Author Archives: Kate Mroz

When it’s Easter and it’s hard to be joyful

We associate Easter with joy and rightly so, it is the celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead. As a kid, I remember waking up and being told I could eat candy for breakfast and that I was free to indulge in whatever I had given up for Lent. Church would filled with boisterous chatter, joyous music, and the once bare altar would be decorated with beautiful flowers. I remember asking my mom why we had to leave church in silence on Good Friday. “It is because today we are supposed to be sad, on Easter, we are happy.”

 

Yet, what happens when it’s Easter and you just do not feel like being joyful?

 

This has been a question on my mind lately, especially as some of my loved ones are going through a very difficult time this Easter season.

 

The events of our lives do not always line up neatly with the liturgical year. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a frightening diagnosis, a painful illness can all keep us feeling as though we are still stuck in the mourning and sadness of Good Friday. Easter Sunday may come and yet, we just do not feel like the good news of Jesus’s resurrection has reached us. In fact, we may even harbor doubts that this great, loving God who raised the crucified Jesus from the dead even exists at all.

 

That’s okay. In fact, it is something that Jesus and the early Christians would totally understand.

 

Yes, Jesus was raised from the dead. Yes, in raising Jesus, God affirmed Jesus’s life and ministry, showing that God stands on the side of those people with whom Jesus was so concerned, the sick, the poor, the marginalized. But for those in the midst of suffering, it can be really hard to believe that God cares. And one might ask, is this whole resurrection thing a farce? I mean, how can we prove it?

 

Yet, it is important to remember that just three days before this joyous resurrection, Jesus cried out to God, “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Even Jesus felt so down and so disheartened that he experienced God as absent. In pain, he wondered where God was. No one can say for certain what exactly went through Jesus’s mind during his final hours, but from his cry of anguish, we can at least say that he sympathizes with those who feel hopeless and afraid, who question whether or not God is there.

 

It is also important to remember that Jesus’s disciples did not all suddenly jump for joy on Sunday morning. The New Testament tells us that Jesus made various appearances to his disciples in the forty days following his resurrection. Most of them do not recognize him at first. Mary Magdalene, weeping and fearful, at first mistakes Jesus for the gardener. It is not until he calls her by name that she realizes who she has encounter and clings to him with joy (John 20:15-16). Later that day, two of Jesus disciples were walking to a village called Emmaus, talking about what happened to Jesus. Jesus walked with them for a while, but they did not recognize him. It was not until Jesus broke bread with them that they realized whom they had encountered (Luke 24:13-30).

 

The apostle Thomas did not see Jesus until a week later. He did not believe the other disciples when they told him what had taken place. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe (John 20:24-25).” Although Jesus does tell Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” he does not shun Thomas or remain angry with him. He still lets the doubting disciple put his finger in his side.

resurrection. christ.thomas

 

The first Easter was not all joyous celebration, it was also filled with confusion. Many of the disciples were feeling guilty, a lot of them had abandoned Jesus at the cross. They were confused. Some of them had a hard time believing Jesus was again their midst and some of them struggled at first to comprehend what this meant. Later on, there were disputes among the early Christians, such as the disagreement between Peter and Paul over circumcision (Galatians 2:11-2:14).

 

The resurrection is the promise of eternal life with God for all of creation, not just those who lived at the time of Jesus, and certainly not just for the people who are alive today. In other words, the promise of the resurrection holds true, even when we may have a hard time believing it, even when the suffering of this world makes us feel skeptical. Jesus is already and always in our midst, but sometimes, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our situation has prevented us from seeing him and knowing he is there. That is understandable. Our situation and the situation of our world, is sometimes really dark and lonely.

 

So, it is OK if you are not quite feeling the Easter season. Easter is not so much an event on the calendar as it is an experience. Jesus’s disciples do not all see him at the same time, nor did they see him right away. They had their own personal encounters that convinced them that they were in the presence of their beloved Teacher. Our own Easter experiences of joy and hope may not always occur along with the timing of the liturgical season. Sadness and depression and doubt can persist during and after Easter Sunday mass. We do not necessarily have to feel happy because its spring, the church looks pretty, and there is a lot of chocolate around.

 

In times of doubt, prayer can simply be the words, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Christians believe in a God who loved humanity enough to become a human being, a human being who, on the cross, felt what it was like to experience God as absent.

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Eastern States 20 Miler- When You Don’t Have Confidence, It Helps When Others Have Confidence For You

Last weekend, Bryan and I ran the Eastern States 20 Miler and Half-Marathon respectively. This race had come recommended by friends, so I when I mentioned it to my coach, he thought it would be a great way for me to practice pacing and fueling.

I was originally going to get a ride to the race with my friend Taylor but I was able to convince Bryan to run the half at the last minute. Therefore, much of this race report is going to be a testament to Bryan. There were a lot of positives and negatives about this race, but it was definitely harder for the half-marathoners!

The really cool thing about Eastern States is that the 20 milers get to run through Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Even though the race had an 11am start time, we had to get on a bus from the Hamptons at 8:30am. Therefore, we had 2 hours of waiting time at the starting line before the gun went off. For me, this wasn’t so bad. I was in a high school in Kittery, ME, feeling nice and warm and comfortable. I also met up with Taylor and her boyfriend, and we talked about marathons and pacing strategies. Bryan, however, was stuck on a school bus since there was no building to house the half-marathon runners.

I should preface this by saying that I almost dropped out of this race in the middle of the week. The Tuesday prior, I overdid it at HIIT class and my legs were incredibly sore. On Thursday night, I had a bad panic attack. Needless to say, on Friday, I was not feeling well and could not run at all. However, given that I already registered and needed to get in 20 miles anyway, I did a test run on Saturday and decided to give it a go. While my coach gave me the rough goal of maintaining anywhere from 7:40s- low 8s for the entire 20, I told myself I would start out strong and see what I could do.

I made the last- minute choice to run with headphones, which turned out to be a great idea since I was running alone for the entire race. The music gave me comfort and motivation. I also did my mile intentions the night before and had lots of people on the list! The music does not usually distract me from remembering the prayers- in fact, it sometimes does the opposite by not letting my mind wander as much.

Now for the race part…

Miles 1 feels great but I suddenly realize that I definitely over-dressed. The sun is beating down and I am already a little hot. Not a good sign but I ignore it. 7:47  Mile 2 is a 7:29. “You need to slow down.” 7:40, 7:37, 7:34, 7:38. I am feeling good but need to reign it a little bit.

I realize at the end of mile 6 that I really have to go to the bathroom. I decide that I will try to make a porta-potty stop at some point, and I feel comforted remembering Shalane Flanagan’s famous mile 13 stop at the 2018 Boston Marathon. I decide to skip my GU so that I do not cause my belly any more stress. Magically the next 4 miles are exactly 7:45- its almost scary! I drink some Gatorade in between so I at least have some nutrition but the urge is still there and I’m afraid to take in anything more. Miles 11 and 12 are 7:54 and 7:43. The wind is starting to pick up- I still feel good but it’s a bit harder to maintain pace with the wind in my face. By mile 13, I see Gatorade and know I need it. I am starting to get nauseous and hungry but am still afraid to take GU. I do not see any porta- potties, and am afraid of what will happen if I really need to go. I realize that I will not be making a stop before the finishing line. I picture having to call my husband at the side of the road. 8:03.

I start talking to myself. “20 at goal pace is a big workout anyway. You do not need to force it and you do not want to risk having to drop out. Get to 15 at goal pace, then call it a cool down so you can finish strong.” Knowing that I am going to fade and I cannot fuel as much as I’d like, I do the next two miles– 7:46, 7:59, then slow down. I look at my average pace at mile 15 and realize I did the first 15 at a 7:44 average, and I am very happy with that. I keep debating if I should keep going at pace, but do not want to risk it. “Better to drop down voluntarily now than be forced to a walk or totally stop later.”

I immediately feel better as I am now just taking it at a relaxed pace and enjoying the ocean view. 8:43. I decide to speed up for mile 17. 7:58. The bathroom urge is strong and now my legs are on fire too. I take two gummies knowing that I only have 3 miles left and at this point, I can handle anything, even without a bathroom stop. I feel comforted as I recognize where I am. I realize that we are running  part of the Hampton Half -Marathon course and not only that, but my favorite part. It brings back happy memories since that race was a PR for me. 8:43, 8:33. Ok, I am going to finish without exploding. I speed up for the last mile but decide not to go all out. This is not my A race and it is not worth risking injury or illness. Thinking of Bryan waiting for me motivates me. I told him I was aiming for under 2:40, and I did not want him to worry.  8:10.

I cross the 20 mile mark at 2:37:44. There is actually a mat at the 20 mile mark so you can see your split. It’s frustrating because you think you are done but you have a little longer to go. The race is technically 20.25 miles so that it can get in three states. I finish the  complete race in 2:39:45 (average 7:54 pace).  I am very-very nauseous but I try to manage a smile. The finish line announcer is cheering for me quite loudly. I keep hearing “go 1123, looking strong.” It is actually very motivating. I see that the clock is under 2:40 and I push hard to make sure I cross before it gets there!

I look for Bryan but cannot find him. Assuming he went back on the bus to the parking lot, I grab my medal. Before the race, I told him that he did not have to wait at the finish line for me and that he could take the bus to the after-party and start eating pizza (which I knew he was excited about).  Suddenly, I hear my name! There he is! He is waving his cell phone frantically to show me that he caught a video (Bryan is now famous for his finish line videos with commentary.) Although I feel bad that Bryan had to wait over 30 minutes for me (since he finished his half-marathon in 2 hours), I am comforted and touched that he is still there. After driving all morning, waiting on a school bus for two hours, running an amazing half-marathon, he stayed.

The bus takes us to the after-party where Bryan enjoys pizza and I am still only able to tolerate Propel and Muscle Milk. We see our friend Ivy from triathlon class and snap a picture, since we work with the same coach. We enjoy talking to some people and then head home.

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I still have mixed emotions about this race. It’s amazing how different your own perspective can be from those around you. When I got home, everyone, including my coach, was super pumped and excited about this run. No one could understand why I was not jumping up and down! So, I am trying to look at the positives: I ran 15 miles at goal pace on fatigued legs, I made a smart decision not to push too hard and put my A race at risk, I enjoyed myself, I also FINISHED even though just two days before race day, I thought I might not even show up. Running can be tough- you always want to push harder and faster, but sometimes you have to think about how far you have come. When I ran my first half in 2016, it was at the same average pace as this 20-miler and I was over the moon.

Right now, I am really nervous about my upcoming marathon. Today marks exactly one month to go. There is still so much to figure out. I now know I can complete a marathon (I’ve done it four times), but I am not so sure I can achieve my goal for this upcoming race. However, a lot of people have confidence for me. If they think I can do it, then I have to try, right?

Overall Review of Eastern States:

Positives:

  • The course is beautiful and it really is mostly flat. Much of the course contains beautiful views of the ocean.
  • You get your split at mile 10, mile 20, and the finish, which is helpful.
  • The support was wonderful- even though it was a small race, there were lots of spectators and volunteers cheering.
  • There were not a lot of water stops (so I recommend carrying your own bottle like I did), but the ones that were there were all well-stocked with water and Gatorade.
  • The finish line went smoothly, even though it was crowded. The finish line announcer was great- she got everyone pumped and motivated. The buses went smoothly and the drivers were very nice.
  • The after-party was fun. They had more than enough food and lots of tables to just sit and chat with people.
  • The shirts were really nice, and even though they only guaranteed them for people who registered early, Bryan and I still got one!

 

Negatives:

  • If you are taking a bus from the parking lot to the starting line, you end up having to wait at the start for 2-3 hours. For the 20 milers, the wait is in a high school. For the half-marathoners, there is nowhere to wait and they are stuck either outside or in a school bus. However, I have spoken to one of the race directors and they are working on improving this.
  • You need to have a lot of patience to get through the morning.
  • It can be windy (but that’s a risk you take with any race this time of year)
  • Most of the food is at the after party, so there really is not much at the finish line except bananas and water. However, they have a bag transport so you can have stuff waiting for you at the finish line if you would like. Picking up my bag at the finish was so helpful because I had immediate access to my Propel and snacks. I always find that I need electrolytes after tough runs. I also like having my own food options, no matter how much the race gives me.
  • The race isn’t closed to traffic. It was not a problem for me, but Bryan says that for  his race, it made things a bit more difficult.

Hampton Half-Marathon- Making Scarier Goals & Learning to Shoot for the Moon

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”- Norman Vincent Peale

After the frustrating finish at the Loco Marathon this past October, my husband and I decided that it was time for me to find a running coach. While I am happy with what I have accomplished so far, I was feeling as though I was stuck- ever since qualifying for Boston for 2018, I had not been seeing any improvement and was struck with injury after injury.

Shortly after that marathon, Bryan and I decided to sign up for a triathlon class at the OakSquare YMCA coached by Tony Rich (Iron Tony) who holds that world record for the Indoor Ironman Triathlon.  I loved the class (am still doing it every Sunday) and when I told Tony my running frustrations, he offered to coach me. So far, I have already seen tremendous improvement. We have also noticed that a big issue for me is my level of confidence. A lot of this training cycle has consisted of me telling Tony I can’t do my workouts and then doing them.

This was my first half-marathon since November 2017, where I set a 6 minute PR at Colt State Park in New Hampshire. I go into it knowing that it is part of my marathon training and that it is not my A race. However, I do want to have any regrets or finish felling like I had more to give.

C goal was finish under 1:39. B goal was to tie my PR of 1:37:25. A goal was 1:35. I knew this was very ambitious and I did not tell anyone (except Bryan and my friend Jana) about it. Shoot for the moon, as they say!

A snowstorm hit Boston the day before the race. I was forced to do my shake-out run on the elliptical instead of outside. I also had some issues with my right quad a few days before- big thanks to my friend Steven Bonthrone for calming me down and giving me some exercises that helped. I was determined to get to the starting line healthy and not sore, and I did!

We got lucky that the roads were plowed to drive to New Hampshire on Sunday morning. The weather was actually pretty perfect- 36 degrees and sunny with almost no wind. We hit the road around 7:20am. I forced down a banana and peanut butter in the car – I hate eating before a run but with a start time of 10am, there was no choice!

The first major issue we ran into was parking. By the time we got to the Hamptons, the parking lot was crowded and we parked over a mile away from the starting line. Walking there with our bags took quite a bit of time. My planned two-mile warm-up was definitely out of the question since we needed to use the bathroom and get our bibs.

I changed into my Vaporflys around 9:40am and thankfully got some jogging in around the starting line. The 5k and half marathons started together so Bryan and I got to line up in the same spot, which was nice. He was able to keep me calm. He also kept warning me that this was my B race, not my A race, and that under no circumstances should I push myself to the limit or run over ice and risk an injury. My parents are tremendously happy that Bryan is with me at my races because he always takes care of me!
I went in with the plan to start out conservatively – 7:30-7:50 and re-evaluate pace every 3 miles or so, then finish fast.

The gun goes off and I am feeling good. I am shocked to see a 7:07 split for my first mile. I know I need to reign it in, so I slow down a bit. The second mile ends up being over unplowed roads so that helps a lot. But I am still surprised to see 7:24. OK I really need to reign this in! Next mile 7:18.

OK- we are now at the second 3 mile chunk. I decide to do mile 4 relaxed. I decide to not look at my watch and see where perceived effort takes me. It is a 7:20. I decide that 7:20s is where my body wants to be and just go with it. I get excited- maybe a PR is in my reach!

Miles 3 -5 are beautiful views of the ocean, miles 6-9 are a different story. Lots of uphill and downhill (even though they are not huge hills, they are long). I take in Gatorade at mile 5.5 (practice for the marathon) and feel good. 7:22. Now the hills are really starting. 7:29, 7:32, still pleasantly surprised since my legs are feeling a bit more heavy now. As the saying goes, “what comes up must come down” Miles 8 and 9 are a nice decline- I take advantage of this and naturally speed up. 7:10, 7:13. However, mile 10 is a lot of unplowed snow and it messes with my pace and my legs. I slow down to a 7:33. Around 10.5, I get back to the  beautiful ocean view again. I take half of a cliff shot and say “let’s do this!”

 

However, my legs are more beat up than I expected from running over the snow. I decide that I do not have it in me to make a surge just yet. I decide to maintain pace for mile 11 and re-evaluate after that. 7:20. By mile 12, I am getting starting to get concerned. While the 7:20 pace felt comfortable up until mile 10, it now feels really difficult to maintain.

 

I start to do math. “I could slow down to 8s and still PR.” But then I remember that my coach wanted me to start slower and speed-up, that the goal was not so much a PR but to practice good pacing for my marathon in April. There is NO WAY I am slowing down. Not when I already started out faster than I was supposed to! I WILL NOT blow up. I am not reporting to my coach that I blew up!

 

Mile 12 is another 7:20 and when I reach the marker telling me it’s the last mile, I decide I will give it my best. I can feel like crap because I am almost done. I speed up, but my legs will not go as fast as they want me to and there is not going to be sub 7 mile finish, or anything like that.

At 12.8, I see Bryan video-taping me. I try to wave to him. I am going to say “I love you” but my throat is scratchy and I’ve lost my voice. I know the finish line Is close so I give it one final surge. When I reach the mile 13 marker, my watch says 7:13. Whew, not a big speed up but at least I didn’t slow down!

When I cross the finish line, my time is 1:36:15. I am happy that I PRed but disappointed I am not below 1:36. Nevertheless, I am exhausted. Unlike my last half marathon where I did not speed up soon enough and ended up finishing with a 6:48 mile and gas in the tank, I left it all on the road. I have no regrets.

I meet up with Bryan who also exceeded his goal for the day. A 5k in 23:18. Not a PR, but considering he is spending a lot more time on weight lifting lately, he is quite happy. He went in to the racing hoping to break 24 and he certainly did that.

I take off my Vaporflys and we snap some nice photos. It was a big race. No age group awards for either of us. I find out I am 5th in my division, which I am quite happy with given there were 85 people in the 20-29 age category. Also, I did not miss it by a few seconds or anything (which has happened in the past and has been very frustrating)- the four women ahead of me are under 1:33 and all the women behind me are all over 1:37. No wonder I ran a lot of this alone!

 

I check my phone in the car and notice that a bunch of my running friends were trying to track me.  I am so touched that so many people were rooting me that I say out loud, “this is even better than the 1:35!” Also, for those of who you who asked, I did remember your intentions at various points on the course and it did help me pass the time, especially since I was running alone for the entire race.

We take off early since we want to do a celebratory dinner that night. My legs feel better than expected and even though it’s annoying, we know the walk is good for us before the long drive home.

As I talk over the race with Bryan in the car while digging out my protein shake and snacks since my post-race hunger has finally arrived, I wonder if I set too ambitious of an A goal for myself. Maybe I should have set the bar lower and I would feel more elated right now? Then I say, “wait a minute. No!” This whole cycle has been me doubting myself and being afraid to try things because I might get disappointed.

I am glad I set this goal. It means my confidence has started to increase. Instead of saying “I can’t!” I am saying “I can!”  As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon!” 1:35 was my moon and 1:36:15 feels like the stars.

This is what I love about running. There is always much to celebrate, yet always more that has yet to be achieved. You come so far, yet there are still more places you can go!

Comments on the Hampton Half-Marathon & 5k:

The Hampton Half-Marathon was overall a great race.

The Pros:

  • The Ocean was really beautiful on the miles where it was visible. The course was also well stocked with volunteers. I never felt lost or afraid of going the wrong way.
  • The tech shirts were very nice. I love wearing mine, Bryan loves his too!
  • I did not eat the soup served post-race, but Bryan says it was very good. All runners also got two free beer tickets (which we again declined because I had my mind set on a martini later in the evening!)
  • Being able to wait in the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel was a big plus. We were nice and warm before and after the race. We also had plenty of room to leave our bags.
  • The course was well-marked. My GPS was 13.13 when I finished!

The Cons:

  • The course had some unplowed portions which slowed runners down. The course was also not completely closed to traffic.
  • If you do not arrive super early, it is hard to find a space. We walked well over a mile to the start and worried we would be late.
  • Miles 6-9 were a lot of gradual ups and downs. This was sort of nice as a change of pace from the total flat road, but it is something to be aware of if you plan to target this as your next goal race.
  • According to Bryan, the 5k course was not as nice as the half-marathon course, not enough portions on the river. There were also no medals given out for the 5k, which is something I personally do not like. I feel like they should give out medals for all of the distances, even if they say something different on them to indicate the race you finished.

 

When Prayer Feels Like Talking To a Wall…..

This past semester, some of my students have asked me the following: “When I pray or talk to God, how do I know God is listening? I mean, I could just be talking to a wall, right? That’s often what it feels like.”

I get asked a lot of questions as a professor and surprisingly, it’s not the questions about difficult theological concepts that stump me. Rather, its questions like the one above that stop me in my tracks, that keep me up at night, that no PhD can fully prepare you to answer.

 

Even though I responded to this question the best that I could months ago (with resources of different ways to pray, with explanations of faith and what it means to have an open heart, with reassurances that doubt is OK), it comes to mind now because I find myself repeating these same words during prayer. Right now, I feel like I am going through what I am calling a “spiritual dry period.” I cannot seem to pray like I used to pray. It is hard to describe, but I somehow feel less connected, like I am sometimes just “going through the motions,” like I am not sure it even matters. This feels especially troubling since regular prayer has been a part of my life since childhood. I feel this is important to share this because I think a lot of people go through these periods of intense doubt, even to Catholic theologians who dedicate their lives to studying religion. Sometimes people joke that having a doctorate in theology means I have a “direct pathway to God” or “rock solid faith that can withstand anything.” I have neither, and like everyone, still have more questions than answers.

John Haught in his book “What is God?” names God as depth, or the ultimate horizon of our existence. There are two faces to the experience of depth. There is the abyss, which feels like a “void with no support.” It can also be described as when you feel like you have hit “rock bottom,” and things just feel hopeless and you are so frightened. On the other hand, there is ground, which is the courage to accept the abyss. It’s the companion to our aloneness, the “thing” that keeps us going in spite of fear and anxiety, the little voice that tells us that doing whatever we are doing (even if it’s just getting up out of bed in the morning) is worth it, that there is “a point” to our existence. Atheists experience this as well (they may just call it something else, but even fervent non-believers experience the courage to face the abyss) but for persons of faith, the experience of depth can help us indicate what we mean by “God.”

The abyss that Haught describes helps us tackle the question of “if a loving God exists, why do I so often feel like I am talking to a wall?” Since God is not a tangible being like we are, God is not limited by time and space. We cannot touch God the way we reach out and embrace a friend, we cannot take a selfie with God to capture for our Facebook friends, we cannot get a reply from God the way we do from the person on the other end of a phone conversation. This means that God’s presence is often experienced as an absence- God is there, but we just cannot “feel it,” we are stuck in the abyss- we are “talking to a wall.”

We are creatures, which, first and foremost, means we are not God, although we are in relationship with God. So, it’s understandable that as creatures, we get frustrated “talking to a wall,” sometimes so much so that we just want to stop talking.

With prayer, just like any other activity, sometimes you have to just “do what you can.” Prayer does not always have to be the Rosary, or the Examen, or a list of petitions, or whatever traditional forms of prayer you have been taught. Prayer can also be what I made up last night as I lie in bed unable to focus.

“God, grant me an open heart to notice and feel your presence. On days that I feel doubt, help me to know that you are present even in the absence; that you remain, even if I am checked out. Help me to keep talking, even if I feel like it is to a wall, because in that wall, you are there. As I struggle right now with my faith, let me not waver in still striving to take care of Your creatures, human and non-human, and to emulate as much as possible Your love and mercy.”

So, a New Year’s goal:  try to speak to God in some way from the heart each day. Sometimes, that could be going to a mass or service, participating in communal prayer, or reciting traditional words. Other times, it might be just a minute of your time. It might even be “God, I’m frustrated with you right now, I feel like I am talking to a wall!” As Jesus taught us, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, small and barely noticeable, yet it “grew and became a tree and the birds of the air made nests in its branches (Luke 13:18-19).” So too, our small prayer, our one minute “conversation with a wall” can produce great fruit.

For 2019, each day I am going to try post something learned, some place that I saw God in my day, some insight I discovered that can help me become a better person. These will be on my Facebook daily and I will try to upload them each week to the blog.

Loco Marathon 2018- The Comeback Race and the 2 minutes that almost broke my heart

“And I won’t let you, get me down/I’ll keep getting up when I hit the ground/Oh, never give up, no, never give up, no no, oh”

I write the race report for my 4th marathon with quite a bit of emotion, swaying back and forth between feelings of immense gratitude and disappointment. Originally, I was supposed to run the Charles River Marathon on September 8th to go for a 2019 BQ. Shortly before leaving for my honeymoon (about a month before the race), I broke my toe on a piece of luggage. While I swam, biked, and walked through it, I could not run for three weeks. When I finally returned to running, my gait was seriously messed up and workouts that once felt easy, felt awful. I made the decision to not start the Charles River Marathon when, one week before race day, I had trouble maintaining marathon pace for just 2 miles. In order to remain a part of race day, I paced the 3:52 marathon group for the last 18 miles, which was a fun and rewarding experience, and made for a great long run.

Since the Loco Marathon was my first marathon, it holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I decided to set our sights on that, even though it would be too late for a 2019 BQ. Unfortunately, the toe was stubborn and things were iffy right up until 4 weeks before race day. I got another x-ray revealing that the toe was 90-95% healed and my doctor said to just “go for it and see where you are.” That was a scary prospect. My doctor, who jokingly says that he doubles as my running coach, made me promise that I would not freak out if I ran quite a bit slower than my PR. I kept training. After a successful marathon pace tempo run (that still did not feel as good as it used to), I decided to sign up. My husband kept reminding me that if this race did not go as well, I should not panic since we plan to get me (and possibly both of us) a coach and sports nutritionist for this spring.

Knowing the rough training cycle I had, I decided to set three goals.

C goal: to finish under 4 hours and not get hypothermia, making this at least better than Boston 2018.

B goal: qualify for the Chicago Marathon, which for me, needed to be sub 3:40 since I will be 30 by race day.

A goal: sub 3:30, PR and 2020 BQ on the new standards (for those of you that do not know, the BQ time for my age group was 3:35 until this September when they lowered all standards by 5 minutes. This explains why I BQed twice but never broke 3:30)

Looking at the Chicago Marathon, I started to get excited and the sub 3:40 felt more like a more doable goal, though still challenging. I feared I was not in 3:30 shape like I used to be, and said to my husband pre-race, “should I just go out with the 8:10 pace group to go for Chicago?” Bryan would not hear of it. “You can do a CQ, but go for the BQ.” So, I tapered better than I ever did before, just telling myself “you can do this.”

Prior to the race, I had really bad calf pain, a compensation injury from the toe. My wonderful doctor and physical therapist were kind enough to respond to an emergency freak out e-mail to them two days before the race. The pain never subsided but they assured me it likely was not bad enough that it would tear in the middle of the race, and Bryan, per doctor’s instructions, massaged the muscle twice a day for me to relieve some of the tightness. I still kept saying, “maybe I should go out with 8:10 or 8:20, because what if I blow up and don’t even get Chicago?” Bryan would not hear of it. “You go out with 8!”

When we arrive at the race, my calf is still hurting but it eases up with a warm-up jog. The day before the race brought a Nor’Easter to New England. It is five degrees cooler at the start than expected and the ground is super muddy. I am already panicking since I brought a race outfit for 45 degree start, 50 degree finish and am now faced with 38 degree start, 45 degree finish. I keep reassuring Bryan and myself that I will be fine, but at the last minute, as we are lining up, Bryan takes off his ear warmers and his extra gloves and puts them on me.

“I don’t need these.”

“Yes, you do. Trust me.”
“But you need them. It’s my fault, I should have packed mine. I’ll be fine.”

“No, you have an extra loop than me.”
I take them and am grateful for them when the race starts and my hands and head are warm.

I line up with the 8 minute pacer, figuring I will see how that feels. If it’s tough, I will slow down to 8:10 and if it feels good, I will try to speed up to 7:50 later in the race. Bryan does not like running with pacers, but places himself near the 8:55 pacer to aim for sub 9s for his half.

Before the gun goes off, I already like the 8 minute pacer, Karen and she inspires me. She says she ran her first marathon at the age of 40 with three children under the age of three, to which I replied, “so like a year ago?!” She tells me that she is 55. Also lined up with us is Liz, a buddy from online. She ran a 3:22 a few weeks ago and is running this marathon for fun, seeing how long she can stick with the 8 minute group.

The gun goes off and I stick to Karen like glue. A few minutes into the race, I realize my watch never started (for those of you who follow Strava, this is why it says I only ran 26 miles). Everyone tells me not to worry, that they have me covered. I actually think it might be a blessing. Since I know my time is off, I cannot obsessively check my watch. Karen is amazing with the pacing- the splits stay in the range of 7:47-8:05. I am feeling surprisingly good. I want to speed up, but the course has a lot of rolling hills and I know I need my energy for the second loop.

At mile 7, I start to get worried. I am supposed to take my first GU but my stomach still feels uncomfortably full. In my first two marathons, I bonked really badly from not eating enough. This time, I think I added pre-race fuel that my body was not yet ready for, even though it may have been the ideal amount. I vow to see a nutritionist when the race is over, and decide to skip my first GU. I know my body will reject anything except water right now.

Mile 9, I am still feeling great cardiovascularly but I still cannot stomach the GU. At this point, we make our way to the rail trail, the last 3.5 miles of the course. The rail trail is supposed to be fast and downhill, but due to the mud, it does not feel that way.

With no GU in my stomach by mile 12 and knowing that the 8 minute pacer is only with us for half of the race, I start to contemplate going through the half-marathon shoot. I am really worried that I am not going to finish the race without having to puke or poop (sorry to be gross, but this is marathon running for real, folks!), and I know that a stop to do either will jeopardize my goals. My fellow runners tell me to keep going, and that I look super strong, which I do (below is a rare race picture of me smiling).

kate smiling?

Me and pacer Karen. Feeling much better than expected!

At the half-way point, I open a GU and decide to take it little by little. I am surprisingly on pace, even on the uphills. I am quite proud of myself. Normally, when I have no pacer, I either start going 7:30s or 8:20s. At mile 15, Liz lends me some gummies which are easier to get down than my GU. I figure one GU and 2 gummies will be enough to get me to mile 20 and then I will re-evaluate and take in more toward the end of the race when the fear of a bathroom stop starts to wane.

By mile 16, I realize the hills are getting to me. I am on pace, but its harder. “If only this was flat!” are my words for the next three miles. I decide to keep going by effort, slowing down on the uphills and taking advantage of the downhills to speed up.

Mile 19- the calf injury rears its ugly head. My ankle really hurts. One of my online running buddies felt the calf issue had to do with ankle mobility- I realize he is probably right! This mile also has a climb in it. My pace slows to 8:15. I start to worry that if I keep slowing, my B goal will slip away. I keep telling myself. “You knew this wasn’t going to be a PR anyway. Just focus on Chicago. Work for it. You can still get a Chicago qualifier and register this week. That will be fun.”

My pace stays between 8:10-8:20 and I am working at my B goal. I then meet a woman named Lisa at mile 20. I tell her that I am now working on my B goal, and she tells me not to give up on A. Another runner who is a friend of hers says she will pace us to the end. I try to keep up with them, but cannot quite do it. However, I keep them in sight and stay as close as I can. I decide to not push it now, and to save my ankle and my energy for mile 23 when the rail trail and the downhill start.

I get to the rail trail and my ankle is starting to hurt less. I am down to 8:10 again. “Let it rip!” I say, only 3.5 miles to go. I have the most energy I have ever had this late in the marathon. It is the first time that I am not bonking from hunger (maybe the extra food was a good thing after all) However, the mud is even worse than it was the first time around. I speed up to 7:30, then suddenly go down to 9:40 when my feet get stuck. My pace ends up still averaging to 8:10s and 8:20s, even though I feel like I am flying.

At mile 25, I am tired and hurting, but I have it in me if there is a chance. I yell to Lisa’s friend, “do I still have a chance?” She says that I do and encourages me to keep going. I pass them, I fly, I am letting it all out. My watch says the PR is over, but I know it started late, so I figure I need to still give it my all. I want my A goal. I know I am close to it. I am no longer satisfied with just sub 3:40.

However, as much as I fly, the split ends up 8:30. If you look at Strava, you can see how I am weaving between 7:15 and 9:15. It’s crazy.

I see Bryan at the finish. I anxiously await his words. If I can still make it, I know that he will be screaming at me to “hurry up!” I get upset when I notice he is not moving or trying to run with me. He is just standing there with his phone. I know something must be wrong. Instead of “hurry up!” like I got for my first two marathons which were both BQs, I get “Go Kate! Go Kate!” Not what I want to hear. With Bryan being so nice, I know the goal must be gone.

mud

If you want an idea of the mud, here it is….

I look at the clock. It is past 3:30. I cross the finish line and all that “I just want to qualify for Chicago” stuff goes out the window. As one of the volunteers places my medal around my neck, I start to cry.

“Why are you crying?”

“I’m sorry, I just wanted to go to Boston in 2020 so bad. I just wanted it so bad and I was so close. I’m sorry, I know I’m being silly here, I was just so close.”

Then a hand touches my shoulder. It is Lisa, she has finished just a few seconds behind me. She holds my face in her hands and makes me look into her eyes.

“You will be in Hopkinton at the starting line with me in 2020.”

This lady must be nuts or else she thinks I am 35. “I won’t! I didn’t make it! They changed the standards. It’s not 3:30 anymore, its 3:35! I didn’t make it. I’m not 35 yet.”

Lisa smiles. “Yeah, I know that. I know there is no way you are 35. But you will be there. You had so much more in you today. Imagine what you would have done on a flatter course without all that mud. See you in 2020!”

When we get inside, Bryan is hugging me and telling me how proud he is. We go and check my official time. 3:31:56. My heart sinks. I realize how greedy I am. Just 40 minutes ago I was begging God to just get me to sub 3:40, and now, here I am, so close to my BQ and so disappointed. He makes me change out of my wet clothes. He keeps trying to encourage me to sit down, but all I want to do is ruminate over what I could have done differently. I’d gladly do-over the last two miles right now if I could!

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In the end, sometimes you just gotta laugh. Here is my “I missed my BQ by 2 minutes face.”

I do cheer up when we notice that I am second in my age division. Since this marks the last year of me being in the 19-29 age group, I am pretty excited to have beaten a lot of younger runners! When we go to pick up my age group award, we realize it is not a medal but a bunch of random gifts. Bryan is trying so hard to make me feel better, that he oohs and aahs over each item as it is pulled out. “OMG, Kate- I’ve always wanted socks like that!” “OMG, I love this glass, I want it, this is so cool!” They actually were some pretty neat and useful gifts. Besides the warm socks and glass, I got an LED light for running in the dark and a tote bag which I have actually been using to carry around my students’ midterms this week!

age group award

Me with all of my awards. I couldn’t carry everything. It was pretty fun just getting handed a whole bunch of stuff.

Finally, it sinks in that my time is my time and overall, it still went better than expected. I may not have reached the level where I hoped to be, but my finish time indicates that I am at least back to the level I was at before all of the injuries, and the stress of defending a dissertation and planning a wedding. That gives me a good boost of a confidence as I start to prepare for the next training cycle. When we get in the car, I finally feel up to talking to people and we call my parents and Bryan’s parents. I realize that although this marathon is not a PR, in many ways, it was one of my best performances. My parents cannot believe the race is over because I sound really coherent and upbeat. It then occurs to me that this is the first marathon I have run where I have not needed medical attention at the finish. Unlike my previous marathons, I am also not hungry. I did not bonk at mile 23 from nausea or worry about passing out. I sip on electrolyte water and nibble on some small snacks until we get home, knowing I need to get stuff in me even if my body does not think it wants anything.

In the midst of this, I also forgot to mention that Bryan ran his half-marathon in 1:52:53, not a personal best (but close), but way better than he expected after a tough training season. I am so proud of him!

with gobbo

Husband and wife running team!

Hunger finally hits after I shower. Bryan tells me we can go wherever I want for dinner, and he makes early dinner reservations at The Stockyard so I can get a rack of ribs (and unsurprisingly, also finish half of his ribs). We toast to Bryan’s successful half and we toast to Chicago, which I sign up for the next morning.

kate ribs

A post-race favorite

Overall, this race is one that I do not regret for a second nor do I regret how hard I tried for my A goal (I would never know how close I am if I did not go for it). The very next morning, this race helped me explain to my students how to maintain belief in God in light of modern science and the suffering that surrounds us. God does not answer prayers by coming down to us and just fixing things. When I said, “God help me,” during the race (which I said a lot by the way), God did not ease my queasy stomach, God did not clear the sticky mud from the rail trail, God did physically push me so I could fly to the finish line. God certainly did not change the clock to read two minutes faster. In one sense, one could say that God was not listening. God wasn’t there. But God was there. God did listen me, but instead of coming down from the sky and overturning the laws of nature, God worked through other people. When my stomach could not handle the gels I had on me, God worked through my buddy Liz who reached over and gave me some of her gummies to get something in my stomach. When my calf injury was acting up, God worked through the people in the crowds who cheered me on and made me feel like I was kicking butt, even though I knew I had slowed down. When I reached the finish line, God worked through Lisa, who held my face in her hands, made me look her in the eye, and told me how amazing I was, how many obstacles I overcame both before the race and during the race, and how she would see me in Hopkinton 2020 because I have so much more in me and am not going to give up. God worked through my husband, who I found out after the race, lied about not needing his ear warmers and extra pair of gloves so that I would take them and not feel cold during the race, and who let me submit my time to the Chicago Marathon the very next day. God brought me new training partners with similar paces and goals, who I cannot wait to run with and get to know better. God even worked through social media, sending me messages through online running buddies who sent me words of encouragement, and who are giving me lots of advice for Chicago in October. Opportunities to be the presence of God in someone’s life are constantly presenting themselves to us. I hope that when they come to me, I take them and I hope that in future races, I can give back just half of what the running community has given me. See you in Chicago, folks!

 

 

For those who need a place to vent, talk, mourn, etc. in wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report

I’ve put off posting about this, mainly because the right words escape me. To my fellow Catholics, I just signed this statement calling for the collective resignation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I have chosen to remain Catholic in spite of the many crises of faith that I have experienced long before the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released. For many people, Catholic Church has not been a place that they can call “home,” including but not limited to women, divorced and remarried persons, LGBTQ persons, and those who, faithful to their conscience, say or act in a way that does not align fully with the Magisterium.

For those, like myself, who identify as Catholic, I believe we hold a responsibility to not only be aware of the systemic evil and injustice that has taken place in the institutional church but also to be willing to listen to all those who have been affected by it. For those of you who want someone to talk to about recent (or not so recent, since we have known that sexual abuse has been happening in the church for a LONG TIME) events, I am here- and I hope to offer the same to my students as we start a new semester next week- I am hear to listen without nudging you to leave the Church or stay in the Church, etc. I firmly believe we need to create space for people to express their feelings and reactions, even if those may be hard for us to hear.

However, one thing I WILL ALWAYS MAINTAIN is that GOD IS NOT THE PROBLEM. The way we talk about God is the problem, even right down to the very names we use for God. Human beings have a done a good job of convincing various people that God does not approve of them, that their suffering is somehow deserved or pre-ordained by God, but just because human beings abuse their power and utter such sentiments, that does not make them true. The God that I believe in is not an almighty ruler looking to punish us for every transgression or a distant God removed from the suffering and pain of our every day lives, but A CRUCIFIED GOD, a God who suffered and was crucified again every time a child of Hers was abused. We need to do a much better job of proclaiming this Crucified God. The institutional Church has abandoned God’s people, but God has not abandoned His people.*

The switching off between His and Hers as pronouns for God is intentional. God is beyond gender and no human category can exhaust the incredible Mystery that is God. All people – men, women, and transgendered persons, are capable of imaging God and therefore, God should be expressed and named using many different kinds of words and images.

 

 

Finish Though Your Legs Are Shaking, Finish Though Your Heart is Breaking- the 2018 Boston Marathon

As many of you know, it was a dream of mine to someday run the Boston Marathon. When I first started training for the marathon distance in summer of 2016, I had no clue what to expect and thought my road to Boston would be much longer than it actually was. When I BQed on my first marathon in October 2016 (thanks to my fiancé, you should check out that story), it was only -1:33. It was not enough to get in but enough to give me the confidence to know I could do it. I ran another marathon in May 2017 for a -4:28 to squeak in by just a little over a minute.

I was euphoric when I got that e-mail from the BAA that I was officially registered in the 2018 Boston Marathon. I decided not to do a fall marathon in 2017 and start training earlier than I typically would. Big mistake. I think I put way too much pressure on myself for Boston, and it ultimately lead to too much stress and a decline in my performance.Image may contain: one or more people and text

Throughout most of my training, everything pointed to me being able to hit my goal of sub 3:30. Besides a one-week bout with the flu, I was hitting the right paces on my workouts and my “easy pace” got faster. Five weeks before race day, I did a 20 miler on the course with the last 5 miles at faster than marathon pace and felt like I still had more in the tank. I did not do any other races during the cycle, keeping my sole focus on a PR and BQ at Boston.

March 21- the morning of my dissertation defense- BAM! I was doing a 7 mile tempo run at half-marathon pace, a challenging workout but nothing I had not already done in training. After the tempo portion, I felt a sharp pain in my butt and hobbled home. I passed my defense, officially becoming a PhD, but I was in pain. The next day I woke up crying that “Boston was over.” Not healed by that Saturday, I had to miss my 22 mile long run. To make matters worse, my 22 miler was going to be done with friends and I had been looking forward to it for months. It was hard to not board the bus to Hopkinton that morning.Image may contain: Kate Mroz, smiling, standing and indoor

I was diagnosed with SI joint dysfunction. Both my PT and doctor assured me that I would still run Boston, but it was hard to believe them especially as the healing took longer than even they expected. I was out of running for two weeks, though doing some intense work on the recumbent bike- who know how good of a workout you could get on that thing?

At one appointment, my doctor told me that I could try running again on Easter Sunday. As a theologian, I got excited and joked that the waiting to run part was my Lenten penance. However, I was not really joking. I woke up on Easter Sunday with a lot of hope and went into a very dark place when I was not able to run that morning. To make matters worse, the gym was closed so I had to skip biking that day. My fiancé had to force me to go to church. I was a mess. I felt that God had abandoned me. After all this work, why would I get this freak injury out of the clear blue on the day of my defense of all possible mornings? As some of you may know, I dealt with some pretty bad anxiety and depression while finishing up my dissertation, and marathon training really helped with that. Everything on my Facebook and in my house reminded me of Boston- it felt like the world was mocking me. Every morning when I woke up in my pain, it seemed like I would get another e-mail update about Boston.

Finally, shortly after Easter, the pain did go away and I was able to return to running. My doctor gave me a cortisone shot. Even as he was giving me the shot, he said “You are going to PR this thing!” He insisted that the biking kept up my fitness and that because I was already through two marathons, I would be fine. I was skeptical but decided that if he believed in me, I would not give up. I got in some runs before the marathon. The first two were bit shaky, but I started getting my groove back after that.

I set two goals for myself. 1) Still run the sub 3:30 if possible. 2) If I was not feeling a sub 3:30 and knew it was not going to happen, to just enjoy the race, shake hands with spectators, kiss my fiancé at his viewing spots, take selfies, and just savor the course.

I reached neither goal. But God was in this crazy mess, and I did take something important away from this race.

Race weekend was a lot of fun. On Saturday, my fiancé and I went to the Expo and had an amazing time. We tried so many delicious samples. I ended up buying a Roo pouch to carry my gels and phone during the race (great decision). Bryan also bought me a Spike the Unicorn stuffed animal, which I have wanted for a very very long time!No automatic alt text available.

On Sunday, we went to the Blessing of the Runners at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which brought me some calm and comfort. When we got home, I spent hours agonizing over what to wear on race day. I tried on about 100 different outfits. Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor

On race morning, I got to take a private bus to the Athlete’s Village, thanks to a running buddy, Mark Sekelsky. I sat next to another running buddy, Erin Cheyenne Staker, on the bus. It was a great group and talking to everyone calmed my nerves. As we kept looking at the weather report, I was more and more at peace with my #2 goal, thinking that would still give me a 3:40ish marathon.Image may contain: 1 person

Walking to the starting line from the Athlete’s Village turned out to be total chaos. Veteran Boston Marathoners assured me this was not normal. We were packed like sardines for 45 minutes, barely moving. When I finally got the starting line, it was after my scheduled 10:50am start time. I kept waiting to line up with my corral but never got the chance. I did not realize I was supposed to start running. I flipped out and a volunteer helped me get off my extra clothes.

The weather was thankfully not so bad in the beginning. I was going pretty fast. I forced myself to slow down to save energy for the later parts of the race. I had to keep pushing through other people since I did not start with my corral and no one around me was running my pace. I kept asking if anyone was doing “7:50-8:00 minute miles” and everyone just looked at me like I was crazy. I felt sad that I had no one to run with, since I normally start marathons talking to the people around me. Slightly before the half way point, I noticed my splits dropping but figured I would make them up on the downhills.

By the half way point, I felt a slight ache in my hips that I at first though was the injury but that my doctor and PT think was just the cold.  I knew a PR was over but I was determined to make goal #2 happen.  Then around mile 15, I just knew something was terribly wrong. The rain got heavier and my clothing was soaked. My splits dropped dramatically. It was incredibly frustrating. I tried to just enjoy the crowds, but I was so cold that I could not even muster a smile or high five for anyone. Cardiovascularly, I was not even tired but my legs were so cold they would just not move any faster.

By the time I saw my fiancé at mile 16, I knew I was going super slow, so I decided to take a few minutes to stop and get a new pair of gloves from him. He caught this on video and watching it again now, it’s pretty funny!  He was standing with a volunteer who was incredibly kind. I was sobbing. The woman he was had a warm smile and kept telling me “we’ve been waiting for you! You are doing great!”

Me: “I don’t feel good. My time is going to be terrible.”

Bryan: “That’s OK. Just take your time.”

Me: “I am going to finish”

Volunteer: “Of course you are!”

Bryan and the volunteer (I wish I knew her name, she was truly an angel) helped put the new gloves on my hands. We were all so cold and disoriented that I noticed when I got back on the course that Bryan had given me two different gloves! Thankfully, my hands were warm. They were the only part of my body that was!

I sped up slightly after seeing Bryan but then slowed down dramatically again right before the Newton Hills. I kept getting text messages from Bryan, who knew something had to be terribly wrong. Even on my easiest easy runs (think like, the day after a 20 miler), I was running at least 1-2 minutes per mile faster than the pace I was now running. During training, I could not even have run this slow if I tried!

“Kate, are you OK?”

“Please drop out, this is not worth it.”

At this point, Bryan started alerting some of the other people tracking me that something was wrong. “Kate dropped to a 9:49 pace. Her last marathon was an 8:00 pace. Something is wrong- I hope she stops.”

I kept going. The Newton Hills were a blur. I stopped looking at my watch. My teeth were chattering and my legs felt frozen, I could not move them any faster. But I refused to walk. I knew that if I walked, I would just feel colder.

When I got to Heartbreak Hill, I cried. I cried because I felt so awful and the medical tent looked so tempting. I also cried because I run up Heartbreak Hill all the time. I was so prepared for this part of the course and my legs would not move. I used to joke all the time during training, “Heartbreak Hill isn’t going to break my heart!” And yet, here I was on race day, the day that mattered and I was literally stuck in that nightmare a lot of runners have where you are at the race and your legs feel like they are moving through quicksand.

I remember being at the top of Heartbreak Hill during training and saying, “Let it rip!” After Heartbreak Hill, the course is mostly downhill. Its where you can let it go and give it your all. Cardiovascularly, I wanted to start sprinting but my legs still wouldn’t move faster even as I went downhill. I could not bear to look at my watch, now registering splits that were so slow they set new records for “personal worsts.”  If this happened on a training run, I totally would have given up. However, before the race, I remember telling my family that if I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I would finish no matter what. I kept saying out loud “I’m gonna finish. I’m gonna finish.”

I knew my running club, the Brighton Bangers, was going to be at mile 22. However, I had thought that perhaps since I was going so much slower than expected, they might have been gone by the time I reached Cleveland Circle. Not the case! As I sobbed, shivering and soaking wet, while running down Chestnut Hill Ave, I heard people yelling “Go Kate!” I turned to my left and they were holding a sign that said “The Wizard of Mroz.” Surprising myself, I managed a big smile and a wave.No automatic alt text available.

By mile 23, I was frightened that I might pass out before reaching the finish line. “I’m so close. I’m so close. 5k. You can run 5k in your sleep.” My teeth could not stop chattering. My heart broke as I saw my watch reach my original goal time, 3:25, only at mile 23.

People still cheered for me like I was a rock star. In the middle of torrential rain, the crowds did not stop. I wished I had the energy to look at their signs and smile at them, but at that point, I could barely think.

At mile 24, I began the Our Father and realized I had forgotten the words. I just counted on God to finish the prayer for me, and to know what was in my heart.

For the entire last two miles, I felt so confused and cold that I kept reminding myself of my name. “You are Kate Mroz and your fiancé is Bryan Weinstein. You are Kate Mroz and your fiancé is Bryan Weinstein.” I figured that if I at least could remember that, it would be OK.

I had dreams of the iconic turn “right on Hereford, left on Bolyston.” It was nothing like what I dreamed. Confused and disoriented, I did not even hear or see my fiancé scream to me right before turning on Hereford.

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When I finally crossed the finish line, I just started crying. My body was shaking uncontrollably. I kept looking behind me to make sure I actually finished- with how bad I felt, I was so afraid I only imagined stepping over the mat. One of the medical volunteers grabbed me immediately and I was put in a wheelchair and moved into one of the medical tents. My legs were shaking violently and my teeth would not stop chattering. The doctor asked if anything hurt and surprisingly, I had no pain or soreness at that point, just immense cold and confusion. They took my temperature and it was 92 degrees. Normal is 98 degrees, and anything under 95 degrees is considered hypothermia.

My hands were so shaking so much that I could not do anything. A few female volunteers helped me get my wet clothes off and texted my fiancé to tell him where I was. They wrapped me in warm blankets and also had me hooked to a heating machine. Even though more runners were constantly being brought in and many were more ill than I was, I never felt neglected. I was really scared, and one of the nurses was sitting with me and holding my arm and telling me that it was going to be OK. When I was feeling slightly better but still shaking, I suddenly got upset asking if I had actually finished and if I would get a medal. One of the nurses went and got my medal for me and put it around my neck.

When my hands stopped shaking and I could maneuver my phone, I checked my official time. 4:02:49. Over 32 minutes slower than my previous marathon. My heart sunk. I remember saying before the race, “if worse comes to worse and I’m not feeling it, I’ll just finish under 4 hours, I can totally do that!” Of course, I would have been under 4 had I not stopped for those gloves, but not by much! My parents called to see that I was OK and I remember crying into the phone, “I didn’t even break 4 hours. We all said that even in the worst conditions, I’d still break 4 hours!”

Unfortunately, after I felt better, it took a while for me to get released. My clothes were in bag check and the BAA did not want to release them to Bryan. It took almost an hour to finally get my clothes to the medical tent. Once I got dressed, one of the physical therapists made me walk around with her holding my arm. Unfortunately, due to the hypothermia, I did not follow proper post marathon protocol, which is 1) walk around after crossing the finish line 2) get some nutrition right away. Thankfully, we had to walk a bit to catch an Uber which helped flush out the lactic acid build up in my legs.

I did not get to go to any post-race parties as I had originally planned. There are a lot of online training buddies that I missed meeting. I am telling myself that I need to get back to Boston another year because I still owe my dad a picture of myself in the Boston Red Sox dugout wearing a Yankee shirt and a medal!

I did not eat any of the snacks Bryan packed for me except for my Muscle Milk Protein shake. It was so late that we decided to just go straight to dinner after showering. We enjoyed some ribs at Stockyard Bar and Grill. I wore my celebration jacket. Due to the hypothermia, I was a lot hungrier after this marathon than previous ones. My metabolism was in an elevated state for the entire week after I finished the race.Image may contain: Kate Mroz, smiling, sitting, table, food and indoor

I am not going to lie and say that I do not feel bad about how this race turned out, I do. My heart is broken. I battle the voices in my head that ask why my body gave out in the cold and other people’s bodies did not, why I was not strong enough.  However, this race tested my strength as an athlete in ways it had never been tested before.

It also made me realize how much support I have, even though I often think I am alone.  When I was struggling with my injury: my fiance, my parents, my doctor, and my physical therapist became “Team Get Kate to Boston Healthy.” I spent a lot of time crying over what I thought would be a DNS, and they comforted me and told me to stay positive. Before the race, I received tons of text messages and Facebook posts (both private and on my timeline) wishing me the best.  Friends and family that I had not heard from in a while contacted me after the race to tell me how proud they were. Lots of people expressed amazement that I finished my PhD and the Boston Marathon in the same year. People could not care less about my time! People have treated me like a rock star, even though I do not feel like one and that is a beautiful thing. I am going to do my best to accept it and enjoy it.

As Edward Schillbeeckx said, “God is new each moment.” I am amazed at how throughout my life, I have often felt like God is absent, and then I have come to feel God’s presence in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected ways. God was there in the midst of this hypothermia- inducing marathon. It was not the day I dreamed about, but I discovered some beautiful surprises nonetheless.