Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Marathon

I joked to Rae that this is my marathon's "birth story," but in a funny way, it's kind of true! :) But don't worry, I won't share "embarrassing" details...although your idea of that might be different than mine. 
A medal for finishing.

Turns out this is a bit of a marathon-ly post! It's looong. Even without every detail. Sorry! I guess I could have said: I ran and walked intermittently, and I felt really happy the whole time even though it was stinkin' HOT out there, and then I finished! Woohoo! Time to go home and soak my legs in the tub!

So if that's all you came to read, you're welcome, and thank you for kindly stopping by. 
But here's the real story...

First of all, I felt inexpressibly blessed the entire time. I felt Heavenly Father's love and encouragement, and I felt so much joy throughout the experience. I also felt immense gratitude for the support from family and friends. I had two babysitters to help babysit for the duration of the event, and the kids were extremely cooperative. I had friends who were excited for me and wanted me to do well. I also felt so much love from the family, even if they didn't understand why I wanted to do this (it's okay, Mom! I know you don't get it, but that doesn't hurt my feelings!). Most especially, it was somehow surprising to me that Michael was excited for me even though it meant of a lot of time, help, encouragement and waiting on his part. He is the best husband I could have; he gives me freedom to make goals like this and then encourages me along the way. 

Having had a priesthood blessing the night before, I woke up at 3am feeling very alert and ready. I had set things out before bed so that I could get ready quickly, and we left at 3:30 when the first babysitter arrived. We drove 2 hours to Huntington State Park to pick up my running bib and t-shirt. And then I dove back in the car because it was SOOOO cold there at 5:30am! My teeth were chattering, and I couldn't hold still! So while we waited in the car, I studied my scriptures and relaxed. Some of the runners were getting really serious about everything and doing their stretches--which is good, but I couldn't even imagine lying on the cold concrete just so Michael could push my leg up or something. Brrr. No way. What I should have done, though, was go to the bathroom. :| Yes. You will see how that affected me....

We boarded buses to take us to the starting point. It was strange, but I didn't feel giddy. I just felt smiley. But then to get off the bus and begin the race at 6:30? I started bouncing on my toes (also because it was still SOOOO cold). Runners chatted some small talk, and when the announcer tried to pump us up and ask if we were ready, we gave a rather feeble "Yeah." I think most of us were too cold to make much noise. 

I started out kind of in the front. I thought "Oh, this is nice. I think I can stick pretty close to at least the middle of the group!" And then I realized I had to go to the bathroom. "Oh, this is not nice." 
This is well into the race.
The scenery was boring until past halfway.
About half a dozen men took their turns disappearing into the bushes, and I started to feel a bit jealous (you see, I'm not above camp-style bathrooms, but that is not a particular talent of mine, and I was not feeling up to such risks). I kept my pace, but then my bladder started to rebel. It was so full that I had to start walking or I would explode. So my place in the group of runners started fading to the back. I kept glancing behind me to make sure I wasn't last! At that point, there were 8 people behind me.
One woman came trotting up next to me, and as she passed, I was surprised to see that she was wearing a green and pink tutu over her black exercise clothes! I asked if she was "dressed up" for something special, and she said "It's my first marathon, so I had to do somethin' weird!" I said me too! and then thought but even though you seem fun, I would not wear a tutu for this. I wonder if she and I were the only first-timers. With everyone I talked to, it seemed like marathons were their hobby. Or career...
And after 3 miles, with the sun rising in my eyes, suddenly I saw such a blessed sight: a cheery yellow portapotty. 
Ah, heaven-sent. I have never been so happy to see one of those things. Tutu Girl let me go first, and after that, I bolted off. 

From there, it was a little harder to get back into a good groove, a nice pace. One couple passed me, another couple passed me, an old man who asked how I was, and then a pair of older women passed me. Pretty soon, it was Tutu Girl and me at the tail end. She said to me "Doesn't matter if I'm last! Finishing is all I care." I said "me too!" and then something happened...

It really is beautiful.
But it gets hard to stare at after several hours.
I realized that was a lie. Suddenly, I couldn't stand the thought of finishing last. Throughout all of my training, my goal for the marathon was to finish it. I even figured sometimes that I probably would be the last one! But when I got to that point, a little switch flipped in my head, and the competitive side took over. I abandoned Tutu Girl and made it my mission to pass the pair of runners in front of me. They were a woman in a pink shirt and a woman in ugly Texas-flag shorts (they were very ugly shorts, I must tell you). So, trying not to stare at the flag shifting ahead of me, I pushed myself until I had gone past them a considerable distance. 
The funny thing is, it took me a really long time to solidly ditch them. Texas Shorts had a watch set to beep every 30 seconds (so she would walk 30, run 30, etc.). Her running looked a lot like her walking, but I just figured she was doing what she could. But that beeping sound...every 30 seconds, 6 long and loud beeps! And we were running in a very desert-y area that somehow amplified every sound. I started to go a little bit crazy. As soon as I heard that beeping, I took off and tried to put some bigger distance between us. And somehow it always came back! I would think I was comfortably ahead when suddenly I hear that beeping again! 

I had finally had enough and picked a new mark for myself. The old man was closer than the first two couples who had passed me, even though he was a hazy little finger-pinch on the horizon. So there I went, pushing and driving myself to close the gap. 

It took a long time. 

A long time. 

This "Little Grand Canyon" marathon was touted as being especially scenic, and I was kind of thinking they had lied to us. Or whoever called it that was feeling really sentimental about Arizona. Or Death Valley. Or something. Once in a while, I'd try to appreciate it more and think "What a very...different...horizon...this is..." But once the sunrise was over, it was very boring. 

When I got close enough to see that the old man was slowing down, I knew I could pass him. Running was starting to hurt by then, though. In fact, my feet started to hurt pretty early on. I ran on the side of the road since it was open for the race, and I was on just the slightest bit of a slope. With my ankles already pronating a little, that meant my left ankle was forced inward a lot more than usual. The inner arch ached a lot, actually. And to jog on it even lightly made it hurt a lot worse. I ran or jogged in slightly shorter bursts, walking fast inbetween. I experimented a little with changing the strike of my feet, but that seemed a bad idea. 
So as I finally got close to catching up with the old man, I was grateful that he wasn't going to play my own game and run away when I pulled up beside him. He said "You just couldn't let a fat old man beat you, could you?" I just laughed and said honestly "Nope!" 

Bill and I kept an even pace for about 8 miles, I think. We started talking about what food sounded good to us out there in the desert. Ice cream, smoothies, PLAIN COLD WATER, an In-N-Out burger...and then it got a little crazy, like we were starving people who would never see food again. Our favorite cheese, fancy beef jerky, key lime Oikos Greek yogurt, etc. We did keep coming back to cold water. That sounded really great. And I kept daydreaming about the aid station that had fruit! At about 16 miles to go, there was an aid station that finally had something other than nasty Gu. Bananas, grapes, orange slices. And it all tasted so perfect! So ripe, so delicious, so sweet, so amazing...I bounded away from that aid station feeling like I'd just eaten little bites of heaven. And I wished I could sit at that table and devour their entire bowl of fruit (wouldn't have been hard). 

I learned that Bill wanted to be a composer like Michael is, but he realized he needed to choose a career that would make money. 

Oh. Right,

So he became a psychologist. But he still writes music here and there, and he sang a clip of a couple jazzy Christmas songs he's working on. By that time, the scenery was blessedly beginning to change. It was starting to make sense that it was called the Little Grand Canyon. Huge rock faces loomed high on each side of the gravelly, dusty road. There were even so pictographs on one of the walls. Supposedly, there was a dinosaur footprint somewhere that people had talked about, but I missed it. 

It was really nice to see some green out there;
almost everything was just red and dusty against
the bright blue sky.
Eventually, Bill couldn't match my pace anymore. He'd had a hip surgery earlier this year, so this was only his 3rd marathoni this year. Ha! Right. Of course, because he'd done 88 marathons, with a goal to do 50 State Marathons...for the second time. Some 100-Marathon prize or other. And when I was amazed at that, he said it's nothing compared to some of the more serious marathoners in his club. There's one man, he said, who makes a lot of money as a lawyer, so he just flies around to do marathons all the time; he's in the Guinness World Records for the most marathons in a year. 106. Um, that's like 3 a week, right? And how can you be a lawyer and do 3 marathons a week? And how can you have a life and do 3 marathons a week? And how can you be sane and do 3 marathons a week? I believe you understand my bafflement. 

I was actually glad that to leave Bill behind because I was also escaping Texas Shorts who mysteriously caught up to us (Pink Shirt passed us somewhere along the way, not at a pace I could match and pass). 

I pushed on, thinking I was safely ahead of Texas Shorts. But then I discovered that she snuck up ahead while I took a moment in one of those delightful portapotties! Argh. As I topped off my camelback with some water, she grumbled something that was maybe supposed to be funny (I didn't quite catch it), and then she took off! I mean, she was sort of shuffling, but she was pretty fast! And I was not feeling so fast after 23 miles. But I gritted my teeth and bore down. As I came up next to her, she said grumpily "See you at the finish line." 

A weird rock. 
And I had a mini attitude shift. Poor Texas Shorts. So I said brightly "Yes, and I will see you there, too!" and I kept my pace even with hers and did a little small talk with her. I found out she had done her first marathon at age 55. This was her 44th marathon. She was signed up for 6 more (to complete the 50 State Marathon challenge, which is apparently more common than it seemed at first). You know, she sounded quite grumpy about it all, but I thought that maybe that was just the result of trying to get through a marathon. Anyway, she mumbled and grumbled a few more things, and when her husband drove up on the road to see how she was doing, I took advantage of her pause and cleared the area. 

Some canyon-esque features of Little Grand Canyon.
Now. This part, this very little part of the race where I had only a meager 2 miles left, I started to feel a bit tired. I mean, mentally tired (my body didn't waste any time getting tired). I knew 2 miles was "nothing" in distance, but it was 2 miles after 24 miles. It was becoming harder to push myself any faster, and I wanted so badly to just finish. 

That lasted perhaps 5 minutes? Ten? Fifteen? THIRTY? What is time when you're thirsty in the desert? I don't know, but it really wasn't long. Michael drove down the road to say hello and see how I was! He drove alongside me and talked (and I desperately wanted to listen at least for some distraction from how tired I felt). And most helpfully, he pointed out that the finish line was just beyond a couple curves in the road ahead. That lifted my spirits! He rode along side me for about a mile, and then when I could see the finish, he drove up to get ready with the camera. 
Mammoth Marathons owner
"owning" this picture
(not that I mind).
Going to get food and water.

Even with the finish in sight--yes, even so--it was very very hard to make myself run. But I finally did, and the announcer obligingly changed their bouncy country "Honkytonk Badonkadonk" song to the Rocky theme. Haha! That got me smiling! And I was just so happy to get there, to finish! People started bringing me water and fruit, offering sandwiches and salad. Michael took just a few pictures (there were a few people barging in the way, though, so whatever), and once I got the hang of it, holding still felt kind of good. 

You know how you can see heat waves when it's really hot and dry outside? If there are enough heat waves, like the entire earth is emitting heat waves across the entire sky, it can kind of mess with your vision and make you dizzy. So despite all the "breathtaking" scenery, I watched the road quite a bit, because to look up too much really threw my balance off with my body needing so much focus to move right. So holding still took a little getting used to, honestly. 

And then I started to feel like I might throw up. Some serious nausea kicked in, and then my vision and hearing started to sort of "white-out," a lot like it did when I was fighting passing out after I gave birth to Ender and tried to stand up. I knew that was not such a good sign, so I told Michael to get the car. I wanted to sit there so I wouldn't have to get up again. I made sure I wasn't locking my knees. After sitting in the car, it took a while for the nausea to completely pass, but then I felt just fine. I drank water, scarfed down an enormous salad, pigged on fruit, and sat back to let everything settle a little. 

On the drive down, I encouraged the 2 remaining runners (Texas Shorts pulled in not too long after me), Bill and Tutu Girl. I offered them one of my pulled pork sandwiches and cheered them on, telling them they were SO CLOSE to the finish line! 

I was secretly glad they didn't want the sandwiches because that meant I could have all three. Ha! Yes! THREE! Michael got them for me-- he knows me well. :) 

And it was done!
Me being glad it was done.

Since yesterday, I have been marveling over how blessed I was. There were many, many moments during the marathon that I prayed my thanks to Heavenly Father, and I felt so energetic and happy the whole time. I felt like Heavenly Father performed a miracle on me. 
My hips have been a little troubling from the beginning of my training, but as time went on, my endurance improved. My hips could go longer before they started to ache. But they never seemed to do as well as with this marathon. My hips outlasted everything else! 
The pain started in my feet. Inconvenient, but I felt pleasantly surprised that my hips weren't hurting yet. The pain then seemed to very slowly creep up from my feet. I mentally shoved it down every time I had to think about it, and in that way, the pain stayed below my knees until I'd gone about 18 miles or so. Then it started to creep up my thighs, and I mentally shoved it down. It was maybe around 22 miles that I realized with a mild surprise that my hips hurt, and as soon as I noticed, I pretended I hadn't. 
Because of that, my hips were not the issue of the marathon. Pain was a simple part of it, but it was overshadowed by pure drive and desire. I learned that I could put aside the pain and be successful in spite of it-- and be happy all the while! 
I was so blessed!!!! Here are some of the physical blessings I experienced:

Michael drove down twice; this is when I had about 4 miles to go.
He just wanted to make sure I was doing alright. :)

  • I never felt uncontrollably out of breath. 
  • My eyes never took a bad hit from the dust rolling behind the random cars passing by (I could close one eye and let it cry the dust out, and my eyes would feel back to normal very quickly). 
  • I never fell or stumbled. 
  • My waterpack never felt too heavy. 
  • I had no chafing from my clothes or waterpack (that is perhaps another miracle since I have had chafing during training). 
  • My fingers didn't get too sausage-like and went back to normal circulation very rapidly (if you let your arms hang for so many hours in the heat, your fingers can get pretty gross looking). :)
  • I never had to deal with a lot of sweat. I just sort of glistened (so no sweat dripped into my eyes or anywhere else). My skin felt really salty, though! I think the sweat must have been evaporating off of me and just leaving the salt behind...
  • My mouth never got too dried out. 
  • I never had a moment without water. 
  • I only needed 2 bathroom breaks. That's a blessing, it just is. 
  • I felt so happy. I smiled a lot, I prayed a lot, I enjoyed the event of accomplishing such a big goal.
  • Oh yes, and I didn't lose any toenails (they didn't even hurt). 
  • I always knew I could do it.

Me happily being dorky for you.
It feels so good to have finished my marathon! There is some pleasure in not being the last to finish, too (but good for Tutu Girl for making it all the way)! Judging by all of my training, the marathon should have taken me 8 hours. I am not fast, trust me. I can sprint for about 30 seconds, and if I'm fresh and untired, I can be extremely fast for those 30 seconds. But that's all. My marathon took me 7 hours. Three for the first half, four for the second half. I got a couple bug bites (better than swallowing bugs! At the start, they really liked bumping into my face! Nasty bugs), and I got a sunburn even though I wore sunscreen (and brought the bottle in a pouch so I could use more) (um, even though I didn't use more...I felt like I'd have to stop to apply more sunscreen, and stopping sounded like a crazy idea). 

It will also feel good to return to my normal workout routine, one that doesn't include a 20+ mile run this week. I waddled around for the rest of the day yesterday, but I'm just a little sore today. Amazingly, it's not so bad (but we will be having a freezer dinner tonight. Thank you Stouffer's). 
Just so you know, this was my first and LAST marathon. I am not interested in doing it again. I feel no need. This not a new hobby. 

In June 2009, after examining my feelings about running, I once wrote on this blog, 
"Some day, I will run a real marathon. It will probably take me a few years to be ready. But I will do it."
There. After 17 weeks of training during what has perhaps been the best window of time in my life to make it happen, with so much love, help, encouragement, and many blessings from Heavenly Father, I did it.

Eventually, pictures of the event done by Mammoth Marathons will be posted HERE under "Little Grand Canyon Marathon" at the very bottom. You can also find them on facebook HERE, where they've already posted a few pictures from Saturday's marathon.

1 comment:

  1. Q, I'm so proud of you!! have to do another marathon, because us five sisters have to do one together. So just plan on that. ;)


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