pains. My mind knows that these pains will eventually go away and life will presume as normal because I listened to the signals my body was sending me, and I don't even want to imagine what I would be feeling like if I didn't.
|Finish chute, for sure wasn't feeling a smile here|
Life is a beautiful gamble. I would rather put all of my money on black and go down trying something boldly over sheepishly walking away from something wasting time and wondering "what if...". I don't live my life by what ifs, I live it through experiences and situations that make me feel vulnerable and challenged. This experience challenged me every bit of the way, and I failed. I FAILED MISERABLY! But AMEN to that!
I am human.
My body has limits.
My body reached it's limit.
But I still finished that race,
and there will always be another.
I finished the marathon in 3:26...and that would be 16 minutes off of my goal time. All 16 of those minutes were picked up in the last 10 miles where I walked a total of 9 different times. During those 10 miles I was passed by a former high school running teammate, I ate a freeze pop, a cursed out loud several times, ran mile 25 with my hubby, heard someone yell "go chicago runner girl", and smiled quite frequently despite the fact that my body felt like it was falling apart.
|Cherry freeze pop...mmm, don't mind if I do|
Maybe I didn't meet my A goal for the day, but I finished my 6th marathon in 3:26 with a crippled body. There will be another marathon one day where I'll get that sub 3:10, and it will hurt so good. I'm not worried about it or ashamed with my finishing time because I haven't given up yet on chasing down my dreams. And that my friends will always keep me moving.