Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shaking off the Darkness and Running on the Sunny Side of the Street: 2012 Ga Marathon Race Recap

~Seen the carnival at Rome
Had the women, I had the booze
All I can remember now
Is little kids without no shoes
So I saw that train
And I got on it
With a heart full of hate
And a lust for vomit
Now I'm walking on the sunny side of the street
--The Sunny Side of the Street, The Pogues

~I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out. . . 
--Shake it out by Florence + The Machine

~Oh, and I know this of myself
I assume as much for other people
Oh, and I know this of myself
We've listened more to life's end gong
Than the sound of life's sweet bliss

--Missed the Boat by Modest Mouse
What were the words I meant to say before she left
When I could see your breath lead where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me.
Sing O January O
~ January Hymn by The Decemberists

For those that don't care for the story here are the results of my 6th turn on the Georgia marathon course and my 17th marathon. This ties for my second fastest marathon and is a course pr by a minute.

Natalie Fischer      #137
Age: 40 Gender: F
Distance                  Marathon

Clock Time            3:28:51
Chip Time             3:28:38
Pace                        7:58

Overall Place          95/1872
Gender Place         17/638
Division Place         4/97
10K                         48:28
Half                         1:40:41
22 1Mi                     2:51:28


Two weeks ago I ran the Albany Snickers Marathon. It was a disappointing day for me. I had wanted to run my heart out for a pr. But weather, lack of sleep and quite honestly a dismal attitude made it an impossible and miserable day. Given the conditions of that day--70+ degrees, rain, humidity, tornadoes etc--a pr wasn't going to happen. BUT. But I could have had a better experience if I hadn't been so damn negative. I have so much regret about that and it has nagged at me.

I LOVE running. I really think it is happiness in motion. I think races,  marathons in particular,  are a blast. I try to always have a smile when I am out running-- whether racing, on track, treadmill, sidewalk or trail-- and try to make it look fun--even when sometimes it most certainly is not and I am definitely suffering--because I want all those non runners to know that they are missing out.

So I apologize for my negativity and forgetting that I run because I love to run. That I run because I think it is fun,. But mostly I am really sorry for forgetting that  being a better runner does not always mean having your fastest time. I am sorry for forgetting that a successful race isn't just what the clock at the end says or where you place in your age group.

I will admit it took me almost the entire 2 weeks between Albany and the Ga Marathon to recognize all that. I was depressed and self pitiful--as many people are after a bad race. And then I was depressed about the forecast for the Ga marathon. I whined, complained, shook my fist at the air for the injustices and  spewed negativity everywhere I could: Facebook, my log at Beginner Triathlete, on the Runner World forums, to friends and  to complete strangers. Some people joined me in my complaining--misery loves company, right-- others just flat out ignored me and then there were the few who gave me the tough love that I needed to hear. In particular was my friend Harvey who upon every running related facebook comment or negative training log blog I typed would simply advise:  "Don't think. Just run."

And then Ryan reminded me, when I was ( yet again) complaining (that it was going to be hot! ): "No one is making you run." I realized he was absolutely right and that I had no rebuff to make.
Why was I complaining?
 He was 100% correct.
I chose to sign up for this.
No one made me.
I was, supposedly, doing exactly what I wanted to do.
And further more, and more importantly, I was doing exactly what I  lecture my kids about NOT doing.  I am always saying to them:  "Don't whine. No one cares. No one wants to hear about what you can't do. They only want to know about what  you can do."

With that in mind I starting thinking what I could do even though Harvey told me not to think.( NOT thinking, btw, is a hard habit to break.) So Friday afternoon I printed out 3 pace bands. 3:25 for a pr (sigh) 3:28 for a course pr and 3:35 which was a guess at what might be realistic given the course, the fact that I just ran a marathon 2 weeks ago and that it would be hot and humid. I studied them. I even tried some visualization; imagining the course and trying to see the time on the clock at the 5k, the 10k, the half and the finish line. I could see all of them and I could see none of them. All I kept coming up with was my dream the night before.

I had dreamed about the race. An obstacle course dream where it was extremely crowded for the first 3 miles. The 5k timing mat caught on fire and the race navigated through buildings and later through a party where lots of my friends and family were. And all through the dream I was carrying a dark green down blanket that I wanted to get rid of but couldn't find anywhere to put down. I never saw my time on any of the clocks and my alarm had gone off before I got to the finish line.

I looked at the pace bands and I just didn't know. And then I got an idea. I pulled up the elevation chart and I made another "pace" band. This band, rather than having a time/pace corresponding to each mile I made either a red arrow pointing up for significant hills, purple wiggly lines signifying rolling hills or a blue arrow pointing down for significant downhill (ie fast parts of the course). I put the elevation gain/loss next to my symbols.  I printed it out, cut and then sealed it with scotch tape. Then I ripped up the other pace bands and threw them in the trash. I decided my pace would be whatever my pace was but I would chill on the up hills, hammer on the downhills and roll with the rest of it. I knew this meant I was in for a fade since the last 3 miles is all up hill. I didn't care. I wasn't going to think about it. I decided, I was just going to run.

Unlike at Albany I had an un-stressful day before the race--both kids won their lacrosse games. And as a mom, I have to brag: Beau scored a goal. He hadn't yet scored one this spring and had really been trying but either he would miss or the other team's goalie would knock it out. The weekend before at Dream Team Triathlon training Jill Poon asked the kids what their goals were and  Beau said that his "goal was to score a goal."

So Saturday morning on the way to the game I reminded him of his goal and told him to "make it happen." He played terribly the first quarter but got it together for the last half of the game.  In the last few minutes of the game he scored the final goal helping his team win 6 to 4. I don't know who was more excited.  It was pretty awesome and quite inspiring. He had a goal and he made it happen. Love. it.

And then after their games we shuffled the kids off to my parents so I could make my goal of a good night's sleep happen too.


I woke up at 4 am on Sunday and went about my usual race morning routine--coffee, breakfast, shower/stretch, gear check etc. While waiting on Ryan to get ready I wrote on my hand Harvey's advice:  "Don't think. Just RUN!"

 At 5:30 Ryan and I loaded up the Jeep and  with Lola (the dog) headed into Atlanta. I realized riding into the city I was not cold. We had the back windows of the Jeep out and I was perfectly comfortable sitting there in my skirt and sports bra. The temp on the car dash said 65 degrees. I decided not to believe that since I had looked at the weather hour by hour and it said 60 degrees and 95%  humidity for the start.  And told myself; It doesn't matter. You will be hot and will probably run slower and that will be okay. Every time I had a panicky thought I would just reassure myself that "I would be fine" or that "it was going to be an awesome day!"

 I have done the race day  self assurance a la Stuart Smalley  in the past and as silly as it seems, it totally works!  Maybe just thinking of funny things makes everything better. I mean really: Trace it, face it. Erase it! 

Why I didn't do it at Albany I have no idea. Maybe I was too busy drowning in my self pity. I really don't know but I will admit to failure on many levels during that race and only a few of them had to do with the weather and none of them had to do with my training.

Anyway, Ryan found parking on a side street and I again decided not worry about my car getting broken into (this is not an unfounded thought in Atlanta. My sister lives in the city and regularly has her car broken into. Trashcan Honda notwithstanding). Ryan and Lola walked with me to the start and he waited while I spent way too much time waiting to pee and then walked me a bit towards my corral. He kissed me good bye and instead of wishing me luck, said "have fun." 

And even though I know that was a tongue in cheek "have fun" because Ryan does not think there is fun in running marathons I decided that sounded like a great plan! 

I pardoned and excused my way into corral B. I settled on the right side (left side is evil) somewhere behind the half's 1:40 pace group and a good bit in front of the full's 3:30 pace group. I jumped up and down and did some stretching and took stock of what hurt, worried about it and reminded myself that today, stuff was gonna hurt and what hurt now would go away and be replaced by something else so no sense in obsessing about it. (trace it, face it, erase it!) Then I thought I might have to pee again. And I told myself, not to worry since soon I would be sweating so much my body was gonna need that pee. I know it doesn't work that way and it was just nerves. Thankfully I saw Christian and passed the time chatting with him before the start. 

Finally the start happens. I always mean to pay attention to how it happens but I always forget--could be announcement, horn, gun, cannon. No idea. But we are off. I hit my watch and put my earbuds in, turn on my ipod and giggle happily that The Gambler is the first song shuffle has picked for me. Perfect! Best life advice ever. 

Okay, so one of my most favorite things about this marathon is that we start in darkness. It is absolutely the coolest thing to run through downtown Atlanta in predawn darkness. 

Mile 1
I was so HAPPY and excited this first mile. I was trying to take it all in but it is very crowded since we are with the half marathoners. I can see up ahead the 1:40 pace group and I am determined to stay behind them and not pass them. I know my first 2.5 miles are going to be fast because my awesome pace band tells me we are dropping 110ft . I hit the split but I can't see it since it is dark. Actually, as it turns out, I don't ever look at any of my splits till after the race. There are clocks pretty much every mile but I semi ignored those too. Anyway, 7:35 for the first mile and I am DRIPPING with sweat. But I definitely do not feel overly hot. I just think to myself that this is the effect of the humidity and just means I am going to have to be extra vigilant with my hydration and nutrition.

I am just running along. Occasionally I yell out "hole" or point to cracks/obstacles in the pavement to the runners behind me. I really feel fabulous. I wave at the spectators  and my heart swells with happiness of just getting to run! I am so excited for my tour of Atlanta and getting to listen to my awesome play list. In my recovery since Albany my longest run was only 10 miles. Which after my months of logging higher mileage I was just plain missing running. I decide then that I am going to think of something positive every mile. 

I run through the first aid station, Gatorade, sip, sip and water, sip sip sip toss and dump some water on myself and think wow, I am really sweaty. I decide that I should probably walk/slow jog at least every other aid station for the first half and in the second half walk them all if need be. I did this strategy at Soldier's marathon and last year at Boston. I finished 3:31 and 3:33 respectively so  I knew I would probably still hit sub 3:35 even with the slow aid station passes and all the hills. Not exactly Gallo walking but enough that you get your fluids in and your heart rate down and digest all that nutrition goodness. 

7:30 for this mile. Ha, and I thought I had slowed down. 

Mile 3: It is still dark as we pass over the Jackson Street Bridge. Last year when I ran with Steph the sun was up at this point. I am pretty stoked to still be running in darkness with the lights of the city gleaming. Atlanta really has one of the prettiest skylines of any city I have ever seen. 

7:44--we are now going to gain the elevation we just lost. 

Mile 4: I walk through this aid station. I take Gatorade first, couple sips. Then a couple of sips of water. Then another cup of water that I dump on the back of my neck and I am off running again. I will repeat this at every aid station for the rest of the race.

This is the Auburn ave area and I see people out on their porches. Some  look to be drinking beer, others probably their morning coffee and I wave to them. So fun! I remember  that in the earlier years of this race there use to be a gospel choir that was out singing when we ran through here but I haven't seen them the past couple of years. Bummer. 

7:57--chilling on the uphills

Mile 5
 We are easing into the day light and also the  Inman Park area. A beautiful neighborhood, Atlanta's first suburb full of old Victorian houses. I've had many friends over the years who have had apartments in the old Victorians. I think about all the fun parties and  parades I've been to in this part of the city.  I have my first Gu. Always a Roctane. I don't wait for the aid station to take gu's. For me it works better to have the gu in my tummy ready and waiting. I also take the gu over the mile. 

We  run through the Little 5 Points area --it is an eclectic area with  interesting record, tattoo, clothing, head shops and fun clubs/bars. For those that don't know; Ryan and I went to elementary school (Holla fellow East Side Elementary grads!!) together and grew up in essentially the same neighborhood. I moved to Roswell in middle school and didn't see him again until a random night in October when we were both 25. It was at a  Dayroom  show at The Point (now defunct). We ran into each other that night and have been together ever since. And every year in the marathon I get to run past the building where The Point use to be. And that was my positive happy thought for mile 5!
Dayroom clip (couldn't find one from the show at The Point)
(And that is our friend Brad on drums that also went to elementary school with Ryan and I. )

7:24! oops! Maybe a little too much positive thinking.

Mile 6 
We turn on Freedom Parkway and run past the Carter Center. And my story for this mile is that Jimmy Carter once babysat me. I, of course, have no memory of this since I was 2 but I am certain I must have made quite the impression. Jimmy Carter was governor at the time and a close friend of my Aunt Boo and Uncle Charles Kirbo. My aunt was babysitting me and Jimmy was over visiting. Boo had to run the maid to the bus stop, probably a was gone all of 20 minutes but I was left in Jimmy's care while she did that. 


Mile 7
We have turned off Freedom Parkway and I see a girl that looks familiar. I realize it is Iona! She is my sister's friend who I adore. She is a retired Olympic triathlete. As in The Olympics. She is from Jamaica and has the best accent ever! I love hearing her talk. I am so excited to see her and I can tell I completely overwhelm her with my enthusiasm. She tells me it is HOT! And tell her she is from Jamaica and should love this. She does not. I don't either, but what can you do? 

Here is Iona and I at Universal Joint enjoying beers after the race. How pretty is she? (Note to self. Suck in tummy when standing next to Iona.)

7:12--I am thinking maybe I messed up hitting my splits for 6,7.8. I know I was excited to see Iona and all but I don't think I was running that fast. 

Mile 8 
I see a guy in a tutu with a wand and I decide that I am grateful that there are men in this world so secure they want to run a marathon in green tutu and carry a wand. What a beautiful thing. 
We split off from the half and I scream over the runners 'Have a great race halfers!! Woohoo for the marathon!!"  
The race had greatly thinned out at this point so I was flying solo. I remember somewhere after the split running down North Avenue and past Buddy's gas station (where my friend got robbed once while pumping gas) and I was above the sunrise. Higher than the sun and running down the hill towards it.  It was a spectacular view. So beautiful. I shouted good morning to a couple sitting on the curb sipping their coffee. In fact I shouted good morning, hello to so many people and they would cheer for me or say something like "beautiful day for a race." And I would say, "Yes it is!"

8:04--I was late hitting the split since this is where my ipod fitz out when I dumped water on it. Doh! I was pretty bummed since I love my sound track and I stopped to try and get it going but it was dead! I decided maybe it would be good for me to hear myself breathe. And maybe it would start working again. But either way I wasn't going to let it get me down. 

Mile 9
 This is the area near  where they have the Sweetwater festival every spring. I am still trying to get my ipod going but it is dead dead dead. I am still feeling  good and just not about thinking that I am probably running way too fast since the miles are just flying by. This is also a nice downhill but I know the ugly long hill is coming so I enjoy the downhill while I can. 


Mile 10 
This is the mile with the longest hill of the marathon. I settle into it. I pass a guy during this mile and tell him this is the worst hill. I know later he will probably thought I lied to him when he was in the the last miles that are all.up.hill. but the elevation change for this one mile is technically more.

7:54 Gu time!

Mile 11
 I don't like this mile usually. I think that is probably because this is where I feel the effects of the hill from mile 10 because my pace band tells me that the next 5 miles are gonna be pretty fast rolling mostly downhill.  I pass a corner and realize we are near where Ryan and I  rode during the Fridge to Fridge ride this past fall before Colby's Venison Stew party. That was such a fun day. My mind rewinds to think about the fun that day. So many good times on the streets and old neighborhoods of Atlanta.  This is a picture for the ride and our friend Chris's house in the Kirkwood area. We rode that day between Kirkwood, Decatur, Candler Park areas. Good times. Good times.

Mile 12
I see a girl up ahead of me. She looks awesome. I admire her physique and her stride. I wonder if I look like that when I run. I decide that I don't because I am not as fit or as tall as her and I decide I shouldn't pass her but next thing I know? I pass her. She says "good job" while I say hi and then I assure her this is just a for now. She seems really nice.And she does pass me later--around 21 or so and finishes about a minute ahead of me. She was really strong looking.


Mile 13
We run through Decatur and it is such a blur. I am happy and waving and shocked that I still feel this good. If only the rest of the race would have this terrain. I know that at 17 miles this fun is going to end and it will be time to dig, dig, dig.


Mile 14
No memory of this mile and apparently that is because I was flying!

7:31 weeeeee!!!!

Mile 15
Another Gu.  How crazy is that? In training I'll run 15 miles and not even stop for water never mind a gu. I am still, believe it or not, walk/jogging the aid stations. Process is still a sip or 2 of Gatorade, some water and then some water on my head. It is warm. The sun is out. But honestly, it really isn't an issue for me. It has to be in the mid 60's at this point, probably 80% humidity. When I checked before the race the hourly forecast predicted low 60 for the start with high humidity. The morning would progress towards  low /mid 70's for about 11 am and the humidity would drop to about 70%.  By comparison Albany was almost 100% humidity the entire race and the temp was always above 70. I felt like I was suffocating. The wet shoes didn't help. So for me, this was a million times better. But I can tell--by others breathing and how they look  that they are not faring as well. I know the heat and the hills is going to get to me too but for now it is not.


Mile 16
Almost to Druid Hills. This part is hard! But it really is my favorite part of the course. I am excited to run through it even though it is going to hand my ass to me. This section of Atlanta is so beautiful and was designed by landscape architect of Frederick Olmstead of Central Park fame. The cherry,dogwood,  red bud and pear blossoms are in full effect. The road is flanked by stately homes high on wide grass lawns dotted with bright pink and white azaleas. People are out with their kids, dogs, drinking--at least in my mind--mint Juleps. I so very much wish I could live in this area. Maybe if I win the lottery.

I run pass a guy who tells me I am doing awesome and I tell him now the real work is about to start and we turn the corner and run up the first of the Druids. I see on the clock that if I can keep my miles under 9 minute miles I will finish around 3:30. Surely I can do that, I think. But really I don't know. Don't think! Don't think! Just run!

Mile 17
I know at some point soon I will get to see my sister, Wes and his family  since she had told me they would be somewhere around 17-19 miles. I am excited to that Ryan is with them. Even though all I do is untangle myself from the ipod and yell "Dead ipod! Dead ipod! Take it! Thanks!"

8:11 Here I am running up that long hill, untangling the ipod. 
After the race my sister who has always run the half said she was surprised we have to run up that hill. She admits it is awful. Really this one doesn't bother me so much. That one at 23? on Spring Street? 67 feet in less than a quarter of mile of evilness? Kills me every time. But more about that later.

Mile 18
Some where in either this mile or maybe later I see Santa from last year. I scream, as loud as I can running up a hill SANTA!! The guy running next to me laughs, I mutter,quietly  "I know him." But Santa doesn't seem to remember me. I guess I've been naughty.


Mile 19
 I am passing people. People are passing me. No one wants to chat with me though. Even when I give shout outs to other runners they all but ignore me. No love for the Nat! No friends to go to the Island of Misfit toys with me. The spectators and volunteers all have love for me though! They yell out "Streaker!" or "Yay for the girls!" or "Yay for the skirt!" or sometimes even my name "Nat Nat you are doing awesome!' And I say "Thank you! This is awesome! or what a Beautiful day or Hells to the Yeah for a yard party" That last one got me lots of cheers from one group. 

It is awesome but it is also really hard because my legs are getting trashed and I am hot and I am getting a little tired now. But seven miles to go! I'll be done in around an hour. Just do as many sub 8:30 miles as you can do I tell myself. You are doing great! And I have another gu! 


Mile 20
Oh Nelly, it is getting hot in herreee! 
Thankfully though I get handed a nice cool wet towel. Fabulouliciousness. I feel like a boxer with the wet towel wrapped around my neck. And a left hook, then a right to those hills. Bam! Bam. Pow! Nope. Not at all.
The water and Gatorade I am being handing though is warm at best. Mmm, warm electrolytes! That makes them digest faster, right? 

8:19 I know we are about to get a brief down hill and I am going to make the best of it I can but boy are my legs feeling heavy.

Mile 21
I actually pass a few of the people that had passed me in the last few miles. I know they will probably pass me again since I am just working the down hill. It is also kind of shady here and there is a family in this part that hands out Jolly ranchers every year . I think about grabbing one but I am worried I might choke on it and that wouldn't be so fun.

 I pass a guy with an Albany marathon shirt on and I tell him I am a survivor too! He said this was his  "do over" and boy does he not sound like he is liking his do over. I, on the other hand, think this is a million times better even if in another 10 minutes it is going to feel like we have to hike up a mountain.


Mile 22
We bottom out in Piedmont park and now are onto the part of the race that I don't like. Every year, with the exception of last year because I was running an easy pace, the park is  my undoing. The first year this is where I started to feel really sick with heat exhaustion. 2 years ago it was where I almost flat out quit and didn't only because I thought finding a ride was going to take me longer than to actually hobble my way to the finish. 

They changed the course in 2010 and added a hideous out and back lollipop in the park. You run up a hill that is in full sun, hit a mat and loop back down the hill. It is nice getting to see people you didn't know were behind you but it also totally sucks when you see the 3:30 pacer is right.behind you. and know that he is going to chase you down. Damn it.


Mile 23
Right before I hit the mat  that heralds the end of  the 22nd mile and the beginning of the 23rd I see Doug and Steph . He is less than a 1/4 mile ahead of me.
 Doug yells  "Come and get me Nat!" 
And Grr. 
Oh boy do I want to charge after him and smack him in the ass but I am cooked. I am not worried about it nor am I surprised. I knew I would be paying back the bank at this point. I just didn't know exactly what I the interest rate would be. 
Did I owe 1? 2? 
Or God forbid more minutes per mile? 

I decide to have another gu because I think there is going to be an aid station before we exit the park and I know I am going to need something for the climb up to the finish. I can already tell I am about to be hit with some cramps in my hamstrings. If I didn't have to run uphill it wouldn't be an issue. It is only about 150-200 ft gain over the next 3 miles but there is no reprieve from it, no shade and it is hot!  Apparently around this time the race officials yellow flagged the race. I never noticed any flags at any point though. All I know is that at this point I was feeling every bit of the heat .

 Steph is waiting for me as I pass our friend Kim. She takes this picture of Steph and I.  
Steph asks me if I need anything and I tell her some water if she has it would be great. She loosens the cap and hands it to me but I realize even with her loosening it for me I still have a hard time getting it off. I think maybe I am not cooked. I am fried. Done. Game over. 

But then Steph tells me that I look great and asks how I feel . Really? I look good?  I tell her I am pretty tired and hot. She babbles on that she told Doug that he looked great but that she was lying to him. He looks terrible she says. On the one hand I  think maybe she is trying to mess with my head. But I know Steph always only has good intentions so instead I tell her that now I know she is lying to me. She insists that she isn't and also that she isn't going to be able to run with me for long because this pace is too fast for her with her backpack.

No problem! We can walk for a minute.  I drink some of the water, dump a little on my head, thank her and hand it back to her. As I toss my gu packet in the trash I assure her that I have not littered at all today (she likes to pick up trash while she runs and I am trying to get brownie points with her for being a non littering runner.)

I start running and she stays with me and I thank her for being there and I tell her that I am in the "valley of darkness" but she is making me not feel it so much. We exit the park and head up the hill at Spring Street. Halfway up I feel my left hamstring seize and I tell her I have walk. Ugh. She says that is okay and I am embarrassed at how bad I am doing now. I tell her I knew I wouldn't run a pr but I had thought maybe a course pr would happen but it was looking like 3:35 was what was going to happen. I am going to be happy about that I tell her. I've had such a fun  race. 

9:22 (that's ugly)

Mile 24
Steph leaves me a little after this point and I start running again. I think someone gives me another wet towel maybe it was the next mile. I really wish someone would turn on a fan. I really can't say what happened when in the last few miles. My "don't think just run" plan is in full effect because my brain? It has melted. Zombies wouldn't even chase me now.


Mile 25
Is this Ga tech campus? I think so. I don't like this part. Lots of concrete, no shade and slight uphill. Volunteers are nice but this part is just painful. I am working through my cramp. I've have to shorten my stride to hold off the seizing. It works but is slow and uncomfortable going. It is so annoying when you reach this point and your legs become so uncooperative. Stupid legs.


Mile 26
Last mile. I am doing math now. Or trying. It is so hard but I know sub 3:30 should happen. I have doubts I can hold on for a course pr but I will try. Every now and again I hear someone yell my name or at least I think I do. Either way  I throw up an arm and wave. I try to encourage those I see start to flounder--Come on, almost done now. Hang on. Keep it up. I say this out loud and it is as much for them as it is for me.

Mile 26.2
I see the sign that says 1/4 mile left. One lap around the track I tell myself. Do it in 2 minutes I tell myself. I don't know if I can but if I do I will come under 3:29 for a course pr. I make myself run as hard as I can because  I decide for 2 minutes I can do anything. Any longer than that is impossible though. 

And I do: 1:54 

And I am done!  On my watch 3:28:44. Official time faster. Hell yes!! No cartwheel necessary. Thank God because I have the wrong skirt on for a cartwheel.

I work my way through the finishline and my phone rings. It is Ryan. Yay!! No wandering around mumbling to myself like Beaker. Meep. Meep, meep. Meep. Of course he parked, like always, at the top of the hill behind the Tabernacle.And then there was,  I am sure, the quite humorous spectacle of me trying to help him take the Jeep top down while I was hit with Charlie Horses all over my body. Which I would laugh, even though they hurt, and make more Charlie Horses happen. So am this sweaty, gross, jerking woman on the side walk. I think I even had part of my skirt tucked in my ass cheek.

We go to my sister's and I shower and change and have several beers.

And then we pile in the Jeep and go meet friends at Universal Joint for burgers and many, many beers. Here I am with my friend Shannon who ran the half and my sister who did not run this year (slacker). 

So it was a great day!

Final thoughts:

I can tell you now that I figured out during the race what my subconscious was telling me in my pre race dream: That it would be crowded early on because we were with the half runners. That the fire at the 5k timing mat was because I went out so fast I set the course on fire. The party I ran through was the race--filled with long time friends who were running and family that was spectating in the city I have called home for all 40 years of my life. And that dark green blanket? It was my mind's way of telling me that I was going to be pretty darn warm during the Publix Ga marathon but I would manage just fine.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Good Weather is Hard to Find and the Turtles Bear it Away: The 2012 Snickers Marathon Recap

 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. 
--- Matthew 11:12

“She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if there had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
--From A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

"Whatever Logic is good enough to tell me is worth writing down," said the Tortoise. "So enter it in your book, please. We will call it: If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true. Until I've granted that, of course I needn't grant Z. So it's quite a necessary step, you see?"

"I see," said Achilles; and there was a touch of sadness in his tone. 
--From What the Tortoise Said to Achilles, by Lewis Carroll

If the story was the weather then clearly the turtle was the main character. Only I didn't know that. I thought it was, of course, The Natalie Show and I was the starring character.

Friday, when we left our home north of Atlanta under looming skies and drove four hours south to hot and sunny Albany I should have known the turtle was going to play a bigger role than I realized.  Especially when Ryan asked, after only a few minutes of navigating the streets of Albany, "What's up with all the turtles?"

Later, as the day and turtle sightings progressed the question from him to me became more pressing and annoyed; "Seriously, what the fuck are all these turtles about?"  And me, always more Hare than Tortoise should have known then how my 16th marathon was going to go down. As a one time literature student and avid student of Flannery O'Connor and the Southern Gothic I should have known that symbolism isn't just a fancy storytelling technique. But apparently I was skimming and just wasn't really paying attention and quite truthfully , I didn't really even notice all the turtles Ryan kept seeing and asking me about. I was looking but apparently; I was not really seeing.

I had a rough week the days preceding the marathon. I was losing my shit and not at all keeping it together from not running, trying to organize my house and kids. The looming weather report that each day got a little bit worse with a little rise in temperature, humidity, and then adding threatening wind, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes into the forecast only made my usual pre marathon anxiety worse. It was all making me more than a little bitchy. These things played on my mind even though I repeated over and over each day: Control the things you can and suck it up and deal with the things you can't.  I guess you can lie to your face in the mirror but when you close your eyes and go to sleep at night your mind will tell you the truth whether you want it to or not.

I had two, what I call, "crazy taper dreams". I always have  at least one pre race dream. And usually these dreams involve some sort of wardrobe malfunction, being late for the race or running the wrong way. In the dream I had Monday I was running in and out of industrial like buildings, parking garages, up concrete steps and opening metal doors. It was dark and gloomy with poor lightening. Wednesday I had another dream and hands down is the most bizarre taper dream I have ever had.

I dreamed I was in a car accident and was badly injured and both of my legs from the knee down had to be amputated.  The cause of the accident had something to do with the other driver not swimming across the lake because his wife wanted him to. This part didn't even make sense to my dream self because I thought why would he swim across the lake in the dark and in the rain? I was only hospitalized overnight which was a relief because it meant I could still run the marathon on Saturday. My hospital issued prosthetic legs were a lovely pair of Frye Campus boots. They looked exactly like the ones my friend Leah was wearing the other day when I saw her. (Guess I liked those boots more than I actually realized.)

 I was able to run in my new prosthetic Frye boot legs but I was slow and wobbly and it was pretty uncomfortable. I  had a catalog of prosthetic legs and picked out a pair for cycling but they cost $6,000 dollars. I also wanted the ones specifically for running but they cost just as much and I knew even if I could afford them I wouldn't get them in time for the marathon. I figured I would just deal with running Albany in the Frye boots but hopefully soon I could afford the running ones. But, then I reasoned I should probably get the cycling ones first since I didn't think I could ride my bike at all in the Frye boots--no toe clips. I reasoned since I could run in the Frye boots I should get the cycling ones so I could at least do a few triathlons over the summer. Maybe in a few months I figured I could afford the running prosthetic legs and would have a shot at a fall marathon pr.

Saturday, during the marathon, around mile 13 I would wonder if that dream was a prophetic warning of what was to come or whether it became a self fulfilled destiny. Two days before the race though I tried to entertain hopeful optimism and just laughed at my crazy subconscious.

And on that optimism.... It is funny but the week before I was at Carmella's double header Lacrosse game. Her team had won the first game 15 to 4 but the second game was a bit closer. They were almost certain to win the second game too --up by 2 points as the clock wound down to the last few minutes. In the last minute the other team scored and with less than 30 seconds on the clock a time out was called. One of the Dads confidently exclaimed that our girls were "undefeated." I cautioned that the game wasn't over yet, anything could still happen. He looked at me and asked the cliche, "is the glass half empty or is it half full?" And I told him, " the way I see it there is some water in the glass."

I don't understand why the question is always pessimist or optimist? The world is not black or white. There is not only shades of grey there's a whole freaking color scale!  A Kodachrome, right? And I understand that all the colors might make it all a little confusing to "see the writing on the wall" and the inclination is to simplify it but I guess I just think no amount of positive or negative thinking is going to change that there is some water in the glass. It is what it is.

But to answer the question. I am a realist who desperately  wants to believe the glass is half full. I want to see the sunny day. I want the rainbows and unicorns. And I guess that is why I didn't really notice the turtles:  I was too busy looking for  rainbows and unicorns to see what was really there.

While we were at the expo to pick up my number, Ryan was busy trying to figure out "what was up with all the turtles" and  I was busy talking to runners at the pacer table. I was looking for that darn 3:25 pace band. It doesn't exist. I couldn't find it at Savannah and I couldn't find it in Albany either. The reason it wasn't in Albany was that the Fed ex guys hadn't brought the pace bands yet. While waiting to find out about the pace bands and conferring with the pace leaders the suggestion was made to line up with the 3:35 pace group and adjust from there. I realized this was a valid suggestion.I asked what that pace was--8:12.

And I thought, ick. What's the point of having trained to run sub 3:25 and go out running 3:35? To me the math that would get me to sub 3:25 wasn't going to work if I went out at a 3:35 pace.  I just saw that idea as a waste of my training. I felt very confident I was in sub 3:25 shape. My training these past 3 months has been my strongest ever and I ran a 5k (20:30) pr and 10k (43:14) pr in February--both indicating sub 3:25 was a reasonable goal. Heck, I was only a 90 seconds shy of sub 3:25 in Savannah and that was most definitely not my best day ever.

I think in that moment I decided that if can't run 3:25 tomorrow I would rather save myself and try in 2 weeks at the Publix marathon for which I am signed up.Oh, but to be certain, I know the idea of me  actually running a 3:25 marathon on the Publix marathon course makes seeing a unicorn riding a rainbow a more likely scenario.

I walked away from the pacer table mulling the choices.  If I ran 3:3x I felt fairly certain that would be too fast to turn it around and run 3:25 at Publix in 15 days (for which I am registered). So the choices I reasoned were this:   go for sub  3:25 as planned, target 4 hours (long run pace) or not run. My thinking was also if it is going to be raining and hideous weather I would rather not be in it any longer than I had to be. And seeing as how I had  made the trip to Albany I might as well run the darn race. 3:25 it was.  . . and I was not excited, confident or thrilled about it at all. And I was irritated about that. I wanted to be excited and confident. I was mad that things were not going my way. Really. I waste way too much time being angry at the weather and things I have absolutely no control over.

The forecast for the morning called for 70 degrees, 88-100% humidity, 10-20mph wind, rain, lightening, thunderstorms and maybe a tornado. The race director promised to let us know by 6 am if the race would be canceled.

Meanwhile the severe storms that were predicted for Albany Saturday were about to hit Atlanta and the northern suburbs. So Ryan and I watched the weather.  I tried to go to bed at 8 pm knowing, at the very least, a good nights rest was going to be critical in getting through the race in the morning.

A tornado around 9 pm, according to the reports, touched down about 5 miles from our house.  My parents (who my kids were staying with), my nephew, brother in law, sister in law, and my in laws all live within a 10 mile radius of us. Gratefully, everyone and their homes were okay. My in laws lost power and we didn't know how our house was. Even still Ryan and my phone both rang or beeped with texts well past midnight with friends and family calling to see if we were okay and to check in to let us know they were okay. I would have turned them off but the forecast predicted another line of storms after midnight.

Needless to say, a good nights sleep didn't happen. Might have been worst night sleep's ever. How stressed out can one person be lying in a comfortable bed? The answer is pretty damn stressed out.

The Race

I stayed in bed until my alarm went off at a quarter til 5. I got up and had the usual cup of coffee, water, bagel with some peanut butter. I made a playlist and down loaded some new songs to my ipod and got dressed. At 6am  I saw the race was a go. At 6:15 Ryan and I left to go to the start.

It isn't raining yet but it is a muggy 71 degrees. There is a breeze so it doesn't feel oppressive and I think, well this isn't so bad. Maybe there will be race day magic. There usually is. I tell Ryan my legs feel really tight and I try stretching a little. Ryan holds my place in the ridiculously long porto potty line and I go and warm up a bit, stretch.  I am tired but I am always tired at the start. I've managed just fine in the past. I decide not to worry about the flashes of lightening I see in the distance.

With a few minutes to 7 I kiss Ryan good bye and make my way up near the 3:25 pace group. Even though I know it is coming and even watch as the guy pulls the cord for the cannon the boom still startles me and I say " Oh shit!" And it must of scared the piss out of the sky too because it starts pouring as I run over the start mat.

I try to be smart and stay back from the pace group but by the end of the first mile I am right in step with them.

First mile clicks off at 7:38. Too fast, obviously but still 3 seconds slower than I ran that first mile at Savannah.

I think the rain made it deceptively cool. I didn't feel hot. I felt totally fine. Easy even. I would even say I felt better than I did at Savannah. My legs though did feel tired and achy. But my legs always feel like crap for the first few miles of every single run. I just don't pay attention to it.

Mile 2  also uneventful. I definitely feel like I am holding back and keep just behind the pack of the group. I guess though I am part of the group because even though I have my ear buds in I can still hear mostly what is being said.

 8:01. And I think that is exactly what I did in Savannah. I feel like I am being smart.

 I am rain soaked though. I pointlessly try to avoid the large puddles. I decide the Green Silence  was the right choice. They don't feel as heavy as the Adrenaline's would have,  I tell myself.

Mile 3 Just as the rain lets up  I start hearing what I guess might be tornado sirens. I hadn't spoken to anyone. Not sure yet if I wanted to commit to the pace group so I wasn't looking to make friends. But I asked, to no one in particular, " Are those tornado sirens!" It was confirmed that they were in fact tornado sirens. Then I hear the pacer inform us that he would get us to the finish in 3:25 but his first objective is safety or some non sense like that.

It occurs to me that it flies in the face of good sense to be out running when there is a looming threat of tornadoes. I have the first of many moments that day where I do not  feel very smart or that I am being at all logical.

I pass a guy vomiting and I hear the pacer says something about breakfast. I tried not to look but I did. Mile 3 I think and people are already vomiting? You are not him. You are not him, I tell myself.

7:44 The pace felt fine but between the sirens and the dude vomiting I am unnerved. Looking back this is where I should have pulled back. But I remember contemplating it and looking at my arm on which I had written, "HTFU" and "You can!" and I stayed the course.

Mile 4 I want them to turn the sirens off. I see people stopping, jumping off the course to walk, piss or vomit. I start worry about my house. I hope it is okay. I wonder if Beau's lacrosse game is canceled. My legs still feel tired. Hopefully they come around soon.The pacer is trying to be light and engaging. I am grateful for it. If nothing else it is distracting. 7:48

Mile 5 7:44 I think there are still sirens but I think the rain has stopped. I am trying to listen to others talk while I internally debate my plan. I had originally, when I didn't know the weather was going to be so awful, planned to go out with the 3:25 pace group and drop the pace a little after 6 or so miles. After I knew how bad the weather was going to be I decided that plan was totally unreasonable. So my debate was stay with 3:25 or slow down to long run pace. I had my first GU.

Mile 6: 7:53 Aid station. More people still stopping, not looking good. I start to think maybe it is warm. Am I warm? Oh what to do! I don't want to slow down. I really want to run 3:25. I want another pr! I am wearing my green silence. They are my pr shoes. I try not to think about that my legs feel pretty crappy or that without the rain it really is starting to feel pretty darn hot.

Mile 7 7:44 Chaos happens. A young, quite fit I should add, guy about 5- 10 feet in front of me holds up his arm and steps off the course. I pass him and assume, like the others who have been stepping off he is going to piss or vomit.  But then I hear someone shout "Stop!! Everyone stop! Help!" I don't stop but I glance behind me and see that guy in the fetal position in the grass. He looks like he might be shaking. The guy next to me yells "he is having a fit!" I don't know what to do. I don't have my phone. Up ahead there is  a police car blocking the traffic for the race course. Our pacer bolts off to get help. I stay with the group, keep running and fight back the tears and the panic feeling that is rising in my chest. I feel myself sliding into the "valley of darkness" and again, I feel like I am not being very smart.

Mile 8 7:46 The pacer comes back. Someone again repeats that he was having a "fit". I think about what this means. Is he having a fit because he has epilepsy or is he having a seizure from heat stroke? I don't know and I don't think to ask but this is where my resolve at the race and my pursuit of 3:25 begins to really crumble. I am trying to give myself the pep talk but the little voice in the back of my head keeps reminding me that I am a parent. I have obligations in this world more important that running a 3:25 marathon. I start to really worry about the safety issue of this race. Maybe it is warmer than I think it is. Nevertheless I am still sticking with the group. I don't feel good about it though. I want to give it a little more time and see if it passes.

Mile 9: 7:52 I am still with the group but I note that this mile is slower and that it felt pretty tough. This I realize is not a good sign. We are out on an open highway/road. It is kind of windy. Hitting us sideways though. I pass one of many churches that I will run pass on the course. In South Georgia there is a church every quarter of mile. You can't turn a corner down here without finding one. This one has one of those marquees with an uplifting message. I read it and say it to myself twice. It is a positive message and I think I should adopt it for the rest of race. It will help me dig deep I decide. My mind wanders away from the positive message and starts thinking about the guy who fell and I worry about my house and that my feet and ankles and calves feel pretty awful. I start to say my newly adopted mantra from the church marquee to bring my mind back to the positive thinking but I have already forgotten it and all I can say to myself, having totally mixed it all up is : God creates disasters.  Not helpful or positive but now that  is what is stuck in my head! Crap.

Mile 10 7:56 Hmm, how did that happen? I try to figure out what is going on with the pace. That felt really hard and now I am behind the pace group. I have another GU and when I come to an aid station I decide to walk it. Maybe my heart rate is too high.  I don't know what is going on but I feel like something is off and I need to pull back.

Mile 11 8:20 I slow down and I think about how I am feeling. Not so good. I decide by this point I should be feeling better. My legs feel wrong. Nothing I can pin point but my feet, ankles and calves are achy and tight. Is it the shoes? I only did one long run in the Green Silence. 16 two weeks ago and it felt fine. My legs did not feel like this. Maybe it is from the rain. I can feel the pavement through my shoes, like I am running barefoot.

I can still see the pace group but they are pretty far ahead. I debate if I should try to chase them down or hold this pace. The sun is poking its head out.

Mile 12 8:05 I try to pick it up but it feels worse. I definitely know I am not bonked but I just don't feel right.  Not sick at the stomach but my feet and ankles and calves just hurt. This is not how my legs usually feel. I can't find a rhythm. Did I go out too fast? I look at my watch. Well this is definitely slower than I ran at Savannah and my legs never felt like this at all during the race--even in the last few miles. Sure my calves felt twitchy in the last 10k but this is different. I decide on a walk break and a slower mile.

Mile 13 8:42 I realize that 3:25 and a pr is gone based on how my legs feel. The "wheels" have come off. Do I want to put them back on? What is the right choice? What is the logical smart thing to do?

I am not enjoying running at all. It feels hot and muggy to me. There is no rain and the sun is making it feel gross. I still see every so often someone throwing up or kneeling down or stopping for some reason.I hear the occasinal ambulance or police siren.  This stinks. Really, no one looks like they are enjoying themselves. It seems really early for on for people to look this miserable.  We have yet to reach the half way point.

Speaking of which, I hit the half in 1:44xx. This is a good 3 minutes slower than I ran at a Savannah. I reason if I can hold it I can probably run close to 3:30. I feel a bit cooked though so it certainly won't be easy, fun or most questionably in my mind--worth my effort. I think about:  If I try to gut it out for the best time possible it will still be an undesirable time for me, I will still be disappointed and then, I figure,  I will have no shot whatsoever at a good race in two weeks. I just don't think I can recover that quickly. I mean I've done marathons 4 weeks apart but never 2 weeks. I don't even know if it is reasonable to think I will be able to pull it off no matter how slow I go.

 What to do. What to do. People are passing me. Legs feel icky. I am lonely and not seeing the fun in it. I can't entertain myself with taking pictures since I left my phone with Ryan.

--At some point during miles 11-14 I caught up and chatted with the guy from Texas who was with the 3:25 group. I ask him if he stopped when the guy fell. He confirms that he did and that by the time the medics got there he seemed to be coming around. There is no mention of a seizure so I don't know what happened but I feel better knowing he got help. I hope he was okay. He weighed heavily on my mind. No race is worth hurting yourself over. --

Mile 14 9:10 Still  deciding what to do. My legs feel worse. Feels like someone took a bat to my calves and ankles and the bottom of my feet ache badly.  I can feel my IT band tightening on both sides and that makes me panic. I do not want to have to battle ITBS again. I know for certain that this race is absolutely not worth putting myself back in the injury clink.

At this point, since I am taking a walk break every now and then when my resolve weakens I am noticing more stuff. Mostly what I see is the little turtle markers on the sewers. I laugh, Ryan was right, the turtles are every where! Turtles! Seriously! It all starts to dawn on me the mistake I have made. I went out as the rabbit and I most definitely should have been the freaking turtle. Turtles.

I feel really stupid.

Mile 15 8:40 IT band is very tight. I am hot. I am miserable. I am lonely. I decide to call it a day. I reason if I call Ryan at the next aid station and he can pick me up around 16 or 17  and that I can probably safely recover to be 100% in two weeks for the Publix marathon. Not my idea of fun or ideal but I know I am better than today.  What I want from myself just isn't going to happen for me today. I've already been dumb and, I decide, punished sufficiently for my mistake.

Live to fight another day, I tell myself.

With this resolve at the next aid station I asked a volunteer if I can use a phone. I am done! I tell them. I do feel a bit guilty. I mean, I paid to be out on the course. These awesome, kind and exuberant volunteers are out here for free.

 I suck. My self loathing is thicker than the humidity.

A nice man gives me his phone. I call Ryan.
I am done. Come get me, I tell him.
Are you fucking kidding? He asks.
No, I am cooked, I say certainly. But my voice shakes as I admit it. Saying it out loud and these nice strangers hearing me say  it makes it sad, scary and very real. Quitting is always hard and it never ever feels good.  My eyes well up and fight back tears. I will NOT cry in front of these nice poncho wearing people handing out water and bananas on their perfect manicured front lawn. I feel like the biggest ass ever.
Ryan asks,where I am.
I think the address was 1528 Coventry. Who knows. I say, I will start walking towards 16 and 17. Find me along the course.
Okay, he says.

I hand the phone back to the nice man and say thank you. He offers me a place to sit and wait but I tell him I will meet my husband at the next aid station. Such nice people. I am pathetic.

 I walk for a bit. And then bored by the walking I start jogging. I try to be encouraging to those I see struggling. I feel guilty but I also feel like a huge burden has been lifted. Sure there is a tug of guilt knowing I am not going to be a Natalie fan tomorrow. But for now I just want today to be over. I just want to go home.

 For the first time all morning I feel hopeful. I laugh a little, thinking --  you know, if this was a true Southern Gothic tale-- that after 2 hours of running down those rain flooded and tempestuous streets of Albany I have been baptized. Baptism by storm! I giggle at my next thought and conclude that Ryan, with his gnarly beard and his hair he hasn't cut in a year could totally pass for Jesus and he is going to save my wretched ass. Hallelujah! Ryan saves!

Or so I thought.

Mile 16 comes.   In it I come across Beth, a local ultra runner acquaintance.  She is super focused and doesn't even acknowledge me despite my screaming Beth! Beth! for several minutes. I jog along side her and start to think either I am invisible or she hates me. But with persistence she seeing me flailing beside her. I, of course tell her ALL of my woes and that I am quitting. I guess I should have known better than to tell someone who runs a marathon every weekend in her training for yet another 100 mile race of my woes and expect some sympathy. But I think I've already shown that logical thinking, good sense and being smart I was not. Pride, clearly not a factor anymore.
We say hi and she smiles.
Then I say, I am quitting.
Her face gets serious and she looks at me, sizing me up and says." I think that is a mistake. You'll regret it."
I give my arguments of "but I could just run Publix in 2 weeks! I don't want to injure myself again.Blah. Blah Blah. Feel sorry for me pleaseeee!!!"
"Just run walk it," she tells me. "You'll be fine. Besides you are running too fast right now anyway."
I am?
Yeah, 8:20's.

Huh.No quitting? I don't know if I like this idea. I KNOW I sure as heck don't like walking. Walking sucks.

We chat and I try to hang with her. Keeping an eye out for my husband who is sure to show up at any minute and I am certainly going to climb inside that car.

Mile 17 Still no saviour. Still hanging and annoying Beth.

I start to realize that maybe he isn't going to come get me. That what happened is that I called and said "babe, come get me. I am dying. " And he said "yes" but really what he said, after I hung up was:  "Fuck that. I'm going to the River Aquarium and find out what is up with the turtles!"

Mile 18 I am forsaken. I am certain of it now. I start to wonder about our marriage vows. Hello, good times and bad, please come pick up my sorry ass Ryan! You promised!

I am still ready to quit. Ready to tell anyone, everyone and I do.  I am sure Beth is annoyed and ready to shake me off but I am lonely, needy and don't care how annoying I am. By the end of the mile she tells me how ridiculous quitting would be. I only have 7 miles left and I can "totally do this" she points out.

Right. Right she is. But I realize that today, I just don't want to.  But apparently, March 3rd is the day where Natalie does not get what she wants.

Does she though, get what she needs?

Mile 19 Apparently yes. Because obviously what I needed, I realize now, is a good ass kicking and a serving of humble pie. Hmm, I guess I was due.

It doesn't matter that Beth is right. Right that I can"totally do this."  I have to do this because apparently, Ryan, who I am certain  is off researching turtles, is not going to come and get me and I am going to have to "do this" whether I want to or not.

Damn it all to hell!

As I come to this realization another runner pipes up and asks if I am NatNat. It is Chris from the Runner's World forums. We introduce ourselves and swap our stories of misery.  He asks if he can hang with me. I warn him, that any second I might be quitting but absolutely he can hang with me if he can stand it. He tells me that he has read my blog and "knows what he is getting himself into." Yay! Another wretched soul to run with!

Miles 20+   The sky is darkening; rain and pace groups come and go. At some point we lose Beth but not before she introduces us to her friend Vanessa. I come across again the lady in the dress and also the pretty blond lady who I had told my tale about quitting a few miles back. They had both wanted to quit too but like me are hanging in there. I think eventually they all pass me. But Chris, thankfully, is willing to stick with me. He is struggling with GI issues. I am struggling with bad attitude and sore achy legs, lost resolve and soon will be able to add the nasty snake of a calf cramp to the list of my woe is me's. I still hold on to the bleakest of hope that at any moment Ryan will show up and save me from my misery.

It is fun run walking with Chris. I probably would have laid out on the side of the road and held out the $4 dollars I had to my name and offered it to anyone to take me away if he hadn't been there.

All through these miles I see runners sitting on the side of the road--vomiting, taking a break, looking desperate for it to be over. I hear ambulances and sirens. And all the while we pass the most cheerful, optimistic and kind volunteers encouraging, thanking and wishing us well.

Mile 24  The sky darkens ominously to my right side. The rain is back.The sky looks like it means serious business this time and that the mother of all storms is ready to hit us.

I do start to worry that maybe something as happened to Ryan. I mean, really how could he have forsaken me like this? 13 years of marriage and 2 kids? I know I am ridiculous most days but come on, I am a good wife. Don't toss me out into the storm!

Mile 25 The four hour pacer finds us. She is all alone. She looks pretty done too. I offer to carry her sign for her but she says she is okay. I tell Chris this is it! We need just to suck it up and get it done. No more walking. The rain is heavier, the wind has kicked up and there isn't a culvert in sight for us to dive in.

Mile 26 The rain is really heavy now and it is getting dark. And I am not shitting you but we have to step up on the sidewalk and then we RUN INTO A BUILDING! We run through it and out on to the river walk. The temperature drops easily 10 degrees and the sky completely breaks open and dumps more rain than I think  is in the Flint River. I warn Chris ahead of time that I am going to have to do a cartwheel since it isn't a pr.

I hear his wife cheer for him.

And we are done. We cross the finish line in 3:58 and change. I cartwheel, give Chris a hug of thanks, get my medal--which is a . . .  FREAKING TURTLE!  

I look for Ryan. He isn't there. I can't believe it.

I had thought he would be there. Part of me thought he had been following me on the course, giggling when he saw me but never letting me see him. When I don't see him at the finish I panic. I assume something horrible has happened. Oh the images my mind can play.  I find a phone and call him. Apparently he has been driving the course looking for me but kept missing me because I kept running. Oh well. It is done.

What a disappointing day. After 14 years of running and 16 marathons I should know better. I KNOW that I just don't run well in warm humid weather. I never have. And for that matter I have never  run a pr at my spring marathon. Trying to force an aggressive goal was a huge mistake. One I just should not have made. IF I had been using my brain at all instead of holding onto my heart wish and being a silly optimist I would have had a much better day. I have no doubt about it. I only have myself to blame for the day I had. It just was not a day to try and run a pr and everything prior was telling me that but I, as usual, wasn't really paying attention. No worries though. It is for sure noted in my "book" for future reference.

A note about the photos. I took those in college. I still laugh thinking about my 22 year old self arranging Aunt Boo's lawn animals for my staged Tortoise and Hare race. I don't know if you see it but there is a cat, ducks, pig, and bull dog spectating the race. I am the most ridiculous woman ever. There really does need to be somebody to "shoot me every minute of my life." Oh, wait there is. His name is Ryan.

And my calves and ankles STILL feel like someone took a bat to them and, yes, as a matter of fact I do walk like I have a pair of Frye Campus boot prosthetics.

Self fulfilled prophecy indeed.