Let's be honest here and call it what it is.
You might say, "did nothing fatal." But a spade is a spade. I "did not finish." Again. On the same course.
I have never quit a race, ever, except for the PF Chang's Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon. Twice.
Those of you who knew me 3 years ago probably remember how devastated I was after that DNF. (See: http://runnerchick-skirtgirl.blogspot.com/2009/01/when-life-gives-you-lemonsmake.html) I developed a hip flexor strain 2 weeks before the marathon and dealt with the pain for 19 miles. When the 3:40 group passed me (my goal had been to qualify for Boston for the first time) I elected to drop out and try again once I was healthy. I enrolled in physical therapy. 6 weeks later, I qualified for Boston at the Napa Valley Marathon. It was a smart decision but I cried for days. I was heart broken. I had worked so hard for so long with a singular focus. I can feel the pain (in my heart) today as sharply as I felt it 3 years ago.
This time around, it was almost comical. Almost. It became almost a joke that I've lived here for 7 years and never ran the marathon. (I actually did run with a friend one year... but I was running her pace, not mine. She's come a long way since then, but we were moving pretty slowly.)
I was doing great. I was trail running all year and became so strong. I ran PR's in all my tune up races and I knew I was on track to run a PR marathon. Until October when my world turned upside down. I no longer had the luxury of time. Valuable time needed for track workouts, long runs. My weeks were all over the board. If I was lucky I had a 50 mile week. But that would be followed by several weeks where I struggled to find time to hit 20 miles. The bottom line is, I wasn't prepared.
I didn't give up on my goal, however. I decided that I would go out at goal pace and see what happened. I told myself I'd be happy with my time no matter what it was. But secretly, I had a BIG goal in mind.
I went out strong and held a 7:45 pace. Consistent mile after mile after mile. I have never paced myself so well. It was beautiful. I passed the half way mark in 1:42, exactly on target. And then, out of nowhere, my left leg gave out from underneath me. Keep in mind that my feet are on the ground for a matter of seconds during each stride. One stride I am fine. The next stride, my left foot hits the ground and my knee gives out and my leg can't hold me up. I nearly fell but caught myself. I stood back up and tried to run, but couldn't. I physically could. not. run.
It wasn't a matter of 'being smart' and 'listening to my body'. I could not run. It wasn't like I was tired and fatigued and could push through the pain. I could not run. And there was no way in hell I was walking the last 13 miles. No offense is meant to anyone who walks during a marathon, or walks an entire marathon. However, I have finished enough marathons and today wasn't about just finishing.
After I dropped out I had to hang out at the medical tent on course for about an hour or so waiting for the shuttle to pick me up. I got to cheer on all my friends out on the course. I loved seeing their smiling faces and even a little struggle as they endured. I am envious.
I'll be back to rehab this week to figure out what the deal is. My suspicion is this: my body does best with consistency. This is why I consistently train year round. I may take an off season and focus more on base and less on mileage/ speed, but I am active year round. After October, my activity level significantly decreased to the point where everything began to tighten up. No matter how much I stretched or foam rolled, my muscles were just big knots. When your muscles tighten up, they put strain on tissues. I believe that all of this is a minor setback related to my muscles being tight. I need a massage.
I tell myself that it's no big deal. And it's not really. Though the lump in my throat would indicate that I feel otherwise. I'm disappointed. But this doesn't impact who I am as an athlete. I have not lost my confidence or my passion or my drive. I have a completely full schedule this spring and summer. I would love to say there will be time to squeeze in another marathon. And maybe there will be. But there might not be and then I will have to say goodbye to my dream of going back to Boston next year.
After I made it back to the finish line, I found my husband, my cousin and his GF in the VIP tent. We hung out for a bit and warmed up, refueled. We watched the clock and when it got close to time, we went out to the last stretch to watch our friends come through. My good friend, who only started running a year ago, ran her first marathon. It was the perfect counter to my day, to watch her come through, smiling all the way. She rocked the Rock n Roll in 4:42, and loved every mile. Her positive attitude is the key to her success and I have no doubt that she'll be back for more. I feel honored to have trained with her and watched her blossom. She inspires me to continue to be passionate and love running simply for the gift that it is.