The Vermont City Marathon – Part 2

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.

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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.

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Vermont City Marathon Weekend Update

Saturday, May 24, 2014

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.

If I can't join them I'll cheer for them
If I can’t join them I’ll cheer for them

 

Spectating on Church Street
Spectating on Church Street

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.

Taiko Drummers as runners undertake the "assault on Battery Hill"
Taiko Drummers as runners undertake the “assault on Battery Hill”

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.

Breathtaking views at the finish line
Breathtaking views at the finish line
Not the picture I envisioned of me at the finish line of the Vermont City Marathon
Not the picture I envisioned of me at the finish line of the Vermont City 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.”