Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the books.

I did it.
(The end was ugly, but I did it).

On the day before the race all of the optimism and confidence of my previous post flew right out the window. I let real life problems wiggle through the cracks of my steely reserve--throwing me off balance.

One of my children is being bullied, in a very subtle-not-noticed-by-grown-ups kind of way. That child's pain has had an impact on his/her behavior at school and the fall-out of a recent incident led to raised voices and short tempers amongst the adults in the family. As we snapped at one another I couldn't help but feel defeated. Really--on the *day* before my race? On the day when I *should* be built up by the people in my life who know how hard I've worked for this? REALLY???

It took most of the day to shake off the feeling of betrayal. I spent a long time on the phone with the child in question's teacher and felt good about our talk. I hustled the littlest kid off to his grandparents' house so that I could drive out to the resort where the race would take place. I packed my bag, taking great care to select only articles of clothing that made me feel powerful.

I filled the car with gas and hit the highway, slowly creeping through the late-Friday afternoon traffic that plagues my city.

When I got to the resort I put on what my husband calls my "conference face": the one with a cheerful smile for anyone who crosses my path. I brought out my schmooze skills and worked the exhibit hall, stopping to give sincere thanks to the race founders and others who had supported my training.

I waited for my roommates to arrive and when they did I went to dinner, head still in a fog.
I wasn't ready--but this was going to happen one way or another.

***                           ***

I wish I could tell you that I woke up refreshed and mentally strong. That the doubts of the night before had vanished in the face of race day. In truth I tossed and turned all night. Our lights were turned off by 9:15pm, alarms set for 5:30am-- and I don't think I slept more than an hour at a time all night.

I woke up and drank a cup of bad hotel coffee. I solemnly unpacked my peanut butter sandwich and choked it down, along with a banana. I laced up my Sauconys and headed to the lobby.

My husband and kids showed up just before we had to line up at the starting line. My children had bedhead, and the baby looked dazed. He had scraped his chin at his grandparents' house the day before and I clucked worriedly over his wound. We exchanged quick hugs and kisses and then I was off to line up.

My running mentor Lisa was by my side, as were two other amazing Zooma ambassadors: Leigh Ann and Missy. We shuffled back and forth in the cold waiting for the race to start.

My stomach was clenching. I was terrified of not being to finish. There was a rock in my shoe; I kept pushing it back and forth with my toes, too out of it to actually *remove* the darn thing.

Go time.

***                      ***

Once Lisa and I got out on the course my fear started to recede. I remembered the route from our course preview, knew when to expect the big hills. We laughed and talked as we ran--commenting on the "team outfits" sported by some, wondering about the sour expressions sported by others. The weather was cool and overcast, just the way I prefer it on a long run.

We stopped to get our picture taken in the bluebonnets. A lovely woman who had made a wrong turn on the 5K course was our photographer. She was now trapped on the half-marathon course and was walking to the finish line--a full 10 miles further than her intended race distance. Despite the miscalculation she was in good spirits and we wished her well as we continued on.

The middle-miles, miles four to seven, were magnificent. I remember little beyond my happiness. I remember my breath, my feet moving in concert, my arms swinging in the chilly air. I remember picking a runner ahead of me and trying to pass her. I remember watching the form of other runners, appreciating the diversity of craft. I remember hearing teammates cheer for one another and getting swept up in their enthusiasm until I too was whooping and hollering.

I loved those miles.

Those miles were the miles with the biggest hills. Hills that loomed up before you, hills that said "Go on--I dare you." Hills where the down part was just as terrifying as the up part.

And I loved them.

***                                 ***

The last three miles of the course should have been easy; they wound their way across the smooth golf course, not a hill in sight. Lisa warned me: the concrete would hurt our legs, feet and hips. Erika warned me: the sight of all the runners in front of you and all the runners behind you, endlessly weaving along the path, would make it seem like you were going nowhere. I *heard* them, but I didn't believe them.

Until I got to the golf course.

Man, those miles were the worst. Every step I took made my left knee and hip flexor contract in pain. I could feel blisters forming on the arch of my right foot. I was cold and my fingers swelled to twice their size.

I was no longer having fun.

Lisa had saved a pep talk to deliver to me on mile 12. She saw the grim look on my face and knew it was time.

She gave an impassioned and beautiful speech about how this was *my* first half-marathon and no one could ever take that away from me. About how I needed to dig deep and finish strong. She reminded me of the sprint exercises we had been working on.

I snapped: "We are NOT doing those."

She let it go. She extended grace my way and kept up a steady pace by my side, willing me to move my leaden legs.

"Just a little farther. Just around this corner. I promise you the finish line is right there."

***                                  ***

And it was.
There was Sean and the kids. There was Melanie's family.
Miss A was jumping up and down waving a sign for me.

I grabbed her hand and together we ran across the finish line.

***                                          ***


All through the training process Melanie and I would joke about the similarities between becoming a runner and being pregnant:

1. You can't talk about anything else
2. Your feet hurt, and sometimes they swell
3. You buy all new clothes--even if you *intended* to stick with the same ratty pair of sweatpants
4. You google evey ache and pain incessantly and worry about what the internet diagnoses
5. You read every blog you can find related to running/pregnancy
6. You constantly compare your size/appearance/form to other runners/other preggos
7. The closer the "big day" gets, the more excited/nervous you get
8. You eat A LOT
9. You have to pee every 45 minutes (from hydrating pre-race)
10. You act like you are the first person in the world to ever run a race/have a baby

It is amazing to me how apt this joke metaphor turned out to be. Those last three miles for me were absolutely akin to the transition stage of labor. Just as with my two deliveries, I hated every minute of those last miles--and then as soon as it was over I wanted to do it all over again.

I am so proud of myself for doing this, and of my friends for finishing strong.

I am a runner. For real.


  1. Those last few miles were HARD. Crazy hard. I will be ready next time, but there's just no way to wrap your head around it until you've done it once.

    So sorry to hear about the bullying issue - breaks my heart. Sending good thoughts!

  2. Nora, you are a strong and powerful woman. I know how hard it can be to focus on a run when one of your children are hurting. BTDT. Life affects our runs, runs affect our life. I am so incredibly proud of you. I vividly remember the first time I ran Zooma and the last 3 miles was much like it was for you. BUT, you did it and you finished and you know what to expect next year. Congrats friend!

  3. I am TOTALLY late to all of this, but I promise I really was thinking aobut you while I was on my long run early early Saturday morning. I was sending all my good running vibes to you and obviously they worked :)

    Congrats on this accomplishment!

  4. Congratulations! What a wonderful accomplishment and a wonderful post. This makes me want to be a runner.

    And, also, it makes me want to know what you do when you're running a long race and have to pee every 45 minutes. Are there potties at the race?

    I know nothing.