|That's one big ass medal!|
By now, many of you have seen the results for the Olympic
Trials Marathon, and you probably saw my name listed next to the slot for the 152nd
female finisher. I am proud of the fact that I met my goal of
crossing both the start and finish lines of that race despite the emotional and
physical costs associated with that accomplishment. However, I will not lie to you and say I am happy with my performance. An entire marathon cycle of mistakes and lost
training played out along that 26.22 mile course yesterday. It took every ounce
of focus I had to refrain from succumbing to self pity as my legs became heavy
very early in the race and my undertrained body wasn’t letting me run as fast
as my heart wanted to go.
The experience was absolutely bittersweet. I was excited and overwhelmed to be part of this
prestigious event and to share that experience with friends and family. I had to pinch myself
when I saw elite runners like Ryan Hall, Desi Davila, Magda Lewy-Boulet, Deena
Kastor and Shalane Flanagan in the same meetings and warming up in the same
starting corral as me. I felt like I had
a ridiculous grin on my face walking around the Hilton and Convention Center
Friday and Saturday. At the same time, I
was running this race having just four weeks of good marathon training out of the last 16, and all of those were in October and November. My legs both hurt and weren’t working the
day that I left for Houston. I knew the
best I could hope for was to try to manage the pain from my injury and try to
run a pace that would keep me from further damaging my body.
The Pre-race Crazies
I was very excited to have my family and The Genius in
Houston to experience the race with me.
My Mom is my number one marathon travel buddy, having been to six of my
previous marathon races to watch me run including my qualifying race in Chicago
2010. My sister came for her first
marathon spectating experience and has been my number one fan, though my Mom might argue with that. My brother and my sister-in-law have always given me tremendous support, and I was excited that they made the
trip as well. My family and The Genius
knew what I had gone through these past few months and were understandably tentative
about the trip until late December. This was especially the case after I sent them a picture from the hospital of my full-leg cast
in an email with the subject line:
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Friday night, my brother
told me that he remembered several years ago when I first mentioned my goal of
running in the Trials. He
said he nodded and smiled at the time, but thought it was a bit of a
stretch. He said, “and now, here we
are.” My family assured me that, no
matter what happened the next day in the race, they couldn’t be more proud of
In addition to a fab support crew, I was also extremely lucky
that Dr. Ball
was in Houston and available to treat me on Thursday and Friday. He had numerous athletes to treat, and I was extremely grateful to get some of his time. I had two main issues on Thursday. The first was that horrible pain in my shin
that caused me to limp along for the first 2-4 miles of every run but loosened
up later in the run as long as I didn’t stop.
The other problem was a right leg that wouldn’t work. My test for this was hopping up and down on
one leg. I couldn’t get lift off from my right leg at all. I had pain low in my hip, but pain wasn’t
really the concern. I suspected whatever was causing my hip pain was keeping my leg from working. If I couldn’t push off with my
right leg, all kinds of bad compensations followed as well as major
inefficiencies that meant I couldn’t run very fast for very long.
After some screening tests from Dr. Ball, he was ready to
start working on me. He stopped at that
point and told me that we needed to be clear that what he was doing was not
going to help me magically run a 2:40 marathon.
At best, he was patching the boat so I could stay afloat through the
finish, hopefully with minimal pain. He
wanted me to acknowledge that I understood going out fast would likely lead to
an epic failure and possibly unnecessary damage. I explained that I wanted to finish and that
I would run whatever pace allowed me to do that with the least amount of pain
and lasting damage. In short, I had to
check my ego in the start corral and accept the fact that I was going to be at
the back of the pack.
Dr. Ball treated my gluteal area and had me do test
runs in between tweaks to check for progress. By the end of the night, my test runs felt better,
and he sent me away with instruction to return the next day for more
treatment. I was a bit surprised by
this, but acknowledged that he was the doctor.
The Genius and I got back to the hotel room around midnight and ordered
room service for dinner. We got to bed
around 1 a.m. So much for getting a good
night’s sleep two nights before the race.
|These were Effin' easy to see.|
The next day was full of tasks that included registration,
water bottle decoration, athlete meetings, uniform check and other pre-race
preparations. This stuff was really
fun. It definitely helped get me into the
marathon mindset. Up to that point, It
hadn’t really registered that I was running a marathon on Saturday. This race had been tentative in my mind for
so long, that I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that I would actually be
in Houston getting ready to run the race until it was happening.
I was excited that my friend Kerry was in town to
watch the race and that she was able to join me and my family for dinner Friday
night. We had a great time chatting
about running. She is an inspiration to me,
and I felt supercharged after our conversation.
I still needed to see Dr. Ball at that point, but the logistics were a
mess. His hotel was pretty far out of
town, and he had limited time to see me.
I was trying to find a cab to get to his hotel when the
bellman told me that the hotel shuttle could take us there. I questioned this since it was so far out of
town, but he assured me that the shuttle could go there. We got in the shuttle and suffered through
traffic to drop off another couple headed to the theater. Soon after dropping them off, we started to
slow in front of a hotel. The Genius
quickly realized that he misunderstood which hotel we were going to and then
the shuttle driver told us that he wasn’t allowed to take us where we needed to
go. 45 minutes wasted! He dumped us off at a McDonald’s,
where we found a cab to take us to Dr. Ball’s hotel.
I was frantic. It was
now 8:00, and I was anxious that I wasn’t going to get to see Dr. Ball. Luckily for me, he was still able to work on
me that night. I’m convinced that second treatment was the key to my being able
to finish the race the next day. He
worked on the hip more but also worked on a tendon in my shin--a big source of my pain. When I told him
that my arch was hurting during my test run, he pressed on the place where the
tendon attaches to the foot, and I jumped off the table. He said, “Looks like we’re going to need some
He pulled out his supplies and called The Genius over to
watch as he did a mock up tape job of my arch and shin that he would need to replicate race morning. He gave me the supplies I needed and sent me
on my way. We got back to the hotel
around 9:30 or 10:00 and I was feeling pretty stressed out. I made my final preparations for the race, got horizontal and tried to sleep. I
didn’t do much of that. My mother became
a lumberjack in the middle of the night and sawed logs all night long. The Genius either caught a nasty virus or ate
something bad and was up all night losing his stomach contents. It was quite a party in the Marty suite.
My 5:30 alarm came quickly, and I hopped out of bed to get
ready. I put on my racing costume, foraged for food down at the
breakfast buffet, painted blue stripes in my hair and got all of my race gear
together by 6:30. The Genius replicated the tape job Dr. Ball showed him the night before, and it actually really helped with the arch and shin pain. I tried hopping around a bit and the right leg was working.
|Those Crazy Impalas!|
walked into the athlete gathering area in the Convention Center, I finally
started to feel the race day excitement.
Everyone was busy pinning on numbers, listening to their theme songs, and slathering on Body Glide. I met up with many of my Impala Racing Team
mates and our Coach Tony Coffey. We sat
around taking pictures, smiling and laughing a lot. Before I knew it, we were being called to the
start, and we headed down the stairs to the starting corrals. We were allowed to run around a bit to warm
up, and elite runners were zooming by me left and right. It was all a little surreal. I stood at attention as the National Anthem
was sung and heard the gun go off for the men’s race. We had to wait for the men to clear the first
2.2 mile loop of the course before we could start. That happened right on schedule, and we were
suddenly headed to the start line. I
glanced over my left shoulder and saw my Mom and Sister standing on the
sidelines holding up my now beautiful bi-valve cast, painstakingly decorated by my sister the
night before. It made me smile.
|Jill decorates the cast.|
Minutes before the start, I started frantically looking around for my race buddy,
Susan Loken. Susan had also suffered from
injuries that kept her from being able to train the last couple of months. We also shared the same goal of getting across that finish line come hell or high
water. We were blessed to have Ruth
Perkins running with us. Ruth has a
sacral stress fracture that is healing but isn’t fully baked yet. She wanted to run as much of the race as
possible but knew she’d likely have to stop at some point. She wanted to enjoy every minute that she was
out there running.
The gun indicating the start of the women's race went off and the pack charged forward. Ruth, Susan and I were at the back of the
pack immediately. By the time, we
crossed the finish line the first time, our pack was clearly established. We would run together for the first half of
the race, lose Ruth and then Susan and I would stay together more or less
until mile 23 where I started to fall behind her.
|The three amigos-me, Susan and Ruth.|
I felt absolutely blessed to be running with these two women
for as long as I did. Ruth was
infectiously positive and her enthusiasm for 1) being able to run at all, and 2)
running in the Olympic Trials was viral.
The crowd loved her arm waving and wide grin. I appreciated the electricity she was giving
off because I was hurting within the first two miles. Susan kept us going, reminding us to be
positive. Ruth kept yelling to the crowd that injury wouldn’t stop us. She would yell, “We are running in the
Olympic Trials!!!!” It was awesome.
I so needed this energy around me. I felt like Debbie Downer. I was not feeling good from the start, and my
instinct is to turn inward and focus my energy on gutting it out. As much as I could, I tried to free my mind
up and relax so I could take in the moment I was experiencing. Susan and Ruth kept snapping me back to the wonderful reality of how incredible this experience was.
The crowd support was ridiculous. We couldn’t see the rest of the runners after
about 2 miles, so we were alone. After a bit, Ruth asked someone on the sidelines if
we were winning. That visual helped me
later in the race. I started to pretend
that we were the lead pack as the miles got tougher. Ruth was a ball of energy and Susan was a
metronome with her pace keeping. The
fans cheered us on, calling us the three amigos as we ran by. Around mile 5 or 6, I promised Susan and Ruth
that I would write a rap song about our experience.
As we rounded the corner to complete the first 8 mile loop,
Ruth informed us that she would be needing to drop around 10 miles. She said that she wasn’t feeling horrible,
but she wanted to be smart. We passed
through the finish line the second time and spontaneously sped up from the
electricity being generated by the crowds screaming our names and urging us on. Ruth decided to stick with us longer saying
that she wasn’t feeling any worse and thought she had more in her. So, we kept chugging along.
Around our mile 12 or 13, we heard cars coming up from
behind, and we knew the lead pack of men was gaining on us. We tried to clear a path to allow them to cut the
tangents on the course. The next thing I knew, Ryan Hall was brushing my shoulder as he, Meb and Abdi sped past at break-neck pace. Ritz followed a few minutes later but was
clearly still in the hunt. I could not
stop smiling after that close encounter.
How awesome was it to see the race in progress from the perspective of a runner
in the race? The rest of that lap, we
continued to try to reserve the tangent for the other men who were passing us
as they completed their final loop.
Susan and I lost Ruth around the half point and continued to soldier on. I was clearly
hurting and was just trying to keep up with Susan for the second half. She would get ahead and call back to me to be
strong. I would put in a little more
effort and catch up, feeling my muscles congeal just a little more with each
step. More than anything, I was feeling
the lack of training in my body. I
actually had very little real pain for the first 20 miles or so—none in my shin
or my hip. Mostly, I was just sucking
I hit my lowest point in the race when I began thinking
about missed opportunities for cross training and strength work that might have
left me in better shape for this race. I
had to admit to myself that I had given up on my training over a month
ago. I was only able to run 11 out of the last 35 days, mostly in pain, but I could have come into the race fitter had I cross trained when I couldn't run. Never mind the cast I had on my leg, and the week that I couldn't walk. Maybe I should have used the hand cycle. At that low point, I told myself I had become defeated in the face of setbacks, and I was embarrassed about
that. These were the moments that I
wanted to quit the race. I felt like I
hadn’t given everything in my training and here I was in last place in the
Olympic Trials, exposing my laziness to everyone watching.
Good thing I’m not a quitter.
A friend of mine told me that he knew I would cross that finish line
even if I had a bone sticking out of my leg.
I will be the first to admit that I have a healthy ego, but quitting to
preserve that ego was absolutely unacceptable.
So, I charged on. Susan and I
passed through the finish line a third time, and a huge grin stretched across my face and I started to cry watching
the men’s Olympic Team celebrating their accomplishment wrapped in an American
Flag. Then I heard the crowd yelling, “go
Jaymee and Susan,” and that put the spring back in
By far, the most emotionally difficult part of the race was
the final 8-mile loop. By this time,
Susan and I were a good 4-5 minutes behind anyone else and the spectators had
started to disperse. Thank goodness for
the ones that remained to cheer us on.
Susan became even more critical to my race at this point as she pulled
ahead, and I tried to hang on. As long
as I saw her ahead of me, I had something to aim for. The crowd kept telling me to stay strong and
reminded me that I was in the Olympic Trials.
They said I was their hero and that I inspired them. I believed every word of it.
My right hip flexors started to grumble around mile 15 and
by mile 20, it was painful to lift my right knee to propel my leg forward. I think sheer force of will and momentum must
have kept me going those last few miles.
By mile 23, I was worried about making it to the finish. I slowed more to see if I could get some of
the pain in the right leg to diminish and that worked. Both of my legs were like cement blocks from
sheer muscle fatigue, since I hadn’t run longer than 18 miles in 6
weeks. By mile 24, however, I knew I would
make it to the finish.
I was in last place at this point and had the rest of the
course to myself. I would get there when
I got there, and I was going to finally let myself enjoy the final moments of
this amazing experience. The dedicated crowds
continued to cheer for me and told me to be strong. I waved and pumped my fists and smiled at
them to let them know I was not defeated.
I was proud to be on the streets of Houston, nearing the finish line of
the most memorable race of my life. I
started to connect with the spectators’ faces around me and began to hear the shouts
from friends and family who had nervously awaited my arrival, wondering whether
I was still out there on the course.
I heard mad screams from my family as I turned the corner to cross the finish line for the 4th
and final time. I heard someone yell, “Yo Houston.” I laughed and repeated it as I crossed the line. I was immediately wrapped in the arms of my race sister, Susan who told me she couldn’t have gotten through the race without me. My eyes welled up with tears as I told her how important she had been to me. We made our way through a gauntlet of race officials and escalators and finally, somewhat unceremoniously, were handed our finisher's medals. I have never been one who cares much at all about medals, but this one, I wanted more than anything on this earth.
|Major big hugs!|
Susan and I donned our medals and smiled from ear to ear looking at
each other just slightly surprised by what we had been through. What an amazing experience. Susan told me this race bonded us for
life. Yes, indeed it did. What a wonderfully amazing ride.
|Proud Olympic Marathon Trials Finishers! Thanks for the photos Bill!|
Thank you to each and every person who has supported me along this journey whether I've met you in person or know you from the internets. Your support and encouragement has meant the world to me, and I would not be wearing that finisher's medal without it.