That is exactly how I felt this morning when I had a panic attack during my race.
At least thats what I think it was. It is what I imagine a panic attack would feel like, and I can see now why those would be so debilitating if they happened often.
So lets start from the beginning…..
This morning I ran the Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race, and going into it, I was not sure what to expect. I had absolutely no pace goals, no expectations. All Steve said he wanted was a hard effort from me.
To be totally honest with you, my dedication since my 1:13 in the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half was definitely flagging. I felt out of gas, and was just struggling to motivate myself to run hard. It was not like anything was wrong, I just knew it was time for my break.
I have mentioned before, that I am someone who LOVES my time off. Don’t get me wrong. I love my running, and I appreciate it, but when I really give my all to a race, like I did at the RNR Philly (especially when sick!!), I feel emotionally and physically drained.
I love doing NOTHING for a week, and I enjoy being away from running.
I felt tired for about a week after the race, but I noticed that it was more emotionally that I just did not have the desire. We have never kept training after a big race like this, so that may partly be why, but regardless, we had to change the workouts around a little as I was struggling to find any kind of middle gear….I felt like it was either hard as I could or easy, there was no in-between.
But it wasn’t just the hard running. It was everything else. I was too lazy to do my strides, stretching or foam rolling after. I was back to eating sweets every 2 hours, and sometimes I even would have a giant bowl of fro-yo (with toppings) for lunch. I was not sleeping as much, stressing out too much trying to get everything ready for the honeymoon, and just putting my running on the back burner. Basically I was just not committed.
I got defensive when Steve accused me of this on our cool down this morning, but looking back, he is right. I was definitely crusing it in, and I wasnt dedicated in the way I usually am.
Now, I do not think that is the reason I struggled this morning, but it definitely played a part, especially the nutrition as my body is so used to having efficient fuel, and these past few weeks I have filled it with junk.
Okay, so back to the race……
I warmed up for 4 miles, a little more than usual, but as it was a shorter race than the ones we have been doing, it was fine.
One thing I did notice during the warm up and strides, was that my eyes felt tired….now this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but its the best way to describe it. I felt like my eyes were stuck together and I couldn’t open them properly. Other than that, everything felt good.
The race started, and over 17,000 people began the Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati. This race had typically had fast times each year, so we figured it was flat and fast…..but another indicator of my laziness, I had not looked at the course map, and had no idea where I was going. I knew there was a decent hill around 1.5 miles in, but that was it.
I felt good, strong as I went through the first miles. I was clicking along, passing people, and felt in a good rhythm.
Steve had said to me a few days ago that I HAD to run this hard, even though he could see I did not have a desire to push hard, he was adamant I had better not half ass this race (little did we know just how hard I would end up going!!), and I had that in the front of the mind most of the race, I tried to think back to my college days of the 10k, how it would hurt 2 miles in, and so I tried to remind myself of this….”don’t be a wimp, Tina”, and I kept pushing forward. I felt strong, and was breathing hard, but nothing out of the ordinary.
After the uphill around mile 1.5, I thought I was mostly done with the hills, but there were a heck of a lot of downhills, you know, the kinda downhills where you can really get rolling……
I practiced what Max had taught me, and ran the downhills with good form. I felt like I was flying down them, and for the first time, I was passing people on downhills, rather than being passed. However, we all know that what goes down must come up, and there were a good amount of uphills still to go in this race.
I passed the 5 mile mark, and told myself I had about 7 minutes max left of running. I was hurting, but I knew I could hold it…..or so I thought.
But it turns out my body (or maybe my mind) had other ideas……
Suddenly my entire body went numb. I felt a serious restriction in my breathing. The best way I can describe it is like my lungs were a sponge, and someone wrung them out, so there was nothing left.
I had experienced this once before, in the North Shore Half Marathon.
When it happened before, I had to slow down and focus on relaxing my breathing, but after about 5 minutes, my breathing calmed back down, and I was able to get rolling again. I got back to the pace I was on before, and finished strong.
I tried to remind myself of this, and I took it even further this time, slowing down to pretty much a jog, but I wanted to prove I learned my lesson last time.
Except this time, my breathing did not calm down, and the world started to spin. The guys who I was right behind put 100m on me within a minute
After a few minutes (which felt like an eternity), I did not feel ANY better, and I was coming to a hill to go up and over the bridge to get back to Ohio (we had run into Kentucky earlier in the race).
I am dropping out.
I stopped on the side of the road, trying desperately to get air into my lungs. AT that moment I did not care about the race. I did not care about how I was going to get back to the finishing area, all I was thinking about was getting air into my lungs; trying to BREATHE.
But my breath didnt come back, after 30 seconds, I was hyperventilating just as much as I was when I stopped.
And suddenly the fighter in me came out. I WAS going to finish this race, no matter what. I didnt care how slow I had to run, I would hate myself if I dropped out. Nothing was really wrong with me. And besides, I promised Steve I would race hard, how would dropping out be doing that?
I am NOT a quitter.
So I started back up, barely moving. Guys flying by me, encouraging me, telling me to run with them, but I could barely manage more than a crawl.
Before I knew it, I was stopped again. This time hands on the wall. I still couldn’t breathe any better.
But once again, I am not a quitter, so I started again.
This happened one more time.
Then I managed to convince myself that no matter what I was going to do this.
I just had to finish it. There was no pressure on this, no expectations from anyone. This was about me, and my pride. It was like a battle between me and my mind, and no matter what I was going to finish this race.
I kept pushing as hard as I possibly could. Still trying to suck in air, the world spinning, my lungs on fire.
Somehow, I put one foot in front of the other, focusing on each and every step, just making it to the next step. That was all I could do.
As I ran the final quarter mile, I could not even pick up the pace. All I could do was not fall.
I crossed the line still unable to breathe, barely able to lift my arms up as I broke through the tape…..actually I barely knew what was happening, let alone enjoy the moment (although somehow I actually look okay in this photo!!!)
Cameras, photographers, people surrounded me, asking questions, taking photos. I had maybe 10 people all around me putting their microphones in my face. All I could think about was getting air into my lungs.
I managed to answer their questions, but I have no idea what I said. They put a winners jacket on me. I took photos with the major (I think!?) giving me the award, but I just wanted to know what happened. How could I go from running 5:30 and under feeling strong, to a state like I have never been in before?
Actually, thats not true. i have been in that state, at the finish of the Philadelphia Marathon. I vowed I would never put myself into that place again. Thankfully I only had to suffer through it for a mile (rather than 7), but I am not going to lie. I am scared again now.
I never, ever, want to experience that again.
For those runners who think being an elite is easy. I hope my description of this race shows you that not only do we have bad days, but we can sometimes put our bodies in a place where we have no idea how they get there.
I know that every single guy who passed me in that final mile (probably over 20 guys), knew I was in a worse shape than any of them. You could have heard me breathing from 50m away.
Elites have bad days. I know I made everyone cheering on the sidelines stare at me, and not because I was doing so well, but because they were concerned.
I need to figure this out. Part of me wonders if it was just running too fast on those downhills….which does not bode well for Boston…..but the other part of me wonders if my stress head self just legitimately had a panic attack.
After reflecting last night, Steve thinks that I just maybe ran a little too hard, and my body wasn’t ready for it after the last few weeks. It wasn’t like I ran out of what I am capable of….I was only running around the pace I ran for the half, but as we had not done any long sustained efforts since the race (only shorter reps, as thats all I felt I could handle), it hit me pretty hard.
So much for the girl who tells you how not to slow down in a race!
Either way, dwelling on it is not going to do anything, it is time for my break, and I am going to enjoy every second.
I am going to eat all the sweets I want. Move as little as I can, and enjoy my honeymoon to Australia with my husband one week today.
I will race again. I will come back stronger. I will eat right, stretch, and do all those little things that help me to be the best I can be.
And I will make myself stop being a sour puss. 17,000 people ran that race this morning, and 16,999 of them were proud to finish, let alone if they had won the race.
Yes, I did stop and walk 3 times in my last mile. Yes, I did have a panic attack, but I finished, and I won the race. That is something to be proud of, and something that I need to stop being a brat about to appreciate like I should.
I retire the 2015 running year with this race. I have had three great races (London Marathon, winning the Army 10 Mile and Philly RNR Half Marathon), and a handful of average ones, but I have grown a lot, and I am proud of my year.
I will write a recap of the year at some point, but for now I want to step away from running for a few days, and just enjoy resting. Enjoy straightening my hair and having it stay straight for a few days, wear normal people clothes, and lie on the couch to do NOTHING.
Thank you so much for all your words of support. I am SO thankful to everyone who has wished me well this year. Have a wonderful weekend!