Oct 22, 2007

the good, the bad and the really ugly

marathon number two was one for the record books. it wasn't really the one i wanted to record, but it is what it is. i guess i'll just start at the beginning. with my alarm clock. all three of them.

i actually woke up before the alarm(s) went off. around 4:30 am, i had a little nightmare that they never did go off, and it was 8:30 and my coach was texting me, saying where the hell are you? i was too nervous then to go back to sleep, so i just lay there and waited until 5:30 to finally get out of bed. and after i poured over the hour by hour forecast & figured out exactly what to wear, i proceeded to pace. and pace. and pace. and when my husband went into the shower, i followed him into the bathroom so i could pace in a smaller space. he said it was like watching a lion in a cage at the zoo. trying to work out their escape. but mostly, he knew enough not to really talk to me. he knew i just had to do this crazy moving, breathing, pacing meditation. the pre-race morning ritual had to come to an end and coach and i said our goodbyes to our race support and headed down to the start.

as the mass of people shuffled closer & closer to the start, it hit me. this was it. i was at the start. all those months & weeks and i am finally here about to cross the start with coach. i totally teared up and i was glad for the cover of my sunglasses. the first mile was dead on pace, and the following several miles were pretty fast, there were a couple of sub 8's i think and a bunch closer to, but still under target pace. so we were able to buy ourselves a lot of wiggle room - although not quite as much as we would eventually need. we would have had to be kenyan to buy oursleves that much time. for a long time, we were 4 minutes ahead of pace, then 3 minutes, then 2. until the point at which, and i think it was 22 - we had fallen one minute behind.

this race was hard, right from the beginning. this was not my first marathon, where i was in some blissful, iloverunningsomuchicouldrunforever place. there were many points during the race where coach would say "i remember this spot from last year" ... my response was "i do too, only last year i was a lot happier". he asked how i was at one point, and it was fairly early (before mile 10) and i said "good, but not great". "you're not supposed to feel great". right. i needed to forget everything about my first marathon. could not compare the two. they were two entirely different races. run for different reasons.

i was more tired than i wanted to be earlier in the race than i wanted to be. the mantras kicked in. at first, they were fairly benign. forward motion, forward motion. and when i felt myself slumping a bit it was run tall, run strong. run tall, run strong. i think it was mile 15 when things started to really get hard. the mantras got more desperate. i said enough hail marys to make up for the 20+ years i haven't been to church. in the later miles, leading up to the wall, all the words would get mixed up and i didn't even know what i was saying. i remember saying to myself over and over again. don't lose this. don't lose this. hang on. hang on. hang on. and even though it got really tough at 15, we were still on target for that BQ all the way up until mile 21.

and then that's when coach started to say that it was going to be a great marathon pr. i knew what that meant. i knew i had lost the BQ. and when a guy in a hula skirt passed me and i couldn't keep up, i knew it was all over. and yet i still thought that while i may not BQ for 2008, i thought i still had a shot at 2009, when i would be in the next age group and needed 3:50. five minutes more. surely we had bought ourselves 5 minutes. surely my second wind would kick in. if only i could hang on. don't let this go. don't let this go. don't let this go.

i guess sometime soon after 21, maybe closer to 22, i don't know - there was a point that i knew i was close to being in real trouble. i'm sure the point was much earlier, i just wouldn't accept it. i could barely feel my body running. i was in a total daze. it was the strangest feeling. i wasn't dizzy, and it wasn't tunnel vision. i don't know what it was. had never been to that place. at one point, i told coach i felt delerious. and yet i kept up the mantra. hang on. hang on. i literally wanted to hang on. coach was ahead of me a bit. i wanted him to hold my hand and pull me along. i tried to call out his name, but i know it was barely a whisper. so i tied an imaginary rope around his waist and attched it to mine and hung on for dear life. only the rope kept getting longer. don't let go. don't let go. don't let go.

and i think its at this point that we were going through a water stop, and i had been walking through them in the later miles to try and have better success at getting more water in my mouth than up my nose. (more on this later). coach says he turned to say something to me, but i wasn't there, and he looked behind and i was swaying my way through the water stop. like a drunken runner. i don't know if he came back to get me, or if i made my way to him. but i remember his arm under mine, he was steadying me and holding me up and he said we are walking. i remember begging him, please don't make me walk. please don't make me walk. and then he said we are sitting down. and i begged him again, please don't make me sit. don't make me sit. i sort of recall him putting me down on the sidewalk and then i don't remember too much more. he said i was talking crazy talk. frankly, i'd be willing to bet he thinks i talk crazy talk all the time. so it must have been really bad. while i didn't lose conciousness, they said i was as close as you get to passing out without actually passing out.

i remember being cold. i remember warm things getting put on top of me. i remember people trying to give me water. they said they moved me to a warm sunny spot in the grass. i don't remember. i vaguely remember talking. or trying to. what happened? what did i do wrong? i have to finish. i have to finish. let me finish. i think my husband said it's over. i remember trying to cry but i couldn't. i remember my friend stroking my hair. she was saying, there is always a plan b. and she told me about the marathons coach never finished. and i felt better. i guess somewhere in between my delerium on the grass, coach saw a policeman & had him call an ambulance. i never even heard the sirens. thank god. if i had the energy, i would have been pissed. i vaguely remember getting put on the gurney. once i felt all the movement & got put into the ambulance, then i really knew i was in an ambulance. i remember saying through the oxygen mask, this wasn't supposed to happen. and fuckfuckfuck.

they pricked my fingers. it was my glucose levels. they plummeted. and so did i. dammit. maybe that self-imposed ban on gumdrops wasn't such a good idea. (more on nutrition & fueling in next post). after the IV, the oxygen & the shot of glucose, i finally opened my eyes. and the emt guy that was standing outside was saying how they would drive me to the finish where there would be food, etc. i don't know if i said it out loud or just thought it, but i thought over my dead body am i being driven in an ambulance to the finish line. i am finishing this thing. maybe i did say it out loud, because the emt guy who was inside with me said, you can do it. my husband was standing outside the ambulance & i told him i was getting out. i was going to finish this damn thing. i think at that same time i heard that coach was going to finish. and i thought not without me he's not. i just hope he didn't really want to run the last 3 miles. my husband was a bit reluctant - he said why don't you walk around and see how you feel. he turned his back for a minute, i got out. i grabbed my warm top. and started walking. when he turned around, i had caught up to coach.

it didn't take long for me to momentarily regret this choice. i i needed food. badly. i was drinking the gatorade now, and my husband & friend caught up with us and rode alongside us for a while (they spent the entire day riding around the course on their mountain bikes). my friend miraculously produces two of those sporty nutrition bars. i don't even know what they were. and i almost checked the ingredients to make sure it was diary free, but at this point, i thought who gives a shit. it was the nectar of the gods. got me through mile 23. by 24 i was feeling better. and it was just coach & i. chatting. and walking.

we got to 26, the corner to the finish was just up ahead. i was feeling good & there was no way i wanted to walk down that hill to the finish. i said, let's run home. he said it was up to me. we started running. god how those first few steps of running hurt. we turned the corner. running. there it was. the finish. down the hill. we cross the first mat and our names were announced. we cross the second mat and its over. and once again, i was happy for the cover of my sunglasses.

i had always been amazed when reading some race reports when people say at the end of a marathon how much it sucked and they'll never do another. i used to think - how can anyone possibly say that? i couldn't grasp the concept. until yesterday. in the later miles, i was bargaining with myself: you never have to run again. you can fucking walk boston. just get to boston. don't let it go.

boston got away. but i'll get it back. and it did suck. about as much as a race can suck. but i'll do another. and another. and another if i have to. i wrote a post a while back - wondering how far i could go. what am i really capable of? i've always been afraid of what would happen if you gave it your absolute all. do you fall apart? do bits and pieces fall off? i wondered how you balanced on the edge of giving it everything and still make it to the finish line. i didn't do such a good job of balancing on that edge. i came crashing down the other side. but i learned that while it may take a hell of a lot longer than you want, you can still give it everything and make it to the finish line.

the minuate of food and fuel analysis to follow.
and the really important stuff, the thank you's to friends, family and coach - those are forthcoming.

27 comments:

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Damn glucose. I can't believe you got off the stretcher and finished. YOU SO ROCK. I'm so sorry this happened to you. You are an amazing runner girl.

jeff said...

wow.

those are some damn big cahones you've got, zanne. you got OUT of the ambulance and finished the race.

that boggles my mind.

Andria said...

Oh Zanne! I'm so sad for you, but at the same time so proud of you that you got up and finished, and that you finished running. You're a strong person and even though it didn't quite come out the way you wanted, I know you'll get to Boston. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

Marcus Grimm said...

Hell of a finish - you've got guts. :) I'm diabetic and I can tell you: running without glucose is like swimming without oxygen -- neither the short or long-term prognosis are very good. You did great.

Frayed Laces said...

Talk about determination! I am so proud you were able to cross the finish line...way to go! I envy your strong support network. Glad you are okay.

Taryn said...

I'm sorry your marathon fell apart towards the end, but so glad you were okay! You are one tough lady to get out and finish after all that!

Cynthia said...

you rock.

Vickie said...

And you will make it Suzanne. You just have to keep running scared. The glucose thing. I've been there, know how it feels, know how disappointed you were. But you need to take care of yourself before the next attempt, figure out a better nutrition plan, etc. My coach always said start slow and then go slower. When you get to the halfway point you can kick it in. So there's more time. More to learn. Yesterday was a great lesson, no matter how much it hurts. You gained something just for getting there and trying. Go through the "not doing this again" thing, and then brush yourself off and get back on the horse. And remember that you gave it your all, and now you know.

Vickie said...

P.S. Glad you're okay, even if your heart is heavy.

See Zanne Run said...

thanks vickie. but you know what? i think my heart would be heavy right now if i had missed this over a few seconds or a few minutes. my heart is not heavy at all ... ok. maybe a little bit. but i am ok. i learned so much. so much. there's always a plan b. a good friend told me that. i don't know what it is yet ... but i will have time to get nutrition & fueling figured out. and time i hope to get to boston 2008. the "never again" is already out of my system. already looking ahead -from my couch, while resting. :-)

erin said...

i am still amazed you finished. i am also super proud of you. and you should be too, even if it didn't turn out as you hoped. i'm with marcia - there is always a plan b.

Vegan Run Amok said...

I'm so sorry things fell apart, but wow, you are really tough! I can't believe you climbed OUT of the ambulance to finish the race. I probably would have asked the nice EMT people for a ride back to the hotel. :)

Also, somehow I didn't realize until now that this was only your second marathon! I thought it was just your second time running this particular one. You will figure out what you need to do differently next marathon and you WILL qualify for Boston!

Finally... what awesome support, wow! Go, Team Zanne!!!

Tall Girl Running said...

I hope you know what an inspiration you are to me, Suzanne. I ran a little bit taller and a little bit faster this morning, fueled on by the knowledge I'm part of the ranks of runners like you.

I thought you were amazing before Columbus; now I know it.

P.O.M. said...

Oh my gosh. My heart is aching just reading this report.

You are so amazing!

Monica C. said...

I am new to your blog - having just discovered it on Friday (?) - and I am still floored by everything! Oh - when you said it was your glucose, I can only imagine how weak/woozy/otherworldly you must have felt! Your race makes me respect the distance all the more, because I could tell how prepared you were, in every way - only to have something unforeseen happen! You're an amazing runner (and writer)!

Ovens2Betsy said...

There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. Indeed, you're an inspiration. What an upbeat, positive attitude you have. This experience will make qualifying all the more special.

Bob Gentile said...

well another Mantra to add is Suzanne is "early & often"...and that's what I had to say for my first 50m ...when I was trying to stay ahead on my fuel! and I still fell behind at the end but figured out some other fuels that work better for me know...

you did great, ur strong physically & mentally ...u will figure it out!!

also way to pony up and finish that race, I have been saying since I started blogging and reading reports, friggin women are tough :-)

PS: now I know this is way extreme but did u know when Lance Armstrong did NYC Marathon last year, his pacers made him choke down a GEL every friggin mile... YIKES!! now obviously I don't think thats a good plan but just kinda speaks to how it was able to keep him going to get a 3 hour time & not bonk...He said he was under trained for a 3hr time & it was crazy hard...

EARLY & OFTEN!!!! you will be ready for the next one

and ONCE Again, WAY TO GET UP & FINISH, I think U have some awesome "ULTRA" characteristics in ya big time....hmmmm maybe one in 2008 :-)

Running Ragged said...

What an amazing journey of courage and strength. With such termination you will make it to Boston!

Running Ragged said...

That would be "determination", not "termination"! ;) Note to self: "Proof read before hitting the publish button!"

Amy said...

Wow, what an amazing story! This is not only a great post, but a great short story you need to publish. You are an amazing runner - you earned more than a BQ with this finish.

Wow, wow, wow... ok, and as embarrassing as it is to tell you, I was crying like a baby through the last half of your post.

You rock!

Ovens2Betsy said...

I just thought of something: with everything you endured you STILL beat my marathon time by 10 minutes! (Now I REALLY feel humbled).

Vickie said...

Suzanne, love the pics too!

Holden said...

Coach's race report has been posted. URL ==> http://www.runzen.com/

Amanda said...

wow zanne that is an incredible report and I mean this in the nicest way...you've made me feel better about my race. You're right they aren't all the races we wish for, but the fortitude to stick it out no matter what that's what really makes us runners.

I hope you are recovered and feeling well. Thanks for sharing your experience and really your great attitude.

mom said...

sending my love and hugs to you, my extraordinary daughter,...of whom I am so proud

all my love
m

Laurel said...

Damn girl! You are one tough chick!

I can't believe you got out and finished that shit. I know the results were far from what you were hoping, but seriously, you are my hero!

Christy said...

I am just so glad to hear you are okay. You amaze me with your determination throughout your training and your race. You will get that BQ one day!