Freakin’ Marathon Runner

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  The unofficial US Postman’s Oath derived from Herodotus’ Histories (8.98), referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire.

On Sunday December 4th, those of us who were brave enough to fight the elements to run the Dallas White Rock Marathon, felt that message in our bellies.  No matter the rain, no matter the cold, no matter the wind; we would run this race.

I had everything that I needed to get through this race; I trained diligently and had all the gear I could find that would help me get past the cold and the rain.  It was one of the most mentally challenging moments in recent years I have had to work through. I had no choice; I needed to!

My alarm went off at 4 am and as I slid out of bed, I was trying to focus on what I needed to take care of before leaving. My head was a little foggy, because I tossed and turned all night; hearing thunder seeing flashes of lightning, and that pounding rain. I focused on my to do list – get dressed, feed the pups, get them out to potty, and the corral them back into their crates.

I went into the kitchen and made a small cup of coffee, and a toasted peanut butter, agave, and banana sandwich.  As I took a moment to eat, I thought about the task at hand. I kept checking my list of gear that I was taking with me, and making sure that I had everything ready to go.  This list helped keep me grounded.

I didn’t know what to expect as far as the race. I was pretty nervous and a little apprehensive, but I knew that this was something I needed to do. This race was something I trained for; very hard. I was not going to let rain get in the way of making my goal. If the race was stopped by race officials, then that was one thing, but I wasn’t going to stop this race.  I was in the same boat as 29,999 other people so who was I to complain or puss out?

I finished my breakfast, pet the pups good-bye, grabbed the running gear that I bagged up the day before, and headed out to Fair Park. It was go time.

Driving there just seemed surreal. The streets were soaked, and it just looked miserable out there. I passed a traffic alert sign on I-35 that flashed info about the marathon. Had the weather been better I would have pulled over to take a picture of it.  However with all the rain, I did not know how traffic would be and also the conditions would have put me at risk of getting swiped by some stupid driver.I decided to just get to Fair Park and get settled in as soon as possible.

About three exits from where I was to go, there was a bad wreck on the opposite side of the highway.  An SUV was flipped over, and police were working the scene; a sign as to just how bad this weather was.

I arrived without much traffic to contend with, got a close parking spot, and sat in my Jeep while I got all my running gear together.  I put on my Fuel Belt, pinned on my race bib, got my iPhone secured in a waterproof pouch, and my headphones ready.  I brought an extra trash bag to slip on, in case the rain was pouring at the start of the race.

I walked to the runners holding area, which thankfully was indoors, and found a nice carpeted spot to sit on.  I just stretched out my legs, and leaned against a wall.  My goal was to stay as relaxed as possible.  I am sure at some point people thought that I was asleep. I didn’t care. I was going to save as much energy as possible. I would need it more out there on the course

I met a girl who was running her first Half Marathon, and we talked about what to expect out there.  Thankfully she was a positive person, and not someone whom I would have to listen to whining about the conditions outside. As people waited, everyone was given plastic hooded parkas, hand-warmers, and extra gloves from the folks at MetroPCS.  Those were by far the best thing out there! I opted to ditch my trash bag and take this instead. It was a good move.

When it came time to line up at the starting line, we all headed out into the elements. It was 41° F at the start, with 13 MPH wind and a wind chill of 37° F.

For the while, the rain did seem to let up, and it was only cold and damp outside. I dropped off my new friend at her corral, and headed to mine. I did make a couple of bathroom runs while waiting, because for some reason when my adrenaline kicks in, I have to pee. It’s a minor inconvenience, which I tend to expect.

The Star Spangled Banner was sang, and the chaplain led a pre-race prayer. I ended up saying my amen in the Port-a-Potty – again the adrenaline. A few minutes later the race began and each corral was released to run.  Unlike last year, our group only had to wait for about 15 minutes; not bad at all for being near the back of the pack!

As we lined up at the start line, a gazillion things went through my head, and I just ignored it all.  My focus was on avoiding as many deep puddles as possible in the beginning.  Sure my feet were going to get wet eventually, but I wanted to hold that off for as long as possible.

It didn’t take long.

As we ran out of the gates, I saw all of the people standing along the sides of the road, cheering us on as we left Fair Park.  There were cameras filming us, and taking pictures.  It was truly exciting!

My Gymboss timer was ticking away, reminding me to run for two minutes and then walk for a minute. I kept my walking at a quick pace, and did not try to run out to fast.  I had a long way to go, and needed to have the energy to finish.

Not far down the road the rain started back again.  The conditions went from a light drizzle, then to a full rain at the three-mile mark. At that point I was starting to heat up enough for me to want to take off my throw away parka. I folded it up, and tucked it into my jacket as a just-in-case need.  As we wound our way around the Uptown area, it became harder and harder to avoid those puddles. My feet became soaked.  Thankfully before leaving the house, I slathered on a good thick layer of Vaseline on my feet, to deter any possibility of blistering from all the moisture.

Spectators were out watching us run in the sloppy weather.  They were cheering from the sidewalks, from their apartment balconies, and from covered doorways. The volunteers stood out in the pouring rain, making sure that we got our water and Gatorade, and provided us with many words of encouragement!

As I ran, my Runmeter app on my iPhone was posting updates on my Facebook page, as well as Twitter. What I was not aware of, was that it was doing this every mile.  The nice thing was that when people commented to these posts, it was read to me through my headphones.  The at ta girls, words of encouragement and love, and messages from my fur baby family kept me smiling.  The funny smart-ass comments kept me laughing through-out my run.

“Run Jive Turkey Run!!”
“That person behind you is TOTALLY checking out your ass.”
“dont look behind you but according to the map; you seem to be leaving a blue stripe all over Dallas. hope the cops dont give you a ticket”  – referring to the blue line that was being drawn on my live online map.
“whew!! glad you saw that big puddle in front of you!!”

There were a fair share of aw crap moments during the race. Just when I got used to water being in my shoes, I would hit another unavoidable puddle and the cold soaking would start right over. My new Brooks Adapt running gloves, just could not adapt well enough to the constant rain.  At times I would ball my fist up, and just watch the water pour out of my gloves.  The port-a-potty stops really slowed me down, not just because of the lines to get to one, but because a wet pair of compression tights is extremely difficult to pull back up.  I would have fared better with the bathroom stops, had I just run to the local businesses along the way and used theirs.

There was a pair of port-a-potties that were alone along a nice neighborhood.  I stopped there, fearing that I would not make it to the next bathroom stop. One was in fair shape, and had toilet paper, and the other looked as if someone shot mud pies all over the wall.  There is just not a nice way to word the condition of that  one unit.  Every person who braved that unit, got in and out at break-neck speed, and looked as if they were fleeing a house fire as they exited.  As it turned out, these were set up for the construction workers working on a house. Definitely not official race relief stations!

My turn was next and as I stood there I begged God to not have that nasty one open up first. It had been currently occupied the longest, and chances are it would be the next one available.  I nervously stood there, bouncing at the knees. Please no. Please no. I really didn’t wanna go in there.  THANKFULLY the cleaner one opened up first.  I ran in there, and thanked God as I did my business.

As I continued my run, I kept taking in gels every 30 minutes, and took in hydration at each water stop. Given the amount of times I needed to stop to use the bathroom, I probably could have skipped a few water stations, but I was trying to play it safe.

There were so many things that I wanted to take photos of; I had my camera in another pouch.  It was just so rainy and my hands were so stiff from being cold, that each time I tried to get my camera out, it became more of a chore than I wanted to endure.  Luckily plenty of others took some great photos.

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As I passed the 8 mile marker, the split where the half marathoners headed back to Fair Park was just in front of me. I never thought about taking the short route and bowing out of the race. Yes it was freaking cold, and I was soaked like a wet rat but I was determined to finish my 26.2!  As we split off from the 13.1 pack, the road became more empty.  Not as many runners left out there.  I started to wonder if we were the last of the bunch.

Even though there were just sparse amounts of runners out there, the volunteers still stayed out there to cheer us on, and to man the water stations.  Spectators were still out in the rain encouraging us to keep going. I hope they know how much they helped us!

As we approached White Rock Lake, I saw three guys walking ahead of me. The road we were on, backed up to the backyards of homes along the way.  One yard had a cookout going on, and the people were on their deck watching the race over their fence line.  One of them held up a beer and cheered for us. Well that triggered one of the three walkers to ask, ” Hey man you have any spares??”  The spectator gladly handed him a tall can of beer, and the three walkers popped open the can, and shared a cold one between them as they continued on.  As I ran by I remember getting a kick out of this.  These guys were just having fun, and really did not care about when they finished the marathon.  I really hoped that they stayed near me, to keep me entertained, and not thinking about this miserable weather.

Turns out my run/walk, soon set them way behind me, and I did not want to slow down any more to have them catch up.  I had to just keep going.

Once we started around the actual lake, the temperature dropped, the wind kicked in, and the rain really started beating down. The rain was actually blowing sideways from the lake, and it easily was the hardest it had rained the whole way.  There were times where the rain was pelting me right in the face.  I was thankful to have on my running glasses. It was so bad out there that the mile marker signs were either blown over or destroyed due to the weather; yes it was THAT bad out there.  My hands were frozen and drenched. Once again I balled up my fist and tried to wring out all the water.  Had it not been so cold, I would have ditched the gloves all together, but I figured that some protection, although a bit wet, was better than nothing at all.

As I approached mile 14 I started to feel a pain in my foot; not the usual troublesome foot, but my GOOD foot. It felt as if there was some serious bone on bone rubbing going on, on the top of my foot. It hurt to run, and hurt to walk. This was an extreme uh-oh moment. I just kept pressing on, and had to take longer walking breaks.  I tried to shift my foot to land a little differently, to see if that helped, but it was of no use.  There was a time that the SAG wagon passed me by, and I spotted a sign on it that said that it would drop you at the next water station.  I admit for a moment I thought about flagging it down, but that voice in my head said, “YOU WILL NOT!”

I kept going.

Soon my hamstring tightened up; probably from shifting my gait to curtail the foot pain.  My walk breaks got a little longer.  It got to a point to even walking hurt like hell, so I shuffled.  Yes yes – every day I’m shufflin’.

The best sign out there at that point was held by a young boy.  It said, “Worst Christmas Parade EVER!”. We all needed a good laugh from that.

I soon started to feel a little beat down, and even tried to call friends for a pep-talk. The problem was that my remote control and Siri would not play well together. I suspected that it was from the drenching that my headphone mic cable was taking, so I was never able to get a call to go out. It was just too cold and wet to fumble with the phone to manually make a call. So sad that I was so dependent on Siri at that point. She failed me.

I made a couple more potty stops, and struggled with my soaked compression tights and soaked running tights that were over them.  At one point I just about ran out of the port-a-potty with my bare ass hanging out.  It took forever to get these stupid things pulled back up.

As we approached mile 22, I knew that the Dolly Parton’s were upon us. These are two hills that come one after the other, on the race route.  Usually there are costumed Dolly Partons standing there to cheer and harass you; some are even in drag.  I was disappointed to see that the Dollys had left, but that the hills remained.  Bummer. The one bright spot at this point was a guy handing out mini snickers bars.  He offered me one, and I gladly took it.  The problem was that my hands were so stiff and frozen, that I could not open the wrapper.  He was nice enough to open it.  Thank you candy man!

Leaving the lake area made me feel more like I was going to finish.  The foot and leg pain was unreal, but I was more amazed at how my weaker leg and foot held on strong.  There was a point that this little lady ran passed me, and gave me words of encouragement. Poor thing was wearing a tank top, and shorts.  The only thing that she had on to protect her from the elements was a hooded ski vest. She kept her head down to keep the hood on, and just ran. I liked her positive attitude. If I were able to keep a constant run pace going, I would have run with her the rest of the way, but the pain was too much for me to push that.

The volunteers continued to stay out in the cold rain.  They were such troopers to endure the elements, to make sure that we were okay.  One of which would ride to each mile marker, and cheer for us.  It took me 5 miles to realize it was the same guy.  That’s how loopy my head was.  I yelled out to him at one marker, “Hey you look familiar! Didn’t I just see you back there?”  He replied, “Yes you did, and I will see you all the way to the finish!”

A couple of times the sight of the sweeper wagon, caught my eye, and made me really nervous.  There was a time limit on this race, and there was a limit as to how long the Dallas Police would be stopping traffic for us. I knew that we were passed that limit, but truth be told, even if they tried to make me stop, I would have told them off, and kept going.

Miles 23 – the end were a battle.  I knew that I needed to knuckle down and keep pace with my GymBoss interval timer.  Walk 1min Run 2min, Walk 1min Run 2min.  Through out the race I was listening to Marathon Show podcasts.  The talking helped me hear enough of my surroundings to be able to interact, and it also allowed me to listen to encouraging words about running, when no one else was around to cheer me on.

There was one thing other than thinking about all of my preparation, that kept me going; the brand new $3 bumper sticker I bought at the Expo that said 26.2 on it.  I wanted that sticker on my Jeep bumper, and the only right way to do so, was to finish this race!  My sticker, dammit! MINE!

As we hit the home stretch, I could see Fair Park ahead of me.  I was actually passing a few people who remained ahead of me most of the way.  The one girl who I paced with a few miles back, was way ahead of me, and I wanted to get as close as I could to her, just to say that I pushed myself at the end.

I rounded the corner into the fairgrounds, and there was the guy who had been at every mile marker clapping for us, since way the hell back.  He had his hat off, and was smiling so big.  He was clapping furiously and yelling for us to go go go!

I ran a little faster, but not enough to fizzle out.  I see the finish line ahead.  One more curve and it is the final stretch.  The Gymboss beeped for a walk break.  Screw that.  I ran.  I saw two ladies jumping up and down on the other side of the finish line.  Who are they????  I kicked it one last time.

“PUSH BITCH, PUSH!”, I said to myself.  I was already hearing congrats comments being piped into my headphones from Facebook.

I heard the finish line photographers up on their ladders, yelling to me that they got me.

FINISH!

The two women that were at the finish wrapped me up in a Mylar blanket.  Turns out, I knew them from Scottish Rite Hospital!  Excellent finish crew!

I am at this point a little disoriented.  “What the hell did I just do?”, I thought.  Suddenly a man walks up and introduces himself.  It was my friend from Facebook, JJ.  He gave me a huge hug, and congratulated me.  I needed that.  I also needed to know where the hell I needed to go next.  I was so brain fried.  Amazingly and wonderfully brain fried.

I was pointed to the finishers building, and as I walked there I realized that my legs were shutting down.  I shuffled like a little old woman.

As I entered the building, someone slipped a Marathon Finisher’s medal over my head.  I was about to cry.  I held it in for my finisher banner photo. I smiled big.  I freaking did it.

I fumbled for my phone and began calling friends.  I started to get all emotional.  I was a moment from just bawling, but it was almost like I was too tired to go into full cry mode.

I looked around and began to notice all the emptiness. There was a lack of drop bags left.  I was one of the last to finish…. not last though! I walked up and got my drop bag of nice warm, dry and clean clothes. That big ass bag was 100 pounds at this point, but it was heaven to have it in my arms.

I looked around to see where the finishers shirts were. No tables were left, but I saw the boxes where the shirts were.  A few of us grabbed a box and started rummaging through it, looking for shirts.  I found mine, and crammed it into my bag.

Now to find a restroom to get out of these soaking wet clothes.  The closest one was at the other side of this building.  It was a straight shot, but it really felt as if I were walking a mile to get to it.  As I entered, I noticed that it had a secondary roller type door, like a small garage door, that was retracted above the doorway.  My guess is that when they shut everything down, they close these doors and lock everything down..  I shrugged and went in to find a stall.

There were a couple of ladies cleaning the bathroom, and even though they were speaking Spanish to one another, I figured that they were talking about the groaning woman in the stall (me), and hoping that I would not mess the floor.

I fought with the tie on my bag for several minutes.  My hands and fingers were far from nimble, and definitely NOT quick. The knot which was tied in a way to be opened easily, just could not be budged.  I tore the top of the bag open, and started to get my nice warm clothes out. My thick jacket never looked so good; I even hugged it.

I took off my drenched clothing, fighting with every piece of it along the way.  Wet clothes glue to wet skin. I also was moving as fast as a sloth. As I put on my dry clothing, another runner entered the stall next to me.  It was then that I noticed that there is an actual language that marathon finishers speak, that is far from English, and even far from making any kind of sense, except to another exhausted marathon finisher.

“Moan….humph..uuuuh….mrph….*shiver shiver*…moan”
I asked the lady, “Are you okay over there?”
She replied, “Yeah…*groan*… Are you?”
“Urmph…. yeah.”
“Moan….humph..uuuuh….mrph….*shiver shiver*…moan”

That is about how the conversation went.  Translated it meant, “Eff!! I am tired and sore, and I cannot get my feet into the legs of my damn sweatpants. Oh man socks are a pain in the ass to put on. I can’t lift my arms over my head to put on my sweatshirt.”

I think I was in that bathroom for 30 minutes.  I kept visualizing that garage type door being pulled down, and padlocked.  I was afraid to be trapped inside of this bathroom coffin. I was hungry and I wanted my damn post-race beer!

I gathered up my slopped-up wet clothes and shoes, and crammed them into my bag.  I walked out of the bathroom, and into the main area of building.  My head was swirling, and I was so disoriented.

“Where was the exit?  Where do I go?  Where am I? Did I park close?” I took a chance and just walked out of a door. It took me a moment but I got my wits about me, and was able to remember where I was.  I started my journey to my Jeep.

Now since I did arrive so early, I did have a prime parking spot close to everything; just at this juncture NOT CLOSE ENOUGH.  My steps were slow and my stride was short; again think of a 99-year-old woman.

Marcus, the race director, stopped to tell me congrats and to invite me to post race happy hour. I think I drooled at the thought of finally having my beer. He then offered to give me a ride, when he looped back around in his golf cart, but to stand there and wait for someone seemed almost more excruciating than walking 100 more yards.  I shuffled on.

I finally made it to my Jeep, and surprisingly was able to climb up into it, without falling flat on my face. I sat there for a moment and realized, “I have Blue Moon beer waiting for me at home.  Oh I want pizza!”

I sighed and said to myself, “Hell yeah, I’m a freaking marathon runner.”

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