Sunday, October 14, 2012

Whistlestop Marathon

In many ways I don't want to write this post, but in many ways I must.   This weekend I had the adventure of loading up a car and driving 4 hours north with my running partner Alicia for our very first marathon.  We have been training all summer and our training has been going just as planned.   We sloshed through the humid summer.   Shivered during some of our extremely early morning runs.   Avoided alcohol too many times on the weekend to count.   Finally the time had arrived. 

Pre Marathon

 We were scheduled to leave Friday around noon to give us enough time to get up to Ashland, WI have time to check into our hotel (30 minutes away from the town the marathon was in) and get to the "expo" to pick up our race packet and eat the provided spaghetti dinner.  

Thursday morning however, I heard the familiar sound of puking at 4 in the morning.   As a mother, you can be in a dead sleep (which I was) and hear that noise and know exactly what it is.   Makenzie was in her room throwing up all over the floor.   I quickly got her cleaned up and then proceeded to clean up all the vomit on the floor in complete horror knowing my marathon was 48 hours away and I'm picking up puke.   She continued to puke the rest of the morning, every half hour.   

At 7:30 am I woke up and called my sister to find out that she had it, her boys had it, as did my other sister and my niece.   This was not looking good.   I immediately went to the store and bought every thing I needed to disinfect my house and googled what I could do to prevent this.   The only thing I found?  Drink grape juice. 

 I drank grape juice. 

I continued to wear gloves all day long and to keep my distance from Makenzie, which was so dang hard when she was sick.   Mike ended up doing a lot of the puke clean up for me.   I made it through the day and was just hoping not to wake up in the morning to this virus.   

Friday came and I woke up feeling good!   I texted Alicia and told her I was still feeling good and that the trip was still as planned.    She picked me up and we made the long drive up to Ashland, Wisconsin.   The drive was good, the weather was good and we were excited.  

When we got to the "expo" we realized it was not much of an expo.   They had their own vendor selling shirts/fleeces/pants etc. about Whistlestop Marathon and they had one other vendor selling running clothes.    Packet pick up was fast.   They had less than 500 people running the marathon so I walked up to a person and got my packet in less than 3 seconds.   One of the nice things offered with this race was a spaghetti dinner.   Alicia and I ate our spaghetti dinner and then went back to the hotel.    We set out all of our race clothes and set our alarms to 5:30 am to get up and have plenty of time to get ready.  

The "Expo"

The Bib and the quality Gear Check bag they provided.

All throughout the night I kept waking up to stomach aches.   I was suuuure I was getting the norovirus.   I kept thinking "You're not puking yet" and would fall back to sleep thinking I would wake up to myself needing to puke.   That never happened.   I woke up at 5:30 and felt like crap.   My stomach hurt a lot.   I was burping and I could tell my stomach wasn't digesting because I was still burping spaghetti from over 12 hours before.   I tried to push it out of my head and Alicia tried telling me it was probably my nerves but I knew it was more than that.   My stomach was cramping.  

We went to the free breakfast downstairs and was surprised by how nice it was.   The only problem was I was so insanely nauseous that I couldn't eat anything and couldn't even handle drinking coffee...which is something I look forward to every single morning.   I forced myself to eat half of a mini muffin but couldn't handle the thought of food.    I knew this was really bad news since I was about to run 26.2 with spaghetti burps and nothing to eat or drink for breakfast.   I also wanted to update my status on Facebook to say "I've got the runs" to have double meaning, if you know what I mean. 

We headed to Ashland and loaded on one of the buses that would be taking us to the start line.   It's really intimidating to have to drive from the finish line all the way to the start line.   It took us a looooong time to get there and the looks Alicia was giving me told me how she was feeling about this long drive.    Once we finally got there, we went into this tiny northern woods bar to keep warm.   It was misting out and not very warm so we wanted to stay in there as long as possible.  About 5 minutes before the start, we loaded out to the start line.  

The Marathon

Whistlestop marathon is located in Ashland Wisconsin.   It is way up north, nearly in Northern Michigan.   It is almost entirely on what is supposed to be a crushed limestone trail.   The only problem is this is that it wasn't really crushed limestone.   It was extremly loose soil along with some large chunks of rocks.   You were constantly searching for a good spot to run on that wasn't as rough or soft as others.   You also got lots of little rocks in your shoes.  

9am was the start time and it started right on time.   With less than 500 full marathon runners, it was not a crowded start by any means.    Alicia and I focused on just starting slow and not jumping around people and to just go with the flow of everyone.   The only hiccup in that plan was the lady that dropped a glove in front of me 10 seconds after we crossed the start line and I ended up running straight into her when she stopped dead in her tracks to pick it up.   I knew right away that this was not going to be good.   I was hurting immediately.  

By the 1 mile mark I already had to stop to walk.   Who does that?  My stomach was so upset and cramping so badly.   I felt terrible.   Alicia stayed with me that time because I asked her to.   I felt like a loser to have to stop one mile in when we have 25.2 left.    I was sort of lost for words.   She immediately said "You're not feeling good are you..."  to which I replied that I wasn't and I just felt completely depleted.   She told me to eat a Honey Stinger waffle since I didn't really eat anything yet that morning.   I listened and crammed a waffle in my mouth.   We ran again and stuck together until Mile 2 when I already had to stop to walk again.   

Leading up to this marathon, if anyone asked me what my goal was, I told them  "not to throw up" and here I was on the verge of throwing up.  I knew if I threw up, I would be done.   I was already so depleted of energy that I knew it would take every ounce of energy out of me.   At this point I mentally broke this marathon up into chunks.   I thought "I can't wait to get to 7 miles because that's one chunk done."   My goal was 7 miles at first.   I ran/walked the entire time.   I could not run long at all without the strong urge to throw up so once that would happen, I would walk until that urge would go down.   It was misting out for the first 8 miles pretty badly.   My face was drenched and I would try to wipe my nose but found my gloves were completely soaked and would make my face even wetter.  

Once I got to mile 7 I thought how I couldn't wait to get to 13.1 so that I was half done.   Around mile 8 I wondered if I could really finish.   I was so sick and I couldn't run longer than .25 of a mile at a time without burping spaghetti or having it come back up my throat.    I wondered where I could give up.   We are on a deserted trail in the middle of no where and the only people we saw were people at water stations.   There were no spectators at all.   No timing mats.   No one to cheer you on.   Sometimes you would see a sign stuck in the ground cheering someone on but there was no one there with that sign.  

I hit mile 13.1 and I didn't feel any better.  I felt more lonely and more lost in my head.   Being such a small race, no one talked to you.   Alicia was long gone and I was left with people that were mostly struggling.    I longed for someone to say something to me.   At one point an older lady did ask me if I was okay.   She must have been behind me for a while and seen me struggling with my run/walk method.  I managed to say "yes" and she smiled and moved along.   I passed her shortly after again when I ran and didn't see her again.   Any time I would catch up to someone new who was also struggling, I would look at them and see if they would look at me.   No one seemed to want to talk so I just kept going.   Finally I found one girl.   We went back and forth for a little while running and walking and then finally we both looked at each other and gave an exhausted look and a smile.   I immediately asked if this was her first marathon to which she replied that she did one other two years ago.   I told her today isn't going as planned and she said that hers was not either.  Then she said "But it doesn't matter.   It doesn't matter if you finish first or last, we all get the same medal and you have plenty of time to finish."  I was so happy for that short conversation but I wasn't giving up yet so I ran on.   I never saw her again either.  

The water stations were great.   They had lots of food to eat and had people cheering for you.   The only people that cheered for you the entire race.  I took a Honey Stinger Gel at miles 5, 10 and 15 and then gave up on them because I realized my stomach was still not digesting anything.   They were doing me no good.    I tried to take Salt Pills to help with my constant sloshing stomach but nothing would help.   I tried a chunk of a nut roll at a water station and some pretzels but I was so nauseous that I couldn't even manage to get down more than 3 mini pretzels before throwing the rest of them out into the woods.  

Mile after mile I continued my slow slow pace.   I knew I would finish as long as I didn't throw up so that truly did become my only goal.   Mile 18 came and a lady at the water station yelled out "You're almost done!  3/5th of the way done!"   She got some nasty looks.

All I kept thinking this entire race was "I am glad I was able to start this race but why the heck does today have to be like this.   Why couldn't my race have been last week?  Why couldn't the weekend of Fox Cities been my full marathon weekend."  I managed a 10:30ish pace for my entire 20 miles that weekend.

Run/Walk/Run/Walk/Run/Walk continued on until finally I could see the finish line.   I ran it in and got the mylar blanket and my medal.  I walked through the food tent to find some great food again but I had no appetite so I grabbed the 2 things I could take to eat later, pudding and yogurt.   I moved to the next tent to get our finisher duffel bag.   Alicia was supposed to be there but at first I didn't find her.   I went and got my bag and turned around to see her walking into the tent.   I yelled her name, she looked at me and we both started crying immediately.   She was so worried about me.   She thought I had been picked up by medical and was just coming from the medical tent to see if I was there.    I was crying because that was honestly one of the worst experiences I had been through.    I tried to hold back my crying but seeing her cry made me cry more and I couldn't even talk.   I was at a loss for words.   I managed to ask her how she did and she did great.   She finished right around where I had wanted to finish which made me happy for her.   We immediately left back to the car.   We drove back to the hotel sharing our stories on how much we did not like this marathon at all.   Even though Alicia got a good time, she had similar complaints to mine.  

The running surface sucked.    There was absolutely no crowd support since we were in secluded woods.   The woods got really annoying.   She felt lonely and no one really talked to her either.  

We went back to the hotel and I managed a 30 minute nap.   I was exhausted and sore and mostly embarrassed.   I never should have gotten the time I did.   I worked too hard to get that time.  I thought about how I know that the first question anyone asks when you finish a marathon is how fast you did it.   I wasn't proud of my 5 hours and 40 minute finish.   I was bummed.  I wasn't sure I would ever do another marathon again. 

After the nap, we went to a local pizza place for a beer and pizza.  I still was nauseous.  I forced myself to eat a few squares of pizza but couldn't even drink my whole beer.   Never has that happened before, unless I passed out before I could finish that beer.  

Back to the hotel we went and I knew I wanted to take advantage of the hot tub they had.   It felt amazing.   It woke me up and my muscles instantly felt so much better.   There were two other men in the pool that had also done the marathon.   One managed to get a stress fracture and the other said it was the worst marathon ever.    I was starting to see a trend here.   They hated the running surface most of all.    Also the fact that the full marathon finishers got the exact same medal as the half marathon finishers so there is no way to tell that you completed a full marathon.   

I hate to be all Negative Nancy about this but this is what I've got right now.   I am still sorting through all my feelings on this.   I'm sure I will do another marathon again but I don't have plans on one for now.   I need a break from long runs that are over 10 miles.    I need to get back to taking some classes at the gym to break it all up.   I need to focus on getting stronger.  

I know that no matter how much I would have trained, this weekend wouldn't have ended up any differently.   I was sick.   I ran (and walked) a marathon that I probably shouldn't have even started.    I thankfully was able to push myself to finish, for my own sake.   Please forgive me for this downer post.  It's a part of my recovery. 


  1. I have been following your blog leading up to this marathon, and I cannot believe you finished it. You should be very proud and just know that your blog keeps me motivated. I must admit that I thought about unsubscribing ONLY because I get so many daily emails I wanted to declutter it, but each email I end up reading to the very end. I started to run and hope to do a marathon some day so thanks for posting your inspiring, funny posts and for keeping it real. Thank you:)

  2. I am SO sorry race day went down like this for you :( You should be SO proud that you managed to finish despite all your obstacles. I hope the next one is everything you want it to be.

    Congrats seems like the wrong thing to say somehow, but congratulations anyway. That was tough, and you STILL did it!

  3. Awww, you need a hug :( I feel for you - i really do. (And CONGRATS - You finished that damn marathon, AND your finishing time is faster than my first marathon! Don't forget that!)(AND YOU DIDN'T PUKE!)

    But it still sucks that you had a crappy experience the first time, and it isn't fair, and it isn't because of anything you did. Alot of the bloggers were talking last night about how shitty our first marathon was. (For the record, most of us had times 5:30, or didn't finish at all!) And in hindsight, it made the second marathon SO much better. Your next marathon is sure to a PR, and you will have the confidence of knowing you've done it before. You have every right to be pissed off all week, but you will most likely run one again, and it will be victorious!

    And i know everyone will tell you this, and you don't want to hear it, but a marathon is a marathon is a marathon. Most people would never even start one, let alone finish one. YOU'RE A MARATHONER!!!

  4. Aww man that shit can happen. ALL that work for one day and sometimes it is just a bitch fucker of a day. Pardo my french, but I think it applies. Take a step back and just give yourself time to pull out of marathon mode and you'll be back. That just cannot be your only 26.2 experience. I can't believe you finished, you deserve two medals for that kind of determination. XOXO

  5. So sorry! It's commendable to finish a marathon when you are sick like that. See success in that and focus less on the time. Hope you are feeling better.

  6. Your a very strong young person, to have endured everything you went thru..I commend you totally..Your determination is amazing to me..Blessings to You.

  7. oh Sarah! I'm so sorry it went down that way. It is completely unfair to work so hard and then have a bad day on race day. I had a similar experience with my first marathon last year. I had the flu the week of the race and ended up having bad stomach cramping the 2nd half of the marathon and walking a ton. I even puked, so at least you dominated in that way! ;)

    It's okay to be mad/sad about it. You're supposed to be all happy because you finished a marathon, but when it sucks like that it's hard to see the positive side. It will be sweet, sweet revenge when you decide to do a 2nd one. I'm still waiting for my revenge...grrrr

  8. You should be happy you finished. Reading your recap I was expecting to hear you quit - not the case! I'm so proud of you :) GREAT job....even if you don't think so. No one can ever know what'll happen on race day. I hope you'll try for another one day :D

  9. :(

    So bummed. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. You are so strong for finishing it... and next time will be so much better.

  10. I am so sorry that your race didn't go better. You have a fantastic marathon in you, I'm sure of it. Your perseverance and determination in this race only show it. Don't feel defeated - vow revenge. You will get your good race.

  11. Holy crap I am super impressed that you finished! I can't imagine dealing with all that in a marathon. That majorly sucks, but the good news is your second will be super easy to PR in. Are you well enough to drink your sorrows away yet?

  12. omg! please don't apologize ever for putting your true genuine feelings out there dear friend! its YOUR blog and we are here to listen! you showed amazing strength to push through when feeling so depleted! i cant imagine the emotions you were going through and just the strength you found to carry on the entire way! you are a MARATHONER and nothing can ever take away from that. I understand your frustration though and agree with many above...there will be revenge and you will be stronger than ever! feel better dear friend!

  13. Oh Sarah, I'm so sorry you were so sick on the day of the marathon. I hope you know that most people would have called it quits before the race even started so just the fact that you started speaks volumes. I am sure your second marathon will go much better and there's nothing wrong with taking a break for awhile.

  14. Your story sounds similar to the last half of my marathon a couple weeks ago! Way to stick with it though it's defintely not an easy task especially when not feeling well!

  15. wow sarah i'm so sorry you were sick on your marathon day! you stuck it out like a trooper when most people wouldn't have toed the line. you should be proud girl! plus, it can only get better from here!

  16. Wow! Great job in tough, tough conditions. That fact that you even started is amazing, let along finishing. That's a great performance. Maybe not the time you wanted but I'm sure your next marathon will be more pleasant. Good Luck!