Running for Anna

On December 12, 2010 our family was devastated by the loss of my niece, Anna Rogotzke, on her fourth birthday, to a rare cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. On December 4, 2011, I ran in the California International Marathon to raise money for the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, a leader in the fight against sarcomas. This blog is created to update those interested in my journey and progress as I train for this event and events thereafter.

....And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Saturday, December 31, 2011


I can't believe that today is the last day of 2011!  I know I'm getting older, but I sure wish time would just slow down sometimes. 

I don't know where to start as far as updating you since my last post.  As I expected, there have been some post-marathon blues.  It's difficult to explain the "full" but also "empty" feeling after achieving a goal that only came with months and months of hard work.  I've explained in past posts that training for this marathon helped me deal with the grief I was experiencing after Anna's death, and I was a little concerned that, once this goal was achieved, that grief would hit hard.  There has been some of that, but the celebration of Christmas and the assurance that God fulfills His promises helped to alleviate those feelings somewhat.

 I've also had time to reflect on the true gratitude I feel for everyone who has helped me attain this accomplishment: my husband and son, who were on the receiving end of most of my incessant talking about all things marathon training, and who, in return, gave me nothing but support; all of those who donated to my cause (the donations keep coming in...only $78 to the $3000 mark!);  fellow runners I know who were always ready with just the advice I needed at any given time; and all those who would just ask how things were going on a regular basis.  I can never say enough to adequately express my appreciation.

Until today, I have done no running since the marathon.  Not because I didn't want to.  I felt like I pushed my semi-injured body far past what it was meant to do that day, and I knew rest was called for.  I promised my husband I would take a month off.  After limping around for about a week after the marathon, that seemed a reasonable amount of time to let myself completely heal and recover. 

I've realized some things during this month off. 

1) - Running is my anti-anxiety medication.  I am naturally an (overly?) anxious person.  No matter how many people tell me I'm good at something, my first reaction is that I'm not good enough.  Nobody made me feel this way.  My family has always been incredibly supportive and encouraging.  It's just part of my psychological make-up, I think.  For the past year, those feelings have been minimized.  Running releases my stress, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt.  The only thing I have to watch for is comparing my running to other runners or those feelings of being "not good enough" start nudging their way into my mind.  

2) - Running gives me the "alone" time that I need.  I used to feel guilty when I would try to get time alone.  Shouldn't I want to spend time with family, friends, coworkers, etc?  I read something which compared introverts to extroverts and it said that extroverts recharge their batteries and gain the energy they need through other people.  Introverts need quiet and time away from other people to recharge and renew their energy.  Apparently, I'm an introvert.  It's not that I dislike spending time with other people...I just prefer to balance that with some time by myself, and running gave me that.  And, since I run before my family is even awake, there should be no guilt associated with that, especially since I feel that I'm a nicer person to be around because of it.  It's been difficult not getting that "me" time during this past four weeks, especially with office Christmas parties, etc., that occur this time of year.  Too many "social" situations and not enough quiet time to balance that.

3) - I am a "neutral" runner.  I finally had a gait analysis done at a local running store.  (Yes, I definitely should have done that BEFORE training for a marathon.)  Turns out I'm a neutral runner with a mid-foot strike.  The guy at the store asked if I had been working on that in my training (apparently, that's the way you should run)., I was just running to get the miles in, paying no attention to form.  The shoes I had been wearing are stability shoes, and he said I definitely don't need that.  In fact, he thought that may have caused some of my IT band problems, since my shoes were trying to correct something that didn't need correcting.  I tried on some neutral shoes and ended up buying some of these:
Saucony Progrid Ride 4 comfy!!  I bought these a couple of weeks ago.  Do you know how hard it is to have a nice new pair of running shoes and not immediately try them out?  It doesn't help that Reno has had one of the mildest Decembers in history, and the weather has just been perfect for running!

4) - Running helps me feel "fit".  Perhaps it was the lack of running, or the 534,212 Christmas cookies I ate, but I definitely don't feel "fit" right now.  

So, today - 27 days after the marathon (not quite a month...but I feel it is close enough) - I went for a run.  The first mile felt clumsy and awkward, but, after that, my running legs came back and I got my rhythm.  The endorphins kicked in, and I felt wonderful!  Ran 4 miles at a slowish pace, so nothing spectacular, but it was pain-free and I'll take it! 

So, what's next on my agenda?  Good question!  There are a few half-marathons I would like to sign up for in the near future.  I would definitely like to work on my speed a little bit.  But, the main goal is to just keep running.  I have said I probably wouldn't run another marathon after this one.  As a slow runner, those long training runs take A LOT of time!  But, when I analyze this past marathon and see that without the pit stops - even with the knee pain - I could have almost broke that 5 hour time limit that I was trying to achieve...hmmmm.  I guess we'll just have to see what 2012 brings.  :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

It Was a Great Day (and a PR)!! California International Marathon Recap

Did I meet my time goal I had set earlier in the year?  No.  Was my knee pain-free?  No.  Is my bladder bigger than the size of a thimble?  No.  Did I have one of the best days ever?  Absolutely, yes!!

We left for Sacramento on Saturday.  We dropped my mother-in-law off with my brother-in-law and his wife, and then headed for the expo.  The expo was very enjoyable to me.  While there weren't tons of exhibit booths, there also wasn't a huge crowd.  We spent about an hour there.  I broke the rule of not buying anything new for race day...bought some arm sleeves for the cold start, and an IT band strap (what could it hurt?).  I figured either one of those could be easily removed if they became bothersome during the race. After the expo, we went to church, and my in-laws once again provided a perfect and wonderful carb-loading dinner, complete with one of the best chocolate lava cakes I've ever tasted (it was my mother-in-law's birthday). 

I had reserved a room at the host hotel, the Grand Sheraton in downtown, and I am so glad I did that.  We had a beautiful room, and it made everything much easier as far as getting to the start, etc.  Can't say enough good things about this hotel.  They provided free fruit and water in the morning, and opened up one of their markets at 4:00 a.m. just for the runners.  The only thing that was a little confusing was the bus pick-up.  We were told it would be directly in front of the hotel, but they ended up in front of the convention center next door.  But, once we figured it out, the pick-up was seamless.

I had laid out all my clothes the day before, so getting ready was quick, and I was soon ready to go!

The ride to the start line seemingly took FOREVER!  I kept thinking, "How am I ever going to run back to downtown?"  It felt like we drove 60 miles.

At the start line, I immediately got in line for the porta potty.  Once that was taken care of, I ate a banana and started shedding the layers I had worn and putting them in my drop bag.  I received some encouraging texts and emails, which were so helpful.  I was all set to go at about 6:45 a.m., and that was perfect!  Not too much time to stand around and wait.  I still wasn't sure how fast I should try and run.  I was going to try and run the first 3 miles between 11:30 and 12:00 pace, and see how I felt after that. 

The location where I lined up was kind of up a hill from the start line, so I got an eagle eye's view of the start.  It was awesome!  I heard the horn and was able to watch the mass of people move through the starting arches.  This was the first time I cried...out of sheer emotion that this was really happening.  This was the day I had been working for!  I crossed the starting mat at 7:05 - I made a point to look so I knew approximately how much time I could deduct when I saw the various clocks on the course.  However, I forgot to look when they sounded the horn, which must have been about 7:01 instead of 7:00, so I was a little off in my estimates.  (Unfortunately, I forgot to stop my Garmin when I crossed the finish line, so that didn't help, either)

My knee started hurting immediately, and I thought, "Uh-oh".  I had taken 3 Advil prior to the start, and I just kept praying they would kick in.  Should I have been running this race?  Probably not, if you look at it logically.  But, logic wasn't playing any part of this marathon.  I had the feeling the entire day that someone else was calling the shots.  The night before the race, I was trying to plan when and what to eat, when and what to drink, what to wear, and I just finally asked God to let me know what to do and when to do it.  The last 20-miler I ran was on October 22!  The week after that was when I started having IT band trouble.  So, for five weeks, I've been doing only minimal running.  Truly, if I had relied on myself to get through this, there is no way I should have been able to finish. 

Miles 1 - 3
The first mile or so is all downhill, so I was concentrating on not going too fast.  The Advil started kicking in (or my knee was just getting numb) about halfway through Mile 2.
Mile 1 - 11:47
Mile 2 - 11:31
Mile 3 - 11:05

Miles 4 - 6
Really starting to feel good.  Loved the crowds and the music.  Saw some funny signs ("You are NOT almost done", etc.)  The atmosphere was charged with excitement.
Mile 4 - 10:54
Mile 5 - 11:09
Mile 6 - 14:56 (porta potty stop #1)

Miles 7 - 9
Still feeling good...although took a couple of more Advil (I was eating them like candy.)
Mile 7 - 11:19
Mile 8 - 11:23
Mile 9 - 14:25 (porta potty stop #2)

Miles 10 - 14
The hills were starting to annoy me (A LOT of rolling hills in this race), but I was used to hills in my training, so I was having an easier time here than a lot of other people. 
Mile 10 - 10:55
Mile 11 - 11:05
Mile 12 - 11:02
Mile 13 - 11:03
Mile 14 - 16:34 (porta potty stop #3) - UGH!!!

I had been running without music, but I plugged into my iPod about this point.  I was starting to feel my knee, again, and needed some extra motivation.  

Miles 15 - 20   
These were the gut-check miles.  I ran 15 miles about a week ago, but I wasn't confident about anything past that.  My brother had texted me the day before and he included words from Phillippians 4:13, which reads, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  Mentally, I was trying to find something to maintain focus through these miles.  Then, I saw a sign someone was holding, which said, "You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you."  I have no idea which mile this was ...just somewhere during this time.  A couple of miles after that, someone was wearing a shirt that said the exact same thing on the back.  OK...there was my focus and my mantra.  Did I mention I was having NO PAIN during this time?  I could. not. believe. it.  It was exhilarating!
Mile 15 - 11:14
Mile 16 - 11:06
Mile 17 - 11:01
Mile 18 - 11:33
Mile 19 - 11:14
Mile 20 - 11:08

Mile 20 was the second time I cried, because I knew I was going to make it.  It was also about this time when the song "I Can Only Imagine" came on my iPod.  Of course, this song always makes me think of Anna.  She is right now experiencing what I can only imagine!  The term "wings of an eagle" kept going through my mind - thanks to a very kind comment on my last post - and it truly felt like I was being swept along on the wings of eagles. 

Miles 21 - finish 
I'm not going to lie... some of these last miles were TOUGH!  At some points, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other in some semblance of a running form.  I stopped at mile 25 to call my husband to let him know I was close...and it took about 3 blocks after that to start running again.  Why does mile 20 feel like you're almost there, but mile 25 feels like an eternity away?  It was only tough, physically, though.  Mentally, I was still feeling very strong.
Mile 21 - 11:25
Mile 22 - 11:28
Mile 23 - 11:36
Mile 24 - 12:23
Mile 25 - 12:14 - Saw my husband, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law and family...was WONDERFUL to see them and to know I was almost there!
Mile 26 - 13:01

Third time I cried - crossing the finish line.  All the training I had done this year, all the worry and stress of the last few weeks, all of the hard work in fund-raising, and all of the emotions of the day and in remembering Anna culminated in crossing that finish line!  I can't begin to describe the feelings I was having at that point.

Chip time 5:13:01.  Am I disappointed in not getting under 5:00 like I had hoped?  Not in the least!!  Considering that I was doubting that I was going to even run this race up until about a week ago, I am delighted with the outcome.  I finished strong, I finished happy, and ... well...I just finished! Oh, and it is a 27 minute PR from my first (and only up until this point) marathon about 5 years ago. 

Once I got back to the hotel and rested for awhile, my knee pain came back with a vengeance, and today I'm limping around and kind of feel like I got run over by a truck.  I'm glad I asked for the day off from work.  Just looking at my shot bloks makes me a little nauseous after eating so many yesterday.  Overall, though, I'm thrilled with what this whole experience has taught me about myself and other people.  I've learned that people are caring, generous, and giving of themselves.  People have donated close to $3000 for this cause.  People I haven't even met in person have donated, sent me cards, and given me encouragement through this blog.  I've learned that I don't have to be in complete control all of the time (believe me, that's difficult for me).  Sometimes, I have to let it go, give it to God, and let Him do the rest.  All the glory to Him!

Looking back, there were so many things that normally would have / should have bothered me, but I didn't even notice at the time.  For the first time, I wore a head band instead of a hat, and, when I was done, I noticed that it had shifted down over my forehead a little bit...typically, this would have annoyed me to no end!  I forgot my arm band for my iPod, so I stuck it in the front little pocket of my compression capris.  Now, I have a big sore there from where it was rubbing on my stomach.  When I got back to the hotel and took off my shoes, the toe area of one of my socks was all bloody, and I have about six blisters on my toes and foot.  I'm happy to say that I didn't even feel any of this. at all. through the whole race.

Just the sock...I'll spare you the picture of my foot.  You're welcome.
 See what I mean when I say it felt like I wasn't the one calling the shots?  Again, to God be the glory!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

California International Marathon

Not sure of official time...I think around 5:11. More details to come later.