I just arrived home from a really fun race weekend in Eugene. All in all, it was a great weekend full of getting to know new and old friends, eating at yummy new restaurants, and lots of girl talk. Unfortunately there wasn’t as much running as I had hoped but in the end, it wasn’t all for naught. I learned a lot about myself as a runner this weekend as well as earned even more respect for the marathon distance. I didn’t earn my BQ – I didn’t even finish a marathon – but it was definitely a weekend I won’t forget.
Friday morning I made my way to Eugene, prepared for a long travel day by myself. Asia was on an earlier flight with a different airline and I’d meet up with her and Page at the airport when I landed. Luckily I was reading a pretty awesome book (Gone Girl – highly recommend!) so the day went quickly. On the 2nd flight on a small plane to Eugene, I was seated next to an athletic looking woman with a foam roller in her bag so I immediately asked if she was running the race. Her name is Lora
and I was right!
We quickly got to chatting about how we both were going for our BQ and shared our stories with each other for the next hour and a half of the flight. Turns out, I had just found her blog via Twitter just days before (yes we shared Twitter handles – the plane needed to go back to the terminal for maintenance check so we were able to turn on our phones and that’s when I made the connection). It also turned out that we were both on the same Google Group emails that a group of runner bloggers had created to keep track of the various meet-ups for the weekend. Small world!
Thinking About All the FAST People Who Have Run on This Track
Once we arrived in Eugene, Page
were waiting with the rental car and we gave Lora a ride to her hotel ( we were not strangers anymore!). We were all hungry so we headed straight to a vegan friendly restaurant that I had found on Yelp and dug into a big bowl of chips and salsa and delicious, healthy bowls full of brown rice, black beans, sweet potatoes, plantains and tempeh. Delish! Page and I washed it down with a beer and we had a great time getting to know each other better (Page and Asia had never met IRL). After dinner we headed to the University of Oregon track where legend Prefontaine himself used to run and where the Olympic trials are held. The track also served as the finish line for the marathon on Sunday. It was fun to see it and imagine ourselves achieving our goals there.
Pre Shakeout Run with Some Awesome Gals!
After a relaxing night on Friday, we woke up refreshed on Saturday and immediately headed out for a pre-arranged “shake out run” with a big group of fellow runners and bloggers (many of which are Oiselle ambassadors). I was blown away by how amazingly welcoming and friendly all of the bloggers are. It was really fun to meet people who I have only known via their Twitter handle or blogs. It was also awesome to meet even more great women who I didn’t know via their Twitter avatar previously. The shake out run felt fine on my legs – it was just an easy run.I stretched afterward for a bit (probably not as much as I would have had I been at home) and then after more chatting we all went our separate ways in search of food.
Shake it out!
Post Shake Out Run
Vegan French Toast!
Asia, Page and I found a yummy all vegetarian/vegan restaurant that served breakfast. I was wooed by the promise of vegan french toast (although I ordered it with a side of eggs and a soy sausage so the breakfast wasn’t fully vegan) and the coffee was delicious. Post breakfast we headed back to the hotel for showers and more relaxing before heading to the expo.
The expo was small but well run. There was a banner prompting runners to send well wishes to the Boston Marathon and we all signed it. While at the expo we ran into even more of our blogger friends and also saw Lora from the plane ride as well. We went back to the room for more relaxing before heading out to a local vegan restaurant that had a simple marinara pasta on its menu for dinner. The meal came with vegan garlic bread and a yummy soup but unfortunately our pasta was stone cold. We awkwardly sent it back and started to notice some of the things we had read on the (4/5 star) yelp reviews – dirty floors, odd people. The pasta came back luke warm rather than cold but I ate it anyway. Page took hers back to the room with intentions of microwaving it later but never at it. #EugFail
Silliness at the Expo
Photo With New Friends and a Pancake
Cold Pasta in a Shady Restaurant? Perfect Pre-Race Dinner
After dinner we went back to Hayward field to get more pumped up about the race and we took a bunch of fun photos on the historic track and in front of the recently constructed finish line. We were back in our hotel room before 8 p.m. to get ready for the next day, relax and get in bed early. Once I got in bed, I got really nervous about the race and I had a hard time sleeping. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding and I just couldn’t get over the nerves. Eventually, I did and fell asleep and didn’t wake up until morning.
Race morning went just as planned. First I opened the card that Mike had written to me to be opened on race morning. It gave me a boost and I also found myself wishing here was there. I ate cereal that I had brought from home with almond milk we got at Trader Joes and even drank the same type of coffee and creamer I always do thanks to a 711 being right across the street from our hotel (free entrainment from the drunk Everything seemed fine pre-race and my nerves never got as strong as they were the night before.
After bathroom breaks, warm-up, etc, Asia and I found ourselves in the front of corral C, the largest of the five corrals. We stood slightly behind the pacer (who we had talked to at the expo and had told us the first mile is usually a bit slow due to the crowds but he picks it up for the 2nd mile and t hen runs even splits. We had decided we might start with him and then play it by ear), listened to the national ant hum nervously and soon we were off!
It was incredibly crowded at the start. The most crowded start I’ve ever experienced at a race. And it seemed that despite being near the 3:35 pacer, no one was running fast. Our watches were telling us we were at times running in the high 9s. The pace group picked it up a bit through the first mile and used a downhill as momentum so my first mile ended up being just about on pace. It was really difficult for me to run anywhere next to Asia (we both had our individual plans but we had thought we’d at least stay together for the first few miles) and I kept trying to catch up to her but I’d get blocked or elbowed by someone. I finally got up near her about 3/4 of the way through the first mile and commented that we should have started at the back of the B corral to avoid all this craziness. I told her it was making me anxious. Mile 1 ticked off at 8:09 average – right on pace.
During Mile 2 the pacer started to really pick it up. My watch showed we were running in the mid to high 7s for quite a bit of it and I flipped the screen on my Garmin to the average pace for the lap and saw it was in the high 7s. I immediately scaled it back and started to fade away from Asia as she kept up with the pacer. My race plan had me going around 8:10 min/miles for the first 10 miles so I knew I had to back off from the pacer. It was stressing me out to keep up with the group and with Asia anyway so I just let myself fall off a bit. When the second mile clicked off was just a bit fast – 8:03. I consciously slowed down for the 3rd mile and kept my watch on the lap mode so I could see my average pace for that lap only, not my current pace. I felt good – it felt easy. I felt like I could maintain the pace for a long time. My breathing was easy. I was going to do it. Mile 3 -8:10. Perfect.
As soon as I started mile 4 my lap average pace showed I had actually slowed down to about a mid 8:20 pace. The pacer was getting farther ahead of me and I picked it up a bit. I looked for Asia, thinking she must have picked it up and passed the pacer by now and I didn’t see her. I told myself to focus on my run. Mile 4 was a 8:11 pace, but my average was still perfect – around 8:08 at this point.
Somewhere during the 5th mile (it was right before a short incline), I suddenly got a bit nauseous, my heart beat really fast, and my body was overcome with chills. Then an exhaustion set over me which I could feel most prominently in my arms. I suddenly went from easy running to feel like I’d hit the wall. It felt like I was on mile 22 of the marathon, not 4 or 5. I panicked a bit – wondering if I was having a heart attack or something. I wondered if this was how people felt before they died in marathons (a little dramatic but I honestly was so confused). I slowed way down. My pace dropped, I tried to catch my breath. I chugged up the hill and enjoyed the slight decline on the other side. I thought maybe my blood sugar had suddenly dropped so I took a Gu even though it wasn’t time (this makes me sure that this all happened before 40 minutes when I was scheduled to take the Gu). It didn’t help.
My legs felt heavy. My breathing was hard. I was running high 8/low 9 min miles and I felt like I was sprinting. It was bizarre and scary. I passed by the first medical station because I knew stopping meant I was pulling out of the race. I wasn’t ready to pull out yet. I needed to see if it would go away. I kept running. It kept feeling hard. I started getting passed by basically everyone. I was no longer running the right pace. I let myself run like this for another mile. I watched my average pace start to drop. I cringed as I ran over the 10k timing mat, knowing people were tracking me and would wonder why I slowed down. I felt exhausted. I slowed more.
My mind started to go crazy. WHAT WAS HAPPENING!? How could this happen? My dreams were being crushed and I felt I had no control over it. I knew I couldn’t pick up the pace and maintain it for 26 miles. I knew that my BQ dreams were over. I didn’t feel like running 1 more mile, let alone 20. I decided I would stop when I saw a medical tent. I knew that the first 9 or 10 miles of the race was a loop just south of the campus and then it headed north, so I knew we were heading back to the finish line. I kept looking for a medical tent so I could make sure I was ok. I stopped and asked a volunteer where the next one was. He didn’t know. I kept going. I probably looked miserable because I was. I knew my race was done but I didn’t want to walk. I just slowly jogged, silently crying as I was passed, as my average pace got slower and slower. My mind started racing with thoughts about which race I would try to run next. If I dropped out now, I knew that given that nothing was seriously wrong with me, I could race again soon.
I turned the corner close to the mile 8 marker and saw a pretty significant hill. I knew that it was time to walk. I looked to my left and saw a building with an empty parking lot. I veered to the side and immediately started to cry. Not cute tears, huge, aching, sobs. I sat on the curb and bawled my eyes out into my hands. A man came over and asked if I needed help. I asked him where the medical tent was and he said it was probably up near mile 8. I thanked him and kept crying. Then I called Mike who of course was shocked to hear from me. I told him everything and cried. I then texted my coach to tell him what had happened and we started to brainstorm future races.
After composing myself, I took off my bib and shoved it into the belt I use to carry my phone. That was the worst part. I’ve never dropped out of a race and this DNF came at the worst time. I walked back to the finish line, which was luckily only about a mile away. I was shivering because it was cold (yes perfect race weather!) and I texted Page, knowing she probably was finishing the half by now. I looked for medical and never saw it. By then I was feeling just fine and didn’t think I needed to get checked out. I went to gear check and soon realized Page must still be in the finishers area so I waited there for her. I saw some of the girls that I had met the day before and I tried to pretend I didn’t see them because I didn’t want to break down again. When I saw Page I couldn’t hold back the tears and she hugged me and comforted me.
I tried to look on the bright side. At least I dropped out when I did and didn’t have to wait 3 weeks to fully recover from the race. At least it happened early on. I guess. You lose some, you win some, I told myself. Everyone has a bad race, and I was due for mine. I’ve PRed at every single race I’ve ever done except one. I’ve been lucky and today wasn’t my day.
Asia About to BQ!!!
It was so awesome to go watch the marathon finishers come in. Page and I cheered on all the finishers from about 2:55-3:35 and it was an inspiring way to wrap up an emotional morning. The best part was seeing Asia coming down the street, knowing that she had achieved her goal of qualifying for Boston. At least if I didn’t do it, I knew my training partner did. After the race we ate a delicious meal and celebrated with beer then relaxed and showered before meeting up at Ninkasi Brewing for an after party. Lora (from the plane ride) and several other bloggers/runners were there and it was fun to hear everyone’s race stories. Some girls achieved their goals, others, like me did not, but everyone was still in good spirits and it was a fun afternoon of drinking good beer in the sun.
Figuring Out What Happened
I tried working though all the possibilities of why something like this could have happened. At first I considered the shady pasta I ate the night before from the dirty cafe. I considered the fact that I forgot to take my birth control on Saturday night so I took it Sunday morning instead (which I never do). I thought of everything I could. Only later did I realize after talking to some friends who have had them and doing some research, that I think I had a panic attack. I’ve never had one mine my life but the description seemed to fit. In several articles it compared the way your body feels after panic attack to having just completed a marathon. Panic attacks wipe your energy out. I think I panicked for a variety of reasons – most monumentally the pressure I’ve put on myself for this race. I’ve been training for 7 months for one goal. I’ve told everyone I know (and many I don’t know who read this blog!) that I’m going to BQ. Being around all the running friends that weekend put additional pressure – many others were trying to BQ and they all knew I was going for it. I had told myself that Eugene was my one and only chance to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon because I would be busy wedding planning after this. Lots of pressure on one race.
The crowded corrals didn’t help. The birth control probably didn’t help either (hormonal changes can affect panic attacks). The large coffee I drank contributed as well I’m sure. It was the perfect storm and unfortunately it hit at the wrong time. But at the end of the day, it happened and I’m moving on. I’m not letting this training go to waste – I will be running another marathon soon. Now that I think I have a better understanding of what happened I hope I can control things a bit better so that it never happens again. Less pressure, more fun. Start at the front of the corral and NEVER run with a pace group (too crowded, too many people jockeying for position). Control what I can and know that no matter what happens, I should be proud.