Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hamptons Marathon: You Can Keep That Parachute

If you have taken the time to read this little blog, you know I had a dream a while ago about setting a half-marathon PR.  In the beginning of the dream, I was running with a training parachute strapped to my waist, which I eventually removed, gave to a gas station attendant to hold for me, and went on to set a PR.  I know the parachute was symbolic of all the things...people and beliefs...that hold me back in my life, both in running and other ways.  These last few weeks have been a painful process of unhooking them, getting re-centered and moving forward.  I am not entirely there yet, but I proved to myself during my second marathon that, when I just listen to myself, not anyone else telling me what I "should" or "should not" do, I can be (even more) awesome.

My first marathon time, last year at NYC, was 4:44, slower that I hoped.  I had so much "noise" in my head around that race, so much advice, and such a sharp learning curve (I had only run my first half 6 months earlier) that I think I lost confidence in what I knew.  I thought I was eating properly, but did not, and was a mess during the middle miles, having to walk much more than I planned.  All that said, it is still one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I ran yesterday's marathon in 4:06.  Yes, easier in both course and logistics than NYC but, that is still a huge PR.  And, I did it because I listened to no one else but myself. Of course I read the training programs and other sources of information and pulled bits of advice that I thought would help me, but I turned down the volume on all that "noise." This was all mine.  I knew my training runs had gotten quicker (probably faster than all the "experts" would advise), but I did them how they felt right to me.  I worked my training schedule around my spin classes and while I never really ran "enough," I ran enough.  I went with my instincts as far as nutrition and it worked.  I listened to my body during the race and compensated for what it needed.  Other than sore legs, I felt fantastic at the finish.  I had no one telling me what to do during the run, to slow down or to speed up.  I ran from start line to finish line with Jen, but I still ran the race I wanted and needed to run.  That gas station attendant from my dream can keep that damn parachute.  Thanks, but, I don't want it back.  My race report follows, and is written just for me, but you can take a peek if you want:

Friday, 10/1, 6:30 pm.  I am walking into a local restaurant that Jen and I both know serves good pasta.  We have both completed all of our work and other business for the day.  Our children have completed a string of activities and are finally settled into their respective homes for the weekend.  We are finally settling in to non-mom mode.  I take the first deep breath I have taken in a long time.  Besides my children, I am leaving behind a soggy basement that was flooded due to the huge rain storm that came up the east coast and a relationship that is in a really bad place.  I have not had a good week.  This restaurant has recently changed ownership and does not yet have a liquor license.  We half joke with the waiter that we need a glass of wine, order our dinners and talk about our plans.  Our race is 2 hours away and we are heading out tonight to pick up out packets so we don't have to rush to do it in the morning.  We have to get there by 9:30 pm.  Our waiter brings our regular drinks and, with them, 2 huge paper cups filled with red wine.  He looks at us, winks, says "shhhhh," and walks away.  We crack up, look at each other say, "What the hell, red wine is healthy," and drink away.  We think we are probably the only 2 women who go out for a pre-marathon meal and have free wine handed to us.  But, that pretty much sums up who we are.  Half-way through the meal, my wine is half-gone, Jen's a little more, and the waiter appears with 2 more cups.  Self-control kicks in, however, and those are left on the table (except for the little bit that Jen smuggled into the car).

Saturday, 10/2, 8:00 am.  We are standing in the start line for the race.  We could not have asked for better marathon weather.  It's picture-perfect.  It's Jen's first and my second marathon.  We made our packet pick-up the night before with 10 minutes to spare.  I had an okay night's sleep.  My thoughts were racing and I was very emotional and reflective over the place my life is in right now.  But all that is channelled as the gun goes off and we start to run.  We stay at a good pace for the first mile, but then, as they continue to fly by, I notice we are getting faster, which makes me nervous.  I am thinking (and sometimes saying) that we need to slow down.  But we just felt soooo good and smooth.  At times, it was effortless. Our pace just kind of happened.

Mile 6: This is where the half-marathon and full marathon runners split off.  The majority of the racers are doing the half, so the crowd is about to disappear and it's about to get very quiet.  We've been running near 2 guys who are in their triathlon team uniforms and they quickly earn the nickname "tri-guys" in my head.  I have spent many hours spectating at various triathlons and never, ever tire of watching the men race.  They, hands-down, have the best bodies ever.  These 2 are no exception, and, when I see them turn right to continue down the marathon course, I am admittedly happy.  Hey, I'll take motivation no matter how I can get it!

Miles 8-10: I begin to wonder why I do this.  The time ahead seems insurmountable.  I notice little twinges in my left arch, my right calf.

Miles 11-13:  Suck. We turn down a very open, very long straightaway in the middle of open marshlands.  It is the first "turnaround" section of the course, so other runners are coming towards us.  I enjoy this new perspective and get a high-five from someone I know.  We finally hit the turnaround, head back down the straightaway and it is suddenly very windy.  It stays that way.  It is not fun.  It seems like it never ends.

Mile 13.1:  I question how I am ever going to do what I just did all over again.  That last stretch of road took a lot out of me.  I have been keeping up with my gels and water and just try to push the doubts aside.  I think we are going to pay for a too-fast first 1/2.  We make it there in 1:58.  It's a half-marathon PR for both of us.

Mile 16:  I know this is where my family is going to be and that energy pulled me through the last 3 miles.  I see my Mom and Dad and my sister and her 2 daughters.  I am so grateful they are there.  They are holding signs and screaming and waving and it is so SO awesome.

my beautiful nieces

coming up to 16

Miles 17-19:  Just like in NYC, this is where my wall hits.  My stomach is not growling and I don't feel like I am going to pass out like I did last time, but I just don't want to run anymore...ever.  I continue to take in nutrition and we begin to walk the water stops to make sure we hydrate well.  My thoughts are all over the place and I strangely begin to become jealous (like, angry jealous) of runners who are walking.  This has never happened before.  We left tri-guys behind a while ago, there are only 1 or 2 runners in sight, and it's very very quiet.  We hit a stretch of dirt road in the woods and both of us seem to be feeling slightly better, our breath calmer, our foot strikes lighter.

Mile 20: I have never been so happy to see a mile marker.  It feels like it took forever.  In my mind, it is as if something miraculous is going to happen at 20, like the goddess Nike herself is going to come down and carry me the rest of the way.  Not so much.  However, the wall is definitely behind me.  Mentally, I am back in the game.  I tell Jen that we now just have to put them in the bank, one by one.  

Miles 23-25: Another turnaround and it seems like the 25 mile sign is never going to arrive.  Jen keeps saying she just wants to finish. We pass the same person who gave me the high five earlier and he is singing "Nasty Girl" by Nitty aloud, a song I love to use in Spin class that always gets me moving and is just dirty enough to make me smile.  Today it makes me laugh and feel lighter, and I just keep reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other....over and over and over again.  I don't know it now, but later I find out that Jen has resorted to downright praying and is trying to remember the "serenity prayer." Today, this is hilarious to me, for many reasons.  Finally, the 25 mile marker appears.

Miles 25-26.2: First tears spring up as I pass 25 and someone yells, "one more mile to go." Jen is clearly suffering.  Her breathing is really shallow and hard and she seems on the verge of tears.  I keep reminding her to breathe, to calm down and that she is about to finish her first marathon.  But that last mile seems soooo long.  We round a corner to the last 1/4 mile and Jen yells "WHERE IS IT..WHERE IS THE DAMN LINE??"   We finally see the finishing chute with rows of spectators screaming and yelling.  I see that my family also made it there.  I am high.  I am yelling with everyone else, feeling so good, completely over the moon.  I cannot believe how great I ran this race.

approaching the finish
4:06:11: Jen and I cross the line together, receive our blankets and medals and give each other a big hug.  I am just overwhelmed with a flood of emotion.  As my legs seize up, it all starts to pour out of me, as if my muscles want to squeeze it out until there is nothing left, no sadness, doubt, fear, or pain. Jen is clearly in trouble. She feels dizzy and nauseous and I just try to support her as best as I can.  I know how strong she is and how deep she dug for those last few miles and how proud I am to have run this race with her. After some food and water and photos and chatting with family and friends, we start to walk/hobble back to the car.  It feels so good to take my running shoes off (Nike Frees by the way) and walk in the cool grass.  It's sweet and soft and, at this moment, it's the little things that make all the difference.  


sole sisters

me and the beautiful Bella


jmhart4 said...

Thanks for the tears!! you are beautiful and I love you!! You are my rock, my inspiration and my "sole sister"
Keep strong! Believe in your words!!
Looking forward to the next one! (only kidding)

AshleyR said...

Congrats on an awesome race! I think you trained smart. I think people train too strictly with the cookie cutter programs. The best thing is to listen to your own body to let you know what is right for you, good job on that!

FeetontheRoad said...

AWESOME!!!! Great finish time, good job. Keep it up, you are doing great.