Tag Archives: dallas marathon

On to the next one

Instead of sleeping, I am obsessing over choosing my next marathon.

The funny thing about checking off the #1 item on your bucket list – the dream that motivated you to want to run again when you couldn’t even walk, the thing that represented rebirth after a piece of you died – is that once it’s been checked off, there’s a big empty spot on the list. I assumed the other items (Black Mountain, NYC, MCM, London, etc) would each shift up a slot. And I’m sure they eventually will. But I find myself keeping #1 open as I try to decide what would fulfill the requirements of fulfilling me. And having just run one of the most beautiful & toughest road races in America, it’s a tall order to fill.

My current choices are all fall/winter races & all within driving distance.  Two represent redemption & are repeats: Dallas in December, which I limped through with herniated discs & severe sciatica against my chiropractor’s advice in 2014 & Cowtown in February, which I ran virtually on a treadmill when ice storms caused the organizers to cancel the marathon in 2015. Both left me conflicted & unsatisfied for very different reasons. Both are relatively flat/fast & neither conflict with anything else on my schedule. 

The third option is as close to a Big Sur experience as I can get in my home state: a very small race with incredibly challenging elevation, little to no spectators & breathtaking views (it is marketed as “the most beautiful marathon in Texas”). It’s in November, which means I’d be training for hills in the extreme heat of summer. It falls on the weekend  between the 5K I help organize and the 5K I direct & it’s right in the middle of my coaching schedule for my fall church running group & for Girls on the Run. 

3 guesses as to which one I’m leaning toward. Guess I just like a good challenge. 

Dallas Marathon 2014

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It has taken me a month to recap this race on my blog, partly because I already wrote about it on my running group but mostly because I was waiting for my mixed feelings to resolve into something ultimately positive. I have a tendency toward self-flagellation after any athletic event or performance, regardless of outcome – I spend ages obsessing over how I could’ve done better. It’s a blessing and a curse, but it keeps me striving for bigger/better/faster/more, so I choose to embrace it.

This was my 1st full marathon and it was full of meaning. Dallas was my 1st half marathon in 2009 – I quit drinking while training for it, so this medal is my version of a 5 year chip. I trained for months, hitting all but one of my scheduled runs. My right knee wasn’t always thrilled, but I felt ready after record mileage, a half-marathon PR and an AG award for my last half before the marathon.

About a week out, I developed an ache in my left thigh/buttock that quickly went from uncomfortable to excruciating. I thought it might be a hamstring tear or piriformis syndrome, but a visit to my beloved chiropractor┬áconfirmed that it was sciatica due to a bulging and possibly herniated L4-L5. I’ve spent nearly 2 years rehabilitating the mess between my C2-C5, so this news was pretty demoralizing – I wasn’t ready for more traction/decompression.

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The pain was slowing me down considerably & there was concern from family, friends & Dr. Cox about the distance, so I briefly considered switching from the full to the half. Then I received my crazy bib # – 999 – on what would’ve been my grandmother’s 99th birthday, so I took it as I sign that I had to try. Worst-case scenario? I would start but not be able to finish, which felt preferable to finishing the half & realizing I could’ve gone farther. I recalculated my goal pace based on my decreased ability and estimated my finish time at 5 hours. I was 2 days out & could barely sit or stand up without searing electric pain down my left leg. As long as I was in motion, though, it was tolerable.

The weather was overcast on race morning & heavy rain was forecasted for afternoon. I met up with my brother Kris, my sister-in-law Jen & a few of their friends, most of whom were running the half. Jen is my favorite running buddy & the races shared the same course for the first 9.5 miles, so the time with her flew by.

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We hugged goodbye at the split & I was on my own, maintaining a slower pace than I’d planned but still in pretty good shape. The hills were starting to hurt a bit around mile 13, but the promise of seeing my awesome husband every 3ish miles (he found me 8 times on the course, carrying a backpack full of just-in-case) in his bright pink Wonder Woman shirt kept me in good spirits. He even ran a bit with me, even though he hates to run.

At mile 15, the intermittent rain became a torrential downpour. It would continue for the entirety of the next 11.2 miles. Good thing I had my custom-made poncho with me.

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Despite the weather, the volunteers were all cheerful & the spectators were amazing. Great course support, even when the 25mph wind gusts made it impossible to keep water cups on the tables.

By mile 20, my back & leg were pretty wrecked but I was still enjoying myself. The rain made the potholed streets a bit harder to traverse and my knee was starting to lock up, so my pace slowed to a shuffle. I never hit the infamous wall and I never doubted that I could finish the distance, but I was starting to worry that the course would close before I could cross the line – the time limit was 6.5 hours & judging by my recalculations, I would be cutting it close.

By mile 21, I’d already decided to do another marathon (maybe Cowtown in March). My Garmin died around this time, so I quit caring altogether about pace & just looked for mile markers. The sag wagons were nowhere in sight, so that gave me hope.

Around mile 22 I passed the Doublewide, the bar where I used to get blackout drunk & make terrible decisions before I traded drinking for distance running. I flipped it the double bird and picked up my pace.

Downtown Dallas never looked so beautiful as I shambled toward the finish line. I was amazed by how many spectators were still there, despite the rain & the late hour.

I finished in 6:19:16, over an hour slower than I’d hoped. But I made it with a grin on my face & a profound sense of gratitude for the ability to run, even when it hurts.

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I picked up my finisher medal & my Dallas Duo medal (for also running RnR Half in March) & I found my husband. Hugging him felt better than any medal or PR ever has, and that’s when I finally cried.

He had doughnuts & hot coffee waiting for me in the car. I may have run all day, but he was the one who worked his ass off to support me – I am so thankful to have him on my team.

I rode the finisher’s high into Tuesday, when my depleted endorphins & exhaustion finally caught up with me. I spent about 24 hours disgusted with myself for finishing nearly 80 minutes slower than I’d hoped, for not pushing myself harder, for walking part of the last 10K. I was a marathoner, yeah, but I still felt like I’d failed.

As with any failure (or half-assed success), I ultimately chose to use the disappointment as fuel for my fire. I registered for Cowtown & started my training cycle again. The upshot is, unless I fall asleep or into an open manhole, I’ll most likely PR my next marathon!

If you made it through this ramble, then I sincerely thank you. I needed to get it out there so I can finally shake off the disappointment & move forward. I still have severe sciatica, but I’m running through the pain & treating with a TENS unit and an inversion table. Eventually I’ll go get that MRI & schedule some traction/decompression sessions, but for now I’m just focusing on my training schedule. We’ll see how Cowtown goes!