Sunday, June 10, 2012

Me, My Feet and the Road

Kind of like I don't know why the old lady swallowed the fly, I don't know why I decided to do a marathon. It just kind of fell into my lap, so I went with it. A few months ago, my friend Cami needed a running partner for an early-morning ten mile run. I told her I would give it my best shot for five miles. I was so nervous the night before. I hadn't run in a long time and I had no idea if I would be able to keep up or finish the whole five miles. However, the next morning I felt great. When our friend Jen met us at mile 5, I decided to keep going. I have rarely run with other people and I was having so much fun it hardly felt like I was running at all. I surprised myself by finishing the ten miles and wanting to run more. Cami was training for the Utah Valley Marathon and I went with her on several morning runs before she said, "Look, you are already on pace to train for this marathon. Why don't you just do it?" The race was sold out, but my good friend Alicia was registered for it and was injured, so in a crazy moment, I bought her entry. And the rest is history!!!

Three weeks before the marathon we did our 20-miler. I felt really good, but my knees were bothering me. I must have been running differently to compensate, because later the top of my right foot began to hurt. My knees were fine, but my foot got worse and worse. I finally got it x-rayed and it didn't show a stress fracture, but the doctor told me not to run until the marathon unless it felt completely better. So I didn't. I ran a few miles here and there, but as soon as it started bothering me I would stop (doctor's orders!). It's funny how up to this point I had been so nervous and panicked about running the marathon, but as soon as I thought I might actually not be able to do it, I was determined to run it and not let anything stop me. My biggest fear was that after all the training and work I wouldn't be able to run the race. And I wanted to run it more than anything.

On Friday night at 10 pm I found myself setting my alarm clock for 2:30 am and it hit me that I really am crazy. But there was no turning back. At 3 am, I hopped in the car with Cami and we headed to Provo. It was so strange to be getting on a bus in the middle of the night and heading up the canyon. It didn't seem real. The hardest part was huddling over a fire, waiting for over an hour for the race to begin. Finally, finally at 6 am, just as the sun began to rise over the mountain, the horn sounded and we were off! 

It was a beautiful morning, windy but not too cold. The race course is mostly downhill, which is great... unless you have knee problems. At about mile 6, I realized I was in trouble. My knees started hurting, and then my foot joined in. I started going slower and slower, and finally told Cami to please go ahead of me. I know she had a really hard time leaving me behind, but I knew I had to take this one mile at a time and go at my own pace. There was never a question in my mind if I would finish or not, it was just a matter of enduring through the pain. Some people said the race had more uphill than they expected and it was harder than they thought it would be. To me, uphill was relief. It felt so good to be using different muscles and I felt great passing all those walkers. Then the downhill would hit. 

It was a really interesting experience running the race by myself. I hadn't expected it at all, and I thought it would be hard. I love running with Cami and we have so much fun together. I didn't think it was possible for me to get through it without her. But once I was there, and it was just me, my feet and the road, I kind of felt like it was meant to be that way. She got me that far, and then I did it on my own. I loved every minute of it. 

That sounds strange. I was in so much pain, but I never once thought of quitting, or even wanted to quit in the slightest. A few times ambulances went by with their sirens on. Other runners around me would joke about wishing they would stop and get them. I couldn't believe my ears. I wanted to say, "How dare you want to end this! This is our race! We are doing this!" Every step, every breath felt like a gift. As each mile passed, I would think, "Oh, no, only thirteen miles now. Only ten miles now. Only five..." and so on. 

At each water station I would walk for a few steps and take a cup of Powerade and then water, then take a deep breath and keep running. It was slow going, but I never gave in and walked. At mile 23 I had the best pick-me-up I could ask for. My friend Karla, her little boy Anthony, and Alicia were standing at the sideline, holding balloons, cheering and waving. I was so happy to see them! I kissed Anthony on the top of his head. He's probably still in shock. 

Alicia hopped right out on the road and ran with me for the next three, the hardest three miles. It was amazing to realize how much I needed her right then! For the first time in the race, exhaustion hit. My knees and feet seemed to go numb and I was so tired. My legs were heavy. I didn't know if I could pick up my feet one more time. But she talked me through it. She ran beside me, encouraged me, told me how proud she was, and I know she meant it. It was like she carried me to the end of the course. With just .2 miles left, she hopped back to the sideline and let me finish.

I know it was so hard for Alicia to not be running the race herself. She is an amazing runner and has been an inspiration to me ever since I met her. I'm so humbled that she would make the effort to be there for me and help me through it. When I bought her entry she was so excited for me. She told me, "Your first marathon is a life-changing experience." I didn't really understand what she meant until yesterday. 

Just being there, just doing something that I never thought was possible, was powerful in a way I can't describe. I thought about life, about the obstacles I face and the people who support me. I thought about how when it comes right down to it, it is just me. Me, my feet and the road. Me, my determination and my path in life. Life is what I make of it. No matter what comes my way, I decide what I will do with it. What if I really can do anything? What do I really want in life? It is a very humbling thought.

As I approached the finisher's chute, I saw my family standing by the side of the road. They were cheering, taking pictures and going crazy. It was one of the best sights I have ever seen. My mom and dad, my brother Aaron, my brother Ryan and his kids, my sister Alison and her kids, and of course, Jason, Dallin, Luke, Abby and Jake. I don't know if I've ever felt so much love in my life. I know they had waited out there for a very long time and made great sacrifices to be there for me. For me. Me and my crazy idea to run a marathon. 

I was very emotional as I entered the runner's chute and crossed the finish line. Cami was waiting for me and  gave me a huge hug and held me up as I tried to process the fact that I had actually done it. I had finished a marathon and made one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire life. I never would have done it without her.

I wish I had more pictures of the people who were there to support me. I didn't get any pictures with Cami, Alicia or Karla, but I am so thankful for their support. I am also very grateful to my sister Kristen who ran the Boston Marathon this year and encouraged me through texts for much of the race. I would send her the mile number I was running past and I know she was living the race right along with me. I received so many good luck calls and messages before the race. My mother-in-law brought me a huge basket of pre-race goodies and pampering items a few nights before the race and it meant so much to me. Jason and my kids supported me from the first minute to the last. I know there were many prayers on my behalf as well. I am humbled by all the wonderful people in my life. I truly have the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for.
A few of my little spectators.
Final stretch!
My cheering section. Oh, how I love them all!
I did it, I did it, I really did it!!!

My Epic Post-Marathon Meal

I guess it says something about me that I get almost as excited about the food I get to eat after the marathon as I am about the marathon itself. Yesterday I finished the race at around 11 am, and try as I might, I could not stomach any food until 8 pm. This is a big disappointment, people! I grabbed a Creamie Popsicle and a carton of chocolate milk in the finisher's box (or whatever they call it), and immediately regretted it. Way too sick. Too sick to eat at Rumbi with my family on the way home. Too sick to even enjoy the famous Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies my friend Sierra brought over after the race. Then at about 7:30 pm, I was lying in my bed, writhing around, and I realized I didn't need to writhe anymore. In fact, I actually felt... hungry! Yes!!! All my hard work had finally paid off. But then a strange thing happened. I realized that for perhaps the first time in my entire life, I wasn't in the mood for anything sweet. Huh? Who is this person, I wondered, who finishes marathons and suddenly doesn't have the urge to bury her hand in a bag of chocolate chips? I went into the kitchen to find out. All my favorite healthy foods beckoned to me and I had to snap a picture before I dove into what was one of the best-tasting meals of my life. I decided to share this meal with you in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
I realize this isn't the most attractive picture, but trust me, it was astounding.
Item #1: My Famous Quinoa
If you are not familiar with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), you should be. It is one of the healthiest foods of all time, and is delicious. It is actually a seed, not a grain, and is a complete protein, rich in fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron. I just learned that on Wikipedia. I buy it at Costco in a beautiful green bag, near its inferior cousin, rice.

To prepare, combine the following ingredients in a medium saucepan:
* 2 cups water
* 1 cup rinsed quinoa (just throw it in a fine-meshed strainer and run some water over it)
* 1-2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules (you can also substitute a can of chicken broth for some of the water)
* Some chopped onion. I use frozen.
* 1 can of beans, rinsed. I usually use black beans, but today I used kidney beans and they were fabulous.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes or so. The liquid will be absorbed when it is done.

Item #2: Salmon Patty
If you are turned off by the term "salmon patty", I don't blame you. What is appealing about a fish patty? Well, obviously you have never tried the salmon burgers from Costco. Tsk, tsk. They are breath-taking. Every member of my family, from Jason down to Jake, can devour these in a matter of seconds. When I was eating my Perfect Meal, I had to defend my precious salmon patty from the legion of vultures, also known as my children, who suddenly appeared despite the fact that Jason had fixed each of them their own salmon patty merely an hour before.

To prepare the precious patty, just heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Throw on a frozen patty and sprinkle with dried dill and garlic salt. Flip over after a few minutes. You want each side nice and blackened, but not too blackened. You will know in your heart when it is done.

Item #3: Green Salad with BYU Ranch
Let me be clear: I am not a huge fan of Ranch dressing. I AM a huge fan of Ranch dressing from the BYU creamery. It is smooth and creamy and not bitter in the least. It is also light, clocking in at only 50 calories per two tablespoon serving, which is a large enough serving to swim in, which you might want to do, and all my kids love salad because of it. The next time you are in Provo, swing by ye ole Creamery and grab a few gallons. You will thank me, I promise. My salad this night consisted of a handful of greens from my trusty Costco, some sunflower seeds, feta cheese, and a few croutons because I can't be afraid of carbs on a day I run a marathon. Also some dried cranberries for color, but they still didn't improve the picture. But I don't care. It was perfect. I also used the Ranch as a dip for the salmon, and let's be honest, the quinoa.

Item #4: Dessert
By the time I had polished off my meal and licked the platter clean, I was feeling more like myself and was finally in the mood for a little something sweet, so of course I reached for... The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. It is called the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie for a reason. Not gonna lie.
I had to make the decision of which to take first: a picture or a bite. Need I say more? I like how the cookie seems to be yawning, or perhaps singing. Probably to me, saying, "Good job on your marathon, Anne Marie! You deserve me and my five brothers whenever your little heart desires." Amen, brother, amen.