Well. As Matt put it in a text to his father, “Heather finished the race and didn’t die!”. I’m still a little stunned that I ran 13.1 frickin miles. For many reasons, my training did not go as planned. I lost training time to injuries, sickness, and life. OH, and excuses. When I was actually running the race route, I surprised myself. As pleased as I was for those moments where I was in my sweet spot, when I exited a porta-john at mile 8 with locked up knees I realized that there was a real reason for training plans. I finished and honestly, I am just so proud of myself and my body and my brother for almost literally pulling me through to the finish line.
I could go on and on . . . so I will.
Here’s the breakdown:
Pre-Race: We traveled from Maine to Virginia with little incident. This surprised me more than anything, because I was more anxious about the whole-family traveling dynamic than I was about the race itself. We drove from Bangor to Portland, flew from Portland to BWI, drove a rental car from BWI to my brother’s house in Quantico, VA. We were tired and dirty, but when we pulled up to see my niece and nephew waving from their door I thought I could have run from Maine to see them. We had plenty of late night Rock Band and snuggles and a shared bag of Goldfish crackers.
We spent Saturday drinking coffee, playing babies and baseball, meeting up with my best college friend who drove down from D.C. and spent dinner with another family whose father was running the 1/2 on Sunday. As soon as this guy found out that I was having trouble with shin splints he went to his house and brought back a foam roller for me to use. That and a pair of compression sleeves may have totally saved me (and my legs).
I got to bed early and fell asleep before I could finish reading my magazine! Me, the neurotic, anxious mommy! Fell asleep and slept through the night!
Race Day: I rolled out of bed at 4 and found coffee already made. This was a pleasant surprise, and I never figured out who had the foresight to set the coffee maker the night before. I couldn’t find the oatmeal, so I made a bowl of instant Cream of Wheat. I ended up with a solid breakfast of this, two cups of coffee with almond milk, a banana, a glass of water and a glass of Gatorade. I hadn’t eaten great the day before, so I hoped this would do the trick. I settled in with this little guy for some pre-race puppy and coffee time.
I planned on reading, but he was too cute not to play with. I was so homesick for my own puppies, who I found out later were having adventures of their own (read: porcupines).
Bud, Matt, Colby and I hit the road at a respectable 6:20ish (only a half hour or so past when we were supposed to leave) and made it to the parking lot in Fredricksburg just in time.
Still? No nerves. It was beautiful, all bright blue sky and cool gentle breezes.
My uncharacteristic calm left abruptly as we approached the finish line. The town crier, a special part of this race, came over the PA I knew it was almost go time. I noticed some sort of recumbent bikes going past us and asked Bud about them. He told me that they started first. They were injured veterans. The band began playing the National Anthem. Now here were the water works. I had spent so much time bitching about my inadequate training and injuries and etc. I had forgotten that it was such a blessing to have the ability and physiology to run this race. I had been so calm because I had convinced myself that this race, the 13.1 miles were nothing, no problem or celebration. Just a run. I was wrong, and it all hit me on the way to the tall green box of relief. The line to the porta-johns were long, but Bud had a plan that got us to empty ones pronto. Then, the gun went off and we entered the throng of people, eventually passing the start line and trying to find an open spot to begin running.
Miles 1-4: My legs were tight and scared. I was feeling guilty that my very fast brother was running with his very slow sister when he could be killing it out there.We stopped at every water station and the course was incredibly well supported. There was a Marine at every turn, handing out high-fives, smiles, and encouragement. We ran through a shady, slightly hilly, and beautiful residential neighborhood in Fredricksburg. The houses ranged from swanky estates to carefully preserved historical artifacts. I was so busy looking around (and talking, sorry Bud!) that I didn’t even really think about what I was doing.
Miles 5-9: The sweet spot. I don’t remember much of this, probably because I was talking so much. While this was an indicator that I wasn’t running at full capacity, I knew that I had a tough section coming up and I wanted to preserve as much of myself as I could for the truly tough section. I do remember feeling like I was clipping along, and wishing I had a Garmin to see what my pace was. I passed people! I smiled! I threw my arms up in celebration when I ran passed the course photographers. This, my dears, was a bit of bragging a bit too early.
Miles 10-12: Hospital Hill. This really, really sucked. I actually nailed the first half of the hill. I figured that’s what God gave me these short little legs and huge ass for: to climb hills. I was showing off. The course evened out for a bit, and I tried to recover for the next section of the hill without losing too much time. The rest of it just.sucked. I had to walk three or so minutes at the top of that hill, and that really pissed me off. I had been dizzy for a few spells earlier in the race, but I have unbelievably low blood pressure. I figured as long as I hydrated well I would be set. At the top of this hill though, I thought I was going down. I was either going to pass out, vomit, or both.
Miles 12ish-Finish: I didn’t want to tell my brother because I didn’t want him to lose any more time. I was having visions of his co-workers making fun of him at work for finishing so slowly, and I was the cause of it. Finally I said “Bud. I have to stop. I’m going to puke”. And he said “No. Keep running”. That was the way it went. When I was swearing, one long, deep, guttural *&%#$##, he gave me everything he had. “You’ve got this”, “This is nothing”, and my favorite “You could run five more miles if you wanted to”. Somehow, I made it to the home stretch. I was really hurting, fighting back waves of nausea and blinking away those blasted eye floaters you get when you are ready to hit the floor. I finally glanced Matt’s bright green t-shirt on the side of the road and Colby and the kids ran out to greet us. Imagine my surprise when Colby announced that he was going to run the rest of the way in with us! I wasn’t particularly impressed when he showered me with such truth nuggets as “Hey Mom! I’m running on 1/2 a cup of coffee and four donuts!” or “Hey Mom! Look! You’re running and I’m walking”. I crossed the finish line flanked by my brother and my son. Those boys carried me home.
I then devoured a handful of sweet, juicy and delicious orange slices. I’m not sure I have ever tasted anything so wonderful. Did I mention it was hot? And that I had so much crusted salt on my face that I had actual salt boogers under my nose. Alas, I was feeling too sick to cash in my free beer ticket from my bib. Maybe that’s my next goal. Finish, but feel well enough to drink a beer immediately after.
Eventually I got my beer, and a steak and a pile of the cheesiest and gooiest mashed potatoes. We capped off our weekend with lots of family time, and as I walked my nephew to his bus my heart broke in the same exact spot it always does when I leave him and his sister. I know that the next time I see them he may not be content to play zombie babies with us. His sister may not say, at every turn, “Tia Heather, when you are done (insert activity), then can we go play babies?”. Luckily, I take enough pictures so I can blackmail them into playing with me at any turn.