Thursday, May 22, 2014

La Jolla Half Marathon | 13.1 Miles of Pain, F Bombs, Solidarity and Bonding

My mind and body have an ongoing feud with each other. While my mind is the stronger of the two, my body's limitations force my mind to concede in surrender, calling a temporary truce. Once my body heals from whatever ailment or injury it’s sustained the feud resumes in intensity. 

Two years ago while I waited for my oldest daughter to cross the finish line at the La Jolla Half Marathon I had a crazy thought: I should run this with Maricelle one day. And right there item number 2 on my bucket list was added. Never mind that I was undergoing rehabilitation and physical therapy for my cervical stenosis at the time, I was determined to run it with her.

I’ve been called crazy, stubborn, and a glutton for punishment but I longed to share this experience with my child. 

Every year Maricelle runs the La Jolla Half and I've run my share of half marathons so deciding to run one together was easy. I knew (and heard) the hills of this course made it a beast to conquer but I viewed it as a challenge. The last hilly half marathon I ran was the Nike San Francisco Women’s Half Marathon which wasn’t difficult for me. It should have been a red flag when my friend, Janice, a native San Diegan screeched, Are you CRAZY?! after she found out I was running the La Jolla Half.

But this was less about crossing another item off my bucket list and more about creating memories with my daughter.  

Maricelle and I had our share of ugliness while I was a single mom raising three kids. Hindsight doesn't give me a Magic Eraser to wipe away my shortcomings and past mistakes, yet, it does provide a starting point to move forward in the present.

I believe that parenting doesn't end when your kids enter adulthood. It's a constant pursuing of relationships and in my case, a whole lot of reconciliation and redemption. Revealing my vulnerability and taking accountability for the hurt I caused my kids are the first steps to rebuilding broken relationships. Running a half marathon with Maricelle symbolized a unique experience we could call our own.

I'm sure the crazy episodes that happened to me in the months leading up to the race should have prevented my running 13.1 miles peppered with grueling hills. I threw my back out twice in the winter, came down with serious sinus/respiratory infections which landed me in urgent care with my first breathing treatment (Hi, can you say Grandma?), fatigue and exhaustion from taking on too much in my life, and then another sinus infection a few weeks before the race. Maricelle would make her weekly check in call to make sure I was still running with her and my answer never wavered from a yes.

I assured her I was "taking it easy" and listening to my body. I'm sure my voice inflated with hubris when I shared how I incorporated meditation and visualization to my fitness regimen while logging in lunch break hill training.

The Wednesday before the half marathon was almost my downfall. Yes, pun intended. I told myself I'd do a "light run" since it was four days before the race, running  up and down the hill only twice. As I ran toward the cube farm I almost patted myself on the back when the trajectory of my body slammed me onto the sidewalk. In a matter of seconds I felt both kneecaps crash into the concrete while my hands, one holding my iPhone, did some smash-skid-halt dance.

The damage to my ego was greater than the injuries I sustained because I got up like a bad a$$, made sure nothing was broken and RAN, yes, RAN back to the cube farm. 


My ego fared better than my knees, as you can see. 

I sent this picture to Ray, my sister, my kids, and a few friends. No one tried to dissuade me from running but I had the pleasure of driving home from work with Maricelle berating me on the phone. 

Mom! Listen to me! For once just listen to me because you never listen! CAN YOU JUST SIT STILL? DO NOT DO ANYTHING FROM NOW UNTIL SUNDAY! SIT YOUR A$$ DOWN AND DO NOT DO ANYTHING! DON'T YEAH ME, JUST LISTEN! 
GAAAAAAAWD MOM, you're so stubborn! 


I felt optimistic the morning of the race as Ray drove me to La Jolla at 2:30 a.m. (I know, he's a trooper!) Despite the freezing cold I was ready to run! 

The first seven miles went smoothly and I was elated that my meditation/visualization practices worked. It helped that my view was breathtaking with oceans on one side, blue skies and bulbous clouds above. Had I known what lay ahead I would've savored the view longer. 



Look at my bag lady self weighed down by my ratty old spibelt and jacket tied around my waist. I wanted to ditch the jacket but knew I'd regret it. I think this picture was the last one of me messing around because after mile 7 the pain mercilessly taunted me. 

Let's just get this straight---the monstrosity of Torrey Pines hill was like running up a slumbering Kaiju's spine. It was a never-ending ascent of pure torture causing a new kind of pain in my leg muscles. From mile 8 to 13 my entire being was dominated by pain. The kind of pain that makes you forget you're a civil human being with ladylike manners. 

I saw a woman on the side of the road surrounded by people trying to help her up. I thought oh shit, that's going to be me. Hell no. 

Being the good little RN, Maricelle urged me to stop, stretch, walk it out. I grit my teeth as she massaged my rock hard quads frozen in a permanent cramp. At mile 9 my stomach must have felt left out because it vied for my attention with its ferocious growling. How could I be hungry? I ate my usual Mike Dolce breakfast bowl on the drive down. On top of fighting off the pain I started battling visions of huge juicy hamburgers interrupted by dizziness, blurred vision, and full body numbness. Good times! 

The sensations were all new and I've never experienced them in previous half marathons. Lucky me. 

By mile 10 I gave up on practicing mindfulness, keeping my mouth shut, or refraining from vomiting a torrent of F bombs onto every elderly person who ran past my suffering self. I drank water before the race and at every water station on the course but I was beyond famished. 

Two more hills greeted me before the finish line and I cried. Yup, I cried for the first time running a race. Maricelle encouraged me to keep at it. Don't worry Mom, the hill is slow and gradual. It ends right there at the stop light. 

But there was no end in sight. 

Where's that f*cking stop light, Maricelle?! What the f*ck! 

My child couldn't stop laughing at me while another senior citizen ran past with a jolly bounce to his gait. 

By the time we were around the corner from the finish line I was doing some sideways-limp-glide-hippity-hop jog.  

Okay, Mom, you got this! The finish line is right around the corner. 

I glared then spat at her, It better mother f*cking be around the corner! And right then ANOTHER elderly female ran past me! I think I spewed something like, There is ALWAYS a f*cking b*tch old lady who passes me up right before the finish line! 

Maricelle was in hysterics, laughing so hard, she couldn't stop. 

Once the Finish Line was in sight something clicked in my brain that temporarily numbed the pain and banished my delirium. I grabbed Maricelle's hand and we RAN toward the finish line together with hands held high. 

We did it! 

It's been almost a month since we ran together but we still laugh about my deranged self during the race. We both agreed the experience and memories were priceless, making this bucket list item worth the pain I endured. 

Displaying my vulnerability to my daughter helped her understand I wasn't the bad a$$ mom I used to be, which is good. Naked vulnerability strengthens relationships. 

I promised my cousin, Ernie, I'd run in his place this September for the Disney Half Marathon. In the midst of my delirium and pain at the La Jolla Half, I vowed with a vengeance that I wouldn't run another race again. But just like after childbirth, you're raring to go once the pain becomes a distant memory. 

Glutton for punishment? Maybe. 
Crazy? Possibly. 
Endorphin addict? Absolutely! 


Cruising before running up
the Kaiju's spine.
That's not a smile, that's a grimace. 

Right before the finish line we
heard Ray & Ben cheering for us. 

Victory for the bag lady with everything
strapped to her waist! 

First and last time!

Yup, he deserves a medal, too!