Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The second best day of my life.

Running a marathon was magical, so so incredible, and I will never stop being grateful that however much training sucked, I stayed healthy throughout the whole process.  However, in all of the fairy dust I'm about to spew about how life changing running a marathon is, it was also very very hard.  

Like screaming to a forest of pines all alone hard.  

The trees are good listeners.

About 10 minutes into the drive home, I realized I'd forgotten the bad parts.  The really really bad parts (perhaps I called Matt in the middle of the woods sobbing...) sort of melted away and I'd completed something that was hard.

That is one of my many faults, completing things after they get difficult.  But I finished.  I was a "finisher".

I don't think this is a sentiment that only runners that have run a marathon will understand, but anyone who has ever gone a distance that is so physically straining, you don't feel as though you could take another step, a monumental distance, and then being told...you still have farther to go.

So imagine running 26 miles, enjoying 99% of each step, each mile, each runner you passed.  I was already planning running the Baltimore Marathon in October to celebrate my 30th birthday with my brother.  I was making my time and pace goals and felt obnoxiously great.  I CAN DO THIS! I've caught the bug!

I checked my GPS, saw I was at 26.17 miles and before me I saw the beautiful site of a giant tent...this was it, the finish line.  I sprinted to at least what I thought was the finish line.  Imagine my surprise/horror/complete unraveling when I realized it was an aid station.  

No, I didn't want any *$#*#$* Gatorade.

What I wanted was to sail into the presence of my family, husband, friends, dog, be crowned my finisher's medal, celebrate, and drink lots of beer water.  Where was my finish line?  

I asked the volunteer how much farther until the finish, expecting, however ridiculously that she would say ".2!" but sadly was greeted with "3 miles".

I saw black.  This was where I sobbed while calling Matt and crying u-g-l-y tears.  At the time I thought the course was mis-marked and I got angry. Turned out though that those last three miles were actually the most character building of the entire training period.

I'm still not sure what went wrong as far as mileage.  It could have been my GPS but I was running at a pace that made sense with the mileage/time it showed.  I did find out after studying the trail maps this morning that I idiotically followed the 50K trail for bit accidentally, without knowing it.  Womp womp.    

Honestly, it doesn't matter.  I never ran this for an amazing time and those last three miles made me an ultra-marathoner*, if only by my own recognition.

*After consulting the ever reliable wikipedia, an "ultra marathoner" is anyone who runs farther than the traditional marathon distance of 26.2.  So if you've ever run about 10 feet past the finish line I guess we are both part of the same club! Woo-hoo!
I am so thankful for my support team.  I thought about them a lot those last hellish three miles.  I read through the texts of prayer and encouragement that I missed while running hard the 26 miles before.  I read each one aloud, for if I didn't seem crazy enough for screaming in frustration before, by now the squirrels thought I was positively mad.  

I am thankful for my husband for being amazing even though he was getting his wife at 50% these last few months (I know I was a real peach of a Proverbs 31 woman on the days where I got up at 5 am to run 1,000 miles)....

I am thankful for my parents for their incredible support, driving me back and forth to the race site to scope out the trails, letting me use their beautiful neighborhood to train, their pool to ice my legs, and helping me find safe places to run my miles...

I am thankful for my friends for texting me during the race, waiting at the finish on a hot Sunday afternoon with flowers and hugs, for running with me when I didn't want to run early on cold Saturday mornings, for praying for me all Sunday as I ran, not knowing the battle I had raging in my head, desperately needing prayer.

I am #blessed in a completely un-ironic way.  

The course itself was incredible.  So so beautiful.

It will be hard to ever run a normal road race again.  Running through the woods is exhilarating and challenging and never boring.  A runner before me shaped some pine cones into a heart right around where marathoners took off on their own, it was a sweet reminder of others were running this with me.

I did manage to smile as I crossed the REAL finish line and was greeted with subs and beer.  

There is so much more I could share about the race itself.  What I ate before,during, after, what I brought with me, what I listened to to get me through 4ish hours alone...another post I guess, as this is getting pretty long.  I'll share the bad parts too...my hips feel like they are going to actually disintegrate into ash, and my lower back issues that plague everyday life have been magnified by the race.  The hills were brutal and I definitely didn't train for anything like that.  If you were curious to know if Florida has any mountain ranges, they do, and they are in the Withlacoochee State Forest.  I had a terrible headache yesterday from the dehydration, but after drinking lots of water, beer, and maybe one margarita, I feel much better this morning.  

Even if I'm still scrubbing dirt from my feet. 

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