Marathon training this go round is less stressful than the last several times I did it before. Each time, I learn something different. The Chicago Marathon is set for Sunday, October 8, 2016 and I will be in Wave Two. My TCS New York City Marathon is set for a month later. I know...I'm Billy Bad Ass or completely insane. Regardless of what I may be, I'm excited, ecstatic and naturally nervous.
Anyone who has ran at least one marathon will tell you that you rarely ever stop being nervous. Each marathon is different from the last. Your nerves play techno in your stomach at random moments. You don't know what the weather conditions may be until you're out there. You spend an exorbitant amount of time waiting for the National Anthem to play, in which, I rarely ever hear it over my constant mental chatter telling myself not to fuck up, keeping one foot in front of the other and as always, don't become a shit meme. Before all of your mixed emotions get to this point is the grueling months of marathon training.
I started reminiscing about my first marathon one night while I was in the middle of my tempo run. Sometimes, when I get a good stride, I cruise through all of my social media alerts when I reach a safe area. Call it mindless running. A post from Mirna Valerio, the super bad ass plus size ultramarathoner, popped up on my Facebook feed. She shared an article that she wrote on Women's Running about how to revisit and reset goals when you are injured. Her article made me reflect about my own painful experience of marathon training the first go round. Thankfully, I count my blessings that I didn't physically injure myself during marathon training but nobody could have prepared me for the types of life woes that I would encounter.
2015 was a ROUGH year. At the end of 2014, I started getting exceptionally sick. I was going through periods of coughing up blood from a bronchitis & allergy infection. Unfortunately, I suffer from seasonal depression, particularly during this time of the year. My home life wasn't the best thanks to some things that I did on my part. Friends were falling off the face of the earth because my running commitments kept me away from social gatherings. I was no longer the extravert that people knew me to be. No longer could I stay up until 2am listening to people's problems as I used to and in December, I decided to take on another culinary position at a very prominent quick paced restaurant in the Lower East Side of NYC. Life bitch smacked me so hard.
Initially, I thought taking on a culinary position to get my feet wet after not being in the field for a year and a half was exhilarating. I was scared that I lost my groove and wouldn't be able to bounce back. Actually, I fell back into the madness rather well, perhaps too well. I found myself on the cusp of balancing out family/friend life, work time and my fitness commitments. My shifts kept me in the restaurant anywhere from midnight until 2AM. My first store manager was the absolute best. Knowing that I have a family at home, he scheduled me in for full time hours with semi consistent days off and hired me knowing that I'd be traveling for my marathon, along with a laundry list of days needed off for races.
In my mind, I thought that my job would be another thing that would balance out the insanity of my personal life. Most of 2014 was incredible and to watch 2015 crumble in this big ball of fuckery, I wanted to feel that emotional high again. My health issues started to creep up once again but I kept avoiding it as if it didn't exist. I told myself mind over matter so many days. Some things aren't mental. I avoided the golden rule of listening to your body. Nevertheless, I pushed my body, mind and spirit hard every day. My schedule permitted me to work evenings with an incredibly insane but pleasurable crew of guys, close up shop and indulge into a slowly developing drinking habit.
Like most of the stereotypes that you heard or saw in movies or people you know, I told myself that I had a handle on it. At first, I thought it was great to be able to get a drink for free every night, especially being in the Lower East Side. It started to bite me in the ass when I realized that a bar not too far from us had cheap drinks. Being that I am a very sociable person, I would indulge in a drink or seven. My tolerance is not the same as it was in my early 20s. After going from "one beer" to 6 tequila shots, a gin and tonic, a four horseman and about three rum and cokes, I would do what any fully functioning alcoholic would do: Go carry out life as if I wasn't drunk. What did I do? I would go to the gym. Yes, you can judge harshly right now. I can feel the heat on the back of my neck at this very moment. In hindsight, I don't know how the hell I did it. I would binge drink for a hour, work out for a hour to hour and half, smelling the alcohol sweating out of my system and sometimes, I would sit in the massage chair passing out for anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours. Being that it was overnight, most times the staff didn't notice that there was a drunk woman snoring in the massage chair. When I would get myself together, I'd come home around 4am, sometimes missing my stop on the train and too intoxicated to take a shower. If I was lucky, I would have most of my clothes off and dressed for bed.
Somehow, maybe a Christmas miracle, I would wake up either from my child tapping me or just jumping out of my sleep. I had the opportunity to kiss my son before going to school. I would pass out again, waking up somewhere around noon to 1pm. Most times, I had enough time to take a shower and go for a 5 - 6 mile run before picking up my son from school. I would talk to him for a hour, which broke my heart because I knew that in another hour, I'd be going back to work. Sometimes I would remember to eat something. Most days, I had no desire and had to force myself to do so. If I was willing to miss out on sleep, I would see friends during the day, in which they would have to come to me. I blocked a lot of people out of my physical circle during this time, which gave me a great, bubbly vibe to others who weren't that close. Hiding in plain sight was rehearsed rather well.
Rinse, wash, repeat...for months.
I was a fully functioning alcoholic
training for a marathon. Go figure.
Perhaps this story wouldn't be so terrible if I didn't commit to JUST the Rock n Roll Washington DC marathon but having to do the NYC Half the very next day was incredibly painful. All I told myself was "I trained for this." I sure did "train" for this. I trained myself on how to run on a mental burnout. I don't know how I did it but I did my marathon and my half marathon but by a very thin string.
I remember crying horribly around mile 18. I felt like an absolute failure. It is very traumatizing to the mind once the crowd starts to drift off. Perhaps this is why I love the NYC Marathon because the crowd is always there. This is not the case with most marathons. I was out in the middle of deserted area with sprinkles of exhausted runners, a car trailing me to pick me up for the sweep and next thing I know, I had this nasty, cleansing cry. Some might say it is from the physical fatigue or shock. I knew otherwise. I could have done so much better if I would have taken a moment to check out my mental health a bit. Just because you keep up with the physical and nutritional regimen doesn't mean that you completely committed to marathon training. So I wept. Two miles of crying, contemplating to go back home without a medal, even with my son and husband waiting in the cold rain for me to cross.
I am eternally thankful for Facebook and Facebook Messenger. At mile 20, I saw an influx of messages that came through on my feed cheering me on. My husband and son called me to tell me that they were waiting for me to finish. Minutes later, my best friend and his son told me to keep going. I keep hearing that your brain is the strongest muscle. I think this is all that pushed me through that day. I earned my medal that afternoon. Got back home through the Bolt Bus in pain, swollen and managed to push through the NYC Half Marathon the next morning as well. But I was wrong about something at the beginning of this blog: I did injure myself during my marathon training. My mental wellbeing was so broken at this point of my life. You can train forever but if your mind isn't strong, it is easy to watch all that you worked hard for go down the drain. Let's be honest: I lucked out. I hope I never make the same mistake twice. After my first marathon training, I promised myself that I would never neglect my mental wellbeing during training season like this again. So far, I have stuck to this promise. I finished the NYC Marathon last year strong and hope to do the same in the upcoming weeks. I am much more diligent about being a well rounded marathoner, ultramarathoner and athlete.