Monday, November 17, 2008


Warning Long Post Ahead
Never in my life would I have imagined training for and running in a long distance race. I've never considered myself a runner and until about 3 years ago, I hadn't ran, except for the few years I played basketball in jr high and high school. Even then my running wasn't much of running. I would run a few times up and down the court GASPING for air, hoping that my coach would feel the need to substitute someone in for me. I dreaded the off season days of going out to the track and running a mile or maybe two. I was always one of the few that would stop to walk, no matter what. It seems strange that over eighteen years and four kids later, my body is able to accomplish things I thought were impossible.

The past ten to twelve weeks I have been on a training schedule that I found for marathon and half marathon rookies. I did really well the first seven or so weeks, even running on my rest days (which is probably a no-no). I then was faced with sick kids, which resulted in a sick mom unable to run much. I fell short on some long training runs, even skipping a few to do family things on Saturdays. The farthest I trained in one day (split into two different runs) was a little over eight miles. What on earth was I thinking? I have four children, a husband, church callings, birthdays, holidays,...these all come before my running. I finally decided I would just run the days I was able and when it came race day, surely my body would sustain me.

I suffered through hip pain, foot pain, a HUGE plantars wart, and numerous other aches while training. I was more determined than ever to accomplish my goal. Having been someone who has set many goals only accomplishing a few 100%, I told myself I would do anything do make it across the finish line. I would take picture of the display on the treadmill and text them to someone (mostly Greg), knowing I wasn't seeking his approval, but my own. Then, the unthinkable happens. I begin to feel sluggish. I press on. Rising each morning, getting the girls off to school and the making my way to gym. I set my time on the treadmill, dreading each step from the first to the last. I run through my pain, having to slow my pace at times, but never giving up. I felt my body rejecting my attempts at running thirteen miles. I didn't feel right. Something was happening to my body, but I didn't know what. I felt jittery, but a jittery without energy. I requested a consult from my personal physician (aka Greg). He seemed confused when he would take my blood pressure and then my resting heart rate. My blood pressure always was normal even though my normal might be a tad low for others. My heart rate was concerning to him and might explain my sluggishness. Elite athletes have slow resting heart rates. For example, Lance Armstrong's is 45. Each time we took mine it was right around 40. WHAT??? I'm no elite athlete. Yes, I run either 5 or 6 days a week, but mostly only a few miles each time, gasping for air, and trudging through each stride I make. That isn't elite in my mind, mor Greg's. After several days of feeling this way he made a call to a cardiologist that he knows. He thought since I was running every day it was "normal". I wasn't buying it. Again, I'm not elite, and am still carrying around a few post-pregnancy pounds from Meg.

A week before my half marathon debut, I began to experience the worst shoulder and arm pain I have ever felt. I really thought I would die. It hurt worse than the contractions I felt with my first labor ( I was blessed to get epidurals the other three times before I was in too much pain). I curled into a fetal position and cried, begging someone to take the pain away. It took some powerful pain drugs (which I never take) to ease the pain a smidget. Two days later I felt like would survive, but Greg wanted me to have an MRI to make sure I didn't have a disk in my neck pressing on a nerve. MRI was normal, other than the radiologist saying I had arthritis in my neck. Arthritis? I'm only 36. I kept up my last week of training, which was light, even though it didn't feel that way. I mumbled the words, push through it, over and over and over. I will run this race.

Thursday, my pain returned. Almost more painful than before. Now it felt more like chest pain. I couldn't take deep breaths, bend over, pick anything up...Every move hurt. I made my first visit, as an adult, to the ER. EKG: normal. Chest x-ray: normal. Blood work: normal. Resting heart rate: 40's. Elite athlete??? I've never had to rate my pain on the happy face/screaming face chart, other than when I had my girls. I rated my pain at an 8 when I arrived there, and after some inflammatory meds I rated it a three. I was sent on my way, with a diagnosis of costachondritis or pleurisy ( inflammation in the chest wall). The only thing I came up with that might have caused it was running in cooler temperatures. Breathing in the cool air "bruised" my lungs. My ER discharge orders were to take ibuprofen and to not run for a week or so and especially not my race. NO WAY!! Another of my attempts in life unaccomplished! I felt discouraged, sad, mad, upset, angry. I had worked so hard and was so determined. Now I wouldn't just run slower than my goal time, I wouldn't run at all.
After round the clock ibuprofen and tylenol, I finally begged for some other relief medication. I was able to get something that seemed to help, but didn't completely take away the discomfort. I was determined to give the unthinkable a shot. I may not make my goal time...heck I may not even cross the finish line, but I was going to give it all I had.
My alarm clock sounded at 4:30 a.m. and I sprang out of bed. Having not slept much due to nervousness and excitement, I wondered how I would do. I bundled myself in layers and made the trek downtown with running partners, Greg and his sister Ashley. With temperatures dipping to below freezing on our truck's thermometer, I found myself reluctant yet again. The cold air would surely aggrivate my chest pain, not to mention I consider the perfect running weather to be in the 70's.
Being a part of the Rock N' Roll marathon and half marathon, which had more than 30,000 entries, was amazing. There was a wave start due to the large number of participants, so even though the gun start time was around 7:45, I stepped across the start line sbout 8:20. I documented each mile marker I came to wanting to have proof that I was there, each and every step. I had set my goal time on my entry form a little longer than I thought it would take me. Being my first one, I didn't just want to finish , but finishing under your goal time would be great too.
As I ran each mile I was in awe at how easy it seemed. Well, maybe easy isn't the word I should use, maybe enjoyable is better. I set a pace that was comfortable, one I could maintain, and off I went. Taking in all the energy each runner and spectator possessed helped me incredibly. Also, having Greg close by was a huge comfort and boost. He would run ahead a little but never get so far ahead that I couldn't catchup. The bands were great. The cheering squads, water volunteers, spectators, they all gave me that extra push when I thought about my body being in pain.
As we appoached mile 13 we called my sister Allison and daughter Mackenzi so they could possibly get a picture of us. They were not able to be exactly at the finish line. Just before we go to the finish line they captured this shot of us.

Nearing the finish line where Mackenzi and Allison waited.

Truly an amazing day and experience. I have heard many people say that this can be addicting. I never thought I would think about doing this again; You know like checking something off of your life to do list and never thinking about it again. Well, after arriving home, showering, and slowing walking about my house, I found myself sitting at the computer wanting to register for the 2009 Rock N' Roll here in San Antonio and others. I have a few in mind, but am trying to see which ones will work out with travel, school, and weather.

I am so proud of myself. I hope that doesn't sound bad, but having suffered through years of poor self esteem, this is huge for me. I never quit. I only stopped to take a photo and to shed my pants when I got hot. I was determined to finish what I came there to do and to savor every moment. Things I have always thought impossible may not only be possible now, but enjoyable.