Monday, January 27, 2014

Tecumseh

“The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”
 – Unknown
 
There are days that I will never remember, never think twice about, and some I will just want to forget.  And then there are the days I will wish to remember for the rest of my life.  The ones that I hope I still have the ability to recall with my grandchildren and bore them with my "old" tales.  Tecumseh Marathon will be one of those days. 
 
I was all set to run December 7, 2013, however, due to inclement weather, the marathon was rescheduled for January 11, 2014.  The weeks that came between those two dates would prove to be some of the worst winter weather NWI had seen in years.  It made training extremely tough and I started to question my ability to actually run this race.  With a great support system around me, I was encouraged to continue and just "trust my training". 
 
The week before the race, Bloomington (where the race was held) got hit with a large amount of snow.  Then, the air began to warm up and the snow turned to rain.  Rain fell the day and night prior to the run.  There were still some mists and sprinkles in the air when I woke up in my hotel room Saturday morning. 
 
I kept reading comments from other runners on Facebook about how it was going to be muddy and miserable.  I made up my mind the week before the race that no matter what, I was going to have fun.  A little mud, a little rain, a little water was not going to stop me.  I would take it head on and not look back. 
 
I stood at the starting line with our little group and just smiled.  I was not nervous.  I was confident.  I had no idea what was ahead of me, and to be honest, had I known, I would have been extremely nervous!  They yelled "Go" and we were off like a herd of trapped cattle, finally let out to roam free and take off. 
 
For about a mile, the herd remained, and then we came to the first water crossing.  As we ran up, it was hard to figure out what was going on.  Some runners were in a line, others were pulling up their pants and wading across knee high water, and still others were climbing the rocks and hills along the creek to get to a fallen tree to use as a bridge.  I was bewildered.  We had to get wet already?  Yep.  So, we waited in the line, to attempt to cross the water without soaking our legs.  We got across and began the 3 mile or so trek through the woods to the aid station where the loop part of the course would begin.  Originally the course is a point to point, however due to the weather and flooding, they did a 4 mile run out to a 6 mile loop that we would run 3 times and then come back the 4 miles to the start.
 
Running through those wooded miles felt like an eternity.  I thought we had ran at least 4 miles when someone said we were only at 2.5.  I refused to feel defeated.  This was fun, right?  Running through the woods, jumping over small creeks, dodging roots and rocks and mud slides.  This was an adventure.  At this point, we were no longer a herd of cattle... more like the dwarfs marching through the woods from Snow White in a lifelike version of the movie, Labrynth.  At least, that is what I started to picture... and that got me through to the aid station with a smile on my face. 
 
I remember thinking that it couldn't get worse than what we just ran.  I mean, we were pretty high up in the hills and there is no way they would have marked a trail that muddy and slippery only to lead us to a worse trail, right?  Ha.  I said it a few time during the run... it was a cruel joke.  Not just a few parts of the race either... the entire race was in fact, a cruel joke. 
 
The loops went by a lot faster than I thought they would.  The hardest parts for me were the road sections.  One of the roads was a sheet of ice except for a couple small lines of gravel.  After the 2nd loop, my feet were so soaked and cold that they began to ache when we would hit pavement/ice.  The trail sections were about 90% mud filled.  There were small sections where we could run without slipping, but for the most part, I ran like I had been drinking tequila shots for hours.  I would slip, regain my footing for two steps and slip again, arms flailing and words flying.  Picture a weeble wobble that does in fact fall down.  I took two spills back to back, managing to only land on my shin and hand.  Then, I was attempting to slow down going down hill into a small creek crossing when my foot got stuck under a root.  As I pried my foot out, I was unable to get any traction and both feet flew out from under me and I slid down the hill on my backside.  THIS made for excellent conversation and laughs for the next few miles.
 
Miles 16-20, I started to feel pain.  My back went into complete spasm, my left shin felt like someone had taken a bat to it, and the bottom of my feet felt like I had no shoes on and could feel every rock and root I hit.  This is when I had to remind myself I was having fun.  This was also the time it was nice to have two awesome, experienced runners with me.  They didn't bark orders or yell or try to push me.  Instead, they distracted me with stories and extremely strange songs.  They let me walk when I needed and gently urged me to run when they knew it was possible for me. 
 
Once I knew we were close to the aid station where they mark our bibs after each loop, my spirits went up.  We were getting close to the end.  Kind of. After our bibs were marked with that magical third black line, it was about 1-2 mile run down the road to finish the 6 mile loop and head back to the finish line.  Every time we hit a mile at this point, Keith would yell it out.  21 miles, 22 miles, and at 23 miles, I got my third or fourth wind.  I wasn't running faster, but my spirits went sky high.  I was going to finish this.  I held back a few tears at that moment.  You can't cry on the trail.  You have to keep going.  As we ran out of the woods and back to the road, we came up to that same water crossing we met at the beginning.  The water had risen since the start of the race 6 hours before.  At this point, we no longer cared.  We just ran right through it.  Coldest.  Water.  Ever.  But I didn't care.  The end was near.  As we ran towards the camp ground, runners that had finished earlier were driving out of the park and yelling encouragement out the windows.  We rounded the corner into the campground and I could see two other neon green shirts matching the ones we had on, on the other side of the fence cheering us on and giving us high fives.  As I got closer to the finish, I saw Tom and I just smiled.  I crossed the finish line and just wanted to scream.  I couldn't believe I had actually finished.  Tears were in my eyes as the photographer took a couple pictures with me, Keith and Jim.  As we walked away, Keith handed me a bag.  He had been instructed to give it to me after I finished.  From Jen, Misty, and Tracy was a necklace with two charms.  One said run and the other said 26.2.  Two things that have changed my life forever. 
 
I ran that race with heart and grit and nothing else.  There was no burning desire to beat anyone or get a specific time.  My goal was to finish with a smile. I never had the desire to give up.  There were plenty of opportunities to throw in the towel and get a ride back to the camp ground, but it wasn't an option in my mind.  There was never someone telling me I had to run this marathon.  This was something I wanted to do for myself.  I know my intent was to help me overcome the emotions tied to not being able to have another baby and in some ways it has.  It hasn't changed my desire, but it has brought me peace.  I have an amazing little girl, supportive husband, and loving family and friends. 

I never imagined the outpouring of support I would get on Facebook before and after the race.  It was overwhelming.  I felt the love and support throughout the entire race and I feel so blessed that I had so many people cheering me on.  I have no idea what caused me to start blogging about this very personal part of my life, but I'm so glad I did.  I can't begin to know how to properly thank everyone.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me and helping in turning many of those stumbling blocks into very important stepping stones.