Well, here’s the race report that I promised to you. First the bad news: I did not hit my goal of breaking 5 hours which I really wanted to do. The good news was that I was very close—11 minutes off. I was on track to accomplish that goal throughout most of the marathon, even though it didn’t “feel like it.”
What happened? Well, let’s start at the beginning… This has been a particularly difficult two years for me. My mom passed away 1 year ago (1-year anniversary was 4 days before the marathon). So I was running this on the one-year anniversary of her death. So it was a bit of a difficult time for me—really the past two years were very difficult! It was a time of healing for our whole family. Running a marathon was a good thing to do to help achieve that healing.
Training! I started the big marathon training in September after my cycling trip to Italy. I had been doing some good mileage through out the summer with my two training partners Evette and Christine from Sanibel, FL, getting up to 15 and 16 milers.
So I was prepared to keep the rhythm going. The fall was the perfect time for me to train. The weather was cooler, making the runs much more doable. We made a few trips to Black Earth, WI to train on the hills.
I hooked up with some great running partners to keep me company. Giulia, my main running partner here in Oak Park, really helped me look past my feeling of being stuck on 12 min/mile running. I ran faster with her than I had ever run. Our 10 mile loops out at the Water Fall Glen trail were some of the fastest I had ever done—1:46. Unheard of for me!
In December, things started getting tougher. After a very busy Thanksgiving weekend—hosting the dinner, putting up Christmas decorations, having house guests for a few months, buying gifts, preparing for the marathon got a little more challenging. As the weather got colder and darker, it did get a little tougher, even though I love the cold weather. My friend Giulia was faithful in getting out there in the snow and cold at 5:30AM! What a gal! She even did a lot of the long runs with me on the weekends. She wasn’t even training for a marathon!
Injuries! One morning, I tripped on the sidewalk in the dark and went flying across the pavement and jammed my right elbow, knee, and hip. I thought I was fine after a few days of limping. However, I think that the cold numbed me. A few days later my back went out. I mean, it was back pain like I never had before. So my husband-physician did Prolotherapy – twice over one week. My friend Peter who is studying to become a D.O. did some deep tissue work. I also used infrared heat on the area. I was down (and I mean down) for about a week. Wednesday my training buddy Christine from FL called and cheered me up. After that call, I got up and decided it was mind over matter. I got on the elliptical trainer the next day and did 30 minutes. It was hard and I felt terrible, but I did it. The next morning I ran for 30 minutes on the treadmill. That hurt too!
Saturday my friend (Christine) had scheduled a visit up here from FL for us to run our 2nd 20 miler together. She was coming up with her son and they were going to see Chicago and we were going to have a lot of fun together. We would also be celebrating Hanukkah that weekend with my husband’s family which was also hosted at our house. I couldn’t believe that I had this bad back injury. It was going to ruin this whole weekend! UGH. I was crying to my coach. I just couldn’t believe it. He told me that we would make it through all of this and not to worry. He said we had plenty of time.
Well, my friends arrived on Friday night. That morning, as you read about in one of my other articles, it was frigid freezing cold out (about 14 degrees F) and we had just gotten about 8 or 10 inches of snow. So we decided to do 5-mile loops and stop at the house each loop to unfreeze our Gatorade. This way if the back pain was too bad, I would be able to stop. I ran half of it wearing a pair of Core shorts. My back hurt a lot, but I was determined to get this run done. We did the whole thing! So that was amazing! Prolotherapy really worked! At this point, I had hope that I would still be able to run the marathon.
Just when I thought I was recovering from this issue, two weeks later I developed that very bad cold that everyone was getting. I did my 22 miler on December 23, the day before the holidays got underway. I didn’t feel too good because my nose started running profusely. I had to do that run alone, so that made it even harder. But Coach Pete stated that it would make me stronger – and that it did! Well, that cold turned into a doozie, lasting a week and half. I was coughing so hard one day that I threw out my neck. Yet another obstacle to face! My chiropractor was out of town that weekend – so I had to find an emergency clinic – which I did. Dr. J really helped get me back to being able to move without pain. That took yet another week. I don’t know – I was starting to feel jinxed during the month of December. Only two weeks before the marathon! I was getting worried! December is also very busy at the office because of the year-end activities of the business. So in hindsight, it probably was not a good time to choose to do a marathon. But, my wonderful coach Pete (www.milehighmultisport.com) tried to keep encouraging me that it was still doable and not to get down.
The Marathon! So I went into the marathon with a very positive outlook. I put in the training. I did the long runs. I missed a few workouts during the last few weeks, but I thought I was still going to be ready. I would be running with my two buddies and my best buddy, my husband. So I was not as nervous as I usually get upon arrival to the race.
Our travels didn’t start out well. We didn’t get to our condo until 3AM on Friday morning. So we had a hard time getting to sleep that night, as well as the night before the race. Hum, was it that jinx thing again?
Well 16,000 runners showed up for this race through Disney. When I woke up to that hazy humidity fog, I knew it was going to be a very challenging day for me. Take a look at the pictures race morning! Whew! You’ll see what I mean! It was already hot at 5AM. We set the alarm for 3:30AM, but both of us were up on the hour all throughout the night. Ross had just done the half marathon and placed 5th in his age group on the prior day. So he was hurting from that all-out effort!
We finally get to the race. I am ready. I feel good. I am hydrated. I am trying to stay positive even though it is hot and humid. This is where I am not sure what went wrong. I drank a good amount of water and took some electrolyte tabs on the day prior. I stayed off my feet. I tried to stay inside in the air conditioning. I ate a good breakfast of oatmeal mixed with a fresh tomato, a dash of salt and olive oil, and a banana, along with a small cup of coffee. I got all that in by 4:15AM. So I should have had plenty of time to digest my food. I drank a big 20 ounce bottle of water from 4-5:45AM and excreted a lot of it at the port-a-potties that morning and very soon into the race!
Throughout the race, I drank a half Dixie cup of Power Aide and some water. We were drenched in sweat from the first mile. The humidity was killer. The streets were very crowded for the entire race. So it was a bit difficult to get into a groove. Lots of stopping and starting was required – sometimes you’d pass someone, then someone else would pass you. Some walked. The water stations were a bit bottle necked. The course took you all throughout Disney – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, etc. So there were lots of twists and turns on the course that made it quite interesting.
Something happened to me at the halfway point. We were on pace for a 5 hour marathon at the halfway point crossing the line at exactly 2:30. I really felt good. I felt like I might even be able to pick up the pace. I didn’t feel like I was out of breath or even remotely in trouble. But then something happened. I felt a small swishing feeling in my stomach. I didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t be overhydrated – I was drenched in sweat from my head to my toes – literally! I was taking salt tabs each hour. So I kept going. Evette and Christine dropped back a little because the heat was also getting to them. I really didn’t even notice. I was in a daze. My stomach started feeling nauseated and my body ached. It was a very weird feeling. I felt like I had strength, but my body felt as if I was running with the flu. I had a couple of Altoids with me, so I took those and it helped to some degree. I also had one lone Tylenol so I took that. The medical tents were packed as we passed them. Many people were putting band—aids on blisters, drying off their feet, lubing up chafed body parts, putting on icy hot cream to aching joints, and taking Tylenol. I even stopped to put some icy hot cream on my right calf which was really aching. I stopped at a port-o-potty to try to go to the bathroom. Nothing helped.
With 8 miles to go, I told Ross that I didn’t think I could do it. I was going to DNF (do-not-finish). Here I worked the hardest I ever trained for a marathon, felt like I was in great shape, and I was going to drop out. I couldn’t figure it out – I just didn’t feel right. Ross just kept by me and telling me, “You’re doing great. Just take some deep breaths and relax. You can do it.”
Well, I will tell you this. I prayed. I begged God to help me get through this. I was thinking to myself, “This is supposed to be fun, but this is agony.” I didn’t look at any of the Disney characters or fans. I just knew I thought I was going to die. Well, the last 8 miles were a blur. I started doing more walking – 5 minutes running with 1 minute walking (or sometimes longer.) Sometimes I would run for 2 minutes and walk for 2 minutes. I just kept gutting it out. I tried to visualize the finish line. I could see the Epcot ball in the distance – finally.
I was going to finish. I might have to crawl across, but I was going to finish. Ross kept telling me that I was not that far off pace, and I wasn’t. But it just felt like I was out there a long time. The course was still filled with runners and they were also walking. We were all in the same boat – trying to get to that finish line. Only by God’s grace did I make it across the line. I thought of my mom who had passed away. She was one strong lady. She endured a lot worse than I was feeling during this race – chemotherapy, radiation, days of nausea and vomiting, pain, weakness. What was I crying about? I tried to think of that. That gave me some strength too.
We turned the corner and I could see the words “FINISH LINE” – I was never so happy to see that! Ross and I grabbed each other’s hands and ran across the line together. They announced Ross and Marion Hauser from Oak Park, IL – you have just completed the Disney Marathon! The fans were cheering. The clock said 5:11. I had improved my best time by 21 minutes (and that was when I was a lot younger and the race was held in Alaska!) Someone in the crowd yelled my name. I couldn’t see who it was. Then it hit me…
I don’t know where it came from, but one step over the finish line and I vomited a projectile 8-10 ounces of water mixed with stomach acid. But it didn’t stop after that. It just kept coming. One after another. I don’t know how I could have even had that much liquid inside of me. It was like a drain that was clogged or something. I must have vomited 10 times before it was all over. Remember in grade school when they had that saw dust stuff that they sprinkled over the barf from the kid in the lunch room? Yup – that’s what they ran over to me with – the sawdust barf patrol! How mortifying!
The medical personnel wanted to know if I was okay. I saw the wheelchair sitting there – I was NOT going to end this experience in a wheel chair! No way! I told them I was fine. I was not dizzy. I actually felt a heck of a lot better than I had felt all day. Ross wanted to whip out the camera and take a picture of me barfing, but he thought that would be just too cruel. He had been taking pictures along the way, and they got uglier as time went on, that’s for sure! (you’ll see). We made it to the area where you are given your medals! Man, I felt like I really earned this one, that’s for sure! I was never so happy to get a medal!
My friends Christine and Evette came across the line about 10 minutes later. We had a group mylar hug after that! We did it! We finished the marathon! Christine did the marathon and half in two days (like Ross), Evette completed her first marathon and stuck with Chris the whole time. I made it out of there alive. And Ross did too! What a guy for sticking by me. He was in some significant pain during that run too.
After we took our finishers pictures, we paid for a short 10 minute massage to help work out the kinks in our legs. That was the best – being able to lay down! Then we met up with our friends’ family members. It was a wonderful reunion! I was sure glad it was over!
So what did I learn?
- Sometimes you don’t have the race you expect to have – even though you are very well prepared.
- All marathons are hard!
- The mind is a powerful tool – you can overcome amazing adversity if you are mentally strong enough. Personally, I didn’t think I was THAT strong – I even amazed myself!
- Husbands are there for you during thick and thin! And this was a rough one. I couldn’t have made it without him.
- God is faithful and prayer works – even under duress!
- It’s time to find a race in colder weather! Marion and the heat do not make an optimal mix!
- I can now say I have improved my marathon time. My very first marathon – Humpy’s Anchorage Alaska Marathon – in 2001 – 2:32. Here I am 7 years older and a lot of stressful events later – but I completed my fourth marathon and finally improved my time.
The Future? I told Ross that I am retired from this as I was walking away from the barf. I am sure it is just like having a baby. As time goes on, you forget the pain. It may take me a little longer to forget the pain of this race. But you know what? It is now one day later, and I still want to break that 5 hour marker. And I want to do it soon! But I’ll have to talk to my coach.
For the time being, I am going to research what I can do better – and not experience the feeling that I experienced on this race.
The journey was a good one. I learned a lot. I got stronger. And that is what counts.