OK, I think I’ve put off writing this part for about as long as I can get away with it. Be warned: this sucker is long.
Where’d we leave off? (I say this as if I could forget) The porta-potty stop.
So, as I said, I basically had to pee from the moment I went across the start line. Every time I went by one of the bathroom areas, the lines were just outta control, so I pushed on. Plus, I told myself that on every training run I stopped to pee just after mile 13, so I’d try to wait for that. So, I kept plowing along til just before the 25K point when I just couldn’t hold it anymore. Plus, I saw what looked like not TOO bad of a line, so I pulled to the side (instead of stopping RIGHT ON THE COURSE like so many other racers did! SOOOO annoying!!) and hopped into the line.
After looking up and letting my marathon-brain uncloud for a minute I noticed that while the line itself might not be too long, the line of portapotties was about non-existent. 2 porta potties. AWESOME CHOICE, Meagan. I was already stopped though, so I decided to stick it out.
A solid FIVE minutes of standing in the line later, I finally got into the stall. I was FUMING. While I was in the line I literally felt my legs tighten up. Everything started to hurt. My ankles, which have NEVER given me problems when running, were BURNING and I felt like I could feel them throb throughout my entire body. My hamstrings felt so tight I thought they might literally snap. When I went to sit down on the porta potty (TMI, I know) and I literally had to lower myself down with my arms, my mental game immediately fell apart. I almost started crying in the porta-potty. I took out my phone and texted the Hubs “I’m in a LOT of pain. Will I see you again?”. I finished my business and got outta the porta potty and read that he replied “I’m hope so. I’m trying. You can do this!” I told myself to pull it together because I had over 10 miles to go and couldn’t fall apart yet. I also reminded myself I had several minutes “in the bank” from going out so fast.
I started running again and didn’t even make it 200 meters. It hurt SO bad. I panicked and didn’t know what to do.
The wall? Yeah, I didn't just hit it. I slammed into it and it took me down.
I looked around and there were people walking all around me, so I decided to walk for a minute and hope it loosen things up. I walked for 60 seconds and then started SLOWLY running again. I crossed the 16 mile marker and knew I was not going to make my goal or any goal and just started mentally tearing myself apart. I couldn’t believe I WALKED and that I was moving so slow. Everything hurt SO bad I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the finish. I honestly remember thinking NUMEROUS times that I wasn’t going to finish. I remember wondering how that would logistically work. Would the Hubs take a train to get me? Would I have to call a cab? How does that work? Through all the negative self-talk, I kept trucking. I felt like I was stopping to walk a LOT, but retrospect fully it was probably only about once, MAYBE twice, a mile, and only for 30-45 seconds at a time. When I was running, it definitely wasn’t a fast run.
All I could think about was the pain and how much it hurt. It also didn’t help that people were still stopping ALL THE TIME and it took SO MUCH extra energy to not fall over them, to go around them, to not take them and myself out.
Now, looking back—I think that’s the main reason my ankles hurt SO BADLY. I’m just not used to that stop and go. In my training runs, I don’t do that. I stop once in the middle to pee and refill water bottles. That’s it. I’m just not use to constantly coming to complete halts outta nowhere. My body’s not used to it and it took its toll. Big time.
Anyway, somewhere around mile 18 someone or I must have hit my watch to stop it. I didn’t notice it right away. In fact, I remember looking down NUMEROUS times and thinking “OMG! This mile just will not end! This SUCKS! I can’t believe I’m still not even to 19! OMG! I’m never going to make it to the finish!!”. Apparently I was too out of it to realize that I wasn’t making ANY progress and that the time wasn’t moving at ALL. I think I also must have been SO dazed I just didn’t even see the marker for mile 19 either because as I was panicking about how never-ending mile 18 seemed, I crossed mile 20.
MILE 20! I was only 6.2 away! I *MIGHT* be able to do this.
Yeah, that positive self talk lasted about 10 seconds and then I was back to self-loathing and telling myself I would NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. I vividly remember thinking in the first half "this is great! I love this! I'll totally do another one!!" and I vividly remember thinking in the second half (like every second of the second half) "OMG! This F-ing SUCKS! I will NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!! THIS SUCKS SO BAD!!"
Somewhere around here I started getting some MEGA tummy craps. I get SERIOUS tummy issues after every long run and I started freaking out that my body THOUGHT it was done and was great for some quality toilet time (WAAAY TMI, I know). I asked a volunteer where the next porta potties were and when he said he didn’t know I swear I almost attacked him. Seriously, dude! C'mon! Luckily (??) the idea of punching him seemed like WAY too much energy and work for that moment, so I kept going. I had on and off cramps the rest of the run, but didn’t have to stop for a bathroom, thank GOODNESS.
I called the Hubs somewhere around mile 21, (mainly because my marathon-brain could not get my fingers to work to text). I was almost in tears. I told him it hurt SO BADLY and I didn’t know what to do. I asked if I’d see them again. He told me they were near the finish and told me I could do it and that he loved me.
The Hubs, his Mom, and lots of other people waiting anxiously to see their runners (or ME!)
I kept pushing. I made deals with myself. Run 7 minutes, then you can walk 10 seconds. Run to the end of this song, then you can walk 15 seconds. Run to the next mile marker, then you can walk 10 seconds. I tried to keep my walks VERY short, as I was worried if I walked too long, I’d never start running again. I never walked more than 5 seconds at a time. I stopped twice between miles 20-25 to stretch. It didn’t help.
I FINALLY hit the 40K mark and while I had no idea what that meant, I knew I was getting close. I stopped to text the Hubs I was at the 40K mark. I have no idea why I chose to STOP to text him and didn’t try to walk and text or just call again. Marathon brain.
When I saw the mile 25 marker, I was SO relieved. I let myself walk 10 second then, and then told myself I was running to the end. No matter what.
I told the Hubs before the race I was dedicating the last mile mentally to him and I knew I was NOT going to walk in that last mile. I was running before I hit the “1 mile to go” sign, but I knew from then on, no matter what and no matter how slow—I was running it into the finish.
I saw the sign for 500m to go and almost started crying.
Right before I made my way up the hill at the 400m-ish mark.
I kept scanning the crowds for the Hubs and everyone else, but didn’t’ see them. I had no idea which side of the road they’d be on or where. It took so much energy to keep looking and looking, but it was also a nice distraction from the PAIN. FINALLY, at about 400m to go, I saw the big orange sign my father in law was holding. And, the I saw the Hubs. It was actually the first time I saw HIM the entire race (each other time, I saw the group, but never saw him). It took everything in my power not to start bawling. I mustered a small wave and a smile and keep pushing. UP A HILL, I’ll add. Not cool, Chicago Marathon. NOT COOL.
ME! 400m to go! I managed to SMILE? And do a 2-handed wave? Woah. I don't remember that AT ALL. I just remember seeing the Hubs and KNOWING I was going to finish.
Right at the top of the hill we made a left turn and you could see the finish. I could not believe it was both so close and SO FAR AWAY at the same time. Everything in me was gone. I had nothing left to give. Somehow, I kept running and crossed the finish line. Again, taking all my energy not to start crying hysterically. It was SO emotional.
Check out those POSITIVE splits. Yup, the ENTIRE 1st half in sub 9:30s. The entire second half in 11:00+'s. I didn't even bother with the 10's. I went from GREAT to BAD. No in between nonsense for this girl.
I did it! I had no idea what my time was. I knew I didn’t hit my goal. I knew I was WAY, WAY off. I’d LOVE to sit here and say it didn’t matter in that moment, but it did. I was BUMMED. I was THRILLED to be done and SO HAPPY I did it, but bummed I didn’t do better.
I just remember thinking “I worked SO HARD. For MONTHS. Two-a-days, long runs, 5am alarms… I worked SO HARD. I gave it 100%. I didn’t skip ANY workouts. I couldn’t have given it any more. And, I STILL failed.”
I admit it. SECONDS after crossing the finish line of a MARATHON I thought to myself “you failed”. Crazy, party of 1? Right here.
I KNOW I didn’t fail. I know I’m crazy. But, I did have a goal. Even though I know you’re not supposed to have a goal for your first. Whatever. Of course you have a time in mind. Anyone who says they don’t is full of BS. Of course I had a goal. I wanted to finish under 4:15. Ideally 4:10, but definitely under 4:15. And, I didn’t. And, that SUCKED. It was hard to swallow. I wanted to make everyone proud of me and I felt like I failed. So, while I was SOOOO happy to be finished, I was also SAD and MAD and DISAPPOINTED that I didn’t hit that goal.
Crazy crash and burned the second half. CLEARLY.
Add to those emotions the INCREDIBLY soreness and EXHAUSTEDNESS and the negative self-thoughts won. At least for a few minutes.
After I crossed the finish line, I swear I had to walk another ½ mile just to get a bottle of water. It felt like SO FAR. I’m sure in reality it was like 10 meters. Whatever. I got one of those crazy blankets, a bottle of water, some food I never ate, a beer I spilled all over myself trying to sneak out of the park, and made my way to the exit.
I told the Hubs and everyone to meet me at the corner of Michigan and Congress and the Bowman and Spear statue. Unfortunately, Marathon-Brain took over and I could not, for the life of me, remember where I said to meet. I knew it was off Michigan, but that’s all I could remember. I was dazed and SO confused. I called and called the Hubs, but he didn’t answer. Finally, I tried my mother in law and THANK GOODNESS she answered and we all found each other.
THE HUBS!!!! I was SOOOOO happy to see him! I legit basically just FELL into his arms at this point.
Of course, I started feeling SO MUCH BETTER after seeing the Hubs and everyone else and they were all SO EXCITED for me. Seriously—best cheer section and support group ever. EVER.
Best support system EVER!!! And, 3 people weren't even in the pic! BIG thanks to Amy, Tim, and Donovan who are unpictured, too!!
After hugs and congrats, we made our way back up Michigan and picked a random bar/grill for lunch. We had about an hour wait, so I changed clothes and we all just chilled. I didn’t Facebook or Twitter or anything. I just wanted to be with the people who were there and enjoy the moment. It wasn’t even until lunch that I learned what time I actually got. 4:27:59. Hey, at least I broke 4:30!
We laughed and ate (ok, I didn’t really eat anything… my tummy was WAY too upset!) and I LOVED every second. I tried really hard to just be PROUD of myself and to push that gnawing feeling in my tummy of regret and disappointment away.
Part of our group at lunch after.
At lunch the Hubs even surprised me with 2 congratulations gifts-- a ornament with 26.2 on it and a frame that will hold my medal with an engraved plaque that had my name and the race name and date! Best hubs evvvvver!!!
The Hubs parents offered to drive us home, so we could skip the train, which was AWESOME! I curled up in the back seat, put my feet up, closed my eyes and just relaxed. I tried to sleep, but didn’t really get to. It was really nice to just be off my feet though. I swear I didn’t get WARM again until after the Hubs and I got home and I was curled under a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa. The Hubs and I watched a movie and called it a night by 10:30pm.
I fell asleep to mixed feelings. That famed RUNNER’S HIGH, no—that famed MARATHONERS HIGH was noticeably missing. I was so conflicted with this weird mix of proud and disappointed. I still was SO emotional and yet had still not actually CRIED (don’t worry, I have since then and got it all out!). I didn’t know what to feel and felt like I was SUPPOSED to be feeling this over the moon excitement. I felt like I was SUPPOSED to be THRILLED.
I even emailed one of my favoritebloggers (Thanks, Tasha!! You talked me down from a running-ledge!!) asking her WTF was wrong with me! She talked me down and explained that what I was feeling was NORMAL. It’s NORMAL to make some mistakes your first marathon. It’s NORMAL for it to be harder than you thought it was going to be. It’s NORMAL to feel this weird let-down after because for MONTHS you’ve been preparing for something and suddenly it’s OVER and now what? It’s NORMAL to feel a bit down because you didn’t meet a goal. And, she also told me I was CRAAAAZY because I did GREAT and that she was proud of me. J Best advice ever.
So, like she so wisely said—I trained for MONTHS and now it’s over. It’s SO WEIRD. I’ve now taken 3 full and complete rest days in a row (today’s day #3). My body feels pretty good now. My hamstrings are still REALLY tight, but overall I’m feeling back to normal (or at least back to my “normal” level of constant sore-ness). It’s been WEIRD not to log onto DailyMile everyday. It’s been weird not to log things into my excel Marathon Training file. It’s WEIRD not to have a PLAN.
And, it’s weird not to feel FULFILLED from this experience. I want more. I want redemption. I will get my 4:15 and even my 4:10 marathon. I KNOW I can do it. I know I COULD HAVE done it this time, if I had run smarted. I trained plenty hard. I know I was ready. I know I’ll be ready again. I’ll admit—I want to do this again. I want to train again. I want to do another marathon. I want to meet my goal. I WILL meet my goal.
I LOVED training. I loved training more than I loved the race. I love the tracking and logging and having a plan. I love having something to work toward. I feel like this race was not a reflection of my training. I feel like I trained SO HARD and it was a MUCH better indicator or my running level than what was indicated on the finish line clock. That bums me out, but ya know what? Maybe for me the race at the end is just the cherry on top. The TRAINING was SO HARD. It took DEDICATION and TIME and COMMITMENT. And, while it didn’t give me the time I wanted (or rather, it could have, but didn’t) it did give me a sense of fulfillment. I trained for a MARATHON. I trained for HOURS and logged HUNDREDS of miles. And, regardless of my mixed marathon feelings, I’m PROUD of that. I started something I never thought I could do and I saw it through every alarm, every mile, every ache and pain. I saw it through to the finish line of the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
I am DAMN PROUD of that.