Where do I start. I’ve started this post several times and left without finishing. I had to let the emotions settle down before I was able to put my words into a post. I’m disappointed, frustrated, and sad. This wasn’t the race I had planned for. I went into this race confident in my training, but I fell short.
Before we get into all of that let’s rewind a bit. This is a race recap and even though it was a race that didn’t go the way I wanted I still will share my experience from the beginning.
We left Friday morning to start our journey to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We stopped about an hour in to pick up my mother-in-law who was gracious enough to come with us to help take care of Easton while we both ran the race.
I stuck to my normal pre-race foods. Very plain and simple foods and focused on eating roughly every 2-3 hours. I try to take in my carbohydrates throughout the day steadily with my biggest meal being lunch. This makes sure that my body is able to digest the foods in enough time for the race.
We got to Kiawah a little before 4:00 pm and headed to get a quick dinner before we went in to pick up our packets. Looking back on it now, going to pick up our packets the night before was probably a mistake. We had a very cranky (understandably) baby who was tired of being in the car and with the traffic to get onto the island it was too much.
After we picked everything up and finally made it back to the hotel (we stayed in Charleston which is a little over 30 minutes away from Kiawah) we got out our race day stuff, gave Easton a bath, and got him to bed. Since he was staying in the pack-n-play in our room we were in bed right around 8 pm which was good since we had a 4:00 AM wake up call.
Saturday (Race Day)
Saturday morning my alarm went off at 4:00 AM. I was tired but overall felt good. I got dressed (put on lots of layers it was COLD), ate my normal morning of breakfast of a bagel and honey and powerade. We waited until the latest we could to get Easton up and piled in the car to head to the race.
We got there without any hiccups. We had to park off island and then be shuttled into the start. It wasn’t too bad except for the rain that had come down all day the day before. Thankfully I didn’t wear my racing shoes to the race and had the option to change prior to the race, otherwise my feet would have been soaked!
We got to the race start and went inside to find the bathrooms and warm up. The great thing about the Kiawah Island Marathon is that it has the option to stay inside until close to the start. They also had a family play area where Easton could stay and play with my mother in law for a majority of the time we were running.
We did some dynamic stretching, warmed up, and then at 7:30 am said our goodbyes and headed to the start line. Wes was in a special coral so that he could start near the front so we kissed goodbye and I found my spot a little bit further behind. I took a Honey Stinger gel while waiting in the coral and before I knew it, it was time to go. The start was a little crazy and the cannons went off before the race had actually started so when we finally did start I didn’t even realize it until the people around me started running.
For the first few miles of the race I just tried to get in a rhythm. The first mile was a little too quick but every time I looked down at my Garmin it was all over the place so I decided just to run for feel for the first several miles. I finally settled into marathon pace around mile 4.
The first 10 miles went great. I saw Wes around mile 7 when he was at mile 10-11 and he was looking good and at the front. It always makes me feel a little better to see how he is doing. I kept focusing on one mile at a time.
The miles seemed long and I kept feeling like I was repeating them same roads but I was keeping focused, finding small groups to run with, and keeping my fueling plan. I took my first gel at mile 8 and had to end up taking it slowly over 2 miles because I missed one of the water stops when I dropped the water cup by accident.
At miles 14-15 I started noticing that my hamstring was tightening up. I didn’t think too much of it and just tried to keep going and keep pace. The miles started to get harder and my hamstring wasn’t letting up in the least bit. I took my second Honey Stinger gel at mile 16. At mile 18 I started to limp. My hamstring had tightened even more and I wasn’t able to pick my leg up off the ground very much which was causing a limp. My pace wasn’t too far off marathon pace maybe 10 seconds but it was starting to slow. I knew by mile 19 that I was in trouble. The pain kept getting worse, my hamstring felt like it was going to snap, and I was beggining to panic. I kept going back in forth in my head do I stop or do I limp/walk to the finish. I decided I’d stop and try to stretch it and then see from there but the moment I stopped my hamstring tightened up so much I couldn’t even walk. I sat down on the side of the I knew it was over. The tears started flowing.
Now that I’ve had a few days to think back on this I believe 100% that I made the right decision to stop. I could have walk/limped it for another 6 miles but the risk of hurting myself worse or even tearing my hamstring was too great. I wasn’t willing to risk a serious injury for the last 6 miles. Had this happened later at miles 24-25 then I may have made a different decision, but to me the risk of a serious injury wasn’t worth it. Plus walking and limping for 6 miles in no way sounded appealing when I was having a hard time simply moving and picking up my leg.
The sweetest volunteer found me laying there and offered to run up ahead and get someone to take me back to the medical tent. About 10 minutes later they piled me into a small van and shuttled me back to the finish. I tried to keep it together, the pain in my hamstring was almost unbearable, but even more than that I started getting cold – so so cold.
I made it to the medical tent and they had to put 7 blankets on me to try and get me to stop shaking. They stretched out my hamstring and while it helped it become more bearable all I wanted at that moment was to see my husband and my son. I was keeping it together but I was miserable, cold, and I just wanted someone who would understand. The nurse tried to call my mother-in-law’s phone but she didn’t answer. My husband didn’t have his phone with him so I sat under the blankets trying to get warm. Finally after about 30 minutes I headed outside the medical tent to wait and try to find them. I was shaking so hard and was so cold that another sweet woman felt sorry for me (ha!) and offered to let me use her phone to call my family. This time she picked up! I told them where I was, what happened, and then just waited there.
About 10 minutes later my husband finally found me. He had ran back about 1/2 mile down the course trying to find me because he knew something was wrong. The moment he found me I just started crying. All the emotions, all the pain, all the hurt it just came out because I knew he would understand.
The first words he said to me were “I’m so so sorry. I promise I will do whatever it takes to help you get your redemption.” He knew exactly what I needed to hear. He just stood there and hugged me and let me cry. After I finally let go my mother in law came up carrying my sweet boy! He just smiled so big at me and at that moment I knew – he didn’t care. To him – he didn’t care if I ran my fastest time ever or if I had DNF’d. All he cared about was seeing his Mama. That smile was one of the best things ever at the end of a very hard race.
This was by far one of the hardest races. The hardest and most frustrating part for me was that I had such a great cycle leading up to it. I hit EVERY SINGLE workout leading up and I felt strong. I felt like I finally had this postpartum PR. I was mad, hurt, and angry that the race turned out this way. I felt like I had failed not only myself but all the people who had helped me countless times to get here. I know that all those that had helped me were simply glad I was OK, but deep down I felt like I had let them down.
Running can be a heartbreaking sport. The marathon is a beast and sometimes even after perfect training cycles you can still fall short. All 12-14 weeks of a training cycle all come down to ONE day. I’ve seen so many people have such success lately and I was beyond frustrated that all the hard work I put in seemed to be wasted.
It’s taken me 3-4 days to let all the emotions die down. I didn’t want to make any decisions while I was emotional and I couldn’t think clearly. Part of me wanted to sign up for a marathon in 1-2 months and try again but another part of me knew that wasn’t the smartest idea. I swore to myself I wouldn’t make any decisions until I could think clearly and had the opportunity to talk with the right people. It’s only been in the last day or two that I’ve reached that point. I do have a game plan in place and I will be sharing in the very near future!
This was a tough race. The hardest in fact. However; it has taught me so much. Our bodies can only handle so much and even if you neglect the smallest things sometimes they will come back to haunt you.
THANK YOU to everyone who has sent me message, commented, or texted. I can’t begin to tell you how much they helped me! It was a tough day, but there will be another race and there will be another day to redeem myself I PROMISE YOU THAT.
Mark my word – marathon I’m coming back for you!!!
I can’t end this without saying a BIG congrats to my husband for winning the 40th Annual Kiawah Island Marathon! So proud of all the work he’s put into getting here!
Aw, thanks for posting a recap even though it was the toughest race ever for you!
That is a good tip about not going to the expo after driving all day. I could see that being hard for a 1 year old and especially with that single lane traffic.
Do you have any theories how this happened to your hamstring? Do you think the missed water stop prevented your muscles from getting fuel? The one time I ran the Kiawah half marathon in 2013, I had a similar issue with the water stops and ate a gel without water. I didn’t perform as well as my training indicated, that race.
Hope you continue to heal from this experience as time passes! Can’t wait to hear about your future plans! Rest easy!
Great recap Sara. Sorry your race didn’t go as planned. I am looking forward to hear what your new plan is for your next race. You will do great – the marathon is a beast and finishing is never a guarantee. How is your hamstring doing? Hopefully you are getting treatment, recovering and you’re back on the road soon.
~ Run with joy!
This was such a bummer for you! You have a strong work ethic and it WILL pay off Keep your chin up, girl.
I ran this race and knew you were running- I thought of you guys when Howie called Wes as the winner because I knew he won it in years past when you both ran it. I am so sorry that you did not meet your goals and you had to DNF… but you made the right call! Run/walking and limping around for 6 miles sounds absolutely miserable and probably would have led to an even worse injury. It sounds like they took good care of you at the medical tent as well and so glad you had Wes, your mom, and your baby there for you.
I do agree that Kiawah has it together for a race… I am already signed up for next year and I hope you will return. I loved waiting in that warm conference room and the post-race celebration was great. Plus the family area was such a good idea so that Easton could be there when you guys finished, rather than having to stay with your MIL in a hotel or somewhere. Glad you are recovering well and hope you can get redemption soon. Still a lot of Winter/Spring marathons left.
Thank for you sharing. I am so inspired by you and your running journey.
I am training for my first full post baby and I encountered an injury just 8 weeks out from my marathon. I was actually supposed to run a half last weekend, but decided (along with my coach) to not start. My first DNS and I was beyond disappointed. I was just diagnosed with psoas tendinitis and I am trying to remain optimistic. I know the injury is my own fault as I don’t stretch post run as well as I should. Tough lesson learned for me. I start PT tomorrow and I’m hopeful this is just a small bump in the road.
I am excited to watch your recovery and redemption training/race — I know you’ll move mountains.
You made the right decision! I also had a DNF from dehydration and I know how you feel. You will be better, stronger and more determined. Our bodies give us signals and we must listen and make those tough decisions. You have inspired me and I can’t wait to see you tackle the next marathon.