Also Titled: The Reason I'm Keeping the Ibuprofin Companies in Business Today
I wanted to get this down before I forget. I'm guessing it will be a while before my muscles forget what we accomplished yesterday, but my memory is amazingly fickle. I'll blame that (and my muscles) on my advancing age.
I've been running since January. January 1st to be exact. I wanted to be a runner. I wanted to know that I could head out the door any time, any place, and burn some calories. I wanted to feel strong and healthy again. In ten months, I've done all that and more. I've also gained this amazing community of running support. Friends I've met as I've progressed from barely able to keep my body moving for five minutes at a time to moving continuously for almost 4 1/2 hours yesterday. Amazing neighbors who not only tell me I can do it, but celebrate with me when I have done it. Strangers that I see only at races, but who still smack me on the back and give me high fives as I come across a finish line. Running store owners who not only put on the best races ever, but who have never once told me I wasn't capable of accomplishing my goals.
Since January, I've run several 5k road races, but my favorite events have been the trail races out at a local state park. The four race series started with a 5k in March and then progressed to two 10ks (one at night in July), and finished yesterday with a heavy half marathon. I've been eyeing this half marathon since the beginning of the season. I wanted this half marathon. I wanted to do all four races in the series and I worked my rear end off to make it happen. Yesterday, it was finally time to stop thinking about it and start running it.
The race started at 8:00 so the husband and I were both up at 6:00, waiting for the babysitter. I had everything ready, so we were out the door by 6:40 and drove around the corner to our neighbors' house. D & K have run all the events in the series too, and we always drive out together.
We got our race numbers and pretended to stretch and made one last trip to the bathrooms. We grinned at some of the other participants and hugged a few friends. But mostly, we tried not to freeze to death. It was bitterly cold - about 34 degrees at start time.
After a few words from the running store owner/race director extraordinaire, it was time to head down the hill. Because, you see, it's not enough to simply run 14 miles. That wouldn't be enough of a challenge! First we must run up the road that leads to the trails! This is my least favorite part of every single race. I lined up near the back with my friend, T, who was running her first ultra (30+ miles - go T!) and soon we were following 5k-ers, half-marathoners, and 50k-ers up that darn hill. Maybe it was the cold air or maybe it was T's company or maybe I'm just getting crazier, but it wasn't as bad this time.
We were in the trees in no time and I was rockin' along, sticking with T until we reached the first aid station. I glanced at my watch and realized I was in big, big trouble. I had done the first 4.8 miles in around 70 minutes. If I was doing a 10k and had continued at that pace for another 1.5 miles, I would have trashed my previous PR by about 15 minutes. So, while I was feeling really excited about how well things were going, I knew I was going to pay for it later.
Getting to the second aid station (at 8.8 miles) was more challenging, mostly because we hit a section of the trail that was all rocks and hills. I had barely left the first aid station when I fell, but I knew I was going to fall at some point and was congratulating myself for not breaking anything when BOOM, down I went again. This time, I did a bit of damage to my knee and twisted an ankle pretty good. I may or may not have cursed out loud, brushed the mud from my pants as best I could, and hobbled off down the trail. Luckily, the trail leveled out before the 2nd aid station and I had some nice paths to run before I hit aid station #2, manned by a well-known trail group out of K.C. I have to say, the volunteers yesterday were all amazing but there's something way cool about having Bad B filling your water bottle and telling you that you're rockin' the course. Now, I knew I wasn't anywhere close to rockin' the course, being (at that time) second to last in the half marathon, but when you're almost 9 miles into a 14.2 mile course, being lied to isn't all bad.
Off to aid station #3, at mile 11.3. The knee was making its presence known but the trail was a good mix of runnable and oh-my-good-gracious-that-is-a-big-hill and I actually hit this aid station in good time, quite a bit ahead of my mental predictions. After a quick peek at the knee and a refill of the water bottle, I headed out for the last 3 mile stretch. This is where the wheels completely fell off the bus. Stomach cramps, calf cramps, quad cramps - you name it, I had it. I struggled to walk the majority of this leg, forcing myself to break into a run when the terrain allowed and doing my best to not aggravate whatever was going on with my knee. The half marathoner behind me finally ran past and I was on my own. I was mad that things weren't going perfectly but I was going to finish the darn race!!!
As I turned onto the trail leading to the finish line, I could hear the band playing (LOVED the live band at the finish line!). I knew I was close and then I saw the race director and another volunteer walking toward me, checking to be sure I didn't make a wrong turn (evidently, a few other runners took the wrong trail right at the end). Soon I heard yelling and cowbells and I made it past the line of cones leading me to the official finish line. I did it in 4 hours and 23 minutes, 7 minutes faster than the goal I had set.
The husband gave me a big hug, the race director gave me a hug, I wasn't sure the race director's wife was going to let me go, she hugged me for so long! It was amazing to see how proud they were of me and if I hadn't been completely drained of all energy, I probably would have cried. I honestly can't figure out how to put it into words - that welcoming committee at the end was an incredibly special thing.
I drank some chocolate milk, forced down a little food, and the husband drove me home. I slept most of the afternoon, physically wiped out from the effort. Today, I'm a little slow and I think I'll be popping ibuprofin on a fairly frequent basis, but I am so proud of myself. Yesterday rocked.