April 25, 2014

Marathons, Never Ending

[Full Yakima River Canyon Marathon - about 1/4 the way through]

Recently we took a weekend trip to central WA so that I could run the Yakima River Canyon Marathon. It was a pretty quick trip but we were able to spend a day just exploring the area and it was quite different than we were expecting. The western side and the eastern sides of this state are exactly the kinds of places we hope to end up, - B-E-A-utiful with forests, rivers, lakes and mountains everywhere you look. Central WA however, looks a lot like southeastern Idaho where there are rolling hills with no trees in sights... what? Anyway, so we were pretty surprised when instead of a race where I'd be going down a beautifully winding path through a forested canyon, there weren't very many trees to shade me or block my view so I actually could see miles ahead of me - yikes! It was still a beautiful area to be running through, but it wasn't a great start to my not-the-greatest race!

The race began at 8am and it was so cold! I stripped down just a minute before the gun went off and I was feeling pretty good overall. I actually was running 7.5 minute miles for the first 8-9 miles of the course. There is just something about cool air and adrenaline and not knowing where the road will lead you as you're panting between runners that makes you feel fantastic. Well, around the tenth mile I realized I had run almost ten miles that fast and started to worry about how my muscles would hold out for another 16 miles... that pace was a minute or two faster than what I'd been training on... I also began to feel my low back and hamstrings begin to ache. Uh-oh, I had run SO well in the Des Moines Marathon last fall and had little-to-no complications (it literally had been my best physical conditions during and post-race) and since that race I felt fairly confident in just keeping up my fitness level until the next one. Well, I pressed on and still felt fine but a little achier than expected. My bladder told me to hit the port-a-potty at mile 18, which is always a bummer during a race, but it happens every now and then. I ran inside thinking it'd be a super quick bladder release, hike-up of the pants and run out the door sort of deal, as it should be during a race, but when getting up off the potty, I noticed some things and realized that my race was only going to get worse. I had started that-time-of-the-month that ladies get to go through and ever since having had Kaiya, that-time-of-the-month is not simply one that comes with the annoyance of carrying around girly items, but one that comes with incredibly uncomfortable low back and groin aches for the first and second day of the period. Anyway, luckily the aid station had some girls who helped me out and I began on my way again with the worst situation I could have asked for, next to a torn muscle! However, I had a new motivation to get done before my back ache got worse. Sadly, I had to start taking walking breaks about every half mile to give my back, groin and hammies some relief and stretch out a little bit for the rest of the race, making my time about 20mins slower than what I wanted... BUT I made it through and crossed the finish line at almost exactly 4 hours, got a rose, medal, meal and t-shirt for finishing and even a 5th place ribbon for my division (thank goodness for smaller races that like to make everyone feel like a winner ;)).

When I began running marathons 3-4 years ago, I was in my early 20's and felt invincible. I was a college student studying exercise science, was a personal trainer at the campus gym, was playing in intermural sports and in an Olympic lifting class. I even at a sports -focused chiropractic clinic under the best chiropractor and massage therapist who happened to be hardcore runners themselves who taught me all about little tricks to running - everything from shoes and training schedules to nutritional supplementation techniques and avoiding injury. Anyway, for my first race ever I really did my homework and preparation to do well. I ended up qualifying for Boston and placing 1st in my division. My racing capacity was driven by pride in myself for being able to do this kind of physical activity and do it well. I was also driven by the excitement of showing and proving to others that I was a pretty cool kid for being able to finish and in good timing. Of course I just loved to run too. It was a good stress release and something that I cherished as my "me" time as a very busy-scheduled, social person.

Now I am 25 years old, am married and have a little person to care for, and life is just not the same. I don't have unlimited possibilities for running times each day for training. I don't have as much freedom to run where I chose or do the speed workouts to increase my finishing kick when most of my runs are done while pushing Kaiya in the BOB on more level sidewalk surfaces. I am motivated to get out for my jogs but am less motivated to keep a certain pace or only stop for water breaks. However, I still, up until this last race, have kept that mentality I had a few years ago where I felt that I could still run pretty darn fast for an extended amount of time and mileage, and place in my division and get back to Boston. Well after this last race, or during the last leg of it really, I felt awful. I was really bummed out that I wasn't doing as well as I'd hoped, even despite my low back issues and improperly trained-for muscle spasms from all the hills I'd been going up and down for 20+ miles. I just felt like it was pointless  to have spent that much time and money and not do "well."

Let me tell ya, I TOTALLY understand now what was wrong with me. Yes, it totally sucked having gone too fast the first leg of the race and getting way pooped by the end. Yes, it totally sucked having terrible menstrual issues the second half of the race that took up a lot of time dealing with. And yes, it totally sucked that in central WA there are hardly any trees in the canyons to distract me and keep me from seeing the miles ahead of me I'd have to still run... BUT, it was totally worth it running all the same. I got to meet new people along the route have fun conversations with them about everything from running experience to kids and blonde jokes. I got to stop along the run and really enjoy the scenery instead of winding past it. I got to finish a marathon not because I wanted to prove that I "still got it" in me to Boston-qualify, but because I got to put to use the training that I enjoy doing to keep me mentally and physically healthy. For a few minutes during the race I wanted to not run anymore just in case I'd have that-time-of-the-month again during it or if I didn't get a good time to feel it was worth it, but now I feel a renewed sense of love for marathon running, a different kind of love. I don't care the circumstances I'll be running them in from here on out. I will enjoy them. I enjoy the travel to them, the new scenery I get 3-4 hours to view, the emotional connection I feel to my fellow runners and the road, the runner's high I get afterward, and the love and support I feel from my family and friends who are there as I cross the finish line. So I think I'll keep my bucket list goal of running a marathon in every U.S. state :). I might even get it done faster now that I'm not as focused on the more drawn-out, precise training to get me qualified for a great time and title as a Boston qualifier (though it's still a hopeful goal, just not on the top of my list anymore)!

[My little support group - Kaiya and Brandan (taking pic)]

[I'm in the pink]

[This guy was a hoot to chit-chat with along the way, another pro to smaller races]