Saturday, September 29, 2012

Air Force Marathon

There are things that we just don't ever see ourselves doing. It isn't because we don't have the ability or the ambition, its just so out of the realm of regular, every day thinking that you just don't see it. It is something that is so out of your 'normal' concept of you, that it doesn't even appear on your radar. That was what the marathon was for me, once upon a time. Then, one day, it became a blip on my radar. A way off goal that maybe, possibly some day I might attempt to think about doing. One day I mentioned to a fellow Sparker, someone that I admire and respect greatly, (thanks, John) that I was thinking about training for a Full. He told me to do it. He told me that he had no doubt that I could do it. Still I held my thoughts in the back of my head. Not telling anyone, not even my Running Partner, that I was have inklings of running a Full. I imagine Laurie probably already had her own suspicions about my intentions, but it wasn't until she had decided that she was going to start training for her own first Full, do I reveal that I was thinking about doing a Full, too. We could train together.  It seemed like a natural evolution. It was time. Time to take the next step.  I thought I would make the Quad Cities Marathon my first. It was a week after Air Force which Laurie was already registered for as a Marathon runner. I was registered for the Half and would be running it with Matthew. After a long talk with Matthew, I, for sure, decided that I would begin training. It is a decision that we both had to be 100% part of because it would be a time commitment for him as well. Still, something was off. Something just didn't FEEL right. I realized that after all of this time, I couldn't possibly do my first Marathon without Laurie, and conversely, it seemed wrong to let her do her first without me. Another discussion with Matthew later, I was upgrading my Half registration to a Full. Suddenly, what started out as a barely visible blip on my radar had become a space station!

Several months and LOTS of training miles later, the time had come for the big day. I was feeling so good. My training runs had gone so well, despite the intense heat of the summer. The added stress of the longer miles hadn't seemed to effect my body as I had feared. I felt strong. I felt ready. Tapering sucked. I had full blown taper madness, doubting my abilities, my readiness. Then came the day I feared more than anything. The night my 4 year old woke up in the middle of the night. The night Matthew came in and woke me up because he doesn't deal with puke. Yep. Hayden had the stomach flu. I couldn't NOT take care of the little guy. The whole time I was on my hands and knees scrubbing what I assumed used to be chili out of his carpet, all I could think about was the following weekend. This was my weekend. I had dedicated that last 5 months of my life to this one day, and the stomach flu was in my own house. A couple days later, Matthew got it. It seemed to move through you fast, but I suppose when all liquids in your body escapes out both ends it will move quickly. A day later, I had it. Yep. 3 1/2 days before my marathon and I cant keep solid foods in my body and I am losing fluids faster than I could replace them. We were leaving for Ohio on Friday. Thursday I sat at my desk at work trying to drink as much fluid as I could, just praying that it would pass as quickly. It did, but I was worse for the wear. I had trouble keeping solid, quality food in my stomach, even though I knew that the food I ate that week would be imperative come Saturday. I did my best. Friday I was feeling better. I ate what I could, but I knew I was still dehydrated and underfed. A whole day of driving did little to help, but I did sleep most of thr 8 hour drive. So at least I was well resteed. Nothing, NOTHING, was going to stand in my way.

Saturday I was anxious. I felt good, not great, but good. My legs felt good. We met up with a bunch of Sparkers, took pictures, tried to stay warm. I wish I could tell you what we talked about but I honestly don't remember. Actually, there are large parts that are a complete blur. Soon we were standing at the Start line, watching the fly over... The big show had started. Catherine, Cindy and Wendy rounded out our usual twosome and I was happy for the distraction. The first half went very quickly and I was feeling really good. I was in my zone. Happy running and listening to the girls talk. I don't like to talk that much when I run (That's what I have Laurie for!!!), but I liked listening to the conversation. Then around mile 16 something started to happen. Something not good.

It was taking more focus than it should have to keep my rhythm. Something was off. Mile 18 seemed to last an eternity. No, this was NOT happening! I wasn't going to stop. I was going to fight through this. You know, I have never hit a wall before that point. I knew that's what it was. This was NOT how I had pictured my first Marathon. This is NOT how my training runs had gone. We spent, what felt like forever, running an airfield whichmeant no shade and the temps were raising. By Mile 20 I was done. I had nothing left. Well, I shouldn't say nothing because I kept going. The lack of food and fluids and fuel... I didn't know how I could go on except to fight. I had to walk it. I don't even know how far we ended up walking at the end. I wanted to tell them to go on without me. I knew they wouldn't leave me behind. I kept telling myself "If you sit down, they have to come get you. You could just quit, but you aren't going to. You aren't going to quit." And I just repeated that over and over and over again.

Matthew met us at the last half mile or so. I don't know if I had ever been so happy to see someone in all my life. I needed him. He brought me in to the finish. He got me to run into the finish. I finished. I did NOT quit. And while it may not have been the way I had pictured it in my head, it was my first Marathon and I finished it. When I was getting my post race massage, the massage therapist was actually very worried about me because she said my muscles when 'rebelling.' She said I had lost too many electrolytes and I was shivering uncontrollably on the table. Stupid stomach flu. I was probably low to begin with because I had 2 cups of Gatorade at every water stop. They made me drink an entire bottle before they allowed me to go to the medical tent to hitch a ride back to our car. I was a bit of a mess.

While there are so many things I wish had gone differently, there were so many more wonderful things that I got from this race. The friendship and the support that I got from Laurie, Catherine, Cindy and Wendy...I will NEVER forget that feeling. I laughed and smiled my way through most of those 26.2 miles. It was really just the last 6.2 that were the hardest. I know that I was putting this shame and guilt on  myself for feeling like I was holding everyone back, but I know that was just in my own head. I know they don't feel that way. Wishes and regrets aren't going to change the outcome, but I don't know that I would want to change it. I took away a lot more than a medal from this race.  I am stronger than I ever thought. There is a time in my life when I would have decided going on would have just been too hard, so I would have quit. I didn't. I fought. I fought harder for that finish than I have ever fought before.

I was so emotional when I crossed that finish line, mainly, because I didn't quit. I didn't stop until that medal was around my neck. I did what I said I was going to do. I met my goal. It wasn't ideal, but I did it.

That is how I know the next one, yes there WILL be another one, will be everything I expect it to be, all the while knowing that you can't expect anything because anything can happen, because I know I will fight for it. I will fight. I will fight to get myself back into shape. I am fighting now because I have gained a faith in myself that I have never had before. Never. I set out to do something that, once upon a time, would have been next to impossible to do, and I did it. It wasn't pretty, but looking back now I realize that it didn't have to be. Not this time. I just needed to do it. I needed to find out what I was made of... deep down inside. 

I am a fighter. I am strong. I'm not that person I used to be. I need to focus on the person I am now. I am not 300 pounds anymore. I not lazy and inactive. I don't sit and eat pints of ice cream at a time. I'm not that person anymore. I am a freaking Marathoner. NOTHING can take that away from me. I can set new goals. I can work to improve my time and my performance, but at the end of the day I am a Marathoner. Do I want that magical run when all the pieces fall perfectly into place? Yes. Do I want my storybook race ending? Yes. Do those desires diminish what I accomplished? Not in the least. If I didn't have the constant desire to outdo myself, then I might as well sit down with that ice cream because that means that I have given up on myself, and that is NOT going to happen!!

Until Next time, My Friends, Run On and Be Happy!

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