May 31, 2011
Before this weekend, I always wondered what race officials do when a runner decides they can't finish the race. Welp, I now consider myself an insider on the whole process, which involves a lot of walkie-talkieing...and a bus.
It's true. It happened. I DNF'd the Vermont City Marathon this year. Fifth marathon, first DNF, but honestly, I've accepted it and I'm completely fine.
If you're one of my Daily Mile* friends, you know that I whined, complained, and wretched about my stomach for the entire week before the race. Basically, I came down with a stomach bug last Sunday and it held strong through the whole week--I even had to leave work early on Thursday because after my nineteenth trip to the bathroom, I started to feel a little embarrassed.
On Friday morning, when we were getting ready to leave for Vermont, I knew I wouldn't be able to brave the car ride in my natural state, so I swallowed a cocktail of stomach meds and it seemed to do the trick. I had no appetite, but I had no accidents either, so I considered it a win.
When I woke up on Saturday, I still felt 'off.' My stomach was churning, and I just didn't want to eat. When I got to the expo to pick up my number, a happy Ben & Jerry's employee tried to hand me a free sample of their newest flavor. Usually, I'd put on a variety of disguises--you know, whatever trash bags, scarves, and childrens' hats I could find on the floor of my car--and hit up the sample guy as many times as I possibly could. But this time, when I wanted to tell the Ben & Jerry's guy to _____ off, I knew I had a problem.
When I stepped up to the line on Sunday morning, I knew in my heart that the race would be a crap shoot. I could have the race of my life, or I could make it three miles, but either way, I wanted to try.
It poured at the starting line, so before the gun even went off, I was soaked and feeling a lot like Maggie:
My pacer went out a little bit fast , so I hung with him until mile five, and then decided to back off and stay closer to my pace. I ran happy until mile ten, and then, all of the sudden, I just kind of started to wilt. By the time I got to the half-marathon mark, I was slogging along. At that point, I decided I'd give myself three more miles to try and bounce back. If I couldn't, I'd run to the medical tent and call it a day.
Well, I never bounced back.
I got slower, and slower, and slower until finally, I was being passed by people dressed up like Christmas trees and tubs of Stoneyfield Yogurt--and to be perfectly honest, it felt like they were zooming right by.
I spotted the medical tent just after mile twenty, and felt a huge sense of relief as I veered in.
I borrowed the medic's cell phone and called my Dad. I said something like, "Hey Dad. I'm at mile twenty. I need the world's best pep talk, or else I'm getting a ride back to the start." He opted to forgo the pep talk and wait for me near the aquarium downtown.
After I hung up the phone, I told the medic that I was done for the day. Then I asked, "So...what happens now?" Since I wasn't any kind of emergency case, I didn't know what they'd do.
He walkie-talkied to someone, told me to wait across the street, and that a bus would come and pick me up.
I sat down on the curb, and one by one, people started lining up next to me. There was the guy from Maine who just felt like crap, there was the guy from Massachusetts with the bum knee, and there was some lady from somewhere who kept screaming, "I'M NOT A QUITTER! I'M NOT A QUITTER!"
I turned to the two guys and said, "Um, if she's not a quitter, then she should probably get off of this quitter bus." They whole heartedly agreed.
The quitter bus pulled up to the curb, and much to our surprise, this wasn't a van, or an SUV, or even a short bus--this was a full sized school bus. And let me just say that I've never been so happy to see a full sized school bus in my entire life.
We rode around Burlington, picking up relay runners here and there. One relay runner hopped on, sat down behind me and was beaming with pride. He'd run a five mile leg, and never in his life had he run farther than four. He told me that he could have kept on going and going and going. He had white hair, glasses, and must have been close to Medicare age. This guy completely made my day. Those are the kind of races that all runners live for.
The bus dropped us near the start, and I walked with the guy from Massachusetts until we found our families. I walked up to mine, we hugged and laughed. Then I looked at James, shrugged and said, "Well, I made it twenty miles!"
"Yeah, but you didn't make it the whole way. Here's your sign, Mom."
Okay, that stung. And that six year old comment was probably 89% of the reason I cried for a minute in the car. But James doesn't know any better--he still doesn't understand why I'm not winning these things.
So there, that's my DNF story. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I'm proud of myself for making it twenty miles with a stomach bug, and I'm proud of myself for knowing my limits. One of these days I know my stars will line right up on race morning.
But in the mean time, I made myself this sticker:
Onward and upward!
*If you're not, you should be! Just tell me that you're a blog friend so I don't delete you in one of my semi-annual deleting sprees.