Monday, March 10, 2008

From Here to the Finish Line

Back when I was a bride ready to walk down the aisle, I couldn't wait to see my soon-too-be husband's face. When I was pregnant with my children, all I could think about was seeing them for the first time. And Sunday, as Brett and I ran 13.1 miles in the desert during our first half-marathon, I felt nearly the same mounting elation as we rounded the final corner and saw the finish line.

If I would have known a year ago we would run for 2 hours, 16 minutes straight (with some mean uphill stretches), I wouldn't have believed it. Six months ago I was only up to 3 miles. But after months of training, routine and discipline (not always easy things for me), we crossed the finish line. The race itself was tough --especially the last 3-4 miles in which one of my toes was throbbing relentlessly.

But it was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad I got the crazy idea last September that I just might be able to complete a half marathon.

Here's how the day went at the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Mesa:
  • Saturday, 9:30 p.m. to Sunday, 2 a.m. Bedtime. I toss and turn, I ask Brett to set TWO alarm clocks. Not that they were necessary -- I wake up every hour or so, it seems, thinking about the race, going through the checklist in my head, making sure I have everything ready.
  • Sunday, 3 a.m. I hear the wind whipping around outside, banging something -- I don't know what -- into the house. I'm HOPING we don't have a windy run.
  • Sunday, 3:45 a.m. The alarm goes off. Yes, that's right. Not only did we CHOOSE to run a half marathon, but we have to get up this ridiculously early to do it. I think the last time I got up to go anywhere at this hour was when I went into labor with the twins. I eat my normal pre-run breakfast -- a bowl of Oatmeal Squares, OJ and coffee.
  • Sunday, 4:30 a.m. We're out the door and on the road.
  • Sunday, 5:30 a.m. We arrive in the dark parking lot. We immediately see my friend Tracey and her husband Paul. This is their second half marathon, having run the P.F. Chang's Rock N Roll just two months ago. We compare notes and ride the bus to the start line 6 miles away.
  • Sunday, 6:30 a.m. The lines for the Porta-Potties are beginning to look like lines for Space Mountain. We wonder whether we have enough time to go one last time before the 7 a.m. start. We get in line and wait ... and wait ... and wait. The National Anthem is sung. We're still in line. Finally ... in and out, and off to the starting line, about 3/10th of a mile down the road. The race hasn't even started and we're jogging to the start line.
  • Sunday, 7:02ish. Our chipped shoes cross the start line and we're off.
  • Miles 1-2 We're running on flat ground through a partly residential area. We pass a beautiful, traditional white church with a huge steeple. I'm feeling good and trying not to start out too fast.
  • Miles 2-4 After a great start, we turn a corner and enter a gated community filled with stunning custom homes set against gorgeous red mountains and puffy white clouds. It is a beautiful day -- perfect for running. The only thing that surprises me is that at Mile 2 we are heading up, up, up for what seemed like 2 miles. This is not what the web site elevation map showed. I was hoping to have a few more miles behind me before a big uphill, but I guess that's life.
  • Miles 5-8 To be honest, it's already a big blur to me. Even while running, it felt very surreal, like I was watching myself. Anyway, during this time I'm still feeling pretty good. There are a lot of flat stretches and gentle ups and downs. And then somewhere in here there is a HUGE downhill. This actually hurts my legs more than uphill running and I'm so happy when that part is over.
  • Miles 9-12 At each mile marker there is water. By this point I've grabbed a cup two or three times. But the water is too cold -- my stomach always starts to feel queasy after I chug it ice-cold and it's about impossible to run and drink water at the same time. I'm afraid if I stop I won't be able to get going again. By mile 9 I'm getting tired and all I can think about is just getting to the next mile marker. It's about this time when we start up a HUGE hill. "Are you kidding me?" is all I can utter. We keep running -- or jogging is probably a better word -- and EVERYBODY going up the hill is walking. It felt good to be able to keep going. We're running on Bush Highway through the Tonto National Forest. It's a beautiful route. Mile 10, 11. My toe is throbbing -- somewhere between numbness and severe pain. I've read about runners losing toenails and I'm afraid to see what I might find. I can tell that Brett wants to step up the pace, but at this point I'm thankful that I can keep going at all. A couple of times he would speed up around somebody and I just didn't have that extra umph to pass so he'd finally think to look around for me, notice me back a bit and slow down.
  • To the finish line After Mile 12 all I could think is "one more mile, one more mile." Ten more minutes (or in our case 10 and a half -- didn't quite make the goal of 10-minute miles), 10 more minutes and we're done. Finally, we round the corner and I can see the finish line. Again, Brett wants to step it up as we approach the end, but I can't seem to muster the extra strength. We see my parents and the kids at the finish line, as well as Tracey and Paul, who are faster than we are and had already finished.
Finally ... 2 hours, 16 minutes, 22 seconds, ... and one badly blistered toe.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Great race report. Running down hill really is tougher than it looks. Your quads really take a beating; and on that course, once you finish beating yourself up on the down hill and start to feel like burnt toast, you get hit with a big up hill ... and another test for those quads.

Really nice time. To bad this is the last distance event in the Valley until September.