Monday, August 15, 2011

Why yes I DID run my first half marathon this weekend.

As I said goodbye to my kids Friday evening, I got choked up. Ainsleigh, walking down the stairs toward me, asked, "Oh Mom, what's wrong?" I tried to swallow the lump in my throat and blink back the tears as I shrugged and whispered, "I'm just...nervous."

Nervous was a big word in our house this past week. Donovan was nervous starting first grade. Ainsleigh was nervous starting the swim academy. With both of them, I talked them through it, pointed out their strengths, talked about how prepared they were, and reassured them I would be there at the end.

I was leaving to spend the night up in the mountains so I could run my first half marathon the next morning. And I was nervous. Anxious nervous. Scared nervous. I had been sick a couple weeks ago, and still felt like I was settling back into health. The longest distance I had yet run was 10 miles (and I get annoyed when people throw around numbers so cavalierly, like, "Well if you can run 10, you can do 13." No - don't belittle those next 3 miles please). And we would be dealing with a higher altitude and a temp increase of 30 degrees along the way.

As Ainsleigh heard the word "nervous," her face softened and she cocked her head to the side. "Oh," she nodded, "I understand. But you are going to do great." Donovan joined her, "Mom, you're ready for this. We'll be there at the end."

When did my kids become so great? Joel hugged me and tried to reassure me as I left. I was at the point where I just wanted to get it over with. The waiting and anticipating was wearing away at my soul. My bowels, at least, couldn't take any more (only people who have been in races will understand that one. all others should just remain in innocent ignorance).

When we got to Idaho Springs, we drove part of the course and I began to feel much better. This was doable. I could do this. I WOULD do this. I'd have to - they dump you at one end and you run to the other. And I would be in the company of some phenomenal women.

Olivia, Jessica, Me, Danelle, Sylvia, Tanya and Lisa trying to stay warm

As we met up in the cold morning air the next morning, the anxious had turn to excitement. I was going to do this and I would eat STEAK afterward. As the start time approached, we began peeling off layers of clothes. In a reckless last move, I removed my long-sleeved shirt, leaving me in just my tank, running skirt, and compression socks. Tanya and I began to dance shake almost uncontrollably, working out the jitters and in the heat.

When the gun went off, I was ready. For the first 6 miles or so, I chatted with Olivia, a friend I haven't seen in a while. Lisa, her mom, has been a steady training partner of mine. I took it easy and drank at each of the aid stations. Around mile 6, though, I encouraged Olivia to take off. She has youth on her side. And 5-foot legs. For the next couple miles I ran by myself, considering the parallels between running and parenting. Right about mile 8 was when Lisa caught up. I refer to her as a training partner, but it goes beyond the physical.

Before we left, I calculated that Sylvia and I have run about 400 miles together in the last year. Spread out over 52 weeks, it's not a terribly high number. But it is a lot of time spent talking and sharing. Lisa has been there for a lot of it.

I know she would argue with me, but the best word I can think of to describe Lisa right now is polished. She has been a mentor and friend through times when I would have otherwise fallen. And how can you not love someone who appreciates fine food? She has a skill for decorating that would make Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn ask to take lessons. I love these kinds of women. In California, it was Christine. In Colorado, it is Lisa.

Together, Lisa and I battled through the rest of the course, passing our fallen comrades who were receiving medical attention, trying to find patches of shade along the way. That was the hardest part, for me. The direct sun was brutal. I've never felt so hot before. And my heartrate was reaching alarming levels. Lisa, for her part, was struggling with a strained toe, that might also be a stress fracture. Every now and then she would say, "You can go ahead. I don't want to hold you back." Could I have gone faster? Maybe. Did I want to? Not really. More to the point, it was a honor to stay with her. Here was a woman who had strengthened me mentally, spiritually, and physically. And here we were, doing something neither one of us had done before. We were going to finish this together.

As we hit the home stretch, I couldn't help but grin. I felt completely wasted, but I was doing this. I passed a couple people who were literally staggering, but I felt joy. With a few yards to go, Donovan jumped in with me and held my hand as we crossed the finish line together. And then all I could think about was water. According to my Garmin, I did the race in 2:22. Not super impressive, but hey, it's a PR. The 79 year old lady who finished 10 minutes ahead of me is impressive.

Jessica, Sylvia, Me, Lisa, Tanya and Danelle in a lot less clothing at the end

It's funny how your brain doesn't really function when your body is tired. I had water at each of the 6 water stations, but my hands were swollen with dehydration (my wedding ring felt like it was suffocating my finger). I wasn't thinking clearly, or I would have taken a moment to apply the sunscreen I had passed up at the beginning of the race. I didn't want that stuff dripping into my eyes/mouth as I sweated. The finish line would have been a good place to do that to avoid the lobster burn I'm now sporting. I'm either not that sore elsewhere, or the burn is overshadowing it.

A couple things I thought were funny: the number of people who would suddenly sit down and pull off pants and toss them into the bushes; the people who would either suddenly come bounding back onto the course, or suddenly run off to the side - what are you DOING over there?! I wanted to shout; the kid who, rather perplexed, asked me at the 12-mile marker, "Does that mean the beginning of mile 12, or the end?" and the relief on his face when I told him we only had one mile to go; the 79 year old lady who finished minutes ahead of me; the participant whose shirt read: RUNNING SUCKS.

One thing is for sure: I would totally do this again. As we laid on the field, eating watermelon and enjoying NOT running, Lisa chirped, "Ok ladies, what's next?!" For me, it was fish tacos, a shower, and then a steak. For Tanya, it was a nap and then a full night shift at the hospital. For all of us, it's more miles of talking, sharing, laughing, crying and, of course, sweating.

But I might still get a little nervous.


wanda said...

Did you cry at the end? Because Dad and I had bets that you would.

Congratulations and good work. Except for the sunburn. Boo.

Sarah said...

Nope. Like the end of my 10-miler last year, I think I was too dehydrated. I cried while I typed the post, though, if that makes you feel better

Sarah Burgoyne said...

I am so impressed by you! I teared up when you wrote that Donovan joined you at the end.

Christina said...

YAY!!! Congratulations! What an accomplishment.

Jess said...

Congrats on finishing your race! Looks like you had an amazing group of women to share it with. I will channel you as Jeff and I run our first 5K together this weekend :)

Allison said...

Congratulations! We're proud of you! So do you have pictures of Dono running with you? I love that!