I came. I ran. I fell down.

If you want to get a workout, go for a run.
If you want to feel accomplished, run a marathon.
If you want to question your existence, run an ultra marathon.

Technically a 30K isn’t really an ultra marathon. An ultra marathon is anything over marathon distance (26.2 miles or 42.2k). So my race on Saturday wasn’t an ultra marathon, even though they had ultra distances. You could have fooled me. It was, hands down, the hardest race I ever ran. With more than 80 races under my belt including obstacle runs and actual ultra marathons, that is quite a statement.

Let’s start at the beginning. Wednesday of last week I boarded the plane and jetted off to Poland. 8.5 hours later we landed in Warsaw hopped into a cab and drove around seeing the city. Then back on a plane for a short ride to Krakow. We spent the night and explored a bit of the city the next day. Nothing crazy, just about 5 miles of exploring.

Friday we took off on a train to Rzeszów to meet with our contact and get all set for the race. He was an awesome guy, named Wojtekand explained to us that we were meeting with 4 Ukrainians who were also participating in the race. Apparently there is another sister city in the Ukraine. Together we walked about 2 miles to the sports complex for our numbers and final instructions. After listening to the race coordinator speak in Polish for half an hour I still had no idea what to expect from this race. Wojtek assured me that no matter what, I wouldn’t get lost and it would be fine. It would be roads and hilly meadows and I would be fine. Just in case, I stuck an extra map in my bag. It would be fine. FINE! My mother in law promised to get a car or taxi and meet me at some places on the course to check in. I should have guessed from how hard they tried to assure me that it would be fine, that it definitely wouldn’t.

Fast forward to race morning.

We walked the two miles back to the sports complex to get the bus to the start line. I am now alone with a bus full of strangers who don’t speak English. No problem. I’ll just run through my game plan. Start slow, walk hills, conserve water, pay close attention to trail markers. Pretty solid plan. We got off the bus, took care of the essentials (ahem porta potty), and toed the start line….at the back of the pack. I’m no dummy. Speed is not my thing. That is why I run long distances.

My watch decided as the gun went off that it was not going to track today. It just didn’t feel like it. Off to great start!

We started off going up and down 3 pretty severe hills through a little city. Then we took a turn to some cute little farm lands. Just like I expected the climb was up, Up, UP. It wasn’t so bad. Just some back fields and deep ruts from 4-wheelers. It was tough to get footing so I ended up walking quite a bit. Nothing worse then hurting yourself early in a race. All the other racers disappeared. I was sure I could catch up on the downhill later. It was quite pretty. Breathtaking even – but that could have been the hills.

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Beautiful view from the top (not my pic, my attempt at this photo sucked)
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Go into the creepy tunnel. Perfectly safe I swear.

I ran/walked along the rough trail and noticed we were skirting around some woods. Until the trail abruptly turned into something that looked like the beginning of every “Into the Woods” horror movie. Pay no attention to instinct and follow these little yellow banners into the deep dark woods.

Well it didn’t take long for me to get lost. The markers on the trees were pretty spread out and when the path forked into two directions with a marked tree in the middle I picked the wrong way. I made it about 2K before I realized I had to be on the wrong path. I got myself straightened out and spent the next 10K struggling up and down mud slicked, steep ledges covered in black beetles that made me think of the Mummy movies.

After stumbling through some weird chapel gathering in the woods (no blood stains anywhere, so I don’t think it was a horror movie set) I began a pretty steep climb to the top of a ledge. Reminded me of hiking trails, expect without ropes to help you up. And then a very dramatic fall down to the bottom. I can still feel these awesome bruises on my legs. I fell once more in the woods but less dramatically. There were only a few curse words uttered.

Eventually I left the woods to see a taxi hanging out on the side of the road. An angel in the form of my mother-in-law refilled my water bottle and told me I wasn’t far from the first checkpoint. Of course I had spilled most of my water during one of my falls. I checked in some time later and luckily one of the volunteers spoke English. I refueled and headed back out. It was downhill from here right? RIGHT?!

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Moo to you too.

Not so much. I ran down into a nice little valley and into some cool farm lands. I even saw this cute cow chillin’ on the side of the pasture near the road. I snapped a quick picture and yelled out “Hey cow!” as I trotted past. Because I talk to animals. Because I love animals. Because I am an idiot. Big mistake.

The cow got up and started walking over to me. I slowed down because I noticed it had horns. I REALLY didn’t want to be charged by a steer. Not on my to-do list. So I panicked and started walking super slow. This fella followed me for about half a kilometer, giving me mini heart attacks the whole way. Then it turned into a pasture on the right and left me be. It was nice to breathe again.

There was not much happening after that until I reached the river. Just more terrible terrain. For some reason every time we got on road and I felt comfortable picking up the pace, we managed to veer off into the woods again. At this point I started using swear words to make entire sentences. I could have given the Wolf of Wall Street a run for its money on swear words per minute. Especially as I scrambled through an ACTIVE QUARRY with construction workers and over these “bridges”. Needless to say my shoes got soaked and I didn’t have extra socks.

After crossing the last huge bridge that looked like the rope bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I was checked in by medical staff that said something like 5KM. I was so excited! 5km and I was done!!! AWESOME!

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You did this on purpose. Jerks.

Just kidding. It was 5km to the real aid station. I still had 12km to go. So back onto my single track trail behind farms and around the river. I swore to myself that next time I would bring a horse. Then I ran smack into this 6 ft bull dozed wall. I was extremely unhappy to have to climb this monster because there was no way around it. The little yellow marker waved over it, mocking me.

Once I was over it, I ran into a few more interesting bits of wildlife. A black dog that scared the crap out of me and some really annoyed birds. Nothing too serious. I exited the woods and must have looked like hell. A little old lady blew me kisses from a bus stop and made me smile again as I headed back towards the city. I ran into the check in spot and only stopped for water. I was running close to the wire on time now and didn’t want to miss the cut off. Luckily the trail emptied me on to the river path which was paved and blissfully flat. Too bad I was so shot at that point I could barely appreciate it. I had felt the pull in my leg on the last fall I took and knew there was something not good going on in there (later discovered the groin pull, nothing serious, just enough to slow you down). I struggled to hit my stride for the last 5k, but a nice medic on a bike kept me company. He was enjoying practicing his English on me and asking me tons of questions about the states. Medical staff and volunteers are truly amazing under-appreciated gifts to runners.

Triumphantly I ran up the hill by my hotel and headed into the city’s square. I hit the mats at 1 minutes and 29 seconds over the cut off time. Not that anyone cared. There were still other runners on the course from the other distances. Luckily it wasn’t a strict cut off race.

For the first time in a long time I cried. Yup. At a race finish. I was so glad to be done. I took off my favorite Tifosi sunglasses (which I left on a bench and cried about losing later) and used baby wipes to try and make myself look human. Luckily they let me shower before the award ceremony. They brought the Sister Cities participants on stage to present them with trophies.

Funny enough, I do appreciate the local Sister Cities rep inviting me back for the “normal marathon” in three weeks. I wish I had ran that one to begin with! In parting, I would love to visit Poland again, and possibly run another race. But I will be finding someone who ran it first and find out what kind of race it REALLY is before I sign up.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?

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Thanks for reading this small novel! 

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The other side of the road

The grass is always greener right?

Well for runners the other side of the road is always smoother. Less sloped. Less potholes. In the shade. Has a better view. Even if none of those things are true, we are totally convinced.

I am about to share something totally personal. I thought my life would be complete once I was a mother. Totally and utterly complete with a tiny pair of feet in my life. I would need NOTHING else. Ever. If I could just have a little bundle of joy I would never want anything. Imagine my great surprise after having my daughter in June that I would want to run. Long for it. Wistfully watch my neighbors trotting around with their  dog. See running advertisements and get annoyed. I would hold my darling little girl and wonder why I wanted to be out there when she was so incredibly perfect and I could stay in that living room with her forever. Clearly, I was bordering on mad.

Then I realized that even though I finally had the thing I wanted for so long, I couldn’t, and didn’t have to give up what I use to love. I didn’t have to reform my identity from RUNNER to MOM. It didn’t have to be absolute. I could be both. Sure, the part of running I loved the most, racing, would have to take a hit. I can’t do 30 races a year and blow through half marathons every weekend. But why I can’t I do both? Why can’t I be that mom who takes an hour for herself to hit the streets; more importantly, why can’t I do it without feeling guilty? Call it a work in progress.

Luckily I was able to reignite my passion. Last weekend I did the Phoenix Half Marathon. My first half since I got married in October 2014 (yes, it was part of our honeymoon). I will admit. I didn’t train. At least not really. I did some workouts in my office at lunchtime because it is too easy to be lazy at home. But I wouldn’t say I did much “running”. No matter. I finished. It was glorious. Covered in salt, slightly dehydrated, sunburnt, and sore. My heart was beating so fast I could hear it in my ears. Somehow, someway, I have found something that I didn’t know I was missing. I am hooked again.

So much so, I wrote a letter to a committee to attempt to run a very special race. I won’t say anything else yet, but hopefully it works out!

What did I really learn? Running can’t be escaped. It soaks into your soul and becomes a part of you. Like a best friend you can never let go of. Sure you may lose touch. You may change. But if you need it you can reach right back out and it is there waiting for you. Just like it was waiting for me.

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Oh, and by the way. Phoenix half marathon is worth the trip. Best finish line set up I have seen. I mean, they give you french toast, pulled pork BBQ, popsicles, and free massages! How sweet is that?!

Making a comeback isn’t always easy…

A couple weekends ago I had what I am dubbing my comeback race. The Buffalo Marathon, which was suppose to be my first marathon back in 2011, stood as the marker for my return from injury. Blowing out your LCL and IT Band really makes for a scary comeback. Any tightness and I freak out thinking it is going to tear again.

Anyway, I agreed to do 10K as part of a 4 man relay team. Even though my running had been slow and recovery PT painful, I was feeling pretty good at the start-line. I had a successful 5K a few weeks before (placed first in my age group! It was a small race) and a comfortable 10K with my mom the weekend before at her first 10K and my favorite race, The Chocolate Race! I headed to the line with a friend I knew from work. We agreed that we both needed a bit of a push to keep a steady pace for this race, so we decided to pace each other. I warned her about my knee and she warned me that she was slow. As if Jill!

Off we went, me without a watch (a rarity to me but I had broken mine a few days before), and her calling out the splits at the mile markers. First mile flew by. 10:40 she called out. I was impressed. I had been hitting 11 on a good day during this come back.

Mile two we had some wicked hills. We struggled a bit crawling over the overpasses and passing above the highways. Approaching the water stop she called out 10:08 for the second mile. No way! Even better, I was feeling good. I walked through the water and continued on.

Mile 3 passed in 10:27 and I was feeling the sunshine beating down. We kept pushing each other. Talking and egging each other on. I could feel some struggle but didn’t want to be the first to walk.

Mile 4 was 10:24 and Mile 5 10:30. As we came through the houses and condos on the water I got to see a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while and then passed through the cheering section down in the marina. I saw more people I knew and it fueled me into the last mile.

Mile 6 (11:00) had our last water stop and we definitely needed it. Then we tried to kick it up, racing into the exchange point and handing off to our team members running the next leg of the relay.

I stayed to cheer a bit and thank Jill for keeping me going. We definitely were a good match for each other when it came to pace. I then headed off to the finish line. My tri club was volunteering and I didn’t want to let them down. I spent the rest of the race handing out Gatorade at the finish and eventually Mylar blankets to the marathoners finishing. It was definitely a chilly morning for those not moving a whole lot and I got cold almost immediately.

When our final racer came across the line we celebrated. We all had great times and I believe that I got a 10K PR. I still have yet to look up past 10K times to verify but I’m pretty sure.

Mostly I am just impressed that my body is handling recovery well. There is nothing scarier than seeing your body change for the worse while you try to get over an injury. You never realize how much you rely on running and exercise for stress relief, appetite control, and just general good feelings.

I’m officially back on board with running and will start training again in July for a fall half marathon. I am trying to cut back a bit on the racing to give my body more time to heal. I have a marathon on the schedule again in March 2014 and am considering an adventure race in September this year. I’m going to work on getting stronger and faster so that I can do more of the races I want, with less of the injury that keeps me down.

Cheers to happy running!

PAIN in the Alleghenies – boy they weren’t kidding

I kinda dropped the ball on this post. I thought I wrote about it, but realized that was for a different blog. I write posts for other people’s blogs and newsletters and things….. unfortunately that leaves me a little less time for my own! But no worries here is the recap of the infamous race known as Pain in the Alleghenies. Score-this’s late in the season triathlon and half ironman!

Somehow this started just like all other bad ideas. I said I could do another tri if I only had to swim. Two other people agreed that they wanted to do another without having to swim. These individuals named themselves Team Wet, Wild, & Crazy and signed up for the sprint distance relay.

Fast forward to race day. Meeting at a random parking lot long before dawn we piled in and drove in the pouring rain out to Allegheny National Park. Cursing ourselves for being silly we tried to figure out a plan of attack for the freezing rain. No plan. We were screwed. Arriving at the site, the rain stopped and just left a frozen chill behind. Unpacking the gear I confessed to leaving Fran’s wetsuit at home. It had not fit me and I didn’t own one myself. The temperature was in the 40s and the water in the 60s. And me without a wetsuit. I was one of only two people not wearing one. At least my new trisuit from Ionraic Tri Club looked good.

I just think I looked cold.

When I took off my outer layers I immediately curled up and shivered.

Into the freezing water I went.

In addition to being the coldest water I have been in in YEARS the seaweed was incredible. I actually got caught and had to untangle myself for a good two minutes. It got caught in my suit, my shoulders, my watch, and my Road ID. I emerged from the water looking like swamp thing!

I ran out and transitioned so Fran could go bike. She took off and I ran for the showers. Much to my horror they were FREEZING! I stood under the hand dryer for a minute and then ran to the transition zone to find clothes. I put on all the layers I could find and was still frozen. My solution was to go out and run. I did a mile insanely slow, but got warm enough to feel somewhat human.

Fran arrived back and transitioned to Amanda for the run. We hung around and talked watching the other people transition and move on. Amanda came around the corner and we cheered her into the finish. After grabbing some food we were going to take off, but they started the award ceremony so we decided to stay for a minute. One of the best things about Score-This is the unique prizes they award if you place. Much to our delight we had taken first place in the relay teams (out of at least 3 teams I had seen)! We each got a jar of Once Again nut butter [delicious!] and one of these:

Yup. We got a brick. Brick and a freezing swim. It was a good day in my book.

Rock and Roll Providence 1/2 Marathon Weekend (better late than never!)

Rock and Roll Providence

This one has been a long time coming. Isn’t it funny how some race recaps pop up almost immediately and others get written right before another race?

Anyway, so back in August, off my boyfriend Geoff and I went to Providence! My first Rock and Roll for Team Marathon Bars for this year. Unfortunately they hadn’t finalized the team for when I did New Orleans back in March so this was the first one that counted.

Providence was a cute little town. Honestly, I can’t call it a city because it just was too small. I guess that makes it my kind of city. The biggest city I have ever actually liked was Pittsburgh….places like NYC are just too much for me.

Anyway, arrived in Friday night and settled in at the hotel with some wine and good movies. I have to admit that travelling with someone who loves races as much as I do makes it a million times more fun. I am very lucky to find a man who loves it as much as he loves me.

Saturday we hit up the breakfast and headed to the expo to collect our gear. Team meetup wasn’t until 2pm so we had some time. Honestly, this was the smallest RnR expo ever. There were not many people and the booths were suspiciously empty. Eventually we met up with everyone who was running. Linda, Jill, Hazel, and Beth. It was an all girl party at the Team Marathon tent. We took a bunch of team pictures and caught up on how everyone’s training was going. I think all of us were training for something else and this wasn’t the goal race. Beth was bouncing back from an injury, but the rest of us were working on something else. I have to say, we are one good-looking bunch!!

After the team picture Geoff and I ran off to take a trolley car tour of the city. It was a neat way to get a bit of history and take in the sights. Even though you run through a city during a race, sometimes you don’t take everything in because you are focused on your race. That happened to me in Philly last year (I had no idea I ran past a bunch of historical stuff!) so I was glad I got to see it from a trolley. Plus it was raining, so a covered tour was ideal. I have to admit I was most impressed by the GIANT BLUE TERMITE. He is apparently an icon of Providence.

The tour ended and we headed over to the mall for a bit. Providence Place mall is apparently THEE PLACE TO BE. We had some time to kill so we spent some time playing games in Dave and Busters.
Then we headed to Waterplace for dinner with the team. After a HUGE (seriously HUGE) portion of delicious pasta we headed outside for the sunset. Waterfire, a huge festival/party thing on the water was about to happen. They light fires on the river and it was absolutely amazing. It’s part of this whole ceremony and very cool to see. People lined the streets to see them light the fires.

After we walked down the river and saw all the burners and vendors we headed back to the hotel to rest up.

RACE DAY!!

Perfect morning for it. Definitely a smaller rock and roll. I started with the 5th corral. The first couple miles were tough going. All uphill through the town. I was definitely struggling to get going. I’ve been having warm up trouble and it was showing. It has been taking about 5 miles to warm up for me. So right about the 5 mile mark I hit my stride and dropped from 11:30 to about 10mm flat. There I cruised for about 5 miles. The last 5k wove back and forth over bridges and through the city. It had warmed up by that point and I was ready for the end. My knee and ankle seemed to think running hills was a horrible idea. As I saw the finish line RISING in the distance I started yelling at people directing us on the course. “OF COURSE the finish is UPHILL! OF COURSE IT IS!!” For some reason I was more than slightly annoyed that the course ended uphill. I even jokingly accused some little boy of putting the hill there on purpose. He laughed and thought I was funny. I thought it was funny too and got a good picture out of it. I ended up finishing under 2:30, which is all I wanted for this “training run”.

After finishing I hung out with all the folks in the team tent handing out bars to people. When it was clear that there was going to be HUGE amounts of leftover bars we loaded up a big box to take back with us. Geoff scooted out to the information booth to get his Heavy Medal (this was his 5th RnR this year so he earned the Rock Star medal) and we took some more team and individual triumph pictures. I must say it was pretty AWESOME. I hadn’t seen many of my teamies this year so it was pretty cool to see 4 at one time!

Later that day we had incredible seafood at this place called “The Crow’s Nest” on the water. First time I’ve ever had calm chowder and I was amazed. We had a seafood feast that was simply amazing. Delicious beyond words. I guess that is what you get for being on the coast.

Monday we packed up and left. It was a great weekend and I would definitely visit there again. There aren’t many cute little cities anymore….especially not with amazing food and races 🙂

My First Triathlon – The Recap

What does it mean to be a Triathlete?
-It means you completed the distance. You did not give up. You did not drown, crash, or stumble…..and if you did, you got back up. No matter how long it took or how difficult it was, you finished.

A Tri in the Buff has defined me as a Triathlete. I completed the Sprint distance and it was the hardest thing I have ever completed. I feel like I have said that frequently as of late. A few weeks ago I completed in an obstacle distance race that made 5.5 miles feel like an 8 hour mountain climb.

The triathlon took the cake over the obstacle race. You hold nothing back and at the end you have nothing left.

Here is how it went down:

I packed and repacked my bag 8,000 times the night before. Pins and bibs in place, glide at the ready, and KT Tape in place. I woke up freaking out, shoved down some breakfast and spent the hour it took to drive out there frantically repacking my bag in my head. I was sure I had forgotten something. I arrived at the race site and immediately calmed down.  I had made it. That meant my friends were there (Fran and Sam especially) and I couldn’t go home without finishing. I wouldn’t live it down. As I have told myself over and over…I am way too stubborn to fail at what I put my mind to.

I got my bike into prime position. The only good thing about having a 10 year old’s Huffy mountain bike is that you get to be in the Fat Tire Rack. Meaning you are super close to the Bike In/Out transition area, a fact I was infinitely grateful for. Everything was all laid out and my mom had braided my hair to fit under my swim cap. I fantasized briefly about chopping all my waist-length hair off so that it would fit under a cap. I spent the remaining time before the races started distributing Marathon Bars to various triathlon clubs. I honestly felt more comfortable with the Trivault athletes then my own Tri group Ionraic. Mostly because I knew all the Trivault people from work. I hadn’t had the opportunity to workout with Ionraic since I joined so close to the race. As the waves were set to go off I headed down the beach. I watched everyone getting ready in their wetsuits and freaked out about why I hadn’t rented one. I felt so out of place, but had never swam in one before and felt strange about it.

When it came time to enter the corral to get ready to swim I freaked out a little. Then I saw Fran. She assured me I wouldn’t drown and for some reason I believed her. I had become so worried about the swim. Those floating markers were SO FAR away. Suddenly I got really calm and then started making jokes. We were all nervous in the gates. Little did I know my boyfriend took a shot of my nervous face….. (yeah that’s me in the green top)

 

When we finally got in the water and walked out to the marker I felt a sharp pain in my foot. I pulled it up and noticed two deep cuts on my left foot. I had stepped on zebra mussels and sliced my foot open. I felt panicked again…..how could I possible run?? Next thing I know the 30 second warning was given and the woman next to me started freaking out a bit. I decided to comfort her instead of worrying about my foot. I was there and there was no turning back.

BOOOM!!!! GO!!!!!

Off we went into the waters. The goal was to swim out to the marker, turn right and swim to the next marker, then swim back to shore. Essentially a giant rectangle. About 100 meters out, the other women started to pull ahead. I was left with about five people around me and two behind. Suddenly the woman I started with started screaming. “I’m freaking out! I’M FREAKING OUT!!! IT’S TOO FAR!!!” I tried to talk her down and keep swimming. I told her to flip over and float, but without a wet suit she was too panicked to float successfully. She frantically started waving her arms around her head and the lifeboat started to descend on us. Quickly I swam faster, afraid they would pick me up and not let me finish. Alternating freestyle and breaststroke I turned the first marker. Suddenly it was just me and the lake. It was really peaceful. I just drifted and swam towards my next marker. I was suspended and completely comfortable. I kept telling myself I had been swimming in this lake since I was a child and this was no different. It was very meditative….approaching the last marker I ran out onto the beach. There was an incline up to the bike zone, so I walked and took my time. I could feel sand in my cut but tried to ignore it.

Quickly I transitioned and choked down a gel. I slipped on my racing jersey with my number and I felt good. Leaving the bike area I thought the hardest part was over……HA!

I knew my bike was a poor choice, but there was no help for it. It was all I had. Much to my surprise however, it wouldn’t change gears. Whatever tune-ups my father had made to it the day before made the gears stick. I was being passed by leisurely paced riders…..
Then the worst of it. Coming down off a big hill two women were riding side-by-side (illegal). They came up next to me unannounced (also illegal) and were slow in passing me. Zooming down on us was one of the serious Olympic distance racers calling out “On your left!” The women drifted closer to me and I drifted closer to the side of the road……WHAM!

Suddenly my right shoulder was on fire and I couldn’t figure out why. I veered onto the gravel and struggled to maintain control on my bike. Luckily I didn’t crash, and my frustrated yell gave the two women a sudden urge to get away from me. Glancing back, I could see a mailbox quivering on the side of the road. I had smashed into it because I had no room. I hadn’t even seen it coming. The rest of the ride was somewhat of a blur. I entered the final turn and was glad to just get off the bike. My back and shoulder were hurting and I just wanted to be done. I was already so tired. Nap time never sounded so good.

In went the bike and I was out of the second transition in under a minute. I finally experienced that rubber leg feeling I was lucky to never experience in my brick workouts. I was not a happy camper. I alternated run/walking for the first 2 miles. Then I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and just went for it. I was ready for the finish. Finding some kind of motivation I rounded the final corner and made it under the archway.

 

I HAD FINISHED!

I enjoyed some well deserved Timbits and had a little post race chat sessions with my friends. Then in the awards ceremony I got a bit of a surprise. I had won second place in my division! My prize? Armwarmers and a jar of almond butter….and I couldn’t have been more pleased 🙂 The first place winner (Lindsay, who I use to work with) took a picture with me on the podium. I was seriously happy to be finished….but you know what? I did it!!!!

I’m a Triathlete!!!

 

What happens at the Flying Pig……

…..makes you go weeee weee weeee all the way home.

Some months ago (I believe it was November) my training buddies and I decided we were going to run the marathon in Cincinnati. Why? Because we had fashioned ourselves to be “Team Bacon” because we always ended up talking about bacon during our training runs. So all of us signed up. I even had training shirts made up with our bacon names on the back. Crispy, Peameal, Squeezie, and of course Morningstar (I am a vegetarian, so I get to be vegetarian bacon). Over the next couple months life took some of us away from our training. Two baconators dropped to the half. Stubborn me stuck it out to the full. (Peameal also stuck it out). Now the kicker: Two weeks before the race I started getting pain in my left foot and ankle. Uncontrollable swelling and soreness sat me on my butt for a whole week with the marathon looming.

What’s a gal to do? RUN THE MARATHON OF COURSE! After all, I just thought it was tendonitis….[sarcastic laughter]

Off to Cincy I go. My boyfriend agreed to travel with me and run the half (there are many perks of having a runner boyfriend) so we arrived late Friday evening at the Millenium Hotel after battling awful traffic and rain all the way from Buffalo.

Up for the party the next morning, we headed off to the expo to meet the other bacon buddies and pick up the goodies. Of course we were greeted by adorable flying pigs.

Flying Piggies!

As for the expo itself, I was VERY impressed! I’ve done tons of races and been to many an expo, usually the only ones that impress me are the Rock and Roll series expos. For a local race, this expo was spectacular. P&G had a huge table were they were giving away TONS of free stuff. Full bottles of shampoo, as much dish soap as you can carry, personal care items, perfumes, toothbrushes, basically anything you could fit in your bag. There were plenty of other vendors as well, local shops and stores had big displays and free t-shirts. I made sure to visit the KT Tape booth and get my ankle taped by an expert. I thought my ankle pain was being caused by Peroneal Tendonitis (boy was I wrong!). I worked my way through the booths and got lots of goodies ending with the race premiums. A great shirt, duffle bag, and race poster! All very nice!

After the expo we got situated for tomorrow in our room and then headed over into Kentucky for a traditional pasta dinner. On the way back from dinner I managed to find the cutest flying pig! Queen Porktunia was definitely my favorite pig of all the ones we saw.

The Queen and I

After dinner, we watched some movies before crashing. I was starting to get really nervous about the race. I just kept reminding myself that if it hurt really bad I could just finish the half. The races start together, but split at about the 8.5 mile mark. I just figured I could take the half course if it was really bad.

Feeling great early on.

Well it started great.

I pumped up my playlist and stuck to my guns as far as a race plan went. I still had my pace-band on for my goal time, even though I knew it was a bit of a pipe-dream. I set my watches for 5-1 intervals. I hate talking such frequent walk breaks, especially that early, but figured walking early and often would save my ankle from swelling too much.

I felt pretty great through the first 10 miles. The hill that everyone kept talking about was not so bad. Honestly the view from the top was completely worth it. You could look down on the river and it was really cool looking. When the split came at the 8.5 mark, I felt like I could really finish this. I added another escape clause. Should I completely die, I could always stop at a relay exchange and bus back to the finish. But I doubted it would come to that. I was feeling fine.

But oh the day was heating up. The med tents changed the flags to yellow (meaning heat warnings) and the hills started coming fast and hard. The first “big hill” in the race was pretty gradual. These later hills were steep and tough on the legs and feet. Somewhere around 14-15 miles, my ankle started throbbing. The pain got really intense, really quickly. I had to stop and walk for a while. I was so caught up in my pain that I felt sick. I didn’t even really realize someone was talking to me. Somewhere between 16-18 a medical person had come up to me and started talking and lead me off the course to the med tent. Apparently because I wasn’t responding correctly and looked “a little green around the gills” they decided to remove me from the course. They sat me down, gave me water and took off my shoe when I spluttered out what was happening. My foot was about twice the size of the other one. About twenty minutes later, after I had started getting really agitated, they let me go back out on the course.

Within a mile my legs were cramping terribly from having sat down so long. My hands were starting to swell and I had stopped sweating. The extra bottle and a half of water I had drunk in the med tent had derailed my fueling. I had too much water and not enough salt. Panicked, I ate the rest of my e-load tablets and choked down my last endurolyte. It still wasn’t enough, but at least it got me sweating again. Somehow I made it up to the highway for the final stretch of 4 miles. Some angels were giving out cold towels. It was a miracle because it had gotten so hot. But I was still upright and moving. My run had turned into a long stroll pucntuated by a slow jog every now and again.

Run for the finish!

At times it felt like a death march. I was watching the time and quarter miles tick by on my trusty Garmin. All I kept thinking was “get me to the damn finish line”. Somewhere around 23-24 miles a medical person on a bike started riding next to me. He was asking me questions again. Was I okay? Did I need help? Did I need water? I said no more water and I would be okay in about 2 miles. At that point I had come to far to quit. I NEEDED that finish line. I needed to run across it no matter how much it hurt.

Coming down into the final stretch I started running. I just wanted to be done. Blowing past people watching and ending the race too I sprinted until I could see the banner. My boyfriend suddenly appeared at my side and ran in with me.  The medal and some salt. That’s all I wanted. I crossed the mats about 8 minutes slower than my last marathon effort. My first reaction was angry thoughts at the medical people. If I could only have those 20 minutes back! But they were just doing their jobs and I should be glad for it.

We walked back to the hotel room (we couldn’t find the shuttle) after getting all the food I could handle. The following shower was amazing. There is no feeling in the world like a shower after a marathon. You just kinda sit on the floor under the water and think “did I really just do that?”. Honestly, there is no way to describe it. It is a tired elation in your body that is probably only equaled by childbirth.

The only thing that made it better was the Pizza Hut pizza we had for dinner. Never did pizza taste so good.

THE AFTERMATH:

After doing the smart thing and visiting a doctor, it has been discovered that I have two stress fractures in my left foot. One is a grade 2 in the first metatarsal, the second is a grade 3 in my ankle. I’m not allowed to even think about trying to run for 8-12 weeks. Any more running on it will cause severe damage to my ankle that is fixable only by surgery. I will find out early next week if I have to wear a boot or get a cast. In the meantime I am to stay off it and absolutely NOT RUN. Luckily the only race it appears I will be missing is the Toronto Women’s Half Marathon at the end of the month. But I think I am okay with that….. now I get to cheer on all my friends at the Buffalo Marathon from the comfort of a lawn chair with my boot up. Be on the lookout for me and my cow bell! Maybe I’ll even bring my flying pig with me…….