I’ll cut right to the chase and let y’all know up front, I did not finish the Vernonia Marathon today. I only made it to the half and it was an ugly half at that. I’m still trying to mentally come to grips with it, its my first DNF and I’m my own worst critic. If this had been my first marathon, I’d possibly be gentler on myself. . . nah, that’s bullshit. I’d still be upset. Seeing how it’s not my first marathon, however, I’m doubly pissed off.
I did learn some things today.
First, I like being a woman. A lot. Next, I love my girlfriends, and having girlfriends makes being a woman that much more special. Now guys, don’t get your underwear in a bunch. I’m sure its wonderful being a dude. And I’m sure you and your dude friends have great relationships that are equally special. I just don’t know or understand the relationships because, well. . . I’m not a dude.
Portland, like many places across the country, and world, has a huge running population. I am part of a group of women called the PDX Running Chicks. We live all over the Portland metro area and we get together periodically to run, drink beer, and celebrate the holidays. We don’t all know each other, there are over 100 of us, but we all connect in our private little group on Facebook. When one of us is running and doesn’t feel like doing it alone we can post in the group and usually two or three women will be available to run at that time.
When “B” dumped me (yes, I used the term because that’s what it was then) last July, I posted on the chicks Facebook page that I had just been dumped and really thought by Saturday I’d need to run long and hard on some trails in Forest Park. I wondered if anyone was interested. Twelve women showed up to run with me on that rainy Saturday morning at 6 a.m. I had met 5 of them, the other 7 were new faces to me, but they showed up and ran 17 hard, wet, muddy miles and kept me laughing the whole time. It was the best.
When there is a race in our area usually there is a roll call on the Chicks FB page to find out how many of us will be there. There were 19 Chicks scheduled to be at Vernonia. We didn’t all get there in time for the pre-race picture but here it is.
My morning hadn’t gone great, but I was happy to be out there. I love to run so much that even though the morning was shitty I had faith the run would pull me out of the muck and make me feel better. It usually does.
The Vernonia Marathon started in Vernonia and ended in Banks. It’s a point to point marathon, which I prefer because I hate loops and out and backs. Only the first mile is on the street, the rest of it is on a trail that circles Lake Vernonia and then heads back to Banks. We parked at Banks and got bused to Vernonia for the start. The ride took 30 minutes. As we rode out there I caught myself thinking “damn, this is a long freaking way.” I should have known better. Negative talk or think is not allowed on race day.
I had to pee like crazy and the 30 minute bumpy ride was totally making me hurt. While we were bumping along I realized that I had left my iPod in my car. . . in Banks. Great. 5 hours of running with no iPod. Seriously? I also realized I’d left my arm sleeves in there too — so while it was supposed to get up to 65 degrees, eventually, me in my nice little tank top would be a tad chilly waiting for that to occur. Negative vibes were multiplying.
The chicks gathered, chatted, laughed and got ready for the 9:30 a.m. start. As someone who generally starts her runs between 4 and 4:30 in the morning, 9:30 is a late start. Usually the races start around 7 or 8, but 9:30 was the time today. There was also a time limit on the course of 6 hours. It has never taken me 6 hours to finish a marathon, but for some reason the 6 hour time limit bothered me and really messed with my mind. More negative ju-ju.
I dropped my jacket and got into the pack to start the marathon and the sun came shining through the trees. That was nice and made me feel good. While we stood waiting for 9:30 to happen I had multiple people I don’t know comment on my tat. Since I was wearing a tank, it was clearly visible and the chatter about it was flattering.
Gun went off and so did the runners. First 2 miles felt good, second 2 I suffered some shin splints, by mile 6 I was circling the lake and distracted by its beauty and the gigantic fish that were being pulled out of the lake on the lines of people along the bank. The shin splints were easing up and I was feeling ok, but not great. This was when one of the chicks, Dawn, caught up to me. As she came up behind me she said “I like your skirt.” When I turned to thank her she laughed because she didn’t realize it was me. We hugged each other and she asked me if I minded her running with me. I was thankful for the company. Talking and laughing was better than silence that shared space with my heavy breathing.
By mile 9 I noticed that the bottoms of my feet were cramping. Cramping. WTF? I have never had that problem. I’ve had my feet hurt for seemingly no good reason (other than running a long distance), but cramp? I ignored it though, ran, talked, laughed, ate shot blocks, drank Nuun, you know, the normal routine. Dawn was only running the half marathon (as were all but one of the other chicks) so she could only keep me company til 13.1. While that was a bummer I was taking what I could get. I told her I had left my iPod in my car and she insisted I take her iPod when we parted at the half. Thoughtful, nice. I didn’t even care what was on her iPod, I just didn’t want my heavy breathing to be all I heard for the last 13.1 miles.
At mile 11 my calves and thighs started spasmodically (is that a word?) cramping. I stopped and did some stretches and thought it would take care of the problem. Not sure, but I’m thinking it made it worse. At mile 12 I was in tears because the cramps in my calves were locking up and the cramps in my thighs were twinging in and out. It was so not good. I stopped because I couldn’t move and stood there crying in pain. Seriously. Crying. Not pretty.
When the cramping subsided enough to move forward Dawn said I should consider stopping at the half. OMG, that made me cry even harder! “What do you mean stop at the half? I’m here to run a fucking marathon, not a half marathon! I’m not stopping at the half!” She just looked at me. She said “if your arm was partially severed at the elbow and you managed to tie it off with something I could understand you saying ‘I’m running on, dammit!’ You don’t necessarily need your arms to run. You DO however need your legs to finish and they are giving you problems. You should stop at the half.” I ran, or kind of hobbled, on for another half a mile, crying out of disappointment and shame, not from pain, even though the pain was great and when we were almost to the 13 mile marker I conceded she was right and made my way across the Half Marathon finish line.
As I watched the other marathoners continue on up a freaking hill I had two thoughts: 1) Dammit to hell! I should be going up there too! and 2) Thank Fucking God I’m not going up that hill!
Before we boarded the bus to take us back to Banks we had someone take our picture. You might not be able to tell from the picture but I am in some serious pain and at the same time relieved that it was over. I’m on the left.
So I cried a bit on the bus ride back to Banks, sent a couple of texts of utter disappointment to a few people and when we got back to Banks I said good-bye to Dawn and walked back to my car. As I was walking down the street a car full of chicks saw me, rolled down their windows waving and pulled over to the side of the road. They asked me how I was, and I mumbled something about not finishing the full. They said I should find Jill, the cookie chick, to pick up my cookie. My response was “I don’t deserve my cookie, I didn’t complete the run.” One of the chicks said “you completed the half and you should get the 13.1 cookie — it’ll make you feel better! Go, get it now!” Her forceful nature made me laugh but I waved goodbye to them and told them I would.
Truly, I wasn’t planning to look for Jill. I was just going to go to my car and drive myself home. Jill, however had moved her car out onto the street and was parked a few cars before mine on the opposite side of the street. The side I was walking up. There were four chicks at her car and when they saw me they hollered my name, waved and smiled. One of them looked at me and said “are you okay?” And I burst into tears. No words. They all just came to me and put their arms around me and stood there quietly. After a minute they told me all the things everyone else said — I know I can do it, I’ve done it before. . . why risk hurting yourself more, you did the right thing . . . you’ll kill it in Newport in 7 weeks. You know, encouraging, supportive, and at that moment, extremely necessary words.
Jill gave me my cookies. She had made 13.1 cookies and 26.2 cookies. She had also made some killer vegan oreo cookies. I got a bag with four of those too. Unfortunately I ate those before I thought to take a picture of them and damn, they were good. I stood there with the girls and they made me laugh as we talked about mindless stuff and then I went on my way.
My legs hurt, bad. I’m not sure what it’s going to feel like tomorrow when I wake up after being still through the night. . . assuming I will be still and not cramp up while I sleep. But the day sucked as a whole, yet the suckiness was made better by my girlfriends and that’s why I say, I am so happy to be a woman with lots of girlfriends. There is nothing like it. I swear.
Here is my medal and my cookie. 🙂
Before I end this I want to also say three men made an impact on my day as well.
First, my younger brother sent me a text after he saw my Facebook post about my DNF that said “You inspire me to be better. The “moment” is always the worst. You will get another chance to kick your pride’s ass soon enough. I love you sis. Kick goal’s ass, kick doubt’s ass, you get the point! Rest up!”
Next, I have the pleasure of knowing Dane Rauschenberg. He’s a nice guy with a big heart and an awesome level of endurance. When he saw my Facebook post he also made a comment and sent me to his blog so I could read his post from today, entitled “Do Nothing Foolish” the timing was pretty perfect and it meant a lot to me just to read it.
Lastly, Blue Eyes called me on my drive home to check on me, he listened to me blather on and then he gave me his version of the pep talk, which wasn’t really a pep talk, but more of a “you’re pretty freaking awesome and please don’t forget that” talk. Then he told me he had purchased a print for me and he was going to send me a text picture so I could see it. He wasn’t initially intending to do that but he wasn’t sure when he’d get to see me again to give it to me and he thought I should know about it now, so I could understand one of the ways he sees me.
This is the print.
Yes, okay. It made me smile. And feel better. And I’m STILL not sure what I’m going to do about/with him.
I have seven weeks until my next marathon. After a couple of days off, I’m back in training mode.
It’s a good thing I love to run.