Thursday, December 4, 2014

Honored Hero Half Marathon

This is an October 20 post from my fundraising page that I'm just now getting around to cross-posting on Blogger.

Yesterday was the event that this had all been building toward. I met my $2,000 stretch fundraising goal and surpassed it by $81.

I hadn't trained much since the August 31 half marathon, and my longest run since then was only 6.55 miles October 11. The night before the race, I'd unexpectedly seen an abusive ex at an event and so began my morning with lingering grouchiness, misanthropy, and no desire to participate at all. Especially not alone. I couldn't find my mp3 player, and it was going to be a VERY long run.

But I wasn't doing it for me. I was there for the victims, survivors, friends, family, coworkers, and their loved ones.

I set off near the back of the pack at a slow and steady jog, thankful for the cool overcast morning and mostly dirt and gravel trail but still scowling at the photographers I passed. I grumped internally about how much fun the other pairs of runners were probably having and the likelihood that I would never ever get to run a marathon because doing this alone was SO horrible.

Seeing Coach Ginny didn't quite cheer but helpfully distracted me for a while, and she pushed me to run a little faster than I otherwise would have. One of the volunteers passing out water remarked on her surprise at one of the front-runners passing the other way so soon. "I didn't expect him to come from behind." And her friend responded with "That's what she said!" before I could analyze whether it would be appropriate to say it myself. I laughed loudly and and pointed at them in acknowledgment.

Sometime as I approached the turnaround, a Wednesday Addams smile threatened to appear. I was on pace for my 3-hour goal. But from 7.5 miles to about 10, the course was all but empty, and eerily lonely and quiet. The sun came out and I panicked, fearing because there was no tree cover at all, but it disappeared again about 2 miles later.

I met Coach Ginny again and had a good, long trot with her until I had about 2 miles left. But the last 1.5, I was absolutely pooped. I took more frequent walk breaks and struggled mightily against body chafing. I was drinking too much water in an effort to keep my body cool, and I felt like I might puke before I finished.

With a half mile to go, my overuse knee injury from May flared up. My left knee shouted in pain, and I alternated shuffled, jogged, and walked the remaining distance with my eyes brimming with tears. I knew I looked rough and repeated in my head, "Just let me finish," scared that the volunteers might stop me and call for a medic. I managed to ask how much farther at the final aid station, and they pointed and told me the finish was just around the corner. I could see it from there . . . just . . . up . . . one last godforsaken hill.

In addition to the pain, I was physically exhausted and had no energy left mentally to fight the onslaught of emotion as I was SO close to finishing. I grimaced and my breath caught in my throat on the final approach; I couldn't even look up or acknowledge the dozens of volunteers lining the final stretch cheering me on (and I'm tearing up again as I write of it).

I crossed the finish line, accepted a medal and water, and stumbled a few paces out of the way to pause my tracking app. 3 hours, 4 minutes. *frowny face* 13.36 miles?! I was 4 minutes over my vague goal with a quarter-mile too-long course and 6 months of simultaneously fighting injury while training for a first half?! Hell yeah!

Then I had to stumble dangerously down a steep hillside to the ambulance to get my knee wrapped and iced. A beautiful woman in a cow suit checked on me, gave me a shoulder to hobble back to the Team in Training tent, and offered to grab me food if I wanted. In-and-Out was catering the event, but I had no appetite whatsoever.

I sat for about 20 minutes, took a few finisher selfies, briefly panicked about the pain I was in and the drive ahead of me, and finally shuffled back to my car, where I grabbed my yoga mat and stretched my aching butt before driving back to my best friend's house to shower. I was very lucky it was my left knee that hurt.

I'd stayed with my friend in Euless so I wouldn't have to drive from McKinney to Fort Worth, and she treated me to a manicure after lunch. We spent the afternoon together while her husband watched their kiddo, and we had a lot of fun catching up, eating pho, being pampered, and shopping.

And I am SO looking forward to taking it easy this winter and running only for maintenance while pondering my long-term goals. I'll be off from running a few weeks while I wait on my knee to heal and am only planning to participate in a 6k race with coworkers on November 15 and a 15k January 10.

It will be a long time before I consider doing anything like this (the fundraising and distance training) again. 

Go Team!

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