After the marathon I enjoyed spending time with my friends and family. First lunch with my family an BFF Amelia and her adorable family. Then I took a much needed long hot shower. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. The energy in Burlington was electric. And yes I wore my medal the entire night!!
On our way home from Burlington we stopped in the tiny state capital of Montpelier. We wandered around so I could stretch my achy legs! I really love Vermont and these two handsome guys.
The Vermont City Marathon seemed to have the complete opposite effect that Montreal had on me. I have been on the post marathon high since I finished and it’s been two weeks. Maybe it’s the psychological effect of having another tangible goal in the near future. Since I registered for the New England Double I am automatically registered for the Hartford Marathon in October. Just knowing I have that race to run has made me incredibly excited about training. I usually take a few days off of running after a marathon in exchange for nice walks, not this time. I couldn’t wait to go for a run.
Part of that enthusiasm was due to my new running shoes. My sister had purchased a pair of Hoka One One running shoes while I was running the marathon. She suffers from neuromas in both feet. These are essentially caused by thick skin that grows over a nerve in the ball of the foot typically between the 3rd and 4th toe. They are very painful and she is almost always uncomfortable no matter what shoes she wears so she keeps a sharp eye out for comfortable footwear. She was raving about her new Hokas and offered to buy me a pair as a congratulatory gift . I really wasn’t in the mood to try on shoes, but she convinced me and after taking a little spin in the purple Hokas I was sold. My sister’s husband bought a pair as well.
I feel like I’m bouncing on air when I run and my toes don’t hurt anymore something I had come to believe was normal.
I have been running, made a return to strength training and I am hiking whenever I can. I have enjoyed a few trail runs too. I love them. They are so refreshing and tranquil. Moving more translates into eating better too. I’m not perfect, but the last couple of years have proved to me that I don’t have to be perfect to continue to achieve goals and overcome obstacles. I just have to keep trying and doing my best.
I emailed the following to my health coach and I think it sums up perfectly how I’m feeling and where I’m heading:
Vermont City lit a match under me. I have placed way too much emphasis on the outside of my body. I am never going to be a super model. I’m going to continue to age and my body will inevitably change through that process. After reading about the 92 year old woman who finished the San Diego Marathon I came to the conclusion that I would much rather still be running marathons when I’m 92 than be thin. I enjoy being active and in the middle of a race I could care less what I look like. However, I really would like to see what my body is capable of doing, how far I can push it and what else I can accomplish.
I wasn’t really going for the dramatic effect when I ended that last post. It was just getting too wordy. I finished Part 1 of the Vermont City Marathon recap when I was still on the congested trail winding along Lake Champlain. Eventually it came to an end and we re-entered the city. I began to hear the rhythmic sound of the Taiko drummers signaling our ascent up Battery Hill. I got so caught up in the intense energy of the drumming and the unbelievably enthusiastic spectators on both sides of the street that I almost missed my family. My sister suddenly jumped onto the course and told me she was going to run with me for a bit.
I was losing steam at this point as we took off up the massive hill at mile 15. I felt a stitch in my side as we rounded the top of the hill and I had to walk a bit. My stomach could not tolerate a gel, but I felt so parched. I was extremely grateful when someone handed me an orange slice. I wanted something cold and refreshing, not sickly sweet.
I wasn’t expecting my sister to run with me. It was a complete surprise, a very welcome one. Having my sister there with me was more special than she might realize. She may be my younger sister, but I’ve always looked up to her and admired her. Nicole was the athlete when we were growing up. She was a terrific soccer player and physical fitness seemed to come natural to her. I spent years envying her slender figure, petite features, friendly personality and the way she seemed so at ease in every situation.
From a young age I convinced myself that I was everything she wasn’t. I told myself the same story for so long I actually believed it and it strained our relationship terribly. Until one day after having Carlos I told Nicole I wanted to learn to run. That sounds funny doesn’t it. Who doesn’t know how to run? Well I didn’t know how to run without getting winded in two steps. Nicole told me to run the long sides of a track and walk the short sides. I did just that until I could finally run a full loop around and then two and so on. Nicole and I ran my first 5K together, in the pouring rain. That was the moment I caught the running and racing bug. Nicole has been one of my biggest supporters throughout this journey and I am grateful to have this second chance to rebuild our relationship.
My sister stayed by my side until we neared mile 17 where I had another very special guest waiting to run the last nine miles with me.
For the last year and a half I have been seeing a Health Coach. I sought help about 6 months after the Montreal Marathon because I simply could not push past the funk I had fallen into and whatever it was that sent me hurling back into old behaviors. Laura is part running/fitness coach, part nutritionist, part life coach and part therapist. She has been a steady source of support throughout my injury and has really helped me come to terms with the runner I am today post injury.
After I made the decision to register for Vermont City she offered to run with me for a bit. I never imagined she would run 9 miles with me. Those last 9 miles were mentally and physically challenging. The stitch in my side would not go away and when it finally did my legs started to feel the stress of the mileage.
As the miles ticked by so did my personal goals. My A goal to come in under 4:29 (aka beat Oprah’s time) came and went. My B goal to finish below my Philly marathon time of 4:38 also came and went. At that point I was just aiming to finish in under 5 hours. I never doubted my ability to run the distance. If worse came to worse I knew without a doubt I could walk to the finish. It didn’t come to that thankfully. I did take walk breaks in those last 9 miles. However, as we approached mile 25 I refused to walk at all through that last mile. About a quarter mile before the finish I gave a quick hug to Laura as she made a graceful exit off the course. My eyes welled up. I really couldn’t believe that she stayed with me through all those miles. Her support meant more than she will ever know.
As I turned my gaze back on the course I could hear the excitement of the finish line. I rounded a corner and the lake was to my right sparkling alongside the final stretch of the Vermont City Marathon. The runners were received by a huge crowd of cheering spectators, loud music and enthusiastic announcers. I caught a fleeting glimpse of my family as I entered the finish chute. I slowed to a walk as the gracious volunteer placed a medal around my neck. Tears poured down my cheeks as I wrapped myself in the silver blanket (which should not be used like a tissue to wipe said tears off hot sweaty face…bad and rather painful idea!).
I did it! I finished my 4th marathon. In that very instant as I walked away in a bit of a daze I absolutely did not care what my time was. I didn’t care that I took some walk breaks. I didn’t care that I hadn’t had a more thorough training leading up to the race. I did the very best I could given the circumstances and I proved to myself once again that I am so much tougher than I give myself credit for both on the course and off.
For those who are dying to know my time, it was 4:52:54. This was my slowest marathon yet I can honestly say it was my proudest finish.
I really wanted to get this race post up by Monday, but life happened and the blog post didn’t happen. So I’ll jump right into it. Last weekend was amazing!
Last Friday I took the entire day off to accompany Carlos’ class on a field trip to the Heifer International Farm in Rutland, MA. What an awesome experience! The upper elementary class has been selling soup each month to raise money to donate to Heifer International.
We got home around 3:45, I finished packing and we were on the road to Vermont by 4:15. Last year when we were talking about making the return to the Vermont City Marathon, I knew I wanted to spend the entire long weekend in Burlington. I didn’t want to rush through the weekend. We took our time on the way up stopping in Montpelier for dinner.
On Saturday morning we strolled through the farmer’s market in Burlington, tasting the samples including a little wine (sips just sips) and then enjoyed coffee on Church Street. I dropped Carlos and Orlando at the hotel so they could go swimming while I explored the expo…ALONE! I really wanted to soak it up and take my time wandering through the tables and exhibits. I’m so glad I did.
My sister and her husband arrived in the afternoon and we all met up for a stroll along the waterfront. At dinnertime Orlando and I left to attend the pre-race pasta dinner. I have always opted out of these dinners in the past, but honestly all I want to eat the night before a marathon is a simple plate of pasta. We trek around trying to find just that and this took all the guess work out it while benefitting a great cause. The proceeds for this event went to the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington. I also had the opportunity to hear Olympic bronze medalist, marathoner, Deena Kastor speak. She told a very interesting and witty story of how she became a professional runner. Her journey is inspiring. I left the dinner feeling motivated and really excited about the marathon. Deena would be running the relay the next day with girls from a local high school track team.
I slept horribly because I was worried my alarm wouldn’t go off. Typical pre-race fear. I was up at 5AM to engage in all my pre-race rituals. Carlos came down to the hotel breakfast area with me around 6. There were other runners down there and a very high strung spectator who was stressing me out. She kept telling her family to hurry all the while sitting down at the table eating her own breakfast. Her voice became very shrill at one point as she scolded the children and presumably the runner in her family for the 15th time. I told Carlos I had to get back up to the room because she started making me nervous about getting to the race one time.
I woke up an equally grumpy husband. Actually Carlos is truly a morning person, just not a take a photo of me first thing in the morning person. Orlando is definitely not a morning person so I let him sleep as long as possible and at 6:45 I told him it was time to go. The race was to start at 8:03 and I knew there would be a bit of traffic getting me close to the starting line.
They dropped me off about a half mile from the start and as I followed the mass of people down towards the starting area I was invigorated by the collective energy and excitement along the way. Oh how I have missed this feeling!!
I wandered around soaking up the positive vibes. I took in the gorgeous view of Lake Champlain. The air was tinged with a light chill, but there was a hint of humidity signaling imminent heat that was to come later in the day.
Soon enough I found myself lining up somewhere between the 4:45 and 4:30 pacers. My internal voice kept telling me to avoid the pacers and just enjoy the race, what will be will be, but the hopeful side of me really just wanted to beat the elusive time of Oprah’s one and only marathon. It was a serious long shot though and by long shot I mean miracle.
During the national anthem I got goosebumps and tears welled up in my eyes. Geez what is it about these marathons for me?! I’ve been so lost since I crossed the finish line in Montreal in September 2013, but as the gun sounded I knew I was right back where I was meant to be and this was only the beginning.
The first 4 miles flew by. Then we found ourselves on the out and back portion of the course along a relatively flat highway. I thought it would be boring, but since you were able to see everyone ahead of you as they looped around it was fun cheering them on. The miles ticked away surprisingly quickly and before I knew it I was heading back into the city toward mile 9. I knew I would see my family very soon.
Orlando, Carlos, my sister and her husband were waiting for me just before I turned onto Church Street. I was so excited to see them. They had a Vega gel and a Perfect Fuel waiting for me. I stopped for a minute and then kept on going right down through the enthusiastic spectators along Church Street. This was without a doubt the best spot along the course.
Once we left Church Street there was a bit of a lull in spectators. We wound through some nice neighborhoods and eventually reached the halfway point. I knew I ran a strong first half, not fast, but consistent. I felt terrific and I went with it.
However, shortly after the halfway point we entered onto a bike trail. It was narrow and suddenly I felt like I was in the midst of a herd of cattle on the verge of being trampled. I was stumbling to hold my pace and became claustrophobic. I had nowhere to go so I tried to just hold steady. Prior to this I was ahead of the 4:30 pacer and I thought maybe, just maybe I could hold onto it, but as we inched along this congested trail the 4:30 pacer passed me. I didn’t care. I just wanted off the trail. The scenery to my left was stunning and I tried really hard to focus on the lake instead of the 20 people at my heels.
The tightness of the trail and the heat started to get to me. I felt a bit nauseous. I longed to catch a glimpse of the road again, but all I could see were the runners at less than an arm’s length in front of me. I needed to take a gel or eat some pretzels, but the thought of what I had in my spy belt made me even more nauseous. I just wanted to drink. The water bottle in my hand was warm and uninviting. My insides were crawling and screaming “MOVE! Get out of my way people and get me the hell off this trail.”
I worked Sunday night at the hospital and then went for a run at the reservoir right after. It felt like old times. I ran a little over 6 miles which gave me plenty of time to think. I’ve been slowly putting the marathon in perspective mentally. Initially it was easy to conjure up all the negative aspects leading up to Vermont City:
my training was unorganized
I trained during a brutal winter
the Achilles injury has slowed me down
the sinus surgery disrupted an already disjointed training right at the crucial 20 and 22 mile long run weeks
the miserable 22 mile run!
new job, new schedule
Running, in my opinion, is much more mental than it is physical. For many years I’ve lived parallel to the philosophy of positive thinking and its power to create change. I’m open to the idea and I embrace it for short periods of time, but for so long I’ve found it easier to let the negativity in my mind control my thoughts…thoughts about myself, others and situations. However, I keep coming in contact with this idea of using the power of positive thinking to really control and direct life in a more purposeful manner. I’m moving closer and closer to that as I learn more about altering my thoughts. On Sunday evening I followed a link that Kris Carr posted on Facebook. Kris Carr has a fascinating story of healing herself while living with an incurable disease. The link led me to Louise Hay’s new movie, You Can Heal Your Life. It may seem a little out there to some and I get that, but I needed to see it and hear the message at that moment.
I am currently reading this interesting book called The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. These three passages stopped me in my tracks on Sunday. I have read them a number of times.
“Maybe a coach encouraged you or a parent pushed you or in a moment of inspiration you motivated yourself. But you dug a little deeper, increased your dedication, and somehow accomplished the impossible—all because you changed the way you thought. Hardwired in our brains and bodies is a potential greater than we realize, and all we have to do to unlock it is believe. ” (p64)
YES! I have done many things I didn’t think I was capable of and I love that feeling. I love proving myself wrong. I am no stranger to going outside of my comfort zone. I have dug deeper, dedicated myself to the “impossible” and conquered it.
“With the growth mindset, however, potential is unlimited. You can always get better. For this kind of person, the goal is not so much to be the best in the world but to be better than you were yesterday. Regardless of natural talent or the lack thereof, every person has the ability to improve themselves.” (p64)
I know this is true, but I often don’t give myself enough credit. Yet lately I am beginning to feel the tug of my life clock ticking. I want to do big things. I want more. I want to shoot for the stars and see just how far I can go.
“it’s more important to try than to rest on your natural ability. Why? Because you’re capable of more than you realize, and in trying, you learn something new as you push past possibility. As a result, you grow, learning that most skills are not inborn, but learned. Practiced. At least, they can be, if you’re willing to adopt the growth mindset and dedicate yourself to the practice that follows.” (64)
It’s really about learning to love the process and accepting growth and change along the way. This winter I bought skis and a ski pass. Carlos and I hit the slopes a number of times and I royally suck at skiing down anything but the beginner hill. I can’t even get off the chair lift without falling. I really don’t care. I love being out there. Next year I will get a little better. I might take a lesson or two. I definitely don’t plan on giving up on skiing.
Carlos has been helping to compile my marathon playlist and he popped one of our old faves on in the car on Monday morning, Let’s Go, Calvin Harris and Pitbull. These lyrics jumped out at me that morning even though I’ve heard them so many times before,
It’s all about where you’re going No matter where you’ve been
So basic, so simple, but so true. Move forward. Stop looking backwards.
After my run on Sunday morning, my encounter with a little inspiration, and some soul searching this is how I really feel about running the marathon next weekend:
I’m so excited to run this course. I’ve heard really positive feedback about the race.
The finish line is right on gorgeous Lake Champlain.
The weather looks beautiful for next weekend.
This hasn’t been my best training, but so what? Seriously, so what! I could walk a marathon if I had to so no matter what happens on the day of the race I know these legs can go the distance.
Being aware of what didn’t work this training cycle will be really helpful when I begin training for the Hartford Marathon.
I worked as hard as I could, did as much as I could and I am going to be proud of that on race day.
I am going to run this marathon and I will finish. I’m going into it as the runner I am today, not the runner I was on September 28, 2013 when I finished Montreal. From here on out Vermont City will be my new baseline marathon. I have goals in my head, big goals and Vermont City is my jumping off point. My goal next Sunday is to run the best race I can and finish it smiling and uninjured. Those other goals, well I’m going keep those to myself for right now!!
I filled my CamelBak yesterday. Orlando and I stopped at Whole Foods last night on our way to dinner so I could pick up the Vega gel I use during long runs. I had a simple dinner, never anything spicy or fancy the night before a long run. We were home by 8:30 and I took out my running clothes, made my chia overnight oats for the morning and prepared my pre-run drink. I thought I had the Vega Pre-Workout Energizer I usually drink before a long run, but I couldn’t find it so I substituted it with something called Carb-igniter that I got at some running expo. I set my alarm for 3:55 and I was in bed and asleep by 10. I felt good mentally and physically. I was ready for my 22 mile run in the morning.
My alarm went off and I was up. I followed my pre-run rituals. The Carb-igniter was a little funky, but I drank it. I set out just before 4:30. It was still dark, but so peaceful. I started out feeling great. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast run for me, but that was ok as long as I was running a comfortable steady pace.
I chugged along. I grabbed a gel at mile 5 and after just a taste my stomach turned. By mile 7 I was so nauseous I could barely stand to sip water. I walked most of mile 13. As I turned onto a road littered with shops, gas stations and restaurants I told myself I would just run to McDonalds where I could use the bathroom. Sorry if that’s TMI!
As I exited McDonalds I tried to convince myself I was feeling better so I set off at a slow jog. Nope the nausea was right there and felt stronger. I knew there was a convenience store less than a mile away so I told myself to just keep going until I reached it. I figured I could by a small package of plain crackers and maybe that would settle my stomach. No such luck. Every cracker was covered in some kind of cheese, jalapeño flavoring, pizza flavor or other equally nauseating topping.
Back on the road and about 6 miles to go. I ran a nice downhill as I neared mile 17. As soon as Map My Run announced mile 17 I started crying. I felt so sick. I was close to home at this point. I didn’t want to give up, but the run downhill jostled my sick stomach even more. I slowed to a walk and weighed my choices. I kept walking and as I reached my house I was just shy of 19 miles. I couldn’t go any further. Of course my legs were sore by this point. I crumbled in tears as I took off my sneakers and my water pack. I have never ever walked so much on a long run. I have never not made the distance I set out to run. Damn Carb Igniter! I know that’s what caused the nausea. Never stray from what normally works when you’re training. I should have known better.
So I ate some saltines, had a little pity party, and then I called my sister for some support while I walked those last 3.22 miles. I should have kept going because in a real marathon you don’t get to stop at home if things aren’t going well. I hung up with my sister after about a mile and a half. I spent the next mile and half reminding myself that this bumpy road I’ve been on full of inconsistency, doubt, and challenge is just part of life. This too shall pass and I will be a better person for it.
We are en route to Burlington, VT. It is down pouring as we stop for lunch in the quaint state capitol of Montpelier. The sky looks clear in the distance though and race day weather looks optimal. Vermont is one of my favorite places. Life moves at a slower pace. The air is clean, the people are friendly and the scenery is spectacular any time of the year.
I really hadn’t considered running a late spring marathon, but when I discovered the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington over Memorial Day weekend it was an easy decision. Despite the miserable winter training conditions as the weather cleared and spring emerged I grew more excited for the race.
When my training came to a screeching halt on April 23rd because of an injury to my Achilles I honestly never imagined I would be on my way to Burlington to spectate the marathon rather than run it. The definitive decision was made yesterday although I knew on Tuesday that barring a miracle it would not be possible to run.
Thursday, May 8th – Saturday, May 24th
My recovery efforts have been time consuming and costly. An acquaintance who happens to be a runner referred me to her sports medicine chiropractor. She claimed he was incredible and would have me running again in no time. The chiropractor, himself, is quite an accomplished athlete. In his early 60s he continues to participate in triathlons including Iron Man competitions. In his younger years he was a member of the U.S. Olympic pentathlon team in the XXI Olympics in Montreal in 1976. I saw him on 5/8. He sent me for an X-ray, worked on my calf and heel and put some standard (not custom made) orthotics in my shoes. He was very encouraging and seemed to believe that I would be ok in time for the marathon. Per his recommendation I made an appointment the following week for a follow up.
In the meantime hard core running friends of mine suggested I go to see their physical therapist, Sophia, calling her a miracle worker. I was able to get an appointment on 5/14. By the time I arrived in the office my heel was visibly swollen and I was still noticeably limping. After a number of stretching exercises Sophia performed active release therapy (ART) on my heel. With my eyes squeezed shut I gripped the sides of the table as I forced yogic breathing in and out to fight back the tears. ART is incredibly painful, but very effective. I left the office feeling sore, but walking with a steadier gait. I went to PT on 5/15 and 5/16 as well.
I returned to the chiropractor about an hour after my first PT appointment on 5/14. The chiropractor merely watched me ambulate, checked the calf, did a brief massage and sent me off with his expert advice that I would probably be able to run the marathon if I was feeling better by then. I paid my co-pay, thanked him (for nothing) and limped back to my car. I immediately removed the painful orthotics he insisted would help my injury and cried. I had worked the night before, went to the YMCA for water jogging and swimming, tended to house work, went to PT and then drove about 45 minutes to the chiropractor for a 10 minute appointment. I returned home exhausted and feeling defeated. I had even less hours than normal to sleep before going to work again.
My injury became a part time job. I was icing, stretching and foam rolling it at home. I swam and water jogged for an hour in the morning after work before zipping off to PT. From PT it was off to run errands or home for more attention to the the injured foot. By last weekend I finally began to feel some real relief. My discomfort was down to a 1 by Sunday and virtually nothing by Monday. I was excited to share this with the physical therapist. I felt a surge of energy and a spark of hope. I thought maybe, just maybe, if I could comfortably accomplish a few runs by the weekend then perhaps I could attempt the marathon.
I worked Monday night and by Tuesday I was limping again. My pain was up to a 4, bearable, but I couldn’t even contemplate running. I spent much of Tuesday tending to my foot at home and returned to PT on Wednesday feeling a bit better, but more frustrated. I have a high tolerance to pain. I don’t hang onto pain nor do I exaggerate pain. I don’t complain. My life doesn’t accommodate slowing down very easily. I have to work. I have a child who needs me. I was doing everything in my power to heal this damn injury and though diminished it wasn’t going away.
So Wednesday, 5/21 was more PT and Thursday I rested again. Friday, 5/23 I returned to PT feeling great with the most minute awareness that something was wrong in my left foot. Even the ART didn’t make tears well up in my eyes this time. Sophia gave me the green light to start running over the weekend, slow and short. “So not a marathon?” I replied. “No definitely not!” Sophia answered seriously.
Of course I knew I wouldn’t run the marathon. It’s one race, one day. Even if I felt physically capable of running the race I would be risking re-injury and a longer recovery process which would inhibit my running plans for the rest of the summer.
Although I had the ok to begin running I chose not to bring any running clothes with me to Vermont for fear that I might get caught up in the moment and try to run the marathon. Unfortunately even if had wanted to run I couldn’t because of increased discomfort in my heel. I worked Friday night and then spent a great deal of time in the car on Saturday driving to Burlington. I was unable to exercise my calf and foot or ice it, but regardless I was really hoping that wouldn’t be necessary anymore. The good news right now is that I have an appointment with a Sports Medicine doctor on Tuesday morning. I made it the day after the injury and wisely decided not to cancel it just in case. Was it foresight, a jinx or a coincidence? I’m superstitious so I’m going with jinx!
Sunday, May 25, 2014
On race day we went out bright and early to cheer on the runners. Our first stop was mile 9 on Church Street where we had fun hollering people’s names as we quickly read them off their bibs. This delighted some and confused others who either forgot or weren’t aware their names were visible. Calling out the names of the runners lifted my spirit. I was so glad we came out to spectate the race.
Then we walked down the hill just before mile 15 on Battery Street to cheer some more and to listen to the Taiko drummers. The infectious rhythm would have definitely pushed me up the hill towards mile 15.
After that it was on to Waterfront Park to see the first female cyclist and the lead runner cross the finish line. It was a gorgeous location for a finish line and the day could not have been more perfect for a marathon.
The excitement rising from the crowd was intense as the lead runner rounded the corner toward the finish chute. My heart swelled with a longing to be out there running. I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and he said, “next year.”