Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marathon #27 - Runalicious Little Rock was a new record for slowest marathon ever, but I still managed to drag my ass across the finish line after 26.2 challenging miles. I had pretty low expectations going into the race because I really only had about 4 weeks of training because I got really sick after Disney and lost half of an already shortened training schedule to the most ridiculous lingering couch/cold I think I have ever had. In the 4 weeks I had to train, I only managed to get in a few 10 mile runs. One of them was in soft squishy snow so it felt like I ran 20 miles, but really I just didn't get to a good place where I felt confident about the marathon I had to run.

In the week before the race I was seriously considering just not going. I was not prepared physically or mentally to tackle the 26.2 mile journey and I knew it. My cat was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and she has a bad heart so surgery and many of the medicinal treatments are not an option. I'm basically trying to keep her comfortable and monitor her for any signs of distress. She has days or weeks of life left and I am doing my best to make those days the best days they can be, spoiling her with treats and as much food as I can get her to eat. It's incredibly difficult and emotionally draining to watch a pet fade away and try to determine the most humane time to let her go. I do not want to rob her of good days, but I do not want to make her suffer through any bad days either. Worrying about how she would be and if she would eat while I was away weighed very heavily on me and almost made me stay home and skip the trip all together. I would only be gone 2 and a half days and I had a good friend checking on her and feeding her so I decided to go.
I tried to do some research and find things to see and do in Little Rock for the day and a half I was there and not running and came up with nothing. There is not a whole lot to do in Arkansas. There is a presidential library, but I really don't care about seeing a bunch of books. Little Rock is the state capital but their state house looks pretty much the same as any I've seen - big dumb building with a dome in the middle and maybe some gold ornament thingy at the top of that dome. Pretty boring. There were some parks and local hikes and trails nearby, but I didn't want to do a whole lot of walking the day before I was going to do a whole lot of walking (let's be honest, I knew I couldn't really 'run' the whole marathon with little to no training).

They did have a bunch of local breweries and a passport program that if you visit X number of breweries and collect stickers in your passport you get 'free' stuff. The minimum was 10 breweries and that got you a soapstone coaster. I figured why not. Friday when I arrived in Little Rock I needed to get lunch and then later would need dinner so I started to collect some stickers. I wanted to get most of the 10 done on Friday so that I didn't have to do much on Saturday. I succeeded in collecting 7 stickers Friday and my head Saturday morning felt like it was not so much a 'success', but whatever. Saturday I went to the packet pick up and expo then to a Walmart Super Center for some Gatorade and water (because Walmart was founded in Arkansas and it seemed like a mecca I should visit). Then I got a late lunch and my last 3 stickers for my passport and called it a night.
Sunday morning I got up wicked early because I learned the day before that the 'continuous shuttle' from the hotel to the start/finish area was not really very reliable and even less consistent about where it stopped and how frequently they came, so I decided to drive to the start and park. Problem was the rental 'car' I got was a Ford F-150 and all the parking near the finish was on street parallel parking or garages with wicked low clearance. I wanted to get there early enough to be able to pull straight into a spot on the street. I managed to find a space a block away from the finish and was able to stay warm in the truck for a while before heading to the start, which was nice because as luck would have it, it was pouring rain and really windy.

The race started at 7:00am. It was still raining despite the fact that accuweather said it was supposed to stop. The first half of the race felt pretty good, then there were hills and more hills and never-ending hills, oh and also some really brutal headwinds too. I'd say by about mile 18 I was done. I wanted to bail. Everything hurt, it seemed like there were not enough water stops, the miles did not go by fast, I tried to shuffle for a little bit and walk for a little bit. I would look at my Garmin and try to do math and figure out if I could at least maintain XYZ pace, I might cross the finish line in a certain amount of time plus or minus a half hour. There was an 8 hour time limit so I figured I was pretty safe to assume I could finish. I had in mind a time I wanted to see at the finish but accepted the reality that my finish time might be a lot longer than that.

As different pacers passed me with their projected finish times on poles my ideal time faded away in the distance with them. Each mile I fought the internal battle of quit now or keep going. At what point is the amount of pain ahead of you too much to continue? And when have you gone too far to even think about stopping? One foot in front of the other, keep making forward progress, even slow progress is progress. No matter how long it takes your feet are still carrying you the distance of a marathon and you may consider it a failure because it doesn't meet certain time goals you had in mind, but it is still an accomplishment that few can say they have completed. It's almost more impressive to complete the distance despite incredible pain and pushing through mental barriers when every ounce of you wants to stop. So.....I continued on and I finished!
I learned some things - Little Rock is wicked boring, Arkansas is NOT flat, and I am one tough and determined badass that cannot and will not quit no matter what. Although it was my slowest race ever and it was pretty much the combination of all of my worst races in one - rain, wind, hills, plantar fasciitis, back spasms, not enough water stops - I still managed to make it to the finish line and collect my medal. And what a "sweet" medal it is......pun intended.
I could not have been more happy to be done with that race and headed home. No offense Arkansas, but I'm not a big fan and will probably never go back. I made it home and my cat is doing ok. For now she is stable, not eating as much as I'd like and her most recent x-ray shows the lung cancer is a large defined mass in one lung that is causing her some difficulty breathing, but no pain. I brought her to the vet and we started her on a low dose of steroids to try and help her breath easier and feel a little better, hopefully even eat a little more. I'll keep an eye on her and hopefully give her a few more weeks of quality time, lots of treats and brushing and love. I worry about her and struggle with when is the right time to say goodbye. For now, my vet assures me that she has some pep in her step and still has some good days ahead. I'll stay close to home until she's gone. The next marathon I am registered for is Disney 2018. I want to do a fall marathon, but haven't decided on which one and I really need to get back on track with training and nutrition so that I am ready for another 26.2 miles. I have a bunch of half marathons over the summer hopefully those will keep me motivated and help me get back into shape.