Monday, March 29, 2010

ING Georgia Marathon: The Hard Truth

Six months ago, I had high aspirations. I’d joined ACS DetermiNation Endurance program. This program excited me. Cancer has been the one disease to literally eat away at my family. I was glad to finally be able to commit to a charity group that was personal to me. With my commitment to ACS DetermiNation, I was afforded the opportunity to train with Get Fit Atlanta. I love Get Fit. Get Fit quickly became my running family. I was going to two group runs per week. I was talking to people about triathlon opportunities. I was running consistently, and really enjoying running for the first time in a while. It didn’t feel like a chore – it was back to something I love.

But, about mid-December, I started struggling. Winter was colder and wetter than usual. I detest cold. I would rather be hot than cold. Give me hot and humid over cold and wet any day of the week. I’d go out to runs, ill prepared for the run – both mentally and physically. Mentally, I would be “God, this sucks, I’m so tired of being cold. I just want to go home and put sweats on and be up under 5 blankets.” Physically, I would overdress for the cold – being better prepared for ‘standing’ in the cold than running in the cold. So, I would get extremely hot, sweat, and then couldn’t delayer because the wet clothes were freezing in the temps outside. So, I began to find it easy to ‘justify’ missing the run because of the rain, or the cold, or the boys had (this) or (that) going on. I stopped going to TNR. I stopped running at home (even on the treadmill.) And, I’d tell myself I’d do the run on Sunday (therefore missing the Saturday group run) – which never happened.

By January, I was resolute to get back on track. Still enough time to recover my missed training – still enough time to have a good race. I ran the Resolution Run. Not a great showing, but I’d been sick, travelling, and not running – so I was surprisingly okay with my finish time. After that, the first week or so of the New Year was great. Then I had LASIK. I missed two training weeks. That turned into four. Then I tried to go out to a 16 miler, which failed after 11 point something.

By this point, coaches were emailing/calling/texting/facebooking/whatever it took to reach out to try to pull me back into the fold. I would feel my face heat with embarrassment even reading computer screens with messages. In my mind, I would tell myself “This Saturday, for sure.” At that point, I struggled with going back to the group. I was embarrassed by my lack of effort. I was regressing from my lack of training. I started talking to a few people about the marathon (outside of Get Fit). I was questioning scaling back to the half-marathon. But, I’d told A LOT of people. I’d asked A LOT of people for donor dollars. I felt obligated to complete the marathon. My inner-self kept justifying that I could finish the marathon. I’d just get through. Between my last Saturday run in Decatur, I managed one more long run which was about 16 miles. On my own. Miserable. The truth is – I couldn’t be honest with myself or anyone else, about where I was with the marathon training.

So, I went to the ACS DetermiNation pasta dinner. I fessed up to Dana. We talked and came up with a race plan (6minute run – 90 second walk for as long as possible, walk, just finish.) We talked about how much this was going to hurt, but I could finish. Barbara was there. She asked me about my training. I’m pretty sure she wanted to smack me for this hair-brained idea to do the marathon only partially trained.

Race Day

The family splurged (not really splurged, since we just used Hilton Rewards accumulated with James’s travel over the last year) and got a room at the Embassy Suites across from Centennial Olympic Park. I didn’t sleep much. We got up about 5:30. By 6:30 we were downstairs for breakfast. I managed down about ½ a bagel. Gear checked at the ACS DetermiNation tent. Headed to the corral. Ran into Barbara, Olga, Don, and Marietta in the corral. Opted to stay with them for a bit.

Once the race started, I started my intervals. Run 6. Walk 90 seconds. I’ll admit, I didn’t want to walk that first interval. The run was feeling pretty good, but I forced myself to walk that minute. From that point, I just watched the intervals go by. I knew I had 56 intervals to finish.

The family plan was that James and the other three boys (since J.B. was running the half) would meet us at the split to cheer and check on us. Since my husband is directionally challenged and MARTA illiterate, that just didn’t work out. Emotionally, that was a huge blow for me. I had a hard time ‘keeping it together’ as I started the journey to Decatur. But, then I reminded myself that I just had to run to 10. Get Fit was at 10 and THERE I knew somebody would cheer for me. So, I pushed on.

Ten came quick. I was in a really good zone at that point. I felt strong. Get Fitters ROCKED and cheered me. I was still grinning. I was good through 12. Somewhere around Agnes Scott, my left shoe got soaked, I think from water standing on the road. I kept pushing. Took a longer walk break, and knew the long road ahead was going to be tough.

I knew my pace was slowing down. I just had to keep pushing. So, I did. I pushed on through Emory, through ½ way through the area you make the ‘S’ in. During that ‘S,’ a ‘pebble’ in my shoe was bothering me. I stopped. Took my left shoe off. Shook. And Shook. And Shook. Nothing came out. I checked my sock. Nothing. With a deep sigh, I put my shoe back on and pushed on. The intervals on my watch were a joke at this point. I ran when I could. I walked. A lot.

At Piedmont, I was exhausted. I just wanted to be done. When I rounded the corner, I finally saw James and the boys. J.B. told me about his race. I stopped to hug him and tell him I was proud. I pushed up the loop and then I saw the Grim Reaper. Not literally, but the Back of the Pack pace group. The “if you don’t run with us you’ll get swept” pace group. The next 4 miles were spent seeing how close they were getting.

For about 2 miles, I stayed with two women doing intervals. They spoke more Spanish than English and my Spanish is what I learned in High School. I’m pretty sure that I can ask for the bathroom if ever lost in a Spanish speaking nation, but that’s about it.

Through Georgia Tech, the BOTP group was probably about 200 yards behind me. Then the walkers caught me. Honestly, they were the only three ‘declared walkers’ in the ING race. A mother-daughter that was doing it together and their friend who I never figured out if they knew each other before the race or just had spent 6 ½ hours together and were now buddies. The mother asked me about DetermiNation. I got to tell her that – and my story about why I was “running.” She told me how she’d run Boston 4 times and how her favorite marathon was either New York (for the people) or Maui (for the scenery). She pulled me through that last mile, making sure I stayed in front of the BOTP pacers.

Finally, I saw James and the boys again, and they joined me on the course. The boys came through the finish shoot with me. My race pictures even show Nathaniel talking to me as I crossed the line. Right after the finish, the race photographer snapped a family photo of all six of us – which is now the only race photo I’ve ever purchased. Actual finish time 6:40:28

I was happy to be done. I had some pizza. I had something to drink. I peeled my shoes off (to discover that the ‘pebble’ in my shoe was a blood blister about the size of 2 Half-Dollars, yeah, ouch.) I hung out for a few. I hobbled to the car. Went home and recovered. Took a vacation day on Monday, back to work on Tuesday, back in heels by Wednesday.

Pride wise – I’ve hated telling people about my race. I’ve told a few people that I had 7 hours to really think about what I’d done. I even debated about posting a race report because the title should almost be “What NOT to do to train for your first marathon.” But, you know, this all fell on me. I made the choices. I allowed life to get in the way. I chose not to go to TNR. I chose not to the Saturday runs. Maybe by posting this, somebody will learn from my experience.

Everyone has been very congratulatory about my finish (again, Thank you so much.) I’ve had a hard time with gracious thank-you’s (but I am grateful, please know that.) It was more about me having to own up to not giving 100%. I want to stand there and whine about my finish time. I want to whine about missed opportunity. I want to whine about all the excuses. But that doesn’t help – and really, are there any good excuses?

It’s really about getting out what you put in. I put in lackluster effort; I got out a lackluster marathon. I put in skipping the long-run, I got out a finish time that, personally, I’m not okay with. I put in the extra calories of junk (justifying that “I’m training for a marathon”); I got the extra 10 pounds over the last six months.

So, I’ve had five, what I call, “Come to Jesus,” conversations since my race: 2 with Get Fitters, 2 with runner-friends outside the group, 1 with a family member. I’ve spent a lot of time talking/thinking about being honest with myself, getting out what you put in, what my ‘real’ goals are, priorities.

And, guess what Saturday was. A brand new spanking year (Get Fit Atlanta Kick-Off). A new year with a new start. A new year with new opportunities. A new year with refocused goals – putting it all out there to allow other people to hold me accountable and help me achieve my goals.

I guess I did drink the Kool-Aid.

Here’s my 2010 – 2011 Season Commitments:

 Train for Augusta 70.3 (Yep, I joined the tri-group)
 Train for LATE fall marathon (Chickamauga, Rocket City, Suggestions?)
 KILL the Georgia Marathon course on March 20, 2011 (already registered)
 Lose 35 pounds


  1. *hugs* while it wasn't what you wanted or planned, you proved you truly have determination. i am still impressed and proud. and wish i could buy you a celebratory drink

  2. It may not have been what you envisioned but you did it. You could have chosen to not start but you powered through, finished and probably learned a lot about your determination in the process. You should be proud! Keep drinking the kool aid, that 70.3 will be awesome!

  3. Lauren, I know it's disappointing. I've been there. When I ran it, my time was something like 6:30. But you still completed 26.2 miles which is phenomenal.

    The ING is a HARD race. If I am ever going to run another, I plan to do a flat one!

  4. Nice job, Lauren! You are a marathoner!! I know I'm late to the party... Dee Dee and I finished Disney in 7 hours. The walkers finished ahead of us. It doesn't matter. 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles. Welcome to the select few. Welcome to a new era of your life.

    Rock on, and good luck with 2010 :-)