Three seconds after I came across the finish line at my first half marathon with my limping Italian Stallion husband, I started contemplating running another. We'd been making great time at that race until he hurt his ankle. The wheels in my brain started churning wondering what our time would have been if there hadn't been an ankle injury.
I couldn't leave well enough alone and signed up for a 2nd half marathon several weeks later. It's amazing to me that I ran a half marathon. It's practically an out of body experience that I decided to run a 2nd one all by myself just a few weeks later.
I picked the race to run based primarily on logistics. Convenient location on a date I liked and the course was going to be pretty flat. I tried hard to maintain my endurance over the weeks in between races. But finding time for 10 mile runs can be hard when your husband is still in full nomad mode and I only ended up doing it once and there was some walking involved. It was not a great lead in. I should have read the writing on the wall at that point.
|I like how I took the time to pin the bib on but too dumb to remember to pull the chip timer off and put it on my shoe.|
|This is the face of a fretting woman. This is also the face of a woman with smile lines around her mouth and bags under her eyes.|
|The port o potties are the blue thing all the way on the right. The line starts on the left and wrapped around. I had plenty of time to count and there were at least 100 people in front of me.|
|The port o potty oasis. 4 blue ones and 1 green handicapped one. Genius. I had 30 minutes in line to decide it was in fact the stupidest port o potty situation I've ever witnessed.|
The only thing worse than waiting in line 30 minutes for a port o potty is getting in the port of potty and realizing it's one of 5 overused port o potties. I'm a girl that hates port o potties. I hate overused port o potties even more. Dis. Gus. Ting. To compound my feelings of revulsion, I made the mistake of looking down inside the port o potty. I know. That's so vile I get the heeby jeebies even now just remembering that I did that. Let's all agree to never speak of this again.
From there it was on to the starting line. I stood around sending my husband reports on the horror of the port o potty and repeatedly tying and retying my shoes. Then it was time to go. The first several yards were perfection. A lovely breeze. Not super crowded. But crowded enough that I couldn't get too carried away going too fast.
|Smiling and not yet hating life. Swiped from the official photo people. I'd feel guilty for swiping it except the whole 5 port o potties experience left me feeling like someone somewhere owed me. Just sayin'.|
So I just kept chugging. Then I started thinking about how I had a really, really long way to run all by myself. I felt a wave of longing for the Italian Stallion. I thought about him running with me the first time and how even though he's not big on chatting and running, it was nice knowing he was right there to talk to when I wanted to. It made me blue and my overly dramatic brain started thinking I should never run without him again ever. I know. Overreact much? Cuz I do.
The next several miles were a ridiculous blur of back and forth between me and some older chick in a crazy leopard running outfit. She was running just slightly faster than me but she was stopping to walk and drink water like every half mile. I'd pass her during her walk breaks. She'd frantically push ahead of me when she was done drinking. So freaking annoying. But on the bright side, several miles flew by playing tag with her.
We did a turn around and were headed back the way we came against the wind. Then I saw the 2:15 pace girl in front of me. And then it became my life's mission to get to her. And I did. I ran with her for several miles despite running directly against 12 mile an hour wind. Life was beautiful and visions of a 2:15 finish time were dancing in my head. I wish I could go back in time and punch myself in the face for even daring to think like that.
|Still holding it together around mile 9. Attempting to drink water while still breathing.|
I started walking and working on the phone. I was obsessively convinced that I could get it going again and get my pace back on track. I turned it off and on at least 4 times. I unplugged and plugged my headphones back in at least 63 times. My focus fell to the ground and was left for dead somewhere around mile 11.
And if you lose focus, the next logical step is to start worrying about whether or not you need to go to the bathroom. My panic over the lack of music was at Defcon 2 inside my head and successfully clouded my judgement enough that I voluntarily used another port o potty. 2 in one day. Super. And, no, I did not look down that time. Proof old dogs can learn new tricks.
|Confused. Why am I running this far again? Why did this seem like a good idea?|
And as if that wasn't an annoying enough surprise this far into a race, at the end of the levee you had to turn around and run back over it. Perfect. More rocky levee. The only consolation was that you wouldn't be against the wind anymore. They also had a water station at the turn around. Except that wasn't a consolation prize because they'd run out of cups by the time I got there. There were grown adults sticking their faces under the little spouts of the igloo cooler things just to get some water. I was too busy wishing I was dead to even contemplate doing that. Not that I wouldn't though. Because if you're thirsty, water is water.
Mile 12 my husband was calling my phone wondering where I was and I was attempting to answer only to realize that my sound issues were also preventing me from hearing him on the other end. How did I even know he was calling you might ask given that I had no sound? Well, that, of course, would be because I was still obsessively staring at my phone hoping sheer will would get it working again. I answered my husband's phone call and just sort of shouted into the phone that I was trapped in an outer ring of hell with no music but that I'd at least be done soon.
Then I started texting him. I'm pretty sure I used the word "frustrated" in one of those texts. If you've got enough time, energy and coordination to text the word "frustrated" your run is off track. Life lesson right there. Stitch it on a pillow.
I walked fast, ran a little now and then and somehow the finish line was finally in sight. Seeing it, I couldn't believe I'd gotten so off track in the last couple miles. To put in 9 really good, strong miles and let myself lose focus just killed me. I should have just run with no music. I should have just sucked it up. But I hate hearing myself pant. And I'm used to music to distract me. And a million other reasons every one of them more annoying than the next as I came to the finish line.
Right up until I spotted my husband and kids there watching for me. They weren't looking for anyone else. Just me. I spotted my husband first and felt proud. Proud for him to see me finishing something difficult. Which seemed weird since he'd been right there with me limping along when I finished the first one. But I still felt proud for him to see me. And proud that he had come to watch me.
|Spotting the excited faces of my proud babies.|
|Exhaling the steadying breath to attempt to shake it off.|
And then I did. Finishing in 2:25.
And then I cried on my husband's shoulder. Crying because I was so relieved to have finally escaped the outer ring of hell those last 4 miles of the race. But also crying because I was so frustrated with myself for giving in mentally. I know good and well it's a mental game. Dang it.
|Courtesy of my Garmin, proof that the wheels came off the bus during mile 10.|
I've decided 2:25 is apparently the best I can do right now. I've decided to accept that and wear it like a badge of honor. I couldn't run anywhere before I started Couch to 5K back in September. So 13.1 miles in any amount of time is an improvement and 13.1 miles in 2:25 is great. And I'm still on the move and will just continue to improve. I just need to give myself time to get there. So I'm going to.
I'm glad I did it though. But not for the reasons I expected. I thought running it would solve the mystery of how fast I coulda shoulda woulda finished the first time I thought that would close the book in my brain. Instead, it just turned the page and started a new chapter I hadn't realized was in that book. This chapter is a challenge to push myself harder and further and try again sometime in the fall. Slightly intimidating. But I've decided it's exactly what I need. I'll get there. I like not being done.