Monday, May 27, 2013

Things I Learned from Marathon #1

It's been nearly a month since I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon, and I still can't believe that I did it. The day itself was filled with a supreme feeling of accomplishment, gratitude to those who support me, frustration, happiness, and discomfort. I knew going into the day I would be emotional (I was a sob story) and exhausting (I felt like I had the flu the rest of the day), but I had no idea what would hit me after.

I didn't expect to learn anything from this, I just wanted to know what it felt like to do the impossible. For most of my life, this was impossible.

I had wanted to become a runner after high school, but I drank too much, cared little about physical fitness, and had a broken foot for two years during college. After college, I often gave running a try and found that my "wall" came at an impressive .4 miles. In the fall of 2010, I  started jogging a mile at a time around Lake Hefner, but it was uncomfortable and tedious. When I moved back to Dallas in March of 2011, I became slightly more consistent.  That fall, I ran my first 5k and thought I was going to pass out.

Even last fall, I remember telling someone that I wanted to run a Half, but knew a Full just wasn't in the cards for me. I gave up training for the Dallas Half only 3 weeks into training, but settled on the 8 mile Dallas Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

I ended up learning so many things, but here are the highlights:

1. I may prefer to run alone, but I can't do this alone.
    My support crew during the marathon weekend was All-Star!!

    • My parents drove up to visit me, and met me at 6, 12, 18, 22 and 26.2 miles.  All along the way, I was able to look forward to my next stop to see them and receive a treat along the way, as well as a hug.
    • My cousin, Jonathan, yelled for me at 13, then 18 with my parents.
    • Laura and Tracy (and Dan and Sally) met me at 16.5 with cantaloupe and a much needed rest stop (thanks, you two!!!)
    • My friend Nicole and her boyfriend hosted me the whole weekend at their house in Moore and met me at the finish line.
    • Every above, plus Jessica and Nick, were able to go to a celebratory lunch at Blu!!
    My favorite mental exercise when running is to think of someone for a mile. I can easily think of 10 minutes worth of fun and special memories with friends and family members, and then I get to run for someone else. I highly recommend it if going on a longer run, and I've gotten to the point that I can't imagine running without this technique.

    All in all, I prefer running at my own pace and without company (though I'm hoping to run with someone the next go 'round), but I never feel lonely.  I run with dedication to the people I love, and couldn't have accomplished this without that support.

    2. Dehydration will destroy your body

    I did not feel well the day of the marathon.  I don't know if it was Wednesday night's Happy Hour that lasted until midnight, the Mont's queso and single Swirl Friday night, stomach cramps all day Saturday or the pasta that didn't sit well from Saturday night. I don't know if it was nerves or if I was battling a mistreated stomach, or if I really didn't have enough water the days prior. 

    When I started the marathon, I already felt like I was ill.  This happens normally before I get moving (nerves), but subsides quickly.  That morning, I literally thought I was going to hurl for 26 miles.  My parents brought me Pepto Bismol and Ginger Ale at mile 12 (won't do carbonation again, but I thought it would help with the nausea), and Coconut Water at 18 (which usually makes me puke instantly, which I desired greatly at that point).

    My biggest culprit, though, was that I stopped sweating.  I didn't realize it until after I was done, but I should have. When I met T & L, T told me I looked "fresh" and pretty and clean...and it wasn't until later that I realized that at 16 miles, you aren't supposed to be fresh or pretty. You are supposed to be worn and sweaty and disgusting.

    Next go round, I'm cutting out booze two weeks prior.  This is going to suck big time, because I'm planning on buying tickets to go see Justin Timberlake the Wednesday night before the Dallas Marathon, but I know it's something I have to do and a mistake I won't make again.

    Look at that face!! Such a lady!

    3. I'm getting old

    I often joke with people our age about how the body doesn't heal so quickly anymore.  I have felt things over the past four months that seem torturous and cruel in retrospect.

    I strained my calf muscle two weeks before the race and thought I was going to half to bail altogether.  Luckily, KT Tape saved the day, but I'm still experiencing tightness when running and walking down stairs.This happens to a lot of runners, but I'd never been in that much pain from a pulled muscle before.

    I have also been feeling a grinding friction in my left hip, and I'm not happy to deal with hip problems in my twenties.  While it seems to be getting better with rest, stairs are still a problem in that area, too.

    It took me a solid week to get my energy level back up to "normal" after the marathon, which was incredible to imagine people that do this all of the time.  Surely, their endurance is better than mine; however, I could not physically move any faster than about 50 bpm per step (nerd speak) even if someone would have offered me $1 million. It simply would not have been possible

    Between all the falls and bumps and bruises and cramps, I'm honestly shocked that people in their sixties (and beyond) can do this. I hear that your bone density will increase the more you consistently run, and I'm hoping to witness this the next time!

    4. Time doesn't matter the first time, but it does the second

    I did not have a set-in-stone goal time, but I did have a rough time I would have liked to meet as a best case scenario.  I was significantly slower than that time.  I wouldn't say I'm happy with my time, but I finished the best I could that with the hand I was dealt (tummy...).

    I learned a lot physically during this marathon that I didn't want to take on for the first one, and I learned what the infamous "wall" is and how it can effect you.  I won't bore  you with all the details, but I'm excited to get started with the next training plan, and this time I will have a goal time!!

    5. Running (really) is all mental

    You've heard this before.  When I used to hear it, I would think it was something runners would tell non-runners to make something that is difficult for most people to do sound easier.  I would lump this with the advice that in order to run long distances, you just don't stop. I thought it was bull. (Both of these are true)

    Truthfully, the mental game is the most difficult part of long distance running.  Endurance is necessary, but that comes naturally with the time put into training.Running is boring, by itself.  Without mental sustenance, I would argue that it is tedious and mentally exhausting for most people. Breaking through mental blocks and finding ways to occupy your brain through discomfort was the hardest part of finishing the race for me.

    6. I am exceedingly emotional

    I am a cryer.  I cry when I'm happy, sad, mad, overwhelmed, or any extreme emotion to speak of. I cried at least twenty times that day.  I knew this was going to happen when I finished.  I knew it might happen once or twice during.  I was freaking out of control the whole time.

    Like this.
    Crying would have just fine if it was just a cute little drip down my eye, but it isn't.  Crying disrupts breathing patterns, which means I was continuously hyperventilating during the run. I forgot my inhaler (stupid, stupid, stupid) and I kept gasping for oxygen with this strained "trying-not-to-cry" face (see image at right, source). Seriously, not pretty.

    I hope this is something I desperately outgrow once the novelty of accomplishing a marathon wears off.  It was exhausting and, a couple of time, really scary. I won't forget the inhaler next time, but I'm also hoping to control my emotions better.

    About to have a serious meltdown, 26.15 miles


    1. I love it! I am so proud of you and can't wait to cheer you on for the next one and hopefully run one with you someday soon! Love you!

    2. i love this! i am so proud of your accomplishment and hope someday i will be able to cheer you on from the sideline!

    3. Yeah! It was so fun to see you out there being awesome.
      And maybe get that hip checked out if it doesn't get better? Or start taking those pills we had to give to Riley to help improve her joints! HAHAHA :)