I know this is not the race report everyone has been expecting from me, but its the race report I needed to write this evening. I promise that I am working on a post about my experience completing Ironman Texas 70.3 in Galveston, I’ll do my best to have it posted this weekend!
On Sunday I made the decision to quit running. I had hit the wall way earlier than I should have. My feet hurt, my quads were screaming and my heart was broken with the thought of yet another failed marathon attempt. The train had jumped of the track and I was in a dark, dark place. I weighed my options, but decided that a DNF was not happening. On Friday at the race expo a volunteer had handed me a bid with the name Blake Kennedy. I didn’t know Blake, but he was one of the 168 people who lost their life when Timothy McVey bombed the Federal building in 1995. I couldn’t quit because I wasn’t running alone.
So surprise, 14 days after I completed my HIM I ran the full marathon in Oklahoma City, or I ran the first 15 miles and crawled, limped, walked and stumbled my way through the last 11.2 miles. I love this race, I lived in Oklahoma City when the Federal building was bombed and can still remember the sound the bomb made when it went off. I remember the chaos and sense of fear we all felt, and the endless hours spent in front of the TV watching, praying and hoping that people would be rescued from the rubble. This race supports the privately operated Memorial and Museum. Many, many years ago when I was first bitten by the running bug I knew that I would one day run this race, at first my sites were set on the half marathon, which I would run for the first time in 2011. I would return to run the full in 2013, I spectated and cheered in 2014 and ran the half again in 2015. Last year after standing at the finish line watching runners cross I decided that from that day on I would run some version of this race as long as I was physically able and as long as the race was held. There is a group of 40 some odd people that have completed the full marathon every year since the beginning. The way the city supports this race is amazing and running in the last few miles you see the names of the 168 victims hanging from banners, you can’t help but be inspired.
Early on, I had planned to run the half marathon; but when the day came to register I really wanted to roll the dice and go for the full. My running had been strong, and I was planning to run the 50K at Whispering Pines in May so this seemed like a suitable long run for this race. Some people I call friends were delighted with this plan and that was really all the encouragement I needed. So the die was cast, I decided to be conservative and leave time goals by the wayside. I would truly treat this as a training run. I even programmed the 4:50 pace group easy paces into my Garmin and planned to wear my hydration vest to make certain it would be comfortable for the longer distance. I really thought I had a reasonable plan in place, I would take it easy for the days in between the 2 events and I would be fine, right?
This might be a good time to add that this weekend was also serving as a 20 year college reunion and I’d be seeing my parents and my brother and his family. No stress at all, oh and I would be dropping my car off at the dealership the week of the race to get some minor hail damage repaired. And I worked the weekend in between races and had my niece for a sleep over. But I would not be deterred, I was going to run this race! I was going to be fine…
So race morning came and surprisingly I felt great, excited really, which is not a normal state for me the morning of a marathon. My sister in-law was running the relay so we rode down together. I dutifully got my hydration vest checked for explosives by a bomb sniffing dog, I’m not making this up security is tight for this race; and made my way to the survivor tree for the sunrise service led by First Methodist Church. Scarlett and Ken joined me at the service and it was just a lovely way to start the day, worth getting up a little early for. Scarlett and I hung out at the porta-potty lines and then went our separate ways to the corrals. After 168 seconds of silence, the race started and I was ready. I set off and held my pace even with everyone zooming by me, I ran slow and steady. True to form I needed to make a stop within the first 2 miles of the race, you can check with the 4:50 pace group and they will tell you this is par for the course with me. After a quick stop, I was back on my way. It was warm early on and despite my slow and steady pace I was heating up quickly, I knew my decision to wear my black Galveston finisher’s hat was a mistake and that I would need to switch it out for my Ginger Runner wrap at some point.
I popped some Enduralytes early on and made certain I drank water and or powerade at the aid stations. By mile 4 I knew something was not right today. My feet were hurting which is a new situation for me. I was wearing the same socks and shoes I had worn in Galveston so I was a little concerned about this development. I’ve not had a problem with my feet in the past and I’ve never had blisters, ever. I continued on, but as I past the first medical tent at the 10k mark I was seriously tempted to stop and check my feet, but I kept moving. I was running within my target pace, staying on the slow end due to the heat. After a stop for a fireball shot my feet felt better and I tried to relax and enjoy going up Gorilla Hill and stopping for a photo op with the man sitting on the side of the road in a smoking jacket and full cocktail set up, including martini glasses and shaker. I kept smiling and high fived everyone that offered. At mile 7 right before the half marathoners split from the full marathoners I gladly accepted the rosary that was being handed out by spectators from Bishop McGinnis High School, a college friend had attended high school there and he left this world way too early and this was my moment to remember him. I tucked them in the pocket of my vest and braced to make the turn to head out for what in my head is the hardest and least supported part of the course. By mile 10 my feet were hurting again and I knew my gait was off as I felt my right quad and IT band tighten up. I will admit that I pondered quitting pretty early on, and if I had any sense I probably should have; but there was no way I would have a DNF by my name for this race plus I knew my niece and nephew would be watching and I would not let them see me quit.
It became obvious pretty quickly that I was not the only one hurting. I was surrounded by other runners all doing the same shuffle. I was actually still on point with my pace up until the course hit Lake Heffner. I even managed to high five All of the Nichols Hills Fire Fighters standing out on Britton Road cheering for the runners. I knew my plan to run the last 10k at race pace was out the window, but I still felt like I had a shot at a respectable time. By the time we hit the lake the 5:30 pace group had caught me. Considering the stops I made to pee and take pictures I was okay with this. My wonderful family was waiting for me out on the Lake Heffner Trail and that was exactly the boost I needed. Around mile 15 I decided to tuck in with the 5:30 pace group as they were doing a steady run/walk that seemed manageable. The pace leaders were great and did a wonderful good of keeping this rag tag group positive and moving. The group included one of the people who has completed all 16 of the races and a runner pushing a kid in a wheelchair, there was really no way I was quitting no matter how much I hurt, with these runners as my companions. Running at the lake was rough as we were running right into the wind and faced more of the same on the long ascent up Classen that awaited us at miles 20-23.
I eventually lost the 5:30 group as my shuffle became more of a stumble. I would later learn that one of the pacers ended up dropping back due to cramps and would see other runners from the group fall behind me as we got closer to the finish line. I attempted an awkward run walk pattern and felt like I was all but dragging my right leg. By now both feet hurt, and both quads hurt. Many, many times I questioned my sanity and why I would ever want to do this again. I even made the decision to never run another marathon again. As I made the slow climb up Classen I would settle on landmarks and make myself “run,” to those landmarks. I ended up leaping frogging with a couple from the Red Coyote running club in OKC and they helped keep me going. I’m guessing they were suffering as much as I was, but again they were positive and helpful and made sure I didn’t stop.
Finally, I made the turn into the Mesta Park neighborhood and was grateful to see so many people still out cheering on the runners. At one point I will confess to being worried about being swept from the course, I had given up on looking at my Garmin as I knew I was making a go at my slowest marathon ever, but was relieved to hear one of the Red Coyote runners announce that we had more than an hour to cover 3 miles. I struggled on and found it hard to even run the downhills. At the last turn I found myself tearing up with disappointment and relief. I was truly disappointed with this run, I fell apart and I know I can run better. I didn’t feel like I deserved the cheers and yells of support from the people still lining the street and I felt guilty for keeping my friends and family waiting at the finish line for so long. As I neared the finish line I contemplated walking across for the first time ever, but when I got closer I managed a run. Just as I was picking up my painfully slow pace my niece Addie popped out of the crowd and ran towards me. I burst into tears as she grabbed my hand and we ran across the finish line together. I will never forget that moment and I am so glad I pushed through the dark, painful miles to experience that finish with her.
Scarlett and Ken met me at the finish line and after getting my metal and my shirt I had my right legged wrapped in ice. I managed to met up with my family and drag myself back to the car. It would be a few hours later that I would realize I had blisters on both feet with the one on my left foot on the ball of the foot. I had my first experience with popping a blister that afternoon.
I like to the think that every experience is an opportunity to learn and improve and I think I learned a very hard lesson. While I’ve been running for years and have now added Triathlon to my repertoire I need to focus on strength building and lose some weight. I don’t say this out of vanity, I say this because over the past year I’ve let 10lbs creep on and that weight makes running more challenging. I also learned that I need to invest in thicker socks and make certain my shoes aren’t lose and maybe give myself more recovery time between major efforts like a HIM and a marathon. But I also learned that I am tough and that I can push myself even further than I ever thought I could.
As I said earlier, I love this race and despite my swearing off marathons I will be back next year and next year my goal is to PR and not for longest run. I will be more mindful of what I eat and drink and I will devote more time to strength training and speed work. I wish I could explain exactly why I want this so badly, but I do. So next year, April 30th 2017 look for me at the starting line ready to run the race of my life.