Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Race Recap: 36th Annual Johnston's Wichita Half Marathon

Well I did it.  I completed 13.1 miles and I even lived to tell about it.

Saturday, as predicted, I was a ball of nerves.  To make matters worse, we ended up having a low key day at home.  I'm a busy-get-going kind of gal, so a low key day like that just breeds more anxiety.  By bedtime, I wasn't sure if I could fall asleep.  Turns out I could...and did.

My alarm went off dark and early the next morning, but I was already awake.  Between claps of thunder and Ruth I was just plain awake.  I pressed snooze and laid in bed a little longer (a planned snooze), because it seemed like I shouldn't be getting up any earlier than I intended.  I went about my morning routine...over thinking much of it which bred more panic.  Shower or not shower?  I ended up showering so my hair wouldn't be a complete mess.  Which shirt to wear?  I ended up wearing the one I wear regularly during my workouts.  It was pouring rain - and wearing what I was familiar with seemed the wisest move.  I chose socks and was careful to put non-holy socks on.  (Nearly all my socks have holes in the toes - a product of running.  I didn't have this trouble until I started running.) Should I put my hair in a single pony tail (not as cute) or pig tails (definitely cuter).  For comfort, I chose the not-as-cute single pony tail - I was certain my hat (which with the rain was necessary) would fit better that way.

I checked my phone early and found that it had NOT charged overnight.  I panicked again, but realized there was PLENTY of time to get a good charge in.  I thought maybe the cable had wiggled and lost connection so I wiggled it again.  The phone reported it was charging and I went on my merry way.

By the time I was completely ready I looked at the clock and still had 30 minutes.  I sat on the couch for 20...my planned leaving time was already set that I'd end up getting there 45 minutes before race start anyway.  So I sat on the couch and prayed.  The dread I felt in the pit of my stomach was solid.  I felt like I was marching towards a death sentence, and that this was it.  It all felt so permanent - that I had to remind myself that I was NOT in fact dying.  (I'm not sure why my feelings were so intense, but they were.)

I picked up my phone and found that not only had it STILL not charged, but that it had LESS charge then before.  Despair set in.  There was no way it would last for my race.  I rebooted it, gathered up my stuff and headed out the door.  I put it on the charger in my car.  I took a deep breath and turned on my car.

DING DING DING went my car - "Low Fuel" my dashboard blinked  at me.  I sighed and reminded myself that I still had plenty of time to stop and get some gas.  I drove to the nearest place that was on my way.  I hopped out and reached for my...purse.  Yeah, I didn't bring my purse.  I actually keep my license in my car so that I don't have to have my purse.  There is less to steal that way...if someone were to choose to do that.  AHHHHHHHHHH - I thought about NOT getting gas briefly, but I wasn't really sure how long William drove it around on low fuel.  We didn't go too many places on Saturday, but it still could have been enough to cause an issue later.  So back home I went...to get my stupid debit card.  By the time the gas was all said and done, I had gone from being ridiculously early to borderline late.  My walking nightmare is to get somewhere and  have NO place to park.  If they ever sell cars that fold up into brief cases Jetson's style - I'm totally buying it.  But all of this hoopla did not help my frazzled, half-panicked state at all.  And it wasn't a good start to my race.  I felt a little like a shook-up-soda that would be mess if opened.

I made it to the park, found a parking spot with relative ease (thank goodness!) and made my way to the meeting spot.  There I met the crew...Ashley, her husband Jon, Lacey and Cara.  Cara gave me a big squeeze and said "ARE YOU EXCITED!?!?!  THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!!"  In my frazzled state I could barely squeeze out a "No, not really."  I just did not have it in me to smile and pretend like everything was going to be fine.  I didn't even hug her back.  (I thought about that afterwards and hoped she didn't take it the wrong way.)

When I first thought about this race so many months ago - I had several goals.

1) Finish with a smile on my face.
2) Finish in under 3 hrs.
3) If possible, finish around 2:45.

The rain continued to sprinkle as we gathered in the starting line.  I had received a lot of advice.  It's your first half marathon.  Your goal should be to just finish.  So many people had given me this advice.  Obviously that was my first goal and it remained in play. As I was thinking about the other goals the horn blew and we were off.  So much for determining them before the race huh?

I did take my phone - I couldn't be without it.  I had turned it off at the advice of Ashley to save the batteries.  I thought I might turn it on at some point when I felt I might desperately need it.  I determined I'd not turn it on until at least mile 2.  But since I didn't have my phone, nor my running app (aka running BFF), I had no way to pace myself.  So I had to go by feel.  Being in the crowd, not knowing how fast I was going I just decided to go with the flow.  There were a group of women that were running and were absolutely hilarious.  I was just behind them and remained there for approximately the first 2 miles.  I listened to their banter and enjoyed the jokes.  After the first water station one of them took off with another group (which she had discovered had a similar pacing style earlier) and the group sort of fizzled.  I tried to keep up with the remaining ones, but couldn't quite keep up.  Besides, the banter had completely stopped making them less interesting.

I shoved my phone (now turned on) in my pocket.  I decided I wasn't going to use it for music, but that it would be valuable as a time piece.  I don't have a watch - and knowing what time it was and if I was going to be able to finish in the allotted 3:30 was definitely a concern of mine.  Having a clock would help me keep pace.  I decided this would be the most benefit of the little battery life I had.

I took approximately 3 steps when it fell OUT of my pocket.  They were simply too full to put it in there.  I didn't want to carry it the entire way - I would definitely waste the battery.  So I slipped it in my pants on the inside of my underwear - figuring that if it slid down (which it did), it wouldn't go too far and probably wouldn't slide completely out of my pants (which it never did).

The previous evening I made a couple Gu purchases.  In my training runs, my energy completely petered out around mile 8. I could complete 8 miles, but miles 9 and beyond were just ridiculous.  I had hoped the Gu would help.  I decided to take the first pack around mile 6 or so.

Just pass the mile 4 marker I passed up the guy who looked to be in the lead of the race (he was coming in the opposite direction and was preceded by a guy on a bike).  About 5 minutes later I saw #2. I really wanted to yell "Kick it into gear! You aren't that far behind!"  I didn't though - because I didn't want to break the concentration that was so clear on his face.

I took out my phone and attempted to text William.  I was going to type "Mile 4, phone half dead...don't expect the battery to survive."  However it was raining so hard that the phone was not reading my finger prints and kept typing all kinds of crazy things.  I gave up and shoved my phone back in my pants.

I soon hit a bridge where a lot of spectators were.  The course was a figure 8 of sorts, and so this spot was not too far from the starting line.  People cheered and waved.  I looked for William and the kids just in case.  With all the rain, I didn't really expect to see them.

Soon the noise of the crowd was behind me and I kept going.  I hadn't seen a mile marker in awhile.  I also hadn't seen any people in awhile and I felt like I was running by myself.  I wondered what mile I was on.  I tried to remember the course layout - as I had looked at it repeatedly pre-race.  I tried to remember where mile 7 was but the details were just not coming to me.  I peered ahead and saw a water station.  Just before it I saw a mile marker.  I examined it closely and my heart skipped a beat as the mile marker looked like it said mile 8...really?  Could I have traveled all that distance without it seeming like a big deal?  The mile marker got bigger and bigger and finally I could clearly see it...mile 6.  Oh snap!  If I hadn't thought it was mile 8, mile 6 would have been fine.  But I felt like I was 2 miles behind for some reason.

I decided a Gu pack was just the thing to take my mind of things.  And being at a water station seemed like a good idea - in case it was nasty.  I was happy to have water too - my mouth was a lot drier than I had originally thought...which made the Gu a bit hard to swallow.  I took the entire pack and then drank a Gatorade and a water.  The Gatorade was nasty!  I mentally noted to only drink the water going forward.  Blech!

An older gentleman and younger girl approached me from behind and eventually passed me up.  They looked like they were on a Sunday stroll and that this was a piece of cake.  I was able to keep up with them for awhile but a walk break put me a fair distance behind them.  I managed to keep them in sight for most of the remainder of the race, which became a source of comfort for me.  Another girl zoomed passed us and was soon out of sight.  "These miles sure do seem to be getting longer!!!" she shouted as she went.  I wondered since she passed us up so quickly why she was so far back.

I crossed a bridge and were on the other side of the river.  I looked over and saw the water station folks packing up. WHAT!?!?!  Am I THAT far back?  It was rather disheartening.  I swore to myself that I would be OK if I came in last...as long as I finishAs long as I finish, I chanted to myself.

The rain was really pouring at this point.  I was drenched and pretty well miserable.  Even though I was running, I was shivering because I was so cold. As soaked as I was, I still ran off the sidewalk and on the grass to avoid puddles.  Running through puddles still seemed like a bad idea.  I wonder where I'm chaffing, I thought to myself.  I could only imagine the pain that could possibly await me once the race was over.  And yes, I dwelt on this subject for awhile.  I contemplated whether it was better to keep on raining or if I should hope for the rain to stop.  I never really made up my mind on that one.

My trusty hat kept the rain out of my face and I watched it drip off the brim of my hat.  On another day, I'd find the rain comforting.  I love the drippy-ness of it, the sound of the water plopping on the ground.  Enjoying it from the couch under a cozy blanket is perfect.  I tried to remind myself of the comfort of the rain as I shivered.  It wasn't very effective.

Soon I crossed back by where the crowds were not too long ago.  The area was abandoned save for one family.  I looked at the little girl with longing - my kids were somewhere...waiting for me.  Well, they might be if the rain stops.  If it didn't, I wasn't sure.  "Cheer her on!" the mom said.  The little girl looked at me and said "Go go go!"  I smiled back and waved.

I entered into a forest of sorts.  This was the place where I had passed the first place runner so long ago.  Up ahead I saw the girl who had passed me up earlier, commenting on how long the miles were getting.  "Hmm..." I thought.  Catching up to someone who previously passed me with such ease boosted my confidence.  She was walking and I focused on passing her up.  I passed by another family who cheered on someone behind me.  Wait...what?  Someone is behind me?  Hooray!  I'm not going to be last!  I was NOT going to let this person pass me up!

Emotion washed over me and my breathing quickened - as if crying but there were no tears.  I gasped to take a breath and focus on what I was doing - but I couldn't stop thinking...I'm actually doing it!  The fact that finishing seemed so close.  I wasn't sure what mile I was on, but I thought I had recalled seeing the 10 mile marker in the area.  I ran, gasped for breath and worked to not get all choked up.

I'm not really a crier in general so the entire episode really took me by surprise.

Soon I caught up with the girl.  I saw the mile 9 marker and cheered.  It wasn't 10 like I had remembered, but I took my phone out and checked the time.  9:27 AM  I might actually get this done after all!  I tried to work out the time in my head to see if I was going to be able to finish in the 2:45 time frame, but math was simply beyond my reach.  It seemed doable though and gave me hope.

The girl who passed me up - and I then passed up - was just behind me.  Someone she knew was along the path giving her a pep talk.  "HEY!  You are doing great! Put this on your ankle!"  There was some other conversation...and then the friend said "You'll be able to get done if you can stick to 15 minute miles."  My chest tightened and my dream suddenly came back with a vengeance.  Knowing I hadn't fully thought out the math, I knew it was entirely possible I screwed it up.  Maybe I wasn't in such a great position after all?  I fretted over this for awhile but decided to put it behind me.  Fretting would do me no good.

Mile 10 finally arrived complete with a water station.  I took a half a gel pack and guzzled some water.  The guy was surprised when I took two.  Hey - I was a thirsty girl!  One strategy I had was to walk the water station.  Not earth shattering or anything, but sometimes (especially towards the end) I walked a little farther than the water station.  This time was no exception.  The girl caught up with me and we chatted.  "HEY!  We only have a 5K left!" I exclaimed.  She laughed.  "Is this your first?" I asked.  She responded that she started running in Oct, ran a 5K and thought she'd give a half a try.  I told her I'd been running for about a year - and running a half seemed like a good way to celebrate my runiversary.  I also stated I thought maybe I was crazy.

My walk break was up so I told her good luck - but that I'd probably see her again.  She laughed and replied I was keeping a pretty good pace, so she wanted to try to stick with me.  I didn't see her for the rest of the race.

I could see the young girl and old man ahead of me.  My hope - as long as I could see them for some reason I felt like I wasn't doing such a bad job.  The last few miles were absolutely fascinating for me.  For so long I was so alone - but at this point I ended up clumping up with a few people.  We played leap frog for the remaining time.  There were two girls that I simply did not understand.

Two girls were running together.  One girl (whom I'll refer to as TG for tall girl) said goodbye to the second girl (short girl or SG).  From the brief conversation, it appeared she was going to try to finish as fast as she could.  TG would run and when she got a half mile ahead or so, she'd stop and wait for SG.  When SG caught up, she'd encourage her and run ahead again.  I was completely was baffled.  I understand running ahead.  I understand hanging back.  I absolutely did not understand running ahead just to wait.

I finally hit mile 11. The rain had stopped so I pulled out my phone again.  "Mile 11" I texted William and hit send.  Mile 11!!!  I'm ALMOST THERE! 

After mile 12 I started thinking about a quote I had posted on dailymile awhile back.  I couldn't remember the exact wording - but the basic gist was that there was never any improvement without pain.  I must definitely be improving, I thought to myself.  My muscles were already sore.  Interestingly, as I was thinking about this I approached a man standing by the path holding a sign.  "Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever." it read.  I laughed - what confirmation!  What timing!  When I got close enough I shouted "I WAS JUST THINKING THE EXACT SAME THING!  THANKS!"  The guy smiled, waived and cheered me on.

I eventually came to a road and the policemen waived me across.  Some people shouted at me that there was only about a half mile left.  I strained to see the finish line and simply could not see it.  I couldn't tell how close I was and it seemed like if it was a half mile, I ought to be able to see it.  I took one more walk break.  It really bothered me I couldn't see the finish line.  Of course, I could still see the young girl and old man!  I began running again and watched the sidelines.  I didn't want to miss William and the kids if they were there.

And suddenly - as if he appeared out of nowhere, I saw William sitting on a bench.  I could tell he didn't recognize me so I waived like crazy.  I didn't see the kids until they were practically on me.  I stopped and gave them a tight squeeze and held my breath.  The emotional gasping for air was returning - and I had a race to finish!  "Want to run with me?" I asked them.  "YES!!!" They replied.  They darted ahead of me cheering and chanting all the way.  "We sure could have used you along the race!" a couple of older women shouted.  The kids were running ahead of me, and the older women had just passed me.  Yeah well, they only passed me because I stopped! The kids were ahead of me so I kicked it into gear - I put all my effort into sprinting.  I passed up the kids, the first lady and almost passed up the second.  I glanced up at the clock and it read:  2:55:29

Not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.

I grabbed a water and noticed the kids also got waters.  I had to laugh.  Peter wanted to know why HE didn't get a medal.  "I finished!" he declared.  I had to laugh!  I told him I would share mine with him.

My favorite part of the race was the very end - and not just because it was the end.  Seeing my family filled my heart up.

My only regret was that I didn't get ANY pictures - thanks to the rain.  I like pictures. :(  I'm considering buying one of the professional ones - although they aren't all that great.  Better than nothing I guess?

I promptly went home, took a super hot shower and proudly wore my shirt the rest of the day...well...as I napped. :)

Two days later my legs are slightly sore and my foot still hurts.  I'm going to wait for it to heal up before I run again.  I had a few chaffing spots, but they weren't unexpected (especially considering the rain).

My official time was 2:54:59.  I don't have my splits, thanks to the battery situation.  (That would have been fascinating to see!)  But my phone did survive and it was completely miraculous.  My phone doesn't last long once it hits the 15% batter mark - which is what it was when the race started.  I'm so very thankful though, because the clock came in very handy.  (I did check it pretty frequently those last few miles.)

And in normal funny toe fashion...I had a (non painful) sore on the tip of my big toe.  What DO my toes do while running?  I'll never know but at this point I find it hilarious.  AND both my socks had holes in the toes by the end of the race.

Will I do another?  I don't know.  As the days move along I am forgetting the pain and the memory of pride is shinning through.  I'm finding a lot of similarities to it and birth... :-P  If I do take on this endeavor again, it will be after I work on speed extensively.  I don't think I want to spend another 3 hrs running.


Charity said...

I'm pretty speechless (and teary-eyed)

Renee phillips said...

Totally awesome Miriam!!! SO proud of you!!!