On Sunday, January 18, 2009 I started out in the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. I don’t really need to bore anyone with the pre-race ritual or how things went for the first few miles. Just know that it seemed that my new plan for fueling myself was going well and the weather was beautiful.
6.7 miles… The point that people want to know about, right? My race had been on for 1 hour and 9 minutes and suddenly I was going down. Really, I don’t remember tripping at all. One minute I was running, the next I’m trying to be roadkill by performing a faceplant in the road.
I got up and said that I was okay, then immediately changed my mind about my status. I pressed my hand to my chin and was treated to a palm full of blood. My friends helped guide me over to the side of the road, I took my hand away from my chin and they all said, “That’s going to need stitches.” I put my hand back up, then glanced at my other hand and saw more blood running from wounds there and started to panic a little. I guess the sight of my own blood was starting to be a little more than I could handle!
My friends called Chuck, one of the coaches for the TNT group in the race, since we had just passed him a little ways back. A cop came to us and called the firemen for me. My friends removed my watch and waist pack from me, helped hold me steady, while I just stood there falling to pieces.
After waiting for the firemen for a while (it was probably about 5 or 10 minutes, but it felt like hours to me), the decision was made to walk back toward mile 6 on the course with Chuck to get to the firemen and my friends would continue on with their race.
Chuck and I walked back about a half mile to meet the firemen. They dumped water over my hands and wrapped them in some gauze, told Chuck they would take me to the aid station at 7.2 and loaded me into their truck.
We couldn’t park right by 7.2, we had to park about a half mile beyond. So I got out of the truck and walked with one of the firemen to the aid station at 7.2. I was still bleeding from my chin at this time. When we got to the aid station, they told the fireman they had nothing to help me and that I could walk to the aid station at 10.6 for help.
Yes… that’s right. They wanted me to walk to mile 10.6. Well if that’s what I was going to end up doing, I would never have gone BACKWARDS on the course nor would I have caught a ride FORWARD to walk BACKWARD on the course once more…
So the fireman and I walked the half mile back to the truck so he could drive me to the aid station at 10.6.
When I got to 10.6 they had me lay down on a cot, stuck a large band-aid on my chin and told me to get on a waiting shuttle. I boarded the shuttle, with 3 other people that were already on and waiting. One of the people on the shuttle was one of the elite runners who had hurt his hamstring. The others were people who had been trying to qualify for Boston and hurt themselves. I felt a little out of place, the slow girl shooting for a 4:30 on the course that fell on her face!
We waited… and waited… and waited. The shuttle driver came back to us and said, “We have to wait for at least 7 people on board before we can leave.” It’s terrible, but we made jokes about going out to trip some people just so we could leave. I thought it was kind of ridiculous to make us sit there and wait, especially since one of us (me) was actually bleeding!
Finally another shuttle came, all of us got off the shuttle we were waiting on and boarded the new one. There were already a couple people on the new shuttle and we had to drive to mile 13 to get one other injured person. After navigating the road closures, we finally got our last victim and the shuttle took us to the finish area. From there we were all booted off, the shuttle left and I felt lost.
I figured my mom had another hour in her race. I didn’t want to text her, on the off-chance that she may actually look at her phone and worry. No need to ruin her race, right? But what was I supposed to do for an hour? I decided to go find the finish line aid station and see if I could get more help or advice.
The finish line aid station didn’t want to take off any of the bandages that I had on my hands or chin, saying that it would be best if everything was just left alone. But they did give me some Tylenol, water and directions to the hospital closest to my hotel. I started shivering at this point, so they let me sit there with a blanket for a moment… but then they told me that I probably needed to leave since runners with blisters were coming in and needed the space.
So I wandered aimlessly back out to the parking lot. I let two girls use my cell phone to call their friends. I talked to two women who had run the marathon in about 3:30 and they were really supportive to me. One of them said, “Just remember, you’re still the same person that you were when you got up this morning. Maybe a little stronger though.” I love runners, they’re so awesome.
I called my husband a few times and explained to him why my online progress stats weren’t updating anymore. He kept refreshing his web browser at home to see if we could figure out my mom’s progress in the half. They never updated beyond her completing half the race while I was waiting, but based on her pace for the first half and her start time after the wave start, we figured out a rough estimate of when she should be finished. So I texted her to tell her where to find me when I thought she would be finishing… and it happened to be at EXACTLY the right moment as she crossed the finish line.
After struggling to find each other in the crowd, we made our way to the light rail station to catch a ride back to my car. There were a lot of runners on the train, all of them really supportive of my efforts and my DNF, sharing their own war stories. Again, I love runners!
We got off the train at the park and ride, got to my car and I drove myself to the emergency room. Yeah, I’m weird like that. I suppose I could have let my mom drive, but for some reason I felt obligated since it was my car.
We got to the hospital, got checked in, they took me in for x-rays on my wrist right away then called me into the back to see the doctor. I told my mom to stay in the waiting room, she doesn’t like to see the stitches process and I didn’t want her to get woozy. Unfortunately, they kept me in the back for HOURS. And there was some person in a room near me who kept puking really loud and whining and crying, saying something like, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to…”
After a while they went to get my mom so she could keep me company. She only had to be back there for a little while before the doctor came in to stitch my chin closed. He put a stitch on the inside, one that will dissolve and then put 8 stitches on the outside. A nurse cleaned out my hands, while seeming distracted by the Arizona Cardinals game on the TV outside. I wish he would have trimmed back some of the skin that is flapped over the wounds, but that would have been precious moments away from televised football. He bandaged my hands up, stuck a bandage on my chin over the stitches and they sent me on my way.
We got back to the hotel room at about 5:30 PM and ordered pizza, because other than a bowl of Lucky Charms at 5:00 AM and some course-ingested sugar, neither of us had eaten much that day. Plus my mom earned a splurge because she put forth a good effort in her race. I cried my way through trying to clean myself up in the tub with a wash cloth and called it a night.
My right palm has some large gaping holes (covered in bandages), my left thumb is sprained and has a gash around the base of it that re-opens every time I move, my chin is covered in road rash and has a cut that is stitched closed. It could have been worse, I could have broken bones or teeth. Lots of things hurt and make moving/chewing/motor skills kind of awkward, but overall I am okay.
So I earned my first DNF (Did Not Finish) in a race. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. But I’m coming to terms with the experience. It wasn’t ideal, but I’m sure it’s a character-building, lesson-teaching, strengthening, fortifying, blah-blah-blah type thing.
At least I’ve found my smile again!