Here at runladylike.com, Fridays are about sharing the inspiring stories of fit people who motivate all of us to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. My Friday FITspiration series profiles runners, triathletes and casual exercisers who are making choices every day to be as healthy as they can be – in both huge ways and through simple, small victories.
“The human body can accomplish amazing feats. … Just as it can surprise us, it can defy us. Yesterday, my body betrayed me in a way I never imagined.”
These were the words of runner and soon-to-be mom Nicole Dobransky who writes the blog Fitness Fatale just days after last year’s California International Marathon.
Picture this: You have trained hard for months for a big goal marathon. You are trying to meet your Boston Qualifying standard for the third time in two years. You feel strong and great throughout the race. At mile 24, you know you are going to smash your goal. And then the worst happens. You can see the finish line, but your body stops moving.
This is exactly what happened to Nicole. Today, she shares memories and lessons from that scary and disappointing experience, along with how her perspective has changed and what she has learned while running pregnant the past few months. Nicole has completed an Ironman, five marathons and numerous half marathons and shorter distances road races and triathlons. She also made an incredible body transformation using P90X several years ago, which she shows before and after photos on her blog. Find out what this talented athlete has to share.
When did you start running and what inspired you to start?
I did not like running growing up. In fact, I hated it! I started running at the end of 2008 at age 24 after breaking up with a serious boyfriend. I signed up for my first half marathon which took place in January 2009. I never thought I’d do another half marathon – it was just a one-time bucket list type thing. I trained completely alone and mostly on the treadmill outside of my weekend long runs. It was lonely and boring training, but I felt great when I finished. It wasn’t until a year and a half later when I met my now husband that I decided to sign up for another half marathon and set the goal of breaking 2 hours. I had fun training with a good friend instead of alone. That half marathon was the second of many, many more to come. I became addicted to setting and achieving goals and loved to meet up for runs with friends. Running became way more than exercise – it became a lifestyle that has changed my life for the better in more ways than one.
Running a Boston Qualifying time has been one of your primary running goals for a long time. You were about to smash that goal at the California International Marathon (CIM) last year, and you describe the experience as your legs stopping before your heart did. Can you describe what happened?
I was on pace to qualify for Boston at CIM and had a good race overall. This was my third attempt to qualify for Boston within two years and my fifth marathon overall. There were more rolling hills than I anticipated, but I was feeling pretty good, even at mile 24. However, with less than two miles to go, I started to lose energy fast. I was still able to hold on to a decent pace, but my body was rebelling quickly. I had a fairly nice cushion so I really thought I could do it. However, once I turned the corner to make my way down the final chute to the finish line, a girl cut me off and it caused me to change my gait. Moments later, I lost control of my legs completely and collapsed onto the ground. I was shocked when I discovered that I could not help myself back up to my feet. It was like my legs were filled with Jello. I could see the finish line and the clock, and I frantically tried to get back up. But it was useless. Ultimately, race volunteers and my husband helped me to my feet, and I crossed the finish line … missing my goal by 26 seconds with a time of 3:35:26. It was hard to know that had I not collapsed, I would have achieved the goal I had been working so hard at for the past two years.
What lessons or takeaways did you learn from that experience?
It was devastating, but I was also proud that I had literally left my heart and soul on the race course that morning and never gave up. I have no regrets (of course I’ve wondered ‘what if’). The biggest lesson I learned was that anything can happen on race day, but you have to give it your all. Stay within the moment and the mile you’re in during the race and focus on the positive whenever possible. In the end, you may not be able to control everything around you, but you can control your thoughts. I executed a great race at CIM and stayed positive 99% of the time, yet I still had a bad day. But that day could have been much worse had I given up or let negative thoughts in earlier.
For runners who are laser focused on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, what advice or perspective would you share with them?
I think that it’s important to realize that the Boston Marathon doesn’t define you as a runner. It may be devastating if you fail one, two or five times, but it doesn’t mean that you aren’t a great runner and that all the training you put into that training cycle doesn’t count for something. The cumulative miles and hard work will pay off at some point and the day you finally qualify will feel that much more satisfying.
You are pregnant with your first baby (congrats!!!). What has been the biggest adjustment to running while pregnant?
Thank you! My husband and I are thrilled! The biggest adjustment has been letting go of all goals and simply running for the sake of running. I slowed way down from the beginning, but it wasn’t just because doctors tell you to slow down … my body physically doesn’t let me go fast anymore. It has been difficult at times to put my ego and love of competition aside, but it’s worth it for the baby and for my love of running!
Do you have any tips for running while pregnant?
Yes! I wrote a post about training for half marathons during pregnancy here: http://fitnessfatale.com/2015/05/13/lessons-learned-training-for-half-marathons-while-pregnant. In summary, listen to your body, check your ego at the door and don’t be afraid to walk, cut a run short or even just skip it if you’re not feeling it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing (except for your doctor). Everyone will have an opinion about what you should be doing during your pregnancy, but you have to listen to what feels right for your body. And don’t compare yourself to other pregnant women. Everyone is so different (this one is easier said than done)!
Do you have a running goal your sights are set on for after the baby arrives?
I’d love to qualify for Boston, of course, but I am going to wait and see how things go after the baby is born to sign up for anything or decide if I’ll pick up right away chasing that goal. I have an idea of which half marathon I’d like to do post-baby, but I won’t sign up until I’m sure I can commit.
How can people connect with you?
Do you know someone with an inspiring story that should be featured on Friday FITspiration? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever had an experience during a race where you had to completely stop or perhaps choose to end your day before you finished? Do you have any tips for running while pregnant to add to Nicole’s advice?