My Labor of Love

Otherwise known as, “Hey! Did you hear? I’M A MARATHONER!”

So, other than blasting my crazy excitement for finishing 26.2 miles across social media, I was (smartly) cautioned by my coach to not evaluate my race performance, make too many judgments, or even study the metric feedback for the first couple days–and he was zipping his lips too–until my body and head were back to a place of more or less equilibrium and could fully comprehend and absorb the information.

First of all, can we take in the enormity of this first fact: 3 years ago I couldn’t walk to the end of the street and back without wanting to die.  On Saturday, I ran 26.2 miles.

And there’s the first point of acceptance for me that brings me back into check.  I was warned over and over in training to not set myself up with numerical goals such as pace, total time, splits, etc for a first marathon.  I did this in speech, but my numbers brain tried to do some math…I was shut down in discussion in training, but I don’t think it ever shut down in my head.  I had some different numbers in my mind, specifically in terms of finishing time and pace over different technical sections–and because of so many factors (and that I’m a noob at the marathon distance), of course I miserably failed at them.  But–I met the #1 goal: finish a marathon.

(And let’s be crystal clear–out of any perceived “failure” or factor that went wrong, I am in absolutely, positively, not in any way possible angry or upset.  It was an amazing day that I can’t possibly express in words how much finishing meant to me, an excellent learning experience, and I’m so excited to do it again!)

Backing up…

Friday was probably not the best planned.  It started early in the morning with business in our local office, traveling with my husband for business in our other office in our coordination and doing some business errands, and then driving to Las Vegas where we capitalized on a free hotel night we had.  Probably should have just stayed and rested and had a good dinner, but instead I wanted to make the most of the time we had that evening and we went to a triathlon fellowship/learning event that went late into the evening (for me, who goes to bed early) and then we had a late dinner afterwards.  Not smart.

I slept okay, but not fabulous, and was up before the alarm giving myself plenty of time to get ready.  I had some food that I had brought with us, but I did not plan ahead logically for breakfast to have quite enough substantial calories–that had some impact on performance at the outset I believe until my fuel during the race started to level out not only my hunger, but feeding my energy levels and such too.

We drove out to the race venue and got there a touch earlier than expected, no problem.  Kissed husband goodbye and he went off for breakfast and to do some other things and would be back in a few hours to spectate at the finish.  And that’s when the fun began…weather turned on a dime.

It was cool for the morning, the anticipated weather was 40 degrees at start and 60 degrees and sunny for the day…however, the ominous clouds had different plans.  The temperature never rose above 40 degrees and it rained from mile 7 all the way to the finish line (and all the way on our drive home to Laughlin).

And so came the start of the race.  First few miles, great.  Was feeling good, was keeping an side-eye on my watch aiming to keep my top pace under a certain threshold. Oh, did I fail to mention this was a really technical race with a total of 2250ft in elevation gain?  It was 13.1 miles uphill, and 13.1 miles downhill, with the exception of “the beast” from mile 21-23.  I pity the ultra marathoners that ran it multiple times for their loops…

I had really wanted in training to try to make a trip up to Lovell Canyon and run part of the course prior to the race, or at least drive it to get a taste of what it would be like so I could properly visualize it.  I am so happy that my schedule never allowed for it to happen–I promise you, I would not have even started this race had that been the case.  I had the course and elevation maps and was properly trained on hills, but it was no comparison to reality.  Other than the torture of “the beast,” I am satisfied with the amount of hill training that I had, as we live in a very hilly place and I often have a decent amount of elevation prescribed in my runs.

The wheels started to come off around mile 10.  I started getting a blister (one blister being my only “war wound” of the day) and letting it get in my head that this was going to “end me” because it was still so early in the race.  Now, rational me (that side is in there somewhere…) kicked in and realized all I needed to do was find a place to sit down where I could take my shoe off and just apply some RunGoo that I had in my tri-top pocket to that part of my foot to alleviate the worst of it.  A couple miles later at an aid station I was able to sit on a wet cooler (it had already been raining a while at that point) and take care of it and I was fine.

From there things were plodding along…slow, but plodding along.  I was FREEZING and soaking wet.  Remember that high of 60 degrees?  The average race temperature along the course that day was 37 degrees.  I was SO cold, and that contributed greatly to my significantly slower than anticipated pace.  When I’m cold, my muscles seize up and my body just doesn’t want to move.  You’d think running, you’d be warm…wrong-o!  Between the weather and being soaked to the bone, there was no chance that I was warming up.

I swore around mile 15 or so I was hallucinating when I saw my husband drive up, but no, it was real, and it was the greatest blessing of the day!!! He gave me some much needed encouragement and found some work gloves in his bag that I could wear to help at least try to warm up my hands.  He kept driving forward and was waiting every mile or so for anything that I needed, and always a much needed cheerleading session.  Even when the gloves he had given me were soaked through, he pulled a (clean) pair of wool socks out of his overnight bag that I wore on my hands for a few miles just to try and get warm.  As I got closer to finish, I was able to chuck things in the car too like my headphones that had died, my handheld bottle since I had flasks on belt, etc, which made things easier too.  I am so grateful for my husband.  I hate that I wonder this, but if he didn’t show up and do everything he did for me that day, I have to question if I would have finished–or at least finished as strongly.

And then came the finish line.  I was sobbing before I even crossed it.  It brings tears to my eyes still to think about that moment.  Sure, it took my longer that I thought it “should,” the weather was miserable, and a boatload of other stuff…but it had come.  I did it.  I ran 26.2 miles.  No one can take that away from me.

I have spoken in conversation that I felt like my very first half marathon was my most memorable athletic achievement so far, and I think I still believe that.  The completion of a marathon…it’s different.  It was incredible, absolutely, I’ll never forget it–it was more emotional that I think I possibly even anticipated it to be at the end, but the meaning that it holds is a different kind of achievement–it’s one of learning and endurance, and proving to myself what is possible, what my body can take, and how much farther I can go. And will go.

I don’t think I could possibly begin to list in detail all the many lessons that came from this experience.  I learned technical things, the areas of mental and physical strength that are still weak, things about myself, and things about humanity (mainly stupid drivers on an open course, but also how incredible and encouraging other athletes can be to one another).  I see why the marathon is a endurance feat all its own.  And I can’t wait to look at those lessons and apply them to training for the next one.  Because I can’t wait for the next one…how does six months sound?  I’m coming for you Chicago!!!

I have been truly overwhelmed by the love and reactions that I’ve received on the social media posts I’ve made too.  I can’t begin to tell you in the overwhelm and nerves leading up to the day how much the encouragement bolstered my confidence, and then in the after to be able to share my sheer praise to God and joy with the world.  Yes, it can appear some days to border on the edge of narcissism, but I also know from private feedback that my sharing is important to other people’s journey too–and we need each other in life, so I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  As the saying goes, “you do you,” and if you don’t like it…scroll on…or as some have done, go as far as blocking me. (I’m sooo not delving into that right now other than backing up to my firm stance I’ve always held:  if you have a problem, let’s talk about it together.  I have a lot more respect for an open conversation than passive aggressive behavior)

In the days since the race, I have felt surprisingly better than I expected–I truly expected to be the marathon horror stories of those that basically crawl for the next week.  The next day I even wore my uniform heels at church! My feet weren’t so happy after that move…but I did.  Sunday I wasn’t too sore, just moved pretty slowly.  Monday the same, until I had two hours of bodywork done–then I wanted to die once I had all those muscles worked out.  Woke up Tuesday feeling much better, feeling great, just a little bit of tightness remaining in my hips.  Today…well…it was my first recovery run.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was also my coach proving a point to me about recovery.  I don’t feel sore or anything, but in motion like that, my legs were pretty much lead.  Time…

But, rest and recovery aren’t docile actions, because I’ve still got goals, and a sprint triathlon coming up in 38 days.  I’m back on the bike tomorrow for some light workouts this week, aiming to hit open water swim this weekend, and we’ll see what next week brings once I get the full calendar for that.

At the end of the day, and everything that went down to get to the finish line, the one thing I know for sure…I. Am. A. Marathoner.

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3 thoughts on “My Labor of Love

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