Monday, April 27, 2009

26.2 in Oklahoma

Pre- race - Gerard Bischof

"Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and
the last part with your heart." Good luck Princess, have fun!

Mile 1- (Hari & Nirisha Garimella)
Off to a great start through the streets of downtown Oklahoma City. You're always warned against going out too fast the first mile, but the course was so crowded at this point I don't think I could have gone faster if I'd wanted to. Danielle and I were happily running along having a "Can you believe we're finally here?" sort of conversation when I mis-stepped over a storm drain and nearly rolled my ankle, causing several runners behind me to gasp in horror. Yikes! Fortunately my ankle survived the incident without injury-- but I definitely payed more close attention to the ground after that. So much so that I nearly missed a shout of encouragement from Amanda (mile 24 sponsor) from the sidelines.

Mile 2- (Bruce & Janet Mortensen)
So far so good, still crowded on the course. By another miracle we met up with James (Mile 18) from our pace group and enjoyed running together the next few miles.

Mile 3- (Max Davis & Denise Tyler)
Things still going smoothly. James, Danielle and I chatted about Max and Denise- who we figured were preparing for the Big Sur Marathon in California at that very time. We knew they had bigger hills ahead of them then we did, so we sent them our best mental energy (at this point we still had some to spare).

Mile 4- (In Memory of Nell Mortensen)

"Grandma Mortensen is cheering from the angelic sidelines!!!

Oklahoma really is a beautiful place-- green grass and trees everywhere. Already it's starting to feel a little warmer than I'd prefer, so the wind at this point actually seems like a blessing. (In another few miles I will have long forgotten I was ever grateful for this wind).

Mile 5- (Randy & Sarah Swann)
The spectators on the course were awesome. So many neighborhoods came out to cheer and offer us support. There were kids handing out chocolate and other goodies, and one of my dreams came true...on the side of the road one spectator was holding out a box of donuts for runners to take!! The road was still crowded with runners at this point and I was on the wrong side of the road-- but I still regret not going back for one of those donuts! (By the way, my other dream is for someone to offer me a cupcake during a marathon-- someone please note for Texas). :)

Mile 6- (Karen Rodrigue, Genevieve Medina)
More amazing spectators-- here I missed a photo op of John Wayne in the cheering crowd. Yes really, someone had a life sized cut out of John Wayne and had him cheering with their group on the side of the road. My Dad would have been so proud!
At this point we passed the first time check- 1:07-- not a bad pace for me considering things were still pretty crowded up to this point.

Mile 7- (Jeff Venable)

"Roll the dice, you win again! Say "Hi" to the person behind you!"

Ah, a mile message from Jeff, a fellow runner who understands the need for distraction during long distance races such as this. It appears that Jeff was going to send me on a bit of an obstacle course during this run. :) Okay, I played along...the runner behind me looked confused. lol.

Mile 8- (John & Linda Digman)
At this point (as with most runs), mile 8 is about the point where I start settling in to my pace and feeling good. Mile 8 was still enjoyable-- although I could tell the varying hills up to this point had taken a little more out of me than usual.

Mile 9- (Bruce & Janet Mortensen)

"Thank you doesn't seem adequate...but thank you! Hope your race goes well and
that you have a blast. Since you have angel wings, it shouldn't be too difficult!"

Mile 10- (Vicki Connerly)

"Psalm 46- God is our refuge and strength--He dwells in his city, doeth
marvelous things, and saith: Be still and know that I am God." "Anna, you are
doing marvelous things with your life! May you find the strength from God
to push you through. I know Susan will be routing you on! Remember, be still, and you will find strength."

Mile 11- (Jeff Venable)

"Everybody wins on mile 11! Slap hands with the next person that you
see on the left side of the road!"

Mile 12- (John Ratti)

I had lost my group by this point, which was okay because after awhile it's hard to keep up conversation when you're just focused on breathing.

Mile 13- (Genevieve Medina)

"Anna, You're half way done! You've accomplished so much in your training
this season. You've made some amazing new friends, of which I'm very proud
to be. Enjoy yourself and don't worry about crossing the finish line. Susan will give you the strength to get there".

Next timed check in point- 2:29-- the hills were still taking a little more out of me and off my pace than normal, but so far things seemed reasonable.... little did I know that just after we passed the time mats we would arrive at the lake were we would turn into the wind for the second half of the race. I made that turn and immediately felt as if someone shoved me backwards. After having the wind at my back up to this point this was a shock I was not ready for. The rest of mile 13 was really rough!

Mile 14- (Roxanne Olvera)

"The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles
to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep." -Robert Frost

Anna, you are on Mile 14 now, and you are half way to the
Finish Line! Know that at this very moment you are being supported by
people near and far. Now, keep moving! You’ve got more miles to
cover, not just in today’s race, but in your life. Susan is with you right
now and so are we. See you at the Finish Line! –Roxanne

Very appropriate quote from Roxanne at this point. Miles and miles to go-- and what disturbed me was that by mile 14 I had 'hit the wall'. There's a common belief in marathons this happens around mile 20 or so-- that sudden feeling that you just can't go any further. In Arizona this happened for me at mile 24-- so having a feeling this intense at mile 14 was definitely mentally hard to handle. Struggling to adjust to the winds for the remainder of mile 13 took more out of me than I realized. I really worried I would have nothing left to get anywhere near the finish line if I didn't really work hard to adjust my strategy. I just didn't know what it would be...

(---Mile 14 for Roxanne Olvera---)

Since I sponsored mile 14, I was done with my race (half marathon) by that point. I do remember hanging by body over the barricade as they cut the timing chip off and then walking around in a daze trying to work the cramps out of my quads. I finally found Vicki and the others from my training group. After regrouping, Vicki and I walked back to the hotel to shower, check out, and walk back to the finish line to grab a seat on the bleachers to cheer you and the others in.

Mile 15- (Meredith Levin)

"As you start mile 15, remember that you have ALREADY accomplished somethingthat the vast majority of people in the world haven't come close to doing. You are a strong woman - allow that strength to carry you through mile 15 and the remainder of your race."

I was ready to admit at this point that I was very unhappy! Other than just continuing to move forward I had no plan for how I was going to manage the rest of the race. The wind was driving me crazy-- it seemed to overtake every one of my senses. I felt like if it would just stop for a few minutes I could clear my head and come up with a reasonable plan-- but the wind would not be stopping anytime soon.

Mile 16- (John Lampton)
"Triumphs without difficulties are empty. Indeed, it is difficulties that make
the triumph. It is no feat to travel the smooth road". -Source Unknown

John's message could not have been any more appropriate at this point. Things were definitely difficult and I was just angry. I couldn't think of anyone necessarily to blame that made any sense-- so I blamed the race organizers (which I realize is rediculous by the way, this tells you about my mental state at the time). I cursed them for creating a course with so many hills and so much wind (as if they had any control over that), how could they invite so many people to an event knowing there would be such horrible conditions???

Mile 17- (Bruce & Janet Mortensen)

Since I had been facing the same winds and the same hills for the last 3 miles, it finally set in that my situation was not going to change-- so I had better change my attitude instead. I guess you can refer to this as the 'acceptance' phase of my grieving process. In a way I was grieving. I had trained hard for months for this and had put in what I thought were all of the necessary preparations to do well. Then I felt like I had shown up for my 'final exam' and was surprised with a test in a completely different subject I wasn't at all prepared for. This wasn't the race opportunity I was planning on.

Mile 18- (James Alfred)

Mile 18. I did think of James (now somewhere on the course as well), who had sponsored this mile after my confession that Mile 18 was my most miserable training run for my Arizona marathon-- and he then led our pace group on an awesome 18 mile run that weekend! It reminded me that there were people involved in this endeavor besides me-- and although it felt really lonely on the course right now, I needed to stop being so self-centered and remember all of the people in my life who had supported me to get to the race, and there were a lot of them. So I thought about my sponsors-- and the little bit of me that was still considering the possibility of just stopping the race was trying to come up with a way I'd explain my decision to my sponsors. I wondered if they'd want their donations for Susan's Foundation back-- I didn't think so, but just the thought of it made me stop even considering the possibility of dropping out.

Mile 19- (In memory of Evelyn Bierman)

"Grandma Bierman is hovering near the finish line with a plate of cowboy
cookies (with butterscotch pieces)!!!!!"

Then I start thinking more seriously about what this race is really about. Forget about the hills, the heat, and the wind, forget about the fact that everyone of my muscles is burning and I ran out of breathing machine medication way too early, forget about my miserable self-centered attitude--- this race was to remember 168 individuals who, because of someone else's actions, were no longer here. I thought about how they would probably give anything to be back on earth with their families and having any kind of experience here-- and here I was complaining about the fact I was alive to live another day and have this opportunity in life.

Mile 20- (Travis Gillies)

"Susan is lookin down on ya right now, and she's smilin!"

I did think about Susan- a lot, and I thought about my Grandmothers. I thought about how at any moment, whether it was 9:02 for those in Oklahoma City, or a surprising cancer diagnosis for Susan, your belief that you have unlimited life opportunities ahead of you could all be changed in an instant.

I thought about what Amy talked about at the dinner the night before. This situation, this pain, was temporary-- if I spent the rest of my one opportunity for an Oklahoma marathon cursing race organizers for not controlling the weather I was just robbing myself of having what could be an amazing life experience.

Mile 21- (Kent & Gail Mortensen)

"You can do it Ann Marie!!! There is no doubt in our mind that you are a
champion, you never give up!!! Go Anna!!!!!!"
Love, Mom and Dad

I was going to survive this marathon and as much as it hurt-- I was going to be positive about doing it! Reaching the mile 21 point was somewhat of a relief because I had reached where the wall was expected to be-- and had now recovered from the shock of having it show up 7 miles early. I was doing far more walking at this point then I'd ever imagined I'd be doing in a race I trained to run for-- but walking uphill in this wind was definitely a challenge. At the time it was the only way I could keep moving forward-- and I had already decided I would keep moving forward.

Mile 22- (Team Goatman)
I met up with Danielle and Becky on the side of the road just before this video-- we didn't talk long but it was pretty clear they had both hit their walls fairly recently too. I think Danielle hated me for taking this video at the time but I promised her that someday she would want to remember this (hopefully I'll be right about that someday- it's probably too early to ask her just yet). I'm not sure how obvious it is, but I think all of us were fighting a loosing battle with tears at this point.

Mile 23- (Chris Stratton)

"Live, Love, Run".

I lost Danielle and Becky again somewhere in mile 23. I was getting really emotional the longer I stayed with them as we tried to talk each other through it. Everytime I got emotional it just got harder to breathe, and since I had run out of breathing machine medication by this point-- I was really struggling to keep my breathing even and unstressed as possible given the conditions.

---(Mile 23 for Chris Stratton)---
Mile 23 was actually my worst mile split of the entire race. It was the last stretch of Classen. I pushed through the entire stretch hard but the wind was just too much. I had to walk through the last stretch of that mile through some misters but that helped me finish the rest of the race. Mile 23 was cruel and unusual punishment.

Mile 24- (Vishal Patel & Amanda Witty)

Ask Yourself: ‘Can I give more?’. The answer is usually: ‘Yes”.”
- Paul Tergat

Mile 25- (Danielle Gable)

"My Dear Anna, you're a RUNNER! Less than 1% of the population run marathons and you're doing it right now! Granted your vision is now fuzzy, your legs have gone numb, and you can't comprehend what i'm writing-YOU'RE A RUNNER!! and you're an amazing friend. Run for yourself to kick prednisone's butt, run for me knowing you've been my crutch for support, run for Susan knowing you're making her proud, run for those people cheering you on the sidelines, run for your life knowing these 5 hours are part of life's journey and you are making it happen. Thanks for touching my life in such a phenomenal way. NOW RUN!"

Mile 26- (Bruce & Janet Mortensen)
Hot, hot, hot!!! For the last few miles I had started pouring cups of water over my head at every water stop.

Mile .2 to Finish- (Justin Turley)
Just after I passed the mile 26 marker I realized I couldn't see the course ahead, meaning I had no idea where the finish line was, (or even if it existed). When a volunteer (who I might have hugged had I the energy at the time), said just turn this corner and it's 6 blocks to the finish-- you're going to make it! This was great news but 6 blocks sounded like an awfully long way by this point- and I was hoping I could keep up running for the last mile. I turned that corner and as promised-- off in the distance was a huge banner that very clearly said FINISH-- honestly I thought that 6 blocks was too far for me to run without a walk break by this point given my plan to conserve breathing until I could get more medication. But once I got that finish line in sight I didn't take my eyes off it-- and as long as I could see it I wasn't going to stop running!!I remember almost nothing about what was going on around me by this point. My friends (and recent half-marathon finishers) Vicki and Roxanne were in the finish line stands cheering and took this picture. Unfortunately between my finish line survival focus and the wind roaring in my ears I didn't even hear them. But it means so much they were there to see my group finish so late in the day and cheer us on!!! Thank you Roxanne and Vicki!!!!!
A mere 5 hours 22 minutes and 8 seconds since crossing the start line, I had never been so glad to stop running!


Gail said...

Wow!! That sounds like torture!!
You are a finisher and I am proud of you.

My little mile walk in SLC with 2 bags of groceries will look wimpy in comparison...

Congrats on finishing your second marathon!

Danielle said...

Anna-You are my hero! Thank you SO much for not only making my first marathon experience an amazing one, but thank you so much for all your encouragement and support. I'm looking forward to many more marathons with you!