Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Stubbornness or Stupidity?

In case you didn't know it, I'm a very stubborn person. I don't mean a little stubborn. I mean ridiculously, bordering on the edge of insanity, stubborn. Crazy (and possibly not in the good way) stubborn. I think it's why I've stuck with running... Part of success in running comes from not letting yourself quit, even when it's a good idea.

Anyway, you may remember that I ran into some trouble trying to run my first post-babies half marathon last year. Anxiety issues really threw me off my game and affected my ability to races. While it was bad before short races, I was afraid that the problems would actually impact my ability to finish longer races. So, I didn't finish the first half marathon I signed up for, and didn't even make it to the second one. I really let the fear and the anxiety take over any joy I had in racing.

I've been working on my anxiety this year, and running shorter races to take the control back. I still have some issues, but I can tell I've made a lot of progress.

After a good summer of running, I decided I wanted to make my comeback, for real this time. I hadn't been training officially, but I'd been gradually building my mileage, with the intention of running a half marathon, when the right one presented itself. I found a half that fit in with an appropriate taper after my awesome 10 mile run, took a deep breath, and signed up for it. I had a certain amount of trepidation, since it was an evening run (and we know how well my last evening race went) in the middle of July. I knew it was likely to be hot, but I was sure I'd trained through enough heat to manage it.

Let's put it this way: I'm an idiot. An idiot who was really, really wrong.

I'll admit that I had some pre-race anxiety. I was kind of miserable, but I worked through it, and I actually made it to the start line feeling a bit excited. That was a huge step for me.

But then the race started, and the wheels fell off pretty quickly. I probably would have been okay if the first couple miles of the race hadn't been run through a parking lot in the direct sunlight. The combination of baking asphalt and no breeze hit a lot of the runners hard.

From this distance, you can't tell if I'm smiling or crying...
I was actually feeling okay up until about mile 4. Around then, I started to feel nauseous, but I knew it wasn't anxiety again. This was all heat related. I tried to be careful, but the damage was already done. Sometime after mile 4, I got very ill. For the first time. Of several times.

I never thought I'd be the runner someone else took pity on. I never thought I'd be the one to have someone stop for me and say "You know what? I'm gonna walk the rest of this race with you." I know I probably should have stopped running after I got sick the first time. But this is where the crazy stubborn kicked in. I'd worked so hard to get to this point! I couldn't not finish again! If I let anxiety win this time, it would only get harder for me to finish my next race. (Yeah, I know this wasn't an anxiety issue. Heat exhaustion should totally get a pass on race day. But, I'm crazy.)

Let's just say that I got very sick many times during this race, and leave the rest up to your imagination. I know I wasn't the only person there struggling that day. Hubby said he got worried, when all three ambulances at the race got called out at the same time. It was a bad day for racing. Even the pacers dropped their pace flags, abandoning their time goals in favor of survival.

Fortunately, this was one of the friendliest races I've ever run. Multiple people asked me if I was okay, or if there was someone they could call for me. But, my new best friend is Mark. He's the kind soul who decided that his goal was well behind him, and that he could walk the rest of the way in with me. So, from about mile 11 on, the two of us slogged on together. Every time I stopped to be sick, he's say hopefully "Bug?" and I'd reply "Nope." Mark knew that I was struggling, but he understood how important finishing was to me. He stuck with me for the rest of the race, and helped me get across that finish line.

It was my slowest half marathon. But I finished it. It certainly wasn't the smart choice, but it meant so much to me. I proved to myself that I am stronger than I thought. I can fight through just about anything. And I finally finished that half marathon. Now, I have that confidence behind me, for the next time I run a half marathon. I know I can finish.

I was so lucky that hubby was there to cheer me on (and drive me home afterwards). It was reassuring to know that there was someone there to help me out at the end. Knowing that he was waiting for me also gave me more motivation to finish the race.

So, what did I learn from this race? I've learned that I am really strong. And more than a little stubborn (or crazy). I've learned that terrible things can happen during a race, but I can work through it. And I've learned that the next time something like this happens during a race, I can STOP RUNNING.

After the race was over, Mark said "So, you're gonna have to sign up to run this race again next year, to redeem yourself, huh?" To which I replied "NOPE!" This race was never important for any reason other than showing myself what I'm capable of. Now I know, and I see absolutely no reason to put myself through the misery that is a half marathon in July. Ever again.

So, there it is. My first half marathon post-babies. Was it what I wanted? Absolutely not. Am I disappointed with my time? Hell no. I finished the race. That's all this was ever about. Now, I'm looking forward to racing more, this time with less anxiety to weigh me down. I know I still have a way to go. I'm not "better" yet. But I'm getting there. One step at a time.

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