Teri Masters: Making friends with aches, pains and torrential rains to go 26 (Part II)

Teri Masters is a 37-year old mom of 3 living in Truro NS Canada. Her marathon experience taught her that she could push herself further than she ever thought, making “friends” with those aches and pains that accompany 26 miles. She fought torrential rains and winds to finish the Prince Edward Island Marathon in October. For the full account of race day, read her blog post about Prince Edward Island Marathon.

This is Part II in a two part series. Read part I by clicking here.

What was the race experience like? How did it feel when you crossed the finish line?

I watched the weather all the way up to 2 days before the race day, and then I had to stop because instead of getting better, it kept getting worse. The forecast was rain, wind, and lukewarm temperatures. Nothing can kill my running experience like a strong wind; and the idea of spending close to 5 hours with wet feet and clothing was daunting! Race Day came, and it was every bit as bad as I had imagined. Raining hard and sideways.  Chilly temperatures. Wind strong and gusty. Prince Edward Island is pretty flat and wind sails across it; not to mention, the first third of the race is along the north shore, just off the sand dunes and beach. Talk about being out in the elements! Beautiful on a sunny day; brutal on a grey, rainy day. I went through the motions of the bathroom lines, holding down my rain cape against the gusts and trying to warm up. The exercise was futile because I was COLD.  When it was time to start, I slipped out of the rain cape and got slammed by wet, cold rain. Wondering what I was doing out there, I got to a spot in the start near the 4:30 pace bunny, waited through speeches we could not hear, then heard the gun and started moving forward. After I finally crossed the start line, we were running. At this point, I was paying more attention to pace than the weather. The wind did not stop for the entire race; sometimes it was behind, sometimes head on. The rain kept up almost to the end. But after a while it did not seem to matter. What bothered me most was that I was running in 3 layers of clothing and was never was warm enough to shed even one of them. I felt bulky and heavy in the wet layers and trying to make adjustments was frustrating. My race number was trashed. My food was wet. My feet were wet and slippery in the shoes. But despite it all, it was an amazing run. I paced well and felt strong right to the end. There was never a point where I thought, “I cannot do this.” I was thinking good things, like “I own this race.”  “I have done worse than this”!  lol Familiar aches and pains came at predictable times, and they were ok because we were old friends by now. The aches of use and fatigue, not injury. I expected and almost welcomed them, because it meant I was working hard. The half way point was a little slow, but I had readjusted my expectations for the weather and some extended bathroom breaks with line-ups. After 32 km when I entered uncharted territory, I was feeling about as I expected – tired but strong.  I had once run a 10K race with the flu; and I figured this could not be worse. I kept repeating: “It’s just a 10K run now and you don’t have the flu.” No negative thoughts slipped in. I marked off familiar landmarks and estimated distances left, making sure I had enough energy for the last few hills but also wanting to keep up a good pace to finish strong. I think I did well, although looking back, I may have left a little too much energy on the course. Crossing the finish line was emotional. When you work at something for 6 months or more, the moment it is over is very “big.”  There were not a lot of spectators left, and there were not a lot of volunteers left.  Someone put a space blanket around my shoulders and asked if I was ok – and I said I was. Then I walked through the chute and picked up a medal off a table. I looked around for my husband and saw him on the other side of the fence waving. I had to fight for food with some spectators who decided it was lunch time and the marathon food was up for grabs. In the end, it was a little anticlimactic. I was prepared for there to NOT be a party, but it was even more low key and un-noteworthy than I had expected. Hmm.  Where was my brass band and speech? Did you meet your race goal? It depends on which one is the true race goal. I did not go under 4:30; time was about 4:38. And I might have been under 4:30 if I had not had 2 bathroom breaks in the first hour.  With line ups!  Really?  I finished on my feet, in better spirits than I had planned, under 5 hours. I would have to say, I met my goal. I did a marathon!  A full marathon!

What did you learn about yourself through this experience?

A few of these things I already knew. If I want something, I can get it. It may take a lot of work, but I can do it. And some things I did not know but now I do. I can put up with a lot of discomfort. I get rather a lot of pleasure from proving people wrong. I can push myself beyond what I thought could. I have a great ability to separate myself from the present and wander off into dreamland while I keep going on autopilot.  None of that “Living in the Moment” stuff when the Moment is really painful! I get a kick out of passing people even though they are just as miserable as I am. That’s a little bit mean, but seriously, it’s a rush to be able to push just a little bit harder. I enjoy spending time by myself and some of my best times were on lonely trails in between 2 familiar places where I had to get to one end or the other to be “safe.” I got to know myself quite well and discovered the solitude and rhythm of running are a great time and place to work out things that laid heavy on my mind. I discovered when I’m focused on a big target, I’m a better person and I get more done.  I appreciated time at home and with the kids more. I appreciated that I could go and do these things and not just sit around.  I learned things I’ve not even defined yet 🙂 Will you run another? Funny, the first thing I thought when I was wrapped in my space blanket and walking out of the chute was “ok what next?  I’m doing that again!”  Second thought was: “Oh I have to do a triathlon!”

What advice would you give another first time marathoner?

Some of the advice I was given was pretty useless or specific to a program or very specific to a person – some of it made me laugh.  But I did get some useful ideas that may be worth passing on: A training program is great for getting going and staying focused. But like most things, they are meant to be altered to fit your lifestyle and abilities. No one plan works for everyone.  Do what you need to do for your training and health. Start with a good base of fitness. Finishing the C25K is a pretty shaky base. Be comfortable with a distance before moving on to another. Trust the taper. Figure out what works for your long runs and what does not BEFORE the big day because then it is too late. Do everything you can to make what works for you a reality.  If you need 3 stops at the bathroom before you can run a race, don’t sit in the car until just before race time. (Lesson learned.) Eat what you need to eat.  Run your speed. Ignore everything else. Acrylic materials soak up a lot of water and do not offer a lot of wet warmth. It is okay to focus on you for some things. Be a little bit selfish.

Melinda Hinson