Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Power of TEAM by Claudia Gibbs

Claudia on the course at Rock 'n' Roll
Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans
Below is my story of my Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon experience in New Orleans and more importantly below is why, in addition to many other things, Team In Training will always be important to me. I learned on February 13th what TEAM means and honestly, not because I finished the race, but because of HOW and WHY I finished the race that will I forever remember this marathon and value this organization.

So the basics - Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans on Sunday, February 13th at 7am. Three weeks prior to the race my foot was really killing me and I spoke to TNT Coach Gretchen Owens and she recommended I go to local Atlanta pediatrist, Dr. Peebles. Diagnosis - Metatarsal Bursitis. I got my pads and instructions that after the race I needed to get new shoes.

The race started and it was a beautiful day, by the end of the race it was hot nearly 70 degrees. The first half of the race was uneventful and I was on a pretty good pace compared to my past half marathons and was moving along. By the time I got to mile 13 I had been out there 2:45. My foot was beginning to hurt and the flat nature of the course was killing me mentally and physically... very different than Atlanta.

Miles 13-17: In a word DIFFICULT. It was definitely a run/walk situation. Mentally, I was beginning to go a little crazy. Oddly, I knew I could do it and remembered my 20 mile training day in ATL which went really well - this was another story. Put it this way, there were tears at some point of this four mile stretch.

Mile 18: I saw my boyfriend and he jumped in and walked with me about 25 yards providing the encouragement like only a loved one can, but I wasn't buying it. The fact that this now became a loop course where I could see those closing in on mile 25 about ten feet across the road, it made me want to walk right across that line and be done. I didn't do it, but I was truly tempted.

Mile 19: Just at the start of this mile a TNT Coach from the virtual team named Joe came up to me. He asked me how I was feeling, if I needed anything, etc. After discussing a few things, in the conversation it came up that I was an "unofficial" TNT participant (I guess the TNT shirt I was wearing threw him!). He asked me if he was OK to leave me, he needed to go ahead and find the last "official" TNT participants. He told me not to worry that he was going to send someone to check on me. I told him no worries go, I'm totally just out here with a friend and don't worry about me, but thanks for stopping and checking on me.

Mile 20-something (or so, about 15 minutes later): Another virtual TNT coach named Debbie from LA met up with me. She told me the other coach told her about me and she wanted to make sure I was OK. She did that and even more. She stayed with me the entire time until I crossed the finish line.

Miles 22.5 -25: I began to have a panic attack. In a word this stretch was hellacious. Since this is a loop course, I could see the race sweepers on the other side at mile 20. Full.On.Tears. That is what happened. I told Tammy I had been training for too long and been out here on the course for nearly six hours at this point to have them drive me in. She calmly told me I was totally fine and would make it, the sweepers were about 30 minutes off my pace and I had nothing to worry about. Just like that, calm and cool. Well at that point my foot was in so much pain and I was so tired I just wanted to be done so I looked at her and just started running really hard. She said don't push it but if I wanted to run then we would run. And we ran on and off until Mile 25.

Mile 25.3ish: Coach Joe from mile 18 came back. He had gotten the last official TNT participants across the line, but knew I was still on the course and came back to check on me and Debbie. Unreal - me and two TNT coaches. I told them I was fine and I could make it the rest of the way, but they told me they were going to stay with me and see me finish this race.

Around Mile 25.6ish: two more coaches showed up. They were the local coaches, Rachel and Brandi, who had gotten everyone across and been in touch with Coach Joe. At this point it was me and four TNT coaches.

Finally, I could see the finish line. Along with the race volunteers and my boyfriend cheering, these coaches cheered and ran with me to the finish line.

7:05 that is how long it took and for probably what was the last two hours I had at least one TNT coach with me. That still blows my mind. Really it is all because I was wearing my TNT Georgia Chapter running shirt and that identified me as one of the TEAM. There is no way I would have finished this race without them and their support. I learned the true power of TEAM.
Claudia Gibbs first joined Team In Training last year for the ING Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon and also for The Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Claudia is currently a TNT Mentor for the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon & 1/2 Marathon team. Thanks Claudia for sharing this story about our wonderful coaches!