This is not the post that I wanted to write. I've had to write one like this before-hated it then, hate it even more now. But if there is one thing that I have learned along the way its that sometimes when you have to emotionally dig deep, there is a lesson to be learned. A lesson which was learned the hard way, as many good lessons are.
Before I jump into it, here's a look at last week's training:
Monday: Cycle Pump (1hour 15min)
Wednesday: 5km run
Saturday: 22km run
Total Distance Ran: 29km
Here's the story:
Sometimes you can do everything right, like for-going the third drink at the wedding, scaling back on training during a taper, drinking lots of water and getting a lot of rest and things can still go terribly, terribly wrong.
I went into the MidSummer Night's Run with the most humble of intentions: to finish the run.
30km, especially given my training thus far, is a force to be reckoned with. And like anything of that magnitude I had the utmost respect. I did not expect it to be easy. I thought I was prepared.
500 metres into the race it became obvious that my body did not agree.
Extreme abdominal cramping like I have never felt before.
Despite my best effort to push through it and control my breathing I had to drop to the side and try to catch my breath. Less than half a kilometre into the race and I was already walking. Not a good sign.
It was humid- that kind of humid that amasses before a storm and makes the air feel thick. That kind of humid that it even worse then beating sun, which would have been a welcomed alternative.
I tried my best to maintain my speed and keep up with the pace group but I was over taken by unavoidable cramping and had to let them go. My heart sunk as they gained more and more distance on me and I knew that I was struggling more then I could have imagined.
It was only the sixth kilometre.
I pushed when I could, tried to steady my breath and pull air deep into my diaphragm but the emotional damage had been done. I was feeling defeated and I wasn't even a third of the way in. Twenty two more kilometres might as well have been a thousand. Impossible is impossible whichever way you look at it.
Text message to the Boyfriend: "I can't do this"
I plodded on for another twenty minutes seriously considering dropping out. I knew I was about to see the Boyfriend and desperately wanted it to be over. Until I didn't. I managed to get into a steady, albeit slow, pace and the cramping had partially subsided and I started to believe that I maybe, just maybe I could do it.
I wanted to believe it.
When I reached the Boyfriend I ditched my running belt, waved off what was supposed to be a "look how happy I am to be running this race" photo and plodded on. The next leg of the race was a gruelling out and back on a thin slice of land with no option to give up. It was exactly what I needed and the worse thing possible all at the same time.
The cramping returned in full force after only a kilometre. The water on the course was warm. The breeze was thick and hot. I was completely miserable.
I pushed when I could, wanting to keep running and becoming increasingly frustrated because I couldn't. I didn't even need to regain my original pace- all I wanted was to finish the race. Nothing is more infuriating then willing your body to cooperate and coming up empty.
The time on the Leslie St. Spit seemed endless. I was tired, disappointed, in pain, hot and confused. I was running south for what seemed like forever and grew more weary as the minutes ticked by. How far could I possibly have left to go before the turnaround? How was I so far behind the pace group who had passed me on their way back? There was no way I would make it to the 21km checkpoint before the cutoff. I was done.
Except I had turned without even realizing it. And that realization was so small but yet big enough to renew my hope that however slowly it would be, I'd get through it.
Until the pain mounted again and I was forced to jog so slowly that I was being passed by speed walkers. I couldn't speed up and I was too panicked by the time to slow down. 135 minutes of pain and I wasn't anywhere near the finish line that I so desperately craved.
I wanted to cross that finish line more then anything in the world at that moment.
Tears started to flow. I was so angry and so frustrated that I couldn't help it. Eleven more kilometres seemed so impossible. I tried to tell myself that I had already made it nineteen but I didn't need reminding. The heavy ache in my legs was enough to know that I had come that far. And that going the rest of the way would be more rough then I could really imagine.
Pain in my abdomen. Pain in my chest. Pain in my legs and feet.
And then the hardest thoughts crept it. "Just quit. This is torture. No one should put themself through this"
I wanted to fight those thoughts and I did my best but at 21 kilometres and the news that the water station had run out of water I gave in. Even my walking had slowed down. I had ignored the sign to stick to the right and just kept trudging ahead, tired and crying and wanting to be away from this race, this nightmare.
I saw the Boyfriend, who had come to look for me when he realized something must be wrong, and bawled my eyes out. I heaved and sobbed for every step I had taken that was now for nothing. I wasn't finishing the race. I was giving up. I was a quitter.
But, and its a big but, I realized that I am not a quitter at all.
I did not finish the race but I endured more of a physical struggle and mental challenge then I have ever gone through. For three hours of my life I fought through pain, discomfort and a gauntlet of negative emotion because I was determined not to let it go unless I absolutely had to.
At 8:30 last night I had to.
I am disappointed that I didn't complete the race, that I don't have a shiny medal to hang with the rest of them but I also know, as I sit here with sore legs and tell the story I didn't want to tell, that I had the courage to start and that means something.
I could choose to focus on the 8 kilometres I didn't run- the 8 that are the difference between a finisher's medal and a DNF- but instead I will focus on the 22 before that.
I can't get down on myself about 22 kilometres. Two years ago that distance was only a dream to me. And yesterday, however slowly, however begrudgingly, I covered the space against the odds that were against me.
I would have been proud if I had run a great race and gotten my PDR. But the absence of that milestone only means that I am proud in a different way.
I pushed myself when I could but I also recognized when going on was no longer an option. In the face of failure I decided I had another option: To not view not finishing as failure at all.
Will there be other races? Hopefully. But today isn't the day for me to make that decision. Today I will just try to forget the hurt but always remember the lessons that I learned the hard way.
Thank you for being there with me through this journey and this story.
So tell me, have you ever had to give on something that you wanted only to gain more from the defeat?