In January of 2013, when I signed up for the BAA Distance Medley, I vowed to have a strong running year and then hang up my running shoes at the conclusion of the medley. The BAA Half was to be my last race and my official running retirement. Getting closer to 30, dangerously closer, I thought I would challenge my heart one last time and then give it a rest for the remainder of my time here on earth. Why bait the devil, right??? But something truly magical happened this year, these races, the trio I signed up for spanned over April, June and October, held me accountable and helped to hold my concentration. They also helped me to fall completely back in love with running. The 5K was awful, coming in at 29:00 on the dot, the 10K was equally as horrifying at 1:00:20, so for the half marathon I aimed to do better. I searched for that runner who once was truly badass. I wanted to prove that I could still do it. That I could still make people revel with envy at my powerhouse capabilities. And so, although the BAA Training Plan was ambitious, I went for it.
I leaned on the support of my friend and training partner, Allison, who signed up for the BAA Half with my promise that it would be an amazing race. She committed to the training plan with me, knowing it was a little crazy, and starting in July, we got right to it. We trained on some of the highest hills I have ever run and some of the toughest 10 milers. We trained in the early mornings without the sun in the sky and at dawn every Saturday. We peaked at 38 miles a week with 12 miles being our longest run. And when Allison couldn’t be by side (as I sometimes couldn’t be by hers, life, kids, whatever), I leaned on the support of the amazing people in my running group. People who make everyone feel powerful in their own right. There were tempo runs, speed work every week, long runs, really no short runs, fun runs, terrible runs, heart breaking runs. There were good days, bad days, lost toenails and lots of laughter. With her spirit alongside me, I stuck to this plan. I also ignored all the possibilities that there are boundaries within my body and just kept my eye on the prize.
Yesterday at the starting line, I closed my eyes, ignored the three people I was standing with for a moment and prayed to God that my heart would get me through this. I knew the course was tough but I had no idea what was before me. I didn’t set myself up correctly that morning. Didn’t pee when I should have. Didn’t eat as much as I normally do. I was distracted. Tired. Grouchy. And worried. But I tried to hold it together. I held onto what everyone had told me, 1-8 is easy, 9-12 are difficult, and then you slide to the finish.
No. That’s not the case.
The gun went off and Allison and I started off at 8’40” pace and it felt good, mile 2, we were still at it, but then I had to pee so badly I thought I was going to die. It was beyond distracting, it was crippling, so I stopped to pee and she waited for me. It ate up over 2 minutes of time, ruining our strong beginning, putting us back with the 10 minute milers. We went right back at it, 8’53” for 3, 9’06” at mile 4, the elevation gain had already started but I thought, it goes downhill after this, I think. No. It never did. And right about mile 3 is when the hunger pains began, hunger pains so bad it felt like my stomach was eating itself. There were sharp pains. Every time I thought I was gaining time back, there was another hill. Every time I felt stronger, there was another hill. I begged for their to be Gatorade, gels, water, anything. When there was, I drank it down. It helped for a moment but then there was another hill. Allison looked great, she had a big smile and she was doing work, at mile 7, I told her to leave me. She said “No, you’re doing fine.” And she stayed, for every mile and every hill I slowed down on. In between the hills, the splits were great but those hills killed any progress I made. I felt like I was fighting for two hours, just holding on as tight as I could to my visual of the finish line.
I couldn’t tell you what the course looked like because I didn’t look around. I saw Andy, Allison’s husband, at the perfect time, just when I was about to give up. His hi-five, was like magic. It lifted my spirits through the roof. I saw my friend Joe at mile 11 which helped save me from collapsing after the ridiculous hill at mile 11. I thought about my husband and mother at the finish line. I kept my head down and just concentrated on following Allison. My heart was broken, I could have broken 2 hours, I know I could but my lack of preparation and his course, was killing my spirit.
To say that my training partner is a powerhouse, is an understatement. She has a runner’s heart like no one I have ever seen. I mean, it’s an amazing thing to watch. We trained hard but we didn’t train at that pace for that kind of course. And she was just killing it. I know that if it wasn’t for my bathroom break and my complete collapse along the course, she, maybe even we, would have broken 2. I’ve thanked her numerous times but I’ll say it once again, she got me to that finish line yesterday.
I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. Race rituals aren’t stupid. I have them for a reason. Next time around I have to listen to my gut and do what I need to do before a race. I can’t get caught up in the excitement and say, screw it. Pee. Eat. Take a minute to talk to myself. However, although 2:08 isn’t what I wanted, I’m proud, my mental toughness made it so I didn’t stop. I wanted to stop so early in the race and I kept moving, to shave over 6 minutes off my half marathon time in May. It’s a post kid PR and I’ll take it. November 10th WILL be under 2.