Grandma’s Marathon 2017

Sometimes the words just don’t come. Sometimes they come at me so hard, it’s like a freight train hit me, I crash landed, and a tsunami hit. Bare with me as I try to elaborate on what an awful mess this race was for me.

Let me preface this entire story with these thoughts in mind: this past week was the last week of school, the kids were behaving horribly, I was sleeping very little because I was stressing about getting everything done before I flew to Minnesota for this race, and I’ve had weather triggered headaches plaguing me for about a month. Everything gets done. I check out of school smoothly, pack my fish tank and my fishies in my car and head home on Thursday. I finally pack all my stuff for my trip to Duluth in my backpack and carry on bag.

I go to bed at a semi- decent hour. I proceed to wake up every hour or so terrified that I have woken up too late and have missed my flight. When my alarm goes off at 4:30 am, I have been awake since 3 am, and groggily get out of bed and get ready to go. I get to my flight in plenty of time thanks to the bf.

Flight 1 of 3 leaves on time, and I land in Atlanta with time to spare. I find myself starving and consume a lovely chocolate frozen yogurt at 8am because that’s the only seemingly fitting alternative to the fact that no one has pizza out at that hour. (Leave it to me to want pizza at 8am.) Flight number 2 goes smoothly as well, and I land in Minneapolis with only 20 minutes to spare to get to terminal B. No one reminded us of the time change to CST. No one told us we would be landing in terminal C; the far end of terminal C. No one mentioned the fact that the tram only goes from one end of terminal C to the other and that you have to walk the rest of the way to terminal B. I sprinted my way to terminal B, and made it there at 12:18. Fortunately, they were not boarding yet, and I could snag a pizza from the shop right next to my gate. Pizza craving solved. Shakeout run also solved. They don’t board us til nearly 12:40…… I sprinted for nothing. At least I got pizza. I then got weird looks because I was sitting on the floor with my legs in a butterfly position to stretch out my hips. No runner needs tight hips before a marathon. Then comes the disaster known as flight #3. We board the plane and it’s hot. Like sauna hot. The flight attendant gets on the speaker and tells us that the engine isn’t turning on, so they have to shut off all power, get plugged in, and essentially get jump started. This means no air until we get moving down the run way. Ok, fair enough. That air never really returned. We get in the air, and not only is it hot, it’s turbulent. Only they don’t call it turbulence anymore. They call it “rough air.” Since when do we water down vocabulary??? We won’t ever be able to compete with other countries academically if we can’t use higher level vocabulary words. Anywho- turbulence plus extra hot, sauna like air equals me getting sick. Not pretty and not awesome the day before a marathon. Enter dehydration city.

We land. I maneuver myself as quickly as I can to get my stuff and get off the plane. I find the closest, coldest air vent, and literally stand over it for ten minutes trying to not be any further sick or hot. I’m sure I looked crazy and sheet white, but I wanted to not get into another moving vehicle without getting my nausea under control. Once my body finally calmed and cooled down, I walked outside and grabbed a cab to the convention center to pick up my packet.

The DECC is laid out kind of strangely in my opinion. You have to go through the entire building in order to get to the packet pickup. So, you pass all the vendors, the spaghetti dinner area, and the guest speaker hall in order to get your racing bib and goodies. Once I got my racing bib, made sure the timer worked, and asked where to get a spaghetti dinner ticket, I made my way through the vendors at the expo. I only managed to stop and purchase one thing at one booth before I fed my, once again, growling belly. The spaghetti dinner was amazing! Meatballs with sauce atop a mound of spaghetti served with buttered bread, a salad, choice of drink, and little tiny packages of Ben and Jerry’s for dessert. Thank goodness I ate my dinner at 3pm. There was no way I could’ve eaten all that food even if I wanted to. I ate until my stomach felt content, drank some more water, and walked away knowing I would need a snack later before I went to bed.

I had stalked the weather for Duluth for weeks up to this point, and opted to look one last time before I called it a night. I checked my little weather underground and it said low of 57, and high of 73. Not ideal weather, but tolerable. Better than I could ask for back home at the beach, at this time, in June. I could make this happen in a tank top and a running skirt and be fine. The pep talks from my friends and family were running through my head as I got ready for bed. I drank one last glass of Nuun, and had some trail mix right before bed. I wanted to be sure I had electrolytes in my system before I even woke up at 4am the next day. I set three alarms: 4, 4:15, and 4:30. I needed to make sure I did not miss my taxi ride to the DECC to catch the bus to the starting line.

I tossed and turned most of the night. I even woke myself up out of a very vivid dream where the race directors had cancelled the race due to lightning. It was so real that I checked my alarm clock to find it at 3:52am. I was mad for believing the nightmarish dream and for waking, yet again, before my alarm clock went off.

My alarm went off at 4am, and I got up and got ready. I made my normal protein shake with protein powder, blueberries, spinach, and milk. I laced up my Brooks Launch running shoes and double knotted the laces. I did a quick once over to make sure I had all I needed on me before the taxi pulled up: bib ✔️, headband✔️, headphones✔️, fuel✔️, one Nuun in a full water bottle of water and one extra Nuun in running belt✔️, two pieces of gum✔️, 3 packages of shot blocks✔️, hat in case it rains✔️, sunglasses in case it’s sunny✔️, Garmin✔️, RoadID✔️, inhaler✔️, chapstick✔️. All is there and I’m ready to head to the start line.

I get in the taxi, confident that I’m ready to run this race. I meet some gentlemen at the DECC, who are also waiting for the bus, who have run 25+ marathons. One guy has run over 400 and paces them regularly. They make my ten marathons look like child’s play. I am in awe. I also realize they respect the distance and continue to thrive on the challenge as much as I do. We all have an end result in mind, and that is to cross the finish line with one foot in front of the other.

The bus ride from Duluth to Two Harbors takes about half an hour. I worried about getting motion sick on the bus so I positioned myself in the very front seat, looking easily out the side window. Once the bus got going, my anxiety about getting there on time to the start lifted. The bus I rode was the second to drop off runners, and it was nice to know I had plenty of time to stretch, use the porta potties a bajillion times, and walk around. I met another Skirt Sports ambassador before the start line, and her light conversation kept my mind off what we were about to do. Thank you for that Alison!

Before I knew it, it was 7:15 am, and it was time to drop off my dry bag and get into the corral. It had already been raining, so I put my hat on and left my sunglasses behind in my dry bag. I checked my dry bag and made my way into the crowd. I positioned myself between the 4:45 and 5:00 pacers. This marathon wasn’t so much about time as it was about being strong through to the finish. While I didn’t really have a goal in mind, I figured the people between these two paces would be close to my own. It turns out, I was right. The horn sounded and we were off. I kept a pretty steady 10:30-11:30 pace for the first 14 miles before I felt like something was wrong. After the first 3 miles, I introduced myself to another Skirt Sport ambassador, Julie, who was playing tag with me on the course. We ran a good number of miles together before I had to slow down and listen to my body, which was screaming. My legs felt tight from the get go, but I figured it was just getting warmed up that needed to happen. When the tightness didn’t subside, I just kept pushing forward, making myself sip Nuun along the way. This is the first marathon where I carried a water bottle the entire way, and I am grateful I had it. It didn’t seem to matter how many fluids I was intaking, the tightness in my body wasn’t going away.

Somewhere between mile 16 and 19 I felt really sick to my stomach. The race started at 63 degrees with 90% humidity, and increased to a hot 80 degrees by the time I felt overheated, was no longer sweating, and walked myself to the medical tent at mile 19.11. I walked up to the first medical person I saw and told her something wasn’t right. I was hot. I was sick to my stomach. No amount of fuel was helping. No amount of water or Nuun hydration was helping. I had stopped sweating. I started sobbing. I didn’t want to give up and give in to the elements out of my control, but I no longer felt like it was safe for me to continue.

Even the beautiful scenery and the texts to my running buddies and bf could not get me to let go of the thoughts that something wasn’t right. The medical people took my temperature. It was at 101. My normal temperature is about 96.8. This was a problem. I got wrapped in icy cold towels. I was told to drink v8. I was given more water. I was asked to eat several pickles. I asked to get up. I couldn’t stop sobbing. I wanted to keep going. I wanted to finish what I started. I didn’t train this hard to stop during the race. The medical staff understood my concern, but wouldn’t let me leave when I got dizzy and lightheaded the first time I got up. Back down I went on the cot. Feet up, covered in a second layer of icy cold towels, and fed more juice and more pickles. My sobbing subsided. I focused on the goal of continuing. The staff said they would let me try to continue if I promised to walk the rest of the race. I promised. I started to tear up again, and they slowly got me to my feet. No dizziness this time. I could go with a cup of ice in hand and some ice under my hat.

I walked the remaining 7.1 miles of Grandma’s Marathon in the blazing sun and Wicked humidity. I met a girl named Alyssa, who kept me company for the remaining miles. It was miserable to not run. It was even more miserable knowing what could happen if I did run. I kept eating whatever was offered. I kept drinking Gatorade, Nuun, and water. I walked as fast as I could to get closer to that finished line. It hurt like hell, but Alyssa and I ran that last .2 miles to the finish. My legs protested every step of the way. I got nauseous again a few minutes after getting my medal. I was and probably am still dehydrated. I have been consuming so much liquid that the bathroom has become my bestie. My body is trying to recover, and it’s telling me how hard I worked to finish. I’m stiff and sore and achy.

This race was my personal worst time. I spent 30 minutes in the medical tent. 30!!! But I finished. I finished because I said I would finish what I started. I finished because this race wasn’t about me. I finished for those who can no longer run. This was harder than the hardest, most physically challenging races I have ever run. All the variables were against me: stress, lack of sleep, dehydration from getting sick on the plane, and weather. The only thing I could do was listen to my body. So I did. And then I challenged it to a mental game of let’s see how far I can go because quitting is not an option. This may have been my worst time ever, but it was the most challenging race. I am thankful for all of you who have supported me along the way in my training runs, in your prayers and positive thoughts, in your pep talks, and in your mental support when I feared the worst. You guys are my support system and I couldn’t have done this tough race without you. Love to you all. Marathon number ten is done.

#grit #gmas17 #skirtsportsambassador

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8 Responses to Grandma’s Marathon 2017

  1. amylso says:

    Wow, what an incredible story! Great job on sticking it out and finishing…so glad you are ok!

  2. janerunswild says:

    Congratulations on finishing!! Great job and great recap!!!

  3. Nancy Pontier says:

    The mental and physical toughness you learned this entire year paid off, so that you now have this story to tell. Throughout your life, you will be able to dig deep and remember the challenge and, yes, victory of this day. Well done, Erica.

  4. Steve Lambert says:

    Damn. Terrible weather for a marathon. I’m impressed you finished.

    • dr1v3n says:

      Dude, I don’t know how to give up. Terrible conditions and all- this battle wasn’t about me. It was for those who can no longer run. I had to finish, no matter how ridiculously slow it was.

  5. I too had terrble time with heat and humidity. So thankful for all the volunteers, the cold wet spunges and support. the heat, humidity rolling hills and slanted curves took everything out of me. will remember race, but glad it’s over. pat w

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