Friday, September 20, 2013

The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle

Shortly after what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon, my desire to qualify for Boston (BQ) became even stronger.  I have always wanted to qualify eventually but after what happened this year, I really wanted to have the opportunity to run Boston 2014.  I reached out to my friend Joe and asked him to create me a BQ training plan. He was more than happy to do so and I was and will always be thankful that he did that for me.  Joe emailed me the training plan and I remember thinking only one word... "yikes".  This training plan was intense with lots of speed training and of course the typical long runs that go along with tackling 26.2.  Although my training didn't go completely as planned and I had to sacrifice some workouts and cut some short, I was still feeling very confident in my 3:35 finish goal.  In the weeks leading up to Erie, I was reading articles about the Boston Marathon.  I noticed that the Erie marathon would not only qualify me for Boston 2014 but also for Boston 2015.  This also meant that I would have another 5 minute cushion since I will be in a different age group for Boston 2015.  The day before the race I finally put my goals out there for the world to see (A:  3:35, B:  3:39, C:  3:59:59).

One of my running friends decided to run the 1/2 so we traveled to Erie together on Saturday afternoon.  Of course we had to make several pit stops during the drive because we were making sure to hydrate properly.  We made it to Erie and checked into our hotel.  Can you believe that some hotels still have real keys?!?

Once we were settled into our room, we headed over to Presque Isle to pick up our packets. It was a very small expo/packet pick up.  I didn't have to wait in line at all.  We did check out the small amount of vendor booths before we left to go back to our hotel.  I picked up a new 26.2 magnet for my car since one of the lovely teenagers where I work swiped mine awhile back (they also took my daughter's figure skating magnet a few weeks later).  I have no idea what they wanted with those two magnets but it is what it is.  Our friend Dave had been saying all along that he would not be making it to Erie to watch us run.  Jenn and I were both surprised as we thought he would be there.  For those of you that remember, Dave was the one that got me through my anxiety ridden marathon back in 2011.  You can read about it here.  Eventually Dave did breakdown and tell me that he had in fact reserved a hotel room in the area (no, his room didn't come with a real key) and he would actually be there to watch us run.  The funny part about all of this is that on the drive up, I didn't let on to Jenn that I knew he was planning to be there after all.  Fast forward to being back at our hotel and me truly not knowing that Dave was already in town and there's a knock at the door.  I made Jenn answer the door because I had no clue who it was.  After a round of hugs, I told Jenn that I in fact had known he would be there.  She was very impressed that I kept the secret (as was Dave).  We hung out in our hotel for a bit and then headed to the Olive Garden for some carb loading.  After dinner we headed to Wal-Mart so Jenn could grab some throw away clothes for the start line if it was cold.  Purchases made and we headed back to our hotel and chatted with Dave for a bit.  He left and went back to his hotel with a promise to return to ours in the morning to head over to the race with us. 

It seemed like I had just gotten to sleep and the 4:30 AM alarm was going off already.  I did press snooze a few times and slowly started getting ready.  Jenn got the coffee brewing while I started getting everything ready for the race.  Once I was dressed and had everything ready I had my usual breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and a cup of coffee.  Yes, I have no shame admitting I use the cup of coffee to "get things going".  Dave arrived and we were on our way to Presque Isle to park.  The parking was quite crazy and I did start to silently panic as I was afraid I would miss the marathon start.  We eventually got parked with 20 minutes to spare before go time.  Of course I needed to use the restroom again and got in line.  As the minutes quickly ticked by, I started asking the other people in line which race they were running (the 1/2 marathon started 30 minutes after the marathon) and then I shamelessly asked if I could cut them in line as I was running the marathon and it was getting dangerously close to the start of the race.  Fortunately everyone was kind enough to let me go first.  A few other marathon runners followed my lead and were granted line cuts as well.  I thanked everyone profusely as I left the restrooms.  At this point I heard the National Anthem and started to panic.  I pretty much ripped my throw away shirt off and threw it at Dave while jogging to the start.  My Garmin wasn't grabbing a satellite either which was causing me to stress a bit.  A made it to the start line with a few minutes to spare and my Garmin did in fact grab that satellite in time.  I also had time for a quick pre-race photo for Facebook.
Pre-race photo

The race started and I was feeling good.  I was happy with the pace I was at and I was enjoying myself.  Fast forward to mile 3 when I am just running along mind my own business and out of nowhere I throw up.  It was incredibly shocking to me.  I was just glad that I didn't throw up on myself or one of my fellow runners.  I basically felt fine after getting sick so I kept running along.  I saw Dave at mile 6 and I told him I had thrown up at mile 3 as I was running towards him.  He snapped a picture and I said "did you hear me?  I threw up at mile 3."  He said okay it's fine and I kept on my way.
Mile 6 and still looking happy

Everything continued to go just fine until I hit mile 10 and basically lost feeling from my hip to the top of my knee on my left side.  At this point I do believe I questioned my ability to run another 13.1 loop.  I was able to eat some gummy gels at this point which did help me a little bit.  By the time I came around the corner to finish the first loop I had no feeling on the entire left side from my shoulder down to the top of my knee.  I finished the first loop in two hours and then I actually ran over to the side of the course and just stopped.  I needed to decide what I was doing. 
Mile 13 and looking terrible

Thankfully Dave was there and he talked me through it.  I was in tears mentioning I didn't know if I could do another lap.  Dave suggested I try running to mile 19 and then making a final decision as to what to do.  I literally did a walk/run combination from miles 14-19.  I was trying everything I could think of and finally settled on a 1/3 walk run ratio.  I would walk for one minute and then run for three minutes.  I tried taking in gummy gels during this stretch and I just couldn't stomach them.  I would start to chew them and would have to spit them out.  I gave up on the gummy gels and started taking watered down Gatorade at each water stop.  As I was getting closer to mile 19 I was having serious thoughts of walking off the course.  Fortunately Dave must have known I was struggling with my decision because he had started walking towards mile 18.  Once I saw him I stopped and just started sobbing on his shoulder (hello, flashback to the 2011 Cleveland Marathon).  I told him I didn't think I could go on.  I also mentioned I couldn't stomach my gummy gels.  I was getting ready to call it quits and out of nowhere these two girls come up and ask me if I want to go with them.  They are doing a walk/run and they will get me to the finish line.  Still sobbing I agreed to go with them.  After all, I was only 7 miles from the finish line.  I know Dave and the girls were my guardian angels at that point.  If Dave hadn't walked toward mile 18 I wouldn't have stopped and the two girls wouldn't have been there.  Timing is everything.  It was a struggle those last 7 miles but I really enjoyed getting to know my new friends Becky and Julie.  It was Julie's first marathon and her longest run prior to the race had been 13.1 miles.  Becky was actually feeling good and not in pain so she was happy with that.  Becky was so great at getting us moving.  We would run from this street sign to that street sign, this orange cone to that orange cone and so on and so forth.  Eventually another girl, Lisa joined our group and did the walk/run with us.  Lisa is getting married tomorrow so she hadn't really trained properly and at mile 16 she decided she could just walk to the finish.  Of course we all did run to the finish line.  It took me 2:52 minutes to complete the second 13.1 mile loop.  In the end, it was definitely not what I wanted my race to become however, I finished what I started so I say that's a success.  Of course I have to admit that I was and still am disappointed.  My training went incredibly well and I felt ready for this race.  You just never know what race day is going to bring. 
My Erie Angels

Thankful to be done I drank some chocolate milk and then promptly sad down on the ground where every single muscle in my legs thought it would be fun to cramp into a ball.  I got back up and stretched a tiny bit and then we snapped a few photos and headed back to shower, grab a bite to eat, and head back home.  I also mentioned that I was retiring from the marathon and going back to my happy place...the 1/2 marathon.
Jenn and I after the race

Another 26.2 complete

I still have no idea why I threw up at mile 3.  Maybe I was more nervous then I thought.  I honestly didn't feel nervous before hand though.  I am almost positive the left side numbness had to do with the fact that I ran on the left side (slant) the entire race.  In fact, when I went in for my massage on Tuesday, that was pretty much confirmed.  Thankfully after my 90 minute massage I was feeling better but I seriously had tears running down my face while he was working on my IT band.  Of course by Tuesday evening I was no longer retiring from the marathon.  I am sure a lot of the race became a mental block for me after the first loop (seeing the clock reading 2 hours and feeling the way I did, I pretty much knew I wouldn't be reaching my A, B, or C goal).  Will I run another 26.2?  Yes, eventually I will.  For now I'm sticking to my favorite!  I will be running the Rock N Roll Cleveland 1/2 Marathon on October 6th and I am really looking forward to it!  Oh, and after taking this week off from running, I am ready to hit the trails again tomorrow.  Of course my running buddy for tomorrow, Kim,  has decided that we are going to do some hills.  This should be interesting.

Thanks again to everyone for their support during my latest 26.2 journey.  A special thanks to Jenn for coming to Erie with me, to Dave for driving over 4 hours to provide race support and not letting me quit, and to my guardian angels for "giving me wings to fly to the finish".

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


  1. Unfortunately, race day stuff does happen. My Miami Marathon was the same theme. I had a great training cycle and then the race suuuuucked. But, we live to fight another day and I know that BQ is there for you Jodi. I'm so proud of how far you have come since 2011 and can't wait to watch you continue on this journey. Keep your head up and know that you are stronger than this one marathon. There are many in your future and you will BQ.

  2. Marathons can be such crap shoots, as we both WELL know from Cleveland 2011. You are amazingly tough though, and should be super proud of crossing that finish line!!