Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I started this post a month ago... but didn't quite know how to write it out the way I wanted to, so I put it away for "a while" so that I could come back to it and get it right.

Then life rolled on and here we are.

So.... let's just say that Rock & Roll USA was a learning experience.

I have completed enough races now that I don't really get nervous before race day... mostly because I'm not usually worried about my race time, I'm just focused on having a good time. But I was a little nervous about RNR USA because there was a 5.5 hour time limit. My best marathon time is not much less than that (hence the "not a fast runner" blog title), so there wasn't going to be much leeway.

On race morning, I met two runners that were visiting from California, were chatty and fun, and ran about my pace... maybe a smidge faster. Since I was concerned about my pace being fast enough, I stuck with them for the first 12 miles. My friend Jeanette had offered to come on the course around mile 18 and run me through the long and lonely miles through Anacostia. And when I hit the 15 mile mark, I was well on track for a 5:20 marathon.

But by the time I caught up with one of my favourite TNT coaches around mile 17,  I was in trouble.  I was experiencing tightness in my chest and a shortness of breath that felt nothing like the normal exertion of running a marathon. We slowed down to a walk, to see if things might loosen up but by 17.5 the pain was radiating through to my back.

Which is kind of an indicator for a possible heart attack....

So, even though I didn't really think I was having a heart attack, I had to make the tough decision to take myself out of the race. We stopped at the medics' tent, and they called for an ambulance.

In the end, after EKGs and x-rays... they couldn't find anything wrong with me. But better safe than sorry, right?

Still, it was disappointing to have gotten so close and been unable to finish. I'm grateful that whatever the issue, it wasn't serious... but it was really humbling to have to say "i did not finish."  (The only other time I started a race and did not finish it was because of a tornado).

Since that day, I've missed almost two weeks of training because I was struck down with a wicked cold, and I went to spend time with my grandmother who just got out of hospital.

This past weekend I drove down to Raleigh NC to run the RNR Raleigh marathon. Having not trained much in recent weeks, I was undecided about whether I'd actually run the full, or change to the half. The Raleigh course was going to be hilly. The weather was going to be warmer than anything we had trained in this season... and I simply told myself that I would make the decision on race day, when I got to the marathon/half marathon split.

Truth be told, even though I told myself I'd be okay with doing the half... I really wanted to run the full. And I really wanted to complete the full. And I was a little bit scared that I would fail again.

Race morning broke cool and clear... I had friends on the course, one of whom I kept pace with for the first 8.5 miles. Susan kept me at a slightly slower pace than my usual, so in spite of the hills I was feeling fresh and strong at the marathon/half marathon split. There was no question at that point that I would run the full.

Raleigh was a tough course. It was all hills. It was hot and windy, and there was very little shade... and I got nervous when I stopped sweating around mile 12. It didn't seem to matter how much water or gatorade I drank thereafter, I did not start to sweat again until I got into the shade after I crossed the finish line. So, I slowed down. I soaked myself with water at every water stop. I filled my sports bra with ice at every medic tent. I ate salt packets. I ate goo... I drank more water than I thought possible. And I kept on moving on.

Because there was no way I was going to NOT complete that race.

truer words were never written... favourite spectator sign of RNR Raleigh

My friend Ron came back out on the course and met me at mile 25 to run (walk) me in... I"m so grateful to have had supportive friends out on the course. It just makes such a difference to have someone there beside you when you're digging deep and not finding much left to draw on.

Somehow, even though there had been more than a few miles that I struggled, and even though I felt that I had nothing left... rounding the corner and seeing the finish line just 0.2 miles away, I managed to pick it up, and finished with a real kick. Like, I heard that girl in pink coming up behind me and I just wasn't going to let her pass me... Like, I stretched it out and flew across the finish line. And promptly said to the poor volunteer who was putting the medal around my neck "now I'm going to throw up."

Just kidding!

I didn't throw up but I really did think I might.

It was such a relief to be done. It was such a relief to have proved to myself that I could do it. It was such a relief to sit in the shade, drink chocolate milk and start sweating again.

Home now, and thinking about the next race... Nike Womens' Half Marathon is less than two weeks away. I'm a little sore now, but looking forward to going out for a nice easy tour of DC with my team. What a great way to wrap up the season.

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