The Day I Became a Marathoner

Oh man…you guys, I don’t even know where to start. This was no where near the race I had been dreaming of, but in it’s own way, it was still the perfect race. FYI: This post is longer than long. Grab a mug o’ coffee, and settle in. :) pfchangs2013-282

Let’s back up a bit. Over a month ago, I woke up to a super tight feeling in my hip. It’s something I’ve felt before, and never from running (I think it has to do with sleeping position?), but I’ve never run with that feeling. I woke up to this feeling the day I had an 18 miler scheduled. It hurt for the first several miles, but eventually loosened itself up, and it was fine.

Then a week later, I woke up the morning after a 14 mile run with a horrible pain in my knee that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I called Coach Susan, freaked out a bit, took a week off running, then came back to run a killer 21 miler that felt absolutely perfect. After that perfect run, I got sick, and didn’t run for an other week until I ran an 11 miler that left my knee back in pain. I took more time off, and tried to run my final “long” 8 mile run, but stopped after 5 because my knee hurt.

I thought that I was okay, that I was not in too much pain, and I was just being cautious. I took a week and a half off running before the marathon. I iced, rolled, stretched, went to PT, and I swore to myself those 10 days off running would cure everything. Then on Saturday morning I ran for 15 minutes with Nicole, and my knee hurt. It hurt while I ran, and it hurt all day afterwards. Regardless, I showed up at the starting line hopeful, and ready to achieve my 4:29:59 goal that I never announced publicly, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t reach it.

Nicole and I got to the start ridiculously early, and after over an hour of hanging out, we were on our way to the starting line where I saw Nacho. I screamed when I ran into him, cried a little, cried more during the national anthem, and then we were off. I kept telling Nicole I couldn’t believe we were running a marathon! Almost as soon as we’d taken off, I hear a man call out my name. I turned around and he said “I read your blog!” I about died. I was sosoSO excited! His name is Scott, and he ran Whiskey Row also. He saw my name on my shirt, said hello, and made my day! HI SCOTT!! I hope you had a great race!

Let me tell you, we had such AMAZING support! At mile 1, we saw Nacho, and he told us he’d be waiting for us at mile 9 (I think?), then around mile 3-4 we saw Emily and Lance, and Steve with my mom and Hank. I screamed when I saw my mom because I knew she was coming, but I didn’t know where she was going to be. They were screaming their faces off and taking pictures. I was still so happy here!

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"IT'S MY MOM!!!!!"

“IT’S MY MOM!!!!!”

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All of our long runs, we have been great at starting slow (usually 10:40ish), and gradually working our way down to around 9:30s, averaging around 10 min/miles. For 9 we were perfectly on track, regardless of the fact that my knee started hurting before the mile 1 marker, and that I had woken up with that same tightness in my hip. Our first mile clocked in at 10:30, and we were slowly getting faster, walking through all the water stations, and staying on target.

Mile 9 came in at 10:01, and then we stopped to use the porta potties, and I don’t know if it was the stop or what, but the pain in my knee got bad. Really bad. Like, every step was so painful, and I was starting to limp run. Luckily, we soon ran into Nacho. I was starting to take walking breaks really often, and I told him I was struggling. I tried to convince Nicole to go up ahead, but she insisted we were staying together. As much as I wanted her to go on and get the time I knew she was capable of, I was so relieved that she didn’t leave.

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This is the face of someone you want next to you during a marathon. How can you hate life when your with this freakish cheeriness????

"My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!"

“My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!”

I have never been in so much pain while running, and I was legitimately scared, and even started to wonder if this race was worth making an injury worse. I decided it was. There is no question that this was not the “smart” decision, but for me, it was the right choice. When Nacho saw how badly I was doing, he started to run with us. In his jeans. He ran with us for miles. Between miles 10-14, I was just in a bad mental place. I was in so much pain, and I was upset about being in so much pain, and I felt an intense amount of guilt for ruining Nicole’s race. She was staying positive, and trying to snap me out of it. At mile 14, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy, and I started crying, but shortly after I finally accepted the fact that I was injured, and I needed to stop waiting for the pain to go away, and focus on running the best I could on that day. pfchangs2013-169

Nacho stopped around mile 15, and told us he would see us on our way back (this was the only part of the course that had an out and back section). At the turn around at mile 16, we saw one of Nicole’s cheering sections, and before we knew it, we were on our way back down Indian School. Then, my stomach started bugging me, and around mile 17, we stopped for the bathroom again. We continued with run/walk/stretch over and over and over.

Just before mile 18, we saw Tim, and when he walked with us for a little while. He is such an inspiration, and he put a lot into perspective for me during this process. It was so nice that he walked with us for a while and encouraged me! He said this was the toughest part of the marathon, and that we were doing great. Soon after, we caught back up to Nacho, and he ran with us even MORE. He refused to let me get down, and kept saying “The Ari I know doesn’t give up”. At mile 19, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy again, and I knew that my big cheering section was coming up soon. Nacho continued to run with us up until mile 20.5 where he said goodbye, and said he would see us at the Mill Avenue bridge. I was so amazed, and overwhelmed by his support, and how he was there when I needed him.

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I have no idea when in the race this photo was taken, but I was ready for an other picture.

Just before mile 21, from almost 1/4 mile away, I heard my mother-in-law (I wish there was a cuter term than mother-in-law PS) shout my name. I started pushing with all of my might, and it was almost like a mirage. A HUGE group of friends and family with signs for days shouting “GO ARI AND NICOLE!” I hugged my adorable niece, cried more, and Jason came up beside me, and told me that I was doing great. Steve had told them that I was having a rough time, but they were all great about not asking if I was okay, and just staying positive. Lisa (who is pregnant as can be) and Bethany started running with us and chanting with their signs. It was unbelievable. I felt so incredibly loved, and I was so grateful that I had decided to keep running. I knew quitting wasn’t an option, and mostly because I knew I couldn’t disappoint everyone who had given so much for me to get here.

At this point, exhaustion crept in. I didn’t expect to feel so tired because I had been walking so often, but the pain in my knee had traveled up to my hip and basically my entire left leg had been feeling a mess regardless of stopping at a medic station for ibuprofen, and being handed a mysterious prescription pain pill at mile 19 (don’t try this at home, kids). Every time I tried to pick up my leg, it felt impossible, and all of the sudden it wasn’t just hard because my knee hurt, it was just hard. From this point on, Steve stayed right by us on his bike. He had been on and off throughout the course. Originally I told him I only wanted to see him a few times so I could focus on the race, but when I started struggling, he showed up more and more often, and I was so grateful.

At this point he stayed by our side offering encouraging words. He happened to be wearing a shirt that made him look like he was a medic and someone thanked him for his service! Cracked me up. We saw Nicole’s cheering squad at Mile 23, then Lisa and some other BTB members at mile 25, and Jaime right after. Nacho was waiting at the bridge, just like he promised, and he ran the rest of the way with us, even through the finish line. If you ask me, he deserved it. After 26 miles of pain, we had finally made it. Nicole and I grabbed hands, and ran through the finish line holding hands, just as we had set out to do.

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At first, it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I found Coach Susan that it started to sink in, and I started sobbing. I told her that my knee had hurt since the beginning and she hugged me, told me that I was a marathoner, and said “You ran your first marathon in 5 hours with an injury? That makes you a fucking badass. Excuse my language.” Then she told me she loved me, and that she really felt like it was her daughter who was out there. At some point in New York, we decided that I could be her daughter, so now she’s my running mom ;)

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There is so much about this experience that I still can’t even explain. Nicole stuck with me as we watched all of our time goals slip out of sight. Even at the end when the 5 hour pacer got out of our sight (that one hurt), and we watched our last time goal go by the wayside, she never left my side. After five hours and four minutes of running through pain, we became marathoners together, and I couldn’t have done it without her. It may not have been the race I dreamed of, but I experienced love and generosity that blew me away. I discovered a determination and dedication I didn’t know I possessed, and I finished.

I will say this: No matter how much pain I was in or how short my spurts of running were, I never gave up and stopped trying. Even when I could only run for a minute at a time before the pain got bad, I would run for a minute. I am still ridiculously happy, and proud to be a marathoner. I am proud that I pushed through something that would make so many people stop, and I’m proud that after 7 months, it finally became possible. Regardless of the physical pain, I managed to have one of the happiest days of my life, and I feel so undeserving of all of the kindness I have received. People told me that I am an inspiration, but it is the love and kindness I received from the people I love that I really find inspiring. Damn, I am lucky.

Thank you for all the support, and for all the love and comments along this journey. It has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

Reasons To Be Grateful

As my first marathon draws closer (ummm, somehow it became marathon week–YIKES!!), I am finding myself even more emotional than usual. If you know me, you know it’s hard to get more emotional than my natural everyday state, but I promise you it has happened. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes crying in the car because I felt so proud of what I’ve done. Not just the marathon, but every big goal I’ve set out to conquer, I feel like I have achieved. Not many people can say that, and I have a lot to be proud of.

With this pride comes so much gratitude. I’ve not achieved these things on my own, and beyond that, this experience and trip to New York City gives me so many reasons to be grateful. I’m totally overwhelmed by all of it, but I wanted to try to put some of it into words, so that when all I can think about is how badly my legs hurt, I will have a mental picture of why I’m lucky, why I should suck it up and run faster. ;)

  • I’m grateful I can run. Not everyone can. I see people every day who are physically less fortunate than me, and it breaks my heart that not everyone can experience the same joy, release, and freedom that I find in running. I could have a disability, or worse, I could not care enough about myself to make the choice to try. I’m grateful for the ability to run: mentally and physically.
  • I’m grateful for Susan LokenWhen I tell people about Susan, they either know exactly who she is, or are quickly impressed when I spew off her list of accomplishments that I’ve memorized through all my internet stalking. She has given me everything: my plan, tough love, an ear to listen, and most importantly, the belief that I can do this. The other day she told me that I’ve come a long way and shown a lot of improvement. She probably doesn’t know how much that meant to me, or how much I needed to hear it, but it made my month. I couldn’t have done this without her.
  • I’m grateful for my team. I’ve made so many great friendships through this process, and they have shown me tremendous support, love, and encouragement. There really is nothing like training with a team. I would highly suggest it for anyone training for their first marathon. I LOVE these guys!
  • I’m grateful for my parents. They are flying to New York to see me cross the finish line. My dad can’t afford it, but he insists on going to be there for me. My mom hates to fly, but her ticket is booked. Talk about support–flying across the country to watch your kid run a marathon. Yes, I’m still a kid. They are the best.
  • I’m grateful for my friends who are coming out to support me. Some of them live in New York, some of them live here, some of them live in the surrounding areas, but many of them are making special arrangements to be there for to share this moment with me. I will probably have my first marathon lined with some of my very favorites cheering my name. I don’t know what they heck I’ve done to deserve that, but I’ll take it!
  • I’m especially grateful I get to spend time with this friend. Mac is one of my best friends in the entire world. He lives across the country, and I see him more often than some of my friends that live in Arizona. Our friendship was just kind of meant to be, and so we make it work, and find ways to see each other. He is a life-long friend, and has been an undying source of support through this whole process. I cannot freaking wait to celebrate with him!!!
  • I’m grateful for the world’s most supportive husband. The other day we had an argument, and then “surprised” each other with coffee (at the same time), then he showed me he loved me by turning on every single light in the entire house because we always playfully bicker about the lights (I turn on all the lights, never turn them off, then he turns them all off). He is perfect, and I absolutely could not have done this without him.
  • I’m grateful for YOU PEOPLE. With the support of many of you, I have almost reached my goal of raising $5,000. So many people showed incredible generosity, and I am beyond grateful. I know those donations will be put to good use, and I cannot wait until I can attend an event to see kids reaping the benefits of our efforts!
  • I’m just grateful to be. To be alive. To be healthy. To be where I am today. I am beyond lucky. I wish everyone out there could feel a little bit of what it’s like to feel like you have it all. Just for a second. It feels amazing.
  • Oh, and I’m grateful for MARATHON TOES!!! Had to include that ;)
So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Look For The Silver Lining

A week ago I wrote this totally rational, not at all dramatic post about how life as I knew it was over because there was no way I would be able to PR in Seattle, and possibly, not even be able to run it. It was truly one of my finer moments. Too bad I had the slight sense not to publish it ;)

That said, it hasn’t exactly been the best week for me. You may remember about 2 months ago, I had what I thought was the stomach flu. It totally messed up a long run and a race for me, and I even called in sick to work one day which never happens. After about a month and a half of not quite returning to normal, I finally went to the doctor to get everything checked out. I honestly expected that all of my tests would come back normal, and that I was just being overly sensitive, but when my doctor’s office called the same day of my ultrasound, I knew that something was probably wrong.

They told me I had gallstones, and needed to make an appointment with a surgeon to get my gallbladder removed. I was a little shocked, and more than a little frustrated that with all the effort I put into being healthy, I ended up needing surgery. The thing is, though, I get that some things are just out of our control, and my surgeon did tell me that this is something really common for people who have lost a significant amount of weight.

I met with the surgeon on Friday, and scheduled my surgery for the following Tuesday. They were great about getting me in, knowing that I would be leaving soon for 2 months. So this past Tuesday, I went in for my first surgery in about 20 years. I had my adenoids out when I was, like, 7. All I remember from that surgery is that the anesthesia made me really sick. Well, some things don’t change, but that was probably the worst of it.

The good news is, the surgery itself went very well. The doctor was done in an hour, and 3 hours later, I was released to go home. I woke up feeling much more pain than I anticipated, and I still am in a lot, but it’s surgery, and no matter how “easy” or “simple” laproscopic surgeries are these days, it’s still surgery, and it still hurts. I’m totally wiped out, and sleeping a lot, but luckily I have tons of family and friend support! Steve has been taking great care of me, and making me feel super loved.

 

He even found a Clementine balloon ;) Speaking of Clementine, the puppies have also been making sure I rest, and feel the love.

My phone has been kind of off the hook with family and friends wanting to see how I’m doing which is so appreciated. It’s really nice to know people care about how I’m doing. Today, Nicole even picked me up, and took me for a little excursion, and then I came home to these

Lisa, you sure know how to cheer me up!

You know you have great friends when they send you balloons because they live across the country and can’t see you in person! I have to say, as much as the situation sucks, and it does pretty much suck, the biggest silver lining is all the love and support I’ve received. Being sick isn’t soooooo bad when you have great people taking care of you and making you feel loved.

You know what else is kind of cool? These days, when you get surgery, they take pictures for you! I wanted to post some, but figured I’d spare you guys. What I can say is that these stones were ridiculous! Almost a dozen marble sized stones that have been giving me a rough time–I’m glad to say good bye to them! Peace out gallstones, you’re not welcome here anymore. In fact, who invited you in the first place? Not me. Coming in without an invitation…ummm rude. That’s okay, you’re gone now, and I am on the road to recovery. It feels like kind of a slow road right now, but that’s okay. I can be patient. No, that’s not a joke. I actually can be!

So that’s what’s been going on over here lately. Thanks again to everyone who has been super supportive, and made time to call/come by/etc the last couple of days. It means so much more than you realize!

Hoping I’m back to running and spinning ASAP!

Hermano’s 15th Birthday

The only thing sure to make you feel older than getting older yourself, is seeing people you’ve known their entire lives get older! How is my brother 15?!?!?!

This is the face of a 15 year old. A 15 year old who needs a hair cut.

To celebrate, Hermano, Steve, my dad and I all went to Dave & Busters. My family is huge on games, and honestly we could mostly care less about tickets and prizes–we just want to play everything all day long! We started with the electronic jump rope.

Look at my dad's face. Priceless.

We also played air hockey.

I am serious about my air hockey. I do not like to lose.

Did that game where you try to get your ball into the “run” section and not the “move a micro inch” sections.

We spent the larger part of the afternoon there hanging out and having fun before coming back to my house for dessert. Today is Hermano’s actual birthday, but he is living it up in California with his mom and their fancy birthday trip. Thanks for the invite. Some brother you are ;)

I feel really lucky to have this guy in my life. There is something really cool about the sibling relationship when you have a wide age gap. Most of the time, I’d rather hang out with him than most people my age. Hermano is hilarious, smart (even when he pretends not to be), kind, and patient. Kinda the opposite of what you’d expect from a super talented, well liked teenager. I couldn’t be prouder of the young man (weird–I still think of him as a toddler) he’s become! Feliz cuplianos Hermano!!

Mac Visits: Day 2

I hope you realize that if you ever want to come and visit me, a few things will happen.

  1. I will cook you lots and lots of food, most of which will be “Skinnified”.
  2. You will get dog hair all over you. The thing is, unless I vacuum every surface of my house 10x a day, followed by some good old lint rolling, Winston’s hair will win this battle, so I have just kind of learned to live with it. Things to consider before taking up an offer to hang on my couch/air mattress.
  3. You will get forced encouraged into workouts you probably never wanted to do have been dying to try! A few friends can attest to this.

Mac and I started our Thursday morning with spin class! I snuck him into the gym while rude girl wasn’t looking. Take that rude girl! HAH! Then we did some strength training (that’s twice in one week, friends!!), and went into class. I used to take Amanda’s Thursday class pretty regularly, but then I started taking Thursdays as a rest day and became pretty dedicated to Linda, you know my spin teacher bff that doesn’t even know my name, but I think she’s so cool! Well, I was surprised when a new teacher walked in and announced she’d be subbing.

This teacher, Jenna, was ridiculous! Awesome. but ridiculous. Imagine 80s workout video (ie: Suzanne Summers) meets spin class. She was overly enthusiastic, but it was cracking me up more than annoying me and her class kicked my butt! The only thing that bothered me was that she never told us where to be gear wise. She just kept saying things like “Bump it up!” “More gears!!” Well I realized pretty quickly, when I was at gear 24 (the highest the bike goes) and she was still telling people to add gears, that perhaps I wasn’t quite understanding what she meant. Part of my brain spent a lot of class stressing about how I couldn’t be sure if I was doing it right, but tried my best to just enjoy the class and not worry about being “right”. Easier said than done for this type A personality. I ended the class a sweaty mess, and I definitely felt like I got a great workout!

After class, we cleaned ourselves up then went to meet my dad and Hermano at Golf Land for some mini golf! I am so bad at mini golf, but I’ve always really loved it. Mac and I started talking in the parking lot about how neither of us are very good at mini golf, so we’re not as competitive as usual–we only like to actually put forth competitive effort with things we are skilled in, otherwise it can be embarrassing ;) I also mentioned how my dad and Hermano are both super competitive just like us, and within minutes of playing my dad was haggling me like the opposing team at a sports game!

The funniest part is that my dad is actually really good at mini golf, but he looks absolutely ridiculous! He gets in this deep squat and takes what feels like hours to make his turn. It was cracking me up, but apparently it worked because he won with a 45! I came in second, then Hermano, and Mac got an honorable 4th place :)

The dragon!! This hole used to scare the crap out of me as a kid!

I used to hate this one! Hermano took about 15 swings hitting it everyone except where it was supposed to go. Then I schooled him and got it on my first shot. ;)

Tick tock, tick tock.

Probably gloating his victory.

After mini golf, we grabbed some fro yo, then headed back to my place so Mac could watch the Kentucky game and I could get some work done. Then, I went out to rehearsal, and the rest of the night was pretty uneventful. We had an other super late night with a 10:30 bed time. Ummm yeah, we’re old. I should maybe be embarrassed, but I’m totally okay with it!