Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Race in Numbers

Utah Valley Marathon
June 11th, 2011

26.2 Miles
3:30 am wake-up call
1 bowl of cereal
3 good luck kisses from my hubby
1 taxi ride to catch a 4:00 am bus
2 phone calls to Mom to pass the time and calm my nerves
1 banana I begged off someone when I was hungry again at 5:30
1 last minute trip to the port-a-potty
6:00 am race start
45,850 steps (approximately)
12 water stations, 2 Gu packets, 4 orange quarters, 1 banana, and 1 otter pop
2 stops to tape my knee
2 times the tape promptly peeled off my sweaty skin
4 wonderful times my family cheered me along the course
2 times I chatted so long that Jason told me to get going and keep running
1 time I refused to run the final 100 yards unless Jason gave me one last kiss
10:04 am I collapsed with joy across the finish line

And, for any interested in boring technical numbers, my official chip time was 4:02:34 with a 1/2 split of 1:58:20. Overall pace 9:15, 1/2 pace 9:02.

Mile splits: 9:16, 8:28, 8:00 (followed by a moment of oh-crud-I-need-to-slow-down), 8:44, 9:10, 8:27, 9:28, 9:16, 9:40, 8:29, 10:11, 19:12 (missed a mile there), 7:58 (oops, too fast!), 8:50, 9:43, 9:03, 9:06, 10:18, 8:54, 9:09, 10:10 (I'm suffering), 9:15, 10:32 (think I'm gonna die), 9:33 (isn't this over yet?), 9:30 (how can University Avenue be so long?), and 2:18 (I MADE IT!!!)

706th place out of 1635 competitors, 80th out of 174 women ages 30-34.

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing about it. The story behind the numbers is that the race was fabulous. Everything I hoped it would be, and then some. Don't get me wrong--it was hard and it hurt and I wanted to quit and I wanted to cry, but I kept on going. Ignoring the pain, I dragged myself and on and on until I finally met my goal, and that feels great.

The first three hours of the race were positively idyllic. The weather was perfect, and the course was stunning. I felt energized as we ran past lush green pastures, cheered only by horses, sheep, and an occasional rooster. Snow-capped mountains rose in the distance, coming ever closer as we descended into the canyon. My only worry was to avoid going faster than I'd trained for. Miles 7-11 through Deer Creek State Park were incredible. It was so beautiful as we ran past the reservoir that I spent far more time gazing off across the backdrop of mountains and lake than I did staring at the course in front of me. I was enveloped by this overwhelming peace and desire to relish the marathon experience. After all the hard work and training, the big race was finally here. I wanted to savor every moment.

The dream began to fade at mile 11 when my left knee started to hurt badly going down the steep hill by the dam. (It's never given me problems before, but I guess there's a first time for everything.) The pain was persistent enough that I eventually stopped to tape it, which helped as long as the tape held in place, which, unfortunately, was not long. So while the next miles through Provo Canyon and past Bridal Veil Falls were still positive, they didn't share the same pinch-me-I'm-dreaming quality as the first segment.

By mile 18, the grit of racing was starting to set in. I turned on my music for some extra encouragement, but felt nervous that the pain and fatigue were arriving so soon. Still, the music helped, and once again I began settling into my own groove.

Around mile 21 I met up with Jason and the tiny folks for the first time at the mouth of the canyon. It's strange, but I felt so proud as I waved to my cute kids and hubby, not because I was running a marathon, but because such a great crew would call me Mom. Their encouragement couldn't have come at a better time, because the last miles straight down University Avenue were tough.

In describing a marathon, many runners talk about hitting "the wall." For me, I would characterize my final struggle as an enormous hill that just got steeper and steeper and steeper until I finally reached the summit at the finish line. While I couldn't pinpoint a single moment when I slammed into the wall, I never felt like I really broke through it either. I simply endured, propelling myself on and on by sheer willpower. As difficult as the battle was physically, it was equally challenging mentally. All around me, people were walking. I wanted to stop SO BADLY as well, but I knew that once I did, I wouldn't be able to get going again. It's amazing how persuasive I can be in making excuses. I kept thinking about how far ahead I was of my goal time (somewhere between 4 1/2 and 5 hours.) If I blasted my record now, how could I ever beat that if I decided to run another marathon? Deep inside, I knew that was ridiculous. Marathons have nothing to do with time, but rather accomplishing one's personal best. However, it was ultimately the argument that if I kept running, I'd be done sooner that tipped the scale.

And so, I narrowed my field of vision, blocked out everything around me, and focused on small goals. One more mile. You can make it one more mile. Ten minutes and you'll be there. Okay, now just one more. You made it. Have an Otter Pop. Only a 5K left. You can do that. 2 miles. It would be crazy to give up now! I know you hurt, but you've finished 25 miles. You can make it to the end. You can!

At this point, I remember the streets being spotted with spectators just...spectating. No cheers, no clapping, they were just...staring. While normally a crowd might be nice, I felt like screaming, hey, do you have any idea how hard this is? I know that finish line looks close to you, but it is so far for me! We folks in the middle may not be the fastest competitors, but every marathoner deserves a bit of applause.

An eternity later, I finally made it to the chute where the crowd was noisy and great. Jason and the kids were there, I hugged them all, savored a kiss from my darling, summoned all my inner strength, and ran full speed across the finish line. As they placed the medal around my neck, my eyes brimmed with emotion. And then, of course, I grimaced with pain and hobbled around to get some Creamies for the kids.

Looking back, I feel so grateful to have made it. A week before the race I wasn't sure that I'd even make it to the starting line. While the distances were much shorter, I was sick for many of the runs during my taper and felt weak. I didn't even finish my final 2 mile run because of an awful asthma attack. (That's what I get for being cocky and thinking I didn't need to bring an inhaler.) I spent the two days before heading up to Provo baking in the sun at Youth Conference, leaving me drained and headachey.

Standing at the starting line, I was anything but cocky. The altitude was higher, there would be car exhaust to trigger my lungs, and I hadn't slept well for the last several days. Even on my best training days, I never fantasized a four hour race, but certainly not then. True, I'd put in some good numbers. Since March I'd completed 71 workouts and run 382 miles. Yet ultimately, I recognize that a good many prayers propelled me to that finish line. The back of my shirt was covered with hand prints from my supportive husband and children. Family and friends, I really could feel you pushing me on. Thank you!

And now, Jason darling, it's your turn! St. George Marathon 2011, here he comes!

Coming in for some high fives from the kids.

Oh, it hurts to get going again!

There, that's better.

Almost there!

Down the final chute.

Sharing popsicles and hugs with my favorite people in the world. Life doesn't get any better!

Happy Running!


Erin said...

Congratulations! Way to push yourself!

Anonymous said...

Successful start, magnificent marathon middle, and fabulous finish!! Congratulations! You, and your family, achieved a great goal. You not only finished the course, you lived to blog about it! As you know, "finishing before sundown and staying alive" were the goals I had prayed for you to achieve ... keep it up! You are great example for our family!

Brittney Richards said...

Kara - you are amazing!!! Awesome job. I'm glad that your race went well - even better than you anticpated. Yeah! you did it! I knew you could; you are an inspiration. Maybe I should get back into running. I still want to run a marathon someday. Great job!

michelle said...

Kara you are awesome! I didn't think reading about a marathon would make me cry, but it does. I've wanted to give up in my own training so much and this makes me think I can keep going. I don't think I'll ever run a marathon, but I hope I can use your example to get me to finish a 5K.

Becca said...

Way to go. I just want to say you are amazing. I am so impressed with your willpower and strength to not give up. I am impressed with your time that you finished in, and the time and dedication you spent training. I know how much you did not like running before and look at where you are now...simply amazing. Way to go. Your post really touched have a way of writing...and you have me thinking maybe I could do a half again...maybe even a marathon one day...but for right now I am gearing up for a 7 mile race:)

Erin Gibbons said...

Congratulations! You got some great running shots! What an accomplishment. Reading about your 382 miles since March makes me want to start running and being as healthy as you! (Ok, actually I've wanted to be like you all so many ways!)

norma said...

Wow Kara! What an accomplishment!
We are soooo proud of you! I'll be thinking of you every morning while I'm on my mile & half walk in 25 minutes! Ha!

Callie said...

Put simply - YOU ARE AMAZING! Put accurately, I still think you're crazy :) Bring on Whidbey Island, lady!

Julie L said...

Hooray for you, Kara! That is so super. I had wanted to get down there and cheer you on but Saturday morning, as most Saturday mornings, turned out to be our own marathon Kitchen workout. We made progress but it was nothing like your morning! Thanks for sharing all the feelings and emotions of the race. Felt like I was running beside you. Wow, I am so impressed!

Anonymous said...

And now ... a few more quotes from others who have run (or perhaps only thought about running) marathons:

John J. Kelly, winner of the 1952 Boston Marathon:
"Marathoning is just another form of insanity."

Don Kardong:
"No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes. More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes."

Bill Wenmark, running coach
"You should run your first marathon for the right reasons, because you'll never be the same person again. You must want to do it, not do it because your boss did it or your spouse did it."

"There will be days you don't think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have."

--CONGRATULATIONS Kara McCall Wheeler! (aka: Milkweed) ... You and Jason both KNOW you have what it takes to run a marathon!!

The Favorite said...

Wonder Woman!!!
I think you are amazing. I did a 5 K with Jane last Saturday and 3 miles was enough for me :) You ran 23 more than that. Great work!

Justin said...

Excellent post! And I did a double take when I saw your 8:00 and 7:58 splits in there! Way to go Kara. Well done. Wish we could have been there for the excitement.

Chou said...

AWESOME! (and a great blog post). As always, high fives all around. I wish I could have been there to cheer you on in more than spirit. Way to go!

Susie said...

This is a little slow in coming, but I hope you know we think you are awesome! I finally got around to reading your blog and am so impressed with everything you shared. You did a great job and, yes, we were encouraging you on in thought and prayer. Wish we could have been there in person, but thanks for sharing with us so we could experience it second-hand. Way impressive recovery afterwards, also!