Finally, my December 26.2 done!

December 2011 I completed my first 5k

December 2012 I completed my second 26.2

December 2013 I wanted to continue to do 26.2s but could only finish a 13.1.

Because I’ve always said to never ever give up to so many people, I didn’t want to be that person who doesn’t practice what I preach.  I came back to this December with the intention of finishing what I said I was going to do last year but knowing what I wanted to continue to do, I announced after completing this full marathon that it would be my last.

December 2014 I completed my third and last 26.2

Immediately after posting on social media that it was my last, I was bombarded with questions and disbelief.

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You can see my response. I chose to do extreme events to prove a point, to raise eye brows and make people aware of the reason I was doing them… cancer. In the last three years, training and preparing for these events have thrown me into the world of health and fitness… a world that I was never really a part of. It is fascinating!!!!

The struggles within that world are perpetual and ever changing with a flare of darwinism.

The struggle to overcome your own self-doubt.

The struggle to bypass the nay-sayers.

The struggle to abide by the rules of nutrition, physical exertion, rest and keeping it all consistent.

The struggle to keep your competitive nature in balance to where it pushes you but doesn’t make you go to extremes.

The struggle to understand that even when everyone around you are popping pills, drinking chemicals, Pre-workout in the a.m. and Ambien in the p.m., injecting shots to be thinner, faster, stronger… it clicks… is that really healthy? Is that really fitness? or is that because they’re comparing themselves to someone else? My struggle to make my life healthier and become more fit also comes with a lot of education, the release of comparison and judgement of others and the inclusion of not just a healthier body but a healthy mind and spirit. My struggle is to remain natural and chemical free even if my times don’t change or get worse and my weight increases as I get older. My vision of healthy and fit doesn’t match the vision of many others. I don’t judge or look down on anyone who does the above. I simply stay quiet and gracefully decline when they insist I take this pill or drink this pre-workout. The perception of healthy and fit is as tricky to define as beauty.

The struggle can sometimes be overwhelming. And at Mile 22, it seems like an inevitable plunge into the abyss of bleh.

Running a marathon forces you to have some pretty deep discussions with yourself for a few hours.  And while admittedly, some of MY discussions are a bit delusional, there are points of clarity that can be reached in this process that can never be touched on in any other situation. I’ve made some monumental decisions, plans and goals while running marathons and training runs. This marathon, the McAllen Marathon, had great discussion, debate and decisions made… up until mile 22. It went all crazy after that.

Let’s begin with my training for this event… it was odd and lonely without my Team in Training teammates running by my side this season. I wanted to spend these last few months with my eldest son before he left to the Military on the first of December so I backed out of TNT this season and trained on my own “when life allowed me to”. Life isn’t very consistent with me. But one thing holds true about life with me… when I PLAN things out (like a workout calendar).. they’re sure to never happen as planned. Many times, my long runs on weekends had to be skipped because hubby wanted to go hunting at the ranch or was called in to work or one reason or another.

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But even though I wasn’t part of this season’s TEAM, I was still asked to help encourage so I’d go write inspirational cheers with chalk on the side walks of the trail. Twice it rained and washed away my pretty graffiti. But word got around quickly and I began to hear chatter about how others can cheer and encourage runners. And I’m really really glad that happened!!!

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Team let me wear my purple jersey and meet up with them on race morning to do my traditional “selfie” but didn’t get to see Jeanice for my traditional prayer.

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Remembering how well that super spray made my legs feel at my last “redemption” triathlon, I sprayed the beegeezus outta that can onto my legs. I’m sure I reeked of menthol downwind for three miles. I stretched and jumped and stretched and jumped. I found my playlist, planted my earbuds, took more “selfies” in the crowd, programmed Nike Run and my Garmin and Kapow! We’re off!!!

I started off slow and easy. It was a nice comfortable pace that allowed me to quickly find my rhythm for endurance. So long as I kept this pace – which matched the beat of my music on the playlist, of course – I knew I’d be fine. The course was the same that I remembered from last year. I was feeling good. Deep down, I wanted to go faster but knew the consequences if I did. I felt only a slight discomfort in my shoes. They felt heavy today, like if I was scurrying in bricks. My kick was low and my stride was short. I remembered Coach Jose saying short strides were good for marathons because it reduced the occurrence of injury.  Eh, so I didn’t think anything of it.

As I trotted up 29th Street close to the neighborhood I used to live in, I saw the sun peek out above the tree line on the East horizon. And there he was… a man in full gear, gas mask, boots, heavy uniform, carrying the United States Flag.

“Michael!!! Michael has to run like that!!!” I screamed to myself. The first round of tears shot out remembering my baby boy was far away from me at boot camp doing just this! Just like I saw in my first marathon in San Diego… but this guy was clearly already hurting… and it was just the first couple of miles in.

Oh good Lord, please, have mercy on him! I hope he’s not doing the full marathon this way!

The cheerleaders up and down 29th street were amazing! People were out on lawn chairs, Cyndi, Tony & Miriam, Miss Connie – Michael’s piano teacher and her little girl and neighbors, Drew, Kat & Anita, and countless others all with posters and yelling at the top of their lungs!!!

THIS

WAS

AWESOME!

McAllen Marathon 2014

I was at a solid 11:00 minute per mile pace. I fluctuated only by a few seconds up and down at each mile up to about Mile 12. This pace is nothing phenomenal but to me, finally finding a steady pace without stopping is monumental!!! I hadn’t stopped at all. *This was something that Xavie – hubby – had been harping on me for months about. I had planned to do solid tens but in the last couple of weeks of training, decided to take it down by one minute. BUT MY FEET WERE KILLING ME!!! As the songs on my playlist ended, there were about 3 seconds between songs and I could hear squeaking. My feet were squeaking!!! What in the world???

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LuHuan, a team mate of mine had come in to pace me for a few miles. She complimented me on my steady strong pace and then kept quiet. She had been running with me for a few years now and knew what worked for me… music. So she allowed me to zone out and focus on my breathing and the beat.

After a few more miles, Ronnie joined me for a short while but my pace was way too slow for him. A part of me wanted to speed it up but didn’t. I was afraid of risking the endurance – it suddenly got really humid and didn’t want to chance anything… so Ronnie popped off to pace another.

I was alone after that for the rest of the race. I saw Tanya and the group of girls I had hoped to join up with just ahead and knew there would be no way I could catch up with them at this point unless I really booked it. They looked strong. I waved and nodded as they went opposite me on the overpass. I jumped it up a bit to catch up to them.

However, by the time I made it around to the point where the course turns West, I saw Miguel across the street closing up the full marathon participants. Race crew volunteers were following him in trucks picking up orange pylons off the street as he passed them. I yelled across the street to him and threw him my hand signs. He yelled and threw them back.

My teammates had walked Miguel in to the finish line just one month ago at his FIRST full marathon. This guy is a beast! He went on to do another FULL marathon just one month later... which is why I wanted to be by his side this time. It takes a lot of determination to do something THIS grand!!!

My teammates had walked Miguel in to the finish line just one month ago at his FIRST full marathon. This guy is a beast! He went on to do another FULL marathon just one month later… which is why I wanted to be by his side this time. It takes a lot of determination to do something THIS grand!!!

That’s when my big bright idea came to me. I have no one waiting for me at the finish line. I had already warned my family that I would be very late coming in. I was pretty much free to take as long as I wanted and enjoy the day.  I decided to slow it down again and wait for Miguel so that I could cross the finish line with him.  *Miguel is someone quite phenomenal and someone who inspires me. I’ve done something like this only once before and that was for Lisa Cavazos at the Get Up and Train 1/2 Marathon. She’s someone who inspires me as well but it was why I turned around that made me reminisce about it. She was a little emotional about not having family at the finish line there for her and didn’t want to be alone after such a feat. I didn’t have anyone waiting for me either and I wasn’t looking forward to being alone either. So, why not cross with someone who inspires and not be alone?

Just as I had convinced myself to wait for Miguel, I saw a woman ahead of me turn into the parking lot at Travis Middle School. She slowly sat down and then laid down. I sped up to see if she was ok. She said this was her first full marathon and was cramping up, needed to stretch and that her husband was on his way to pick her up. I asked her if she wanted me to help her stretch. I guess she thought I was a crazy stranger because she kept saying her husband was on his way and declined. I tried to gracefully convince her to stand up and keep moving. I remembered that stopping immediately after running all these miles was very dangerous. You need to slowly cool down for your body to adjust to a normal status.

The volunteers from the water station nearby saw what had happened. Clearly she was in the dreaded “bite me” zone all my teammates had warned me about. She wasn’t listening to me so I let the volunteers go do their thing.

I went on… stuck in my ear plugs and jammed on. It was beginning to get really hot and humid but the breeze was doing it’s part to console me. As I continued North up Bicentennial, I got the good tunes on my playlist. My mood changed and it seemed as if there were water stops every two blocks… I was taking an easy stroll now. MMMMM orange slices, pineapple and water… oh but my feet need to soak in a raspa!!! I don’t know what happens to my mind at about mile 18… my fantasies about raspas become quite… unhealthy.

I’ve made a purposeful effort to never show pain in my face when running these crazy events so when I see a photographer, I force a smile and make sure Momma sees my hand sign telling her that I love her. But this photographer I saw was different… she had two dogs and was prettier than all the others. It was Laura!!! And she was getting after me because she wanted a good shot and I had pineapple in my mouth and was prancing. She yelled at me to run!!!

Ok ok… the things I do for a photo op!!!

I paused for a while and told her I would go up for just a few miles and then wait for Miguel to join up so that we could cross the finish line together. I didn’t know how long she had planned to stay there and didn’t want to force her to stay longer but had hoped that knowing my plan, IF she did stay to see him go by, she’d text me and I’d have a better ETA of him meeting up with me. So far over the last couple of years of friendship, she’s been pretty spot on about reading my brain waves…

Not but a couple of miles after that, I was asked by another streetside cheerleader if I was ok. “Yes, I’m good… just slow is all.” He responded with “Another runner collapsed and didn’t make it. Just making sure you’re ok.”

“Ya, ya. I’m fine.” — I didn’t think anything of it at the time. When he told me, I just thought a runner fell and didn’t cross. Being the clutz that I am, I thought they knew I was clumsy and probably was showing signs of the wobbles.

“Oh lord, am I looking pathetic to people now? Am I showing signs of fatigue? Are people worried if I’m going to make it? Should I throw in the towel? Are people making fun of me? Are they doubting me?” The wicked voice of doubt in my head became louder and louder as each painful step forward was taken.

“Just don’t stop Myssie! Don’t stop and you’ll be fine.” I kept repeating to myself. Hubby had told me a few weeks before that even if my pace decreased, so long as I didn’t stop, I’d be fine. “But I have to wait for Miguel!”

Another cheerleader friend saw me and ran up to me, dousing me with water from head to toe. “Are you ok?” she asked me. “Yes, yes. I just can’t stop!!! I can’t stop!” I must have sounded like a lunatic to her. In hindsight, I probably was!!!

In the last couple of miles, I waited for Miguel. I was walking and positioned my eyes Southward down Bicentennial but still couldn’t see him. I began to worry. A lot!!! “Was he the runner who fell? Why hasn’t Laura called or text me? He should be here by now.” I said to myself. And then another race volunteer drove up in a truck and said “Ma’am, we need you to keep going so we can close up the course. We’re pulling the runners off the course but you’re so close, you need to finish now.”

With no sign of Miguel, I hung my head and went forward… stuck my earbuds into my head again and trotted forward. My phone rang. Seriously??? EVERYONE important to me KNOWS I’m running!!! Who’s calling me???

It was my cousin Charlie. “He must be calling about going to the ranch and forgot I was running today,” I thought. I disconnected. He called again. I disconnected AGAIN. He left a message.

One mile away from the finish line… I listened to the voicemail he left.

That’s when it all started to make sense. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

No. Not Scott. No. No way… Oh God! No. No. I’m at the end of the marathon and my mind plays tricks on me and these are crazy thoughts. They’re just crazy thoughts that I misunderstood.

But the tears kept coming down and I couldn’t catch my breath. My feet were in so much pain. A pain like I’ve never felt before EVER running EVER. and I just could not stop crying.

Rolando jumped out of the stands and saw me struggling. I wasn’t but just a half block away from the finish. He put his arm around me and pushed. “Go!” He yelled.

And in all the events I’ve run, I’ve always smiled at the finish and threw up my hand sign to Momma letting her know I love her… except for this one. The camera caught me struggling, crying at the finish.

No smile. No "I love you" hand sign.  This finish was the most difficult of all events.

No smile. No “I love you” hand sign. This finish was the most difficult of all events.

i wobbled to the car.. by myself.. no finisher picture this time. Called hubby, told him I finished and that I was ok and he immediately said “Call Sasha now. Let her know we’re here for her.” I couldn’t call her. I sent her a text. I remembered all too well how I felt after my brother Donny had passed away. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I knew she couldn’t either.

Twenty six point two miles done. And I just didn’t have the heart to rejoice.

For those of you who are local to the McAllen region and Rio Grande Valley, you know the rest of this story. For those of you in the rest of my blogosphere, Scott was a great City Councilman for the City of McAllen. The McAllen marathon was an event that he helped originate because of his love of running marathons. He was the Scott that was on my cousin Charlie’s voicemail. He had removed himself from the race at about mile 20 and went home with his brother and his sister in law who had also run the race but collapsed shortly after of a massive heart attack.

http://www.themonitor.com/opinion/editorial-a-void-in-mcallen-after-death-of-commissioner-crane/article_1ed508c4-84c0-11e4-86af-2bdd8b9a7ed2.html

Hundreds came to show their respects at the convention center. However, it was the running community that clearly made their marks upon the hearts of all the Valley afterwards what the power and unity and respect amongst runners truly is.

The same night a memorial service was held to celebrate the life of Commissioner Scott C. Crane, hundreds of people showed up to run or walk in his memory at Town Lake Park in McAllen. Here is a touching tribute in honor of the community leader and a look back at the Scott C. Crane Memorial Run.

Run. Run if you can for as long as you can as fast as you can for your own reason. Run or jog or walk or do what ever it is that makes you feel alive. It is a gift, a gift that is not guaranteed will be here tomorrow.

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