No Marathon Blues for Me: 2016 Chevron Houston Marathon Race Recap

I did it again. I completed the Chevron Houston Marathon and I even managed to shave 23 minutes off of last year’s time! I am truly so happy with my performance. I learned a lot from my first marathon and I made the appropriate changes in my training before this marathon. Now that this one is done, I’m reflecting on the things that I think I need to work on and change for next year’s marathon.

Naturally, one of the first things I researched post marathon was how to recover properly after a marathon. I read about my nutrition, physical activity, soothing remedies, etc. I also kept reading about this notion of “marathon blues.” This is when you feel sad that this event that you’ve been planning for, dreaming about, and just generally fixating on for months and months, is finally over. I am not feeling that way at all. I’m actually really excited that I get a whole year to train for my next marathon. I worked really hard after my first marathon to implement changes that would make me stronger and faster. I reaped the rewards of my hard work. The whole marathon felt better to me. I felt more in control of it. I still had those nagging thoughts of self-doubt and I’m thinking these will be permanent fixtures for me, but I shoved those negative thoughts away and kept fighting. The only thing I am feeling is satisfaction. I set out to improve myself this past year and I accomplished my goal. I honestly could not be more happy with myself. Instead of giving in to the negative thoughts that crept into my mind, I shoved those thoughts away and forged ahead. Me. This girl. This girl who always questions her strength and her running ability. I am nothing but happy with my performance.

Marathon weekend is special from beginning to end. It starts with the 5K on Saturday that kicks off the entire race weekend. This is where I get to cheer for my husband and daughters as they run their hearts out. My oldest daughter won 1st place in her age group this year. She was so proud of herself and I was so very happy for her. What a gift for her to stand up and receive 1st place. My wish is for everyone to have that feeling at some point in their lives. My youngest daughter got 6th place in her age group! Not bad for a girl who claims to be a “horrible runner.” Then there was the 65 year old man who won 1st place in his age group with a time of 18:38. 18:38! That’s amazing.

Then there was the Expo. The Expo is to runners what Disney World is to kids. I had so much fun there. One of the best things to come out of the Expo for me was meeting the people I’d been following and training with through Instagram and Twitter. What a wonderful support system social media is for runners. There is a wonderful running community on Instagram and my involvement in this community really helped to motivate and encourage me this training season. Additionally, the marathon committee selected my story to feature in the “Why I Run” section of the race program. What an honor! I still can’t believe I was featured in my beloved hometown marathon’s race program. I will cherish it forever.

Lastly, there was marathon day. It began with meeting in person marathon ambassador Bryan Kreitz whom I’ve been friends with on Instagram. He talked with me for awhile and really helped to put my mind at ease. I truly believe his encouraging words and the good vibes he sent me that morning stayed with me throughout the race. Next, I was able to attend a wonderful Mass with a moving homily. Finally, it was time to line up to run. I felt strong and capable throughout my race, but I’d be lying if I told you that those ugly thoughts of self-doubt didn’t creep into my mind here and there, particularly after mile 23 where things get really tough. The volunteers and spectators along the course helped me through those last miles. The “Nice work, Dendy!” “Keep going, Dendy!” “You’re doing awesome, Dendy!” shouts are truly what convinced me to keep going. I am tearing up as I think about this. It is utterly amazing that these people were thoughtful enough to cheer me on in this way.

Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador Bryan Kreitz being awesome.

There are no marathon blues for me. I had a wonderful marathon weekend and I look forward to having a year to train for my next marathon. I am especially looking forward to continuing the relationships I have forged with other Houston runners as we train for the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon.

An Ode to the Long Run Before the Chevron Houston Marathon

marathon badge
Houston. H-town, Space City, Bayou City, Clutch City. Probably the most diverse city in Texas and the 4th largest city in the U.S. Home to Johnson Space Center, astronaut training, and historic Mission Control. Galveston Bay, Theatre District, Medical Center. Professional sports teams Texans, Rockets, Astros, Dynamo, and Dash.
My hometown.
I’m thrilled to once again run my hometown marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon,

on January 17th, and in honor of this, I give you “An Ode to the Long Run”

*Disclaimer for my literary friends:
The intent of an ode is to "praise people, natural scenes, and abstract ideas"    (Literary Devices). I did this, but this is, by no means an ode that follows an   ode that follows the proper structure.

An Ode to the Long Run

Early morning alarm clock buzz.
I stagger to the couch and turn on the lights.
The morning ritual begins.
Listen to the quiet.
Find my mojo.
Lace up and set out the door.
Kick pine cones and cans.
Jump over holes, puddles, and cracks.
Run-dance while lip synching and running to the beat of my earbud music.
Run under tree branches.
High five tree branches.
Pretend to be in a marathon.
Pretend to be in the Olympics.
Try to run to a certain point before the song finishes.
Feel the run.
Feel strong.
Feel beautiful.
Feel graceful.
Feel fast.
Feel happy.
Feel alive.
Fantasize about eating leftover Mexican food.
Fantasize about drinking a cold seasonal beer.
Fantasize about eating ice cream.
Race the other passerby runners.
Plan my outfit, hairdo, day, life.
Wave hello to runners, cyclists, roller bladers, and walkers.
Pause to think about those other early morning runners. Those warriors.
When I wave and say good morning to them, I’m really saying, “Good job. Keep going. I know how tough it is, but don’t stop. We got this.”
For, I share a very special kinship with that runner.
Feel the fatigue.
Feel weak.
Feel disgusting.
Feel slow.
Feel discouraged.
Feel defeated.
Think about running.
Think about my family.
Think about friends.
Think about work.
Think about goals.
Think about upcoming events, activities, and races.
Think about how running has changed me.
Get confused. Rack my brain to try to remember if I ran that loop around the park.
Could it be that I was so in the zone I completely forgot a whole segment of my run? Yes, I did. According to my mileage I did. Weird.
Admire that sunrise that I wouldn’t be enjoying so completely if I weren’t running.
Admire my town in its sleepy state.
This early morning adventure is an honor.
I am honored to experience my town in this way.
I’m accessing a part of the day and a view that not many people have the pleasure of experiencing.
Feel special.
Pray for family, friends, coworkers, community, and myself.
Realize that I need to forgive others’ transgressions and be more patient and understanding altogether.
Realize that I need to work on maintaining my positivity.
Feel strong.
Feel accomplished.
Feel euphoric.
Clean up and eat.

Runners are their own breed.

 If you’re active on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you have surely seen the meme with Susan Sidoriak’s quote,

 This statement is so poignant, for that is what days, weeks, and months of training does to a person, it changes them. How can it not? Training usually begins after successful attempts at shorter race distances, and I would venture to say that most marathoners uttered the words, “I could never do a full marathon” at some point in their early running career. I know I did, and if you’re reading this, you likely did too.

This is the crux of the marathon transformation. When we complete a full marathon, we accomplish what we never thought possible. We put all of that practice training to use. We made mistakes in our training along the way on purpose, so as to avoid these mistakes at our marathon race. We left for practice runs in the wee hours of the morning, typically before anyone else in the house was anywhere near waking up. We toted along various hydration tools like belts, handheld bottles, or backpacks. We experimented with different liquids other than water and different forms of food or energy boosters in the form of chews, gu, or whole food. We watched our pace for each mile and got a clear picture of how long it would take us to run that full marathon come race day. We experienced overuse injuries from all of our training and we scaled our running back and began the tapering process. We had to fit these long training runs in around our work and family schedules. Often squeezing the run and shower in before we strapped ourselves into our cars to drive our children to their sporting or extracurricular events. We often left parties or get-togethers early so as to get enough sleep for the next morning’s long run. We often struggled on those practice long runs. We often doubted our ability to pull this whole marathon race thing off. We nearly gave up, at least once, but we didn’t. We kept fighting. We kept believing in ourselves. We kept going. One foot in front of the other. We kept going.

 This desire to push past the limitations we’ve set upon ourselves through our self-doubt is what changes us. In many ways we are still that little girl or boy who feared she wasn’t enough. We are that kid that needed a niche, some way to gain a sense of accomplishment from hard work. We want to be enough. Training for a marathon makes us feel like we are enough. We often didn’t feel like lacing up and heading out the door. We often wanted to cut our run short and go home. We kept going, even when friends, family members, and acquaintances said we were crazy, because we knew this marathon training was much more impactful on our lives than just preparation for a race. We knew we were changing and we knew we would better for it.  This is why, I truly believe that running is like no other form of fitness. Runners are their own breed. Missing a week of fitness is much different than missing a week of running. Runners never want to have to stop running. We truly wish that the solution to running injuries would be to run more. Being told we need to stop running for even a week is like a death sentence to us. We need to feel movement in the form of running to feel complete. It is our time to meditate, pray, solve problems, appreciate nature, show gratitude for all of our blessings, and brainstorm. Running gives us that one thing we need and we are so grateful for the gift of running. All one has to do is introduce two runners to each other and the pair will talk like they’ve known each other for years. There is an instant camaraderie that comes with running, and perhaps that little girl in me that needed a niche is most appreciative of this. Runners are bonded. We are a community. We have been through the running transformation.

As I prepare for my second marathon, I realize how training for marathons has changed my life forever. I am different. I am stronger. I am bonded in a community. I am enough.