The marathon is a mental game, a humbling experience that also requires a little physical endurance.
If you cannot withstand the mental and physical pounding during the training,
you will likely get injured and never make it to the start.
If you cannot withstand the mental and physical pounding for the 26.2+ miles,
you will likely falter - and you may not make it to the finish.
If you finish in the time you hoped for - it is exhilarating.
If you finish far past the point of where you hoped to finish -
you are left with a quasi feeling of accomplishment, playing more mental games....
On March 3rd, 2019, I completed my 6th World Major Marathon. I received the Tokyo Marathon Medal, as well as the Abbott 6 World Major Marathon medal. I finished far past what I expected, and for a few weeks, I felt as if I failed.
I knew going into this race that I played it very safe while training. I ran 9:30 min/mile pace in my long runs, was careful (slower) in my strides, pick-ups, and track work outs. Running after the 1/2 in Henderson was few and far between because my legs were so banged up. But no excuses - only reasons of why I knew I was likely facing a 4 hour, maybe going over to 4 hours plus 5-10-minutes. It was (maybe) going to be my last marathon ....
Over the past few months, I did some soul searching, and wondered if it was worth logging all the miles I have ever run ...and after almost several months, I can profoundly answer:
No Gloves - What a Mistake!
I gave a talk at the Essex Running Club's annual dinner a few months back. I was so happy they asked me. I just wanted to thank everyone whom I have met while running - when you all talk, I listen. I listen to every word you say - all your advice, your thoughts, your actions, your race stories - and at my lowest points in my races, I think of your words, your race stories, your life - every step, and every mile.
People are always amazed - you run by yourself? 22 miles? Do you listen to music? What do you think about? Well, I tell people - sometimes I think, 'Oh Gosh this totally sucks' - especially going uphill mile during a 22 mile training run. But mostly I pray. I go through the alphabet, and pray for everyone I know whose name starts with A, B, C, D ...etc. This starts to fall apart around ... Q, R, S. Good thing I include families associated with those people in the first few letters!
At about mile 18, 19, and 20 - I pull from the people I know:
Rebecca: I love this woman, aka My Track Partner in Crime. I always hear her words: 'There's always room for new energy!'
Meb: 'I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me' How true, how true!
Jackie: 'It's just a hill - get over it!'
Yadira: "You can do this, this is easy!"
Joel: 'You're running sub 7-minute miles on the track, you can do a 4-hour marathon!'
Tom Fleming: 'Listen to your Coach and just run!'
Mary and Fidelma: 'Good luck, Beth - You can do this!'
Paul: 'The hay is in the barn. You have done everything you needed to do to prepare for this moment.'
Ron, My Bestie, Life Partner aka "Bag Man": 'Keep running "glidey" Just glide along'
But Tokyo was tougher than any other marathon I've run so far. It wasn't hilly, there were some bridges around mile 9-13, but no biggy - I had Jackie with me.
I made the fatal mistake of thinking it would get warmer as the day went on
- but it got colder, with heavy rains, and gusty winds that threatened my very soul and spirit.
I saw Ron at mile 9 and screamed - "My hands are so cold." My hot hands got soaked and I threw them away about mile 8. I couldn't stand the sound of the rain poncho "Csh, Csh, Csh" every step - so I ripped it off mile 8 too. Ech - that's when I got soaked and started to feel the winds.
Chilled to the Bone!
I saw Ron again at mile 13. He screamed my name while holding up a pair of gloves - I was already headed for delirium - I thought he went back to the hotel, grabbed my gloves, and met me at mile 13. No - he had his gloves in his backpack and gave them to me. It took me about 1 mile to get the gloves on - and my hands burned so badly once in the warm dry gloves. Unfortunately, they didn't stay dry, and once wet, they were no longer warm.
Trying To Squeeze Cold Swollen Hands into Gloves Looks like everyone's hands hurt!
With every gust of wind, I thought - find a big guy and just drag behind him. Then the nausea set in. I am sure I had a mild case of hypothermia:
I was dizzy
I was super nauseous
I was apathetic
I felt super tired
In terms of apathy, around mile 16, I checked out. I told myself I was home and running a 10 mile training run. I knew
Mile 1: I was at Mountainside Hospital
Mile 2: I was at Bloomfield Ave
Mile 4: I was in front of the train station, stroking the name, "John A Candela" and praying to God there are no more terror attacks on the United States
Mile 5: I was passing my street
Mile 6: I was at Brookdale Park, running down the hill for mile 7, running the inner loop for mile 8, climbing the hill in the park for mile 9, running back home for mile 10.
Yes, that would make 26 miles. For the last quarter mile, I pictured myself on the track - one more loop. Oh, No - why wasn't it over? Just go around the track again - it will soon end. I was on the track for twomore quarter mile loops - it was the marathon that never ended!
In terms of nausea - it was bad. I know as a Registered Dietitian and Sports Specialist, I needed to eat my gels and gu's, drink water and take sips of the electrolyte drink post mile 20. I ate a Gu around mile 18, and thought I was going to puke. I past each water stop from then on with disdain - the thought of putting anything in my mouth made me gag. This made me think of a very special runner - Nancy.
Nancy is an amazing woman - a real fighter, a true survivor. Nancy is a cancer survivor, a breast cancer survivor. She has been on medicine over the years that has made her sick - I have seen her training across the track, getting sick in the garbage pale. She told Rebecca and I this incredible story of a woman (by-stander) who helped her while she was getting sick in the New York City Marathon this past year. When she went to say, "Thank You" she got sick all over this woman. The woman was really cool about it - seemingly honored that she was able to help Nancy, so Nancy could finish the race, which of course, she did.
The night before the Tokyo Marathon, I also thought of Nancy - she ran Boston Marathon 2018 wearing dish gloves and a smile. I thought, "Hmm should I wear dish gloves? Noooooo - Tokyo wasn't going to be that bad...."
Every time I got that wave of nausea, I thought of Nancy:
Nancy has done this a million times - You can do this!
Nancy runs on the track after a meeting with the garbage pale - then she rocks it - and then she goes home and writes those "Be Inspired" Quotes on Facebook! You can do this!
Oh God, I'm going to throw up in front of all these people, I'm gonna just start puking. I literally thought this and started to laugh, thinking of Nancy's story of the New York City Marathon - Well if I don't hit anybody, I'll be okay ...
Yes, I Gave My Foil Blanket to (Nancy) Katz and Dogs!
The marathon is a mental game:
At every mile, everyone is there - My friends from Essex Running Club and Montclair Fleet Feet were there. My family was there - I just couldn't let them down. My kids faces were in front of me. Ron's frozen face holding up those gloves - yup, in front of me. My Coach and Rebecca were there holding up a sign ...
There were even people from my past, who have moved on. They were screaming, "Don't Stop Girl, You Got This!"
You were all there with me - inspiring me to finish strong - you all came to see me finish.
'You gotta finish.
Beth, C'mon finish strong baby, finish strong.
... oh boy, I got no kick - wish I squeezed down one more gu.
Shut up, just keep going, keep pushing ...
OMG.... there's the finish'
Run To Inspire
Fakest Smile Ever!
Everyone in this Six Star tent tried to put more foil blankets on me - I told them it wouldn't help. Apparently, I was shivering so much I scared them!
Let's put it this way, I ran the Saints and Sinners Half Marathon in Nevada and when I left ... Hell Froze Over!
The trip started with an immediate drive to the local Medi-Center. With the Crohn's Disease, I usually get a warning that I have an infection or I am getting a cold - this comes in the form of a canker sore.
Well, I had several!
I know I have been pushing it, starting a new business and training for the Tokyo Marathon. So I thought I would be safe and get checked out.
Unbeknownst to some, I also have had a few bouts of passing some kidney stones/crystals. This is common with not hydrating properly (likely due to the new business along with the intense training) and Crohn's. Long story short, I was fine - just a touch of bronchitis. Which, isn't great when you are starting a race at 2600 feet, aka Altitude. But, I chose this race because it was a downhill race, and that can help when running at altitude.
After about half a mile of running straight downhill, I started to call out to nearby runners, "Anyone run this race before?" I screamed it out a few times, until a woman ran up alongside me and said, "Yes, why?" I asked, "Is it the downhill this steep the whole race?"
For those who live around the Montclair, NJ area, I can only describe the downhill in this race to be almost as steep as Alexander Ave or the top of Mt Hebron going from Highland to Upper Mountain Ave. I often walk down those hills after running about mile 10 or 13 because I want to be cautious not to blow out my knee cap. But there I was in Nevada, getting thrown down the side of this steep embankment for a good 3 miles, to which then I had to climb a steep hill, only to be thrown down more hills, for another 3 miles.
By the time I got to mile six, my chest was burning. I was coughing and coughing. I drank a Gatorade, and then a water. This young volunteer ran up to me, "Miss, Would you like another glass of water?" Through this terrible barking cough, I replied, "No. Thank you." Then I tried to start to run again. My legs were so banged up - they felt exactly as they did in mile 22 of the New York City Marathon. Holy Schmoly - the legs didn't want to move. I got so nervous - I just started repeating,
'I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me'.
Next thing I knew we were running a slight incline that felt as if I were climbing the Dolomiti! My legs were so heavy. And then, we were running on a ledge, about 4 people wide. I hate, hate, hate heights.
So even though there was a beautiful view of Lake Mead (I think) and the mountains in the background, all I could think of was how I could fall off the side of this gravel path. I was dizzy, and nauseous - which is how I get when I am up high. I was praying out loud, "Lord, please get me past this tunnel section." It was very quiet through this section - if anyone heard me, they must have thought I was a wack-a-do!
I went really slowly in the tunnels because I couldn't see. After 2 retinal surgeries (thanks again to the Crohn's), it's really hard for me to see in dark places. So, I just kept praying ...
Views from this Tunnel Section Were So Very Pretty, But I was too scared to look down!
After the tunnel section, you had more downhill, not so steep, but my legs were shot. At first I was like, "Oh good, a break from that incline," - and then I was like, "Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch."
All along the course, I looked for Ron. He wasn't at the 1/2-way point, he wasn't at another spot where supporters were cheering. I wanted so bad to tell him - someone - "MY LEGS HURT".
Finally, I saw Ron. I only snarled - too exhausted to talk, he just got an,
At that point, we were near the end, and we had to cross over some roads. I started seeing runners coming up from a hill-ish part. I yelled to a volunteer, "Where's the finish?" He yelled back, "It's over that way."
The volunteer was pointing behind him. That meant that I had this small (IDK 1/4 mile) stretch downhill, but then we had to turn around and climb back up about 1/4-mile to make a left (in front of other runners) in order to make our way to the finish. I thought I was going to cry - how the heck were my legs going to go back up this incline - yes, it was small, but how?
I have chronic left hammy issues from all this running (This was my 41st half!) - so my quads - particularly my left quad, does a lot of work pulling me uphill - and that poor little quad was shot!
So, more praying. I started to go through the alphabet and pray ..J- I prayed for Juliette, Johnny, Joel - and then I thought of someone special....
Before I left for Nevada, my Coach, Joel Pasternack, came to visit me at my new business, Beyond Cryotherapy. He told me that he wanted to tell me something. Of course, having PTSD and being Italian, I thought,' Oh my Lord, who is dying?' I bulleted questions,
Are you sick?
Is Bonnie well?
Oh my God, Joel, is it one of your granddaughters?
He said, "Everyone is fine, just type into your computer 'Benjamin Fairclough'" Joel's my coach - I naturally do everything he tells me. Together we sat, and watched this wispy blonde, child of God, walk across a gym floor to perform holiday songs with her pre-K-3 class:
Carli Pre-K (Age 3) Winter concert - YouTube
Then Joel proceeded to share with me that his Granddaughter, Carli, has Cerebral Palsy. I was at a loss for words. I could only think out loud, as I called on God. I refused to cry in front of Joel - he is so proud of his granddaughter, and it was actually a celebratory moment for Joel. I sat, and watched my coach, the man who ran his entire life ran - and still does - even after knee surgery - talk about his granddaughter, Carli. His eyes, bright, full of hope, proud of her accomplishments, and he told me, "You know, she has braces on her legs - that helps her walk with her walker. It's amazing what they have for her to help her walk. She's a toughy - a real fighter."
So, there I was, climbing this sort of incline. People were dropping like flies. Ron said even the guy in 1st place struggled coming back up that section - that he could see it in his face. I yelled out to a guy next to me, "Quicksand, I feel like my legs are in quicksand." That's when I thought of the video that Joel showed me. I thought, if Carli can make it across that gym floor, God, I can make it up this section and on to the finish."
I dedicated that last mile to Carli, knowing that I have no idea what she struggles with, what it feels like for her to move, walk - and I hope, maybe, one day - to run ...with Joel." God have mercy.
I started to approach where we had to turn left, and shouted to a young girl facing that last incline down and back, "C'mon baby doll," and I waved her in front of me. Once you make that left, the race shoots you about 300 meters or so through another steep downhill. I thought, 'Make some time back, you can heal later." I looked at my watch - I could only squeeze out an 8:15-minute mile pace for that last section. people were yelling, "It's right around this bend. Kick it Out. C'mon, Kick it out!"
I tried to kick it out - and you can see in this picture, the pain in my face as I finished. I didn't even realize there were two chutes - a saintly one, and a sinner one. Looks like I'm a sinner! LOL!
My Poor Quads!
It took me about 4 days to be able to walk down the stairs in the morning on alternating legs! The Saints and Sinners Half will go down as the hardest half marathon that I have run so far! Thank God for the cryotherapy at Beyond Cryotherapy!
Getting ready for Tokyo 3/3/2019 Maximizing Recovery in the JUKA at Beyond Cryotherapy!
Well, I managed to redo Washington State in September and reclaim my Washington State attempt. As you might already know, I attempted to run Washington State last February, Recap: Here The course was so poorly marked, that I got lost. I didn't realize this until I did one loop twice, and saw someone (whom I should have had seen standing there the 1st time through the loop) yelling "Half Marathoners, this way." Of course I freaked out, and asked the guy, "was I supposed to run this way after the 1st loop?" Anyway, Orca Running was kind enough to allow me to enter another one of their races ...free of the entry fee.
So, we planned another trip out to Washington State. Just to interject a little about traveling to a race - it's not an easy feat. I've gotten in sometimes at 9pm, had to get the rental, drive to a hotel, sleep in a bed that sometimes very uncomfortable. get up early, plan my meal - so that my Crohn's is perfect through the entire 13.1, head out to the race, scurry to pick up a packet, line up at 7am, 8 am or whatever, push through altitude changes, and stay focussed. This was easier in my 40's, but heading towards my new age group, at 55, I'm feeling it a little more.
Focus To Finish Strong!
See, my goal was never to just run a half in every state, my goal has always been to place in my age group in every half in every state. Sometimes I've done this - and sometimes I haven't - doesn't change my goal.
Pointing to my Mercy Band The Reason Behind My Goal Loss of My Husband, John A Candela, Killed in 911 in Attacks on WTC
I ran all summer thinking of placing in my age group in the Orca Half Marathon. I just had to feel that I walked away from Washington State successful.
Second place: Goal Achieved! 9/23/2018
It feels good to know that at 1:45:57,
I would have placed in any age group 35 and older!
Info about the course -
Yes! You do see stupendous views of downtown Seattle, Blake Island, Vashon Island and Puget Sound!
It’s pretty flat, except around mile 10-ish, when you have to climb a small hill (pretty hot at that time) to go over a bridge, turn around and do it again.
It benefits a local non-profit: The Whale Trail
Quirky Half Crazed Memories:
The Port-O-John line was too long, and I started to get nervous that I wouldn't be able to pee, so I ran off into the distance - found some slope that ended behind a wall. Climbed up the slope - and slid down behind the wall. I started crying thinking that I broke my sacrum .... I thought, "Gosh will I ever be able to finish Washington State?" Yes ...I was fine! Stupid - but fine!
I realized I forgot my gels, and texted Ron pre- bag check, who rented a City Bike, and met me on the course at mile 4 with 2 gels - one was the new Maurten's Gel - which I am totally digging - it's been great on the GI (sponsor anyone???)
I heard - what I though were seal pups - barking in the distance while running! I did not see any Orca Whales, but hearing the seals barking was pretty cool.
I finished, making okay time after flying in last minute, and trying to get used to the time change.