December 14, 2012

So, first things first:  I am officially a marathon runner/finisher!  Hooray!


Sweaty, Gross, Puffy Fingers, Not as sore as I thought I would be!



Second things second:  I’m not going to talk about time here because honestly it doesn’t matter to me, it was our first marathon, we finished, I know what our moving time was and our official finish time is kind of “meh” for me – it wasn’t the point.   I know, not popular. Boo, hiss.


I will take a moment to say that it’s really neat that everyone I know seems to know how to look up my finish time for me,* and let me know, in case I wasn’t aware of that ball park figure, and wanted a firm answer, but that I think it’s kind of strange and oddly invasive.  I get that most people were tracking us live as we ran, as a kind of unseen/unheard support, but there’s a weird dismissiveness to their observations, like they expected us to… win? Or something?  Guys, the person who won this year’s Honolulu Marathon paced 12 minutes behind the 2012 Olympic marathon winner.  That kind of shit is a blessing and a gift on top of a lifetime of hard work.  Husband and I have been running for a year and a half, and 9 months of that was me running with undiagnosed asthma.  Sincerely:  FINISHING WAS WINNING.


Now, as an aside, and not really related to the run:  I am the kind of person who makes spreadsheets for packing and double checks them, cross checking and rechecking, but I had some huge issues with this trip. The day before we left I was struck with some kind of intestinal issue that made it impossible for me to start packing until after noon.  (An intestinal issue that reappeared the night before the race, in fact.)  I forgot the following items: headphones, beach towels, DS lite, husband’s shower gel, sun hat, socks to wear on the plane, and a sweatshirt/sweater for the plane.  I also forgot to leave out towels for the pet sitter and forgot to charge the spare camera batteries.  I don’t even know. The good news is I remembered everything we needed for the actual race. (Even if we had to pull back in the driveway, run back into the house, and look for our pick up packets.)


I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about for the last week and I’ve been struggling for where to start, so I’m going to start with a list.


Things that didn’t surprise me:

  1. It was hard.  Mostly the first mile (as usual) and then miles 16, and 21-23.  Mile 16 because I had needed to pee for about 10 miles and had strained something in my abdomen holding it all that way, and mile 21 because… mile 21 is just awful, guys.  It chews you up, spits you out, and mocks your will to live.  Then you get to mile 24 and you realize that you’re going to live, you’re probably going to finish this thing, and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.  I wish I was lying, but, seriously.  This is me at mile 24.

    Smiling even. (Photo by Kelli)

  2. Um… that was it.  Pretty much everything as a surprise because this is the first time I have ever moved my body 26.2 miles in a continuous fashion.


Things that really surprised me:

  1. The lines for the toilets were longer than anything I have ever seen at a race.  Also – there was no bathroom for like… 10 miles.  Or at least it felt like 10 miles.  And then there was no toilet paper.

    Please direct your attention to the purple circles.

    (Okay, so looking at the map, it was 14 miles.  Because that one at mile 6.5? The line was so long that I stood in one, unmoving, for 10 minutes and decided to keep going, not realizing it would be another 7 miles before I could go.)  Lesson one: actually pay attention to the course map next time.  In shorter races the lines are long, but not as may people use the bathrooms, because the race is shorter.

  2. It wasn’t as hard as I feared it would be.  I knew we had trained, I knew that we had prepared as much as we could, but on Saturday I was filled with fear and dread.  I was so scared that I had made a terrible mistake and that we wouldn’t be able to finish, that something catastrophic would happen.  It didn’t help that I had been battling a stomach bug on and off for three days.
  3. It was so easy to keep our pace.  We started at the back of our corral and I kept an eye on the Garmin, and it was so, so easy.  It felt slow to me, and fast to Husband, but it was gloriously easy to breathe.  (Except for Diamond Head, because that volcano is the devil.)  Lesson two: I live in a bad place for asthmatics, between wood smoke and allergens I’m not sure we could have picked a worse place to live and train.  (The elevation is fine, the elevation helps when you race at a lower elevation.)  I think that we’ve finally figured out a race pace that works together, which is great.


The things that helped me most in this process aren’t surprising:  making training a priority and being consistent, doing some shorter races as we trained up to know how we would react in different situations, talking to other people who run and figuring out which gear I needed and what worked for me.  (I will always need a fuel belt for my inhaler and original weight tech toe socks are mandatory.  I apparently need Glide in the worst place imaginable.  That’s Lesson Three, the Glide.)  More than anything, it helped me to ignore pretty much everyone else’s opinion while we were getting ready to do this.  For every five people who said it was great that we were doing it, there were three that kept asking about time.  For every five people who said we were crazy for doing this, there were three who made comments about how we didn’t really have the time to do it.


For that first group:  this is the first time in my life I have set out to do something where I wasn’t actively trying to be the best.  I have spent a lifetime not participating in sports and activities because I do not have an innate talent at things physical, and no one ever explained to me that it’s okay to be that way.  No one ever told me in middle school, or high school, that not everyone can walk out the door and run a mile without stopping the first time they try.  Because of that?  I didn’t ever try.  (See also: hitting a ball with a bat, a ball with a racket, or doing a back handspring.  I could blame this on being the last of six kids, maybe everyone forgot that kids need to be taught these things in the 7 year gap between me and my closest sibling.  I could blame my gym teachers for being disengaged with a kid they saw had zero interest.  But honestly, it’s all on me – I mean there have been [mumble mumble] years since I left high school where I didn’t try these things.  I don’t like doing things I’m not great at.  I don’t like losing.  I am a competitive person.  I had to look at this experience in a totally different way.  The getting it done?  That was the win.  Sometimes that needs to be enough.  Next time the win will be doing it a little better than I did it this time, and so on and so forth.  If that’s not enough for other people, or if they can’t see why I would bother, I don’t know what to tell them, but that’s not the life I’m going to live.


For the second group:  you have time to do what you make time to do.  I know that sounds simplistic, but I know people with very full lives with really time consuming hobbies.  Husband and I are blessed in that we don’t have human children, but I do have a fairly time consuming career.  That said, I spent the first decade of my career putting it ahead of pretty much everything else.  Here’s the thing about a job:  unless you’re healing leper orphans or saving endangered animals from extinction rarely will the personal return match the emotional investment you are making.  Business is business and when you walk away at the end of the day, and moreover at the end of your career, you’re going to want more than some statues (that mean nothing to anyone outside of the world of your job) and some now defunct business cards to show for it.  The time you invest in your life outside your job?  That is very important time.  If I don’t have seven to ten hours a week to invest in myself I am doing something very, very wrong.  So, no, I didn’t sleep in a lot over the last year, or have a lot of late nights, and I rearranged my personal schedule to accommodate long runs on the weekends and woke up early to have my coffee and spend time with our pets before our runs during the week, but the time that I spent outside thinking and working on myself and the time I spent with my husband?  I hope that I will never find myself saying I don’t have time for that.


So, what’s next?  Well, you may have noticed a lot of next times in this post and that’s because we’re going to run another marathon.  We’re actually going to run this marathon again in 2015.  In the meantime we have some half marathons planned and some other shorter runs.  Because we had an injury and some issues during this race, and because I feel like I learned some basic things from the first time out, I decided that I would like to do another full marathon.  (My husband agreed because he refuses to be defeated by his knee.) I’m not sure there will be more than that in my future, I can’t imagine doing this without the support of my husband and I’m not sure his knees will agree to many more full marathons, but I’m excited to do it again.


As for what’s next on the list of 30 things, I’m thinking it’s time to learn to roller skate.  Next to running it’s the thing that scares me the most, so I’m thinking about taking lessons for my birthday this year.


Also, I can’t close out this post without a huge thank you to my intrepid partner in crime Kelli.  Kelli rented a bike and met us every eight miles on the race course with dry socks, fluids, and sunblock.  Without her and her support the race would have been ten times harder and I probably would have had more than one blister.  Someday she’s going to cash in on that favor and I can only hope that it doesn’t involve my riding a bike up a volcano, but she should know that I would do it for her.

Listen, you don't let down Agent Gibbs. You just don't. (Photo from Kelli's camera.)


p.s.  My friend Alison asked me what I thought about during the race to get me through.  I honestly couldn’t tell you.  Husband thinks that I get mad at him because he chatters and hi-fives the people cheering on the sidelines, but I think it’s more that I’m deep in thought.  Kind of like when strangers tell me to smile in shopping centers and I realize I must be frowning with concentration.  Most of the time I’m thinking about baking and singing circus music.  It’s not that complex.

p.p.s.  If you don’t run and you want to run, and specifically want to run a marathon, get this book.  It helped me a lot and has a great training schedule.

*Not something I counted on from a group of people who I recently taught to use CTRL+Z and regularly get calls from for complex issues like how to attach things to emails.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kirstin December 14, 2012 at 7:45 am

I am so proud of you guys for doing this! Eventhough I only watched your struggles from a computer, I can relate to a lot of them -running with asthma, beginning running when you’ve never run or never run well, fighting back the “but i’ll never WIN this” feeling that creeps up to sabotage everything. You broke down so many barriers like they were nothing, and just kept pushing. This is a MAJOR accomplishment and im so happy that you finished. I was so bummed that I couldn’t actively cheer you guys on, but I was thinking about you all day in NJ.
Break out the rollerskates, they ain’t got shit on 26.2 miles. <3

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