Home > Uncategorized > Biggest lesson confirmed by my 1st marathon experience…

Biggest lesson confirmed by my 1st marathon experience…

I had a big ol’ lesson confirmed for me yesterday during my first marathon – the Dallas White Rock Marathon – experience.  You’ll have to read on to find out the details, but it was a beautiful thing!

As many of you know, 2 of the last 3 weeks before my marathon were not quite as I planned in terms of training.  My cold turned sinus infection turned worse sinus infection had me running less than I had hoped in the weeks leading up to my race.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t concern me at all because it did.  My coach said my fitness level should be fine given that I ran at least once each week, but I didn’t feel as confident and it worked on my mental game.  In the week leading up to the race, as I obsessively watched the weather forecast, I was sweating bullets watching the temps fall lower and the rain chances increase.  It was hard to think of anything other than the weather conditions we would be facing on Sunday.

Friday night I packed all of my gear.  I took with me: 1 suitcase, 1 running bag, 1 bag filled with my rolling/stretching gear, 1 laptop bag, 1 food bag, 1 cooler, 1 dog crate stuffed with assorted dog gear, 1 purse, 1 body pillow, and 1 regular pillow.  It looked like I’d be staying for a week!  I was more than embarrassed when I pulled up at the Omni and the bellman had trouble figuring out where to put all of my stuff on one luggage cart =)

We met at Campisi’s for our Saturday night dinner and the wind, cold, and rain we faced running to the restaurant from the car felt like a preview to what we would be experiencing on Sunday.  Denise and I would look at each other with a “are we nuts?” look and we’d just laugh and shrug it off.  It was so great having dinner with so many of my Northside Runaway teammates!  It was just the ambiance and conversation I needed the night before my big race.  One of my friends noted how relaxed I was and I admitted I felt kind of loopy.  You could call it relaxed or you could call it cracked out, minus the crack.  I’m not sure, but I did feel a little strange.  I only checked the weather forecast maybe 3 times at dinner =)  Forecast called for temps @ 45 degrees at start and dropping to lower 40s by 2pm.  Rain chances were 70-90% every hour and the wind forecast was 11-15mph north winds the entire time.  Not exactly confidence building.

I got back to my room and my feet were hurting and tingling.  I had been on them so much Friday and Saturday and I started to worry about how they’d feel during the race.  So this is what they mean when they talk about staying off your feet prior to the race!  Not sure what I could’ve done differently (packed on Thursday?) but it’s something I’ll keep in mind the next time I run a marathon.  More on that later.

I had my pup with me at the hotel and I’m SO HAPPY I made that decision to bring her with me!  It was nice having her companionship Saturday night.  I showered her with lots of love and we talked race strategy, too.  She supported whatever I said =)

I had a few interruptions when trying to fall asleep Saturday night, but I think I was finally out @ 10:45-10:55.  There was a group of girls hanging out by the elevators, cackling like chickens, @ 10:40 and I was thisclose to taking them all on in my fit of anxiety over getting enough sleep, but I decided to open my door and yell “Be Quiet!” instead.  They didn’t miss a beat because I don’t think they could even hear me! Ugh.  They were back @ 1:30pm and I just prayed they’d leave quickly.  They either did or I fell back asleep.  Peanut started to bark one other time and it woke me up, but she stopped.  When I was actually asleep, I slept great.

I woke up @ 4:45am to rain hitting the window.  Gulp.  Six hours of sleep is par for the course with me so I knew it was enough to get me through the race.  I pulled out my toaster (yes, you read that right) and toasted my 1st thin bagel and started to get ready.  I dusted the insides of my shoes with my blister prevention powder and slathered on a glop of Aquaphor or Glide in just about every possible area I thought might chafe.  My feet were covered in both.  I knew my feet would get wet eventually, but for last weekend’s long run, I sprayed my shoes with a water repellant spray and they stayed relatively dry until mile 7 so I hopeful it would help again this time.  Ha.  I watched the advent service from last Sunday’s service at Grace United Methodist Church on the in-mirror TV in my hotel’s bathroom.  It’s the same name of the church in Austin that my Grandpa and Grandma served decades ago.  As many of you know, I my Grandma passed away in August and I was so touched to watch this service while I was getting ready for my race.  It made me think of all of my grandparents, how much I miss them all, and how I knew that would be with me in spirit throughout the day.

I went downstairs to meet my teammates @ 6am and it was good to see all of their sweet faces!  I can’t say how much our group means to me.  Their support, humor, determination, grace, friendship….ahhhh….I just love the Northside Runaways!  We walked outside to catch the bus and the wind and cold hit us.  Brrrr!  Mix that with some rain and I was a little more than nervous.  We took a shuttle bus to the start and the positive energy on the bus was good.  Once we got to Fair Park, we walked past a tent that was giving out free parkas and throwaway gloves.  I was good on gloves, but I took the parka to replace my trashbag.  I really liked the parka!  You could use your hands (unlike my trashbag concoction) and it was purple – my favorite color.  I had one more Rogue sticker so I slapped it on the front of my parka.

We found the building for the bag drop and sat down to wait out our start in a dry, semi-warm place.  It was nice to use a regular restroom, too.  We went outside later, waited in line FOREVER for the port-o-potties for one last time, and finally made it over to the start line.  Our corral was D1 but we decided to enter in @ B1 because we just didn’t know what to expect further down the pathway and it was already getting close to start time.  When we were maybe 50 feet from the start line, it started raining harder.  Ooh, not good for the mental game.  We crossed the start line and Denise and I did a good job of keeping it easy at the beginning.

I wore a headband w/ ear warmers, my white cap, gloves, short-sleeved tech T under a long-sleeved tech T, and capri pants (plus the parka.)  I wanted layers so I had options.  Around mile 1-2, I took off my gloves, tied two fingers together, and tucked them into my spibelt in case I needed them later.  I never wore them again.  Around mile 2, I took off my parka because the rain slowed down and I was getting hot, but I wasn’t ready to throw it away just yet.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with all of the forecasted rain and I knew the wind would pick up around the lake.  We saw all sorts of people ditching layers and parkas those first couple of miles.  (I can almost guarantee the majority of those people running the marathon were kicking themselves @ mile 11.)  I tucked my parka into the back of my spibelt for a bustle look.  Talk about running in style =)  (Right!)  I was a little concerned about my two layers of tech Ts because I felt so warm so quickly and considered taking off the long-sleeved shirt and tying it around my waist, but good thing I didn’t go to the trouble of doing that because the temps dropped as time wore on and I was so glad to have both layers and the parka on hand.  My choice of clothing was spot on.  One thing I didn’t have to worry about!

Around mile 2 we ran past the Grace United Methodist Church.  No lie.  That was so cool.

Around mile 2.5-3, we saw a guy run past us who was on artificial legs and had no arms.  I was floored.  Denise said we needed to give him a name and remember him later on in the race when it got hard so we named him “No Excuses”.  I was so touched to see him.  What a MAN.  What a shining example of what we can do when we put our minds to it.  I’m seeing example after example of how we are really only limited in our own minds.  I wish I could’ve met him because he was inspirational.

Even after seeing our No Excuses guy, my mental game started to shift in a downward direction @ mile 3.5.  I think it was after I stepped in a big puddle and felt the water gush through my right shoe.  I was squishing around in my shoe and it was only mile 3!  I knew it would happen later down the road, but I was hoping it would happen later on down the road.  I started hyperfocusing on everything that was hard and bad about the race and not surprisingly, my mental game suffered quickly.  Here’s a snippet of thoughts playing like CD stuck on repeat…

  • My right foot is already wet and I’m only at mile 3.  I have over 23 miles to go!  I’ve only run 22 miles before so I’m not even at that point yet.  OMG.
  • How am I going to run with my feet drenching wet?  I’m going to get blisters and it’s going to be excruciatingly painful.  Why didn’t I do more to avoid that puddle? That was so stupid.
  • Why am I freaking out?  I thought I was really tough?  My mental game is the strongest thing I have going for me.  I’m already starting to crack?  Do I really have this in me? There’s no way.  I can’t do this.
  • Why IN THE HELL did I decide to close the ziplock bag with my kleenex in it?  How am I supposed to get to anything in my spibelt when it’s under my parka?  It’s so full I can’t do anything.  I’m incompetent.  I NEED A KLEENEX.
  • You’re at mile 4 and you’re already second guessing whether or not you can do this.  You have more than 22 miles left. You’ll be out here for at least 4.5 more hours.  You’re toast.
  • Maybe it’ll get better. OH DEAR GOD, IT’S RAINING HARDER.  There goes my other foot in a huge puddle.  You can’t avoid the water in the road!  It’s going to just get harder from here so you better figure this out quickly.
  • Why did you think you could ever do this?  Why didn’t you just stick with half marathons?  Everyone’s going to be so disappointed in you if you don’t finish. How are you going to live with yourself?  Is this the best you can do?

Sad, huh?  I was so sad.  So demoralized.  I tried to think about the No Excuses guy but I was (almost literally) swimming in a sea of negative thoughts and I wouldn’t let anything positive in for a couple of miles.  Around mile 5, after feeling mentally pummeled, I remembered my good friend Monika telling me on Friday that I needed to get out of my head and into my heart.  She said I was physically ready and knew everything I needed to know, now I just needed to trust in that and get into my heart because my heart is what would help me get through the race.  SO TRUE!  Excellent advice!  I started turning those negative thoughts into positive ones.

  • My right foot is already wet and I’m only at mile 3.  I have over 23 miles to go!  I’ve only run 22 miles before so I’m not even at that point yet.  OMG. You knew it was going to rain almost the entire time.  You knew this was the longest you’ve ever run before.  All things you already knew.
  • How am I going to run with my feet drenching wet?  I’m going to get blisters and it’s going to be excruciatingly painful.  Why didn’t I do more to avoid that puddle? That was so stupid. Why are you trying to predict blisters right now? You’ve run in wet shoes before and you had blisters on the tips of your toes, but nothing so bad you couldn’t run.  Deal with it when you get there.  You don’t eat the soup as hot as it’s cooked! (Thanks, Popo!)
  • Why am I freaking out?  I thought I was really tough?  My mental game is the strongest thing I have going for me.  I’m already starting to crack?  Do I really have this in me? There’s no way.  I can’t do this. These conditions are horrible!  Are you really surprised that it’s tough out here on you mentally? Nope. Expect the unexpected, sister!  You’re mentally freaking out and you’re not expecting it.  Don’t let it sabotage you!  You’ve run so many long runs. YOU CAN DO THIS!
  • Why IN THE HELL did I decide to close the ziplock bag with my kleenex in it?  How am I supposed to get to anything in my spibelt when it’s under my parka?  It’s so full I can’t do anything.  I’m incompetent.  I NEED A KLEENEX. You closed the bag because you didn’t want to risk them getting wet. That’s a logical thing to do. If you really need one, you’ll figure it out. (Shortly afterward, there was a line on the left of people under umbrellas holding kleenex boxes upside down so they would stay dry for the runners.  SCORE! After I grabbed one and blew with sweet glory,  I made a mental note that there will be unexpected GOOD surprises, too!)
  • You’re at mile 4 and you’re already second guessing whether or not you can do this.  You have more than 22 miles left. You’ll be out here for at least 4.5 more hours.  You’re toast. Think about how you struggled on a handful of other races and long runs but you made yourself stop focusing on the negative and finally turned things around.  You did it those times, you can do it again.
  • Maybe it’ll get better. OH DEAR GOD, IT’S RAINING HARDER.  There goes my other foot in a huge puddle.  You can’t avoid the water in the road!  It’s going to just get harder from here so you better figure this out quickly. Rain might suck in these temps but this rain is helping the drought.  In the whole scheme of things, that’s way more important. See this rain as a blessing.  It IS a blessing!
  • Why did you think you could ever do this?  Why didn’t you just stick with half marathons?  Everyone’s going to be so disappointed in you if you don’t finish. How are you going to live with yourself?  Is this the best you can do? You signed up for this because you knew you could do it!  You have it in you!  You’re running this race for YOU and YOU alone.  More important than disappointing anyone else in this world is the possibility of disappointing yourself. Ain’t gonna happen!  You believe in yourself!  You stopped beating yourself up a long time ago and you aren’t going to start up again at the beginning of your marathon.  You deserve better! You can do better!

After I started turning my negative thoughts around, I realized one HUGE thing missing from this race was ENJOYMENT.  The key to a positive running experience for me is joy.  You have to find joy SOMEWHERE.  I realized I’d been looking down at the road, missing the beautiful neighborhoods we were running through and there were some truly magnificent homes to look at once I lifted my head up and looked around!  I realized I hadn’t listened to my music in over a mile and I needed to enjoy the music playing on my iPod. I realized I had a choice to stay as positive as possible or drown in sea of negativity.  I decided to focus on the positive.

Life got a lot better once I turned my mental game around!  I’m glad I pulled it together when I did because it was around mile 6 when we started on the gradual incline that lasted a few miles.  Denise was still with me, like I expected, and we started strategizing when we would take a bathroom break.  I have to admit feeling very envious of the men lined up by the bushes near the creek on our left and also have to confess that I did eye some of the heavier brush, wondering if I could pull off peeing on the side of the road if worse came to worse.  I also quickly realized that the last time I peed on the side of the road, I was living in Weimar, it was very dark, I had a friend watching for cars, and there might’ve been a few drinks involved.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to rationalize this possibility until at least mile 18. <wink!> Thankfully for all involved, the lines to the port-0-potties shrank considerably once the half-marathoners split off at mile 9.  We stopped at the first set afterwards and were so happy to finally go!  We took off running but Denise realized she left her water bottle so she ran back to get it.  We knew this potty break added a few minutes to our race, but when you gotta go, you gotta go.

I was really enjoying my run at this point.  I felt reenergized, renewed, and dedicated to doing my best to see this race to the finish.  I knew I wouldn’t throw in the towel, no matter what I faced as the race went on.  Something had clicked over in my head and I was determined like nobodys business!

Around mile 11, we started approaching the lake.  I untucked my parka from my spibelt and put it back on as the rain started falling harder.  We ran up a hill and the wind hit us.  Wow.  They weren’t kidding when they said the wind would be stronger coming off of the lake.  The temps had dropped a couple of degrees and I was so grateful to still have my parka!  We walked for a short time to get a gu out, stretch our calves, and get our gear all in check.  My parka didn’t come off again until I was less than 2/10 of a mile from the finish line.

I had been so fearful about the lake that when I was faced with the reality of the lake, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.  When we were running into the north wind, I’d look further ahead to see where the path would turn so we would be protected with the trees again.  We had some fun banter with a few people here and there and that was great.  Connecting with people running and spectators along the way really helped!  We saw Denise’s family at some point and her cute little girl had tears in her eyes.  She was so proud of her mama!  It was so sweet that I teared up too!  Denise was crying as we left them and I put my arm around her and we just basked in the love of her family.  That was one of my favorite moments of the whole race =)

Around mile 16, I noticed my lower back was starting to hurt.  We stopped at one point and stretched some and it helped for awhile.  We used the port-o-potties one more time @ mile 18 and we had to stand in line for 0 minutes, 0 seconds.  We were in and out pretty quick.  I stretched my back again a little bit by bending over.  That was the only thing I could think of to stretch it.  Denise offered to massage it for me and it hurt like a mother but I felt some relief afterwards.  I’ve had back pain a handful of times in the last almost 2 years of running but never anything that lasted for miles and miles so I was hopeful it would go away sooner or later.  I was hoping for sooner.  Little did I know…

Around mile 20 it thundered pretty loud and the rain was POURING down.  I’m going to be conservative when I say it rained 90% of the time.  Sometimes the rain was light, sometimes moderate, and a few times very heavy.  By mile 9, I was completely okay with having wet feet.  No big deal.  Except for at mile 3 when my first drenched foot set my mental game spiraling downward, having wet feet never factored into my performance during the race.  After thinking back, BIG LESSON LEARNED.  I was so worried, so freaked out, by something that ended up being NOTHING to me at the end.  Focus on the positive.  Roll with the punches.

The “Dolly Parton” hills were coming up @ mile 22 and they were deep in my head.  I still hadn’t seen my parents and kids and was starting to wonder if they had made it on to the course at some point.  We talked about them being around mile 21 but when we saw my coach, Carolyn, and another Rogue coach, Ruth, around mile 21, Carolyn said my mom should be a little later down the road.  I was cautiously optimistic but something was telling me maybe they wouldn’t be there.  I was hoping to eat some of the peanut butter crackers I’d put in my bag for Katie to carry but realized that might not happen and I need to be okay if I didn’t get any.  I was feeling okay but a little anxious about the hills and sad that I hadn’t seen my family yet.  It was great to see our coaches and it helped me feel mentally stronger, but my back was starting to hurt more often than not and all of the bending down to stretch and anything I could think of was not providing relief for very long and I didn’t know how I could still run for another hour plus with my back hurting this bad and virtually no relief.  We ran into the next water station and I slowed to a walk, skipping the water, and put my arms up near my head to block my face from the water stop volunteers because I started crying from the pain.  I felt like I might throw up.  It hurt that bad.  But I also figured out something during that water stop and it was the BIGGEST LESSON I learned from the race.  By putting my arms up to shield people from my tears, I realized that putting my arms up over my head brought my back some relief.  If I had not cried, being 100% authentic to how I felt at that moment, I would’ve never realized how this motion of my arms above my head helped me tremendously.  I now had something I could do to provide me some momentary relief from the pain and it was something I could do while I was walking so I wouldn’t stop our forward motion completely.  It confirmed that YOU CAN FIND SOMETHING GOOD, EVEN IN REALLY BAD TIMES.  It can happen.  You just have to look at the situation differently to find it.  What a blessing!

The Dolly Parton hills were kind of a joke and not because there were grown men dressed as women with bad blonde wigs and huge ass fake boobs (at least I hope they were fake!)  One even complemented his beer gut by showing it off with his fake boobs resting on it.  I was kind of over the humor of that situation but I took water from one of the guys.  They were also handing out beer which I gladly passed over.  That was one of a handful of places offering beer.  Beer.  No thanks.  Once you run the hills in Austin, nothing like the Dolly Parton hills will intimidate you.  So although our pace slowed some, this was nothing like I expected.

Around mile 23 we saw a FANTASTIC SITE and that was the beautiful, smiling faces of Saira and Ade!  That told us they would hop in on the course with us, AFTER FINISHING THEIR HALF MARATHONS, and run with us for awhile.  I wasn’t sure what I would think about this, to be honest.  I knew without a doubt I would want to see them, hug them, and hear their words of encouragement, but I didn’t know if that would translate into needing them to run with us.  Well, let me say that having them run with us was JUST what both me and Denise needed.  We needed to hear about how they did, how the other Northside Runaways were fairing on the course, and we needed to have their support.  I can’t think of a better time when they could’ve joined us, either.  We talked with them, shared our struggles, and just ran with them supporting our hearts and minds.  They stayed with us for about 2 miles I think and then they hopped back off the course.  As soon as they left us, Denise started crying.  It meant so much to her and so much to me to have them with us.  So sweet.  Definitely in the top 3 of my favorite points in the race.

Being so close the finish, we both knew we could do this.  I still had to stop on occasion to stretch my hands over my head and get some relief from the pain and @ mile 25, I started getting a headache.  I know that can be a sign of dehydation so I made sure I kept drinking water and took advantage of the next water stop.  Once we saw the mile 26 marker, we knew the end was near and Denise asked me if I had anything left in my tank to run it in fast.  I said “Yup!” and off we went.  We were powering through those last 2/10ths of a mile and I head “Shelley Gwynn!  Shelley Gwynn!” from the left side of the course and I knew my mom was in the spectator stands cheering me on.  It was the final push I needed to cross the finish line going 9mph, according to my Garmin.  Not bad for the end of my first marathon in 40 degree weather with rain for 24+ miles and north winds.  Not bad at all.

We ended up running 26.2 miles in 5:38:38.  That included two port-o-potty stops, retrieving Denise’s water bottle, my mental breakdown @ mile 22, and weather almost from hell.  There were 25K people signed up for the half/full marathon and marathon relay but only just over 15K finishers.  I was one of the finishers.  Here are some of my results:

1686 total first time marathoners – I placed 1415.

700 female first time marthoners – I placed 550.

Out of the 1686 total first timers, I placed:

1487 in the first 5K.

1613 in the first 10K.

1584 in the first half.

1473 in the first 20 miles.

1415 in the final 10K.

That means after my first 6.2 miles, I improved at every point all the way until the end.  This makes me very proud.

We walked from the finish line, hugging really hard once, and I saw my son and Dad on along the fence line.  It was so good to see their faces!  We walked into the Centennial Building and I made a beeline to the medical services section for some Tylenol for my headache.  Then I walked over to get my medal.  It’s beautiful!  Denise and I stopped to take a race photo together and then we picked up our finisher tech tees.  We heard there had been chicken noodle soup and at this point, it was after 2pm and I hadn’t had anything substantial to eat since 7am.  I was HUNGRY!  I grabbed a half of a bagel and we saw the soup.  It tasted sooooo good!  We left the Centennial Building and headed over to the Automobile Building to reunite with our families.  We found Denise’s first and they were so happy to see her!  They were beaming with pride and I was too.  Denise doesn’t always realize how strong she is but she showed it out there on race day.  She was our rock that day and I really appreciate everything she did for us out there.  I’ve made a lifelong friend.  Her daughter is 9 and my daughter is 10 and they hit it off on Saturday when they saw each other for a brief period of time.  We plan on getting  the four of us together sometimes and I think that is an excellent idea!

I finally saw my son and then I heard how they drove all over the area trying to figure out how to get to the race course with so many streets blocked or closed and how they finally gave up after an hour and decided to just go to the finish line because they were worried they’d miss me all together.  When Kate saw me she ran to me so fast and hugged me so tight.  It felt so good!

So that’s my race report.  I can tell you I’m hurting today!  My joints seem to hurt a little more every time I get up from a sitting position.  My back is still super tight and my calves, quads, and hammies talk to me on a regular basis.  I hope to get a massage later this week.  We’re having a Rogue Northside Runaways group 3 mile run on Wednesday night for all of us marathoners.  Gulp.  Here we go again!

And here is how I’ll end this super long, can’t-believe-you’re-still-reading-this, blog.  I will run another marathon!  I’m not sure when, I’m not sure where, and it won’t be anytime soon.  Maybe another winter marathon next year or the Spring of 2013, but I will be running another marathon again.  Mark my words =)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jackie
    December 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    You’re Amazing! I’m so proud of you!!! 🙂

  1. February 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm

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