Monday, October 18, 2010

Long Beach Marathon...The good, the bad and the Ugly

This post may be a little long, so I will apologize in advance.

I'm not even really sure where to start. We arrived in California on Thursday, spent all day Friday shopping and eating. Saturday we headed back to the expo to meet up with some bloggy friends! It's so weird to see people in real life because I feel like, in some cases I know them, but I could walk right past them on the street and not even realize it! Regardless we headed off to dinner for a super yummy carb load with Maritza, Aron, Tara, Nicole, Karyn and Sami.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the morning. Nicole and I have a ritual of laying everything out, putting our bibs on our clothes, shoe tags, painting our nails, jamming out to music. When everything was good to go, we called it a night. When the alarm went off, my first thought was, "just a few more minutes" but was relieved when we realized that Nicole had set her alarm for 5am Michigan time and it was really 2am...we had a few more hours to snooze. (Trust me, I did a lot of snoozing on this trip! Did you know if you sleep longer than 5 hours you actually can dream!!! It's amazing!) When the alarm went off again, I rolled out of bed. I was nervous. Excited. Scared. Today was the day where I was either going to make it or die trying. After deciding to rock the monkey buns (or mushrooms as Maddie calls them) with my sweet yellow headband and yellow bows, we were looking cute and ready to run. I twisted the rope that my mom had given me into my shoe like 100 times to ensure that it wouldn't come loose.

We stopped by the girls hotel and picked them up on the way and headed towards the start line. We made a quick stop at the porta potties and little did I know this would be my first of many visits to random toilets along the way. We snapped this picture just before heading to the start line.

When we got to the start line, it kind of reminded me of Chicago. Lots of people. People trying to get to their corrals. I said goodbye to Nicole and she headed to the faster time corral. I had talked with Tara and Maritza and had decided that they run around the speed I was going to run, so I would start with them and see how things went. After the first corral took off, we moved up...I had decided that I wasn't going to listen to music for the first few miles. I wanted to hear everything. Take everything in. This is what I had been training for. The airhorn blows and we are off. Running, zigzagging, people cheering. I feel light. My legs feel great. My breathing is even. Take it in. Take it in. The first water stop was pretty quick into the race and after our fueling conversation at dinner the night before, I decide to eat my first Gu at mile 1.8. For some strange reason, the 4:00 pacer is behind me and I'm a little concerned. Am I running too fast? My goal was to keep my miles between 10-10:30...Jorge is flashing 9:40s at me which isn't too much faster than normal. At mile 4-5 we head out around the pier (or what feels like a pier) and we see boats and water. It's beautiful. I still feel good. I eat another Gu around 4 and I'm taking in the are a few splits for my number fanatics:)
1 00:09:43
2 00:09:45
3 00:09:45
4 00:09:44
5 00:09:58
At this point the 4:00 pacer passes us (whew, I was starting to freak out), but I'm still feeling strong. We wind out to a cement bike path where the crowd is thin but the sights are amazing. To my right. The Ocean. The whole reason I came all the way to Cali to run my first race. The sand, the salt. I love it. By this time, I can feel a little heaviness in my stomach. Yikes. Push forward. Slow down a little.
6 00:10:01
7 00:10:21
8 00:10:27
By mile 9, I am ready to get off of the bike trail and back onto land. The cement is not forgiving, although the bathrooms are plentiful. A quick shout out to the run racing crew and the numerous bathrooms they had along the way...thank you for saving me from being "that girl" at the race. I appreciate it more than you know;) Anyways, from here, I'm going to * the bathroom stops next to times. I'll spare you all the details:)

9 00:10:50 *
10 00:11:55 *

Mile 10 takes us back onto land through some spectators, it was nice to see them! I'm still feeling pretty good at this point. I'm slowing my pace a little, and walking through stops when I need to eat a Gu. My stomach is still a little on the unhappy side, but I'm hoping it will pass.
11 00:10:51
12 00:11:50
13 00:12:13

I pass through the halfway point and say a small cheer. I'm pretty sure I just set a new PR for myself if I were running just the half. By my legs are now feeling tired, my back is achy and my right foot feels as if it's on fire. I'm staring at the knot on my shoe, the bracelets on my arm. Push though, be strong. I see Nicole around 14 and we exchange a quick conversation: I'm dying. you're dying. Love you. Keep going.

14 00:11:46
15 00:12:38 *
16 00:12:08
At this point, my stomach is super angry. It's not liking Gu or powerade. I break out into tears for no apparent reason. My foot is ON FIRE. My back hurts. I pass a guy who is CARRYING his shoes and limping. I say to him, "I feel your pain." And I seriously meant it. My legs feel heavy, my breathing feels rapid and hard.
And then WHAM: at 17, I hit it. That wall that everyone talks about. I walk. I swear. I get angry. I'm thinking, come on Erika, get grip. The mile between 17 and 18 feels like 5. My stomach is a mess. My back, sigh. At 18, I consider taking my shoes off like that man I passed a few miles back. I want to do nothing more except sit on the side walk. I take out my phone to check my text messages because I knew Sami was going to be coming back for me around mile 22 and I wanted to let her know that I was moving much slower than I had anticipated.
I have a few new text messages. Open first one:
From Mom: "Good luck. Love you. mom" Spontaneous outburst of tears again.
The next message is from my bloggy and running buddy Gina

Gina: 3:40:24-unofficial. Boston baby!!!
I instantly text back: Good job!!!!
Gina: how are you doing?
Me: At 18 and feel like death
Gina: I believe in you girl. You will finish. sending up prayers!!!

That's my signal to get my butt moving. So I start picking up my feet again. After a few quick potty stops, I'm on my way...
17 00:14:51*
18 00:16:11 *
19 00:12:45
I see a sign that says: "Every wall has a it!"
And I finish mile 19 much faster than the previous 2. I'm starting to head "there" again. That dark, feel sorry for myself place. I can feel every muscle in my legs, in my back. My lungs are heavy. I am tired. I am angry. I am doubtful that I can even run another 7 miles to the finish line. I stop to walk again and check my phone for Sami and I have a new message from my friend Angie...I posted on her awhile ago. She has the sweetest daughter, Tori, who underwent brain surgery when she was 4 months old to remove a brain tumor. She turned one last month and her last scan showed 2 more tumors...needless to say, she underwent another brain surgery to remove those 2 tumors on Friday morning. Anyways, I open this text message and start crying again instantly:

"Look at me! I am doing great!!"
Here I am, hating life, hating my body, angry, mad, sad...and here's this tiny girl who's been fighting since day one!! Get a grip. So I started running again. Mile 20.5-21.5 dedicated to not feeling sorry for myself, but prayers of thanks and gratitude for this amazing child!
20 00:14:47 *
21 00:15:19

Around mile 22...I am at the end of my rope. I have tied a knot. I feel it's fraying. I turn around and who do I see but Maritza!!! And she SMILES at me! I am walking and she jogs up and says, "come on." My feet automatically start moving, so grateful to have someone there. I can hear her talking, but am finding it hard to respond except, "I am so glad to see you." I hear her saying, "nice and easy, pick up your knees, Tara taught me that. At this point, it's going to hurt, you're best to just keep going." So I do. We walk through the water stops, we get our legs sprayed with the most AMAZING magic potion (if you ever see people spraying people's legs, get it done! It's the best!!) We are making progress. Around mile 23.5 I see Sami and I am excited again.
22 00:12:57
23 00:13:14
24 00:12:41

Pick it up. Keep going. I tell her I am too tired to talk, but ask her to talk to me. Please know that I'm listening, I just can't respond. My legs are so so tired. I am so sure if I looked at my feet I would be missing three back feels like I've been hiking with a 100 pound pack for a week. I ask Sami for food. She only has Gu. I pass. I don't want Gu. I want REAL food. I don't even like oranges, but what I would give for one right this second. Maritza falls a little behind, but says, keep going. I am hoping to finish with her and say catch me, if I stop I won't start again. She nods and SMILES! I had few smiles left in me at this point. When I saw marker 25 I felt overjoyed. OMG. One mile to go. I just may be able to finish this thing. I can't believe that I just ran 25 miles. Sami snapped this picture of me at 25.3

I also took my ear buds out at mile 25. I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss a single thing. I listen to the people cheering. The mexican man yelling on the corner, "cervisas??" A group of people sitting on a sofa on the side of the road. I could taste the salt on my lips...from my sweat or tears, I'm not sure. This is what I trained so hard for. Push more.

25 00:15:21
26 00:12:45
27 00:05:18 09:43

I get a sudden burst of energy (if that's what you want to call it). The game plan was for Sami to run ahead of me and video tape me crossing the finish line. At 25.5 I looked at Sami and said, let's get this shit done. And I ran. I ran as fast as when I started. It felt so good to open up and stretch my legs out. I heard Sami say, "how am I supposed to get in front of you???" but I couldn't, wouldn't stop until I crossed the finish line. My lungs were on fire, my breathing was uneven and I could feel myself gasping...and just when I thought I was almost to the finish line I realized I had about another 100 yards to go (what's up with the 2 look-a-like finish lines??) Shit. But then I heard Nicole screaming my name, "Go Erika, good job!!" and she was jumping and yelling like crazy from behind the fence. I looked at Sami's camera and said, "and this is me finishing my first marathon!" I threw my arms up when I crossed the line. I got my medal and blanket and was herded into the photo line. I did it. I finished. I was a marathoner.

Official Time: 5:20:05

If you read the rest of this post, I'm asking you please not to judge.

I cross the finish line and look down at Jorge. And I know, I should be like, Hell ya, I just ran 26.55 miles and I should be happy, but I had a huge feeling of disappointment. I was so disappointed in myself. In my running. In my training. I had regrets of not training enough. My "super secret" goal was to finish around 4:30, my spoken goal of being under 5 hours. Here is is 5:20...and I start to cry. I am so mad at myself for not pushing through the pain. I see Nicole and start crying again. She had warned me about not setting time goals for my first race, just run to enjoy it, and even though I tried, it's really hard because it's just how I am. I tend to set standards high. I call my mom and hear her voice...she says: "I am proud of you." I respond. "I am so disappointed." We head back to the room, shower off. Eat a yummy dinner, call it a night early.
I go to bed with a mad case of restless leg syndrome. I woke up this morning a little stiff and sore, but happy to be coming home to see my monkeys.

Replaying the race over and over again.
Initially I said to Nicole, "never again"
Today I say, next time I will train better. I will do speed and hill workouts and I will finish under 5 hours.
Next marathon: May 8th, 2011. Kalamazoo MI.

I was really excited to spend lots of time with Jack tonight raking and playing in the leaves! I sure missed my monkeys a lot while I was gone!

Thank goodness my mom and brother helped me rake, or it would have taken me forever!!

If you made it this far...thank you so much for reading. To all of my fellow Distance Dreamers and bloggy friends who ran this weekend, CONGRATS to you! You are my heros!

I couldn't have finished this race without those key people who helped me open my window...thank you so much Gina, Sami, Maritza, Tori, Nicole, mom (key messages/timing folks!!) and all of those people who cheered for me, whether you were there, on facebook, text or via blog!
My new favorite quote for the day:
It's not about the courage to finish, it's about the courage to start.


Andrew Opala said...

was it foggy? cuz I can't see the last piece of your post ... :(

Erika said...

Oh...I spent an hour and the whole thing got erased when I was finished...not so happy. But done now:)

Meggan said...

You are a rockstar! Great job. I know how hard it is to train with little kids. Can't wait to read your continued journey!!

Johann said...

You did it! Congratulations! Finishing a marathon is always fantastic. Toughing it out on a hard day is awesome. Rest well!

Colleen Pitmon said...

this totally made me teary eyed! Congrats Erika! You are an inspiration to me for sure!!

abbi said...

Congrats on pushing through to finish, sounds like it was rough! Everyone seems to say the same thing, don't set expectations for your first. As happy as I was, I still was a little disappointed too, so I understand! You still did an amazing job!

Molly said...

Erika! I am so freakin' proud of you! Sounds like you had the full experience, sorry about the stomach issues!

I can't believe you picked your next race already, that's awesome.

Congrats again!! : )

Nicole said...

Soooooooo proud of you.

Words can't express how much you mean to me.

I'm so thankful to have you in my life.

However, I hate you for not having to work today.



See you @ the start of kzoo in may! Balls to the walls!!!

Rad Runner said...

Congrats times a million, I read your post from start to finish and could feel the WHOLE thing... So sorry to hear about the tummy troubles! The one time that my tummy even thought about getting upset around mile 14 or 15 I tossed a ginger chew in my mouth it works miracles I tell ya! Regardless, you pulled through, you are a freakin Marathoner and you rock! oh, and half that sign was for you!

Katie said...

Congratulations! Amazing job. As runners I think we are really hard on ourselves and it is so easy to be disappointed when we don't reach random time goals we set for ourselves. The fact remains that you ran a damn marathon and ran it well! Nice job girlie!

The photo of the sweet little girl would have put me in tears during the race too. It definitely puts things into perspective!

Heather said...

Congratulations! You are one tough Mama!! What an amazing accomlishment!

Missy said...

Wow Ericka, I totally teared up reading your post, congratulations! You should be super proud of yourself! I'm so impressed! You are such a warrior!

Zaneta said...

wow! Congrats on finishing Erika! I got teary eyed reading your post! people who push through walls to finish are my heros! :D

Morgan said...

Awwww girl why'd you have to go and make me cry first thing in the morning!!!! I'm sorry the race didn't turn out exactly as you hoped but if there's one bit of advice I can give it's this: Don't let 1 race define you as a runner. Nothing is ever certain in the Marathon. Finishing is winning.

Be proud of yourself for being one of the 1% of the world that ever Finishes a Marathon. Take a few days to take away all the lessons of the race and put it behind you! Live to run another day and take everything you learned from this one and make Kalamazoo the best damn race you ever put your heart in to!

Evolving Through Running said...

Congratulations on crossing the line marathoner!! All the more impressive with what you had to physically and mentally push through. Enjoyed following your journey through your blog, and looking forward to reading about your next one. Revel in the accomplishment, and internalize what you've learned to fuel your next outing.

Well done!

Christa said...

Awesome recap!! You pretty much summed up my Chicago Experience. I felt like I was reading my own post. I am so excited that you are running Kalamazoo. That is my next marathon too. I was going to contact you but couldn't find an email to see if you were going to run that race as we are both MI moms.

Congratulations you are a now a MARATHON RUNNER!!!!! Way to go!!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I ran my first marathon on October 10 and I can relate to you SO MUCH!

I fell apart the last 6.2 miles and at mile-freaking-24 (SO CLOSE TO THE END) I hurt my foot and had to do a lot of walking. When I crossed the finish line all I felt was disappointment. I had trained hard for the marathon and I knew I could do better.

Now that I've had some distance from my race I realize how HUGE an accomplishment of running a MARATHON is. So be proud of yourself for finishing!!

shellyrm aka jogging stroller mama said...

It's hard not to beat yourself up but honestly you don't have anything to regret. You know exactly the journey you had and if you choose to change things next time that's great. What matters is you set a goal: to run a marathon. And you did it!
Celebrate your success!

bobbi said...

Somehow, I missed this yesterday - you did GREAT! And what a recap - somehow, I felt like you were in my head at the end of that race. No worries about judging here - it's tough to feel good about something that didn't go the way you hoped and dreamed and planned it would.

But know that YOU DID IT! You are a marathoner, extra 20 minues be damned. Congratulations!

Nicki said...

Erika, you should feel nothing but PRIDE! You DID IT!! You got yourself across that finish line, and that is such a challenge in and of itself. I was so excited to read your recap, and I think you will be more than ready for #2!

aron said...

you did so awesome girl. it was so great to meet you and get to share in a little bit of your first marathon excitement/nerves. hope you are recovering well and hope we get to meet up at another race sometime soon!!! congrats MARATHONER!

Melinda said...

Isn't it amazing how much another friendly face can help during a marathon?!?

Don't be so hard on yourself. You did great! I think it's beneficial to have a goal, but during your first race, you really don't know what to expect on race day - and you learn from that what to differently next time. Just be proud of yourself for finishing!

Way to go!! A big congrats!

Pete32 said...

You have an amazing support crew behind you. You are very blessed to have soo many people who care. I'm sure you will find the time to look back at this race and see that not everything was as bad as you thought. Great race report, and thanks for sharing!

Karen (Toronto Girl West) said...

What a crazy wave of emotions you rode. But you know the important part? You did it!!!

It's just like all the signs say "If it were easy everyone would do it!" It's not easy. And you're one of the few.

Be proud of yourself! I am!!! :o)

the dawn said...

erika! i understand being hard on yourself, i do it to me ALL THE TIME. but you are a rockstar!!! you did so amazing. you finished. you took each step and you crossed the line. YOU. Did it! the you who less than a year ago didn't run. the you who never thought 26 miles was possible. you. instead of being disappointed in what's already happened, use it to be the fuel for the spring.

i was totally ready to sign up for k-zoo race...but then i found out mr. dawn is in a wedding that day! bummer!

i'm thinking we should do dinner next week. what about wednesday?

Tricia said...


(my first marathon is 3 weeks away and I've just thrown ANY goal time out the window. Just want to finish and enjoy)


Sarah Wooldridge said...

I totally understand your secret goals but CONGRATS! Finishing is an accomplishment in itself! Way to go! I like those shirts ;) GYRO MI should be proud!

Slomohusky said...

Hey Erika, Just found your Blog through Julie at Minnesota Mileage. Wow! Great effort and awesome report. I ran Long Beach as well, but did the Half. I was training for the Full this time, however, an injury forced me to ditch that plan - for now. Next year I will plan on the Full at Long Beach. Great race and really well organized. Thanks for sharing your story!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

first way to go on sticking it out and proving to yourself that you are strong.

you have every right to feel the sadness of a day not going quite as you hoped. Once you get through that you'll be able to see all the great things that you truly accomplished...and then go for redemption :)

H Love said...

a very long run eh? you pushed through and should be proud! awesome job!!!

Michel said...

Congrats on your first marathon!!

Circus Daily said...

Congrats Erika. You're such an inspiration to follow. I'm thinking of getting a run or two in now. Going to start small and go from there. But back to you, you look awesome and now you can say your a marathoner, how awesome is that?

Congratulations's over, you did it, wahoo!

Page said...

Great, great post! I'm so happy for your first finish and it was great that all of the girls were there with you. Congratulations and keep your head were amazing!

Running Diva Mom said...

CONGRATS ON EVERYTHING! Just found your blog.