Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tears, Sweat, and Anxiety Attacks AKA Cleveland Marathon Part 2...The Race Report

Let’s pick up where we left off shall we? I had just awoken to the 4:30AM alarm and had no idea what was in store for me.

Before I go on I must warn you that this just may be the longest race report ever!!

I got out of bed and slowly started getting ready for the race. I was having a hard time deciding what shirt to wear because the weather was quite iffy. After what seemed like forever I decided on a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve layered over it. After the clothing decision was made I brewed a cup of coffee and grabbed my usual breakfast. As I was on the second half of my peanut butter bread, I realized I was having a hard time swallowing and I was overcome by a very unsettling feeling. It freaked me out so much that I walked out of the hotel room and paced up and down the hallway and then out of nowhere my heart started racing and I had my first of many anxiety attacks. Dave came out to check on me and he found me in tears trying to slow my breathing. He gave me a hug and talked me through it. I composed myself and went back into the room to finish getting everything I needed for the race. We were due to meet fellow bloggers in the lobby at 6:00AM which I was really looking forward to. I guess I was really excited because I almost walked out of the room without my Garmin. The excitement of meeting the rest of the bloggers and seeing everyone we had met from the night before kept my nerves at bay for just a little while. We had a mini photo shoot which helped calm the nerves as well.
Our back bibs from races2remember

Blogger pre-race meet up

After we were done with pictures I headed to use the restroom. Once I got back to the group I was hit by anxiety attack number two. I was completely freaking out and had thoughts of last year’s race running through my head. There I was standing with a group of people, some whom I had just met minutes earlier, sobbing. The group was amazing and talking me through it. We exchanged our final hugs and good lucks and headed towards the start line. Jenn stopped to pay for her parking and told us she would meet us at the 4:15 pace group. As we approached the stadium Dave needed to use the restroom so he split off and said he would meet me at the 4:15 pace group. I fought my way through the crowd and easily found my friend Bill, one of the 4:15 pacers, and his sister Julie and girlfriend Melissa. A few short moments later my phone rang and it was Nikki. She was trying to find our way to us. In the meantime I got a text from Jenn. She too was trying to locate us. Moments later Jenn walked up beside me and a few minutes later Nikki walked up behind me.  Jenn and I had our picture taken with Bill.

4:15 pacer
After the picture I shared hugs with Julie and Bill and finally realized that Angie was standing right behind me as well. I was so concerned about Dave making his way to us that I must have been totally zoned out. I was really stressing out and sent Dave a message telling him he was freaking me out because I couldn’t find him and after what seemed like forever I spotted Dave over on the side trying to make his way to me. When I realized he wasn’t going to be able to get in, I told Bill he was going to have to hug me since Dave couldn’t get to me. Bill joked that he didn’t realize his job description included hugging but he did oblige and gave me a hug. Right after the hug Dave motioned to me to head out and he would catch up with me. At this point I had mini anxiety attack number three complete with tears. Jenn gave me a hug and then the race started. I was running with Jenn while looking over my shoulder for any sign of Dave. Once I spotted him and he got to me I calmed down a bit. By this time, Bill was out ahead of us and we tried our best to catch up to him. By 1.5 miles into the race I was extremely hot and had to take off my long sleeve which was quite the process since I was wearing layers. It seemed a little odd to me that I was stripping off layers so early in a race. I honestly think this was my first subtle indicator of what was to come. Once we finished mile 2, I was a bit freaked out when I looked down at my watch and saw that our pace was 8:54. I even told Dave we needed to slow down. We got back to a reasonable pace before mile 3 chimed on my watch. I believe between miles 3-4 I had the pleasure of running into Elizabeth of Girls Go Running as well as Mary who was at last year’s marathon cheering me on! It was nice to see them out there. Shortly after seeing them I told Dave I needed to pee and of course we had just passed the port-o-potties. As we continued on the need to pee turned into a much more urgent need which of course I had to share with Dave. Sorry Dave, there’s no sugar coating gastrointestinal issues when it comes to running! Right after this Dave spotted Burger King and told me I needed to go in and use the restroom. I actually asked him if he thought they would let me in. I guess in hindsight it was a dumb question because there was a line for the bathroom when I walked in. As I waited as patiently as I could, a guy came out of the men’s restroom and I asked him if anyone was in there. He told me no and to go for it so I went ahead and used the men’s room. I would come to find out later that Dave had decided to use the bathroom as well and was quite concerned when he didn’t see me in the line. As it turns out I was in the men’s room when he was and he just didn’t know it. I felt much better after using the restroom and we continued on. We were now closing in on mile 5 and Dave asked how I was doing. I told him I just wasn’t feeling right and I was worried about what happened last year happening again, cue small anxiety attack number four. Between miles 6 and 7 we ran into Kelsey from dailymile and Megan and Carrie from Girls Go Running. Right before mile 7 I had a few other concerns that I shared with Dave and I promptly walked to the side of the course and proceeded to freak out. Anxiety attack number five was the worst of all. I couldn’t catch my breath, I was crying like a baby and I wanted to walk off the course right then and there. Dave talked me through it and let me cry on his shoulder. Oddly enough I found comfort in his sweaty tech shirt. If Dave hadn’t been there I can guarantee you I would have bailed at mile 7. I was overwhelmed, terrified, frustrated, pissed off, and disappointed in myself. I know I am a better runner than this. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I couldn’t even run to the ½ marathon point of the race on Sunday without walking. I am pretty sure I apologized to Dave about 800 times. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Once again Dave managed to calm me down and we walked for a bit and I asked him to call my husband to let him know that I was okay but we were nowhere near on pace. It was at this point that the 4:30 pace group passed us, followed by the 4:45 pace group, and finally the 5:00 pace group. Once the 5:00 pace group passed us I said “oh hell no” and started running. I wanted to finish under 5:00 so badly but I couldn’t keep pace with them no matter how hard I tried. The biggest frustration at this point was that I wasn’t in a physical battle with myself instead I was in the biggest mental battle of my life. Somehow we made it to mile 8 at which point I told Dave he could go if he wanted to. He gave me one look and said “um yeah, fu** you”. I was a bit in shock but I quickly realized that he was trying to get me to laugh and get my mind off the battle at hand. He told me we were in it together and we were going to finish it together. At this point I told Dave this was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life and once again he gave me a supportive hug and we pressed on through miles 9 and 10 with a combination of running and walking.

At the end of mile ten I realized I was starting to get really cold. I was so glad that I still had my long sleeve shirt tied around my waist. So for the second time during the race I was shedding layers. The only difference was this time I was doing it in order to add more layers back on. I had to put my short sleeve on top so that my race bib would keep registering at all of the mats along the course. Fortunately putting back on a layer helped. As we were running towards mile 11 I told Dave that this didn’t count and we would in fact need a do-over, a mulligan of the marathon as you will. Yes, I hadn’t even crossed the finish line and I was already talking about the next time. I think it was also at this point that Dave told me since he was running a marathon with me, I had to learn how to swim to which my response was “oh hell no”. As we went up and over a bridge another runner asked what bridge it was and I angrily replied “hell.” Dave kind of laughed and mentioned that he thought it may be Ontario to which the runner replied “Ontario, that’s where I’m from, now that’s hell”. It made me laugh which was much needed. Another runner mentioned that we were almost done to which I angrily replied “yeah, you are”. He then looked at my bib and realized it was a marathon bib and kind of backed away from me. I was just in a bad place at that point I guess. As we came off the bridge and down a hill towards mile 12 Morgan and Jen B. were there cheering for us like crazy. I was so happy to see them. We stopped when we got to them and Dave told Morgan that I really needed a hug.

Much needed hug at mile 12
The hug truly lifted my spirits. I spent a few minutes telling the girls about the mental battle I was having with myself.

Talking about my struggles
They gave me a pep talk and they sent us on our way. As we started running again we heard Morgan on the bullhorn “Dave, keep Jodi going, smack her butt”. It was too funny and of course Dave followed through which made me laugh a bit more. After running for a bit I needed to walk again. As we were walking I saw Spike and Beth AKA B.O.B on the sidewalk. I called out to them and we stopped to talk with them as well. B.O.B had finished the half marathon and Spike was walking her back to find Morgan and Jen B. I mentioned that I was having a really hard time with the course and its history. B.O.B gave me a hug and Spike told me it happens to all of us but all that mattered was getting to the finish line and it didn’t matter how I got there. He even told me of his frustrations at Boston when his race wasn’t going the way he wanted it to. I became very overwhelmed again and proceeded to have anxiety attack number six. I immediately sunk into Dave’s tech shirt and started crying and Spike put his hand on my arm and offered silent encouragement. Once I composed myself I rubbed my hand on Spike’s Boston jacket to get a little Boston energy and Dave and I moved on once again. By this point we were closing in on finishing the first ½ of the race. I remember mentioning to Dave that I knew I could run a ½ marathon and I really wanted to run the entire second half. Of course that didn’t last as long as I thought it would as I slowed us to a walk again before mile 14. I am pretty sure Dave called my husband with an update at this point. Between miles 14-15 there was music but it was very slow music which would have been fine at a wedding reception but certainly not at this point in a marathon. As if the music wasn’t bad enough the rain decided to pick up. Dave and I pretty much looked at each other and said “you have got to be kidding me.” At this point, I looked over at Dave and noticed it looked like he may be tearing up so I asked him what was up and he told me his glasses were fogging up and he was having a hard time seeing in the rain. I told him he was lying but I let it rest. Right after this we were almost taken out by some crazy driver that decided to come onto the course going the wrong way. Pretty sure we were within 20 feet of our death. We managed to survive and came across the woman at the water stop that said great job number 1718. I have been waiting for you. I have been waiting for you too number 344, great job. It was too funny when Dave told her she could go ahead and go home now since we had arrived. Miles 15-18 weren’t overly eventful we just kept pressing on doing what we had to do to move forward. I was still really disappointed in myself and frustrated because it wasn’t going according to plan. As we were approaching mile 19 I told Dave that I was going to be freaking out pretty soon because I was terrified of the 20’s due to last year’s experience. I had anxiety attack number 7 at this point and once again Dave had my back and offered up that sweaty tech shirt with no questions asked. After I had collected myself, Dave suggested that we run for a bit and I agreed. We ran off and on until mile 22. At this point Dave looked at me and asked me what that flag in front of us said. My response was 22. He then asked me what my name was. My response was Jodi. He asked me what his name was. My response was Dave. He then said okay good you know where you are and who we are so we are going to finish this! Each mile after 22 was a huge victory for me. I was able to run more at this point. I would tell Dave I wanted to run to the light up there, the stop sign up there, the marathon sign up there. It really helped to keep me focus. As we passed the 23 mile marker I said. I see mile 23 and I remember it. The same thing would happen for miles 24 and 25. I was so excited to realize that I was going to make it to the finish line. We walked at mile 25 for a short while because that is the mile that had the biggest impact on me last year. Dave called my husband one final time to let him know that we would be finishing soon. Shortly thereafter we were approaching the 25.52 mile mark and Dave looked at me and said let’s run this in to the finish. As we were coming down the hill towards the finish line we came upon a girl that was really struggling. We kept encouraging her and then she burst into tears. We weren’t really sure what to do so we just kept running. We came to the mile 26 sign and out of the corner of my eye I saw Deb and Nikki and I ran towards them. They jumped on the course to run us into the finish.

Approaching the finish line
I looked up at the clock and kind of started to sprint (which I had told Dave I wouldn’t do) because I wanted the clock in the finish line pictures to have a 5 on it not a 6. Yes, I realize that my chip time was much faster but my brain wasn’t working that way. As we were approaching the finish line Dave asked me how I was going to hold his hand if I was holding something. I handed Nikki my water bottle and grabbed Dave’s hand.

Moments before crossing the finish line of the 2011 Clevleand Marathon
As we got to the finish mat Dave told me to raise my hands and with that we had just finished the Cleveland Marathon TOGETHER! I immediately put my hands to my knees and started sobbing. I glanced over to see my daughter with a very worried look on her face and I told her I was fine. I then shared a very emotional hug with Dave. He had got me to the finish line and I was so incredibly thankful for him. I proceeded to hug Nikki and my kids and finally my best friend, Deb. I was once again brought to tears when she embraced me and said “you did it, I’m so proud of you”. At this point I realized I had just run my victory lap. I conquered the demons from last year and in the end I beat Cleveland.

Embracing my son
In hindsight, running the same course I passed out on last year proved to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I had no idea how hard it would be to conquer last year’s demons. So many memories came flooding back on the course. I know I can only speculate but I am pretty sure I would have been fine on any other course.

In the end I achieved my ultimate goal of finishing the 2011 Cleveland Marathon upright and smiling with A LOT of help from an amazing friend. I know you don’t think you did anything Dave but as I have said to you several times now, what you did for me on Sunday was the most selfless thing anyone has ever done for me in my life. THANK YOU just isn’t enough to explain the magnitude to which I am forever grateful to you for making the sacrifice you made Sunday to help me achieve my goal.

Dave and I had planned to go to Coleone’s after the race for some pizza to which Deb promptly told us we were to be at my house at 3:00. We told her we would likely be late since none of us had showered yet and we needed to check out of the hotel. When we got back to the hotel we met up with Joanna one last time to recap our races.

We finished

My rock for all 26.2. Thank you Dave
Soon we were all showered and ready to head back to my house. When we got to the house we were surrounded by friends and Coleone’s pizza! They also had a cake for us. We talked about the race and I flat out said that I would never run another event at the Cleveland Marathon again. I told them I would run other marathons just not in Cleveland.
The marathon cake

Dave and I at the end of the day
Once everything was said and done I found it very interesting to talk to others. Several people told me that when they heard I was going to run the Cleveland Marathon again after last year’s experience they were really worried about me but none of them wanted to say anything to me before the race. I guess I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was getting myself into. The thing is I’m stubborn and I guess I wanted my revenge on the marathon and running Cleveland again would make my revenge even sweeter.

Yes, I conquered my Cleveland demons. Yes, I finished my first marathon. No, I am not done. I am just getting started. Watch out Columbus Marathon I’m coming after you!

Keep running, you’re simply the best, and you inspire me!!


  1. Wow, Jodi. You had me in tears for you!! What an amazing accomplishment. Thank God for Dave...what a great friend he is to be there for you the entire time!! Congratulations on your redemption and finishing that Marathon. I know it will be something you will always remember!!

  2. I'm so happy for you! You are awesome for getting back out there and doing it again. Good for you!

  3. I think all of our race reports for the marathon are long. You have 26.2 miles to write about! Congrats again on finishing, it's a huge accomplishment. Now I want a marathon cake!

  4. Jodi - truly a heroic effort on Sunday. We've traded a lot of messages, so you know exactly how I feel about your performance out there. You did what very few runners out there would do at Cleveland.

    I'm so very proud and happy for you. The next one is going to be a whole 'nother shootin' match.

    Give my best to Dave. He is a good, good man.

  5. Jodi - your report had me sobbing! You are so amazing for finishing with everything you went through. Dave - what a hero! Both of you are rock stars!

  6. I choked up reading this! You are an inspiration! I went down once in a race (sprained my ankle) and running it again 3 years later was definitely tough on the mental/emotional side, but nothing like the mountain you conquered! What a wonderful friend you have in Dave!

  7. you did it!!!! amazing job and now you can go on and keep conquering. i knew you would finish. you are a tough cookie. congrats to you and Dave.

  8. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to run that race after what you went through last year. You are the bravest woman I know and I'm so very proud of you for sticking it through and finishing what you started last year. Count Cleveland as run and done. No need to revisit it again. A change of scenery will suit you and your bad memories well. Can't wait to see you totally annihilate Columbus!!!

    As for Dave... he was def your guardian angel out there and a truly amazing friend!

  9. WOW! What a tough run, but you know what you overcame all of your mental challenges and finished!

  10. CONGRATS again! I was definitely tearing up as I read your recap. You are an amazingly strong woman to go conquer those demons. It was not just any marathon for you--it was Cleveland, it was redemption, and you did it! So proud of you!!

  11. Jodi - so proud of you! You did it! You should feel amazing now (if not sore)! Sorry for your anxiety attacks! That sounds rough! Glad you had Dave's sweaty shirt to find comfort in!

  12. And I cried after my first half bc these runs are so mentally exhausting! You went through a lot! Tears are good!

  13. I just came across your blog via Kim's, and I had to comment on this post. You are amazing and such an inspiration for conquering not only a marathon but the demons of a dnf on the same course! Wow!