CHICAGO “Gate.” What is she saying? I don’t know. What? I could hear the crowd of people forming around me, but I hadn’t opened my eyes. “Gate.” I muttered again. “Gate!” I started to open my eyes and see people staring back at me. They were all sideways. “I need to get to my gate.” Ah, a complete sentence. I felt terrible but I was talking. A paramedic told me I wasn’t flying anywhere. They were taking me to the hospital. “No.” They tried to tell me I couldn’t fly. “I will be fine.” I sat up, I drank some water, and I began insisting harder. I knew my name, I knew where I was going, and I could feel control coming back. “What color is my face?” I asked. My color was better they said. “I will be fine,” I insisted again. The paramedic begrudgingly brought out the refusal paperwork, and I was wheeled to my gate.
CARLSBAD This was the most excited I had been for a race for a really long time. Very few people knew I was racing this marathon. It was one last shot at qualifying for the trials. If I got it, I would go right? I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but after dropping out of Chicago, I wanted a good marathon. My focus was on time over anything else.
CHICAGO I was more anxious to go to Chicago and get the deed done than actually racing it. I was angry at all the naysayers up until this point, and I was ready to prove them all wrong. My goal time was an OTQ, but I didn’t really want to go. I just wanted to get that “reasonable and realstic” accomplishment out of the way so I could really get to work.
CARLSBAD 3:15 a.m. my alarm went off. I wanted to be awake for three hours before the start. I began my pre-planned morning routine and headed to the starting area to finish my warm up. I was calm. I felt good. I was ready. I didn’t feel pressure. I didn’t feel doubt. I visualized the course again before stripping down to my race kit.
CHICAGO The ADP athletes were herded like cattle to the starting coral. We were all nervous, I didn’t notice a single calm athlete. Was I ready? What happened at the airport? I hadn’t had issues like that in months. I kept trying to reassure myself that it’s fine and I fully recovered to run a fast race. “Under Pressure” by Queen started playing. I laughed to myself. Perfect.
CARLSBAD It was a small race, so I knew I would probably end up in the top ten, but as the gun went off I was leading lady. It bothered me, but I tried to put it out of my head and focus on the effort. I wasn’t going to pay attention to my watch either. The first six miles flew by and I felt light and fresh – like I was moving smoothly, but not at a hard effort. Shortly after hitting mile six, my stomach started to cramp like I had to crap, which I thought was odd because I thought I emptied out pretty good before the race.
CHICAGO The herd took off and I quickly settled into pace, but it was labored. I reminded myself it was normal for the first few miles of any marathon, let alone a big one like Chicago. I started falling behind pretty quickly and reached the 10k time clock at 39:17. Uh-oh. I re-grouped my thoughts and told myself I can still PR, even if my time goal was out of reach. I reached the 15k and continued to slow down quickly. Forward motion was really hard. My heart felt really heavy. Am I going to be able to finish? Of course you are, keep moving – it’s Chicago. Halfway point and I felt even worse. I needed to stop. This wasn’t going to end well. I moved over towards the side of the road the medic tent was on, but jerked away. I couldn’t. Not yet. Give it a few more miles.
CARLSBAD Was this it? Was this going to be the race that I crapped myself? At mile six, really? Guess so…I went through it all in my head and decided that even though it was early and I’d have to deal with sand paper between my cheeks for 20 more miles, I’d still rather keep going. I tried to relax. I couldn’t. How could I not just go? It was really hard to relax my anus while running. I developed a new level of respect for those I’ve known that were able to do so, because I didn’t see how I was going to do it. The cramps worsened, so I decided stopping to use the porta-potty would be faster than trying to run with the cramps. I stopped just after mile nine. I was still in the lead, but not by much.
CHICAGO I gave it a few more miles, but I felt like I was trying to run with the flu – no energy, and my heart was still so loud and heavy. I’m not going to finish am I? No matter how much more I slow down, if I push much farther I’m going to end up collapsing and I don’t need any more of that drama this weekend. At the next medic station (30k) I stepped off the course and said I needed to quit. I couldn’t believe I was dropping out of Chicago.
CARLSBAD Since relieving myself, the cramps lessened and over the next few miles they went away. Working through that and it not completely derailing my head was a mental boost. Shortly after that I got a side stitch and did the exact same thing. I gave myself a pat on the back. At mile thirteen, I grabbed a cup from a volunteer at the aid station and took a swig of WHAT WAS THAT?!?!? Was that rubbing alcohol? That is exactly what that tasted like. It couldn’t have been that though…I grabbed another cup from another volunteer to try and wash it out of my mouth, but I had already swallowed a gulp. I told myself it was fine and it couldn’t possibly have been alcohol.
CHICAGO After being cleared by the first set of medics, I loaded on the shuttled bus back to the starting line. I was so angry. I had to go through medics again at the start and that took a little longer, but Kyle was able to meet me with my stuff and take me back to the hotel. Physically, I knew nothing was seriously wrong and that all I really needed was rest. Mentally, I was not in a good place.
CARLSBAD My stomach tightened a little, and I still had no idea what pace I was at, but still held on to the lead. I expected to be overtaken any minute, but she never came. It was hard to drink much after that fluid stop at mile thirteen, but I tried a little. At mile eighteen I was able to finish most of my first gel, but was really slowing down. Unaware of my actual pace, I kept pushing and hit the final turnaround. Once I got to mile twenty, I knew I was going to finish but I felt my goal time was long gone. Pain in my ankles and calves got really bad. I avoided any more aid stations for my stomach from that point on. Surprisingly I was still in the lead, but I didn’t feel like I really cared. I just wanted the pain to end. I also wanted this dumb motorcycle “leading” me to move over and let me breath real air and not exhaust. For the next four miles he stayed right in front of me. Finally he moved beside me and I yelled at him for the exhaust. He stayed behind me for the next two miles, but other people doing the half marathon still had to deal with him. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t hire cyclists instead. Anyway, I kept slowing and slowing and just after the 26th mile, 2nd and 3rd female, who were running together, passed me. I saw them go and I couldn’t respond. I just let them go. I didn’t care I just wanted to the pain to end (of course, later I did care that I didn’t even try to surge or tag along). I made the final turn and saw 3:08 on the clock. I hadn’t realized I was going that slow. I crossed the finish line and sat down right away against the fence. I need to be off my feet. Someone handed me a bottle of an electrolyte drink that I noticed was different than what was on course and I started to sip that. I told the medics I was fine and just needed to sit for a minute. Before I even finished the drink, I began to feel much better.
What happened in Chicago was physical, and an episode that I’ve had many times before, but I thought I had it under control. I hadn’t had any issues for several months leading up to Chicago and I haven’t had any since. Mind and body are connected in more ways than we understand. I think I cracked under the pressure and my body responded in negative way. At least going into Carlsbad, I felt better mentally. I was way off my goal time, but there were some good things to come out of it. I am continuing to work on getting back to my focus for running.