Monday, December 23, 2013

Rocket City Marathon: The Marathon That Was!

26.2 many miles!

December 14th, 2013 will forever be an important running date for me. It marks the date of my first full marathon!

I have to honestly say, crossing "Run a marathon before I'm 30" off my bucket list isn't something I thought I'd actually accomplish. Not because I didn't think I could physically do it, I just never thought I'd get to this point - the point where I mentally knew I could finish my training; finish the race.

But I did, and I am SO glad I did! I don't think I've ever accomplished something so challenging. During the run I kept referring to it as the "longest. WOD. ever!" Sure, there were times during the run when I thought "I'm never doing this again." Just like I said for my first 1/2 marathon. And rightfully so, I had good reason. I was in so much pain. I kept negatively thinking "I don't want to do this anymore!" But I pushed through and finished, and it's because it didn't go the way I wanted it to go, that I know I want to run another. And even though I don't know when that will be, I'm already excited about it. As runners, are we ever satisfied?! I'm way too competitive with myself to be content with how this race went. But I digress…for now. 

In case you didn't know, Rocket City Marathon wasn't supposed to be my first marathon. St. Jude in Memphis, the week prior (December 7th), was supposed to be my debut. However, that unfortunately did not work out. During the week after the cancellation I had choices to make. And I am NOT good at making decisions. I weighed my options, but still didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew getting to run Rocket City on December 14th would be ideal, because it was only one week out. I would still be ready, I would have just tapered for two weeks. But the race was sold out. Long story short, a good friend of mine, who was also running RCM, got a hold of the director and persistently asked him to let me in. Luckily, they had a bib available! I was excited, but anxious since the last time I had run long was 4 weeks ago. However, I was reassured that I would be fine. And I knew I didn't want to have to wait any longer to race. This was finally going to happen! It was finally sinking in. 


Race Day: 

Since Huntsville, AL is only about a two hour drive from where we live we decided to get up early and drive the day of. Now, had Chris and I both not wasted a day off work last week to go to Memphis we would have driven down the night before. THAT would have been ideal. Riding in a car for 2 hours right before you run a marathon isn't the best choice. But it was either that, or not race at all. Obviously, we had to go. We arrived about an hour before the race started. I met up with Lauren, who had picked up my bib for me, then sat around, drank some water, ate a power bar and before I knew it it was 30 minutes before go time. I started to stress a little, because it felt like I wasn't about to run a marathon. Just a short 10k or something. I went off to find a bathroom, and ended up waiting in line for nearly 20 minutes! I kept looking at my watch thinking "I haven't even stretched or warmed up!" By the time I got out of the bathroom, and started heading to the start line, I had roughly 5-10 minutes. Did I warm up? Nope. Did I stretch? Hardly. Now, I normally spend a good 15 minutes stretching, so for me not to stretch or warm up before a MARATHON?! Stupid. Very, very, stupid. Live and learn. 

Even though this was my first marathon, and just finishing should have been my main goal, I was stubborn and had a goal of 4:10. I knew I could probably maintain a 9:30-9:45 pace for the first 15-20 miles, (just judging from how I felt during my long training runs) and then planned to pick it up if I was feeling decent. Yeah, that didn't happen.

I started out with the 4:10 pacers. Their first mile was slow, obviously due to weaving in and out of everyone. But then they picked it up and were averaging around 9:20. (They were still slightly ahead of me, so I wasn't running quite as fast, but planned on staying right behind them.) I didn't realize we were going that pace until about 5 or 6 miles in. My immediate thought was "Well, crap, there goes my negative splits." I immediately slowed it down, knowing I could not maintain that pace if I wanted to run strong. So now I was by myself. 

Then, all of a sudden - out of no where - my back started to hurt. Hurting to the point that it was causing me to stop. This was off and on from miles 8-13. After that it was pretty much all down hill. I wish I could just blame it on "the wall," but I can't. It wasn't my legs that were the problem, it was my back. I have not had back pain like that while running in a long time, and to have it for 10-13 miles is extremely discouraging and frustrating. It got to the point where I was just trying to get from one water station to the next. By mile 22 I was holding back tears it was hurting so bad. I just wanted it to be over. I could barely run 1/10th of a mile without having shooting pain in my lower back. I walked every water station. Stopped a LOT, and tried to ignore the pain. I was mad at myself for not stretching. I was mad at how I felt. I was mad at my pace. I was mad that I had to keep stopping. I was mad to see my pace go from averaging 9:30 to in the 10's. I was mad that I couldn't run through the pain. I was trying to sort through all the different reasons why this was happening. I trusted my training. My training was spot on. My training felt better than how I felt right then. But there was nothing I could do, but keep going. There was no way I was not going to finish. I'd walk if I had to, but I'd cross that finish line.

I'm so grateful Chris was able to meet me at different mile markers and take pictures and videos. Each time I saw him was a surprise. Because of how the course was laid out, I wasn't sure when (or if) I would see him at all. Since I wasn't with my pace group anymore I was even more relieved to see him. 

Mile 4: This was before my back started to hurt. And the only time I think my smile was sincere. (center of pic with purple shirt & pink shoes)

Mile 7: This is where my back started to get tight. Too early to be in pain. 

Mile 13:
Chris: How do you feel?
Me: Not how I should feel at mile 13! 

Mile 20: I'm not sure when Lauren and Katie caught up with me (they were running with the 4:20 pace group.) but it was shortly before mile 20. I ran off and on with them for a little while, but lost Lauren on a hill not too long after this picture. I have to say, I was really glad I saw them, even though it didn't  make my back feel any better. I was feeling surprisingly okay in this picture. We were on a down hill and it was taking the pressure off of my back. Didn't last long, though.

Miles 20-26 were brutal. I expected them to be brutal, but it's hard not to play the "what if my back wasn't bothering me? Would it still have been THAT brutal?" game. I guess I won't know until next time. 

Finish line! Just glad to be done. 


My biggest supporter!!! Couldn't have gotten through this without him. So thankful he was there for me, and keeping everyone updated, too. <3  

Looking back at my splits, I know when I felt decent and when I felt miserable. Unfortunately, most of this race was painful, and I hate that I couldn't really enjoy it That's okay, though. It makes me excited to race again, because I know, had my back not given me problems, I would have been much closer to my goal. And I will reach that goal some day! I'm proud of myself. I know this is a huge accomplishment, no matter what obstacles I faced along the way. I don't regret it one bit. I did something that few people set out to accomplish, and for that I am proud. Nothing can take this title away from me. :)

Have you ran a marathon? Did it go the way you wanted? Did it make you want to run another? 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

St. Jude: The Marathon That Wasn't

December 7th was supposed to mark the day I ran my first marathon, St. Jude, in Memphis, TN. Instead, due to icy road conditions (somewhere), a large percentage of medical staff, personnel, and volunteers were no longer available, which resulted in the race being cancelled. Needless to say, I was (and still am) pretty bummed. But here's my story, anyway. I'll try not to be too bitter:

Chris and I left our house on Friday around 11:00 in the afternoon to drive to Memphis (about a 4 hour drive) - earlier than we had planned, for fear of roads getting icy. We had been keeping an eye on the weather before hand, and they were predicting freezing rain throughout the state. But this is Tennessee. We tend to over exaggerate a bit when it comes to winter weather. I wasn't worried. The drive wasn't bad. It rained, but nothing that caused a headache.

When we got into town we went straight to the Expo to pick up my race packet. It was so crowded I didn't really care to hang out that long, so we grabbed our gear, took some pictures, and left. I was starting to really get amped up. It was starting to really hit me that I'd be running a marathon in the morning! The roads seemed clear, and I thought for sure we were good to go. I had nothing to worry about. We drove to the hotel, rested for a few minutes, and then met up with some friends for a light dinner. 

A bittersweet moment (well, sweet at the time; bitter, now)

We got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour, had planned on maybe ordering a movie and then going to bed. Then all of a sudden I got the text. I don't even think I read the whole text I just saw "...difficult, but necessary decision..." and immediately put my phone down. I kind of went into shock. I didn't yell or throw my phone like I thought I would have. I just sat there in silence; not knowing what to think or say. I automatically started thinking "What now? 18 weeks of hard work and now what?!" I was pissed. I didn't have a back up plan, and at the time I didn't know what I would do. I'm already an indecisive person, so I knew this was just going to cause a huge headache. When I'm frustrated I cry, so that's what I did. Then I just felt numb. If you've ever worked your butt off for something and then had it taken away then you'll know how I felt. I didn't want to be selfish. I knew this was for the kids, but it was for me, too. This was my first marathon. I had envisioned it in my head so many times during training runs. I was ready to tackle this mountain. I was determined and excited. All of those feelings slowly went out the window after reading that text. I didn't want to get into a negative mood, but at the moment I couldn't think of anything else. And I didn't care. 

We decided to go ahead and make the most of our trip and stay the two nights in Memphis. We had a lot of fun with Celena and Lance Friday and Saturday. It kind of turned into a mini vacation for the four of us. But the thought of not running was still in the back of my mind.

My support crew :)

We went to lunch at Hard Rock on Saturday where we saw a group of runners in their finisher shirts, wearing their medals. That irked me a bit, seeing as how they didn't run the race. I'm planning on donating my medal to St. Jude's Hospital. If I didn't run the race I don't want (or deserve) the medal. We also saw a lot of people running in their St. Jude's Hero singlet. I kind of wish I had gotten out there Saturday morning and ran, too. 

Now that I've had some time to let it settle. I've realized I had no control over what happened. If it wasn't the weather it could have been something else. I just wasn't supposed to run. I'm very grateful for how St. Jude handled the cancellation. I know it was not an easy decision. I'm also grateful for their generosity. They are allowing all runners to choose either to donate their race fee, get a full refund, or have their registration transferred to one of the following races: 

P.F Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona (January 19th)
Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans (February 2nd)
St. Jude Country Music Marathon (April 26th) 

First one is out. I could care less about going to Arizona.

So, as of right now it's between the last two. And, just like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to both. 

NOLA pro's: 

  • Um, it's in New Orleans! (another mini va-cay?) 
  • I have another friend who is running (the 1/2)
  • It's a flat course (I think)
  • It's only 7 weeks out. Gives me time to take a break and then build back up in January.
  • The weather would still be nice and cool.
  • It sounds like a lot of fun. 

NOLA con's:

  • We'd have to purchase plane tickets & find a hotel. (stress)
  • It's on a Sunday and I don't know if I could get off work, if needed. I don't know when we'd fly in or out.  
  • Weather could play a problem - AGAIN, which would only cause more travel headaches. 
  • 8 hours is too long of a drive, so driving is out of the question. 

CMM  pro's: 

  • It's local - only 30 minutes from our house. Meaning no airfare, no hotel, no days off work needed.
  • I know a handful of other people who are running either the full or the half. I'd have a good, local support crew. 
  • It would be less stressful; I'd get to sleep in my own bed! 
  • I can train on the course with a group of people. 
  • Even though it's a slightly different course than my first 1/2, I could say I ran my first full at the same place I ran my first 1/2.
  • It's still a St. Jude sponsored race. 

CMM con's: 

  • HILLS!!! 
  • It's in April, which means there's no telling what the weather will be like. Could be cool, but more than likely will be warm. Very warm. 
  • If I choose to train on the course I have to drive to Nashville instead of just stepping out my door and running on the greenway, which means I'd have to get up extra early. And I'm not a fan of that. 
  • It's 4 months away! I don't know if I can go back into training mode for that long. It would suck to have built up my mileage, let it drop, then have to build it back up again. 

So, it's either that or get a refund and find a completely different race within the next month or two. 

The temperature is the main factor that is holding me back from CMM. I absolutely despise running in the heat, and by the end of April I know it will be warm, because last year in May for See Spot Run 5k I was absolutely miserable!!! 

I tried to get into Rocket City, which is this Saturday in Huntsville, AL. At first I had already gone into shutdown mode and didn't even want to consider it. Then I realized it falls on the one year mark of the Sandy Hook tragedy (December 14th) and all of a sudden I really wanted to run. I remember people running 26 miles for the 26 lives lost last year and wishing I could. This would have been the perfect race for that. Unfortunately, it's sold out and they won't do bib transfers.

Whatever I decide, I WILL run 26.2 miles. I'll just be going a different route than I had originally planned.

Have you ever had an important race that was cancelled? What did you do about it?