This is what I woke up to. Which is good, because I also woke up to this:
Nicely swollen and a pretty good bruise, don’t you think? I mean, I’m sorry you had to see my bare and grossly puffy foot, but these are the facts. I have no idea they mean, but it does hurt. Walking isn’t my best skill today, and it feels like there’s a ball of some kind in there where it’s not supposed to be. But …
This foot thing started at about mile 15, following, and I suspect caused by, a hip situation that started at mile 6. Truthfully, the pre-race issues I was dealing with were almost – *almost* – cured, and if I’d had one more week, I’m pretty confident it would have been perfect. I felt so good, so strong. I had so much energy. And then the right hip, the source of all my previous issues, started to ache at mile 6. A pain starting at mile 6 of a 26.2 mile race can be one of two things – A. something that will work itself out in a few miles or B. disaster. At mile 9, my hip let me know that it was going to be choice B.
Basically, when the hip hurt, I sped up, which not only lessened the pain, but also felt AMAZING. Again, I felt so strong. I had so much energy. I felt like I could continue that pace for DAYS. And then … my hip stopped moving. It just locked up. Not even so much in a painful way, just done. I could only shuffle my feet. It sounds bad, but it was less alarming in the moment and than it was confusing. Is my leg NOT moving? Huh. That’s weird. And so unexpected.
There are no medical tents at the Kiawah Island marathon, so I just pulled to the side and started to stretch. I didn’t have a choice, which is what made this such a nice moment. It wasn’t like I was going to make any sort of decent time SHUFFLING MY FEET, so I might was well take a few minutes to stretch. I tried the standing ankle-over-knee stretch, hoping I could just pop something into place and take back off (and not have to lie down on the wet ground. Did I mention it rained pretty much throughout this marathon? Yeah. Super.) but no dice. Then I went to my standby, pigeon pose, for a few minutes, but also nothing. Finally I tried Cow Face pose, a stretch Katie – bless her lovely, lovely heart – had shown me just that morning in pre-race prep. It felt amazing, and I could tell that if I just relaxed and breathed, things would right themselves. And after a few deep breaths, they did. I felt my hip release. I stood. I circled my leg. All was well. A little painful but well. Back to the race.
This happened three times: the pain while starting out, then speeding up and feeling great, and then the hip locking up and stretching. And in the process I’m sure I was jacking up that left foot in compensation for the right hip, because at mile 15 that pain started also, and it was even more intense than the hip. But I was at mile 15 and by god, as long as I could run, I was finishing that race. I couldn’t worry about time, since the stretching breaks were destroying that, so I just focusing on seeing past the pain, and – I know this is going to sound like some combination of bizarre and insane – having fun. It really was fun.
Soon (or at some moments, it didn’t feel like it was so soon) the last miles were upon me. At mile 24 The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” came on, and, Kevin, I had a little moment where I could see what your face would look like if you were there, cheering me on, which I knew you would be. I could see the mile 26 marker when the Wailin’ Jennys’ “Heaven When We’re Home” – sort of my theme song lately – came on, and I nearly burst into tears, but in the same way I was refusing to allow myself to stop running, I was able, for once in my life, to force myself not to cry.
I did cry a little, though, when I saw Katie’s face (Katie ran the half marathon, KICKED ASS and set a new PR.) as I flew past the finish line. And I did fly, or at least it felt like it, though it maybe wasn’t the smartest thing. It was so frustrating feeling the potential in my body and not being able to use it. I just had to give it one last kick, consequences be damned. And then I saw Katie, and I slowed to a walk. She was separated from me by the plastic orange fence that oulined the chute, but she followed me while I got medaled and wrapped in the shiny silver blanket (after which she called me a baked potato). I was crying, and I said, Katie, it was a disaster. BUT SO MUCH FUN.
And then we went straight to the medical tent.
The clock read 4:30 when I crossed, but with my ridiculous stretching breaks I’m guessing I was running for more like. I thought I’d be devastated if I didn’t finish in 4, but I learned so much more about myself having to push through the pain that it turns out, this was even better. I was elated. As I was sitting on bags of ice in the parking lot, the clouds drifted apart and Katie, sitting next to me, laughed and said, Look, the sun’s coming out. It was a beautiful day.
Anyway, we couldn’t take our phones because the bag drop at Kiawah is unmanned, so we don’t have any photos of the actual race. But here are a few of the trip leading up to the race. And you already saw my foot, so what more could you want?