Welcome to Waterbury

I live in a development. A rather large one, at that. And our development has it’s own Facebook page, where residents of our little island paradise can post comments, questions, complaints, more complaints, and mostly complaints. I’ve come to expect that 99% of the things posted to the Facebook page are ultimately going to annoy me, frustrate me, or quite simply just tick me off. Posts often include things like the make and model of speeding cars, videos of landscapers rolling through stop signs, adolescents behaving badly, and so on. Today, I thought for sure I was going to be the target of one of those posts.

Of the many, many, MANY things people complain about, dog owners is one of the hottest of topics. More specifically, dog owners who don’t pick up their dog’s poo. And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not a fan of those people, either, but taking to Facebook to call them out just seems incredibly childish.

I took my dog for a run today, like I often do. And Maverick suffers from a very common runner’s issue: the trots. It never fails that at some time between mile .5 and .75, he will have to stop and drop anchor. It happens.. every…. time. And I know it’s going to happen, so me, being the responsible dog owner that I am (who also fears the Waterbury FB page) always carries a poo bag to collect his steamy sample.

Today, as anticipated, he stops at mile .6 and leaves his mark. I bagged it up like a good little development dweller, but today, you know, I just didn’t feel like running the rest of my miles carrying his soft load. We were at the end of one of the walking paths, so I decided to leave the bag where I was and pick it back up on my way back.

For the rest of the run, the only thing that went through my mind was getting home to my phone to see if I had become the target of a blast on the Waterbury FB page. I had visions of pictures of me posted, bent over, with a plastic-bag-covered-fist full of dog poo and a caption that would read something like this: “You know, it’s one thing to bag your dog’s poop, but it’s another thing to TAKE IT WITH YOU!” Or, like, something to that effect. I spent my entire run crafting my response to the Facebook comment that I was sure was waiting for me at the finish line. The response that would not only put this person in their place, but simultaneously save my good name! I was ready to drop a bomb like I was Maverick on the walking path. I had a few options in mind and they went something like this:

The Anonymous-Sarcastic Response: “You should consider yoga.”

The Not-So-Anonymous-Sarcastic Response: “It was me. And I picked it up on the way back home from my run. You need yoga in your life.”

The Mic-Drop Response: “It was me. And did you really assume that I would take the time to bag it if I wasn’t going to come back to pick it up? The fact that I was on the walking path in the woods, yet I still bagged his droppings, should have given me direct access in to the Waterbury Dog Owner’s Hall of Fame. And I was running. Do you know how hard and gross it is to run with a bag of crap in your hand? Running for me is enough of a challenge without adding the mental angst of carrying dog shit. And let’s be real, here. I’m not the fastest runner, but I make ok time. And I’m not a crazy long distance runner, either. My dog made his mark at mile .6 and I left it there while I went out and back to the bag in 2 miles. At my average pace of about 9:30/mile, the plastic bag laid along side the walking path for about 19 minutes. That’s 19 minutes that you spent taking pictures, crafting your comment, and stewing about it. Maybe those 19 minutes could have been better spent doing some yoga.”

But alas, to my surprise and delight, I did not become the target of a Waterbury whopper on Facebook. Maybe they’ll get me on trash night, when I dump the bag in the closest can. And hopefully, unlike in my race photos, I’ll be looking camera ready.

So be warned, Waterbury. I’m going to continue to leave bags between mile .5 and .75 of my runs, but set the timer. If I’m not back in about 20 minutes to pick it up, then you may take to social media. (Or call for an ambulance.)

SIDE NOTE: As I was running, I was really cracking myself up with the yoga part of my virtual come back. Reading it now, uh, not all that funny. But it was going to be included in my blast, so the yoga comment remains in the blog about the post-that-never-was.

11705118_10206055860787426_2306591020322597026_nPhoto: Me and Maverick, running the mean streets of Waterbury in 2015. 

 

My Half-Half Marathon

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2013

I wanted this blog entry to go a a lot differently after my first crack at 13.1 miles, but what I’m learning about running is that there is no normal day. Every time you lace up, you really have no idea what’s going to happen. And my first ever appearance at the first ever Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon in Cleveland was no exception.

The day started out great! I was pumped. I was nervous, but they were controlled nerves. I was full of energy, excited and could not have been more ready to tackle 13.1 miles… physically and mentally.

It was supposed to rain that morning. Supposed to. And with every fiber of my being, I wish it had, if even only some sprinkles. I was prepared for it and quite honestly, I dig running in rain. Not torrential downpours with lightening, but running in rain is refreshing and badass. Who wouldn’t love it?! But it never did.

I’ll skip ahead the first four miles and go to mile 5. We had just come up a monster hill out of The Flats (irony?!) and my heart was pounding. It was brutal, really. One of my running partners said while we were going up that she wanted to cry. So did I. It really sucked. But we absolutely made it and looked strong in the process, despite the mental angst it caused.

It was shortly after the hill that I looked down and noticed the goosebumps on my arms. And it was pretty hard to miss the chills that were starting. CRAP. This isn’t good. I got quiet. A few point-something miles more and I started getting really lightheaded and dizzy. It was about at this point, maybe mile 5.5, that I figured I should say something to my running partners, before I just fell over out of nowhere.

“Uh, guys. Something isn’t right.” My voice was soft and it was all I could do to form the words coming out of my mouth. My face was feeling numb. They asked if I wanted to walk and after some arguing with myself about it, decided that was probably for the best. We slowed to a walk and as soon as I did, I got super dizzy and veered off a bit. And that’s when my friends took over and had me sit in the grass, then put my feet up. All I could think was that I was screwing up their time. And all I could say was “I’m so sorry” and “I swear, I trained for this.”

After laying there for a few minutes, I got back up. My friends wanted to call the EMT’s, but I bargained my way in to going for one more mile and if at that point I didn’t feel well, I promised I would stop.

As we approached the 10K mark, I saw the red medical tent. I was feeling a little less dizzy, but still pretty cruddy and ultimately decided that my day was done. My running partners assured me that there would be other races in my future and that no race was worth risking my health. They were exactly right, but hot damn, is that a bitter pill to swallow when you think about all of the work it took you to get to that very point.

MEDICAL TENT 1 (10K Mark)
I make my way in to the 10K medical tent and they start taking my vitals and what not and that’s when the tears started to fall. I’m feeling lousy, to say the least, and it’s hitting me that I have just epically failed the task in which I had worked so hard to achieve. They put some cold cloths on my back, took my temp, blood pressure, etc. My running partners figure out the communication plan, which included getting my phone number and my husband’s, which I couldn’t remember. At that point, I just handed them my phone.

I heard part of the phone call to my husband. “Hi, Mike? This is Julie. I was running with Becky and….” I didn’t hear the rest, but I felt bad for the panic that was potentially ensuing on the other end of the line. I mean, who wants to get that phone call?

After some heavy convincing that I was “fine”, that there was nothing more my running partners could do and that I was in good hands now with the EMT’s, I shoved my friends back on to the course. I am so grateful they were there with me. So grateful.

At this point, I’m ready to barf. I look over to one of the EMT people and rather calmly say “I’m going to throw up now.” Their response was “OK.” I was hoping for more. Like maybe a bucket or a finger pointing me in the direction of the nearest trash can. So I replied “Where should I do that?” Blank stares. So I got up, headed behind the port-a-potty and proceeded to dry heave until my stomach cramped.

That’s when EMT Jackwad (really, he was a nice man, who just said an incredibly stupid and hurtful thing) came over to me, put his hand on my back and asked “Are you a runner?” AM I A RUNNER?! What I wanted to say: “No, a-hole, I just woke up this morning and felt like going for a 13.1 mile jog on a freaking whim.” What I actually said:“Yes, I’m a runner. And I trained for this all summer.” Queue the tears again.

After that, I sat back down while they determined if I needed to be whisked away in an ambulance or if the limo bus was substantial. I heard them determine I was “stable enough” to go in the limo. I stood up and started walking. I nailed the open back door of the ambulance with my right shoulder as I walked by, then managed to hit the door to the limo bus with my left one. The limo bus driver turned her head and looked at the EMT, at which point the EMT assured her that I was well enough for the ride in her bus. (I saw her face. She wasn’t buying it. And that did make me a little nervous.)

Due to all of the road closures, it took FOREVER to get back to the finish line. I really don’t know how long it was, but it felt like an eternity. In reality, it was probably about 20 minutes. I sobbed in the limo. Just sobbed. I was in there with the driver, a knee injury, another woman who was dehydrated and a medical tent representative, who I’m pretty sure thought I was going to either chuck all over the limo bus or pass out. I made her very nervous.

MEDICAL TENT 2 (The Finish Line)
After getting lost and not knowing where the medical tent was, the limo bus finally dropped its passengers off “pretty close” to the finish line medical tent. “Can you all walk from here?” Uh, yep. Sure. The Knee asked me if I needed help off the bus and I gladly accepted. The Other Dehydrator was helped by the Med Tent Rep.

We made our way over to the medical tent. These people are all now assuming that I just crossed the finish line and am about to pass out. They were acting very fast. One guy quickly found a wheelchair and sat me in it, while the finish-line-medal-hander-outer-lady is putting the medal around my neck. All the while I’m yelling “I didn’t finish! I didn’t finish!” The medal lady was hilarious. Obviously assuming I was hallucinating, she pushed my hand down as I tried to take the medal off and said “It’s ok, honey. You did it! It’s ok.” while I’m yelling back “I only made it to mile 6!” They all thought I was out of it, since no one knew I had just come off the bus.

I’m wheeled over to a golf cart, they put me inside, then drive my still-sobbing-ass over to the main medical tent.

MEDICAL TENT 3 (Main Medical)
I’m helped off the golf cart and escorted in to the main medical tent. They lay down one of those aluminum foil looking “blankets” on a cot and tell me to take a seat. I’m shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. They take my pulse-ox, which was low. They also took my blood pressure, which was wonky. While this is happening, I hear one of the EMT’s say something about a taking someone’s rectal temperature. In my mind, I’m thinking that I sure pity the poor bastard who’s about to have a thermometer shoved up their rear. And then I hear them tell me to lay down on my side… which I did… and then it hits me. I’M THE POOR BASTARD! The EMT then tells me directly they are going to take my rectal temperature. I popped up like an actor out of a sitcom and say “Oh, no you’re not!” to which the reply was a gentle shove back down on to my side with a “Yes, I am!” She pulled my pants down and… mooooooon river! Yep. That just happened. As if my day couldn’t get any worse.

The IV lady then came over and told me she was going to start a line and that I’d feel a “big pinch”. “A really big pinch.” “Big pinch coming.” “Here’s the big pinch.” I GET IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! It’s a big pinch! And did she not see what happened just 10 seconds before that? I think I can handle an IV at this point.

I’m still shaking and completely freezing, laying there covered in blankets. I sat up to drink some chicken broth they gave me, but I was shaking so badly that it was splashing up and out of the cup. I managed to find my mouth a few times and drank it half way down.

Still freezing, they decided to move me to a chair out in the sun. I felt like I was in a M.A.S.H. unit. People were streaming in to the medical tent, attached to IVs, shaking. In a strange way, it was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make it, but I felt terrible for everyone in that tent.

I’m seated outside, IV bag hanging on the tent, wrapped like a mummy in 2 blankets, shivering and still crying. Adding insult to injury, (well, I should say further insult due to the temperature reading incident) I had the perfect view of the runners just after they came across the finish line. They’re elated, exhausted, wearing their medals, knowing they just accomplished something big and celebrating that moment. I was happy for them! And so sad for me.

Saying that my day didn’t go as planned is the understatement of the century. Never did I imagine that I’d go through a couple of hours like the ones I experienced in those medical tents. And I certainly didn’t think there would be an anal probing at any point!

One of the EMT’s asked me if I had done anything different before this particular race and I really didn’t. He asked if I drank enough water and I proudly said YES! I had done a great job drinking water and professed so to him. He responded by saying, “Next time, you also need to hydrate with electrolytes and not just water.” DANG IT. I didn’t do that.

The only other difference in this race, which I realized on the walk to the car, was that I wore a hat. I wore it to keep all that rain (which never came) out of my face. I’m wondering if the hat kept too much of the heat in and perhaps I overheated as well?

Who knows. Like I said, every run is different and every race is a learning experience. And now that I know how they take your temperature at the medical tent, I learned that next time, I should just keep running!

The 7.1 Mile Mark

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

I’m not a double digit runner. There. I’ve said it.

Training for a half marathon has been one of the craziest rides I’ve ever been on.  It started with a simple Couch-to-5K program where I struggled and pushed and hyperventilated my way through every interval. Yelling at my iPhone, begging it to tell me I was permitted to walk for 90 seconds. Fast forward about a year and now I call 3-4 milers going for a “quick run” and have two 10Ks under my belt. (I know, I know. That doesn’t guarantee a spot for me in the Runner’s Hall of Fame, but for a gal who has been “not a real runner” all her life, I’m holding my own.)

So in theory, the next logical stop on my trip up the runner’s ladder was a half marathon. But the thing of it is, I hate really long, double-digit mile runs. And if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, my wheelhouse really exists in the 8-miles-and-under realm. Ok, ok. 7-miles-and-under. That is when I feel my best. That is the distance where I come home and think to myself, “Hot damn, girl! Look what you just did! And you can still walk and not spontaneously cramp up or cry for no reason!”.

So it amazes me how at mile 7.1 (yes, there may be some mental work at play here, too, and I get it), my body totally falls apart. It doesn’t want to go any more. My knee starts hurting. The outside of my foot feels like I’m hitting straight pavement. My hip aches. My back side strikes me with sciatic nerve pain. My left side tenses up and my neck cramps. My legs feel as though they weigh a thousand pounds each. Everything. Hurts. And I’m thirsty! So thirsty. But I can’t drink or I’ll get a side stitch. (So who’d like to join me on my next long training run?! Bueller? Bueller?)

Does all that make me a crappy runner? Hells to the no. But I’ve learned my limitations. I put a lot of pressure on myself. To make a goal, reach it and not suck in the process while getting there. In working my way to a half marathon, I think I’ve reached the suck. But I’m actually OK with that. This whole thing has been such a learning experience. I’ve tested my body at each new distance and have fought through some injuries. And since I’m too much of a chicken-shit to go out on a really long run with my runner’s group (I don’t want anyone to witness the 7.1 mile combustion), I’ve been doing it all solo.

My last long run before the half marathon is slated for two days from now. I’m tackling a 12-miler. And even after everything I just wrote about hating the distance, I’m excited for it! I want to see how far I can go. How far my body can push itself. How far my mind will let me push myself. You just never know what’s going to happen until you lace up and get out there. And who knows, there may just be life for me after the 7.1 mile mark after all.

The Classification of Runners, Walkers & Cyclists

SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2013

I’ve been traveling back and forth to Austintown visiting some family that came in to town this past week, so I had to do a couple long runs on a bike path near my parent’s house. Man, do I wish this thing was around when I was growing up!  It’s 20-some miles of paved bike path, through some really great scenery, most of which is shaded by tall trees and forest. It’s quite lovely and peaceful.

I loved the path and to my surprise, there were really a lot of people on it!  I did a 7-miler at 8am on a Saturday and I probably passed about 30-35 people over the course of my run. Three and a half miles out. Three and a half miles back in. Seven miles gives you plenty of time to start stereotyping your fellow bike path enthusiasts, so of course it didn’t take me long to start classifying some of the types of people I encountered:

1. RUNNERS

  • Hard Core Friendlies (HCF) – This was me. This runner waves to everyone that passes by, whether eye contact has been established or not. The HCF wears a Fuel Belt (which to me, means they are running at least 6+ miles) and will eventually look like they ran through a car wash. (Unfortunately that look only takes me until about mile 2.) The HCF will also say “good morning” (or whatever time-appropriate greeting is in order) as they run past. It will be stated loud and proud between miles 1-4’ish… a wee bit more winded and forced over miles 4’ish-7…. but the sincerity is always there.
  • Hard Core Unfriendlies (HCU) – I only saw one HCU on the path, but our turn around points had me passing by her twice, so I got a double dose of her ice. The HCU also wears a Fuel Belt, but she’s got zero time to lift her arm to wave. I like to think she’s in a state of total concentration and so zoned in and focused that she is physically unable to lift her hand to wave or mutter a hello. That is a better thought than the alternative, which is that she’s just a big meanie and has no respect for the runner’s code that encourages us to support one other.
  • Short Distance Friendlies (SDF) – Anyone not in a Fuel Belt. They’ll wave, smile and say hello. They know they’re going somewhere from 1-3 miles, so they’re happy. They’ll be done in, like, 30 minutes, so there is no time to get ugly or zoned in. They have a spring in their step and the sweat on their skin seems to glisten.
  • Newbies (N) – Sometimes they’re happy. Sometimes they look like they’re about to croak. But the Newbie will always return a wave. I think they need the support more than anyone else on the pavement, so I’ve even been known to kick it up a notch from “hello” and throw out an encouraging “looking good” or the like in their direction.

2. WALKERS

  • Over-Friendly-And-Maybe-A-Bit-Lonely-Old-Guy (OFAMABLOG) – He’s super sweet and gives you a nice big wave and smile and when you smile back, you feel like you’ve actually brightened his day. There is also a bike version of the OFAMABLOG. As you pass walker or biker OFAMABLOG, you think to yourself, “I hope everyone is returning his kindness.” But then you remember there’s an HCU on the course and that won’t be the case.
  • Power Walkers (PW) – The PW is incredibly busy pumping their arms and there is no way in hell they are about to break stride to say hello, let alone wave it. You can see a PW coming from a mile away. They tend to send chills down the spines of everyone on the path. Even the HCU.
  • Teenagers Looking To Score (TLTS) – You can see the looks of disappointment on a TLTS’s face as they realize the bike path through nature isn’t as remote and deserted as they had hoped it was.

 3. CYCLISTS

  • Spandex Helmeteers (SH) – These guys are no freaking joke. They are in helmets and are wearing neck-to-mid-thigh spandex and they will run your sweaty ass over if you don’t get out of their way. (Sidenote: I always think to myself as an SH passes me by, “He has to go twice as far as me, but in less than half the time as me and we both kill the same number of calories. Why is my ass not on a bike right now?!”) The SH never… I mean NEVER… acknowledges other people on the path. But maybe it’s for the best that they keep both hands on the wheel.
  • Sunday Cyclist (SC) – Much like the “Sunday Driver”, they’re just out on the path because it’s a nice day and it’s a fun thing to do. 99% of the time they are with a friend or their significant other and 99% of the time they will wave or say hello. They’re really quite lovely people, although even the SC should be wearing a helmet, and 99% of the time, they are not.

I also came across my fair share of bunnies on the path.  Bunnies who think it’s fun to stay in your way until you’re only a couple steps from them. By that point, you’re in a mild panic because you are unsure which way they will dart off. I know they will always choose to dart in the direction closest to the woods, but it never fails to scare the pants off of me when they finally do.

Of course all of these classifications are made up in my head. I’ve developed life scenarios, estimated paces and guessed distances for people I don’t know, have never seen and will never see again. I’ll do just about anything to keep my mind off of the task at hand. And it must have worked, since both my 6-miler and 7-miler on that path went pretty darn well!

A Girl, A Guy, and a Group

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2013

It’s cold outside. I’m tired. I just ate. There’s a “Real Housewives of Wherever” marathon on Bravo. And so on…

These are just a sampling of some of the excuses I’ve made for myself to avoid lacing up and hitting the sidewalks to get in a run. (Note: In my earlier posts, I called them “jogs”. I’ve come a long way, in that I don’t saying I’m “jogging” anymore. I go on “runs” now. Sounds like a minor detail, but for runners, it’s a pretty big distinction, and I’m a runner now, damnit!)

My point being, there are about a million different reasons not to run. So for me, a support group isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. I’m not afraid to admit that I can’t do this shit on my own! I get lazy. Unmotivated. Blobish. But when I see or hear about someone I know (or only know through a Facebook group) say that they’ve gone out and done something, well, I’m more likely to go out and do it, too.

Case Study #1: The Girl
I have a friend who I met at work. She started out as a co-worker and quickly became one of my best friends on the planet and she is such an inspiration to me. She’s the gal in my life that says, “So yeah, I’m gonna do the Rite Aid 10K.” and I immediately say back, without hesitation, “When’s the next discount registration day, cuz I’m doing it with you.” (I’m really quite cheap.) So when my friend said, “Yep, I’m gonna do my very first half marathon in October.” without hesitation (Ok, that’s a big ‘ol lie. This is 13.1 miles here! I did have to think about it for a minute.) I said yes. And I quickly found a coupon code and registered for the Rock-N-Roll half marathon.

Everyone needs a girl like this in their lives. The gal that you follow in to the unknown and who will make you push yourself to the next goal. To that I say, thank God for my girl Jen!

Case Study #2: The Guy
Behind every good man stands a girl who is willing to crush every single PR he sets for himself. That guy is Jerry and that girl is me. He’ll email me and say, “I ran a 8:58 pace over 2 miles!” and I’ll reply with “That’s so awesome! Way to go! Congrats!”. And then I’ll head outside, run an 8:56, email him about it and he’ll call me an a-hole. I smile for days when this happens, as does he when he’s the one crushing some random goal I just set for myself. But that’s the dance we do and we both enjoy it immensely. (The a-hole recently beat me in the Run @ the Ridge 5K, so I guess I have some training to do.)

He helps me think outside the box and gives me ideas to keep the training fresh. He’ll do a trail run, then I’ll try a trail run for the first time and fall in love with it. He’ll tell me about some interval training he did up at the track and immediately I go check my schedule to see when I can get up there next. It’s awesome and he keeps me from getting in to training ruts. So much of this running stuff is mental, so keeping things fresh is very important.

Case Study #3: The Group
My latest motivation acquisition is a little sorority called “Finish the Race”. It’s an amazing group of women, most of whom I’ve never actually met, who gather on Facebook (and in real life) to talk about their running, their injuries, races they’ve done, goals they’ve met, pole dancing… ahh yes, pole dancing… and just about anything else happening in their lives.

Admittedly, I joined the group with hesitation. I was invited in and then sat back… stalker style… for a few weeks before I posted anything. I wasn’t sure if they were for real. (Any “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” fans out there? Remember when Willow joined the Wicka group, but they weren’t really hard core witches and she got frustrated… but then she met Tara… so it wasn’t really a total loss. Although, did anyone really like Tara? I thought she was weird.) Anywho, that’s what I thought might be the case for the FTR group. Boy did I think wrong! I find myself checking the group’s Facebook page, oh, about every 3 minutes to see if anyone has posted anything. My thumbs ache at the end of the day from the scrolling refresh maneuver I do on the  Facebook app on my phone, because I simply need to know what these ladies have been up to. They get me moving, make me laugh and I can relate, on some level, to just about everything that gets posted by this awesome group of women. It was a pretty cool find and a motivating force for me to turn off the “Housewives” and turn on the training.

_____________

To update my progress, I’ve got 2 races under my belt so far this Spring/Summer. I missed my goal on the 10K, but managed to PR a 5K. I’ve got three more races lined up in the next 4 months. A 4-miler, a 2-miler with my nephew, which I’m really stoked about, and then the 13.1 in October. I’d love to add a few more races in here and there, but that will just depend on how many coupon codes I can find.

My First 10K (1 of 2)

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

(This post and the next are about my experience at my first 10K, The Cleveland Rite Aid, on May 19, 2013. There’s a lot to say, so this post will tackle leading up to the start.  My next post will take you through the race. If you’re anything like me, you’ll lose interest after about 4 paragraphs and I since I need my 3 loyal readers to stick with me, I’m splitting it up. You’re totally welcome. So here goes…)

build up…. Build Up… BUILD UP!!!!!  Aaaaaaand, it’s over.

So the Cleveland Rite Aid 10K has officially come and gone. It felt like I talked about it, trained for it, talked about it some more and so on for months and months and months. And now, just like the feeling you get on Christmas afternoon, it’s over and I’m left wondering, “OK, what now?”. But before what’s next, I need to reflect on what was.

I was pretty darn nervous the week leading up to my very first 10K race. I decided that hydration was key, because heaven forbid I go down with a side stitch 3.42 miles (totally made up number) in to my 6.2 race!  (Turns out I would go down with one at about mile 5.25, but we’ll get to that.) So in the days leading up, I drank water. LOTS of water.  And for me, lots means, like, 2 or 3 tumblers a day. A tumbler load was maybe about 20 ounces, but for me, drinking 2-3 of those suckers a day felt like water boarding. And then, of course, I just peed a lot. But I felt like I was doing the right thing in preparing myself for the big race.

I set my alarms… 2 alarms… to go off at 4:30am. I wanted to get up and shower, in an effort to get my body awake and moving. And, well, clean. That part was important, too. But mostly I just needed to feel like I was alive and the shower was the way to go. I timed my morning beautifully. Up at 4:30. Showered, dressed, hair in a swishy pony by 5:00. Toast with butter and light cinnamon-sugar spread prepped and consumed by 5:15. Out the door at 5:20. I was to meet my friends in a (super shady, but super cheap) parking lot down in The Flats.

It’s 5:20am and I’m on the road. I call my friend, Jen, at 5:30 to check in and to see how her progress is, well, progressing. She is supposed to be meeting another friend, Len, at 5:30, but he’s running 10 minutes behind. *Gulp* I don’t deal with late very well. And especially when I wasn’t sure exactly which super shady parking lot in The Flats I was supposed to meet them at with no one around at 6:00 in the morning. But I continued to breathe. It’s all good and a 10 minute delay is no big deal.

Let’s fast forward a bit. I’ve met my friends. We’re parked, organized and have made our way over to the Browns Stadium (is that still what it’s called these days?!) where the start of the race is. It’s such a cool vibe! People were everywhere in their new, but tested, running outfits. Bibs proudly pinned to their fronts. I quickly learned the color coding. Red striped bibs were the real runners. The half and full marathoners. Solid red bibs were the relay folks, or what I like to refer to as “the cheaters”. Then there were us yellow stripers. Probably yellow because we were too chicken-shit to run anything more than 6.2! But I wore my bib proudly and it matched my outfit, so life was good.

I hit the bathroom twice waiting for the 10K’ers to get called. On the way back from my second trip, the real runners were taking off from their corrals and I could hear “Cleveland Rocks” and then Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” as they left on their 13.1 and 26.2 mile journeys. It was so cool. SO COOL. The experience of it gave me goosebumps and a lump in my throat. I couldn’t even see them, as they were on the other side of the stadium, but the music and the mood of everyone there was really intense and you couldn’t help but feel like you were a part of something pretty special. Yellow-striped bib and all.

The real runners took off at 7:00. The yella-bellied 10K’ers started at 7:30. We made our way over to the queue at about 7:15 and casually walked our way up to where we could see the starting line, but weren’t so far up that people would assume we could take on course records. It was a comfortable position.

Counting down from 10, it’s almost go time! (Do I have time to pee again?! Shoot. No.) “…5-4-3-2-1!  Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks! Cle-e-veland Rocks!” The music is blaring and I’m jumping up and down. Jumping because even though we got the big “GO!”, we were so far back that we weren’t moving forward yet and up and down was my only option. It ended up taking about 3 minutes from our position to hit the starting line.

Still with me? Yes?! Well then come join me at my next post….

My First 10K (2 of 2)

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

(Hey! Thanks for hanging in there with me.)

We made our way up to the starting line about 3 minutes after the official “Go!”. It was so cool, to be among a crowd of people who were all pretty much like me. Who had been training and preparing for this day just as I had.  We paid good money to go through what we were about to experience. The good, bad and ugly of a race. Any race. But for me, being that it was my first 10K, I really didn’t know what to expect. Just, please God, don’t strike me with a side stitch.

The first mile was rough. Not because I’m tired or in pain, but because I’m dodging the mother f&#!’ing walkers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the walkers. I’m just as proud of them for being out there as the runners. Any movement is better than no movement at all. BUT! And here comes my big but. (hee hee) Get your asses to the end of the starting line! Maybe that sounds snotty, but it sucked beyond belief to walker-dodge people for the first half to three quarter miles or so. You can’t get in a rhythm. You’re slow. You’re making zig zag movements and it just, well, sucks. I later learned that the pace of my first mile was 10:01, when it should have been somewhere below the 9:30’ish mark. But it’s ok. It’s all part of the experience.

My second mile was nice. I hit my stride, felt strong, confident, the music was coming through my headphones and I found some space. I completed that mile at a 9:26 pace. It was a good mile, with one exception. I could see the “2 mile” flag in front of me and then all of the sudden, I hear clapping and cheering. Where is this coming from?! There were about 20 spectators along the whole 10K course combined, so I knew the yella-bellies weren’t getting cheered from the sidewalks. I look to my right and see the road leading back in to town. Back toward the finish line. The cheering was from my fellow runners, who had noticed that the leaders were at about the 5 mile mark of the race and, basically, in the home stretch. I looked up again to see the green “2” flag mocking me. Ugh. I didn’t cheer for them. I kinda wanted to, but I had never cheered and clapped in my training, so I’ll be damned if I was gonna do it during the race.

I ran mile 3 at a 9:24 pace. I didn’t know these times as I was going along, but I just knew that my 3rd mile was the strongest one so far. It felt good. I felt like my legs weren’t attached to my body any longer and that I could have run at that speed for days-and-days.

Mile 4. Hmm. Where did that hill come from? I passed my second water stop, but didn’t take any again. I didn’t train with water, so I decided I wasn’t taking any on the course. I wasn’t sure how it would react in my stomach. Would it slosh around? Would it make me nauseous? I didn’t want to risk the unknown. This may have not been a wise decision. My pace was 9:43. Uh-oh. I’m slowing down.

It got a little hot at mile 5. And the course got a lot more uphill. My pace stayed at 9:43, but I had apparently left my running legs back at mile 3. That “I could run for days-and-days” feeling was fading and on top of that, now I’m in my head! Shit, that’s the last place I need to be during a race. I started getting goosebumps on my arms. The ones you get when you’re in the middle of an overheating/underhydrating scenario. I tried to ignore my arms and decided to just not look at them. If I didn’t see the goosebumps, they wouldn’t bother me. Very mature.

I climbed the monster hill of mile 5, which was up the shore way bridge. Someone told me before the race to make sure I looked around when I got up there, because it was a spectacular view and one not everyone would get to see from that perspective. I found a “friend” to help me get up that hill. I don’t know if she knew it or not, but I clung on to her and matched her stride-for-stride until we just about got to the top. Had I been able to get her name and contact information, a fruit basket sent to her home after the race would have been appropriate. Whether she knew it or not, she got me up that hill. And I did manage to take in the view a bit, but unfortunately by this point, my breathing was sporadic and I could feel “IT” coming on, so I couldn’t really focus on anything but myself.

I’ll be damned. The one thing I knew could take me out. The one thing I had been praying would not happen to me. It happened. The dreaded side stitch.

I’d say I’m at about mile 5.25’ish and I have just 1 mile to go. ONE FREAKING MILE. That’s nothing. It’s a warm up. Four times around a track. A chip shot. What I’m trying to say is, a mile is NOTHING at this point. But when I got hit with a side stitch, it may have been the starting line all over again. I couldn’t stand up straight. I kept my legs moving and did the classic “pinch your side and bend over” maneuver that you hope and pray will make it go away. But it didn’t. And I couldn’t take it any more. I slowed down to a walk and I wanted to scream. I tried to control my breathing. Tried to fight off the pain and make it go away. I would feel pats on my back from other runners, encouraging me to keep going.  “Only a half more mile!” one nice man said to me as he ran past.

That last half mile was a run-walk mix, but as I turned the corner that led down to the home stretch, I ran. Slowly, but I ran. There was no way all of those people at the finish line were going to witness me walking across it. And for my own sense of accomplishment, I wasn’t going to allow myself to walk across it, either.

Surprisingly, I ran my last mile at a 10:06 pace. I thought for sure it was going to be upwards of 10:45’ish. My goal was to finish my 6.2 miles in 59:59 or less, but I crossed at 01:02:23. My first and last miles were the end of that dream, but all-in-all, I’m super proud of myself. I set a goal and reached it, while encountering lots of hurdles along the way. It made me a stronger person. It made me see just how tough I am and showed me that I’m not out of the game yet. I’m 37. I’m young. I’m going to keep running… all the way to my first HALF MARATHON scheduled for October.

That’s right, folks. I’ll be a red striper soon.