Monday, October 14, 2013

Hartford Marathon: First DNF

First off I need to start this by saying just how awesome my friends and the running community are; I have never felt more supported in one of the hardest decisions I have had to make.

Now to get down to business. (and grab a drink and snack this is epically long - sorry).

ING Hartford Marathon.

Big. Fat. DNF.

Hi. That was NOT in the plan. Remember that sub 4 or bust plan? What happened to that, that sounded like a lot more fun.

Being in that moment still makes me emotional. There have been a lot of tears. Not in thinking I made the wrong choice rather frustration, anger and disappointment. My body failed me. I trained 17 weeks for this specific moment with a specific goal and within minutes knew it was not happening.

Let's bring it back to the beginning.

The past couple weeks, I have been SO careful. Set myself up for success.

I have done ALL the stretching.

Slept ALL the hours.

Drank ALL the water.

Eaten ALL the things that will not upset my stomach. (seriously, if I see turkey sandwiches and grilled chicken salads again in the near future I might punch someone).

All the things I know can be my downfall but wanted to leave nothing to chance come race day.

I went into work for a couple hours on Friday before heading up to Hartford. I was rested and relaxed. I got to town around 3pm and headed to the expo real quick before checking into my hotel.

I was in the hotel, stretching out and chilling and had a plain dinner of some grilled chicken and pasta before getting into bed before the sun had even set.

No nerves. I had been visualizing for days running a calm strong race. Envisioning seeing 3:5x at the finish line.

I had never felt so absolutely prepared for something in my life.

I slept like a baby Friday night. I do NOT sleep through the night. Minus waking one time and sleepwalking for the bathroom I was out like a light.

Race morning. Wake up with plenty of time to get moving enough so that I can walk out the door with my stomach feeling "settled" and confident that it will be okay.

Had my breakfast. Lubed up to avoid chafing and was out the door only 3 minutes later than I had wanted.

I got down to Bushnell Park right before 7, hit the bathroom line one last time before heading out to warm up a little bit and find the pace group.

My plan was to start out with the 4:00 pace leader and stick with him to ensure I didn't go out with a bang and paced evenly (which was his plan).

Warmed up and was lined up around 7:35 in the corral. Perhaps my downfall that I cooled down. But who knows.

Was super calm, still not nervous. EXCITED. Not nervous. I was ready to rock.

Trusted in my training.

I did get a little emotional during the National Anthem and Invocation (seriously, longest, but greatest invocation). But that is just me I can be a big mush some times.

The next thing we knew, it was the wheel chair start and then we were off!

Oy. The beginning was super congested. I was focused on keeping near the 4:00 pacer.

I briefly looked down and saw we were a good 40-50 seconds under pace but figured that would even out.

My legs felt completely dead. There was nothing refreshed about them. Was just hoping that they would warm up.

Then shortly after the start we were on an uphill (stupid overpasses) as we were going up I felt my calf start to tighten. I ignored it and concentrated on keeping in pace with the group.

We kept going and things kept going downhill. I briefly stopped for just a moment looked down and could see the muscle in my calf spasm. Kept going praying this would stop, that I would feel better and could enjoy some miles before shit was supposed to get hard (because you know this was more like 20 mile kind of pain not mile 2 kind of pain).

Spoiler alert, it didn't. Another uphill and more pain.

I grabbed some water briefly walking and started back up and we were right around mile 3 and I knew it was decision time. DNF started to float around my brain.

Pretty sure this was the point when I started crying while still running and calling all my smart running friends and trainers for advice. But I knew I didn't need it I knew I was done. I knew I was walking off.

Eventually I walked to the side of the course hyperventilating and sobbing.

MAJOR thank you to the course support, friendly runners and spectators that rushed to my aide as I blubbered that yes I was okay but I was cramped up and quitting. But how the hell did I get back to downtown Hartford? I then called my parents barely able to speak as my Dad basically talked me down about how stupid I would be to push through.

I then called my BFF running buddy Tara and she was kind enough to deal with my tears and crying and anger and be my sounding board as I talked it out.

I was also happy to encounter a lovely girl running her first marathon - she crouched down and was feeling faint and I helped her fuel and kept her company for a few miles before I couldn't stand to be on the course any more. It took my mind off of things and was nice to help someone on their first journey.

Meager splits: 8:38, 8:30, 9:00, 8:43

Turned off Garmin at 3.6 officially went off the course at Mile 6ish.

That walk through the finish area, still crying, in pain and pride tattered was not one of my most favorite running moments. It took me the better part of an hour of walking to navigate my way through the road closures and crowds back to my hotel where the only thing I wanted to do was stretch, take a hot shower and get the hell out of dodge.

I am not saying this to diminish the accomplishment of the marathon - but this day was the culmination of 17 weeks of focused training. I began the training with sub 4 hours at Hartford the end goal. I had no interest in collecting a medal and just finishing. I would have probably just thrown the medal in the river.

I could have continued on. Slowed down. Perhaps run my slowest marathon to date. I was not interested in that. As soon as I realized what was going on with my body I knew that if I wanted to not jeopardize the remainder of my fall racing that I should not just run the 26.2 just for the hell of it. I don't need to prove that I can finish it. I know I can finish a marathon when it sucks. Heck I know I can finish an Ultra. This was about being smart and knowing I want to set myself up for the best chance to race again.

I have not a single ounce of regret after having slept on it. Minus the fact that I had to get out there and do a long run this morning. Le sigh. Back into training.

Obviously I have to reassess. My fall was based around Hartford as my go big or go home, the rest just have fun. (and yes I am coming to grips that my form of "fun" is quite sadistic)

Originally I figured I would go for it at NYCM. Now I am thinking more of running my heart out in NYCM but making my goal marathon at Palm Beaches December 8th. Pancake flat and not a big marathon so no crowding. Obviously after running Miami in January I know weather can be a factor; but that is what I am leaning towards at the moment. Clearly awaiting coaches official thoughts as I bombard her with texts :)

I am super excited for NYCM - to just be a part of it, and to be a part of it having raised money for Team for Kids, now that is about more than just ME.

The end of the day. This is just a hobby. Do I love training and challenging myself and striving towards goals? Absolutely. Do I sometimes get a little wrapped up and consumed? Totally guilty type A in that respect. But I can step back and know that this is supposed to be FUN for me as well. Shouldn't cause me more stress. Maybe I need to stop taking myself quite so seriously. Not to say that there was not every reason to be emotional or upset about the DNF but such is life.

I didn't fail. It just wasn't my day yesterday.

If you are still with me at this point, THANK YOU. Thank you for all the kind words and support. Every person that wished me well and then cheered me up brought on fresh tears of happiness and gratitude. It meant the world. (The next time I am crying at a race better be with a massive PR. Just saying.)

And seriously has anyone had a great marathon at Hartford??? Yesterday two buddies told me that they DNF'd last year and for most everyone else they have had a crappy time there. Note to self: more research before choosing goal race (this was chosen in the spring based on timing and location).

And to everyone that rocked the marathon world this weekend, CONGRATS! All inspirational. I will be back November 3rd.


  1. That must have been so hard. I can't even imagine. Ultimately we do what we can, but sometimes the running gods just don't smile upon us. Everything -- somehow --happens for a reason, and I think you're INCREDIBLY level-headed decision yesterday will make you that much stronger for NY in 20 days (!!), for Palm Beach, or any other races you choose to participate in. Congratulations on some AMAZING training!

  2. Oh I'm so sorry!! As you mentioned, it's so tough when a marathon doesn't go as planned because of all that time training!! I'm glad you have some races coming up... you'll get that sub-4!

  3. I am SO bummed for you. I know you trained so incredibly hard for this. But I think you definitely made the right decision, and you have so much to be proud of. Sub-4 will be yours sooner rather than later!!! Can't wait to cheer you on at NYCM :)

  4. This is how the pro's do it :) they know when a day is not right and understand that continuing means possibly derailing other goals. I'll be at NYCM also aiming for sub-4 so let's do it together!!!

    Palm Beaches is gorgeous, but it was hot last year which makes a PR a little tougher.