Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Niagara Falls International Marathon

I initially wrote "Half Marathon" in my post title.

What a trip.
What a day.
What a mindblast of emotions.


Leaving off from yesterday's post about my horrid day/night before the race.  I drove down to Celine's house as she graciously offered to drive myself and 2 other runners to the start line across the border in Buffalo so we didn't have to take the school bus.  Did you know that the NF International Marathon is the only marathon in the world that starts in one country and ends in another? Yeah, I didn't know. We nervously loitered around for awhile before Celine left to go find some picture spots.

Celine, as you all know is my friend in real life as a result of this blog. We were both training for the same marathon and unfortunately she got injured 6 weeks out from the race. She eventually had no choice but to pull out of the race as a result of her injury.

By the way, Celine, I've said it before and I'll say it again because it's on my blog it's for the world to read. You are such a strong willed woman! To go to the expo and then hang around stalking runners ALL DAY race day, all the while knowing that was supposed to be your race. I wanted to run it with you so bad. Two T1 diabetics conquering their FIRST marathon. But you didn't shy away from the hubbub and I commend you on that. You did it with all smiles. I wish I had known you were there at the finish because I NEED a picture of us dammit!!

First I want to unveil something I've been dying to share! My new Tallygear Tummietote made especially for me! Donna makes me these 100% cotton belts that don't slip from my bum jiggle (shut up, it's a problem I have). I asked her if she could put some toggles on one for a race bib.

See for yourself:

A masterpiece of all sorts of wonderful! No need for pinning bibs to shirts. Mine inevitably end up torn half way through the race and from the sweat, the pins rust and stain my shirts. LOVED racing with this!

Onwards, it was pretty stinking cold out before the race. There was frost on my windshield at 6:30am. However, it was the MOST beautiful day we could have possibly asked for (in the end). A high of 15C (60F), no wind and full on sunshine the entire day.

We arrived at the start and I still wasn't feeling overly confident. I was quiet and scared. My BG's were hanging out in the too-high-for-comfort territory. My entire plan for diabetes management went to the toilet due to the nights' disaster. I wasn't starting with a belly full of oatmeal and a head screwed on tight. I was starting with nausea and bowel upset instead. I set my temp basal at -60% where I would normally have it at -75%. I was also functioning on VERY little sleep, restless sick sleep at that. My nerves were wrecked. I kept saying to myself, "Of all the nights for that to happen!". I couldn't exactly beg for a change of day now could I? I had no choice. Diabetes be damned.

The gun went off.

The first 9 or so km of the race was in the States before crossing over the peace bridge and entering Canada. The scenery was beautiful and there were a lot of people sitting on their front porches watching the mass of runners. My goal for the first portion of the race (until after I crossed the bridge) was to stalk my Garmin and make sure my pace wasn't too fast. I had my headphones in but the ipod turned off for this part. I was really impressed that most of the runners around me were thanking the police officers holding back traffic and the volunteers at the water stations. It really made me pleased because without all those volunteers, marathons would never happen. True story.

The only "issue" I had was with these couple Japanese women who were taking pictures AS they ran. Lots of pictures. One woman pushed me between herself and the pylons (with oncoming traffic) because she was trying to take a picture and run. I kindly grabbed her shoulder and lightly shoved her aside.

Thanks to Celine for snapping this around 10km. This picture will make me smile again and again. This is the BEST picture someone has ever taken of me. REAL smiles too! I was happy to see you!

I made my first stop at about 11km. By this point I had switched to miles. I'm getting better at running in miles and recognizing the distance change. A quick check of my BG left me happy that it was under 10mmol/l (180mg/dl) for the first time in a couple days. I had a gel (later than planned) and turned on my ipod. I was eager to listen to The Marathon Show podcasts. Off I went again. slowly but surely. I kept a steady pace surprisingly despite the acidic stomach and bowels.

By mile 9 I spied an opportunity as my poor bowels were in amok. I painfully skipped down to the river's edge to nervously release the hounds. Funny part about this (because crapping is funny) as soon as I got back on the road, right around the next corner was a port-a-potty. Dang it. I would like to add that this was when I noticed there were probably port-a-potties every single km. Guess they reeeeally don't want runners going wherever they please. The Niagara Parkway is a very prestigious place to live and it is lined by big beautiful homes. Sorry guys, at least I left my business on the river bank.

After this is when I could start feeling my body going downhill. I had another gel knowing I didn't have much time before my belly would start rejecting the gels. It wasn't my legs, or my muscles, or my cardiovascular health or anything that I could have planned for. It was nausea and bowels as a result from the night before. If you have diabetes, you KNOW what I'm talking about. Recovering from a massive night of highs or lows is brutal. We often call them "hypo/hyper-hangovers". It sometimes takes many hours to bounce back from that kind of turmoil. I was NOT feeling good.

My family was there at mile 12 as I asked them to be. My dad and niece ran in a bit with me and the GIANT smile on my niece's face as she screamed over and over "GO CHRIS GO" was heart warming. I exchanged used GU wrappers for new ones. My mum had a Gatorade G2 that I gave to her and I poured that into my bottle. I gave them my gloves and arm sleeves. Because they were at a water station there was a port-a-potty. I will spare you the details but as I sat there feeling ill (out of my bum) I started tearing up and not from the odour of the inside of a port-a-potty. I was hurting and my family who loves me so much was there. Even my niece still chanting "GO CHRIS GO" as I was sitting on the plastic port-a-potty seat. (yes I see the irony in that!).

I left my family as much as I didn't want to and continued on my way. I knew I had to do this. I knew my friend Jason would be out there soon and I looked forward to a familiar face. Mile 15 and I attempted gel number 3. It took me 2 miles to eat it. I ran with it in my hand. The G2 I had in my bottle also wasn't helping. I don't normally like anything but water when I'm running but I thought electrolytes would be a good thing to get in me. Yucky pasty mouth. ICK. I watered it down the first chance I got.

Can I just say that the amount of times I ran into friends and family was AMAZING! It was like my own personal cheering squad. AMAZING!!!!!

So there he was at mile 17. Bouncing around in a jester hat and holding a sign for me. By this point my stomach was feeling rather sour. I stopped, I sat on the bridge. A bg check had me in an okay spot. However, I knew I could not tolerate any more gels so I turned my temp basal down to -80%. Hour by hour decisions, that's what we have to do with diabetes. I kept telling him I didn't know if I could do it, I had SO far to go yet.

He got this picture at mile 17. I really only put it up because I'm in love with my running skirt :)

Picture says it all?

So Jason ran with me for a little bit before turning back to fetch his car and make his way to the finish line. He was my personal camera guy and did a wonderful job at getting pictures of everything around him. Thanks for manning my camera dude, I don't trust just anybody to use it. I was so happy you were there.

The picture Celine got of me as I ran up to the Clan of Runner's Edge people.

Oh god, what comes next? this is where it all starts getting foggy. I ran into the Runner's Edge group again. Celine had them all screaming and flailing as they yelled "GO SCULLY" at the top of their lungs. I had a mini-breakdown as I stopped to hunch over near Celine. I don't remember much except that I kept saying "I don't feel good at all..."

Where was that confidence through the months of training? Where was that inner strength I relied on so much? I was fading. I couldn't give up but there was no lying about it - I wasn't well. I stopped looking at my Garmin because I was just getting disappointed. When I left Celine I had tears in my eyes. Then just as fast as I lost it, I tried to pull myself together. I sucked it up and wrote myself a plan. I dug as deep as I could possibly muster. This was where most people hit the wall. Mile 18/19. Now I am not most people and considering how slow my race was going, there would be no wall for me. I allowed myself to get upset until mile 20. After that I told myself I could stop for a short walk break at every mile marker. That seemed to help. I also switched from podcasts to music because I couldn't pay a stitch of attention to it any more.

At mile 24, crossing the bridge was my brother standing there right in the middle. I saw him from far away but didn't recognize him because I wasn't aware he was coming. He had a mini freakout when he saw an ambulance go by before he saw me and thought I would be in it! To give my family credit, I was much slower than anticipated on top of my problems already so I don't blame them. I asked him to find some ice at the finish. All I wanted was ice in my mouth.

The last few miles it was down to me and my stubborn brain. It seems so insignificant now (the next day) but at the time, I wanted to die.

I removed my earphones. So many spectators and other runners were STILL cheering everybody on. I couldn't believe it at that late in the race. When someone said some words of encouragement, all I could do was groan. Not even talk! Groan! And every time I groaned the runners around me would say "I hear you!", or "me too!". My aunt on the sidelines with a little sign surprised me so much I almost fell over! She texted ahead to let them know I was coming. Next I see my uncle driving the other way honking his horn and hanging yet ANOTHER sign out his window. WOW, all smiles now!

26miles and my cousin (who is one of my closest friends) was there holding a big sign. She screamed out as I ran by, "I HAVE YOUR COKE ZERO!" and my arms went up in the air in happiness! All summer long as I was ending my long training runs all I wanted in the entire planet was Coke. I don't like Diet Coke and since regular Coke is not an option I started buying Coke Zero. It's the only thing that I crave after running.

Then the finish line.

Celine snapped this moment. The moment I crossed the finish line. You can see the struggle to smile on my face but it was there. T1 Diabetes and I!

The guy who placed the medal around my neck said, "How does it feel?" and instead of groaning I said, "It feels amazing."

I then got bombarded by my entire family. I started crying as they each gave me a big hug. I had a hard time wiping the smile off my face EVEN though I was beyond nauseous. I sipped my Coke Zero and wrapped myself in the love and support of my family and friends.

Cousin and Dad and tears in my eyes.

Sister, Cousin Mum and Dad. This is one of my favourite pictures. Sometimes my sis and I don't talk much but we communicate without words.

Cousin, Uncle, Aunt (LOVE YOU GUYS!)

Jason, the photo man and support crew. I am proudly holding my delicious Coke Zero!

Niece Emily dancing to the music.

Want no blisters? get Injinji socks! Best stuff on the planet. I always get lots of blisters but not with these bad boys. Not even a hot spot!

Niece and Brother.

It was emotional just like everybody said it would be. The most emotional part was the insane support from my family and friends. You guys made this happen for me. From your words of encouragement before the race to your support through my many months of training. It was like a little kick in the ass each time I saw someone along the race. Knowing that a family member or a friend would be up there was motivation enough to keep going mile to mile. I was enamoured and overwhelmed.

I can't wait to try it again because I can only imagine how much more fun it would be without the troubles that I went through. And Celine? If I am not running WITH you, I will be there photographing you!

This post took me FOREVER to write and the emotions are still running rampant.

In the words of Joe Taricani from The Marathon Show, "It's not about the finish time, it's about the finish line." also, "Running your first marathon will change your life forever."

Hello world, I ran a whole marathon!


  1. Holy fuck indeed!

    I have my own race day story but it's great to read yours and experience it through your eyes. And feet. And stomach.

    You did a great job girlie and you beat back everything life threw at you on Sunday. I'm SO proud of you!!

  2. Great post, love the pictures of you in your "skirt" and all of the smiles. Way to go super star!!!
    Mascara Fairy


    Your post made me cry. Not sad tears, but happy ones, I promise. I am just so proud of you and while we all knew you could do it, it's heartwarming to hear(read) about it after all your hard work and training. Way to go!!!


  4. YAY SCULLY!!!!

    i knew you could do it! i have never run in my life, and i have no idea how you do what you do, but i am soooo happy for you!! and your family and friends being there for you is absolutely fantabulous!

    despite everything, YOU CONQUERED IT!!!!
    congratulations! you earned it!

    You looked so happy in all your photos - so glad you conquered the 26.2! Great Job!

  6. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR VERY FIRST SUCCESSFUL MARATHON, CONQUERING 26.2 MILES AND TELLING THE "D-MON" TO BITE YOUR ASS. I'm soo proud of you and you did it on your own terms. I don't think that I can ever explain how stoked and happy I am for you Chris...Your biggest fan. J

  7. You're amazing! Great, fantastic photos of you! What a beautiful smile...

  8. Oh my goodness! You are freaking brilliant! I love your family and friends cheering you on, I love your smiling photo (which I NEVER get), I love your perseverance, and most of all I love your finish!
    Double ps. YOU ROCK!

  9. I think I'm in love, you are soooo my heroine! Well done, and a brilliant post! :)

  10. You ROCK! Great job! Lived the race report.

  11. I am tearing up reading this Sculls. I am so incredibly humbled by you. Knew you would do it. Knew you would power through. Knew you had it in you. Congrats girlfriend. Your spirit and determination and hard work and family and friends saw you through. And...I love that you gently shoved the Japanese photographer runner "gently" outta your way. :)

  12. After reading your Blog...when one goes to leave a comment...there's a little blurb at the bottom that says 'Post a Comment' and then...What you sayin'?

    WHAT can a person say about ONE so inpirational.

    We can only hope that we live life as fully as you!...

    If i may be Japanese for just a moment...may i gently 'push back' and ask...what's up NEXT???

    We can hardly wait!

  13. I am so goddamn proud of you!

  14. Chris,
    Though I haven't been following your blog religiously, once and a while I click the facebook link and read it. I read your latest one this morning, and it made me go back to read this one. I am so proud of you! I cried as I read the blog about your day/night before the race. I'm glad that you were ok. I know a few people with T1 diabetes, and it is a scary disease. But you came through it! And ran a marathon after it to boot!! I cried happy tears reading about your race. Sad tears through some of it, but happy tears when I seen your pictures. What a milestone for you! I neither run or have diabetes, so I cannot say that I know how you feel. But I know how satisfying it must be for you to know you finished, conquered and succeeded. I am going to start reading every blog post you make! What an inspiration.
    All the best,
    Dannielle from Alberta

  15. Can I say amazing? I think you may have inspired me to pick up the training for a marathon again.

    Wow. I don't have words to tell you how amazed I am at your endurance and your mental strength and your ability to get up and run a marathon after dealing with such a scary diabetes dilemma. You rock.

    Also, what the eff? You look AMAZING! Running skirts were meant for you, or you were meant for running skirts. I may have to check out tummie totes. They look pretty sweet.

    Although it was tough, you made it through, and crossing the finish line of a marathon changes you for life. I can read it in your words, and I can see it in your photos. Awesome!

    I'm so excited to hear about your next adventures, and maybe we'll get to do a marathon together someday. :)

  16. Wow......Scully, you are AMAZING!!!! I've seen you in the DOC circle before, but I didn't know you were running a marathon until now. I read this with my heart in my throat. I'm running my second 26.2 on Sunday, and frankly, I'm terrified of something like this. But your courage, determination, and mental strength got you through. You kick some serious international ass, woman!

    And think about it this way:
    1. At least this makes for a good story.
    2. And at least your next marathon HAS to be better than this, right?!

    Rock on, fellow d-athlete!
    Caroline (@carobanano)

  17. Dude! I don't feel like I am even in good enough shape to write a comment on your blog!

    This is amazing!

    I once entertained the thought of a half-marathon but then I realized I HATE to run.

    I'll be at the finish line cheering you on!


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