Race Report: Sugarloaf Marathon May 20, 2012
Life is a journey not a destination
There’s nothing quite as sweet as springtime in Maine. It’s that whole thing where gritting through the winter makes you appreciate spring. I haven’t lived in Maine since 2000, but going to Maine in the spring feels so relieving. My winter did not cause me suffering at all, as it was one of the more dry, sunny and warm winters in California lately. This made the last 6 months of my marathon training really enjoyable.
During the week I ran my shorter runs either on West Cliff Drive overlooking the ocean or on dirt trails amongst the Redwoods in De Laveaga park, a five minute walk from my house. I chose to train for so long because I wanted to take it really slow to prevent the reoccurring calf injury that has plagued me on and off for over a year. I also needed something to keep me focused over the winter.
For the most part I stayed consistent with my training plan which was designed personally for my by my friend and running coach Ginger Richards. Towards the end I would skip weekday runs, but I always did my long runs. Long runs increased by two or four miles every other weekend, with a shorter-long run on the weekends between them. For these runs, my only expectation was to run slowly and to just log in the miles, letting my body learn that it was not under stress in this aerobic state.
As this was my first marathon training, long runs were a big deal to me as striving for a goal of running farther than I had ever run in my life was exciting. Before each of these runs I would eat breakfast, usually quinoa with nuts, raisins, coconut oil and almond milk, and drink a cup of green tea and I wouldn’t think much about what it was going to be like. I just went out and did it.
The elation of accomplishing things once considered impossible (and stupid) and the building of my confidence to was the best part of training. Just stating out loud, “Today I ran 16 miles for the first time in my life and it wasn’t even that hard” felt unreal. As a good training plan should be, it was challenging but never so hard that it was impossible. I remained injury free throughout most of the training, including a 20 mile run (which I did then promptly came home and went to sleep, too tired to even get out my smelly, salt incrusted clothes).
On April 30th I set out to do a 24 miler and had knee pain at mile 16 and decided to walk mile 17 and stop at 18. The pain was mild but felt like it was increasing and decided not to push it. The next weekend I ran 12 and felt the pain from about mile 9, but not so badly that I felt I should stop. Two days later I went out for a quick two mile run and realized right away that the pain was present from step one and that I needed to address this injury or else not be able to run the race.
This sounds a lot like a training report and less like a race report! Fast forward the next two weeks before the race – I stopped running, did a lot of stretching, foam rolling, and coming to terms with the fact that I might not be able to run the race that I had just trained so diligently for six months for.
Life just threw me another test for letting go of attachment to outcome. When I asked myself what comes up when I think about not running the race, I felt a sense of failure. In looking at my relationship with running, at accomplishing the race, at the emotional pieces wrapped up in running for me, I slowly made peace with the likelihood of being a spectator at the race.
After all, life is a journey not a destination, and the journey of training had certainly provided me with everything I had hoped to get out of it: a building of strength both physically and mentally and with my confidence; having a sense of direction in my life and a sense of wonder about my ability to do things seemingly impossible; fostering a loving relationship with my body through food and movement.
The Friday before the race, I went to University of New England Doctor of Osteopathic clinic and was seen by an OMM specialist. She looked at my structure – bones and muscles to see what might be out of whack or where the actual injury was located. After extensive evaluation, she gave me the good news that there was no actual injury to my knees and that there was very little actually wrong with me on a structural level. She found that my tibia on the leg that hurt was pulled way out of alignment and that one hip was a bit lower than the other. Through manual manipulation of the muscles, fascia and ligaments, she put these back into alignment. The overseeing doctor suggested that I try running the next day, and if was pain free, that I at least attempt the race.
The next day was my sister in law’s graduation from UNE and I spent the morning running around doing party prep and getting hydrated in the event that I was going to run. I ran out of time for a proper so I just grabbed the dog and headed out for a four block jog before I had to go to graduation hooding ceremony. Everything felt fine, granted I didn’t go far, but on the previous two mile run the pain was immediate. So I felt cured enough to try the race.
So after I had spent all week deciding not to run the race, all of a sudden I decided I would at least attempt it. My friend/race co-conspiriter Brooke Wakefield arrived a few hours later and we enjoyed the feast of the party - lobster, sweet potato salad, mac and cheese and chocolate cake and headed back to my parent’s house to sleep.
I went to sleep at 11pm with the alarm set for 3:30am. Groggily we got up, packed our stuff, drank a cup of coffee and ate a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana. We left the house at 4am to drive to Tranten’s Market in Kingsfield where we got on the shuttle to the start line.
Brooke and I sat near the front of the bus and chatted it up with the people sitting around us. Everyone was really nice and enthusiastic. The gal in my seat was doing her first marathon since having three kids! I love hearing why people decide to run a marathon. The day was slated to be perfect – perhaps a little warmer than usual – sunny and 80 degrees. The morning was cold and we kept covered up until we had to put our drop bag in the bus. Brooke and I found our friend Emilie and her posse from Bangor.
Just before the race started I felt a wave of nervousness, which as interesting because I never get nervous at races. I had spent all week getting into the feeling of not having to run this race and all of a sudden I was thinking, “Wow, I might actually have to really actually run 26.2 miles today if the OMM treatment was in fact a miracle fix.”
Next thing I knew we were running. Brooke stayed with me and we started off slowly as I was hesitant and wanted to give my legs a chance to warm up. After about a mile the pain was slight and we proceeded to mostly jog the first four miles. It was evident that I was not going to run the entire race so Brooke insisted I tell her my exit strategy. My plan was to stop running as soon as the pain felt like it was doing me harm/really painful and then I would walk for an hour, then stop at a water station and have them call for someone to pick me up.
At around mile four Brooke left to run her race. I was so thankful to have her company for the first few miles. I checked in with a water station and talked to some race people who said they would pick me up in an hour. So I walked. I walked the beautiful rural Maine road for an hour. I enjoyed the trees, the perfect sunshine skies, the lake I passed, the kind conversation at the water stops. At one point I had a wave of sadness, disappointment.
Coming to terms with things that don’t go as you expected is a process. As I grow as an adult I am slowly learning that everything happens just as it should, despite what I think or how I want it to be. It felt good to be listening to my body, to choosing to not do unrepairable damage so that I can continue to create joy in my life through exercising. Detaching from the expectation and desired outcome allowed me to just be there, walking in the sun, and feel a sense of accomplishment and contentment in the moment.
I made it to the race. I made it through 6 months of training, I found new limits for my body and mind. I indeed am a success and I don’t need to cross the finish line of a race to affirm that. My success lies in consciously moving through my life, making choices that feel good to me, that help me grow and learn, make me happy and that support me in living as my authentic self.
At miles 8 a cop car pulled up and said he was sent to give me a ride. How about that? I got to ride to the finish line in a cop car. We slowly drove the course and I got to enjoy the race for a whole different perspective. I spent the next several hours cheering on hundreds of dedicated runners giving them the much needed encouragement as they were pushing to the finish line. Although it was a different kind of accomplishment, I felt like my choice to take care of my self was successful and I know I will have plenty more opportunities to run a marathon.