Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Space Coast Marathon that wasn't: First DNF

I have run 10 marathons. I am not a fast runner, but I know what to expect. I know how to push through the pain (or walk through it while I think of the cheeseburger I can eat when I cross the finish line). I know that marathons hurt and that sometimes they are mentally harder than the physical pain I might feel. But, for the first time in my running life, I had physical pain that could not be overcome mentally. Which led to my first DNF for a marathon.

Not in my case. Sad face.

I will preface this post by saying that it was probably definitely not a good idea for me to try and attempt running this marathon in the first place, but I am stubborn. I also did not want to deal with the crazy line at the expo to change my bib and "downgrade." Also, to be honest, I knew a LOT of people running the full and I did not want to be the person who dropped down. I was not going to be the running wimp. Except that I ended up being the running wimp anyway. The irony. 

The days before the marathon were not spent hydrating and eating right. They were spent heavily drinking, more than I have drank in a looooong time. (Think college style drinking, but with better beer). Wednesday, Thursday, Friday....I was either drinking or hungover. Not my smartest move. So Saturday, I woke up (with a hangover from a massive UCF v. USF tailgate the day before) and felt like a huge waste of space. I was tired, I was dehydrated, I felt awful and I did not feel physically capable (or mentally ready) to run 26.2 miles the next day. 

So I did the only rational thing I could think of: I let my Facebook friends decide. My Facebook friends are all runners, so of course I was convinced that in less than 24 hours I would be golden to run a marathon. My mother (Christie from Charis Designs) and cousin (Sara from Loving on the Run) tried to tell me to listen to my body and that there would be other races. Great advice. Did I take it? Nope. 

So we hauled ourselves over to the expo (which was extremely unorganized and a little disappointing), and then got some lunch at a diner and settled in our hotel to relax before the race. We tried to go out to Olive Garden to eat dinner, but it was packed so we ended up at Chili's. I also made some mistakes here. I ate the Texas cheese fries, chicken, mashed potatoes, and more fries. To say I like french fries might be an understatement. 

True love.

So I "carb-loaded" aka ate like total crap, and then felt awful because I have recently started trying to avoid bread, a high amount of carbs, wheat, and sugar (another post to come about that). My body was not used to what I ate at Chili's, and it let me know the next day. 

The next morning (after a horrible night's sleep), I woke up feeling nauseous (which isn't unusual on race day for me), but I never quite shook the feeling. I could barely eat a banana before the start and I couldn't drink a lot of water, which should have been my first clues that something was not right. I decided to just chalk it up to me not really wanting to run a marathon, instead of an actual problem. I told Craig later that if he had said, "Let's just go back to the hotel and sleep in," I would have hauled booty back to the car. I was not there mentally at all.

I met up with Victoria (who ran an 21 minute PR!!!!) before the race and she walked with us to the start. She was running with the 4 hour group and I was certainly not, so we hit up the restrooms, and then I bid her adieu. I found my Marathonfest running group and was actually really happy to see them and thought that maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. My friend Rick always helps push me through a run and we had already decided if we couldn't keep up with our group leader, Ed, that we would finish strong and slow.

Before I knew it I was hearing the national anthem, there was some sort of space shuttle take off, and then the runners took off. The course is pretty - it is an figure eight of some sorts that has two out and backs. The out and backs are nice because I got to watch all the people who run faster than me pass me and make me jealous of their speed.

It was also nice knowing the course, since I ran this marathon last year. It helps a lot knowing what to expect. We ran by the water the entire time and we even saw dolphins on the course, which we decided was a good omen. Except that I don't think the dolphins helped me much.

 I felt awesome for the first seven miles. Everything was peachy. I took a salt tab at mile 5 and did not feel hungry at all, so I decided to skip my Gu until later. This was a mistake.

Mile 8 came and I told Rick and Ed that I did not feel good. I was very nauseous but I was also dizzy. I have been dizzy before in races, but for only for a few seconds, and then the feeling passed. My dizziness was not passing. They encouraged me to take a Gu and to make sure I was getting water at every stop. I had been alternating water and Gatorade for each water stop, but starting taking both after mile 8.

By mile 9, I told Rick I was not sure if I would be able to finish. I was feeling pretty bad. By that time, our group was split up and people were starting to separate. I was holding on to about a 9:40 pace but I knew I couldn't do that for much longer. Mile 10 passed and I was still feeling pretty awful and I wondered how in the world I was going to make it for 16 more miles. The thought of running that much further made me want to break down and cry.

Mile 11 came and I had to pull over to the side and I started to dry heave. I told my group to go on without me. I walked a little and then told myself to suck it up and keep going. I also took half a Gu, and then proceeded to throw that up at mile 12. I was starting to question my sanity ("Why the hell do I run marathons?! This is ridiculous") and I told myself I was going to make it to the half and drop down. At least I could still get a medal.

I passed the halfway mark around 2:08. I also passed a huge crowd which really gave me a second wind and I kept running. I should not have, but I did. I reached mile 14 and felt awful. My stomach was starting to cramp and my legs were starting to cramp also. Not an "I'm tired" cramp, but a painful cramp that should not be happening at only mile 14. I started doing a walk/run combo and I felt like I was about to pass out, so I was looking for race officials or a medical tent. I thought maybe if I could get some medical attention I might be able to finish (yes, I was still considering finishing this race).

I must have looked sick, delusional, or both, because a volunteer ran across the road and grabbed my arm to ask me if I was okay. As soon as she asked me, I realized I was clearly not okay. I told her I felt dizzy and was cramping and that I had also thrown up. She pulled me to the side and gave me a Gatorade and asked me if I needed an escort to the finish. I politely declined (I feel like I should be close to death to be escorted by vehicle back to the finish) and told her I just wanted to drop down to the half. Of course, I only wanted to drop down if I could get a medal, which she assured me I could.

She told me I would have to run back to the finish (~2 miles) and I took off, slowly jogging. I was already questioning myself: How could I drop down? Did I really need to? Could I still finish? What will people think? Granted, my health should come first, and in hindsight, I am VERY glad I did turn around. At the time, my concern was that I was going to be "that runner" that could not run the full. I still feel that way, to a degree. I am not sure why, since runners are an extremely supportive bunch. I think I felt like I let myself down more than anything.

Too true.

The course is a figure eight, so as the full marathoners pass mile 14 to head out to the mile 20 turnaround, the half marathoners are running in the opposite direction, toward the finish. I was running toward the finish with a lot of half marathoners, but I had a marathon bib. People thought I was the first place female. It was so embarrassing. I had people cheering, telling me, "Great job!" One guy even yelled out, "Show off!" jokingly, and I seriously wanted to die. I kept my head down the entire time as I ran into the finish because I felt so ashamed that I dropped down and everyone knew.

I crossed the finish and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. I was not happy at all. I quickly made my way back to the car and cried and felt sorry for myself for about 30 minutes and then told myself to suck it up. It's not like this was my first or last marathon and there were plenty more races. I was also worried about the bf, who was cramping so badly that he could not run at mile 23. We were a sorry pair.

I walked back to the finish to wait on him. When he finished, we got some eggs, pizza, and pancakes, which were delicious. So delicious my stomach could not handle them and they were thrown up in a potted plant on the way back to the car. So classy.

My stomach was bothering me for the rest of that day and I did not feel normal. I know that I was extremely dehydrated and I honestly don't know what would have happened if I had tried to finish the race. It was smart for me to drop out. It was a good decision to DNF. I hope that is the only time I will ever say that. It was a good lesson for me and it made me realize that I need to respect the distance and my body. I should not have attempted 26.2 with my poor nutrition and alcohol consumption. The marathon schooled me on Sunday.

To be honest, this experience really motivates me to kick butt in my next marathon (Disney). I just made a new workout schedule that includes more strength training and I am going to start meal planning more and paying close attention to what I put in my body. I am gunning for a 4:15 at Disney. I know I can do it, I know I am capable. I just have to put in the work.


I went for an easy 6 miles yesterday and my legs felt good. I am letting them recover this week, and pacing the 2:15 group for the OUC half marathon on Saturday, and then it is go time! I am excited to work hard and see some results come January 12 at Disney.

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