Wednesday, October 14, 2009

St. George Marathon

Last May, I signed up for the St. George Marathon. I was so excited when I made the lottery and got in! My sister, Jen, and I started training and honestly, I hated it! I love to run. I've always loved to run, but I just wasn't enjoying the training.

I pulled my hamstring just before my half marathon in March, but ran the race anyway. Needless to say, I was pretty sore after and when we started training for the marathon, I was still babying it a little. I couldn't run like I wanted to, but I was determined to not get behind on my training, so I plodded along, putting in the miles at some awful dark hour in morning.

We had worked our way up to 14 miles when my knee started to really hurt. I was so annoyed! I've never had a running injury in my life! What? I turn 30 and I just fall apart? Luckily, the next week was a cut back week and we were only scheduled to run 10 miles for our long run. I took it easy during the week and ran in the water instead of on the road. I ran our 10 mile long run and my knee was shot after that. Grrrr.

I tried to keep up with my work outs on the elliptical and in the water, but I had such a hard time staying focused. A few weeks passed and I could see the miles slipping away. The numbers were getting bigger and I wasn't out running. I was starting to get emotional about it. A good friend, who understands a runners mind, gave me a shot in my knee so I could run.

I went out and ran 17 miles with Talli and Mandy, who were also training for the St George Marathon. I could tell that I had lost some endurance and speed, but I was just so happy to be running! I'm sure I had a silly smile on my face the whole time-- well, except that last mile. It was brutal!

I put on my running shoes Monday morning, but when I started to run, I literally couldn't!  My leg gave out under my knee! It couldn't hold my weight. I could walk, so I tried to run a few more steps and almost fell to the ground.  I was so frustrated!  I just stood there for minute staring at my running shoes and then up and down the road.  I tried again with the same result and then went back inside and waited for 8:00am to roll around so I could make an appointment to see my doctor.

The doctor visit was no fun.  He said I had a stress fracture in my Tibia. SERIOUSLY!?!?!!?!? Who gets a stress fracture in their knee?!  I had to be off of it for at least 6 weeks. I knew there wouldn't be enough time to train for the marathon. I actually cried right there in the doctors office. I know it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but I have always wanted to run a marathon. It is one of those things that is on "My List". (You know, the list of things you want to do in your life.) I know there is always next year, but this was the year that everybody was signed up to run. My sister, my brother, my cousin, my uncle and a few of my good friends and a bunch of other people I know were all signed up to run.

I was so disappointed. As marathon weekend got closer, my emotions kept sneaking up on me. I decided I needed to find another marathon to distract myself. I found one in December and figured out where I needed to be on the training schedule to make it happen. My knee seemed to be able handle the pressure of running, so I started to ease myself back in to it, a few miles at a time.
 
 
A bunch of my friends were on their taper runs (cutting back the miles in the weeks just before the marathon) and invited me to run with them. I was actually happy when my alarm went of at 4:30am so I could meet up with them to try to get 12 miles in before it got too hot. I once again found myself with a dumb grin on my face as we started off running in the dark. I was so happy to be running! I was excited for them, and their upcoming race and tried not to be bummed that I wouldn't be there to experience it with them.

As we ran, I watched the sunrise as I chatted with my friends. It was beautiful. I remembered why I love to run. There is actually something very calming about it.


My knee ached after the run, reminding me that I needed to take it slow and not do too much too soon. Blah, blah, blah. The achy body thing was getting old! I'm 31 not 80! I knew if I pushed it to be ready for a marathon in December, I would probably get re injured. Frustrated, I found another marathon in February. It was by the beach and that made me excited and gave me something to look forward to.


One morning, while I was running with Jen, she asked if I would come and run the last 6 miles of the marathon with her. I really wanted to, but I was worried I would start to feel sorry for myself and be a party pooper. After I thought about it, and realized that I would be so excited for them, that it would be okay.


My hard head wondered if I could just run the marathon anyway, even though I didn't put in the miles and my knee was still healing. I talked myself out of it by reminding myself that there was another marathon in a few months. I knew I needed to let my knee heal and even if I didn't kill myself, I wouldn't be able to run it like I want to. I wouldn't be able to keep up with my friends, so it wouldn't be the experience I had wanted anyway. Besides, I knew I needed to respect the distance. I had read three marathon books and running a marathon isn't a walk in the park. If you aren't ready for it, there could be seriously complications.

So, after I talked myself in circles, I knew I couldn't miss it and I was actually really excited to try to sneak on the course and run in with Jen! On the drive to St. George, I looked over her training runs and got really excited! She was going to do awesome!! She was in great shape and her times looked really good. It was fun to talk shop and I was so glad that I came to be part of her experience.
 
 
On Friday, we went out to put up signs for our friends along the course. I couldn't help looking down the road and wondering what it would be like if I just ran it. "Respect the distance", the logical side of my brain reminded me.

We drove to the starting line and I realized how far away it was! I didn't have to remind myself to respect the distance anymore! It was far! I couldn't imagine running that far! It took forever in the car!
Tara and Jen at the starting line the day before the marathon

It was cool to see the starting line. They had all of the wood set up for bonfires in the morning to keep the runners warm. Everyone said it would be really cold. I thought it would be fun to take the bus with everyone in the morning to the starting line. I could take some pictures for them and be part of the morning party!
They had a million port a potties! We heard all the stories about the long lines for the bathrooms and all the people who were too impatient and just went behind a bush.Jen and I named the bushes, "Pretty Potties"Me, pretending to use a "pretty potty"!

 
It was fun driving the course and checking out how long each hill was. We tried to figure out how the shuttle thing worked for people who didn't finish the marathon. Maybe I would just run a few miles at the start and then catch a ride to the finish. I was hoping it would be kind of like a golf cart. Maybe they would let me ride along side of Jen and take some pictures! Jen gave me the "I doubt it" look, so I teased, "Don't worry! I'll wear mascara! I think I even brought a cute running skirt!" Haha! I wasn't feeling so sad that I wasn't running this marathon. It was far and out in the middle of nowhere! I was having a great time and it would be a fun running day!

We met up with our friends at the Expo. We picked up our numbers and checked out all of the running gear and gadgets. I hadn't canceled my registration, so I still had a number. We thought it would be easier to get on the course if I was wearing it.
Jen, Emily, Jamie, Talli, Mandy, Me, Shelley


We all met up for dinner and listened to old marathon stories, talked about injuries and time predictions and enjoyed the energy that surrounded us. I still wasn't sure if I was going to ride the bus to the start or if I was just going to try to meet Jen at mile 20. My mom came up with us and I wasn't sure what time she was heading over to the finish. I knew that I didn't want to hang out with everyone who wasn't running and just wait. I wanted to be with my friends and with my sister. I wanted to experience as much as I could of the marathon I was supposed to be running. I decided to go to the starting line.
 
 
That night, we met up with my brother, Billy who wanted to run the last mile or two of the course. It was fun to run together. The energy in St. George was awesome. People driving by assumed we were running in the marathon in the morning and called "good luck!" out of their car windows. As we ran passed the mortuary, we saw people putting up this funny sign."Keep Running... We would rather wait!"

We were both awake before our alarm went off at 3:45am. We were supposed to meet to get on the bus at 4:30am. Jen was excited and nervous. She looked at me and said, "I can't believe we are really doing this!" I laughed and said, "WE aren't. YOU are!" This was going to be fun! I wasn't bummed at all anymore. This wasn't my race or my time, but I was so glad to be apart of it. I put two gel packs in the pocket of my running skirt before we left. (I didn't want to carry food and I knew it would be five hours from the time I had breakfast to the time I met up with Jen.) Oh, and I didn't forget my mascara!
 
 
I didn't bring anything warm to wear because I wasn't planning on going to the starting line with everyone. Luckily, I had some sweats that I brought for lounging and the car ride home and a sweatshirt I wore on the way there!
Tara, Billy, Jen, Shelley, Reed, Corey


They weren't kidding! It was cold! And the potty lines were really long...
 
I knew I couldn't start out with them if I still wanted to be strong and run well with Jen for the last 6 miles. They are in way better shape than I am! I figured I just run a few miles since I have my number and then I'd take the shuttle to the finish and figure out where to meet Jen.

It was still dark when we started running. I turned off my ipod and just ran to the sound of thousands of feet hitting the pavement. It was awesome! I was so glad I went to the starting line. Some things you have to experience to understand and I was so happy about the experience I was having.
 
 
A few miles into the run, people started shedding clothing. Some would just drop it right there on the ground for the runners behind them to trample over, some would toss it over head, hoping not to hit anyone, and some would take the time to run whatever it was they took off to the side of the road. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the flying clothing and the dozens of people who shamelessly used the "pretty potties!"

This is a picture I borrowed from the newspaper of the marathoners passing through a small town outside of St George.

It was just getting light when I hit the three mile mark, so I decided I would run five. When I got to five miles, I could finally feel all of my toes that had been frozen, but I hadn't even started to sweat. I decided to go a few more. Everyone talks about Veyo and what a hard hill it is, so I thought it would be fun to run to the top and have that experience and then take a shuttle to the finish. There wasn't a real aid station at the top. I knew there would be one at mile 9.


As I approached mile 9, I thought about how long the race is. I knew I would be sitting waiting for a while before Jen came by. Maybe I would just run 13 miles. I could do a half marathon while everyone else did a full. So, I ran to the 13 mile aid station and asked about the shuttle. They said I would have to wait a little bit. I really didn't want to sit there and wait. The guy gave me a hard time and said I wasn't injured. The older lady there didn't seem amused so I figured I'd just go to the next aid station.


So, I started running again only to realize that the next aid station was at 15 miles! For the next two miles I tried to calculate where Jen would be on the course, what time I could get to the bottom if I took the next shuttle, tried to remember the code Reed told me would get me into his truck were my cell phone was so I could call my mom and so she could drive me up to meet Jen, worried when I couldn't remember the code, if I would be able to find my mom and if not, would the driver drop me off somewhere?


Wait! 15 miles! Would I even be any good to Jen if I have already run 15 miles? I had been running pretty slow. I didn't want to get injured and push my training back even farther. Hmmm... I'm wasn't sure what I had in me. I sped up just to see. I couldn't imagine holding that for 6 miles. I slowed back down to my comfortable jog and tried to think. She was going to be running with Billy. Would she really need me? Would I be able to push her? Would I slow her down?


I felt kind of bad when I realized that I blew it. I stayed out too long. I wondered how she was doing...


Well, the farthest I had ever run was 17 miles back in July. I thought maybe I could challenge myself and see if I could go farther than that. I picked up my pace when I realized I didn't need to hold anything back since I wasn't going to be running the last few miles with Jen. "Respect the distance!" I reminded myself as an ambulance flew by. I slowed back down. I knew I wasn't ready for this kind of distance.


I reached mile 17 and every step after that, was a step into a new record distance for myself. I felt good.


Mile 18. I did a quick self check. My knee seemed to be holding up. My calves were really tight and so were my quads. "Injured?" I wondered. Did I do too much? I tried to tune in and listen to my body. I couldn't tell, so I figured I would just jog slowly to mile 19 and take the shuttle in. I was so excited that I had covered new distance!


Mile 19. Aid Station. A line of people waiting for Icy Hot to put on their quads and calves. It wasn't just me! It wasn't a new injury creeping on! It was normal and expected! Cool. I joined the line, which was now down to just one in front of me. I remembered my gel packs in my pocket and had one. Very cool. 19 miles. I wondered if my legs would let me run 20. 20 miles would be really cool. There was only one way to find out.


I got back on the road and kept running.


Mile 20. I actually got choked up. I got tears in my eyes and a gasp escaped my throat. "Oh my gosh!" I thought. "I could actually run a marathon today!" There was only 6 miles left! I picked up my pace again. It was my legs that were tired not my lungs. I thought if I ran faster, it would be easier on my legs because I would be done sooner.


2 motorcycle cops flew by with sirens blaring. A minute later and ambulance came screaming down the hill. The runners all looked around at each other. Nobody said anything, but I'm sure they were all wondering what happened and doing a quick self check of their own status. "Respect the Distance!" I reminded myself. "You are out of your zone. You are not trained for this." I slowed down again into my comfortable jog. (I heard later that the ambulance was for a guy who died at mile 23. A volunteer, who we met later at Tai Pan, said that she didn't know if he died or not. She said he collapsed, they did CPR and defibrillated him, but she wasn't sure of the outcome.)


Mile 21 and 22. I thought about Jen and wondered what her time was. I figured she was hanging out at the finish line with all of of friends. I was bummed I wasn't there to see them finish. Seeing butts hanging over bushes no longer surprised me or made me laugh. It was just part of the course by then.


Mile 23 I could see the town. I got choked up again and almost cried. I was really going to run a marathon! 3 miles was just a trip around the block! I do that with Ashlyn in the jogging stroller several mornings a week. I knew I could do it!


My legs were tight, so I sped up again.


Mile 24. I knew where I was! I was so glad I had jogged the last mile and a half with Billy and Jen the night before! There were people out on the streets cheering us on.


The last 2 miles I thought about Jason. He didn't come because I wasn't going to run. He stayed home to take care of the kids. I wished I had a cell phone with me. I didn't bring one because there wasn't cell phone coverage for the first 19 miles of the course. I wished I could have called him to tell him that I was running a marathon! I imagined his face in the crowd, cheering me on.


As the last mile approached, I could see runners wearing their finishing medals, talking with their families and friends. I started to look for my family and friends. I didn't see anyone that I knew. I sped up as I saw the finish line.


26.2. I had done it! I ran a marathon! It took me 4hours and 58 minutes, but I did it!
Me!

They put the medal around my neck and I had joined the club. I was a marathoner. As I entered the finishers area, I almost felt sheepish and that I had snuck in or that maybe I didn't belong there. I hadn't done all of the training. I didn't spend the days before planning out my playlist on my ipod. I didn't have a goal finishing time that I was trying to meet or break. I didn't try to figure out what my splits should be so I could finish on track. I didn't stress the days before the marathon that I might not do as well as I hoped, like everyone else. I wasn't nervous and I didn't cross the finish line feeling like I was ready to die. I kind of felt like I cheated.
 
 
The finishers area was for the marathoners, the men and women who had trained hard, pushed their bodies to the limit and left it all out there on the course. I felt a little bit embarrassed. Well, my legs were done. I don't think they would have taken me much farther. Did that make it more legit? I didn't run as hard as I could, but I was really proud of myself for going the distance. That was a new extreme for me.

When I saw my family and friends, this was my response
Jen says this is my "Ooops, I ran a marathon" picture.

They said I was a "dork" and couldn't believe I ran it, but they were proud of me and it made me feel better. I borrowed my mom's cell phone and called Jason. He was at Lauren's soccer game, where she had put on last years uniform. Hehe! (That was his first weekend fully playing Mr. Mom!) Hearing the excitement in his voice and having him tell me how proud he was of me made all of the sheepishness go away. I had done it. It didn't matter how long it took me or that I hadn't planned on it. I ran a marathon and that was something to be proud if. I wished that he was there to celebrate with us.
Me, my brother Billy, and my sister Jen
James (my cousin) Me, Jen, Billy
It would have been cool if we all could have run together. Maybe next year...
Someone wanted a picture of our timing chips on our shoes. We all laughed when we heard ourselves groan! It was so hard to lift our legs up!
James, Me, Jen, Billy

I don't think I will run the marathon in February, but I would like to run another marathon. I want to have the full experience. I want to be trained and ready. I want to see what I can do. I want to not be afraid to push myself. I want to be nervous and excited. Maybe next year...

7 comments:

Aubree said...

Congrats Tara! I love that story!

The guy at mile 23 was a guy that used to be in my ward. He had a heart attack. He is fine though. He was in the hospital for a few days but is now doing great. They said it was a good thing he was doing a marathon because he would not have made it if medical attention wasn't right there.

Tara Rickards said...

Aubree that's crazy! I'm so glad to know what happened and to hear that he is okay! What a story for him to tell!

Janelle Ehat said...

Tara, I cried reading this! After reading Jen's experience and now yours I have decided that I AM going to do it next year. I was thinking I'd just do the half in St. George next year, but I want to do a half before then and do the full marathon with everyone. I'm so proud of you guys! What a great experience! So glad you made it and without injury!

Tara Rickards said...

Thanks Janelle! There isn't a half marathon in St George, but we are all going to run the Agoura Hills Half Marathon in March. The hills are more like mountains, but it leaves you with a huge sense of accomplishment. Get Jeff Galloway's book Marathon- You Can Do It! It is a great book for someone who isn't a "runner" and wants to run a marathon. I think he has the best approach to keeping you injury free. I was kicking myself when I got injured for not following his training plan!

THE HAGES said...

Hey Tara! Congrats! I ran a 5K last year and I thought I was the BOMB! It is the best feeling when you hit the finish line! So Bryans truck has 35,000 miles on it and he said he is asking $39,000. If Jason wants to talk to Bryan our # is 916.209.6600. Oh and I was just thinking, dont you guys go to Disneyland sometime before Thanksgiving?

shelleyv said...

Way to Go girlfriend! I still can't believe you did it! I like how you did it! Stress Free. All that other junk is over-rated. I hope your knee is OK.

haley said...

I'm so proud of you. That's such a great story. Usually you don't just happen to run a marathon! That's great though. Have you felt ok since?