Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Race Report

I had to take a few days to collect my thoughts and to get my head on straight. There was so much to experience over 26.2 miles and there are so many emotions that one goes through from elation to anger and back again. I have also realized that I may be actually starting to feel my age or at least my fitness graded age. And last of all, I had to accept and embrace the title of this blog--slow but determined. I have to take joy in the fact that I can let my feet carry me over 26.2 miles in 4:30:04 and that there are other people who would kill for that or just want to be able to toe the line at a marathon. I have to consider myself extremely lucky ,having had open heart surgery, that I can even do this at all.

Alright, enough of Jack Handy's "Deep Thoughts". On to the fun stuff!

I had spent Friday night at my Dad and Val's home on Canyon Lake. It had been warm on Friday, but the temps really dropped over night and the wind had been whipping through the trees. Here is that photo from the deck...The view is beautiful. The deer are all over the place and there is an 8 point buck that I have seen wandering up the driveway. This is the one place that I don't worry about leaving my car door unlocked overnight. Totally relaxing! I headed into San Antonio about an hour south and was determined to find the Wal-Mart to pick up a few minute last items. The radio announcer had been warning about taking care of the "3 P's" which are pipes, pets, and plants since they were expecting temps of 31 degrees overnight. We don't get many freezes here in Texas so we tend to go a little over the top on these things. I picked up the pocket warmers...These can be found back by the fishing and camping gear and two set of hand warmers cost a whopping $1.25 not including tax. I got the men's wool blend socks to use as arm warmers and found a little Lego set for Buddy as a thank you for getting up early and standing out in the cold for mom. I grabbed my lunch at Taco Cabana and then was able to check in early at the hotel.

Once I got down to the expo I was determined to get in and out of there quick. It did not take much time to pick up my stuff, but the expo part was a mad house. The official gear was pretty much sold out of women's clothing other than fleece vests and capri length sweat pants. I did not want that or another cotton t-shirt. I settled on a pair of socks and figured I ended up saving a ton of money. Once in the expo I moved quickly to specific booths and found the MOST AWESOME long sleeve top at my favorite clothing/gear booth SUGOI!!! What made it even better is that there were only three tops left and they were in XS, just my size. This shirt reminds me of the Ed Hardy tattoo inspired clothing that is popular right now. I LOVE THIS TOP!!! It is so much better than an event shirt and I will wear it a whole lot more.

I got back to the hotel and cleaned up for our TEAM Pasta Party. The food was good and I was ready to get back to get my gear all set out. Here is a pic of Anna, who I have coached through a triathlon, me, and my bud Terry. We had our TEAM meeting and decorated our singlets with our names and pictures of our honored patient. I had a bad headache that was stress related and I just needed to get my stuff all set out for the next morning and get into bed.

When I woke up, the headache was gone. I got my double banana and Nutella breakfast in me and got down to the lobby to catch the shuttle bus to the start area. I took the first bus since I was in corral 8 out of 32 corrals and it was just a few of us on the bus. Terry, Ben, and Jarntip were all quiet as we drove through the dark. Once off the bus, Jarntip and I headed to the UPS trucks to drop off our gear bags to be sent to the finish area. I fished my contractor grade trash bag out and pulled it over my head. It was freezing, but there was no wind like the day before. The Jack in the Box, Taco Cabana, and Whataburger were all doing booming business selling hot coffee to runners. Once free of my bag, I headed to the port-o-can line. I had come prepared for there not to be any toilet paper like at the L.A. Marathon and then had to hand over my shirt to Johnny Tri to use. I had a pack of tissues and individually wrapped hand sani-wipes stuffed in the pockets of my Race Ready shorts. As we got to the front of the line, the word came back that there was no toilet paper. Women were crossing their legs and dashing in and out of unoccupied cans looking for TP. I was not letting on to any one about my secret stash under my trash bag! Yes it is gross, but I saw bandannas, gloves, and a shirt down in that port-o-can! Oh, I was happy that I had learned my lesson in L.A.

As I made my way up to my corral, I bumped into Ben who was looking for me. He had eaten something and it had triggered his asthma and he wanted to see if I had my Albuterol inhaler. I had it on me and handed it to Ben so he could get some lung relief. We wished each other luck and headed off. I saw Terry and wished him luck as well and then I went into my corral. There were a lot of men that had trash bag envy as they stood around in their 13 gallon drawstring trash bags. My 45 gallon bag came down right above my ankles and was keeping me warm. I found the 4:00 pace gal and stuck with her when she jumped up to corral 7. After the National Anthem, we started moving up. It did not take us long to hit the start line and I pulled the trash bag over my head and tossed it aside. The 4:00 pace group was trotting along and it was a comfortable pace. I was surprised! I was doing really well and not feeling winded.

My bare legs felt fine and I was warm with my men's wool sock arm warmer, gloves, hand warmers in the gloves, and a $8 toss-away Tyvek jacket on. By mile 3 I had unzipped the neck of the Tyvek jacket and gave it a toss after crossing the 5K timing mat. When we ran by the Alamo, I pulled the arm warmers down to my forearms. Someone in the crowd shouted "Go Coach Liz" and I waved, but I have no idea who it was. If you cheered for me, thanks! By mile 4 I was running past El Esposo's high school that he went to and I was considering ditching the arm warmers. They came off soon after that because we had a quick up-hill and I needed heat relief. At mile 5 I tossed the hand warmers and stuffed my gloves in the back pocked of my shorts so I could take a Clif Shot. I was feeling GREAT!!! I had gotten ahead of the 4:00 pace group because they were stopping for aid stations and I was moving through them since I had my Fuel Belt on. I kept tabs on my pace and I was staying steady at 9:08 to 9:20 per mile. At mile 6.5 I saw a bank time and temp sign that said the temperature had warmed up to 46 degrees. I was in my singlet and shorts and the weather felt GREAT!!! Around mile 7 I saw Coach John and he ran with me for a half of a mile and asked how I was doing. I started scanning the crowds for my dad since I had talked about seeing him around mile 9.

At mile 9 I did not see him and the course doubled back in that area so I would keep an eye out when I got back. I did see a guy with great abs dressed as a Spartan warrior and a goofball dressed up as David Spade's Joe Dirt character with a sleeveless red flannel shirt, cut off jeans that were Daisy Duke high, and the mullet with a ear flap sheerling cap on. HA! nice costumes. The 4:00 pace group got back with me. I guess I had slowed to scan the crowds. I ran with the 4:00 pace group for a good long while again and I saw Buddy and Val around mile 10.5 and they signaled to my dad that I was coming around the corner. We started running south towards the missions and the half way point. I crossed the timing mats and I was not sure about my time since I had it set on pace, but I thought it was pretty close to 2 hours. I was still feeling good. I had stayed with my plan on hydration, Clif Shots, and Enduralytes and I was not experiencing any stomach issues. We ran past the Lone Star brewery and I was seeing the front runners come back on the other side of the road. i made sure to clap for them. I stopped briefly to grab cups and refill my Fuel Belt bottles and I had to let the 4:00 pace group get a bit ahead of me. They were only 15 yards up, but I did not want to get back too far. It was right about that time that my left posterior tibialis muscle in my lower leg decided to proclaim that it was not happy. From mile 14 to 16 I kept slipping back from the group and I finally had to let them go and just run my own race. Discomfort was setting in and I modified my pace to deal with it. At mile 16 I found a bank of port-o-cans that did not have any lines and I dodged in for a pit stop. There was toilet paper and I was happy that i could hold on to the last of my stash if I needed it later. Getting going again was hard!

Mile 17 on was a slow decent into running hell. The cool dry temps were keeping the sweat away but that meant that I was starting to chafe under my right arm. Every med tent I passed had the med staff sitting in chairs and no one was up and ready with tongue depressors with petroleum jelly. ARGH!!! I forced my self to keep running and not stop but at the next aid station I stopped to walk and drink. It hurt to get going again. I was really slow now and everyone was seeming to pass me up. I was supposed to be running past Mission Espada and Mission San Jose, but I was in such a fog of pain that I did not even see them. I saw a cheerleading group, the South Side High Cardinals, and the stupid cardinal mascot was wearing red knee socks rather than yellow ones!!! YOU MORON!!! YOU NEED YELLOW BIRD LEGS!!! I was in pain. At mile 19 I had a series of hills to tackle and my knees were not liking the downhills. Coach Dan found me on an uphill and he was great. He knew I was having a rough go of it and he told me that he knew that I had been here before and that he knew I would make it to the end. He told me sponges were up ahead and gave me a pat on the back. The sponges were great. I stopped to wash off some salt from my arm pits and grabbed some water. My mouth was getting dry and my lips were getting chapped and I knew I needed more fluids. I got running again and it was rough. I saw another one of my TNT team mates running by and I could not keep up. I was heading into mile 22 and I saw a sign by the side of the road that said, "You are now entering the BITE ME zone." Heck, I entered that back at mile 18!!!

I soldiered on past mile 23 and then I had to walk as I was coming back to the Lone Star Brewery. The 4:15 pace time passed me up and there was no way that I could even keep up. I had to let them go. When I got going again, it was excruciating and I made the decision that I could not allow myself to stop and walk again until I crossed the finish line. I found some petroleum jelly at mile 24 and slathered it under my arm pits. But then I had two hands coated in petroleum jelly, YUCK! I had my left over tissues and put them to good use. I came around the corner from St. Mary's Street and on to Broadway and found Coach Miranda. She had run with me before when I had been hurting so she knew just to stick with my slow puny pace and not say a word. I had lots of people cheering for me and I appreciated that but I was not really responding to the well wishes. I saw that dude dressed up as Joe Dirt again. Seeing him this time was not so funny. The creep was going to pass me!!! Dang it, run walkers were passing me up who I had passed when they were on their walk breaks. YOU ALL SUCK!!! Some guy told me to keep up the good pace and that all I had to do was go to the end of the street, turn left and go downhill, go around to the other side of the Alamodome and I would be at the finish. At this point it felt like someone had been beating me across my low back with a 2 x 4 and my right leg was sending the pain right into my tailbone. Ok, I can do that. I can do it. I can make it through the pain. I am almost there. I did not see the 25 mile marker so I was a little lost. Broadway seemed to go on forever! Where was the end of the street??? Miranda and I turned left and then the road went UPHILL! WHERE IS THE DOWNHILL??!!?? Miranda reassures me that if the road goes uphill it has to go downhill as well. We were running under a bridge and I saw, both at the same time, the 26 mile marker and the fact that we had to go back uphill....F--K!!! I was in so much pain and tears were coming to my eyes. A TNT coach shouted at me, "30 seconds around the corner to the finish line! COME ON!!!" I crossed a timing mat and heard the announcer call out my name. Just get across that line. I did not care about my time I just wanted it to end. I wanted the pain to end. As I crossed the finish line and came to a stop, I could barely breathe because I was so emotional at that moment. I was more than just a little "verklempt".

It was a huge contradiction to feel like a failure but to be a hero to so many cancer patients and their families. WHOA!!! I had to get my head on straight right then and there. I was not running this race for me, I was running this race for others and against the clock, yes, but not the clock over the finish line. I was racing against the clock to find a cure so that no one else has to live in pain or die from the type of cancer that took my mother's life. I had a PR for crying out loud. This was the fastest marathon I had ever completed and I needed to be proud of that. I made my way through the "Secure Zone" for the athletes and all that looked appetizing was a box of raisins. I exited the "SZ" and went looking for my Dad, Val, and Bud. I had to find them fast because they had been waiting for me for a long time since I told them I would be running with the 4:00 hour pace group. When i found them, Buddy gave me a huge hug and I almost lost it. Val let me have a seat in the camp chair and I downed my bottle of Endurox mix that I put together from my gear bag that I retrieved from the UPS truck. Buddy and I went to the Team in Training tent to go check in and I picked up a chicken burrito even though I could not fathom eating it at that moment and a Jamba Juice smoothie which I slurped down lickity-split. After posing for this picture way too many times, my dad finally let the guy taking it finish the job. I have learned how to hold a smile for a long time and not blink with a dad who's profession is professional news and sports photographer. We packed up the camp site and we headed to the car so that Dad and Val could drop me and Buddy off at the hotel.

We got back to the hotel and I found Terry and he had a good/bad day as well. He had a great 3:30 marathon but missed his mark to qualify for Boston. I loaded up three Target plastic bags with ice from the ice machine and prepared for my ice bath. I kicked off my shoes and in the spirit of Steve in a Speedo, I had to take a foot and blister photo...Notice that all of my toenails are intact and my feet look pretty darn good!I had only one blister on the outside edge of my right toe. My feet had been hurting, but those hot spots were ones that I had been feeling in these shoes ever since I had gotten them but this was a first time I had gotten a blister and it was the first time I had ever had a blister in this area and half way under a callous to boot. As I eased into the cool water bath to add the ice I was shocked not by the cool water, but the burn that I was feeling. I did not know that it was possible to chafe your a--hole, but I managed to do it. How humiliating. I guess it ranks right up there with bloody nipples for men. After the ice bath I woofed down that chicken burrito from the TNT tent and put the hair dryer on my body because I was freezing. I got dressed and hung out in the hall where it was warmer and chatted with my buddy Ryan who ran the 1/2 marathon in 1:24 and we found Ben and he came in just a few minutes after me at 4:34. Buddy and I went to the victory dinner and then we took a walk along the River Walk and over to see the Alamo. We watched The Wizard of Oz back in the room and Bud was thrilled because he has been wanting to see this movie for a while. The alarm rang at 4:30 am and it was time to head back to Houston and get Buddy to school.

I feel better about this race. This was a good marathon and sadly I will not be able to run it next year because it will be too close to Ironman Cozumel. I had a PR and I did it with some strange things happening in my back. The wonderful docs and Kimberly at Spine and Sports Therapy took good care of me on Monday afternoon. My hips were way out of whack and my left leg was longer than my right leg and causing a majority of that pain in my low back. I got stretched out and today i feel back to normal. So with 26.2 miles under my feet, my shirt I got at the expo says it all...

Thanks for reading a race report that was WAY TOO LONG.

Later Gators!



TNTcoach Ken said...

Great race report Coach! I think we all lose sight of what this is truly about. It was lengthy but well worth it. I so wish I could have been there.

Spokane Al said...

Congratulations on a great race and a terrific report. Hopefully the momories of pain are fading and you are already planning your next marathon.

Jeff said...

Great report, Liz. I could almost feel your pain.

Chalk up another TnT success!

Viv said...

Great report Liz! The report not too long at all for those of us who care it is just right and gives us the feeling of 26.2 without the blisters or a shorter leg...
Congratulations on a PR and staying tough trhough 26.2 miles!!

I loved that shirt!

Ryan said...

Running pain is temporary...but blisters linger ;)

Great job on the PR!

Rainmaker said...

Congrats for pushing through the pain and finishing. You still completed a MARATHON - that's just rockin'!

Speed Racer said...

GREAT race report, Liz!!! I especially loved the treasures in the blue water of the port-o-johns, the YOU ALL SUCK, the bit about the tube socks, and appreciated the bit about the bum hole. (If it makes you feel better, I've chafed the whole region between my butt cheeks more times than I can count, and even gotten other tender bits in the area. OUCH!!!)

Congratulations on your PR. You really earned it. It may not have been what you were hoping for, but when push came to shove you toughed it out.

By the way, do you have the same experience that I do? Every time I'm thinking that the pain can't get any worse and I want to just walk it in, someone appears in a wheel chair. Does that happen to you?

CoachLiz said...

Oh yes, I have had two experiences where i have been passed up by people with one of those carbon fiber legs. One was a gal and one was a guy. You just hear that "THWACK, THWACK, THWACK" coming up behind you and it gets louder and louder. I have even caught up and passed these people again as they are sitting on the curb readjusting their leg after changing out the cuff that they put on over their stump and they still chase me down and pass me up! Very demoralizing! I can't even run as fast as someone with only one leg!!!

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job Liz!! Yellow socks.... HA!!

And nice blister pic!! Well deserved! Congrats again!!

And I corrected my poor pushup form in yesterdays workout....

Tiggs said...

Congrats Liz- great race!

I have that same tattoo Sugoi shirt and I love it.

Here's another one I have by Athleta- it is a very light dry fit material, almost paper thin, but really really nice adn silky smooth. As you can tell by the price, it better be nice and it is!

Eric said...

Great finish Liz and you're right, alot of people would love to have a 4:30.....including me!!! :-)

Bill D said...

I know where you started from and to do what you are one amazing athlete. Thanks for being an inspiration to all of us.

MissAllycat said...

Great recap. Way to stay strong even when things got tough!

Luke Valdez said...

Nice Job Liz! I do think your post needs more Jack Handy's "Deep Thoughts". =)