Saturday, June 02, 2012

Marathon: The Finish Line

Part 2:

After the half way mark, I slip into a daze. The next few km's just pass like those minutes do when you're surfing facebook with no purpose :) We have to do a nasty turn around at km 25 and a volunteer apologizes, "I'm sorry guys, it's not my fault!". This is when I notice the struggle that surrounds me and I try to use it as strength. I tell myself that I'm not even close to the point of agony that they are. Racers are starting to slow down. Pain is starting to set in. You can feel a shift in the energy. Feet begin to drag. Steps begin to get heavier. Eyes start to narrow and breathing starts to get loud. One gentleman sounds like a horse in a stable and I feel compassion for him because there is still a lot of distance to go. "He's pretty screwed", I think. But then I see one runner get into a taxi cab…

I walk for 30 seconds through the aid stations and make sure to hydrate, trying to take as short of break as possible because I've seen the 4:15 pace bunny up ahead and I know that I can catch up. Once there, I'll have to shave off about a minute per kilometre for the remainder of the race if I want to come in under 4 hours. I'm always strategizing a plan. This one is very ambitious, but there's a voice inside that believes it's possible. Always listen to that voice…

I see Kristin, Keith, and Kristin's wonderful family at km 28. Keith's already ran his 10K, gone home, showered and changed. Lucky duck! I've been craving what's waiting for me here: a vanilla bean scone! I put it in my pre-race plan for Kristin (aka: my pit crew) to grab one at Starbucks for me. I knew that I'd need a tasty treat and something to look forward to at this point in the race. It's delicious, although remarkably hard to swallow because of the dryness in my mouth. I see their signs that read: "High Five Zone" and "Your feet hurt from kickin' ass!". AWESOME! I think the signs are what keep a lot of racers going. They break up the monotony and give you a chuckle. My personal favourite read: "Because 42.3 is CRAZY!!!". True dat.

After a quick hug and a 10 second hello, I keep the Kyle caboose moving. I'm at the point now where it hurts less to continue running than it does to stop and and get the wheels turning again. Momentum, baby, momentum. Gotta feed it. 

Around the bend, I run past a place called Prema Sai where I'm getting a post race massage on Monday. I get super psyched at the thought. I haven't had a massage in 3 years because I don't feel like I've earned one. I know that I'm earning that bad boy right now. 

I catch up to the 4:15 pace bunny and her energy is infectious. She yells out reminders about keeping relaxed and enjoying the moment. I'm with her at 29km's when she reminds the group that we only have 13km's left! It occurs to me that we are more than 2/3 done. I take a deep breath as I remind myself that I can suffer with the best of them. The pace bunny also encourages us to visualize running from Edworthy Park to Eau Claire and back - that's all we have left. It's a run I've done nearly every weekend in my training and this visualization helps tremendously.

I turn up the heat and start pulling away from the group. I imagine I'm turning up the volume dial. I'm not gonna crank it all the way, but I'll turn it up from a tolerable thump to more on the uncomfortable side. Maybe add some bass. I'm here. I'm in it. Why not push myself a little bit more? I can rest all next week :)

At km 30, I see Michelle again. She's ringing her Cowbell and I can't help but smile. I've ran 20km's since our last sighting and I feel like I've gained speed, rhythm and confidence in the past 2 hours. I pass her and yell, "I'll call you later!!!" 

In between km 31 and 32, there is a rad family who have brought a cooler full of freezies! They deserves some major props because that is exactly what the doctor ordered. The taste of a white cream soda freezie nearly sends me into frenzy. It's so refreshing. In fact, I still have the last bites of my vanilla bean scone in my right hand because it's too dry to swallow and the juice from the freezie helps wash it down. 

I spot someone ahead who looks like they are getting stronger at this point. I feel that way too so I catch up and tell her that she is looking strong. She reciprocates. I suggest we run together for a bit and she agrees. We chat for about 30 seconds and learn that we are both first time marathoners. Sweet! And then she fades in behind me and that is that. I wonder, "Is this what speed dating feels like?" Rejection hurts ;) 

Km's 33-35 are painful because there is another turn back and you can see the faces of those who are ahead of you as they run the reverse half. Some seem to be in quite a bit of pain and it makes me wonder if one measly km can make that big of a difference. I see my friend Kourtney and her daughter on the sidelines. They are cheering super loud with pom poms! It gives me a quick surge of energy, but then the next km feels a bit like torture. My tank begins to empty and this is where things shift...

I feel the wall. My feet begin to shuffle and my gaze becomes a bit blurred. All of a sudden I desperately want this to be over. Kourt runs/skips/jumps/bounces (she's got a LOT of energy!) beside me and gives me some words of encouragement. "Stay focused, Kyle. Take it one km at a time. You've come this far and you're looking really strong!" I think she can sense the change in my energy and I appreciate her efforts to fill my tank. All I can do is nod, smile and say thank you. I put my head down, narrow my focus and start to grind.

Other runners are now dropping like flies. The course is beginning to spatter with carnage. I repeat to myself: You have only 7km's left. You have only 7km's left. You have only 7km's left... 

Just before km 36, I see my friend Dave Holland. He takes the photos for us at KSGF. He's sporting a bright yellow shirt (I think - colours do not exist to me at this point) and hanging with the fine folks from Right To Play. I wave to Dave and feel a new spark of energy. I high-five Ginelle and Sarah, my friends with RTP, and I use the $2600 I raised for Right To Play through my 30th Birthday Challenge as ammunition in this battle (side bar: thanks everyone who donated!!!). Grind through this, Kyle. Come in under 4 hours!  


I run the next km fairly fast - around 4:30/km, but then I quickly realize that I won't be able to sustain that pace for the remaining 5km's. I won't cross the finish line if I try. So I concede to the "under 4 hour" gods and decide that I will finish strong rather than push myself beyond my capacity and splat before 42.2. I want to finish this race and I've heard horror stories of people passing out at 42km's with 200 metres to go. Someone also told me that you can't crank it in to high gear with 5km's left. Not even with 3km's left. You've got to save some juice for the final kick…

I find a girl in front of me who is running smooth. I don't try to catch her, but I try to emulate her stride. One foot in front of the other. I scan my body. My ankles, shins, achilles, feet, lower back and traps are starting to feel like they might combust. One foot in front of the other…

I round another bend and someone has a sign that reads: Hurry, they're running out of beer! I want a beer so bad that my mouth starts to water in anticipation of that first cold sip. Street curbs begin to feel a few inches higher. Km markers start to feel farther and farther apart. I wonder if someone playing a bad trick on us? I'm fading…but I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I AM finishing what I started. There is no other option. I reflect on Thich Nhat Hanh's saying about "doing the dishes to do the dishes rather than doing the dishes to be done" and I desperately try to find peace is each step.

A gentleman in front of me grabs his right butt cheek and starts to run with it clasped in his hand. Another dude cramps in his calf and his leg starts dragging behind him as he cringes and yelps. I look over and yell, "You've only got 2 K left, man. You've got this. Don't give up. Focus and fight!!!" I feel energy come to me from my encouragement of someone else. This is no longer a race. I am no longer gaining strength from other's demise. This has become a game of survival and I don't want to see any of my fellow warriors fall victim to weakness or injury at this point. We've come too far.

I turn the bend and there is one painful km left. I let go of any sense of conservation I've been holding on to and I launch into my final push. I know that I can suffer like a madman for the final 1000 meters. My gears shift and I have a lightness to my stride. I put on invisible blinders and there is nothing around me. I can feel the finish line pulling me in. The battle between good and evil no longer exists. There's only encouragement swirling through my mind. You're almost done, Kyle! Don't think, just run! Glide. Be Swift. Power up. Feel this. Love this.  

I gasp for air and I bawl my face off all at the same time…except no tears come out. There's no more liquid in my body. I trip over my breath and make weird noises the entire last km. They feel like honks and grunts, but who knows what they actually sound like. I feel overcome with emotion. I'm proud of my commitment and drive through out the training. I'm getting a filmstrip of flashbacks to the process. I picture running in London, Idaho, New York and Yellowknife. I'm reminisce about those long runs with my running mentor, Martin. I picture that day when I ran in the rain and nearly froze. I remember running stairs in a snow storm. I remember all of those days that I felt resistance,  but used this exact moment as my purpose and reason to get up and go. I knew I'd be here. And here I am. 

I'm also feeling joy and relief to nearly be done. No matter how much I want to pretend this feels great, I am in Pain with a capital P and I want to be out of this "uncomfortable" zone as quick as possible. I know that the faster I run, the faster it will end. I kick it into an even higher gear and my turbo pack blasts me into a new dimension. My legs are going faster than I feel like they should be able to go. They look slightly hallucinatory and I wonder, "are those actually mine?" 

I see the finish line. It's right there in front of me and it looks glorious. I turn up the dial to full blast. I'm not leaving an ounce of effort unused. GOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

I let out a loud growl as I zoom over the timing strips and my face grimaces in complete and utter angst. It's finally over.

Thank god. 

Did I make it in time for the beer?

I get my medal and look to stands on the right. I see my cheering section - Kristin, Keith, my parents, my brother, my sister in law, my aunt, my nephew and my little cousin! They are jumping up and down and screaming my name. GO KYLE GO!!! I am overwhelmed and so so so happy to see them. I grab a drink of water and my post-race blanket. I hear my name being announced over the speakers as they say it's THE Kyle Shewfelt. Ya, that's right. I'm THE Kyle Shewfelt. The one who used to run 24.65 meters towards a vault table…and now look at me! I'm a freakin' MARATHONER!!!! 

4 hours 4 minutes and 39 seconds. That's my official time. I know deep inside that my legs could not have gone a second faster. That's got to be the BEST feeling in the world.

My legs begin to buckle. I have a couple near spills, but I'm okay. I kind of want to pass out, but I also want to get hugs from my fan club:) I make my way over to them and, although I'm slightly dazed, I am so appreciative for their support. For them to take time to celebrate and share this with me means so much.


I feel like I need to bend my legs so I do a deep squat. This feels like my knee caps might shoot right through my skin. I'm like a creeky ol' door that needs some WD-40. Creeeeeeeeeeek. I know it'll take a while to recover from this one. I hug everyone a hundred times over and try to be really present. I can't quite conceptualize what I just accomplished. I know that it will take a while for me to process the importance of this moment. So I just smooch my little munchkins and thank my amazing support team for helping me conquer this huge personal victory. 

After chowing on a banana, popping some advil and drinking what feels like gallons of liquid (no beer :( ), Martin comes in about 30 minutes after me. I find him, hug him and thank him. I feel very fulfilled. 

I embarked on this quest to prove that there is still triumph and there is still possibility in my life. I wanted to show myself that I was capable of taking on a challenge that seemed insurmountable. I wanted to increase my capacity to be with discomfort. I wanted to enforce some discipline and drive back into my life. I wanted to face fear head on and show myself that there isn't anything in this world that I can't accomplish.

And I did it. I feel like I've gained an extra layer to my personality and character for seeing it through. I am no longer a wannabe marathoner. I am in the club and it feels just right.

Thanks for following my journey. 


Lala Mama said...

That is so incredible....thrilling right to the end. Congrats on your 1st marathon!!

Dave K said...

Congrats Kyle!

Kyle Shewfelt said...

Thanks guys! It truly was a remarkable experience. Still recovering a week later, but SO worth it!