A setback is just a setup for a comeback.
~ Shalane Flanagan
Pizza was the call and it was fabulous. I have to say, it was really nice to sit and enjoy our dinner out rather than going with our usual routine of eating in the room out of tupperware bowls. We got back to our hotel around 8:00 and did some reading and relaxing before turning in around nine.
The next morning we woke to the sounds of music and the race announcer who was getting things going around 7:00am in preparation for the 8K, which would start right in front of our hotel. The 'pro' of our hotel choice? Total convenience. The 'con'? Chaos and noise outside from dawn until dusk the whole time we were there. The convenience was totally worth it so we weren't sweating it. I headed over to Starbucks and grabbed coffees. It was a gorgeous morning and with runners and volunteers buzzing about I found myself easily sliding into a really good mood and getting pretty excited.
We had a sweet view of the race course from our balcony so we sat and sipped and watched the morning unfold. Again, we never get to chill like this and I was really happy that we could just soak in the moment rather than having to deal with our typical pre-race chaos. We watched the runners fly down Atlantic street and then got ready to head out for our own run around 9:30. By the time we went down it was about 40 degrees out, perfect run/race conditions which we were really fired up about as we'd heard the last couple years it had been windy and pouring rain for this event.
That's our hotel right behind us. Then, just to the left of us is the finish line for all the races. So things were about as logistically easy as they could get. After our run we showered and then walked down to the Pocahontas Pancake House for some breakfast. It was packed wall to wall with runners who had just raced and those, like us, who were racing the next day. We had to wait a bit but it was worth it as the food and service were both excellent. Next up, the expo. We were now down on 34th and the expo was back up on on 21st which was about a mile and a half away. We opted to walk as we felt we could use the movement given how ridiculously full we were after breakfast plus it was gorgeous out and we could take our time. We got to the Convention center just before noon and waited for the doors to open so we could grab our bibs and shirts. We did a quick walk through, making sure we didn't need or want to grab anything else, and then slowly made our way back to our hotel. Both of us were pretty tired by now so a nap was calling our names. Yet again, one of the many bonuses of having a little extra time. My dear friend Mollie (aka @pieceofcakerun) was in town for the half and we were planning to meet up with her for dinner down at YNot, so Kirsten and I decided to get our nails done beforehand because...well...why not? Sorry, I had to.
Around 6:30 we walked down to grab dinner and to our dismay learned that the wait for dinner was an hour and fifteen minutes. Well, that wasn't going to work. We call Mollie, who was walking down, and let her know the deal. She suggested we just order takeout and eat at our hotel. Brilliant. We stood by the bar and caught up with each other while we waited for our food. Quick side story here. I first met Mollie about five years ago at this very same event. Both of us were running for Oiselle at the time and we hung out at the various 'O' sponsored events throughout the weekend. I was planning to race the half and she was on crutches with a stress fracture in her sacrum, so no racing for her. Not surprisingly, we became fast friends and while she's no longer on the Oiselle team, we have stayed in touch and are fortunate to see each other a few times each year. Sadly, I didn't grab a photo with her this time around. Just our food because all three of us could not believe the amount of pasta they sent home with us.
Seriously, though, I had planned to hang out with her post-race and grab a photo then but that didn't pan out for reasons I shall soon explain. It was so awesome to chill and chat with her, to catch up with her on life and for Kirsten and I to have some added company to keep things light and easy. Finally, around 8:00, Mollie took off and Kirsten and I got ourselves ready to turn in.
At this point, I was still feeling cautiously optimistic. I was well rested and my mind was in the right place. I had nothing stressing me out. Aside from some wind, the weather looked good. We were set up for a solid eight hours of sleep. All systems were a go. We read a bit and then turned in for good at 9:15.
Sunday morning we woke up at 5:30 and got our coffee going. Yes, we brought our own. We changed and gathered all our stuff and then threw on our $10 hoodies, which we'd bought the day before to stay warm at the start since we knew it was going to be in the 30s for a while. We had the pleasure of seeing Bart Yasso in the lobby as he was staying at our hotel. We've met before so I said 'hi', we talked a bit (he was riding in the lead car), and then we agreed to meet at the finish for a photo. The start was a little less than a mile down the street, so we walked over briskly, using it as a short warmup. We got down with plenty of time, ditched our stuff at the bag checks around 7:00, hugged and wished each other good luck and then got ourselves lined up and ready to rock.
Miles 1-6.2 - 42 minutes, 6:46 average
I got an Apple Watch for Christmas. I love it. It has never crapped out on me except for one run when it stopped tracking after which I just restarted it and it worked perfectly. One run in four months. You know where this is headed, right? The gun blew and I started my watch. As with any GPS watch, it takes a while to get to the correct pace. So, when I saw 8:30 I ignored it. Then I got to mile 1 and my split was 8:35. WHAT THE F?? I asked the gentleman next to me if had a pace as mine was not right. He quickly told me we running a 6:45 and then cruised ahead of me, clearly annoyed. Whatever. I tried to relax and hoped that my watch would eventually find the right pace. No dice. After three miles with no calibration, I restarted the whole damn thing. At this point, I was just running by feel and hoping I was on target. I didn't feel great and my effort was more than I wanted it to be for the beginning of the race, but I knew it was because I was stressed out and was just praying that I'd settle down once I got my watch figured out. After about four miles, I think, because at this point I no longer had the correct distance either, I checked my pace which said 8:28. Shit, shit, SHIT. Okay, plan B. I'd been cruising with two guys for a couple miles and I decided to just ask again. One of them told me we were running a 6:48. He was really friendly and let me know that he was trying to run a sub-3. So, I let him know that my goal was the same and asked if I could just tag along behind him. Then the other guy said his goal was the same and that we were right on track. "Let's just call this the sub-3 pace group" he said. YES. I thanked them both and then cranked my tunes back up and tried to relax as best I could.
Miles 6.2 - 8.1- 55 minutes, 6:48 average
Okay, so now I'm basically running watchless which very unsettling but I had to let it go. I was totally dependent on the guys next to me and just praying to whoever is up there that nothing else went wrong. Ha! I had to make a quick pit stop at the bathroom, more of a safety measure than a panic moment, and then easily caught back up to them. All was going pretty smoothly at this point. My heart rate was back down and my mind was now set on the goal. "Everything is okay now, Rebecca. Let's do this." Lots of pep talks during this one.
Miles 8.1 - 13.1 - 1:29:02, 6:48 average
As you can see, I crossed the half at 1:29. A hair slower than I'd wanted but otherwise right on target. I was feeling good now, like things were falling back into place. The miles were clicking by and my body was repsonding well. I was running solo for a while, but I had both the guys I'd started with right in front of me which was a little added insurance.
Miles 13.1 - 18.4 - 2:07:57, 6:58 average
At this point we were running on a boardwalk. The wind was at our backs and the sun was out so I ditched my gloves. I had my groove on and my confidence was building now. For miles 13-17 I just kept saying, "Relax. It's yours." over and over and over. I also tried to smile every once in a while as I've read that it keeps your spirits up which in turn can enhance your overall performance. And then the shit hit the fan. Right around mile 17 my left calf seized up. I felt a sharp pain and then every step after that the pain increased. I stepped off the course and tried to massage things out. When I got back on and started up again things were a little better but I was now limping and my pace was rapidly falling. I hobbled along like this for three more miles, stopping every once in a while to work on my calf and then starting back up again. Nothing was working. At this point, I knew it was over for me. I had no shot at reaching my goal and wondered if I could even finish. I was tired and confused and not sure what to do so I texted my coach.
Me: You there??
Me: Calf just split and daggers now every step. Started at 17. Have been walk-jogging since.
Lowell: Oh no!! I'm am so sorry.
Me: Should I call it? I'm starting to feel it go down to my achilles and pull there.
Lowell: Unless you have a problem with a DNF the smart move is to minimize further damage and shut it down.
Me: Medics are here. They are also telling me to call it. I'm pulling the plug. Too nervous about the rest of my spring.
Lowell: No second guessing the decision. It is the right call.
And that, my friends, is all she wrote. I waited in the volunteer's car until the van came to take me back to the finish line. "I have Bib #78 with me and we are headed back" the driver said into his walkie-talkie. This was when it really hit me. It was over. And after all the work, the hours, the miles, it was not going to happen. I was numb, staring out the window and just letting the reality of the situation wash over me. He dropped me off at the medical tent and I went in to get someone to take a look at it. The woman who tended to me let me know that she thought it was a strain or some partial tears in the soleus. She massaged it out, wrapped it with ice and sent me on my way. I limped to the gear check and grabbed my bag so I could throw on my clothes. I called Kirsten, who had successfully finished, and let her know what happened. We found each other and walked...crawled...back to our hotel for a shower and a nap.
I've run 19 marathons and this is my first DNF. It sucks not to finish. But, as I processed the whole experience on the flight home and then later the next day, I knew I'd done the right thing. My coach later reminded me that every step I continued to take once the injury occurred was adding to the damage and making it monumentally worse. Could I have hobbled to the finish line? Yes. Would that have been worth it. Nope. I'm signed up to run Boston with a blind runner next month and then to run a relay with my Oiselle teammates in May. I knew, right when it happened actually, that all of that would be out and, more importantly, that I would be letting people down, if I continued on. And by calling it, I had a shot of recovering and hopefully getting back in the saddle sooner rather than later. On Sunday I was limping. On Monday it hurt to walk but the limp was gone. On Tuesday, the swelling was down and it no longer hurt to walk. Today is Wednesday and the pain has subsided even more. I am on the right track. I am trying to stay positive. I am trying even harder to be patient. And I'm trying to be smart, which is always the hardest. But, if things go right, and my body is good to me as it has been for the past ten years or so, well, then who knows. My goal is still right there. It's just out of reach but I can see it. And for me, that's enough to keep me going. It's a new chapter. But it's the same story. Stay tuned.
Listen to this:
Moving On - Kaptan