Although it was the most challenging thing I have ever done and I pushed my body to new limits, I think I can say now after the fact that I still had a great experience earning my mittens. Sunday I finished after the clocks were taken down and the timing company had stopped recording results. Disappointing and not the race I had visualized going into the weekend. My training went well, but no one was prepared for 30mph headwinds in Wisconsin the day before. That race completely drained me and set me up for failure in Kalamazoo, but I was determined to finish what I started (despite my body disagreeing and fighting me every step of the way). The volunteers along the course in Kalamazoo and at the finish area made me feel amazing and cheered louder than the little voice in my head telling me I did awful and should be embarrassed to finish dead last, instead I felt like I won.
But I am getting ahead of myself, first there was the Wisconsin Marathon (#23 for me). I flew into Chicago and drove to Kenosha, WI. Which by the way, aside from the race, may not have any reason to visit it, ever (sorry Wisconsin). The weather forecast looked ideal, high in the low 60s by afternoon and overcast/partly cloudy skies. What I missed in that forecast was the wind. 28mph sustained winds coming from the north = headwind, with 40+ mph gusts. The effort it took to 'run' into that kind of wind for so long literally drained me of every ounce of energy I had in my body. I went into the race feeling great and started out really strong, but when the winds picked up and didn't quit my hopes of finishing in maybe 5:30 at an easy pace were destroyed and I finished in 6:42:36 in a lot of pain with tears in my eyes and doubt in my mind about running another 26.2 in less than 24hrs.
Immediately after crossing the finish line in Wisconsin I had to hobble back to my car for a 3 hour drive to Kalamazoo, MI. I thought I had parked really close to the finish area, but walking to my car seemed to take forever and felt like another friggin marathon in itself. I was hangry and uncomfortable and freezing cold and couldn't feel my fingers. I definitely swore at some kids running around and crossing my path as I tried to navigate my way. It was not pretty. I talked to a friend on the phone and admitted that I might not even start the marathon in Kalamazoo. I was in a lot of pain and did not see any way possible for me to do it all over again.
I made it to Kalamazoo and met up with a friend from Boston originally from Michigan who came out to cheer for me and show me around. We went to one of her friend's houses for a beer and some food. Slowly I felt a little better and remembered several training runs that went horrible on Saturday and awesome on Sunday so I hoped for the same experience in the race. Worst case scenario I figured I would start the race and bail if it got to be too painful.
Sunday morning I got up, my legs felt ok but my feet were destroyed; blisters, swollen, painful. My friends encouraged me and said "you can do this". I was not so sure. It was going to be hot and sunny, but no winds at least. I went through all the different scenarios in my head of how to decide whether or not to keep going or quit. If anything hurt really bad like it did the day before, if my pace wasn't a certain number for the first 5 miles, if I didn't reach the halfway point by a certain time. But somewhere deep inside me I knew, if I started the race there was not a whole lot that could make me not cross the finish line even if it meant I was crawling.
That's pretty much what happened. The first 5 miles were a lot slower than I wanted them to be, but I felt ok. My legs were strong, but my feet were throbbing in pain. I thought I was not last. I saw a few people at the start that were near me at the finish the day before and they were not ahead of me so they had to be behind me. Somewhere around mile 11 or 12 I started running with two other women and we noticed a police car trailing behind us. We WERE the last runners. And we thought we might be getting swept, the cop assured us he was only there to watch the roads and keep us safe. I accepted the reality that we might get swept and thought as long as we make it to the halfway point I think I could be proud of that accomplishment.
All I have to say is thank God for those other two women. I was ready to throw in the towel, hitch a ride back to the finish, and call it a day. They kept me going. We all decided to stick together and did a run walk interval that worked for all of us. We were right at the pace to just barely make the time cut off for the race and determined to push through all the pain and get it done. As the miles went by I started to feel worse and worse. The other ladies were so strong, I couldn't keep up, I was falling behind and struggling to stay with them, but they didn't drop me. We stuck together. In the last 5 or 6 miles I was really hurting. My vision was a little blurred, I was swaying a bit, I felt nauseated and puked a little of the water I tried to take at one of the water stops. I was overheating and dehydrated. It was not good.
I pressed on. One of the two ladies decided to pick up her pace and try for an official time. I had given up on that miles ago and just wanted to not die. The other woman could have left me, but she didn't, she paced me at just barely crawl, shuffling for 3 minutes and walking for 1 minute. The police car left us at mile 23 and the roads opened back up. I was crying not just because I was in pain, but because I was scared that now there would be no one to help me if I went down. I just put one foot in front of the other and refused to stop. Every single step more painful than the previous one and tears rolling down my face because I had come so far and didn't want to fail. With one mile left to go, my new friend Jill said her boyfriend was coming to meet us and walk us into the finish and I heard someone yelling my name. It was my friend Dionna (mind you she has a busted foot and STILL walked a mile out to meet us and guide us to the finish). Slowly but surely we did it together we crossed the finish line and then hugged each other as I tried not to collapse.
It was by far the most painful marathon physically and emotionally for me. I am disappointed. I did not want to be DFL (Dead F*cking Last). I did not want to cross the line after the clocks were taken down. I am a lot slower than I have been in years past. I have put on weight that makes it a lot harder to run. I am not in the shape I want to be in. I am not the runner I want to be. I can't even go for fun runs with some of my friends anymore because I am so slow. BUT ..... and it's a big one (and I also have a big one) I AM STILL MOVING FORWARD. No matter what my Garmin says for time, My two feet and all of the extra pounds of flesh and bones on my body covered that distance. I may not have 'run' by standard definition, but I FINISHED two marathons in two days and as far as I am concerned I worked just as hard if not harder to EARN my mittens.