in recovery

Monday, December 06, 2010

The thing about the marathon: You work so hard for so many months, and then after a few hours, it's all over.

I had to go to Shollenberger -- the place where I started running -- today to take a long walk (and get rid of some of the lactic acid build-up in my legs) and clear my head.

I'll admit it: I feel a little off -- sort of weepy -- lots of pent-up post-race frustration as well as the usual dramatic emotions that marathons stir up in me.

I was convinced yesterday was going to be My Race. I was ready for it. I wanted the PR, the big marathon breakthrough. And everything seemed to be aligned: The weather behaved, my close friends were with me (I don't know how we did it, but our training group managed to wade through thousands of people and find each other at the starting line, coach included) and I even had a really good pre-race poo (if you run, you know how important this is).

But I'm discovering the marathon has a mind of its own. No matter how perfect conditions seems to be, no matter how prepared you are, you just can't control what happens out there.

I started off well and was on target for a 4:40-4:45 PR. My mind was focused, my body was in rhythm and those first few miles actually felt easy.

And then I had to pee.

I got stuck in a port-a-potty line at Mile 14. And while I was using said port-a-potty (which was an absolute disaster area, by the way -- clearly other runners were having issues), the 4:45 pace group passed me. And things only got worse. At Mile 17, my hips started to really, really hurt. And the aid station ran out of water cups. Pain and thirst are not a good combination. I wanted to drop out. I actually envisioned it. And there was a SAG wagon driving slowly alongside the runners like a vulture, waiting for one of us to give up. It was so tempting.

Luckily, I saw my coach's wife in the crowd. The sight of a familiar face does wonders, especially when you're like me and don't want to drop out in front of someone you know. So I pushed on. Thankfully, the next aid station did have cups -- granted, they were giant plastic ones that were tough to drink out of without spilling, but I was grateful.

At about Mile 19, I realized I had drifted into the 5:00 pace group. While I knew there was no chance for a PR, I still wanted to come in under the five-hour mark. So I pushed again, picked up speed and started passing people. I actually began to feel strong again and wondered if I could somehow manage at least 4:50.

And then the knee pain started around Mile 23. And it was bad. I was making faces. And complaining about my discomfort to other runners. I probably would've dropped out if I didn't have just a few miles left. I ran until the pain became overwhelming, then I'd take a walk break, pick a point in the distance to walk to and then run again when I reached that point. I did this over and over until I got to the final stretch of the race down L Street. It was sheer force of will.

That's when I met the lady from Nebraska. We didn't exchange names, just hometowns. She chatted about her husband, and I told her about my knee. She kept me going when all I really wanted to do was cry.

As we moved into the last few hundred meters, I saw Margie from my training group. I grabbed her hand, and she started running me in to the finish line. (At this point, I was yelling "Fuck!" every time my left leg hit the ground -- my knee hurt so much.) Then we spotted Derrick, and he began running on my other side. And then Neveia, who was yelling like crazy, joined us. And then Sammy jumped in as we rounded the corner. I was practically in tears, but I felt like the luckiest person in the world to have such amazing friends.

They sent me down the chute, and I finished in 4:56:28. I wandered around looking for water (once again, they were out), had my photo taken with a finisher banner and then went to the medi tent for ice. (So not fun to finish a race and end up in the medical tent, surrounded by the bruised and battered. I saw a woman bawl her eyes out and then barf. Yikes.)

And the story doesn't stop there: As soon as I came out of the tent, I spotted Todd. He was holding a bag of Del Taco nacho fries. This is why I married this man.

It was a rough race, and I feel pretty beat up both mentally and physically. But I am so grateful for that finish. My knees may hurt and the marathon may be my ultimate nemesis, but it feels really good to be loved.

(Excuse me while I cry again.)


Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I'm sorry :(

The marathon is a bitch distance. I've only done it once and I can say that.

Doing two marathons that close together is intense! Your body is probably ready for a nice long break - give it that, and then ease back into it and come back strong!

And also, not only did you just run A MARATHON, you've ran TWO MARATHONS IN TWO MONTHS. You're f-ing awesome. Don't forget it.

Michaela said...

Thanks, Amber -- I know I need to stop wallowing. I let myself spend all day yesterday doing it, so no more today. From now on, only positive thoughts!

derrick said...

you are SOOO bad ass! and I am so proud of you! i agree with amber. totally a bitch distance.

Michaela said...

Thanks, Derrick. And thank you so much for being out there -- it meant the world to me!

Anonymous said...

still my hero. probably more so.
xoxo, shaya

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