Let’s talk about Springfield and the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon. This race was the day before Easter so it made travel and timing a bit tight, but I am glad we did it. To sum it up: Awesome race, great course, piss poor performance on my part. This is the first time I have been disappointed with how I did in a race. I was so excited for this one because I am a history nerd. I LOVE history, so much so, that I accidently minored in History in college. Yes, accidently. When I applied for my degree they asked me if I wanted to apply for the History Minor because, as electives, I took enough History classes that I qualified. Completely by accident. Anyway, I was pretty excited about this one. I had never been to Springfield before, and now, I am wondering why. I loved it. It was such a neat place. I can’t wait to go back. I want to take a little extra time and go to the museum and the Memorial, instead of just jogging past them. Anyway, my mental state was not in the best condition coming into this race. We are going through a transition period with buying the house and reevaluating our finances. That in and of itself is VERY stressful! With my MS, I have to be VERY conscious of my stress levels and try to keep them at a minimum. My amazing husband and in-laws have been taking the brunt of the responsibility on the house front. However, on the Wednesday before the race, my Mom was taken to her oncologist because she had a high fever, and her right hand was swollen to about 3 times Its normal size. My Mom has CLL (Chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and a high fever (when they left the house 104) is a BAD sign. 3 bags of antibiotics and 2 blood transfusions later they were able to get her 106 degree fever to a controllable level. She had gotten Strep (yes, strep) in her hand. As a healthy person, we encounter infections and bacteria and all that on a daily basis that our immune system just destroys and we go about our lives never knowing. My mom’s immune system, however, can’t do that so when a small scratch on her hand was infected with Strep, it turned into a near death situation. The days leading up to the race were daily trips to get another transfusion and more IV antibiotics to get the infection taken care of so they could do chemo. It had been 7 years since her last round of chemo, and she had WONDERFUL results. In those 7 years, it was easy to put her illness to the back recesses of my mind because she was doing so well. Then this happened and it was an icy cold slap back to reality, and the harsh truth of the situation is that my Mom isn’t going to be around forever. Yes, I know that NO ONE is going to be around FOREVER, but you know what I mean. I watched my grandpa (Mom’s dad) fight this same monster, and I watched what it did to him, and the realization came that I am not prepared to watch that happen to my Mom. I’m not. I’m not ready. I don’t know that I will ever be READY, but I wasn’t prepared for this. My mental state was so completely out of whack and it was affecting every aspect of my being. I was distraught and emotional and in a dark mental place. I was starting to question when my time was coming. If Mom could be doing so well for so long, like I have been with my MS, when was my left field health scare going to happen? Buried in the same dark recesses in the back of my mind is where I keep my MS, as well. It’s a health denial holding place.
All of this worry and stress worked its way through my entire body, poisoning me as it went, but I will get to that. I am a stress eater. I always have been. I won’t say I ALWAYS will be, but when things become too much for me, and I feel that I am vulnerable, I eat. It is my protection. How I guard myself when I feel like I am losing my control over the situations and events around me. I eat. I can control that. I use it as a way to punish myself for losing control in the first place. This relates to weight gain. I can’t gain control of one without gaining control of the other, and if I fail, then I don’t feel like I have control of anything, and it then starts the cycle all over.
I took Friday afternoon off so that Laurie and I could drive to Springfield for packet Pick up, and as it usually goes when I try to leave work early. So I was already running behind schedule when I left frazzled. We arrived in plenty of time. We took a slight detour, but decided it wasn’t worth it (I don’t even remember what it was for. Laurie?) and still arrived with plenty of time. We dropped our stuff off at our circular hotel and walked the couple blocks to the packet pick up/Finish Line. After getting our packets and chatting up Joe Moreno (the Quad Cities Marathon Race Director), headed back to the hotel and stopped off at an Irish Pub for our customary pre-race carbo loading beverages. I hooked up all my electronics to their respective chargers and headed to bed early.
The morning was cold. Not chilly, not brisk, it was cold. We met up outside the museum to get a group Half Fanatic picture (or 5 or 6). I realized that I brought my camera with me, but forgot to put the battery back INto the camera. It was still in the charger at the hotel. Great, I was off to a fantastic start. Anyway, we lined up and after a speech by President Lincoln and the firing of the Civil War Muskets, we started the race. We decided to stick with the 2:45 pacers. Normally, we don’t do pacers, sometimes, but I think, for me, psychologically, it puts too much pressure on me. Does that sound crazy? Even if it is just a long run, if I put a time limit (even if its longer than what I need like 4 hours) as soon as I put that time “label” on my run, I throw up my mental blocks and the run is sudden hard. I know that was a factor in my struggle. I got about halfway through before I hit my wall. I have never actually hit a wall before. This was the first time I ever questioned whether I would finish. I just wanted to quit. I felt like I was holding Laurie back. I knew what she wanted to do, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it (stick with the 2:45 pacers). So I did another thing that I had never done before, I lied to Laurie. I didn’t want to hold her back. I couldn’t do that to her. My struggles weren’t her struggles, but I also knew that she would never leave me. I lied. I knew she wouldn’t leave me, so I told her my foot was hurting and I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace. She went ahead. I wanted her to. I can’t remember the last race we didn’t finish together. It felt wrong. I missed her. I needed her, but I had made my decision. There I was struggling to finish. I started having trouble getting my right foot to work correctly. There was a communication break down between my brain and my leg. There was something wrong. My feeling about it now is that it was a culmination of the stress and the emotions and the fears and the worries that I had already been desperately trying to keep from being crushed by, and now I was having a bad run… My head wasn’t in it.
This was a glaring example of how your state of mind, positive or negative, can so TOTALLY make or break a run. Running is so mental to begin with that if your mental state is toxic to it will poison every thought, every effort you make to push on. I held it together. I fought. I finished. It was ugly. I felt horrible. I thought I was going to collapse, but I finished. Walking back to the hotel, I was still having immense difficulty getting my right leg to work properly. It was another first, I broke down. I just started crying. All the emotions came pouring out. I probably needed it. I know Laurie was worried about me. I was worried about me. My run helped purge me of the things that I wouldn’t let out of my head. When my Grandpa was sick, going to the doctor, the hospital, getting weaker and weaker… My mom stood strong because my Grandma needed her to be, because her family needed her to be. I will be strong for my Mom too. I will be strong for my Dad because he will need me to be, but there has to be a balance. There has to be a flip side, a release, and I don’t want it to be food. I will let it be running because it cleanses me. I will let it bring the tears because they wash my mind, if only for that moment. I will have my breakdowns, but I won’t cry in front of my Mom. I will be strong. And when I cry, my tears will be for me. Just like my running is for me. Instead of having the weight of everything pull me down, I am going to use it. Lincoln was an awful run. A great race, one I WILL do again, but a horrible run. I guess the saying is true that there are no BAD runs. It was hard. I didn’t know if I would finish it, but look at what I gained because of it.
A week later I drove up to Laurie’s house for a 10 mile run on her bike path along the Mississippi. I talked her into 12. She asked me if I was feeling better. I told her “If I wasn’t would I have talked you into an extra 2 miles?” Yeah, I am feeling better. I just needed to gain some perspective. We close on the house in about a month. My Mom starts her second round of chemo next week, and she is doing great. Its her tough round this time, so it will take its toll. I have to explain to my 4 year old why he has to go to Daycare instead of Ama & Papa’s house, but I will lace up my shoes before I open the fridge this time. Food will fuel me not weigh me down into the blackness. Pain and fear will power my run to clear my head and help sweep out the dark recesses.
If you think the lack of a battery would stop me from having pictures of this race, you would be wrong. Thanks to some fabulous HF friends, I have LOTS of great pictures!