The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon

Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon became a marathon of learning. Most runners on the course would probably state this inaugural marathon is race of running, but for this single runner it was more than a marathon it was a run of learning.

Beth, Sharlene and I were three Nervous Nellys sitting in the backseat of the truck trying to talk ourselves out of pre-race jitters. We each came to this race with our own story and our own hopes. Beth was running her first marathon after taking a few years off from marathoning and Sharlene was running her third half marathon in three months celebrating her 33rd birthday. This was to be my 3rd marathon in 42 days qualifying me to become a Marathon Maniac. I learned a goal needs to be set to know how high to reach.

The Start Village was alive with people. The freeway leading up to the start was backed up for miles with cars making their way to the start. In a sight you do not see every day, runners were getting out of cars on the freeway and making the 2+ mile trek on foot to the start. As our hotel was close to the start we avoided most of the road congestion and we made it to the start with moments to spare. Beth, starting in corral 3, made it to the start as her corral was crossing the starting line. I made my way into Corral #9 and was crossing the starting line about 15 minutes later. Sharlene, who was definitely assigned the wrong corral, made her way to Corral 36 and began her journey approximately an hour after the official start. I learned what it is like to start a race with 25,000 runners.

Almost immediately we hit the first hill, and I made it up and over easily. Despite the nerves, I felt good and I felt strong. The Pacific Northwest is known for being a mountainous region and this course did not disappoint in proving why that is such a descriptive fact. The hills on the course were often long and with some being steep tested every mental stronghold I had. The course had 5,498 feet of elevation gain and 5,509 descending feet. This course was built to test endurance. I learned sometimes the only way to relieve leg cramps is to walk them off.

The sun shone brightly in the sky twinkling it’s summertime rays off of the waters of Lake Washington and the ocean waters of the Puget Sound. It was a cloudless sky giving little mercy from the sun. As I made my way down the course I lost count of how many runners I saw that had succumbed to the heat and were receiving medical aid. My heart broke for them. Runners were taken off the course by ambulance proving the heat was nothing to mess around with. I learned the balance of hydration can be a fine line.

Along the course the water was plentiful and CytoMax was the electrolyte replacement drink offered. At mile 2 I took my first swigs of CytoMax and quickly realized the mixture was wrong as the drink was incredibly strong and should have been diluted even further. This was my demise. Although I was quick to drink from my water bottle in hopes to dilute what I had drank, the damage was done. Nausea hit and hit me hard. I learned nausea is haunting as it followed me for the remainder of the race.

Around mile 11 I first spotted Mitch. With his white beanie hat and his brightly colored Marathon Maniac shirt he was easy for me to spot regardless of the sea of people. It was the first time we’d seen each other in person as most of our correspondence has been on-line. As the course had several loops of out and back in it, Mitch and I spotted each other several times along the course as had Beth and I. She had the eagle eye and was able to spot me every time our paths would cross. I learned a perfectly timed hello and word of encouragement from a familiar face delivers incredible amounts of motivation.

Mile 25 ½ was the crest of the last hill. From the course we could see down the final leg of the race which was all downhill. My quads grimaced at the thought of the downhill and I wondered if I would be able to run the entire distance through the finisher’s shoot. Leaving the Alaska Way Viaduct, the off ramp delivered us right outside of Qwest Field. The shoot was lined with people screaming and cheering for us as we finished. I turned the corner and heard my husband Dennis, Sharlene, Palmer, Beth and John screaming their shouts of encouragement. The tears I held back from mile 10 on found their way to the surface and spilled over. The strongest test of my will was near it’s end and I was still standing. I crossed the finish line completely spent. Although every square inch of my body was screaming at me, I finished. Mitch was waiting in the finisher’s shoot to give me my first Maniac hug. Despite it being my worst marathon time of 5:14:42, I learned I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

Earlier this year I turned 40, a milestone to be celebrated. While quite typical for women to celebrate this with vacations or jewelry or new cars, I knew I had to do something that spoke only of me and my character. After much contemplating and research, I began my quest to join the Marathon Maniacs. With the toughest course and the worst race time I’ve run, I gained the final criteria needed to become a member. As of Sunday, June 28, 2009 my birthday goal came true and I was welcomed as Marathon Maniac #1657. As I write this, the membership stands at 1,658 worldwide with only 623 members being women, and I am one of them. I learned with hard work and dedication, dreams do come true.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

A runner’s dream. The sky was overcast with no threat of rain. The temperature was hovering in low 50s. After taking the shuttle to the start, I find myself sitting in the community room waiting for 9:00. I looked around at the people I was about to embark on a 26.2 mile journey with. Energies were high and laughter wafted above the nervous chatter. I was definitely nervous. After running Capital City 3 Sundays ago I was not sure how my legs were going to do. But here I was ready to make the trek all over again.

Walking out to the start, I dropped my extra clothes off at the clothes drop and headed to the start. Hearing someone yell my name, I thought surely it was for someone else as I knew no one at this race. Looking in the direction it came from I found my friends Sharlene and Palmer waving. What a great surprise! Hugs were given and after the shock came off my face, I made my way to the starting shoot. “Eye of The Tiger” was blaring from the loudspeakers, causing me to smile - the 80s were just awesome. No national anthem here, just Survivor singing loudly. The horn blared and we were off.

The first half a mile was relatively flat and I was making excellent time. Most of the elevation gain is in the first 1/3rd of the race. Each hill I hit I felt strong and good. Soon after the start, I found myself in-step with a guy named Joe. It didn’t take me long to figure out Joe really liked himself. By mile 5 I had mentally dubbed him Jabber Joe. A few miles later I took the opportunity to fall back a short ways as I was needing to be alone inside my head. Jabber Joe had begun a conversation with an Army XO and they were discussing all the data their watches were giving. Seems at mile 10 I was well on my way to a 4:15 marathon.

We finished weaving our way through Sequim and began the portion of the marathon on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The vistas were breathtaking. The trail wound it’s way through the Olympic National Forest, where we would spend the remainder of the marathon. The birds chirped as the water made it’s way down the Olympic mountains through gorgeous creeks crossed by old train trestles. The steepest part of the course came at each of the 3 water crossings, it was steep going down to the water and steep coming up out of the ravine. This is where I first decided to walk. My pace was good and strong up until the point my legs yelled “Excuse me!?!?!? I remember this from the other week and I’m not happy about it”. So I let them be unhappy and walked it off. The rolling hills were a little bit of a surprise to me and I realized I needed to do whatever it was going to take to complete the run.

There comes a point when no matter how beautiful the scenery or how crowded the course, you are alone with yourself. Alone with each thought, with each pain, with each moment. Here in lies the discovery. You either quit or excel. Your pace does not necessarily increase or magically get stronger, but your mind rises above. This is exactly where I needed to be. This is the moment in time where the race is made or broken, regardless of the finishing time. Today my race would be made. My hopes of a PR dissipated when I had to walk, but I knew it would be a stronger race than my last one. Looking deep within, my body felt stronger and my mind propelled me forward.

Several times along the course Sharlene and Palmer met me with shouts of encouragement and picture taking, included being perched at the top of a not-so-nice hill around mile 16. I’m sure that picture snapped has an evil look in it. I’m sure. Along the route I managed to adopted a brother. His girlfriend was a ways behind me and he moved along the course waiting for her. It didn’t take long before he was yelling “Go Sister!” to which I replied “Thanks brother!” and we would trade high fives. I wonder what his name is.

The last couple of miles are along the ocean’s front with the trail winding our way toward the finish. A party was in full swing at the finish line and I was heading home. Approaching the shoot my boys were waiting waving bright orange pom poms and jumping up and down. I heard Sharlene yell my name and I, as predicted, began to get emotional. So much so, I couldn’t speak to the race officials at the end of the shoot waiting for me to walk me to the marathoner’s finish area. The tears flowed and I smiled. “Thank you” were the only words I could repeat as they placed the medal around my neck, removed my timing chip for me and walked me to the food tents. The tears spoke louder than my words.

With climbing 3,239 feet and descending 3,382 feet, I finished my race in 4:44:23. But there is no way you can reduce the marathon to a statistic. It is more than a number to be celebrated, it is a journey. Lessons are learned that can only be taught by pain, agony and the rising above. It is a journey that each marathoner goes on, regardless if it’s a first time marathoner or one celebrating their 101st, and the journey is the same, it is one of self discovery. It humbles you. It transforms you. It makes you rise above delivering you stronger and better on the other side of each finish line.