Monday, April 2, 2012

When a failure becomes a triumph.

Saturday I ran my third half marathon.

I had high hopes. I had a goal to make it a personal best. I knew they would have pacers, and I whole-heartedly believed I could find my pacer, and hang with them for 13.1 miles.

Here is a recap of race day:

Actually... lets start with the day before the race. I was stupid. Over the last 6 months, I have discovered that I am gluten intolerant. I am in denial about it some days. I will do pretty well for weeks at a time, to the point where I convince myself it isn't an issue. Then I will eat something I shouldn't, and feel terrible. Each time the reaction gets worse. Well, Friday before my race, I made some cookies for Charles. I had made great efforts to eat a clean healthy diet all week so I would be feeling my best on race day.... then I made cookies.

What was I thinking? I couldn't resist and ate some cookies. Within a few hours I was feeling pretty bad, and went to bed early feeling really nauseous. I woke up early on Saturday, still not feeling well, bowels were a mess, if you get what I'm saying....

I drove up with a friend to the race, and after we parked, had to take a 30 minute shuttle bus (school bus) to the race venue. I spent the last couple of miles squatted next to the bus driver hugging his trash can in case I threw up.

We got there, and I immediately got in line for the bathroom. Digestion issues still knocking at the door. Just before the race start, I decided to hit the bathroom one more time for good measure. Sorry... that's probably totally more than anyone cares to know...

Luckily, during the race, I didn't have any surprises. And thank goodness for that.

I knew the course was hilly. I had been told that mentally, it was a very tough course because of all the hills, and lots of switchbacks. I tucked those nuggets of knowledge away.

I found my pacer. She held a sign that said: 2:10 (goal finish time). I vowed to keep her in my sites at all costs. Gun fires, race starts, and I'm off.

I hang with her pretty well the first three miles, when I realize... I have been running hills for 3 miles straight, and I didn't look at the course map ahead of time, but I'm not so sure that these hills are going to stop any time soon. I decided, if I wanted to finish, I would have to compromise on my pace. I slowed a bit, but decided I would keep her in my sites, and would not let the 2:20 pacer pass me.

By Mile 6.5, I was actually trying to call Charles mid-run to give me some encouragement. I was on the verge of tears, because the race was only half over, and the hills had not let up. There had been one short stretch of flat road, but had been at least 6 miles of rolling hills.

About mile 7, it finally leveled out for a down and back stretch of road, where I was able to look for my other friends running. That was a nice distraction. About Mile 9 there was another big climb. One I decided walking up was the best option. Mentally, I was beat. My stomach was having sharp pains, my feet and knees were hurting. I was done. The 2:20 pacer passed, me... I felt completely defeated. I realized that not only would this be far from my best half marathon time, it would likely be my worst.

We took a turn into the resort where the finish was at about mile 10-11. Then we wound through the golf course for the last 3 miles. I had nothing left. I told myself over and over again, "Heather, you have had TWO babies. You can run 3 more miles!!"

But I just couldn't. I had to walk/jog the last 3 miles, with more walking than I would like to admit. I kept telling myself, you can run for this whole song... You can run till you get to that turn... ok, walk until you get to that sign, then you can run the rest of the race... The last mile... you can run the last mile without stopping...

Then the 2:30 pacer passed me. I realized at this point, I just had to make it to that finish line. By any means imaginable. By the time I got to the last half mile, I dug deep down inside me (ok, maybe it was just my pride that there were spectators at that point), and ran the last stretch. I crossed the finish line.

I didn't look for friends immediately. I didn't scan the spectators for a friendly face.

On the verge of tears, I grabbed a bottle of water, and headed to an empty staircase by myself.

I had totally failed.
I sat down, feeling defeated, feeling very sick, very tired.

I looked out over the beautiful Texas Hill Country that I had just spent 2:35 running up and down... and I thought... I did it.

I didn't fail.

Failure would have been stopping at mile 3 when I decided,
this was quite possibly the worst $100 I have ever spent.

Failure would have been trying to bribe one of the police officers blocking off roads to let me hide in their car, like I wanted to. I would have paid top dollar.

Failure would have been making a u-turn at the 5k turn around at mile 7, when I wanted to die.

Failure would have been faking an injury to catch a ride with the medics, like I seriously debated doing.

Defeat would have been dumping my running shoes in the nearest trash can and deciding never to run again. (and maybe, if we hadn't just invested in a pretty pricey running stroller, I would have considered that option)

It was hard. Really hard.
I hadn't trained as intensely as I should have.
But I did it. I finished.
And really... finishing that race, slow as it was,
was a much bigger feat than anything like it that I have done before.

So I gathered my things, and texted my friends. I texted Charles. And I smiled... and looked for a bathroom.

Talking to my friends who ran, a lot of them had VERY similar thoughts and experiences on the course.

After a few minutes, we headed back to the car, on the glorious bus, where this time, again, I took my place squatting next to the bus driver, who was nice enough to pat me on the back as I threw up in his trash can.
Gluten, you win. I'm done.

As for those running shoes... I think I'm ready to lace up again tomorrow.

I've got something to prove.


Kim said...

I am so unbelievably proud of you. It was hard, it was HOT, and you felt like poo, but you gave it your all. You finished, you finished well. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will be the gluten police the whole week before the race ;)
Love this post babe.

Andrew said...

Awesome story Heather. Most impressive!

kelseynell said...

Heather you are a rock star. Every year I tell myself I am going to run a half marathon and I have not done it yet. I can't believe you have done 3. You rule.