Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Houston, Peace, And Salt

On December 2010 I saw a Marathon Olympic Trials ad. The trials were scheduled in Houston on January 2012. Houston Marathon would be the following day. I told to my daughter Ale: I got to go… And I did.

I set a big PR as a goal, 15 min or so, for a 4:30. I was training hard but I had too much work that limited my training, There were weeks with 60 + hours. Also, my family came from overseas, and to spend time with them was my priority. Though I got up at 3:30 am to run and be able to spend the afternoons with them, my training was not the same. I did a couple of 20 milers, some other long runs, but not as much as I was planning to. Heck, there will be other marathons to get that goal.

On Friday 01/13 I flew to Houston. I registered in my hotel (1.6 miles from start/finish area, the closest I could find) and went walking to the expo. The atmosphere around the Convention Center, the Hilton, and Discovery Green was dazzling. It was festive, joyful and you could only breath “excitement”. After getting my packet, and looking around, I went to the park across the street for the Olympic Trials Opening Ceremony. Got the great opportunity to see Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Frank Shorter. The ceremony started with the athletes parade and then a recognition to Deena, Meb, Joan and Frank, all Marathon Olympic Medalists. After the recognition, there was a beautiful and fantastic display of fireworks that made the night as shiny as could be.

After the ceremony I went to my hotel, had dinner and went to bed early. The trials were scheduled at 8 am the following morning. I wanted to be in first row, so my plan was to get there at 6 am.

There were some of the trials runners in my hotel. I had breakfast with Deena Kastor’s in laws, and shared some running stories. There was no need to walk at this hour to the convention center, especially when a cab is so cheap (US$ 6.00). I shared a cab with Deena’s in laws, and one female Olympic Trials Qualifier and her husband.

I got a great spot, and chatted with a bunch of people. The atmosphere was simply grand, and of course, contagious.

The trials course was an initial loop of 2.2 miles, and then 3 loops of 8 miles. This gave us the fantastic opportunity to watch the runners 4 times. It was a delight. Men started at 8:00 and women at 8:15. My favorite for the US Olympic Team were: Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and Dathan Ritzenhein “Ritz”, and for the women’s team: Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Deena Kastor.  I lost my voice cheering for them and took as many pictures I could take.

To all my marathon runners friends, taking part of the Marathon Olympic Trials is worth of experiencing. Put it in your calendars for 2016. !!!

After the trials, I hung out with some “bleachers companion” and went back to my hotel around noon. Plan was to rest, take a nap, and do nothing, and nothing. And I did. Had lunch, took a nap, got up, got all my gear ready, had a snack, fell asleep, got up, took a shower, had dinner, went to bed, and continued sleeping.

On marathon day I got up at 4, got ready, had a muffin, a banana, water, checked out the hotel, and took a cab to the convention center. I checked my clothes, took my weight (135 lbs), and while going to the porta pottie, I remembered a very curious question in the FAQ Marathon site: Will there be a church service before the race? Yes, Catholic Mass in Hall C and Protestant Church services in Hall B will begin at 5:30 a.m. 

I was very surprised, because the way this country is going, just mentioning the word “religion” has become in some circles, even politically incorrect. One of these days it will become the “R” word.

I have had big issues with the Catholic Church, and organized religion in general, and in some way, I have broken with it. This break had been very difficult for a hard core Catholic, but a "race mass" was an opportunity to taste the waters (my waters), so I decided to go in. It was difficult. Just the gathering was inspiring. The song that the choir was singing when I entered in Hall C, was a very mellow rock melody, with spiritual lyrics that I have sung since a teen, and my kids have sung in their school's masses as well. The waters moved violently. I felt butterflies in my stomach. I lost it and I cried. My thoughts were diverted to what are the real teachings here.  Simply be good, share, and do good. And that was the learning that I had all my life from that man that was good, shared, and did good; a man that, we Christians, have always called a friend; a friend that I have dismissed for the last 3 years, simply because my life demanded a different explanation. And then, I took communion as a symbol of peace. I made peace with a friend. Hey JC, JC won't you smile at me?

After Mass I went to a long porta pottie line lost in my thoughts. Weird in me, I didn’t even feel like talking to anybody. Then, to my corral, national anthem, a prayer, corrals started moving, disposable clothes are removed, crossed myself and there I went.

I went, of course, by heart rate, and ran focusing in just a mile at a time. The first half was pretty good. It flew by, the course was flat and easy. I caught up with the 4:30 pacer and stuck with her for a couple of miles until I started feeling fatigued. I needed salt. As a heavy salty sweater, I always carry with me 2 small packages when running a marathon. This time, it was not in my radar, I don’t know why. Around mile 17 or so I asked the medical tent if they had salt. They didn’t but they had pretzels. I licked them but couldn’t eat them. My mouth was too dry, and I had just passed the water station. At mile 19 I got to shake hands with Mr. President George H. Bush (41). At mile 20 or so, I needed salt very badly but the medical tent didn't have packets but pretzels. I got the pretzels and licked them, though couldn't eat them. I felt hot and had to pour water on my face at every aid station. I was getting slower, and slower, At mile 24 I got weird cramps in both quads in the same place, mirroring each other, and that was a sign to me that something weird was going on. I reduced my pace to a slow jog and after half mile the cramps were gone. My legs and heart wanted to run but my fatigue level was absolute. When I saw mile 25 and downtown skyscrapers I knew I had made it. One mile to go, though slow, it went fast. I could sprint my final stretch, and felt really good when crossing the finish line. But, as they took my weight after the race the medical team found out that I had gained almost one pound, what definitely was the sign of the body not releasing water. I didn't feel bad but got blood tested, and my sodium levels were low. I did have hyponatremia. This was my 8th marathon and first time I get physiological issues. I felt hot because I was not sweating. I over drank water. I was sent to triage for one hour, and got a new experience. 

This marathon was neither my personal best, nor the big PR that I was hoping so, but the weekend experience, with the Olympic trials and learning that I am a very easy candidate for hyponatremia was a very good thing. I am thankful for my finish (4:56) and for not getting in worse conditions.

From the convention center I went to the airport and after flying for 4 hours I got to a white town, covered with snow. A snowstorm that had us under snow and ice for a week. I ran just few miles here and there and decided to take a 2-week break before starting my training for next marathon: Big Sur, CA. Not an easy one.

An exciting experience: Houston, Peace, And Salt.

1 comment:

Petraruns said...

Oh sweet Lizzie Lee - I think that's what happened to me in London 2 years ago and it's no fun! Don't travel without your salt again - I'm sure you won;t. Lucky ducky you for watching the Olympic trials though - how very exciting. Great photos!