Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lessons Learned

Throughout my marathon experience I learned several valuable lessons. Here a few that stood out:
* There is such a thing as over-hydration. I sweat like crazy, and everyone warned me about getting dehydrated. I've heard many first-time marathoners talk about getting cramps because of having a bad hydration/nutrition plan. Nashville's high on Saturday was in the 80’s with 60 percent humidity. My biggest goal was to not get dehydrated. I had a 16-oz. hand-held bottle which I filled up with Gatorade or water at every aid station. This was a very well-ran marathon, so that meant I was drinking that much every two miles! I was having to use the porta potty constantly because I would drink the whole bottle before I got to the next aid station. I knew I was drinking way more than enough because of the frequent bathroom breaks, but I didn't want my legs to start cramping up. Other than having to stop a lot, I felt great. There were 31,000 runners with 25,000 doing the half and 5,000 doing the full. The first half I would have to stand in line for 5-10 minutes just to go to the bathroom! After the halfers went their own way, I rarely had to stand in line, so that was nice. I really think over-hydrating took almost 30 minutes off my time. I did feel really good the whole time, though
Just because you are training for a marathon doesn’t mean you can eat whatever or however much you want. You can eat A LOT during marathon training. Every long run Dad and I would talk about what we were going to eat when we got home. I rewarded myself with eating whatever I wanted. Running made me hungry all the time. I always thought I would get skinny from running, but I gained 11 pounds! That is a lot for a girl my height, and Noooo, all you sweet friends of mine, it was not all muscle! Thanks for trying to tell me that, but I know how much and what I was eating. Pizza and baked goods do not make muscle. I do love food and did enjoy myself, but I'm sure I would have done better and it would have been a little easier if I wouldn’t have packed on the pounds.
My husband is amazing! This isn’t really something I learned because I’ve known it since the day I got my first letter from him while he was stationed in California in the Marines. He has been so supportive of me during this whole marathon journey. He would watch our little 4-year-old son while I would go out on my training runs. If I ever doubted myself he would say, “Jenny, you are doing great. You’ve come a long way, you don’t want to quit now.” He didn’t once complain while I was buying all of the running gear I just had to have. And best of all – he prayed for me.

• Sunscreen is a must! The worst part of my marathon recovery was my blistering nose. My face hurt when I laid on my pillow. I thought about putting sunscreen on, but knowing how badly I sweat, I was worried it would just drip into my eyes and burn.  I rarely burn so I thought nothing about deciding against wearing it. Bad idea! Being in the direct 80-degree sun for six hours made for some horrible tan lines and an excruciating sunburn. My nose was still peeling two weeks after the race.
• Run the very best race you can run. My main focus on this marathon was just to enjoy myself and soak up the whole experience. I was in no hurry for this journey to end and took my time along the course. Looking back, I wish I would have tried to get the best time I could since it might possibly be the only marathon I ever do. My 6-hour time is a little disappointing. I ran my 20-mile training run in under 4 hours so I feel like I could have done a lot better.
• Schedule races in the fall or winter. Through my training and marathon I discovered I would much rather run in freezing cold weather than smoking hot weather. Also, after running this race, we found out that this marathon is ranked in the top 10 hardest marathons. I guess it's because of the long hills, so it probably would have been smarter to do a flatter, easier race for my first marathon.
• There are many amazing and generous people in this world. $963 was raise for my cousin Cara's family. I was blown away with everyone's generosity.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I ran a marathon!

After months of training and planning, I ran the St. Jude Nashville marathon Saturday. It’s still hard for me to believe I completed 26.2 miles. The whole experience – amazing and life-changing in so many ways – was made extra special because I got to share it with some wonderful people who were also running their first marathon. And all of us were running in honor of Cara Hawxby, my 7-year-old cousin, who will be undergoing treatments for leukemia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for the next two and half years.

L to R: Rachel Brown, Tyne Rose, Molly Ledbetter, Kelly Humphries. Back: Nick Prososki, Tim Prososki, Gene Britt. Middle: Serena Prososki, Penny Britt, me, Norene Prososki (mom). Front: Shauna Rose Price, Heather Heide (Cara's mom), Sherry Alexander. 
 Back in October, Mom and I made the decision to go through this marathon journey together. We planned on doing our training runs together, but she pulled a muscle in November that took her out of running for awhile. I really didn’t want to train by myself, so my dad said he would do it with me! He is a lot faster than me, but he stuck right by me through every training run - no matter how slow. While we were running the marathon I tried to tell him how thankful I was to him for doing this with me, but it was hard to get the words out without crying. Once I finally choked out the words, he said. “Any dad should be honored and privileged to do this with their daughter.” He had a little catch in his voice, so I think he was about to cry, too.

My mom and dad, and me at about 5: 30 a.m. getting ready for my husband Zack to drive us to the starting line. Mom was going to run her first half marathon and Dad and I were going to run our first full marathon. I had just spray painted Dad’s awesome mowhawk. I’m tellin ya that man can pull off anything. We both decided to sport pink hair in honor of Cara.

Speaking of crying - I had no idea how emotional this day would be. So many times, I was overwhelmed with how thankful I was to be there. So many times, I felt like God was right there with us. There’s a verse in the Bible that is especially meaningful to me and our family – Isaiah 40:31 – But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. It was my Poppo Delmar’s favorite verse; he took joy and comfort in those words when ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) caused his muscles to stop working. It’s engraved on his tombstone.
In one of the first letters I got from my husband, Zack, long before we ever met, while he was in the Marines, he told me it was his favorite verse and it helped get him through tough times in boot camp. (It was a little sign from God that Zack was indeed the man put on this earth for me.)
Days before the marathon I had asked a fellow IRC member to pray for me because I was nervous about my first marathon and she simply replied with “YOU GOT THIS!! You will “soar on wings like eagles.”
Within the first few miles of our marathon, we ran by a woman encouraging her friend, saying in a strong, commanding voice, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and mount up with wings as eagles!” Then she shouted, “Amen!” Dad and I, with tears streaming down our faces, shouted “Amen!” right back to her.
After the race, Penny Britt, who also ran her first marathon that day, brought up that same verse and told us of all the times throughout the day and the week prior that it had encouraged her, not knowing that we had almost the same story. There were many blessings throughout this journey. Just the fact that all of us made it to the start and finish line is huge. Mom got a horribly sharp pain in her foot .2 miles into the race, we all prayed and it went away and she had an awesome race. God is Great!

I loved everything about this experience - especially the people! The roads were lined with spectators. Some handed out oranges, apples, ice cubes; some sprayed us with the water hose; some held funny and encouraging signs. But my favorite had to be the all the kids standing there with their little hands sticking out for high fives. I think I may have added half a mile onto my distance just trying to get over to high five all of the kids.
All of that support from strangers is amazing, but when Dad and I saw the Rose family and the Britt girls –our friends from home ‑ it was a high point of the marathon. It really helped keep me going. It made me think of everyone from our small town and all of my friends who I knew were thinking about me and who were praying for me, and it was overwhelming.
There were 31,000 people running in Nashville and so many of them were an inspiration for me. In front of me a woman with a prosthetic leg was running in the marathon. Shauna Rose Price, one of my fellow Cara runners, said she saw a blind man who was running with the aid of two sticks. A soldier in full camo uniform and boots with a huge backpack was right next to us running in memory of soldiers who had died in combat.
Even at the end of the marathon, in those final miles, with aching muscles and the sun frying blisters on my nose, I turned to Dad and said, “How awesome is this!”
Crossing the finish line was surreal. I don’t know if it was being so tired or from being in the direct sunlight for 6 hours but I really don’t remember everything crystal clear. I’m not sure which friend I hugged first but I do remember how happy I was to see their good looking faces.  I saw Heather, Cara’s mom, waiting for me. As soon as we saw each other, we both started crying. She was saying thank you to me for doing the run for Cara, but I want to thank her for letting me. I was the one who was blessed.
I still have to tell myself every day, "I ran a marathon!" It still doesn't seem real. I just feel so blessed that God not only got me through the training injury free but I honestly enjoyed it. The memories I made with my Dad on this journey are irreplaceable.