a wrong turn made right

The other day I took a wrong turn.  And I mean that literally.

I was running my goal race for the season.  Hitting every mile exactly as planned, on track for running a 1:35 in the half marathon just as I had hoped I would do.  It was a beautiful day in Annapolis.  The perfect morning for a race.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, but the air was crisp and clean and there was a nice soft breeze.

I floated as I ran.  I was happy, enjoying the moment and soaking it in.   I was grateful to be there.  Grateful to feel so good and alive and to be doing what I loved.

The ZOOMA Annapolis race course is beautiful.  Yes, it is riddled with rolling hills, but none too scary or overwhelming in my opinion.  The bay views are breathtaking.  Running through town on brick covered streets is lovely and charming.  I was caught up in the moment, focused on my pacing and enjoying the new scenery.

Just after Mile 4 I approached “the bridge” – everyone says this is the toughest part of the race.  It is a long concrete bridge with a pretty steep hill at the start.  Once you come to the top of that hill you are on the bridge and then get to ride it out downwards gradually.  I came over that hill feeling strong and steady.  And then coasted down the hill.

But as I got towards the end of the bridge there was a sign with two arrows.  One arrow indicated a U-turn and the other pointed off to the left.  One said “10k”, the other “half marathon.”  But for some reason, it wasn’t clear to me where I should go.  I wished it spelled it out for me.  I couldn’t remember what to do.  I was on my own, no runners near me to ask.  No volunteer at the sign to help me.  I looked into my mind’s eye to try to remember where the course map told me to go but my brain just froze.  I ran passed the sign thinking I should go straight.  But then I stopped and I turned around, unsure of myself.  Panicking.  I made the U-turn and saw spectators – someone to ask.  I didn’t know what to do and I was losing time and feeling so worried.  I ran to the spectator and asked him – 

“I’m running the half marathon, am I doing the right thing?”

“Yes!” he said “GO GO!”

I was one of the top 10 at this point and the field was pretty scattered.  He reassured me and so I ran.  I felt good again and got back into pace.

As I passed the runners who were on their way up the bridge running towards the sign, they cheered for me.  I smiled and told them “pay attention to the signs!  It’s confusing!” hoping I could save someone from the anxiety I had just experienced.  I passed a friend and seeing her made me smile.  She looked strong and happy.  She was really unsure of how this race was going to pan out for her earlier that morning, but when I saw her I just knew she was rocking it.  That was such a good feeling.  It lightened my heart and gave me some ooomph, helped me forget about the time I had lost and how I “almost” went the wrong way.  I was feeling incredibly strong – the endorphins had kicked in, my race pace felt easy and I was cruising along.

And then I saw the sign for Mile 11.  And then the sign for Mile 6.

WHAT?  Are you kidding me?  Is this really happening?

I didn’t want to think about it.  I kept running, refusing to believe that I had screwed up so majorly.

And then I approached the stadium, where the start and finish lines were.

I neared the chute and people were cheering for me.  I stopped along the side where this incredibly nice lady was cheering her lungs off for me.  I told her thank you, and then explained I didn’t want to cross the finish yet!  I wanted to run the half marathon, not the 10k.  I had a lump in my throat.  I was fighting tears.  She looked at me confused and said “Oh, sweetie.  I’m sorry.”

I turned and looked at the finish again.  I did not want to cross it.  Runners started coming through behind me.  I didn’t care that they were placing ahead of me.  I wanted to go back in time.  I walked over to the announcer and said “Sir, is there any way I can please still run the half marathon and not the 10k?”  He looked at me like I was a complete idiot.  I felt like a complete idiot.  He just shook his head.

I walked across the finish line, feeling like a big dummy.  Feeling so so sad.  Feeling incredibly defeated.  So disappointed in myself.  In the situation.  Unable to understand how this happened.

I found my friends, one of them who works for ZOOMA.  I told her what happened.  She gave me a hug and then looked at me and said “Wait, there is no volunteer there?!”  She got right on it and made sure a volunteer was at the turn right away so this would not happen to anyone else.  I went to my car, because I was sure I was going to lose it and cry like a big baby.  I had so much emotion to release.  I called Robert and he was shocked – worried – right away he knew something was wrong because there is no way I am running a half marathon in less than an hour.  I wept, and explained what happened.

I’m sorry this happened.  We all make wrong turns in life.  But you will find your way.  You will learn from it and grow from it.  There will be other races.

I gave myself permission to be sad.  To be angry.  I tried to find humor in it, because who does that?  It is pretty funny when you think about it.  But every time I let it go, the sad/mad feelings would come back like a fierce wave and knock me down.

All day long I felt like a big dumdum.  I was disappointed in myself.  In the situation.  I wanted to make it different – to change the reality, but I knew I couldn’t.  I was helpless and the lump in my throat stuck with me for most of the day.

Then that afternoon my sister Jodi texted me.  She was heading back to the Emergency Room because her thigh was turning purple and was very painful.  Her breathing felt heavy.  They did an ultrasound at the hospital and could not find the blood clots that had been in her legs since her ACL surgery last month.  We waited as she went in for a CT scan, to see if the clots had traveled to her lungs.  To see if she was dealing with a pulmonary embolism (a life threatening condition when a blood clot travels to the lungs).  They were not able to find the clots and this was good – because it meant they were not in her lungs – but it was also confusing because there was no explanation for her symptoms at all.  They sent her home and told her to see her doctor again on Monday.

The next morning I woke up early and headed back to Maryland for a two day retreat.  I would be spending time at “lululemon ambassador camp” – I had no idea really what to expect but I knew it would be good for me.  I was nervous to go, to leave my sister and my family.  I honestly felt so drained from the day before and so much of me wanted to back out and just stay home.  But my heart told me to go – I needed this.

I pulled up to Camp Letts and it was just so beautiful.  A tree-lined gravel road welcomed me.  I could immediately tell I was about to experience something very special.

This sign made me think and I stopped the car and sat there.

I need to slow down.  Like, really.  I have been going going going – so distracted so busy – I am missing some good stuff that is all around me.  Maybe my mistake at the race had meaning in it.  I decided it did.  I need to pay attention to my life.  To my actions.  I need to not take things for granted.  I need to slow down.  I am hurrying through my life.

I took a deep breath.  I decided to let go.  To trust that my sister would be okay while I was gone.  To trust that what happened yesterday was really just a blip.  That I would grow and learn from it.  And I smiled.  I had given myself permission to be okay with how I felt.  I had decided to embrace it and move through it.

The retreat was more than I ever could have imagined.  I went into it without any real expectations.  I met amazing – no, INCREDIBLE – people.  Some who I feel just so connected to, as though I have known them my whole life.  We were fast old friends.

We spent the weekend talking about being OPEN to possibility.  Being the creators of the life we love.  So much was shared, so much was released.  So much filled my heart with hope and tingly excitement and gratitude.

I TOOK MYSELF ON over the last two days.  I faced my fears, wrestled with self doubt, and overpowered my negative thought demons.  I restored my spirit and my faith in myself and in the bigger picture.  I connected with what truly matters most to me and re-centered myself.  It could not have come at a better time.  It was just what I needed right now.

On Friday and Saturday I felt like I was on some sort of crazy roller coaster ride, in an alternate universe where everything was working against me.  It took me three hours to get to Annapolis Friday night (it should have taken closer to one hour).  I drove through an insane set of storms with tornado watches and all sorts of freaky thunder and lightening.  Then my race happened (or…didn’t happen, however you want to look at it).  Then my sister had her health scare.  It was all sorts of nuts!  But Sunday and Monday were like a reset button for me.  The world stopped spinning all crazy and I was able to see what was in my heart so much more clearly.  I feel at peace now.  And I feel excited and hopeful and thankful.  Good things are brewing in this life of mine.

18 thoughts on “a wrong turn made right

  1. Jess, you are such an incredible woman and runner! Even though I didn't take a wrong turn at Boston, I know how you feel. Working SO hard for something that just doesn't work out the way you want it to (although, I'm sure SOMEONE else has bigger and better plans). It's okay to be sad and disappointed and to eventually find humor in it! 🙂 Glad the lulu retreat refreshed you and gave you perspective. xoxo

  2. wow I feel sad and angry for you. To have worked so hard and miss your shot when feeling so great is tragic and unfair. You'll get your shot again though. And once you do and you cross that finish line, the 13.1 line, it will be emotional. Time to find and sign up for that race 🙂

  3. I'm sorry that happened. Glad it is giving you a chance to step back and slow down the craziness for a bit.

    And I don't envy you driving in that Friday. We opted to go to dinner near our house instead of our usual 20 minute away place because the storms were insane.

  4. I'm sorry you made a wrong turn… But you're right. We all do it. Hopefully the next race will be fabulous! The passion to run…obviously… is embedded deep in your heart. And you'll have extra reserves of that passion for next time. 🙂

    Praying for your sister!


  5. OK. Honestly, I teared up because I can totally imagine what you were feeling after finding out you went the wrong way. I would have been immensely bummed out too.

    Thank you for sharing the bigger message you saw behind the words on that sign…we could all stand to slow down =)

  6. So so sorry jessica! I love your journey. I relate as my last two 'goal' Half marathons there were stops for trains. Completely, 'derailed' my races. I've had that panic too. You are amazing and love what you got out of it. Enjoy the journey ahead!

  7. I am pretty sure I saw you at the race and thought I shouldn't see her here. But, I wasn't sure it was you so I did not say anything. I am sorry this happened, but so thankful it was the beginning of some great moments of revelation for you! God is good all the time even when we don't immediately realize it!

  8. When you tweeted about the race this weekend I felt for you! I'm glad that this weekend you were able to rest and rejuvenate and come back refreshed. Hopefully there will be another opportunity and this experience will give you an ten bigger desire to hit that 1:35 goal that you'll run faster than you thought possible:-) Blessings and prayers for you sister too!

  9. Way to make the best out of a not so great situation. Life Lessons like this don't come cheap, it may still be a little painful, but just remember the lessons learned. Proud of you!

  10. I love this! It is funny how we get so worked up about things going on in our lives and the timing of it all, but in the end the timing ends up working out as it is supposed to be. I'm glad you took that leap of faith and attended the retreat! You will be able to look back and laugh about your race in the future. Just think, if that didn't happen, you may not have had such an amazing experience at the retreat! 🙂

  11. This is such an awesome post! I know it was so hard Saturday and I can't imagine how upset you were, but you have such a great perspective on things now. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. Oh man. That just sucks! I really hope you are not blaming yourself for this. This is 100% the fault of ZOOMA. There should not be any confusion about the proper route. They can't expect runners who are focused on a race to stop an contemplate a sign that's not 100% clear. And there should have been a volunteer. It's so frustrating, but it's just bad planning on their part and it sounds like you were running so strong. I know you feel bad about this race, but what are the positives you can take away? Even though you didn't finish, you certainly accomplished plenty of other stuff out there- you let yourself enjoy the course, you cheered on your friend, you tried to help others. All wonderful things.

  13. I would have cried, too! I'm glad you gave yourself permission to be sad, and angry, and that in time, you were able to gain some perspective. The retreat sounds amazing! What perfect timing to finish your weekend off that way!

  14. Oh Jess. I am so sorry to hear that. I would have cried too. I know how much you had been looking forward to racing a half and setting a PR. Don't be too hard on yourself about taking a wrong turn – it has happened to ALL of us – trust me. It's actually happened to me twice during trail races so far. This past December was the worst b/c I was in first place by a good amount and got totally turned around. I just stopped and waited until I heard other people running. I ended up in 2nd place after that and never caught the first place female.
    Glad to hear that the rest of your weekend lightened your spirits – I hope your sister is doing okay – so scary!!

  15. You were definitely allowed to be sad and angry about this, but I'm glad your retreat redeemed everything for you. What amazes me is that you didn't sound the least bit angry at the race officials over this situation–you have a larger heart than I would have had in your shoes! It speaks very well of you. :^) You will get your 1:35–IMHO, “you was robbed!”

    I AM very glad that your sister is OK.

  16. That is so heartbreaking! I can imagine it would have taken me a while to get over it as well. That happened to some at the marathon I ran in January, they ended up with DNF because they were a few miles short. I'm glad you've been able to get some perspective and try to focus on other stuff.

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