What I'm reading: Hunt Her Down, by Roxanne St. Claire.
Today, I'm turning my blog over to someone special - my youngest (by 3 minutes) daughter. It's her birthday, and I wish her (and her sister, of course!) the happiest of days, but I'd like to share her recent experience. Always warm and giving, she joined up with Team in Training several years ago, and has become a triathlete dedicated to raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Most of us would be content to sit back and write a check, but she goes after things on a much more ... active level. Last weekend, she ran a full marathon. As her mom, all I could think about was how the guy who ran the first one ended up dead ... but I'll let her tell her story.
Sunday, Oct 18th I experienced my very first marathon. I've run one half-marathon and a couple others as part of half-iron distance races, but this would be my first attempt at the full 26.2. I was part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training (TNT) team, so there was tons of support. Our Colorado Springs team was extra motivated, because one of our teammate's daughter was at the very end of her struggle with leukemia on race day. I was also running for my aunt, Amy, who has recently been diagnosed with a form of lymphoma.
On the day before the race, I was getting the lay of the land when Jaci and her husband showed up - Jaci's daughter, Kalia, is the one fighting leukemia. We didn't expect her to be there, but Kalila told them to come so they did. She was obviously very distraught so I walked her through packet pick-up and back to the team meeting location. They were certainly surrounded by a wonderful support team.
The team headed over to Maggiano's for our Inspiration Luncheon. It was very inspiring, to say the least. First we get the red carpet treatment as we enter the restaurant, with TNT coaches, staff, and volunteers cheering extremely loudly as we walk in. Then we watch a slideshow of the reason we are running - pictures of all the people the team knows who have fought or are still fighting blood cancers. I was sitting at a table with Jaci and Brian, and you could see them wait in anticipation every time Kalila's picture would be about to come up. I can't imagine what they were feeling.
We heard from "Mascot Dave," a Team Hero who is dealing with leukemia. He's currently in remission after several different experimental treatments. It seems that he truly enjoys giving back to others and pushing his own personal limits. "There are no mistakes, only lessons."
Jaci and Brian showed up but they didn't stay long. They got a call that Kalila was not doing well at all and might not make it until noon. So after a lot of hugs from the team, they headed out. A friend of Kalila's ran the half for Jaci in Kalila's honor. The troops were gathered and before heading to the race start we had a "Mission Moment" from a young leukemia survior, probably not much older than Kalila and was diagnosed a year or so ago. I think Jaci and Brian were still around for that so I can't begin to imagine how they were feeling with a young survivor speaking and thanking us for saving her life while their daughter was in her final hours. An extremely emotional start to the race morning, but it certainly put a lot of things into perspective.
I head over to the start. Crowded! I pressed start on my Garmin as I crossed the mat and I had officially started my first marathon.
Start slow. Take it easy. Get your legs warmed up nice and slow. I was taking in the vibe of running with so many people on the streets of Denver at sunrise. Beautiful feeling. I was taking it easy the first mile - my Garmin had me at 10:30 or so pace. first 3 miles were good - legs got warmed up and I was plenty comfy in my singlet and arm warmers. By mile 3 the 4:00 pace group was near me and the leader said "3 miles, right on pace." My Garmin had me at 2.7miles. OK - so don't believe the Garmin today. I started feeling good and picked up my pace.
We wound around the streets of downtown Denver. Around 5.5 miles was the TNT cheer/aid station. Crazy people in purple and cowboy hats cheering and screaming. I remember pumping my arms - woohoo and yeehaw!
Around mile 9 or so I heard my name and Becky (another former TNTer) was there and took my picture. Soon there was a TNT coach who was monitoring us on the course. He said I looked really relaxed. I felt good, even though my legs were feeling it some. I just kept going. I didn't realize I was in a park. Oh well. After the park we were close to the half-way point. I remember looking at my time at mile 12 and seeing 1:48. Still on track for a sub-4 race so I felt good. Just keep up this pace and I'll be golden.
Eastbound was slightly uphill and I could really tell. Another TNT coach ran with us for a couple blocks and then headed back down to find the next person in purple. I couldn't wait to get to the turn around on this part for the recovery on the slight downhill. Oh so wrong. At this point my legs were pretty sore so there was no recovery on a downhill, only pain. I remember looking at the miles and couldn't wait for the miles left to be in the single digits.
Then the pain registered even more. Everything hurt - well everything except the knee pain that put me into PT all last week! Hang on and keep the legs moving. I knew why I was out there - didn't question that. I knew I would finish. I just didn't know how long it would take me to get to the finish line....
Mile 17 the TNT coach who saw me at mile 9 or 10 was back. He said I looked a little sore. I agreed. He got me to shake out my arms, relax and breathe. Really breathing wasn't an issue. At this time I was going slow enough that my cardiovascular system wasn't taxed at all. I had no trouble breathing. I had trouble moving my legs. But I was tensing up in the shoulders too, so it was good to remember to shake the arms out a bit. Mile 18.
Just 8 more miles. My IT band tightness was manifesting itself in my knees. Joy. Been there, done that, don't want that again. Just keep moving. Mile 20...OK, only a 10k to go. really - just a 10k! That's still an hour...
Shuffle, shuffle, walk at an aid station. Shuffle again. Didn't even bother checking my pace on the Garmin. I hear there is a wall at mile 20. Nope, no wall, just an extremely viscous medium to sludge my way through. I didn't want to walk (other than aid stations) but I did. I admit it. I started to see more people going by me. Even though I was going pretty slow by now and was hurting (see the race photo grimace) I was moving.
The cops were managing the traffic at the intersections and the runners were very polite and thanking the cops. I usually do that too, but today it was all I could do to just smile or give a thumbs up. 5 more miles. 4 more miles. 4:15 pace group goes by at some point - just hang with them...or not. 3 more miles. 2 more miles. Another TNT coach on the course - better get to running again! He asked how I was but didn't buy the "OK" I managed to squeak out. But I convinced him I was fine other than the pain (with which I am sure he was familiar). He gave me a brief run down on the last 1.5 miles of the course, said I looked good and let me go on my way. Mile 25 marker. I was almost there. walk, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. OK maybe a little more walking.
Woohoo! There was no final kick for me, but I will finish with my head up high! Now, don't trip on the timing mats! Didn't - good. I had finished my first marathon in 4:26.
This was by far the most pain I have ever intentionally inflicted upon myself. But was it worth it? Yeah. Would I do it again? Yeah. (got to figure the pacing stuff out for sure!) Pressure is gone, right now who cares about a BQ - finishing was fine, just fine. I knew it was going to be painful and hard, but I really did underestimate the power of the beast. I definitely have a new found respect for the marathon.
And unfortunately, later that night, Jaci and Brian lost Kalila to leukemia....
This is an abridged version: the entire story can be read at Banana Death, Nicole's blog.
More pictures here and here.
As a closing note: One of my Wild Rose Press author colleagues has just received the heartbreaking news that her daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to all the Team in Training athletes who give so much for the cause. If after reading, you'd like to make a donation, you can do it here.
And, finally: For every comment left on this blog, I'll make a donation to Nicole's fund raising efforts. Happy Birthday, kiddo! We're proud of you.