thoughts

A Tale of Two Marathons

What My ‘Year of the Marathon’ Taught Me

First off, I learned that there is a limit to how many ways I can commit myself. Yes I’m invincible. And tough. And determined. Occasionally intense, as well. But training and completing 2 marathons in 8 months was too much. I suppose that’s only surprising to me!

A Dreamy Day in Duluth

In February, I started training for Grandma’s Marathon. The conditions were ideal for me. I love running in weather – any kind of weather – but especially snow and rain. The peaceful quiet of snowy runs is unparalleled.

I followed a plan that had me running 4 days a week. I overlapped that with biking & swimming because I knew I’d be racing the Buffalo Olympic Triathlon before Grandma’s and Lifetime Olympic Triathlon in July. I felt great with absolutely no knee pain. Everything seemed possible! All my long runs were rainy or snowy and I felt powerful like anything was possible.

Pre-race date night
Pre-race date night

Before I knew it race weekend had arrived. Jesse and I dropped our kids off at his parents house and drove up to Duluth. The weather was misty and moody. I loved it. We stayed with friends and in the morning we listened to the rain on the roof and wondered why we were getting up so early to run 26.2 in the rain when we were kid-free for 2 whole days!

The race started well; I panicked at mile 4 and hit pause on my watch to make a port-a-potty stop. I hated waiting in line but in spite of my friend Jack’s opinion I don’t think that quick stop should count against my race time! A few miles later I came upon Jesse walking with another ‘fast guy’. The injury he had been fighting got the best of him and he decided to pull the plug. We shared well wishes with each other and I kept on trucking.

Until mile 23 I felt awesome. The miles went by more quickly than I thought they would go. The mist was so thick that I wasn’t able to see very far in front of me – which was perfect! I could only concentrate on what was right in front of me. I was in a bubble of happiness.

IMG_5984
Still in silly disbelief! I FINISHED a marathon!

Then mile 23 hit. My knee joints just seized. I ran the last 3 miles about 90 seconds a mile slower and fought back tears. Rounding the corner by the William A Irvine I saw Jesse (huge relief!) and then my friends Becky and Josh which helped me get some distance from the pain and remember that I was almost done!

Pure EUPHORIA! The feeling was so great and I was just so overwhelmed that I had actually completed a marathon. I had always thought that it was too far for my body and that I wouldn’t make it through the training. Even though I hadn’t raced completely pain-free, I had trained pain-free and that was a huge accomplishment to me.

August is My Waterloo

Every summer, August rolls around and the thrill is gone. 14 hour days with the boys really exhausted me. Again, not really surprising! Our kids are super active and fast paced. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is just in their genes, but these kids just do not stop. We go and go while the days are long and the sun is out. Lots of fun but by about 3 pm I felt like I had been steam rolled. Waking up early to get the miles finished was knocking me out.

Concussion and TC Marathon DNF

Honestly I raced way too much in 2014. Races are like parties for me. Why wouldn’t I want to go to all the parties? On a whim I signed up for Superior Man Triathlon at the end of August. I kept telling myself that it was just for fun and because triathlon season in Minnesota is so short! The race was really fun but I crashed in the last 2 miles of the bike and hit my head really hard. It took me 2 weeks to stop being in denial and get my head checked out. And then even after the concussion was diagnosed I still ran my 20 mile days and planned to race the Twin Cities Marathon.

In September, I raced a 14k and a 20 mile race deluding myself into believing that those races were ‘tune-ups’ for the Twin Cities marathon in October. Who did I think I was anyways?!? Because of the concussion, I was grumpy, moody, mean and incredibly sensitive to all lights. When I ran I felt better. Looking back I’m sure it was just the endorphins. It doesn’t really matter but I felt terrible so much of the time that being able to feel good while I ran, kept me running when I should have just stopped.

The good, the bad & the struggling
The good, the bad & the struggling

I’m stubborn. And I hate feeling like I’m being told that I can’t do something. It doesn’t even matter that it was my own body telling me that I couldn’t run the marathon. I was determined. Race morning dawned and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, nothing lined up for me. I abandoned the port-a-potty when I should have stayed in line. I stopped to pee when I should have paced it out. I sprinted to ‘catch up’ to my goal pacer when I should have just stuck to my pace. I dropped my long sleeve shirt too early on a cloudy cool day. It was an all around disaster. By mile 4 I knew things were not going to go my way. The whole race atmosphere was aggravating me. Too loud. Too many people. Too cold. Man, was I cold.

I made it through all the neighborhoods where I knew ‘my people’ would be cheering. I made it to mile 15. Then I shuffled. My head hurt, my knees ached & throbbed with pain, my achilles heel had tightened up and I was emotionally destroyed. For the next 4 miles I walked and jogged debating the merits of finishing this miserable race. My sister Molly and her 4 daughters were at mile 19. I hoped I could get there.

Lucky for me, Molly and the girls were waiting for me. They swooped me up and off the course. These ladies have been through a lot and their encouragement and love were just what I needed. I threw in the towel and finally accepted that today was not my day.

Accepting that I had committed to too many races and an ill-advised 2nd marathon turned out to be a great lesson. I only raced 3 times in the summer of 2015 and was much more intentional about how I trained. It’s true that every choice has a value. I can’t say that it was bad to have an out of balance year. If nothing else I learned what not to do!

And all of this made #yearofthebike so much better…

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