Brutally Awesome

Well, I did it.  I ran my first half marathon.  She was a feisty bitch too!  I’m lying in my bed, feet covered in blisters, hips on fire and a headache the size of Texas…and I don’t regret a single moment.

Stoked to finish

When I signed up in January, I knew this thing would be hilly.  I looked over the elevation profile and thought, “Well, it’s not THAT bad!”  Wrong.  It was that bad.  I gained 985 vertical today.  Now I know some of you guys are reading this and thinking to yourself, “That’s not much climbing…blah, blah, blah.”  I urge you to get off your bike and try to run up those very same hills you enjoy when you are pedaling.  Not the same.

To start on the wrong foot, I slept like hammered ass.  I think I was unconscious for approximately 2 hours.  I spent 95% of that time having race nightmares.  I got up at 5am and had zero desire to run.  I honestly considered not going…and then realized I spent the last 12 weeks training for this very day.  Ok…I’m going. 

As soon as I started my car, I heard a clap of thunder.  The bottom fell out of the sky.  What the hell?  My first half marathon was going to be in a monsoon.  Sweet.  I popped in my Lil Jon cd and made my way to the starting area.  This race was WAAYY out in the country.  I was starting to feel a little better about running.  Lil Jon always makes life better.

I managed to get all my crap together and had just started my ipod when the bottom fell out of the sky…again.  I made a last minute decision to ditch the music, even though I was really looking forward to running with my jams.  I have been running without it lately…and it’s not that bad!  Anyway, I made my way to the port-o-potty as the rain got worse.  I watched the marathon start and felt very lucky I didn’t have to run 26.

It was time to walk to the line.  I wasn’t nervous anymore…I was freezing.  I just wanted to start running to warm up from the rain.  And yes…it was still pouring.  The rain didn’t let up till we started the race.  It was gonna be a wet one.

The course was absolutely beautiful.  It made me miss living in the High Country.  I chit chatted with a few people as we made our way down the road.  A guy next to me asked, “Have you ever run this course?”  Never.  “Well, I hope you’ve been training on hills!”  I got this.  I didn’t realize his HILLS were my MOUNTAINS.

We began our first climb around mile 1.  This hill ranged from 1-10.1% grade.  It was beastly.  Every corner I turned led to another stretch of HILL.  People were walking.  Bullshit.  I’m not walking during the first 20 minutes of this race.  I’ll die first.  So I kept going…high cadence and strong will.  I made it.  Myself and a few of the guys around me cheered as we recovered…then I realized we had to run DOWN the other side.  Ascending hurts the lungs, descending hurts the legs.  Which hurts worse? 

We had a nice little flat(ish) 2 miles before our next hill.  Our next hill maxed out around 14.4% and I felt every step of it.  I even speed walked the last 10 feet because I was in the red.  I actually walked faster!  Another steep downhill and we were off to our next challenge.

I started up a conversation with this older guy, who apparently was an old marathon pro.  He praised me for hanging when a lot of other people chose to walk.  “You’ve got this next hill and then one more big hill and it’s flat the rest of the way.”  I took off.  I pumped my little legs up to the aid station, high fived some ladies next to me because we passed some guys walking, grabbed some gatorade and kept on truckin’. 

We had a nice downhill into some flat gravel next to the river.  Great shade!  The sun kept poking his head out and I prayed he would stay behind the clouds.  A few degrees hotter and I would have died.  The humidity was something like 77% and nothing would evaporate off my skin.  I was thankful that I covered my body in vaseline and glide, because chaffing was going to happen!

As I came up on mile 7, I realized we were going up again.  The advantage to NOT driving or running the course before the race is not knowing what to expect.  It was a surprise every time.  I pushed myself in hopes the next corner would bring a flat or descent.  This hill sucked major, EPIC ass.  It was fairly consistent at around 6-7%, maxing out at 10.4%.  This chick passed by me on one of the switchbacks.  “Good job girl, you’ve got this!”  She slowed at the top and I passed her.  She said, “Good job, we gotta just keep moving.”  The downhill was even more epic.  It hurt.  My hips and left ITB started cramping up around mile 5 or 6.  By mile 9 I was very ready to be finished.  The chick who motivated me on the hill climb pulled up next to me after the aid station.  We chatted for a bit about running injuries and kinesio taping.  I liked her.  “4 miles is all we have left”, she said.  I can do 4 miles…so I pulled off on my own.

The last 4 miles of the race is flat.  It’s also a straight line.  Longest 4 mile stretch of my life.  My hips were screaming.  My feet were blistered and I actually had to change my gait a little to compensate.  My ITB was sore.  My quads were trashed.  “If I stop now, my legs will cramp up and I won’t be able to make it.”  I kept running.  And running.  And running.  I saw the finish.  I came up on a girl who honestly sounded like she was dying.  It was her longest run ever.  Her boyfriend finished and came back to run with her.  I pulled up next to them and said, “You don’t want to stop now.  You’re almost there, so just keep those arms moving and the feet will follow.”  It actually motivates me when I can help push someone along.  If I’m dying, I like to find someone else in the same boat and send them words of encouragement. 

People were lined up on the road.  This always makes me kick it up a notch.  I booked it to the grassy area and then realized I still had to run through the cones to the finish.  My legs were toasted and I had a hard time getting through the yard.  I made one last turn and I saw the clock….

If you know me at all, you know what happened next…

I sprinted like I was running for the winning Super Bowl touchdown. 

Done.  I did it slower than last weekends 13.1, but faster than my goal for the race.  All things considered, it’s a pretty bitchin’ time for 900+ feet of climbing. 

I made it to the water table and I broke down in tears.  I had been through the most physically and mentally challenging event of my lifetime.  And I came away with the pride in knowing I didn’t quit.

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