Sunday, July 22, 2012

13.1

I have been trying to write this post for a week now. At first, it was because I knew I couldn't write it without crying. Then I realized I could probably write without crying but I became so intimidated by finding the words to do justice to this fantastic experience. Now I'm just forcing myself to put words down. I accept they can't possibly do justice to what the weekend gave me, but it's worth a try. There were many parts to the entire trip and I do plan on touching on them in a few other posts. Today I just wanted to focus on the race itself. So here goes...

My first race bib! 
 
As I've said over the course of the 16 weeks leading up to this race, I was not a runner. The last time I ran was in middle school and it was a mile for the damn presidential fitness tests. And I hated every minute of it. So the fact that I was waking up at 4 a.m. to head towards the starting line of a half marathon continuously blew my mind. I was nervous on the bus from the hotel to the vineyard where we gathered for the start of the race. I tried to calm my mind down as we stretched as a team. I entered a near panic as I figured out the final things I'd need from my bag at gear check. By the time I got to the corral to start my legs just wanted to run. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was 50's and overcast. The course had one big hill on it and it was right at the starting line, but we were promised some fantastic views once we got to the top. They weren't lying, at the top of this mile ascent we got a panoramic view of vineyards as far as the eye could see.

 Top of the hill at about mile 1.5 It was breathtaking!

Right off the bat I felt like I was in a good groove. I was running by myself, fueled by my favorite songs. I couldn't get over how good my body felt and how peaceful my mind was. Having been training in 100+ temperatures with insane humidity levels it was such a welcome relief to be running in the conditions I was. As I hit each mile marker I tried to remember what it was like the first time I hit that distance. 2 miles was at South Shore park and I promised myself I'd run as long as Meredith did, at the end we both were so excited we couldn't stop screaming. We had run 2 whole miles without stopping! I recalled running 3 miles around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis and how happy I was when I finally saw Sae and Maggie around the corner waiting for me as I finished my run. I kept this up at each mile marker, and naturally there were tears. I couldn't believe how far I had come and how great it felt for me to have set such a lofty goal. I never questioned throughout the entire course if I was going to finish. I felt great and all the training had paid off. I can't possibly put words to that feeling.

I paced myself incredibly well. Regardless of the ideal times I had in my head my number one goal was to finish so I wanted to make sure I had enough gas to last all 13.1 miles. Around mile 8 I could see my friend Nicole off in the distance. I picked up the pace a little bit to catch up with her. She and my coach Annie were the reasons I had even known about Team Challenge. I was so excited to be able to see her on the course and thank her for the feeling that was blowing my mind. I had to stop at the bathroom though and lost her a little bit. (There were some nervous runner tummy issues - maybe TMI but it's the truth.) I picked up my pace a little bit and caught up with here. We walked together for a little bit - and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my first and only walk break along the course. We immediately started crying (because that's what we do) and had a breakdown/hug right in the middle of the course.

 Before we parted ways again at mile 10.

After we hit mile 10 I decided to go back out on my own and pick up the pace for the 5k that was left! Around mile 11 I ran into Noah one of our mentors. I was starting to hurt and it was probably the first time I was feeling like I was ready for the damn thing to be over. Seeing Noah in his blaze orange headband and shoes come around the corner was like he was placed there just for me! He kept telling me how happy I looked and what  a big smile I had on my face. At that point I felt so excited that I was so close to the finish line I couldn't stop smiling. Shortly after Coach Darrell met up with us and we all ran together for a while. They kept talking about how good it looked like I felt. I was so happy to hear how apparent it was that I was enjoying myself. I WAS ENJOYING MYSELF while running 13.1 miles. My mind was officially blown. Noah had turned back to find Nicole and right after he left us Coach Annie met up with Darrell and I. The happiness I felt at that moment was more than I can possibly begin to describe. I was going to cross the finish line of my first marathon with the two coaches who had helped me get there. You can see the finish line of this course far before you're actually there (like almost a half mile before you're there). Had I been alone I think this would have gotten to me. Instead, Darrell and Annie kept telling me how proud they were, how amazing it was that I had come so far. Seriously I felt like I was running on clouds.

As we got closer to the finish line there was a stop sign about 50 yards before the official finish line. Darrell asked me if I had enough gas to sprint out that last little bit. To cross the finish line in a full stride and put this half to bed. We got to the stop sign and the 3 of us kicked it into high gear. As we got closer to the finish line and I could hear the crowd cheering Annie turned to me and said, "This is all for you!" Darrell (knowing my crying tendencies at this point) also asked me one other thing, "Please wait to cry until you pass the photographer. Smile the smile you've had since I started running with you, keep that on your face til you get past him. Then you can breakdown." And smile I did. I crossed that finish line with a HUGE smile on my face. One of the biggest smiles I've ever had on my face. And as soon as I got past that photographer, I cried. I cried while I hugged Annie and she told me some of the nicest things I could imagine hearing at the end of that race. I cried while Darrell hugged me and told me how proud he was. I cried when I got my medal, when I hugged our team manager and when I called my mom.  Then Nicole crossed the finish line and I cried some more. I was overwhelmed with what I had just accomplished and so pleased with myself.

 Noah and I at the finish line with our medals!

I knew my body was going to hurt. I knew no matter how much water I drank or stretching I did, my body would eventually hurt. But at that finish line party I danced, I laughed, and I soaked up as much as I could. There would be plenty of time for the hurt, but for now I had accomplished one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) goals I had ever set for myself and I couldn't even feel the pain.

View from the course, Nicole and I with our medals and 
the 2 best friends anyone could ever have on race weekend.

9 comments:

  1. So, so happy for you. Congratulations on completing such a huge goal. PS. I'm totally a crier too. Cried as I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, cried at my half marathon PR this spring. It's normal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's no surprise to anyone that I cried :)

      Delete
  2. And of course I'm crying reading this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Nixie!! You're a big part of those "runners I started following and then wanted to be like!"

      Delete
  5. I don't even know you and I'm crying. What a wonderful story and description of how you felt during this whole experience. p.s., I am a friend of Nicole's family. Congratulations and thank you for sharing!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lori! Glad I could share the experience with you :)

      Delete