Every once in a while, a race report sneaks up on you.  Sort of like Fernando Valenzuela, famed Dodger pitcher, I breathed this race report out of my eyelids.  I didn’t want to write it.  I wanted to put it away.  And it’s been eating away at me all week. I have not connected with anyone, for fear I would have to face the Marine Corps Marathon square in the face.  I wasn’t going to write this report at all, except it is bleeding out of me all over the place. 

I have to work backward.  This race report starts at the gym.  Today.

I walk in because I haven’t even put on a shoe this week.  Literally, I’ve avoided anything running.  I walk in to the gym and go to the weights section.  I stand there.  I turn on the music.  The music I was going to run to for MCM.  I started to lift.  To do shoulders, triceps, biceps.  My body was staring me down. 

And, I remembered the first time I walked into the gym post childbirth.  I was a very overweight 40 year old with a baby and a toddler.  I was going to do Body For Life.  I was going to win a million dollars.  And, I stared at my body today, lifting the exact same weights I’ve been lifting for 10 years, except for this past year, I’ve only been running, and nothing else.

I picked up the weights.  Bohemian Rhapsody came on.  Never Going Back Again came on.  Closer to Fine.  All songs that have deep meaning to me, both personally and otherwise.  I started to cry.  I kept lifting.   And, I looked deep into my eyes, and saw the girl that was 40.  Trying to figure out if she could get her body back.  If you are a long time blog reader, you know my story.  But, fast forward 10 years, and I have conquered my third marathon.   But, now…I looked deep into her soul and found the marathon story resting patiently…

Because you see, it’s not like you are either Young or Old.  The girl at 40 is so much different than the girl at 51.  And, as I started lifting the weights, the tears came, just like they are doing now…for what I thought would be a life changing marathon for me, simply was not. 

Back through my week I went.  Looking at my students, not telling them about my race…not talking about it with colleagues.  I threw away my race calendar that was above my desk.  Stayed at my desk.  No interaction.  Like, if I just ignored it, it would stop nagging at me.  I drove back and forth to work 30 miles each way in a fog like I’ve never experienced.  Friends and family called “How was your race?” Fine.  Just fine.  It was fine.

Looking back to Monday when I flew in from Washington DC.  To riding the BART, to the flights.  To watching infomercials as the plane raced across the sky.  Immersing myself in new blenders, thighmasters.  To the morning I left.  To the Monday night alone in the hotel room.

And there it was.  My hotel room on Sunday night.  After my coach left.  Completely empty of any feeling.  Not sad, mad, hurt…nothing.  Just simply empty.

See?  I thought I would be more inspired.  Like, I’m going to fly all across the country to run with Marines, for Marines, around Marines.  And I figured out that they are doing their job.  Every day.  Just like I am.  I will teach your child to read, you keep my children safe from danger.  Period.  We have our jobs, and I have never met any one of our military men who signed up for the adulation that we give them.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

Here’s where my race report gets dodgy.  I have forgotten some of the race.  I have.  Whether it’s by design or accident, my brain isn’t fully processing when and where things happened.

I weave back to the weekend.  The tweetups.  The people I talk to day in and day out who have become a part of what I do and who I am.  Friday night with Kirsten, Saturday at the Expo.  Being on FOX news.  Being with my coach.  Eating.  Going to the Diabetes Action Team dinner.

I got to Washington DC on the Thursday morning Redeye.  My friend Debbie picked me up and took me to her apartment, where I would spend the next two nights.  It was nice, because it saved me a boat load of money, but I had to be near the two cats, and I have bad allergies, so sleep wasn’t my friend.  I ran 4 or 5 miles in McLean on Thursday on a bowl of oatmeal and 2 hours of sleep.  Not pretty.

On Friday, my coach came into town.  By that time, I had successfully navigated the WashingtonDC Metro and got myself to the Tweetup that @ultrarunnergirl Kirsten had organized at her home.  It was simply lovely.  Beautiful sweet friends who I talk with regularly on Twitter.  I was walking up, tweeting, looking at the map, when the most lovely girl walked in front of me…turned and said, “Are you going to the tweetup?” And, I immediately recognized her as TK, the @pigtailsflying pal I have recently leaned on through thick and thin.  There are tons of pictures that I will upload, eventually.

@tinyjenna @evatesq @bklynrunner

Saturday,we slept until 10am, and never even got going until 1pm or so.  Ran a bit with my coach.  The Metro was filled with an odd assortment of people dressed for Halloween, people going to the Sanity Rally, and runners.  I maniacally chatted up every single person I saw.  What do you do? Where do you live? Do you Twitter? Do you run? Where do you work?  Geez.

This is probably my favorite picture of the whole weekend.  My coach.  With a ghoul.  Reading a newspaper.  This is the perfect picture to explain the weekend.  I can’t keep thanking him.  I have had no words all week.  But every time I look at this picture, I giggle.   He has infinite patience with me.  He does.  And I am so grateful.

 

I am interviewed by FOX News.  I look fabulous.

Sunday morning the alarm goes off with the feeling I recognize.  The words inside of my head:  Race Day.

We dress.

We walk.

We get to the start, and sit. 

And wait.

When the cannon rang, it was anticlimatic, as was the flyover, the Marines yelling OOrah, the Star Spangled Banner. 

Because really, I get more emotional as an American, every day during 3rd period when I stand alone during my Prep Period and salute the flag.  That moment means more to me every day than the pomp and circumstance surrounding a special race.  It’s the regular honoring of the country and her flag that I adore.  Yes.  Thank you to all our military.  I just really want you to know.  I don’t just salute you on Veterans Day or holidays.  I salute you every day.  In a very personal way.

I start walking and get to the mat.  The mat that will start recording, measuring, telling the world of my progress.  I’m not really sure of the exact mile markers because I didn’t wear a watch.  All I know is that by Mile 2 we were going up a little hill.  As was one on Mile 4 and Mile 6.  Two girls got in a fight I remember.  They were arguing about who cut who off. 

My coach and I said very little.  It was the exact opposite of the mania I inundated him with the two days prior.

I remember very little of Miles 6-10.  I know we were through Georgetown at that point.  I ran with the American Flag for awhile.  We ran up a bitch of a hill.  But I had not stopped running.

Around Mile 11, my coach says: You look good.  You look strong.

That’s really a great memory.  Because I felt amazing.

The Potomac River.  So many things I cannot repeat in mixed company, but every bodily function that you try to hold in, was coming out.  I tried shot blocks.  Immediately I was nauseous and got them out.  The puky feeling lasted for the rest of the bite me miles from 13-19.  At the half, I was at 2:30, 6 minutes off my half PR.  I got dizzy.  Not the acute vertigo that landed me on the ground in September, but the constant buzz buzz buzzing that was so chronic that all I wanted to do was sleep.

I remember thinking my coach’s arms looked like furry pillows. 

And I started rubbing his arm.

And begged to sleep.

And he would steer me back on the course.

And here we go again.  I am walking another marathon. 

My favorite sign from @deefsu:  Good Luck TWITTER PEEPS.  Man, that was the only one I saw.

The Washington Monument.  Staring at me.  Was this the Capitol?  The Lincoln Memorial?  Where the hell are we? And at one point someone gave me a bagel.  And I lost him on the course.  And I wanted to just walk off the course.  There went the 5:00 pace group.  Then balloons that I only assumed was the 5:15 pace group. 

I really can’t remember where we were going.  But I saw this sign:

Today, Make this Bridge your Bitch.

I had to get across the GW Bridge, or be pulled off the course.

Lotta walking.  Embarrassed.  Just wanted to go away.  Be alone.  Many miles back I had stopped feeling bad for my coach, because he of all people would never want that.  This was my race. 

Got over the Bridge into some weird place called Crystal City.  Like, it looked like a walker’s parade.  I could run for 30 seconds.  Then walk.  Then run.  Then walk.

Finally I said to Josh.  What time is it.

5:26.  We still had 2 miles to go.  I said 5:26???

This is what I remember.  I told him to leave me alone.  That I had to run by myself.  And, I started a slow shuffle to the next mile. 

By Mile 25, he found me and I remember him saying:  “Honey.  It’s time to move”  And we started to run.  Powered only by sips of water and Powerade that I kept down, he told me to run and not stop.

And, that’s just what I did.

5:59:31.

It was a marathon, but don’t congratulate me.  I did 26.2 miles, but don’t tell me Good Job.  Because all I wanted to do was stop and never run again.  I could have manned up.  I could have run harder.  More. 

I have stared down the marathon infancy. 

And as I looked at my body in the mirror today at the gym, I decided that I am no longer a rookie, or a child.  If I am to do a marathon again…and I say that in all seriousness…I need to face the fact that my body will need to be re-tooled for the sport.  Not just my legs.  But everything.

Clear Eyes.  Full Heart.  Can’t Lose.

LINDA VERMEULEN #32429

RIPON, CA

Age: 51 Gender: F

5:59:30

Distance MAR
Clock Time 6:10:53
Chip Time 5:59:30
Overall Place 20055 / 21986
Gender Place 7704 / 8724
Division Place 438 / 530
Age Grade 45.1%
Ctz USA
5K 34:56
10K 1:09:06
15K 1:43:44
20K 2:21:47
Half  
25K 3:02:56
30K 3:51:31
35K 4:45:45
40K 5:40:22
Pace 13:44
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13 thoughts on “Clear Eyes. Full Heart. Can’t Lose.

  1. Linda,

    I want to give you a hug and a kiss and tell you not to be so hard on yourself! because I have done that to myself and it sucks ASS!

    First of all-you got on that plane and you flew cross country to DC! You toed the start line and you attacked the course as well as you could on THAT DAY!

    I so know you wanted this to “be your race”….and I know you are very disenchanted about running right now. And I know you may curse me for saying this and may hate me-go ahead, I’ve been hated before- BUT YOU FINISHED A MARATHON under circumstances that would have taken many other people down!!! You are a marathoner if it takes you 3:30 to finish or 8:00 to finish! Those miles are the same! Never forget that! I have had to repeat this to myself after each of the 4 slog-fest, slow ass marathons I’ve run!

    Linda, why do you run? I hope a part of you enjoy’s running and has fun doing it?

    As a penguin (FYI I finished Marine Corp in 6:12:06 so I had you beat for the Slow-As-Molasses award) I have really had to dig deep to not feel like a failure in running! On Twitter, I’m surrounded by “the fast kids”…there have been many days I dont feel like a runner because I’m so slow! But I am-and so are you!!!!

    Please remember that you are an amazing woman, a single mother of two amazing boys, a teacher and a runner! Those are alot of “jobs” you do in 24 hours! How I wish I could just train to run faster and better-but we have a life, we have people that depend on us and we have to manage our time and incorporate training into our schedules! I ,personally, have a very hard time dealing with my “lack of training time” because of my job….I get very down about it and wonder why the hell I run when I’m so slow! But then I remember WHY I run. I LOVE it! It makes me feel alive! Even if I’m “jogging” in other peoples opinions. I run because of the amazing people I have met! You are one of those amazing people! The places running has taken me, the sense of accomplishment I feel when I toe the start line and finish-even if it’s a craptastic race!

    You are an amazing woman! Please remember that! You run! You are a runner! You are a marathoner! I can honestly say, you have accomplished more than most 51 year old’s! You’ve accomplished more in running than Everyone I work with! You’ve accomplished more than most people could even dream about!

    Be Proud! Because if you are not proud of finishing the Marine Corp marathon and in the journey you took getting there than I might as well dig a hole in the sand and put my head in it!

    We are who we are! Would I like to be skinnier, faster, be in a relationship, work less hours, have a life-hell YES! But I have to take what i have and do the best i can and I have to be happy with it!!

    I cried and felt like a useless runner after Marine Corp. Who wants to go back to work, when EVERYONE knows you ran a marathon out of town, and tell people you finished in 6:12? I sure as hell didnt! And I received a rather shitty hurtful comment about my SLOW marathon time….. “If I’m going to run a marathon, I sure as hell dont want to be out there 6 hours and I’d have to beat Oprah’s time or P Diddy’s time”…..

    Be PROUD! I am very PROUD of you! You are my hero!!!

    -Penny

  2. Linda, dearest Linda, you are my hero. As Penny so eloquently said:
    Please remember that you are an amazing woman, a single mother of two amazing boys, a teacher and a runner! Those are alot of “jobs” you do in 24 hours!

    You never gave up at MCM. You just pushed through. This is who you are. BE PROUD. I am so so proud of you my friend and I am proud to call you my running friend. Or my FRIEND. Ok, you get what I’m saying.

    I am so glad I got to meet you too. I was so looking forward to that part of the weekend. You made my weekend more special, even though I couldn’t run MCM, I felt a part of it just being there.

    I think you are swell. Clear eyes, full heart. Can’t lose. Never lose. Your a winner. I love you Linda.

  3. I know you said not to say good job, but can i please say good job?! there were so many times that you wanted to pull off the course and just quit, but you didn’t. it took so much determination and will to finish and YOU FINISHED! I am so proud of you. Your race sounded a lot like my race so you were not alone. I think you did awesome, like Penny said, you accomplished something that many people will not even attempt to accomplish in their liftime. You’re a whole different person that you were when you started the race and holy bejesus it was a HARD race! I am proud of you for finishing and starting and taking on the journey of running a marathon!!

    ~barbie (@bamabarbie06)

  4. Oh Linda! It makes me sad to see you be so hard on yourself!!! I’m so proud to know you and so happy I finally met you. You are one of the strongest, toughest people I know. I agree 100% with everything Penny said and I share her sentiments.

    MCM was tough for me also, and I’m not happy to be as slow as I am. I can’t understand why I work so hard at running and run so slow, but I have a ridiculous hope that that will change ONE of these days.

    MCM was tough for me. I got dehydrated and my legs were exhausted by Mile 20. But seeing you and Josh on the bridge really made my day!! I am so glad I got to walk with you for a bit!!

    Please don’t be discouraged. You have accomplished so much! I’m so proud of you!

    My water is your water!

    Eva (the “Re-tweeter”)
    LOL

  5. MsV,
    It’s okay to be discouraged and say never again. It’s okay to be disappointed in your race. But, a finish is a finish. The easy race is the one where everything goes right and your run your ass off until you think you might die. It takes real toughness – physical and mental – to finish when everything is falling apart and there are plenty of GOOD reasons to stop.
    I’ve run many ultras, but for the longest time I put an asterisk by my one and only 100 Mile race. I wanted to drop at mile 69, but my good friend Kris would not let me and another friend from our running club dragged me (pretty much just as SpeedySasquatch dragged you) to the finish. And there was nothing wrong with me. I was just tired and hurting I didn’t *want* to go on.
    Going into that race my philosophy was how when you hit a low patch, keep on going and it will pass. After that race, I realized: the support and help and kind word and smile and every little thing no matter how small or how big, no matter from who it comes plays a part in our running successes. None of us EVER do it alone.
    You are amazing!

  6. Okay, I am admitting it now that (I hope) I will no longer seem like a stalker for saying this:

    My #1 reason for going to DC that weekend was to meet you.

    That’s how superb you are. (You have no idea how much I have to restrain myself from tacking an “e” on to the end of superb.)

    COUGH (meddler) COUGH

    Love you.
    TK

  7. as runners we can be so freakin’ hard on ourselves in spite of the fact so many are just awed and inspired that we did it, we persevered. perhaps we didn’t PR but we did it.
    i look forward to hearing about your next run.

  8. Linda,

    I completely know this feeling. Like you worked so hard training for it and then it just falls apart and you can’t do anything to keep it together.

    This is why I deferred NY. For the second time. I did all the training, my body has the miles in it to run it. But I knew, based on the struggles I faced while training, that there was no way I would be able to run it and have the race I wanted.

    You’ll get back to it. Whether you run another marathon or not, you’ll work on your body and get it back to the place you want it to be.

    But you know what the most important thing is about your MCM experience? That you didn’t give up. You honored your commitment to the race. You wanted to go to sleep, but you didn’t, you stayed up and running, walking, moving! Until you crossed that finish line.

    Courage and character, you’re made of it.

    Hugs

  9. Whatever, Linda. You ran a marathon and didn’t quit. That’s all that matters. Yeah, your time stunk a little. Yeah, you could always do something better. But you know what? What.ev.er. You showed up. You finished what you started. For every Ms V, there’s probably 1000 50+ women that never even try. I think you’re pretty cool.

  10. I still give you a ‘congrats’ and ‘hell of a job’ for finishing another marathon. They are no joke. Proud of you, Ms.V! You have been an inspiring runner and I hope you continue run – and tweet about it! 🙂

    A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
    John Steinbeck

  11. The whole experience was life changing, think of all the people you connected with that otherwise you might have never met. The only marker of success is not the time on the clock. Think about what you would say to me or any other person that had the guts to try this endeaver and give yourself those kudos cuz honey you deserve them!

    I know you don’t want to run now, give yourself a break I know you will have a renewed sense of desire before you know it. and you have to run at least one more…with me…when I turn 50…
    Love ya!

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