My left leg hurt. No matter how I shifted the weight, I couldn’t get comfortable. Dang, sciatic nerve! It was making the hours drag by. I was in so much pain. I grabbed a couple of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. Please, make the pain stop! This was only the car ride to the race.
We arrived at packet pickup Friday afternoon after an 18 hour drive stretched over two long days. It was a typical low-key packet pickup. ”Here’s your shirt, race bag, number. Sign this form. Good luck tomorrow.”
We picked up pizza on the way to our beach house, ate quickly, sorted gear and headed to bed early. The morning was going to come quickly.
Our alarms went off at 2:45 AM and we were out the door an hour later. It was dark and cold outside. A cold front pushed in the previous day dropping the temps into the upper 30’s.
We checked in at the race site the morning of and were shuttled to the beach start.
We were literally standing at the north end of the highway where the pavement stops and the beach begins.
All eighty something runners huddled around waiting for the start of a long day. Just a few moments after 5 AM the final shuttle arrived, the last participants filed out. The National Anthem was blared over a car stereo and the start command was issued. A simple, “Ready? Go!” And we were off.
I ran the first section without headphones and I was glad I did. Once the crowd thinned out and with it the fragments of conversation died, I heard the most glorious thing: The coastal world awakening. Birds began to sing their songs. The sky lightened. It was by far my favorite moment of the race.
Early in the race, I saw D ahead.
Against better judgement, I sped up to chat with him. I began to think, “If he slips out of my sight, it will be endless hours and endless miles before I see him again.” I panicked and sped up. I wasn’t ready to give up D. After all, he is my rock and my security blanket.
Soon, I was running his pace, and his race to stay by his side. All this would come back to haunt me later in the day.
I began the race with a very structured nutrition plan. Gu’s every 30 minutes, 1 serving of Sustained Energy every 20 miles. I was determined to stick with this plan to make sure I had the energy I needed to get through the long hours ahead.
One GU down, 53 to go!
Not only did I catch up to D, when he began to struggle with stomach issues, I passed him. I needed to slow down. BUT…My body felt good. My pace felt good. The wind at my back (gusting up to 30 mph) was pushing me along. I just couldn’t slow down.
Until my body made me.
I hit the first marathon mark in 4:45. Not a bad time…for a solo marathon. And then it all began to unravel.
It began with queasiness. My stomach was unsettled. I quit taking on Gu’s afraid the “sweetness” was the problem. I was going to rely on Sustained Energy and food I’d grazed at each major aid station.
But the queasiness developed into extreme pressure, sharp pains and a rolling stomach.
My run was slowed to a walk. My walk to bending over the asphalt dry heaving.
"Just throw up!"
D caught up to me and promised to stay by my side.
Robin brought me broth and offered to shove her finger down my throat (like a true friend.)
I shoved my own finger down my throat. I thought of all things gross and revolting. I stared a little too long a fresh road kill.
I could not throw up.
I kept moving.
The six miles between aid stations stretched out forever. At the aid stations, I’d sip more broth, feel better after stopping for a bit, head out on the next section only to be slammed a few miles in. Three miles. Consistently three miles was where I was left heaving on the side of the road, often squatting or on my knees.
"Make it stop. Just make it stop."
Ahead. Just highway. Sand blowing in the wind. Dusk falling. I had 40 miles to go.
That was the number that pushed me over the edge.
I had struggled to push through the last 30 miles.
I always hoped my stomach would let up. I remained optimistic that the next stretch to the next waterstop would bring change. But with each passing mile it worsened.
As the sun fell to the horizon, I could no longer sip water.
With the sinking sun, my hopes of finishing this race sank.
Tears of frustration and pain were shed on the side of that highway.
I walked into the 59 mile water stop, took off my gear and told my crew I had given my all.
They did their job. ”Just sit for a moment. Let your stomach settle. Here’s some broth. Here’s some warmer layers. You’re still in front of cutoff. Don’t call it a day yet.”
I begged Dustin to go on, push forward and finish the race without me holding him back. He geared up to leave the aid station and asked me not to drop until 7:15. That would give me 45 minutes to recoup.
After a few moments, I decided to hit the road, just to see how far I could get walking. I wasn’t going to take in anything but water and no running since that seemed to be the culprit.
I went out for the next six mile stretch. I again made it three miles and my stomach revolted. I tried to walk through it. It was no use. I called it a day.
My crew picked me up on the side of the road.
The race was over.
As disappointed as I was to not make it to the end, I knew I had given it my all. I had struggled with similar stomach issues at mile 23 of Little Rock Marathon 2011. There, I thought three miles stretched into eternity.
Although I never made 100 miles, I made 62, more than thirty (and more than a marathon!) past where my race fell apart. Ten times my previous threshold. I hit a point when I felt like I absolutely had to give up, and I kept moving…for a long time (9 hours to be exact).
I don’t view it as a failure. Failure would have been giving up when I first felt uncomfortable. When I first began to hurt. Failure would have been making stupid decisions and being carted off in an ambulance.
I see it as a lesson learned. A building block. A strengthening exercise.
Saturday I went farther than before. I covered more miles than I have in a day. I pushed through pain longer. I got better.
I went farther than failure.