Yesterday was one of the most defining moments in my life – for several reasons. My day began with a 5:30 AM wake-up call. I practically bounded out of bed and got dressed.
I was really excited to begin the day. After packing up my bag and getting John ready, we stepped out of our hotel into heat. Umm, not good. There wasn’t a blowing breeze or anything to cool us off. We fondly remembered our 2006 experience with the Chicago Marathon where the weather was FREEZING and we were both wearing jackets and gloves. Anyhow, we met Nelda, Zach and the Lucks at the park and took a few pre-marathon pictures. As I walked away from John it occurred to me that I forgot my iPod, forgot to apply sunscreen and forgot to grab my food from John’s bag. Oops. I figured I would try to grab it from him on the course. I walked to the corral and in no time the race was starting. It took me a full 11 ½ minutes to reach the start line. In that time I felt like my heart was going to explode. I was so nervous, friends! Once I got going the crowd was AMAZING – several people deep with signs, balloons and plenty of cheers. Since the first ½ of the course is primarily shaded, I was able to run at my race pace and was making some very good time. In fact, at the half I was 10 minutes UNDER pace to finish at 4:30:00 and was feeling great. I vomited at Mile 8 for no apparent reason. Could have been nerves? I saw Nel, Zach and John at Mile 12 and they were cheering very enthusiastically. I was able to grab some sport beans from John and I tucked them into my sports bra for safe keeping. Once I got to Mile 14 everything changed. For the first time, the race course was without shade. The sun was beaming down on us and remember – I was without sunscreen! I started to feel very weak and was seeing spots…but I kept on. By the time Mile 17 rolled around I had thrown up again and was feeling terrible. I am almost certain it was the heat, which was now in the upper 80’s. When I saw Nelda, Zach and John, Nel and Zach jumped in to run with me! The plan was for us all to run 3 miles together, but I immediately asked Nel to finish with me and she agreed. Let me say that again, I asked my sister to run 9 MILES with me and she agreed without hesitation. Yes people, my sister is a BAD ASS. I was practically begging Nel to take me to an aid station for IV fluids, but she did not approve of that idea. Instead she feed me sport beans – one at a time. When she saw that I was fading she asked, “If you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be?” My response – A Dr. Pepper. Before I knew it, she sent Zach off to get a Dr. Pepper for me. Seriously. It’s a good thing I didn’t ask for drugs or a Twinkie. In the meantime, Nel made me eat a gel pack. Blech. This made me full worse as my empty stomach was reeling from an immediate shock of sugar (and food). And we charged on. Mile 18. Mile 19. Mile 20. Nelda accommodated my need for walk/run breaks and along the way shared some words of wisdom:
- YOU ARE IN CHARGE. Tell your mind to tell your body that YOU ARE IN CHARGE. Fight this.
- You can Do this!
- You look strong, you can finish this!
- If you get IV fluids they will not let you finish the marathon.
- My phone says it is 58 degrees (it was 88 degrees at the time).
Along the way, Nelda ran ahead to grab me Gatorade, water, sponges, ice…you name it. What a SISTER!! I could not have done this without her! She was like a nurse/trainer/running coach/motivational speaker/servant! I kind of felt like Oprah! Then, out of nowhere, Zach came up behind us with a Dr. Pepper at Mile 21. Sweet Nectar! All I wanted to do was sit in a bean bag, sip my Dr. Pepper and watch the non-existent Law and Order channel. Hey, I was hallucinating people – don’t hate. Seriously, CRAZY thoughts were going through my head:
- John is going to divorce me because I lost my wedding rings. Err – I never wear my rings when I run. So no, I didn’t lose them.
- Where am I? I couldn’t read and couldn’t tell what the mile markers said.
- What’s your name again? I also couldn’t remember where we were or how long we had to go. After studying the map many times, this is just plain stupid.
- Take me to an Aid Station. Somehow I believed a nurse would give me an IV bag as a shot and send me on my merry way! Dummy!
Before I knew it we were at Mile 23. “Just a 5K left” Nel said proudly. I wanted to choke her. A 5K seemed like another 20 miles to me! Fortunately my mind wasn’t working properly and I spent a few minutes figuring out how many miles were in a 5K! Then it was time for more walking. Nelda took this time to share a few more words of encouragement:
- You will finish this race…even if I have to carry you.
- You are stronger than you think you are. You can do this!
- You’re so close. You don’t even know it.
- There will be a time when you can no longer do this, but today is not that day.
Mile 24. I couldn’t believe it. We were on Michigan Avenue and the end was near. Nike sponsored the 24th Mile and even had a DJ playing power songs. Let’s just say that I don’t remember seeing or hearing a DJ, but I am sure he/she was there. I do remember, however, seeing hundreds of people. They lined the streets and cheered for everyone. Lots of people cheered for me and made reference to the Longhorns (thanks to my hat) or name (thanks to my homemade name plate). It was Amazing. Just what I needed. This may seem Odd, but I am going to share it anyway. I saw the same man 5 times on the course yesterday. Every time he said the same thing – “Shelly, you look real good. You’ve got this.” I swear this man was sent from Jesus. He was so calm and didn’t really have to yell to get my attention. Weird, huh? I also noticed that course officials changed the yellow flags (moderate risk for runners) to red (severe risk for runners). Yikes. Anyhow, before I knew it we crossed Mile 25. More cheers. The crowd was getting deeper. Louder. A voice announced “You are about to finish the Chicago Marathon. There is no turning back now.” HELL YES, I thought. I AM going to do this! Then another voice said “If you do not have a race number get off the course.” FAIL. My adventure with Nel was over at Mile 26 and she hopped of the course. When I saw the Finish Line I felt 1,000,000,000 times better and dug deep and sprinted to the finish. My time – 4:40:19 – a new Personal record! I cannot believe it!
Oddly, I was not hungry when I finished or overly tired. I met up with everyone at the fountain and we took some post-marathon snaps.
Then we all went our separate ways to change, shower, eat, etc. We walked back to the hotel and it didn’t faze me. I iced my knees and ankles, took a shower and took a few bites of the macaroni John ordered for me while I showered.
But I wasn’t hungry. I got a fabulous massage at the Bliss Spa and afterwards John and I went to dinner. Again, I wasn’t really hungry and ate less food than I normally do. And yes, I wore 4-inch heels to dinner without pain. Insanity! Hopefully, my appetite will kick in today! Special thanks to all of you who have supported me in my training and during my marathon! Although I really enjoyed my marathon experience, I don’t think I will be doing one for a while!