Sunday, November 13, 2011

Santa Barbara International Marathon!

(Let's just pretend I haven't neglected my blog for the past 2 months)

So, this weekend was the Santa Barbara International Marathon. I registered for this race back in May or June as my "Plan B", kinda like Nike Women's Marathon. The thought was that if I didn't get hired back or find work over the summer, I would have something to focus on so I didn't get too down on myself. A goal to keep my positive. Well, it turned out I didn't need any "distractions" and this marathon proved to be a serious training nightmare.

Although I was pretty excited to get a good deal on some new diggs when I moved back up north and got my job back, I didn't anticipate the huge hit commuting would take on my fitness/running/personal life in general. The commute has been destroying me, and it destroyed my workout routine. Boo.

But I really can't blame it all on the commute. I was sneaking in treadmill time after work, even though I was exhausted. I was just too tired on the weekends to get good long runs in. Every time I tried to get a couple hours in, they always fizzled short. And then, after a couple trips to Vegas, the real bad news happened.

After Vegas trip #1 (September) I got a nasty case of Bronchitis. The verdict was that I had illness induced Asthma (so they thought) and I was put on a breathing regiment. I got some runs in to keep in shape for the bridesmaid dress, but all the long runs went out the window. I was back to training runs of 9 miles and less.

After Vegas trip #2 (October), the asthma took a turn for the worse. Apparently I am allergic to Vegas, as well as where I work/live, and was diagnosed with Reactive Airways Disease (whatever the heck that is...guess they couldn't decided it it was seasonal allergies of cigarette smoke). The weeks leading up to the marathon involved multiple trips to the doctor for emergency breathing treatments, chest x-rays, and physical therapy to fix the 3rd rib that popped out of place during one of the asthma attacks. Awesome.

The good news is that I am getting my breathing under control. And the rib is back where it belongs. When I am away from my triggers (smoke filled casinos and Napa Valley), my asthma disappears. I am still learning how to catch asthma before it flares up and adjusting medications so I can do what I love (run) without killing myself (seriously). This is my excuse for not blogging. So much has been going on, I have been in survival mode and haven't felt like sharing my struggles. Mostly because I was still figuring out how to make the best of them.

As you can imagine, my expectations for SBIM were pretty low the week leading up. On Wednesday, I was not sure if I would be running because my asthma was seriously flaring up. But once I got in the car and made the trip down to Santa Barbara, the mood changed and I knew it was going to be a great race.

SBIM is by far the best race I have ever run, and it has everything to do with the people who were supporting me. I got the most amazing text messages the nights and day leading up the race, it did so much to get me pumped up. Being there with my mom, aunt, and dearest friend gave me the confidence that life had sucked out of me the weeks leading up to the race. I went from not knowing if I would toe the line to setting a very serious sub 5 goal in a matter of hours. Marathons are mental games, and without all the love and good energy sent my way, I don't think I would have had as happy an ending.

The Good:

  • My support team was awesome. I had people cheering me at at least 8 different locations on the route, which was an extreme morale booster. Every time I saw them I got so excited, my garmin went crazy telling me to slow down. The energy they fed me made the miles fly by.
  • The volunteers were AMAZING. Everything was enthusiastic, kind, and caring. They made you so happy to be there, even though the miles were torture. Best volunteers of any race I have ever run, hands down.
  • I met Skinny Runner and Once Upon A Lime at the start line (You can see my 5 seconds of fame here). I was just standing there, and I look over and recognize these two pretty ladies, and realize that they are my favorite bloggers. They were so nice, so positive, it just added to my already fabulous mood.
  • The race was small, which made it easy. No corrals to bother with, no pushy crowds. Everyone was relaxed and it had a small town feel. Big races have lots of nervous energy, which can be very stressful. Instead, people were kind and generous, making it a very pleasant place to be.
  • No bleeding, chafing, crying, or blisters. Yay!

The Ugly:

  • Although I was on pace to finish sub-5 for the first 20 miles, I hit the wall bad on mile 21 and completely lost my pace. I never got it back. Better than Boston (I think I fizzled out at mile 16?), but still kinda bummed I was so much closer and couldn't pull out any more gusto to get me through the last 6 miles. I blame it on the lack of training and think this is totally fixable. I did a really good job of monitoring my pace, and having the pace tat on my arm really helped out.
  • Got a NASTY cramp at mile 23 in the left quad, right after I got to the top of the ugly hill from hell (it was TERRIBLE). It was the weirdest feeling ever. I think I had too much to drink on the course and not enough salt. I ate 2 packs of margarita show bloks, but I don't think it was enough. I was disappointed that the medical tents didn't have salt tablets or that skin numbing spray they had in Boston. Are these unreasonable requests? Next time, I am totally packing salt tabs and equiping my support team with the numbing spray. I don't think it would have made a difference for my sub-5 time, but it might have made my time a little better.
  • People were texting while running. Seriously. People can't put their iPhones away for 5 hours to run a race. What is our society becoming? I think one lady might have been playing angry birds while running. No joke. This was just bothersome.

When things fell apart at mile 21, I thought a lot about Boston and how it was really hard for me to be happy with my results. I made the conscious decision to make this race a good memory, shooting to PR without tearing down my body and spirit. I decided to walk/run the final 5 miles, and it made a huge difference. I was still able to shave 10 minutes off my previous PR in Boston, and crossed the finish line feeling FANTASTIC. I was strong, happy, and proud. It felt good and reminded me of why I started running: to feel the overwhelming wave of accomplishment and personal satisfaction of becoming a better person than who I started out as.

The biggest thing I bring away from this race is the power each of us has to be in control of ourselves and our experiences. I pulled a lot of strength from a Zen quote by Shunryu Suzuki, "You yourself make the waves in your mind." We alone shape the reality of our experiences. We decide how to process the sensations of the body and soul; the body and soul do not shape them for us. It is a very powerful when you realize that pain is only as agonizing as you allow it to be. Instead of beating myself up for not being able to make sub 5 a reality, I immediately set a new goal. I did not allow disappointment to make waves. I chose happiness and made it happen. I managed and minimized my pain (and there was PLENTY of it) instead of using it to punish myself for falling short of my goals. I think we have a tendency to do this often, and I am beginning to believe that it may be the root of much of our suffering.

Next steps? I have found a new place to live so I only commute 10 minutes instead of an hour and 10 minutes. This should give me more time to train for the Napa Valley Marathon (March 4th), where I have SERIOUS goals of running a sub-5 marathon. I am going to work more on pacing and getting some longer runs in before the race. Most of all, I am going to keep working on breathing and making sure that asthma doesn't define who I am or keep me from doing the things I love to do!