Towards the end of this race and immediately after I finished, I had already begun drafting the words I would use to describe the experience. But as I pulled into my driveway the only thought I could hear in my head was, “Did that just happen? Did I just do that?” Then my thoughts quickly shifted to calling my mom. I figured she deserved a full explanation after all the panicked early morning calls, laced with tears.
After telling my mother every detail of the race, I had purged my post race excitement, and just wanted to eat and rest. To relive everything was draining and exciting all at the same time. In recapping to my mom, I started crying at the parts where I told her I started crying! So yea, I’m starting this off with a food pic to lighten the mood – after all this is a food and fitness blog! Below is my post race meal. It. Was. Amazing. Thank you Pomegranate Cafe for ALWAYS being there post race! Pizza, soup and a cookie – amazing and vegan!
Ok, so WHAT happened exactly? I will break this down into two lists, things that didn’t happen on race day and things that DID. After the lists, I will go into more detail. But I do appreciate those who like the cliff notes…
I’ll start with what DIDN’T happen.
1) The alarm on my iPhone DIDN’T go off at 3:15 a.m.
I use an app called Sleep Cycle, which has worked flawlessly for 124 sleeps!!!! But for some reason, it decided to take a poop and fail RACE night. If you look closely at the graph below, or the “In Bed” section, you can see I started waking up at 6:00 a.m. gradually, until I finally woke up at 6:33 a.m. The race start time was 6:30 a.m.
Here is what an average night sleep SHOULD look like in this app.
Now, all the things that DID happen.
1) I completely freaked out.
2) I cried so hard I almost hyperventilated.
3) I started sweating profusely.
4) My heart started racing.
5) I checked my phone in a panic numerous times, looking for clues on HOW this happened.
6) I looked outside to see a smidgen of daylight peaking through the rain clouds.
7) I checked other clocks in the house hoping it was some simultaneous, voodoo glitch with the sun and my phone.
8) I paced back and forth in my bedroom crying, and repeating “This can’t be happening! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!!”
9) I freaked my dog Rocco out – that was a rude awakening he wasn’t expecting.
10) I called Mr. Zucchini Runner in an outright panic. (more to come later on why he wasn’t home)
11) I called my mom in a similar panic.
12) Eventually got a grip and decided to run the “race” anyway.
13) I took a cab to the race start and arrived 1 hour and 45 minutes after the 6:30 start time.
14) I ran the race alone, without race support until mile 13.
15) I finished the race in 4 hours and 7 minutes – by far not my best time – but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
16) I cried uncontrollably once I crossed the finish line and had that medal around my neck.
Now, for those of you who like the nitty gritty. First, I want to share that my photos are limited – particularly race photos – since my personal photographer and race support guy, Mr. ZR wasn’t around to snag any epic pics. I have SOME photos, but unfortunately none of them are until AFTER the race, since I was in a mad scramble to get out the door. The thought DID cross my mind to take a few pics every now and then, which quickly turned to, “NO TIME”. (Plus, my phone was in a plastic snack baggie to protect it from the rain. Yes, Phoenix hasn’t seen rain in 72 days and of all sudden Mother Nature wants to open up the heavens on race day. We needed it though, so I wasn’t about to complain.)
I think you already have a PRETTY good idea of just how panicked I was when I realized I really DID oversleep. But how exactly did I decide to still run? And why wasn’t Mr. Zucchini Runner around? Why did I have to take a cab to the race start? Was my final race time official? Great questions.
How did I make the decision to still run?
In a panic I looked at all my stuff laid out for the race, all the prep I had done the night before – and it was a reflection of ALL the build up I had for this marathon. I should mention that I registered for this race almost exactly one year ago. After I completed the 2013 race, I signed up nearly 3 days later. Partly for the discount and partly from my still lingering race high I’m sure. Hey, it was a GREAT race! With a huge PR (personal record)! So for a year, I’ve been telling myself, “this is probably your last marathon.”
Secondly, until a week ago, I wasn’t even sure I was still DOING the full!! I had barely trained, my plantar fasciitis in my left foot was becoming almost unbearable and I just wasn’t sure it was the smart thing to do. My focus lately has been on P90X3 and cross training — and I’m really loving the “break” from running – it’s been a nice change of pace. One night while talking this over with Mr. Zucchini Runner, I told him this race would most likely be my last full marathon. He was surprised by this, apparently I hadn’t told anyone else yet. (My crazy brain, things get stuck up there sometimes.) So part of my driving force to stick with this, was solely for that reason – it was to be my last. He said, “I think that’s a great reason, and great motivation too. You can just push yourself at the end saying ‘this is my last one’”. I really liked that idea, so I ran with it. After so much hemming and hawing since December, I was relieved to finally have a decision. And once my mind is made up about something, I STICK to it. This is probably why it takes me so long to decide on things. :-/
In my mind it was not even an option to have the story of my last marathon be, “Yeahhhhhhhh I slept in. My alarm didn’t go off. So I didn’t do it.” I mean, seriously. No, not an option.
So, back to race morning. My mind raced from, “Maybe I’ll just run 26.2 miles on my own, in my own town”, to “Maybe I’ll just start at mile 13 and then not cross the finishing mat. At least I’ll experience SOME of it and see my friends”, to “Maybe there is a way I can just do the whole thing still.” The only technicality that could really, truly prevent me from doing that third option, was the course time limit. I immediately looked it up online… 6 hours. I knew there would be no way for the race directors to have an official start time (or location for that matter) of my race. But I wasn’t concerned with an official time, or placing, or a PR, I just wanted to prove to myself — quite honestly — that I could still bust out 26.2 miles with minimal training. I wanted to prove to myself that I was mentally strong enough to do it, despite having one of the most mentally taxing past 6 months of my adult life. The only thing I truly required from the race, was the medal. Was the PROOF that I did all 26.2 miles. In order to do that, I just needed to get to the start and complete it within the 6 hour limit.
Lastly, as I was frantically getting ready and making sure I didn’t forget a step in my pre race routine, I kept thinking, “Man, I must really want to do this race more than I thought!” Which was just further fuel to my fire; I had to find a way to make it work… even if it did seem crazy to most.
Why wasn’t Mr. ZR around?
Mr. Zucchini Runner was out of town for a friend’s documentary film debut at the True False Film Festival. There was NO way he was going to miss it, and I’m so thankful he was able to attend. We are so proud of our friend for all his hard work and dedication to film making; it’s an amazing documentary called Life After Death.
Why couldn’t you just drive to the race start?
For those readers who are not race savvy, this course was not an out and back or a loop, it was a drop off race – which means the start is in one location and the finish is in another. I created a map to really give you a sense of how far away the two were.
So I needed to drive myself to the race finish/parking area so I had my car waiting for me at the end of the race. The last thing you want to be doing at the end of a marathon is trying to find a way back to your car or a ride home. You typically can barely walk, you’re tired, hungry and in this case I feared I would be wet from all the predicted rain. So, operation ‘get car to the parking area’ was not a problem, the HUGE problem was getting from the parking to the start.
HAD I WOKE UP ON TIME, I would have had the luxury of taking one of many school busses with all the other runners to the race start. In my case, I decided calling a cab would be the most efficient. Now the NEW problem was, where do I tell them to pick me up?? The race finishing area was in a big shopping plaza, and the driver needed a specific location to meet me. I had NO idea what was blocked off or open to the public to park. The dispatch woman’s name was Teresa, and she was the sweetest lady! (It might have had something to do with the fact that I started getting choked up as I was telling her WHY I couldn’t tell her exactly where I needed the cab to go.) But in the end, we discussed my estimated time of arrival to the area and that the driver would call me when he was there and then we could work out a meeting spot. When I was on the phone with Teresa, I was already en route to the shopping center.
In the end, I got a SWEET parking spot and the driver, Clay, was able to find me within a couple minutes of me parking. It worked out GREAT!
At this point, you MAY be asking yourself why I didn’t just drive to the start to save time (and money) and find a ride back up to my car after the race. Well, there is the reason I already stated – but the second and biggest reason is because there really wasn’t anywhere to park. The staging area was in a local gun range, which has a dirt parking lot. I wasn’t sure I would even be allowed to park up there. The race instructions prior to race day are very explicit that NO PARKING is availalbe at the race start. So, I didn’t want to risk getting all the way there and not being able to park in their tiny lot.
Had I actually done this correctly, I would have been hanging out with all my race friends in the “Race Waiting Area” for about an hour before the race officially started. Once it comes close to race start time, they sing the national anthem and shoot off a few fireworks high in the sky. Then, they have bag pipers lead you down to the race start on Usery Pass Rd. It’s really a fun experience, and different than any other race I’ve ever done. Just another reason for all the tears…
So once I got in the car with Clay, the cool cab driver, he started to talk about how he used to go to a friend who was a chiropractor. He said his name, but I don’t remember it now. Anyway, the chiro was very big on energy and talked about how energy in the body goes to where it’s needed most – like an injury for example. And if you don’t get the energy distributed evenly, other parts of the body suffer. I might be remembering it incorrectly, as I was still in panic mode – but I just remember thinking, “I can use that in the race when my foot starts to hurt!” It was meant to be that Clay was my cab driver. He talked about a lot of holistic healing too – which if you follow this blog, Facebook or Instagram, you know I’m currently taking classes to become a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach. It was the good energy I needed before this crazy feat.
He also handed me his business card and said he was working on a logo – to which I of course told him I was a graphic designer. haha
How was it running a “race” without any competition or race support?
By the time Clay dropped me off, it was 8:15 a.m. That meant I had approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete the race. My personal record was 3 hours and 48 minutes from last year, on this same course. But at this stage in the game, I was hoping I’d come in at 4 hours. There was no time (or place) to stretch. Not a soul was in site as I had him drop me off right at Microwave Tower and Usery Pass Roads, it was like I was doing a training run… only the sun wasn’t shining and there was a light drizzle.
As I started down Usery Pass Rd., I was running at a much faster pace than I wanted to be. I had this urgency inside me that I needed to catch up to the last runners in the race. At this point I called Mr. Zucchini Runner using my awesome iPhone headphones, which makes it super easy to make a call using just the button on the headphones. (If you aren’t familiar with these features, here’s a great link. Thank goodness I watched this video a week ago!) I didn’t even need to take my phone out of my spi belt. Just press and hold, wait for the tone and say, “Call Danny”. It was a LIFE SAVER during this race and I’m SO glad I decided to bring them. Soon after we hung up, it started to rain, really, really, hard and for a second I thought it was even hail. I had the quick realization that I very well could be an idiot for running this course alone. Everything had happened so fast, it was almost like my actions were moving faster than my brain.
But, no time for that thought now Corine — YOU ARE IN IT. Luckily, the rain only lasted a couple minutes.
As I turned onto McDowell Rd., the first turn, I heard 3 text messages come in. I had a moment of realization that people could be starting to worry about me, since I wasn’t going to be on the course when and where I told them I would be. I only had a couple people tell me they would be cheering me on, and I had already told one of them I overslept. I decided I better nip the other in the bud, and not have anyone worry or be waiting in the rain. I used my handy headphones again to call a friend, so she could pass along the message.
Then I saw the guys collecting the cones used to mark the race course… and I started to panic. At least with the cones up people were slightly more alert that something was going on. I had no sidewalk to run on, and at one point I was running in the dirt and rocks on the side of the road. With this rush of panic, quickly came another… I don’t know this course by heart… where do I turn if there are no cones or race markers!?! On the phone again, I called Mr. Zucchini Runner and had him text me a list of all the turns – there were a LOT.
Thankfully, once I reached the second turn onto Ridgecrest there was still a directional sign up. PHEW!
Any runner reading this will totally get my next sigh of relief – a port-o-potty — still on the course — thank GOODNESS. Since I just started the race straight from the seat of the cab, I didn’t have any pre race potty break! It was almost 5 miles in and there were still restrooms! WIN for CORINE! That’s all the support I need!!! haha
The night before I packed 2 different, tiny bags with 30 Energy Bits each, along with two pitted dates, which I had salted in the center with pink Himalayan salt. I was also carrying my 10 oz. handheld water bottle. I was hoping to supplement my fuel and water with the course support… when I saw that nothing was set up anymore, and the cones were even being removed, I needed a new plan.
So far I had informed my mom, Mr. Zucchini Runner, and spectators of my late start… now it was time to let my running friends know. Oi. How embarrassing. I called both Jeff and Dana, two people who ran in the half (or at least I thought Jeff did – then on the phone he informed me his hamstring injury totally sidelined him – TOTAL BUMMER). Both were super nice and supportive and couldn’t believe I was still going to run the course. It felt so good to know that even though I was physically running alone, I wasn’t alone at all. Runner friends are the best.
Dana was still at the finish area, and miraculously standing right by a race coordinator. I wanted to be sure SOMEONE in charge of the race knew I was out there. My reasoning was mainly for safety, and for their final headcount. They had no record of me starting, so I wanted to be sure if I something happened, people would come looking after a while! He got on the phone and I talked to him briefly, he said to absolutely keep running, but that there most likely wouldn’t be race support for me along the way. I gave him my bib number and he said he would let everyone know. At this point I was at mile 7.5, I had 5 oz. left in my 10 oz. handheld water bottle. Dana got back on the phone and offered to meet me somewhere on the course with water. We hung up and a quarter mile later I saw a Walgreens. I hesitated slightly, then decided to run inside. I bought a bottle of Dasani water with my debit card and continued on my race. I now had 25 oz. of water and left Dana a voicemail so she knew.
Running with a full, somewhat heavy and awkward bottle of water was annoying. I was at mile 8 when I decided to call my sister who’s in the Navy. My thought process was this: if the military can run and train with heavy guns, I can most certainly run with a water bottle!!! She didn’t even know I was racing today, because again, I had decided very last minute to actually DO it. Our 6 minute chat was exactly what I needed for that extra boost – and of course – there were some tears. Right after we hung up, I decided I should eat my first salted date, which proved to be hard as I didn’t have a free hand. I had to stop, put both bottles on the ground, open the foil pouch, chomp on it enough, chase it with some water and regroup. A guy walking his dog gave me a friendly wave. Which reminds me, as I was on the phone with my sister, I came upon more cone collectors. One of them said, “You’re first!” I laughed and said, “UGH! I overslept!” Then the driver said, “Hey, you know what they say… save the best for last!” It was a nice pick me up.
As I turned south on Recker Rd., I now realized I had stoplights to deal with… ironically enough… I hit everyone of them green. Once I turned onto McDowell Rd. I decided it was time to take the first baggie of Energy Bits. It was easier to take these than the date, ironically – but I still stopped and walked for a bit to do so. About a half mile later, I got a call from Dana saying she was still going to meet me at the halfway point, even though I had enough water… I’m so glad she did!
How was the second half?
Dana was waiting for me with some extra food, and helped me transfer some water from the big bottle to the little one. I stopped for about 3 minutes to chat with her, ate about 3/4 of a banana and took a mini peanut butter Clif bar for later. I asked her if I was crazy for doing this and without hesitation she said, “Yes. Do you need a ride home?” haha I very quickly said, “Nope. I’m doing this.”
I started back on the course and noticed up ahead the blow up archway for the half marathon start was still UP! Yay! Signs of a race! There were even some people in a truck loading a few things up. They all smiled and kinda looked at me perplexed. Then one of the older guys said, “Did you get a late start?” He figured it out. Phew!
As I turned south onto Val Vista Dr., I asked the police officer on the corner if I was going the right way (the directional sign was partially taken down, and was not correct, it was pointing the way I was coming from). He said, “Yep! Did you get a late start?” I of course replied and then he continued to say, “You are about a mile behind the last runners.”
WHAT?! SERIOUSLY?! Woo HOO! That was music to my ears.
Up ahead I could see a medical tent too! WITH PEOPLE AT IT! Course support?! Really?! There was also clothing all over the course, shed from the half marathon runners who also started at 6:30. It was a sign of life. Sign that a race WAS still going on, and I got a little teary eyed. Shocking, I know. As I passed the medical tent (they were packing up), a guy popped out of a car, came over to me and started running beside me. He said, “I’m just going to run and talk, keep going… I’m the race director. You are more than welcome to keep running – we want you to keep running – but there may not be support out on the course. You are about to catch the last runners. We will have that finishing arch up for you at the end though. Are you feeling good? You are looking good!” I said, “Yep! Thanks so much!” And he stopped running and went back to his car. I was relieved and confused all at the same time, because I knew there was no support for the past 15 miles – besides Walgreens and Dana – and now there were actual signs of life and a race, I thought for sure there would be support ahead!
I just focused on the police lights I could see ahead, knowing they signaled other runners. He turned a corner, and I couldn’t see them anymore… then eventually I turned the corner and there they all were, about 100 yards in front of me! I saw 3 runners/walkers and wouldn’t ya know it? I started to cry again. At that same point, the race director drove past in their car and he leaned out the window and yelled more encouragement. Something to the effect of, ‘Not many people would do this. This is hard to do. Great job. Go catch them!’
As I passed the other runners, I gave them the thumbs up and said, “Great job.” I was still warm in my bed for the first 3 minutes of their race – they had a harder go of it if you ask me. At this point my hips started to stiffen up and my lack of training was starting to rear its ugly head. Then, something magical – an aid station – with cheering volunteers, gatorade and water. More tears… as I gulped my Gatorade and ran on, I looked back and said to them all, “I started 2 hours late, you are the first people I’ve seen all race!” And they all went, “Awwwww”. It was sweet. They were all young girls who reminded me of my nieces. At this point I decided to turn on my music and ditch the large water bottle finally - 9 miles of that was enough.
The first song on my playlist was this:
“Feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart, I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start. They tell me I’m too young to understand, they say I’m caught up in a dream, life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes, well that’s fine by me. So wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older, all this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost.”
I’ve heard this song on the radio a lot, and I thought it was a cool song, but I never really listened to the lyrics until about a week ago. So I bought the song and added it to my playlist. To me, it 100% signifies my journey I’ve had since college. I was never one of those people who knew what they wanted to be when they “grew up”, so I chose my major based on what I was good at and what came easy. Art I could get paid for = graphic design. I was never really passionate about it though. I’ve made it a career since college and I’ve done all the standard and respected routes – college degree, full time job in that degree. It made me happy for a time, but then I realized it wasn’t my passion. But I didn’t know what my passion WAS, until recently. But that whole story is for another day. I just wanted to give some background on that one, since it holds such a deep meaning for me.
Instead of crying when this song came on, I felt empowered and strong. The lyrics seemed to apply to my race day experience too, I had no idea what was going to happen in the end, I just know I was guided by my desire to DO it. Some people might think I’m crazy or somewhat dumb for still completing it, and I’m ok with that. It kind of led to a spiritual enlightenment for the rest of the race as well… more on THAT later too.
As I was approaching the next intersection (which now were all blinking red and had officers directing traffic) I saw a girl with an umbrella standing on the corner, also trying to direct cars to turn into the NON race lane. I thought, ‘that looks like Heather…’ I looked up and saw “Gilbert” on the street sign and knew it was her! I turned down my music, ran into her and hugged her – starting crying again – and then she yelled, “Get out there! Don’t worry about the race! Just run it!” And I was off, crying – truly crying, not just teary eyes and running… and a woman about my mom’s age yelled out her car window, “Good job honey!” At this point I told myself, “I got this. No matter what, I’m finishing this race.” Foot pain, hip pain, whatever, I was finishing.
Then I ran for what felt like forever, until I reached the aid station at mile 21. The first volunteer I saw had sectioned bananas in one hand, and sliced oranges in the other. HEAVEN. Up to this point, I had consumed my 1 date with pink himalayan salt, 60 Energy Bits and 3/4 of a banana so I was excited for more real food! I was really starting to feel sore at this point, and my right calf was starting to cramp up, but I just thought of what Clay told me in the cab ride to the start. I focused on channeling the pain in the calf to my entire body so the energy was distributed evenly, allowing me to continue running. I also thought of this expression, which I’ve seen time and time again.
So, I just kept clipping along, telling myself I was almost there… and then my playlist hit a section of songs that were motivating and emotional for me. They really helped to keep me going!
“Don’t get too close, it’s dark inside, it’s where my demons hide. They say it’s what you make, I say it’s up to fate, it’s woven in my soul, I need to let you go, your eyes they shine so bright, I wanna save that light, I can’t escape this now, unless you show me how.”
Something about these lyrics hit me this time around. Without going into deep and personal history, I’ve had some things I’ve been hanging onto for well over a decade – I’ve been holding them over my own head – and for some reason those lyrics just helped me to let go of it all. It’s hard to put an experience like that into words, so I’m not going to try to explain it any further.
Then the next song came on and it always reminds me of redemption or achievement. I remembered back to the first time Mr. ZR and I heard it… we were driving back from a run I did at South Mountain, and we both started waving our arms and singing the chorus to it. It made me happy. “I’m on the top of the world hey! Been waiting on this for a while now, paying my dues to the dirt, I’ve been waiting to smile hey! Been holding it in for a while hey! Take you with me if I can, been dreaming of this since a child… I’m on top of the world!”
Still fighting off the cramp in my calf, but almost conquering it, Babel by Mumford & Sons came on. Imagine Dragons and Mumford are definitely my two favorite bands right now. “…you’ll build your walls and I will play my bloody part, to tear them down. Cause I know my weakness, know my voice and I’ll believe in grace and choice. And I know perhaps my heart is fast, but I’ll be born without a mask. Woo!”
At this point I had passed mile 22, so I had four miles to go! ONLY. FOUR. MILES.
Whispers In the Dark came on… “You hold your truth so purely, well swerve not through the minds of men, this lie is dead. This cup of yours tastes holy, but a brush with the devil can clear your mind… and strengthen your spine. Fingers tap into what you were once, and I’m worried that I blew my only chance!”
At aid station 23 I grabbed more Gatorade to help with the cramping and walked a bit. When I started up running again, I had pain from my buttocks to my toes – just everywhere. The bottom’s of my feet hurt, I swear my shoes felt swollen with moisture — or was it that my feet were swollen from so much running — I couldn’t tell anymore!
And the will to keep pushing was dwindling.
Between the right calf cramping, my plantar fascia pain (which had gone numb) on the left and a new pain on the top of my right foot I didn’t want to injure myself. After a few more bouts of walking and running, I made it to mile 24, and decided to call for reinforcements. So I called my rock, Mr. Zucchini Runner.
I was speed walking and we talked for 15 minutes!!!! It didn’t seem like it at the time, but I checked my phone log. Which, by the way, this is interesting… check out my phone log. This run truly wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all these people. Thank you. To each and every one of you. You all played a part in helping me get to the finish.
I also explained to Mr. ZR how I was 4 minutes away from my previous PR time and still had 1.5 miles to go. I was never in this race for a PR, even when I wasn’t running 2 hours late. It was a nice regroup to get the last mile done quickly. When I reached 25 miles, we hung up and I started running again. This time it wasn’t as painful. As I turned onto Bass Pro Drive, nearing the finish line, the race director showed up again. He got out of his car and ran over to me to congratulate me and let me know again, that what I just did was really hard. I gave him a side hug and thanked him and then kept pushing to that finish line.
As I entered the finishing chute I heard the announcer say, “Corine Green the Machine!” haha
My last steps of the race, crossing the finishing mats seemed to trigger a HUGE clap of thunder from the sky. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in a higher power – and that’s about as far as it goes – some may call it agnostic theism. Out there on that course when it got really rough, and I had that good talk with myself about spirituality and forgiving myself… well, that thunder clap was kind of my sign that it wasn’t all in my head. That a greater presence was out there with me and that it was time to let go.
So much had really gone in my favor today, despite the one horrible thing that set it all in motion. Which is very serendipitous! My final time was a little off what I hoped, but I was totally ok with it. I got to talk to the love of my life while IN the midst of a marathon and I’ve never had that before. I got to experience the kindness of great friends, an awesome race director, cab driver and cab dispatch. And in the end, I got to relive the entire experience over the phone with my mom, something she doesn’t typically get to hear cause I’m not usually all alone after a marathon. I learned so much yesterday… the most important being that it’s ok to let go. I’m entitled to true forgiveness, just like anyone else.
I got my medal.
I took my finishers picture, but this will have to do for now… #5 in the books. Seems like a good odd number to stop on.