Getting a little more JOLLY, a little more GREEN, and a little less GIANT.

06 September 2013

My Second Full Marathon or (the Tale of the Terrible Tummy)

In spite of a bad attitude (read previous blog post) I really did manage to be excited for my second marathon. My sister, Camille, and I texted back and forth the days before sharing our fears and hopes, but mostly fears. On Friday, the day before the race, I found myself literally shaking with anticipation and anxiety. Shaking makes it hard to text. Or pack. Or just keep calm for heaven's sakes!

My good husband was kind enough to make up his work hours during the days before so we could leave around 12:30 pm to drive to Pocatello. Even though the race wasn't until the next day, I needed to be at packet pick up by 4:00 pm to volunteer. Camille is Mrs. Pocatello and needs to make public appearances around town leading up to her pageant. We volunteered last year at packet pickup for this reason, but had such a blast doing it, we decided to do it again.

Packet pickup didn't disappoint. We were assigned to the half marathon booth where we handed out bibs and bags to the runners. It's always fun rubbing shoulders with the running community and when some of that community are old friends, even better!

After a couple of hours volunteering, we grabbed our own bibs (#332!) and bags and headed to my parents' house to make dinner. Dinner was chicken and shrimp tacos with beans and rice. Honestly I couldn't eat much. (Something that isn't usually a problem...)

We spent the evening visiting with all my family. Almost all of my siblings and their families had come to town. My dad was missing. He works out of town and would be gone until the next afternoon. At one point I drove back to the hotel to give my friend Jen her bag and bib. She had been running late and was worried she wouldn't make it to packet pick up in time so I grabbed hers when I grabbed mine.

A side note about Jen... I've "known" Jen for a little while now. We "met" on an online running group that we are both in. She lives in Wisconsin and came all the way to Idaho just because I said "Well, Pocatello has a great race!" I was really really hoping that Pocatello would pull through for me and my friend. I didn't want to disappoint her or waste her money.

Anyway! About Jen...She is a mother of 6 and has been on a major weight loss journey too. She has found a true passion for running, especially long distance running. And she is so amazing because she has gotten FAST!! She has set goals and chased them down. I'm pretty sure there's nothing this lady can't do and she is my hero! And not only that...she just has a good heart. She's genuine and lovely. She's just good people.

When Jen came into town, several of our online running group met together for lunch. Jen is in the front in dark pink. I'm at the top left in the white and grey dress.
After I dropped off Jen's stuff I headed back to my parents', got my stuff ready, and prepared for a pretty sleepless night. By now, I know this is totally normal. (That's why I took Benadryl the night before, hoping to store up some sleep.) It didn't take long to fall asleep but I was awake by 1:45 am with two crying girls. I brought my two year old to bed with me, where she kicked, punched, poked, and slapped me through the night. She also fell off the bed at one point. It was a rough night for the both of us. I laid awake for a couple of hours and probably fell asleep right before my alarm went off at 4:30 am.

As soon as my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and started to get ready. I dressed, did my hair, ate a breakfast of wheat toast with peanut butter and honey and a Red Delicious apple (BIG MISTAKE!!) I waited and waited for my sister to come out of her room and finally I went in after her. She had missed her alarm. This was at 4:53 am. We were supposed to leave the house at 5:00 am. Despite the bumps, we made it to bus pick up on time by 5:20 ish.

The bus took us up to the beginning of the race. The temperature was a little chilly, but not bad. It was still dark. We quickly found Jen and Rachel (another online running friend) and visited while we waited for a turn at the port-a-potties.

Never ask a cold, nervous runner to be your pre-race photographer.
Soon it was time to line up at the starting line. The national anthem was sung. We bid farewell to speedy Rachel and Jen and headed to the back of the line. We knew we wouldn't be breaking any land speed records today, but we hoped for something with a 4 in front of it, even if it was 4:59. A shotgun...and the 2013 Portneuf Gap Marathon had begun!

Almost as soon as we started Camille got a stitch in her side which took a while to abate. Not related to the stitch...She had been injured several weeks before and had not been able to train as much as she would have liked. I figured that with her injury, I just might be able to keep up with her.

On we ran...

The first few miles went well, short of a side stitch. The sky was beginning to lighten. I could smell the pine trees and country side. The temperature was perfect; cool but not freezing. It was very peaceful and just perfect.

A mile or two in, I started to notice that the apple I had had for breakfast was trying to make its way back to the surface. I don't know why I ate that stupid apple. It's not something I usually eat before a race. And I don't even like Red Delicious apples. I think it was just nervous eating and I figured, "An apple? What harm can that do?"

Turns out it can do a world of harm. As we ran on I just kept feeling yucky. At first it was annoying, but nothing I couldn't deal with. Soon though, my hydration belt was becoming a problem. I couldn't find anywhere to put it around my middle that wasn't catalyzing my stomach issues. With every step that belt would bounce against my stomach, making me feel even worse. I took the belt off and tried to just carry it in my hand or around my neck and even around my chest. Nothing was working.

As my nausea increased I worried about what I should do for nutrition. Would it be better to stick to the routine (two Clif Blok Shots every four miles, one or two anti-fatigue capsules, and sip on Fizz electrolytes) or skip it altogether? At first I tried to stick to it, but with each capsule and Clif shot that I took, things just got worse. It felt like everything I ate was sitting at the top of my throat. After the first Clif Bloks I quit. I kept trying to take the anti-fatigue pills and sipped a little water at almost every aid station.

In spite of the nausea we kept running. We ran five miles, walked a bit. Ran another five, walked. Ran four, walked. At the beginning we spotted the 4:45 pacer and tried to stick with her but lost her when we ducked behind some bushes to go to the bathroom. We never really seemed to catch up even though we were keeping a pace in between 10:00 and 11:00 miles.

The first half went well. And the next few miles went good too. There had been a lot of down hill running which I was eating up. I kept imagining the mountain doing the work as I just let my legs go. My sister had a hard time with that. She had not done a lot of downhill training. She cheered every time we started going uphill and groaned with each down hill. I was just the opposite.

Around the halfway point we chatted with a man we had been playing leap frog with. We were keeping a pretty even pace and he was running 2:1 intervals (run two minutes, walk one minute). He was a retired solder, running marathons across the country to honor three fallen comrades. We admired his goals and mission and he gave each of us a commemorative coin. When he handed it to me Camille said, "Now you've done it. She's gonna start crying." And sure enough I already was. Sick stomach or not, what a blessing to be able to run that day, especially when there were others who could not. It was very touching.

After the half way point, we continued to do okay for the next several miles. We walked through every aid station and every time we did, sweat would come pouring in to my eyes so badly that I couldn't see. Note to self: Next time I run a long distance I wear or carry a bandanna. We dropped off my belt at the aid station around Mile 18 or 19. I just couldn't stand to carry it any more.

It was a relief to have the belt gone, but my body was starting to really rebel. I was just so darn nauseated. And my body was starting to feel the toll of the repetitiveness of running. Everything was aching. I needed to stretch and move differently than in the running position. By this point I was getting so thirsty. The aid stations were probably every other mile, but I couldn't seem to get enough water. The day was heating up too, which didn't help anything.

Around Mile 19 we stopped to stretch and that was it. That was the wall. The wall we just couldn't seem to get over. Camille's quads were done for and my stomach threatened to empty at any second. I remember a guy running past us saying "It's just a 10K! You can do a 10K!" And I thought, "Yes, I can totally do a 10K. Just not right now."

And I began to wonder if we were going to make it. Scratch that. I wondered how we were going to make it, because there was no way we weren't going to make it. It was just a matter of how long and by what method. We kept moving, but walking. Out flew any hopes of making a time with a 4 at the beginning. The new goal was to just get there. However possible.

We walked. And as we walked I said to Camille, "So what! We're walking. Our pioneer ancestors walked. They walked with bloody feet and brand new babies, in cold snow, and through rough terrain. If they could do it, WE CAN DO IT! Maybe we can't run right now, but we can walk."

So we walked. And then we hit a hill. And we walked up the hill. And then we saw my husband in the truck. He parked across the street from us and we broke away from the course to give him Camille's belt. I leaned against the truck and stretched a bit and then I sat down to stretch out my hips. So much pain. So much more desire to stay sitting here. So much disappointment that this was quickly going south. And then I couldn't help it...I stretched out my tear ducts a bit.

My mom pulled up behind Clayton. And then I really lost it. This was just so hard and painful and stupid and hot and long. I cried a bit, stretched some more, and finally got up and crossed the street again. Camille began to run and with a groan and a grunt I began to run. I thought, "This is it. This it the time to push the wall and prove my worth."

And then Camille collapsed on the course. Her quads just gave out. Seeing my little sister laying there, crying, hurting because I had convinced her running marathons was super awesome... I felt so bad. And in that moment, instead of stepping up to the plate, I fell apart. I tried to help her up, but I didn't have the presence of mind to be strong for her, for both of us, and I mentally resigned myself to walking the rest of the way. Still, not ready to quit completely, but running? No way.

Camille running with her little boy, Micah. (I LOVE this picture!)
We continued on and all of the sudden she started running again. And then she was gone, leaving me alone. Well, good for her, but I was done. No more running. Not if I still had five miles to go. So I watched her run ahead and I walked as fast as I could, thinking soon, soon I'll have enough get-up and go to GO again. But it never came. I kept walking with my husband and my mom driving alongside. Sometimes my mom would drive ahead and check on my sister. Then she would drive back to me and give me reports. "She's having a tough time, but she's afraid that if she stops running she won't be able to start again." I wished I had that in me still, but I felt that I had passed that point. The nausea intensified every time I even thought about running. Some glorious way to do a marathon, eh?

My husband drove slowly alongside and called out to me. "You can do this, Evelyn. You got this. C'mon Evelyn!" and I couldn't help but recall the times he stood by me as I suffered through those last stages of child birth. So much pain. So much doubt. But there he was firmly telling me I could do it. And I knew I could...kind of.

Walking, but at least we're still moving
My mom drove back and forth between my sister and I, pulling me along with her votes of confidence. I could tell she was emotional watching how this was playing out and I could only imagine what it was like to watch your children suffer, especially self-inflicted suffering.

Eventually my other sister, Erin, and her family drove by. They yelled and cheered with all the exuberance the race deserved. But sadly, their racer was lacking. I honestly couldn't tell if I was more relieved or embarrassed that my family was there. I really was so happy to have them there; I felt like I needed them in that moment. But at the same time I hated to have them see me be such a flop.

Erin quickly got out of the van and told her husband to drive on. She walked the last three miles with me. She chattered incessantly away and apologized several times for doing so, but I was glad to have the noise and distraction. I didn't hear much of what she said and I couldn't really respond as every time I started to open my mouth I wasn't exactly sure something more than words wouldn't come out.

Several times I wandered to the side, got on my hands and knees, and stretched. It just hurt so bad and I needed to move my body in some other direction. Sometimes I would get in child's position just so I would have an excuse to bury my face and cry. I even tried to pray, but Erin kept talking, doing her best to keep me entertained and in good spirits. She would try to pull me up, thinking I had quit. I was never ready to quit. But I may have considered it a time or two.

People would pass as I was kneeling down in pain and nausea and ask if we were okay. It was humiliating. Particularly because I was wearing my Jolly Green Giant shirt that I had made for my first marathon. On the front it says:

And the back:

Anyone who passed knew my story immediately. One guy even ran by saying, "I see by your shirt that you knew what you were getting in to." He probably meant it in a supportive way, but all I could feel was judgement and shame.

Those last five miles just seemed to last forever, but I kept moving. I don't know if Erin was just stroking my ego or if it was true, but she said we were walking pretty fast, enough that she was getting a side ache. Well, we may not be running, but at least we can walk fast! That's something. We slowly gained on Camille who was walking again. Walking in just her socks actually. The last half mile we, three sisters, walked together. Camille cussed, Erin chattered, and I tried to remember to smile that last block when all the pictures would be taken.

Eventually we saw the finish line. We mustered everything within us to start jogging again. You can't finish a marathon walking. You just can't. And so we jogged in. Smiles on our faces. Like it had been a day at the beach. We crossed the finish line and I turned to Camille, looking at her with new respect. She was a marathoner. She did it! As ugly as it was, I was very proud of her!

We bowed down to receive our medals, walked away from the gate and collapsed on the grass. A couple of people came to check on us and asked if the could get us anything. Camille asked for an epidural. They just laughed, but an epidural sounded pretty awesome right then.

We eventually got up and walked/stumbled to our waiting family. I got a chance to talk to Jen for a minute. She had finished waaaay before me and sounded like she had a bit of a rough experience too, but she was proud of her race. I admired the pride she could take in it and wished I could feel the same. All I felt was relief it was over, embarrassment for what had just taken place, and the churning in my stomach.

A couple of racers came to chat with me about my shirt and story and to ask if I was okay. They had seen me on the side of the road and wondered if I was sick. I could hardly focus on the conversation because the nausea just kept coming and coming. Eventually I just laid down, buried my face in the grass, and cried, hoping no one could see me.

I HATE feeling nauseated. It is the worst feeling. That in and of itself will turn me into the biggest baby. But compound that with what had just taken place... Whenever I finish a run, I take great pride in saying, "I did it clean!" meaning I gave it my best effort, I mostly ran, and I pushed myself. This marathon did not feel clean. It felt so dirty and ugly and pathetic. It has been really difficult to look back on this experience and take any pride in it. Sure, the first nineteen went pretty well besides the rotten gut. Sure, I got up every time I went down. Sure, I got across the finish line. Sure, my time actually wasn't that much worse than my first marathon. But it just felt all wrong.

I had failed to be strong for me and my sister. I had met the wall and backed down. I had not proven myself to anyone, but most especially to me.

Ahh...There's that bad attitude again.

In the hours after the marathon, I couldn't stand to eat anything. My mom took such good care of me. She got me home, letting me hang my head out the window so I didn't gag on the stench of myself. She helped me get out of the truck and in the house. She brought me Gatorade, ice packs, and pain meds. She sympathized and told me how proud she was of me. I really appreciated her being there for me...before, during, and after.

For all that nausea, I couldn't throw up during the race. First of all, I didn't want to puke in front of hundreds of people. But when I tried to get in the shower the shock of the water finally did it. I immediately felt better, but the nausea soon returned and stuck around for several days. I'm not exactly sure what caused it. The apple? The heat? The running? The pain? A virus? A combination of any of those? I'm not sure, but it definitely was the worst part of the race and post-race recovery.

I was pretty sore the day of the marathon and the following day or two, but I managed to help with a little bit of moving we were doing for my parents AND went to church the next HEELS! (in a moment of stupidity I had forgotten to pack any other church shoes. Note to self: PACK FLATS!)

It was pretty frustrating to feel so nauseated for so long because post marathon I feel like I've deserved a day or two of eating whatever I want. Too bad all I wanted was Gatorade and chicken noodle soup.

Oh well. There's the nitty gritty of it all. It's long. It's not pretty. It's whiny. It's self-mutilating. But let me see if I can put a positive spin on it...

First of all, I am so grateful for my family. As embarrassed as I was to have them see me like that, who better than to have around? I was very glad to have that experience, however painful, with my little sister. I am truly proud of her for finishing and becoming a marathoner!

I appreciated my husband, not just on marathon day, but every day as he helps with kids and home while I go on training runs. He works hard and brings home a paycheck that pays for my running shoes and races. He was there, physically by my side, as I struggled to move forward, urging me and encouraging me in a way that only he can.

As hard as it was for my mom to watch her daughters flop around on the pavement and not be able to do a thing about it, I was very grateful she was there. I may be 32 years old, but whenever I get sick I still want my mom around. Her presence alone was comforting.

My sister, Erin, took her own part in our marathon walking those last three miles with me. She didn't even ask...she just did it. And it meant a lot. Her presence was invaluable to me. Seeing my dad at the end of the race was good too. He had just gotten off a twelve hour shift and had not slept yet. I was very glad to have him there at the finish.

This marathon was ugly, but it was a beautiful ugly. My family really came through and shared this experience with me, more than any of us anticipated. They got me through it. And I love them for that (as well as a bunch of other stuff too!). Yes, I struggled across that finish line, but I DID get across it. With a sick belly and all! How many (crazy stupid) people would do that?

This is an experience I know I need to learn from. I should have waited awhile before signing up for another marathon. I needed my heart to be in it. I could have trained better and harder. I shouldn't eat one single new thing before a race, no matter how harmless it seems. I need to find a new method to get me across that finish line, because this running miles and miles, walking a bit, running miles and miles thing isn't cutting it for me.

This is one to learn from, appreciate it for what it was and what it wasn't, and move on.


Nurse Heidi said...

By dang, you EARNED that medal. I kinda feel like the hard races should give you two medals! I've done the ugly cry midrace, the puke on the side of the road midrace and for hours after, I've run into the bushes to "take care of business" when there was no other option...blisters, sweat, tears...this runnin' business ain't easy! And that's what makes getting to the dang finish line worth it. It's a literal and figurative journey that teaches you so much. What you learned from this race is that even when you feel like you're gonna hurl and maybe just want to curl up in a ball and die, you didn't quit. You stuck it out. And you learned that you have an awesome family. And that you can still pull it out at the end and cross with a smile (and some tears). And that even if you've done something before, the experience won't necessarily be the same each time (kinda like childbirth).

I'm proud of you, woman. There's no shame. Shame is not crossing the start line because you're afraid.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this! This race was memorable in so many good (and bad) ways for me, but doing with you, and seeing you cross the finish line, was priceless. I agree with Heidi, the races that require More, give you more in return.
p.s. That Jen person sounds pretty awesome!

Jodi said...

This made me laugh and cry. What an amazing journey you have had! Way to stick with it when the going got tough-you are one tough momma! Wish I could give you a big hug!:)

Lindsay said...

Evelyn, you are so awesome! I can't even imagine pushing through 26.2 miles of nausea. Whether you ran or walked or even crawled across the finish line--you FINISHED! And that says so much about who you are! Really, this inspires me so much to try harder and be better. Congratulations on #2!! I admire you so much!

Jenetta said...

Thank you so much for posting this! Everyone I have ever talked to only talks about their times and how amazing their marathon runs were and I never hear of anyone really feeling awful or sick from doing that much running. I have always thought, maybe I'm just not made to run a marathon because I cannot imagine getting through 26 miles without dying. You definitely sound like you died on this one and yet you still made it! You have definitely inspired me to try harder for my first marathon. I am so glad you're feeling better now!

Dave Witt said...

This is so honest, raw, and awesome. You never gave up, even through hardship and pain.. and worst of all, nausea. What an admirable, fighting, indomitable spirit you have, Evelyn! Plus, TWO marathons at age 32 = Rule! Loved reading about it!!