Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Well, it's done. I ran that half marathon on Sunday. In summary? It was 13.1 miles of misery. Ok, maybe the first couple of miles weren't too bad, but I'm so bummed!
For those of you haven't done a large race like this, I've done a blow-by-blow of the race, albeit in mini form. Usually, I write a lot more in my race recaps, but I didn't want to torture you with paragraph upon paragraph of whining about how I felt. Consider yourself (mostly) spared ;)
Hands down, my favorite race distance is the half. It's long enough to be a big challenge and to require some legit training. But it doesn't consume your life the way a full marathon does. I love this distance. So my train wreck of a race yesterday only has me determined to "redeem" myself with a half sometime very soon.
Like the 2 months of training prior, I did this race solo. But it felt good, like a personal challenge. A battle I was fighting to get in shape and to be mentally strong enough to go at it without having to lean on a friend when the race got hard. So, because I wasn't talking (a whole 2+ hours without talking, gasp!), I did a lot of observing.
The race shuttle buses dropped me off at the start an hour before the race start, and it was still dark. It felt calming to be standing out there on the point overlooking the city, in the hushed silence of predawn. And then a girl got stuck in a porta-potty. Ha! I'm not laughing at her, just the hilarity of that breaking my daze and snapping me back to reality. I was standing in the long bathroom lines while I watched 3 people try to bend the latch far enough to allow her to open the door and escape. Once she finally emerged, we clapped for her, and her rescuers bent the latch until it snapped, in order to avoid a repeat incident. The park patrol lady saw them and was very unhappy, and said something to them, and then walked away with a dirty horrible look on her face. Sorry, lady! But the poor girl was stuck in a disgusting porta-potty!! What're you gonna do?
The race started and I quickly fell into a relaxed rhythym in the middle of the road. And I felt good. And then I realized at mile 2 that I needed to pee again. Again?! What's with that?! I so didn't want to stop, so I skipped the first set of on-course bathrooms, hoping that it was just nerves and jitters. I continued noticing all the people around me and listened to their nervous chatter. I heard funny stories and also heard stories between longtime friends. I saw girls in running skirts and then also saw their hineys when their skirts bounced up (mental note: tell Marnie!!).
The course meanders through quiet neighborhoods at miles 2 and 3. All I could hear under the cover of old trees was our footfalls, and it made me wonder what it sounded like to the people inside those houses. Do we sound like freeway traffic? Do we sound like a rushing river? I think it subconsciously had an effect on all the runners because conversations quieted, and you could only hear the sound of a thousand feet touching the ground.
The quiet ended as we started our long descent around mile 3. I love long hills (up or down, I'll take either), and I think the sudden downhill created a stir in the running pack. People started talking and laughing again, and even hooted out loud whistles when a guy ran by dressed like this:
(Runners love to dress up in wacky costumes for races. Search Google Images for "running costume" and you'll find some pics.)
It was right around mile 3.5 that I realized all was not well in my belly. I decided to finally pee so I stopped at the toilets there. But as I continued on the course, I couldn't shake the nauseated feeling that had crept up. And my stomach started cramping up after another mile. It was just so strange, and I kept wondering if I had inadvertently eaten something bad for dinner the night before. It's not at all like me to feel that way while running. But it wasn't enough to make me really question it at that point, so I kept on going.
I ended up jumping off the course a second time at mile 5.5 to go to the bathroom yet again. This time it was a real flushing bathroom, but minus any doors. (Don't ask me why there are San Diego parks with doorless bathroom stalls. It's just yucky.) I didn't feel any better after the bathroom stop, but I jumped back into the race to try and psych myself up for the remaining 8 miles. I spotted one of my alumni friends around mile 5, where he snapped this picture of me:
Seeing friends on the course is an awesome distraction when you're feeling less than great. It snaps you back to reality and helps you focus on something positive and happy, which is truly worth piles of gold.
I continued running, but started feeling so bad that I had to actually talk myself into not walking until I hit the mile 8 marker. Unbelievable! And I did, indeed, walk at mile 8. And then I ran. And then I walked. And then I ran. I began trying to convince myself to do a run/walk pattern just to cover the remaining miles. Every time I started running again, the stomach pain and nausea would flash back within 5 seconds. I briefly thought about leaving the race, even though I've never ever considered not finishing. But then I decided (in my infinite mid-race misery-affected wisdom) that it would actually take me longer to have the race crew get me back to Brian at the finish than to just trudge through the final 4 miles. I'm brilliant, yes I am. So I ran. And walked.
At mile 10, I started running about 15 seconds before this photo was taken. But check out the boat riggings in the background!
The waterstop at mile 10 featured giant water sprayers and people shooting water up into the air. It felt like an oasis in the middle of all that concrete and stagnant muggy air, so I ran through it and got totally drenched. Woohooo!! And then, I smelled the cheeseburgers. Evidently, that water stop crew offers up cheeseburger wedges every year as part of their shtick. I nearly puked when that smell wafted up!
I had another puking near-miss around mile 11 when I ended up running next to a guy who kept choking and coughing on his snot. Yes. Mucous. And it was audible. Audible mucous. It was the one time that I decided walking was a fantastic race strategy, and I happily let him jog ahead, out of ear shot. Ahhhh..And then somehow, I caught him again a half mile later. No! Two seconds after I was pleased to notice the disappearance of snot sounds, I heard him emit a loud, "EHHH" with every other step. You know that sound - the sound you hear in the gym when some guys are lifting, a loud grunt. Yeah. So I hugged the inside of the road and let him disappear behind me as I tackled the hill.
It made me incredibly sad to have run-walked that hill. I've run it a thousand times, and because of that I've got a mental edge on it. I was happy to notice that as soon as I started running, I passed a lot of people, but then as soon as I walked, they in turn passed me. I skipped the water stop in favor of the carb drink offered and discovered by way of nearly puking that it was banana flavored. Disgusting! The first carb stop had something mildly berry, and the second one was something citrusy. Someone needs to slap the drink sponsors for putting something so disgusting in the middle of the worst hill at the very last water stop!!! And I'll volunteer to be first in the line of slappers. Sign me up.
I managed to get myself up the hill and continued my run-walk strategy across the bridge into Balboa Park. I managed to run the last half mile because I couldn't bear to be walking with all those crowds yelling and clapping. And thankfully, the last quarter mile is downhill and a blur, mentally, so I managed to forget about the pukey feelings and kick it in to sprint through the last of the race. I crossed the finish line with the most enormous feeling of relief. Finally, I could legimately stop running. I mindlessly followed the other runners through an alley between two industrial buildings. And honestly, it felt like we were in a cattle shoot, with no way to escape the railings and concrete, our only option to move forward. (Evidently, I'm still wildly imaginative after 13 miles of nausea. Good to know.) I stepped out into the grassy area and saw my friend Dur. He had such a fantastic race, and when he hugged me, we nearly toppled over. In case you were wondering, tired running legs don't make for a good structure when hugging on a slopey patch of grass. After we finally regained our balance, I spotted Brian not 10 feet away, searching the crowds for my face. There were 8,500 runners and nearly as many spectators, so it can be mayhem at finish lines. We'll have to come up with a game plan if I ever decide to do a marathon, the poor guy.
At the entrance to Balboa Park. I only included this for the pretty background.
We left there without hanging around to mingle much and headed to breakfast. My stomach couldn't handle much more than an egg, so we drove home. I showered, brushed my teeth, and crawled onto the couch. After I slept for 2 hours, I woke up normal again (hurrahhhhh!!!) and completely famished. Thank goodness my stomach was back to being nice to me. After that, I porked out the rest of the day to try and take advantage of the 1400 calories I had burned that morning.
While this experience was definitely my worst on a race course, it's only motivated me to find another race to tackle soon. I want to wipe this experience from my memory and replace it with one that's infinitely better. Because I know that I can. Because I know that I will. Because I know that it will rock.