One of the things I have loved the most in this past year has been bringing people along on their first official race. Mary joined me in her first 5k at See Jane Run; Sofia joined me in the Color Run (and went on to do her first half marathon and is now training for her first full marathon — WOOHOO!) and this past weekend, my friend Ericka threw her fears to the wind and joined me in the wackiest race of all – the Muddy Buddy. I don’t even remember how this happened; but I think it was via a Facebook post when I thought she was joking about joining me. Ericka has been my workout buddy with our beloved trainer DJ for several years now – we have sweated together plenty, but she has always declared herself “not a runner” and she was content to cheer me on from afar. I actually have no idea what came over her, but I was so psyched!!
Ericka and I have both had our health battles recently. We celebrated our 50th birthdays, and then I got diabetes and she was hit with Graves disease. Our combined age is 105 (!!!) which put us squarely in the “Women Masters” category for this race. I reminded her that we are in a tiny percentage of 50-year old women with chronic diseases who are participating in athletic events at this level.
I have done a few “fun runs” of 5ks recently, and they truly have been fun for me. But I knew this one was going to be tougher – including off road biking on a mountain bike, likely hills, and those crazy obstacles. If there’s one thing I don’t feel super confident about, it’s my upper arm strength. However, I told Ericka that our aim was to FINISH, and to finish was to win. I really believed that.
We are both writers, and we needed a team name. She came up with “Dirty Wordsters” (haha). I made us matching team shirts (thanks to watching my daughters make dozens of them for their crew team in the past 6 years) and she decorated the bike with dirty words like “filth” and “slime.” We so clever!
Mr. McBody and I picked up Ericka at 5:30am and we drove down to San Jose to this park. Lily’s husband, who grew up there, had already warned me it was “pretty hilly.” Since he was a varsity triathlete at Cal, this was something I took very seriously. Ack. HILLS. Not my favorite.
We got there, jumped around to warm up, visited the PortaPotty, and tried to relax. But I was hecka nervous. I heard the race announcer say that the first mile was “straight uphill.” NICE!
We were in the last wave to start, the “Women Masters.” (ie, the old ladies) I was relieved to see other women our age. It’s not often you go up to other women and ask, “How old are you?” but I did just that and when the other women said “53” I jumped up and gave them high-fives. Yeah baby, we rock. I was feeling pretty fierce and ready.
We moved on up and saw the other waves taking off. We saw some people walking their bikes right from the Start line. I kept saying, I’m gonna walk, I’m gonna walk, but then when I was at the Start and I saw everyone on their bikes, shame took hold of me and I was like, well, I’ll ride, until I can’t. I’m actually glad I did.
The starting horn went off and I got on the bike. I was glad to make it up a few hundred yards before it just got TOO steep. At that point I’d say 90% of the participants were walking, pushing their bikes. Damn that bike was HEAVY. Pretty soon the “runners” were overtaking us (bike members went first, then runners). But they weren’t really running either. Like I said, it was hecka steep. And it went on. And on. I felt like I was eating dust, just heaving for every breath. It went on for a full mile. Just up. And up. And up. It felt pretty darn grim.
At the top of the hill was our first obstacle, and time for me to leave the bike in the “Bike Drop” for my buddy. Of course she had passed me by, walking! We climbed on this spiderwebby thing, up and over. I got a tad bit freaked at the very top, but managed it OK.
Then it was more rolling hills, run, bike, obstacle. Each of us had 3 bike parts and 3 running parts. I was jealous that her first bike was this gorgeous downhill section! But then I got to run that as well.
What can I say? It felt long. It felt really, really hot. We were out in open fields with NOTHING out there but for a dirt trail. But it was okay. There were lots of other people around us – ie, we weren’t being left in the dust – including what seemed to be many younger people (what???). We kept passing the same folks off and on.
The obstacles, which I had been nervous about, weren’t too bad at all. There was a mud tunnel, which I have to say we were very prepared for. We do a lot of low crawling and walking in our trainer workouts. The high things were not so bad. Until the very end (I’ll get to that).
The entire course took us about an hour and a half (OK, exactly an hour and a half)! Which had been my optimistic estimate. I’d looked at other race results and saw that many women our age were coming in between 1:30 and 2:00. So I was hoping for 1:30 at best, and well, whatever it took, as long as we finished.
For the final leg, Ericka was on bike and I was on foot. She had to wait for me for a while because we were supposed to do the final 3 obstacles, including the Mud Pit, together.
Eventually I showed up. We were both pretty tired, but stoked that it was almost over. The first obstacle was a some sort of giant ladder climbing thing. (I think) Not bad. The second one was a rope climb over this blue wooden wall. It didn’t LOOK that bad. I grabbed the rope. Then started to walk up. Hahahaha. The wall was covered in something very slippery — lard? butter? soap?? In any case, we tried and tried and after a few minutes just looked at each other and said, “Uh-uh.” We walked around it.
Then it was time for the infamous MUD PIT. Ooooh boy!! I will say that the cold wet mud felt REALLY GOOD after all that dry dusty heat. We crawled under the flag ropes like a couple of mud puppies. Laughing.
Then we had a little female mud-wrestling moment.
Then clambered out. I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the word “clamber” until then.
Then we ran through the finish holding hands. Then we got our medals. We were PSYCHED!
Then it was shower (aka garden hose) time. Boy did we need that.
To say that we were filthy was an understatement. But that was the point, right? It was darn hard. It was challenging. We really, really pushed. But in the end I am proud to say that we came in with 43 other teams behind us, most of them younger than we are. That made me feel really good. Not bad for 52 and 53, huh?
So many people asked me, “WHY on earth would you voluntarily sign up for something like that?” And looked even more incredulous when I answered, “Because I’d never done one.” Ha ha, I know, most people haven’t, and have no desire to. But for me, it’s about changing it up, finding new things to do to stay active and most importantly to have fun.
What’s the wackiest, craziest or most fun race you’ve ever done?
So finally – here’s my race recap. It isn’t exactly a replica of my idyllic visualization that I wrote a few days ago. It also took a long time to gather up all the pictures (click on any of them to make them bigger). When you train with Team in Training, you pretty much have a papparazzi gang following you everywhere! It’s good that I had some reflection time, too. Two days after the fact I can say now that I feel good about it. Sunday night, not so much.
Here goes, in probably excruciating detail, but this is kind of how I process stuff (in case you haven’t noticed, LOL!).
Woke up at 4:10am. Actually woke up at 12:59am, 3-something-am AND 4:10am because Mr. McBody (Dr McBody to some) was on call, and get calls he did. (note to self: if spouse is on call night before a race, sleep in separate rooms)
I was WIDE awake though. This was helped by the switch back to Standard Time, which felt like a gift from the universe. So it only FELT like 5:10am, which I’ve done before! Got dressed and had mini-mini meltdowns due to 1) someone at the last whole wheat English muffin and left the EMPTY PACKAGE on top of the breadbox! So I was left without my Eng muffin and peanut butter breakfast which I have gotten very attached to. Instead I boiled a couple of eggs and ate some weird Chai-flavored instant oatmeal. They both felt unfamiliar and kind of wrong, but what choice did I have at 4:30am? Not much.
Picked up Lily. Yay! Her sweetie and parents and dog were all waiting down on the street to load her bike in my car. We had an awesome drive over to the tri site. I am really going to miss driving to workouts with her in the wee hours of the morning. (snif)
We arrived at the park in plenty of time. It was actually really beautiful there in the predawn.
I ate my hard boiled egg, we used the restrooms and picked out our transition spots. Since we were there so early, we had a good choice of spot and I got to use the fence as a coat rack.
Coach Haakon taped up my foot. Which is supposedly not in the regulations, but I really appreciated it.
We went and got our bodies marked with our race numbers and our ages. 52, baby!!!! I always wonder why they do that – so that if we die on the course we have ID on our bodies?
Our mentor Annika gave us a visual preview of all the ins and outs and showed us where all the buoys were for the swim course. I’d say we’re looking fairly concerned. Teammate Vince calls it “game face.” LOL.
We started walking over to the swim entry area, led by an awesome bagpipe player (very dramatic!). My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Then I stepped in this crazy HOLE in the parking lot (like six inches deep and the width of a coffee can) – my foot went RIGHT IN and I fell down. Bam! Not an auspicious beginning. I could feel something bad in my knee (which is still feeling pretty twisted, by the way). But we kept going. I was feeling pretty psyched, and pretty ready.
We TNTers got to go in the first wave and that was a really good thing. We got in the water (brrrrrrrrr!) and got the water in our wetsuits and floated around while we waited for the starting horn.
We were being led out on paddleboard by Coach Neil, the guy who had led my semi-disastrous last open water swim a few weeks ago. I told him I was feeling good about the swim and he seemed pleased but also surprised because I think he really had me for a goner in the open water department.
So we swam. I know that I was swimming really, really slowly. But I was relaxed. I kept up my “gentle-kind” mantra pretty much the only time, except when I was daydreaming about pleasant things, which was a pretty nice way to pass the time. I noticed that each time I lifted my head to sight on the big orange buoy, it kept GETTING BIGGER! which I found very encouraging. I was making headway, even though virtually everyone was passing me and leaving a large gap between them and me. I was OK. I made a few little “bobbing” stops to get my bearings and take some extra oxygen in, but they weren’t like panic stops, more like, “let’s see what’s going on.”
I was somewhere between buoy 2 and 3 (out of 4?) and a couple kayakers were yelling and motioning at me to “pull it in toward the shore!” I think I got kind of drifty toward the right and ended up adding a couple hundred extra yards to my swim. I had a few moments of “Well, that’s a drag” but I didn’t freak out. Pretty soon a huge wave of red-capped swimmers took us over. They were churning up the water like a hundred sharks in a frenzy. A couple of them slapped at my feet and bumped into me. Thank goodness that is ONE thing that doesn’t freak me out. I just kind of got out of their way.
The swim felt long. By the clock I think it was around 40 minutes, which was shorter than I’d planned for but still I was near the end of our group. No matter. I was relaxed the whole time, and toward the end I was almost regretting it was going to be over. I was sort of enjoying thinking my nice thoughts and just stroke, stroke, stroke. The last bit between the final buoy and the red finish arc felt reallllllllly long. But I didn’t panic, didn’t float on my back, didn’t hang on any kayaks or people, and pretty much DID the damn thing! After all the struggle I had these past months? I was ecstatic.
I was pretty darn happy when I got out of the water.
I headed to T1. (Transition 1) When I got there I was suddenly overcome by lightheadedness. I felt super dizzy and suddenly insanely COLD. So I was just focused on trying to get warm and put on some dry stuff. It seemed to take forever to put on my socks and gloves. My feet were this wacky white/red color. Finally I felt ready and I pulled my bike down and got out of there.
Ha! Forgot this very Special Moment during the tri until teammate Katherine sent it to me. Right after this last picture above, it was time to “mount the bikes.” I got on and then… OOPS! Seems like Katherine wanted some team togetherness. 🙂 Neither of us actually fell over though, and it was all good! This is now one of my favorite pics of the event.
Important note for subsequent events: I was really kind of a woozy space cadet during this transition. I wasn’t thinking clearly. ie., I looked at my huuuuuge bottle of Gatorade on the ground, and a littler bottle. But I didn’t drink any. Nor did I eat any of the salted pretzels I’d so carefully baggied up. I took a little swig of water and then put the water bottle in my bike’s holder. I ate a half of a Kind bar. (sweet flavor)
I go back and back to this moment. In the past months I learned that the combo of Gatorade and salty pretzels is like the PERFECT combo recovery/fuel for me. The electrolytes/carbs/salt combo. This combo has given me like superhuman energy and really surprised me. So WHY didn’t I eat/drink it during this transition? One, I was dying from salt overload from the swim and I couldn’t deal with the idea of pretzels. Which is why I chose the Kind bar. Two, I remember kind of glancing at the Gatorade and I may as well have been looking at a doorknob. Like, “Hmm, that looks familiar like something I’ve used in a past life.” It just didn’t click to me. I took that one little sip of water and then I was starting to get really concerned about sitting there having a picnic while everyone else was clearing out to bike, so I just wanted to hustle and get out of there. I MAY have thought, “I’ll drink when I’m on the bike” but I also thought there would be some water/Gatorade stops on the way.
I got going out of transition and up the hill. This is a really steep kind of hill of doom thing, but I set it in first gear and just got up it. It wasn’t so bad. I was feeling pretty good. My feet were absolutely NUMB and I had noticed when putting my socks on they were a freaky white/red frostbitey color. They never thawed out the whole time I was on the bike.
Then we turned out of the park and it was so exciting! People lining the streets!
I saw Annelies and my coaches and a whole ton of people. It was so cool. Then we had ANOTHER long climb but I felt OK.
I got through the first loop, turned around at the campground and headed back to the park. Fewer people standing around this time because a lot of people had transitioned to run. I was still feeling OK I thought.
I started coming up the long climb for trip number two and right away, my chain slipped. Damn. And as soon as I got off the bike, my head started swirling and I just felt… NOT GOOD. This guy came over and helped me with the chain. I continued up the hill and then I just had to stop. By complete coincidence, I happened to stop in front of this orange-shirted volunteer guy who had this first aid kit. It was a medic! Wow! He asked me how I was doing. I said, “Um…. not so hot.” He told me to rest a few minutes and I did and then I decided to walk to the crest of the hill. But I was feeling really wobbly.
I got on the bike again at the flat and went a little ways longer and then damn, my chain slipped off AGAIN. This time my teammate Art came to my rescue. He fixed my chain and at that point I just started crying. And finding it hard to breathe. And shivering like nobody’s business. I was SO COLD all of a sudden. Then I felt nauseated. I drank a little more water but at that point I felt like I was going to puke. Then the orange-shirt medic came trotting up and he told me to sit down and I told Art to keep going. And then I REALLY fell apart.
(edited to add: I was dehydrated. I was SO DEHYDRATED! Because I hadn’t really had enough to drink beforehand, and I FORGOT to drink during transition, and I thought there would be water stops on the bike route so I didn’t drink while I was riding either.)
When supervising the medical care of athletes, it is important to recognize the basic signs of dehydration. These include thirst, irritability and general discomfort followed by headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, heartburn, difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations and decreased performance.
I felt like I was dying. Like all of my internal systems were just going haywire: stomach, lungs, brain, circulation, the works. The medic took my blood pressure. It was high. He said my heart rate was “pretty fast.” I started crying even more, and gasping and death-rattling, not unlike what I’ve done in open water. Except here I was now by the side of the road. Meanwhile I was getting colder and colder and all I wanted was my big fake-fur parka back at transition. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t get warm. The medic gave me his fleece jacket but it didn’t cover my whole body and my teeth were just chattering like a skeleton dance. I knew that I had two choices at that moment: I’d have to throw in the towel, or I’d have to rally and keep going. I had been sitting on the ground there for probably more than twenty minutes (no, no exaggeration!). I was feeling in a desperate state. He said, “Maybe you will feel better with some wind in your face, or we can call the car to come get you.”
HELL NO. No car! No car! I felt like I would die a thousand deaths of shame if I got toted back in a car. (worse than a kayak?) So I walked the bike shakily over the next rise and then got on again. I was about 20% into the 2nd loop at that point. I started going verrrrry, very slowly and grimly. I felt like death. I was so cold it was almost unbearable, and I was still kind of hyperventilating. I pedalled. Finally I got out to the turnaround where my friend Mary was waiting with another support person. I was feeling pretty miserable right then. I made my way back to the park and my plan was to ask coach Haakon what he thought I should do.
But there was pretty much nobody there at the park entrance at that point. People were FINISHING the race (I could hear the loudspeakers) and the guy waved his orange flag and flagged me back toward the entrance. They were starting to take down the bike course. I knew that about 4 of my teammates were still out on the course, doing their 3rd loop, because we’d passed each other. But they were past the turnaround and I hadn’t even started. I thought about the big hill and the time. I felt like I had no energy to do another loop, and no time to do it in, and that it would pretty much finish me, physically and emotionally.
I turned into the parking lot and headed down to Transition again.
Here, dear readers, is what is LITERALLY a turning point in the story. Where I made that decision, for better or worse. On one hand it felt like the only tenable choice. On the other hand it felt TERRIBLE. I knew that if I started the run portion I would still be way behind 99% of all of the participants in the race.
So I went down to transition, put on my running shoes and hat, and headed out again. As I passed a lot of people yelling my name, all I could think of was, “If you only knew! I just did two loops!” I also knew I had to keep going and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
In spite of my wonky knee and foot, I managed to “run” (ie not walk) more than half – maybe even 75% of the six miles. I did a walk interval with Art, who had saved me with my slipped chain during the ride. It was great to have him for company during that final piece.
He finished up his 2nd run loop (my first) and I ran the majority of the last one. Two of the highlights of the run portion were seeing my beautiful Juniorette appear. She ran up and gave me a kiss and I got all weepy. Then I got to pass my awesome trainer, Doug, who had set up camp with a cup of coffee and a folding chair. I could hear his huge booming voice, “Here comes SUSANITO!” from blocks away. It was amazing to see him out there. (I wish I had a picture of this!)
Meanwhile, the vast majority of participants and spectators were passing me on the road as they headed out of the park, beeping and cowbelling out their windows. I think a hundred cars must have passed by and while it was nice to be cheered I was also wondering if there was going to be ANYbody left in the park when I got down to finish.
As it turns out, my whole beautiful team was there. I got down to the finish chute and my beautiful mentor Annika and her husband ran in with me.
The whole team was yelling my name. The announcer goes, “What an entourage! They’re all yelling for Cindy!” and everyone yells “SUSAN!”
I passed over the finish and got all hugged by everyone and I was a sobbing, weepy MESS.
The announcer boomed out, “Yes, sometimes there are a few tears.” Which made me cry more. I was just freaking SPENT at that point.
Then the last bunch of teammates came on in a while later and then everyone was done and I walked around feeling super fragile, and a combination of triumphant and completely fraudulent and awful. I told Mr. M what had gone on, and of course he was not the least bit disgusted or concerned. (he was, however, quite dismayed by my lack of hydration)
Came home. Took a hot bath (I was STILL cold!). Passed out into a fitful nap then had soup for dinner.
I read the gazillion Facebook accolades and “you are so awesome!” comments. I started writing this recap but at that point I was drowning in feelings of guilt (over not doing the 3rd bike loop) and feeling like I had somehow cheated. I didn’t want to think of myself as the kind of person who takes the bus to the finish line. I was really agonizing over it and felt like I needed to return all the congratulations that had come my way.
I sent a confessional sort of race cap email to my coaches. It was really eating me up. Their responses made me bawl even more, but helped me see that I really did have something to be proud of and not ashamed about.
Coach Stephanie said:
I knew that you hadn’t finished that last loop. You are still a triathlete. Nothing takes that away from what you accomplished this season. I don’t know too many people, myself included who could have the tenacity to get back on that bike after the very emotional moments and sheer physical discomfort that you experienced and decided to carry on. Well done to you! Live to fight another day…Forgive yourself for any feelings of defeat. You are a warrior and a Triathlete!
Then Coach Haakon said (and he was who I was most worried about because he is such a BAD ASS!):
You do not have anything to be ashamed of. I hope with all my heart that what you take out of this experience is that you accomplished a hell of a lot more than I think even you thought you were capable of. Plenty of people start and don’t finish completely. You toed the line and you battled through more obstacles than just about anyone else out there. You have trained diligently and hard and have contributed in a big way to the personality of our team. You deserve that medal and many more. I am none the less proud of your accomplishment today than I was yesterday and I would be shocked if anyone else was either. Everyone has a story and everyone has their reasons for doing things. What I see here is someone who struggled enormously yet pushed through despite every part of her body telling her to stop. I can imagine that the decision to cut it short was not an easy one, but it also sounds like it was the right one. Be proud of what you accomplished and celebrate the small victories that you made along the way. Some times it is good to “fail”. It teaches us where our limiters are. Notice I did not say limits. Recognizing our limiters gives us the opportunity to focus our attention in areas that will in term make us better, faster and stronger.
Be proud of what you did, I know I am. Your story will be very inspirational to many and there is no need to paint it any other way. Hang your medal proudly on the glory wall and use it to stay motivated and continue to push outside your comfort zone. Thank you so much for your participation this season and for sharing your story. I would love to see you come back for another go at it some day.
DOUBLE WAHHHHHH! I hope they do not mind posting these emails, but receiving these made me really feel what it has meant to be part of Team in Training. Where they took me in and encouraged me and believed in me to the very end, and beyond the end. This has been one of the most transformative experiences of my LIFE.
Thank you team, thank you teammates and friends and donors and supporters who have followed this journey since July. I know I’ll never be the same.
(DISCLAIMER: This is the longest blog post I have EVER WRITTEN. It is an epic of a race recap. Feel free to scroll or skip)
This has been an amazing experience. An amazing, amazing, wonderful, incredible, challenging, painful and beautiful experience. I am never going to forget it. But just in case, I’m going to put down every single detail here. I hope you like lots of obsessive detail as well as a lot of pictures, because that’s what you’re going to get! See slideshow (scroll to end) for a trip through Foodie’s race weekend. Be aware that the slide show seems to have randomized my pictures so they are NOT in chronological order but hopefully you will recognize the images from the recap.
Where do I begin? I guess I begin on Friday night when I arrived here alone. I was all chompy at the bit so I went over the race Expo. WOW what a scene. It was very exciting. I checked-in and got my race number. The Brooks people had this giant area with prizes and a carnival atmosphere and stuff. They had a giant painted bus and a place where you could run on a treadmill and they took video of your feet running in slow-mo. That was pretty cool. I also won a bumper sticker and a hat.
I was a little sad but also a little relieved to be all alone in our giant 3-bedroom suite (which I had booked in July, thinking it was going to be Party Central, but alas, many people had to cancel). I was exhausted and I crashed very early Friday night.
I visited the Expo three times because frankly, I was kind of obsessed with my feet and ankles and determined to find whatever support I could to assure that I was going to finish this race in the best shape possible. I was worried. I’d had a good ten-mile run a week ago, but since then I was plagued by right ankle and heel pain. I was kind of freaked out.
So at the Expo I had my feet and ankles taped at the KTT booth, I bought an ankle wrap support doohickie, bought a pair of compression socks from Zensah and if they had had a shamanic healer booth, I would have gone there too. I also bought a pair of those rocker-bottom sneakers because they were 50% off (I am such a sucker for deals!). I don’t believe any of the hoo-hah that claims they make you lose weight or get buns of steel, but I think it’s probably worthwhile to change up your gait and posture. My cousin-in-law was wearing them for Thanksgiving and he swore by them and said they are great. So I got a pair. I also got a foam roller kit with a killer little roller, a foam block and a hard foam ball.
I met up with Brandon (aka @AHealthyDad) and @fitmacdaddy at the Expo and we took a fun photo at the faux finish line. It was great to meet some other healthy Tweeters!
Julianne (aka @pubsgal) and Junior arrived on Saturday afternoon and we went through the Expo one more time. We especially had a hoot going through all the Tshirts at One More Mile (I didn’t buy any). I did get some new sporty don’t-fall-out earbuds (more on those later).
After shopping-till-dropping, we went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner and our show night. Ended up at a fancy-shmancy place called Yellowtail where they served, of all things, crab sushi with POP ROCKS (yes, the CANDY) in it. It was like a weird episode of Top Chef. Did it “work?” Um, not really. But now we can say we’ve eaten sushi with candy in it. For the first and last time. See photo of @pubsgal’s facial response.
After dinner we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show. It was breathtaking and awesome and beautiful and dazzling and melancholy and just a wonderful experience. That afternoon, Dr. Mo had counseled me (among other things) to see something “physically inspiring” (she mentioned YouTube videos) and this certainly fit the bill.
We went home and I set up my pre-race pile o’stuff, put my race chip on my shoe, fastened my number to my waist belt, packed my little pack with money, Gu Chomps, etc.
I set my alarm for 5:00am but ended up waking at 3:45. I think this is pretty common. I debated going back to sleep for another hour but I was so wired I didn’t think it was going to happen. So I got up, stretched, had coffee and bagel with peanut butter.
Since the Strip was closed for the marathon, it was a bit of a nervewracking debacle getting down to the start line. (especially since I noted on Twitter that various people were heading over there starting at 4am when I woke up!!) Our plan was to leave our hotel at 6 to arrive there (4 miles away) well before 7:00am. But the hotel staff seemed rather perplexed by the whole thing and said they were having a hell of a time getting taxis to come around “the back way.” There were lots of people waiting around and no taxis. They recommended taking the Monorail, but that meant walking a few blocks from our hotel and then walking another MILE AND A HALF to the start line. I was not really interested in adding another 1.5-2 miles to our race distance, so we were holding out pretty much for a taxi.
We walked to a hotel across the street since one of our taxi drivers the night before had told us they would have taxis at their back entrance. We trudged through the casino and there were NO taxis to be seen. Anxiety increased. I kept bugging the valet guy who insisted he was putting out multiple calls and after what seemed like FOREVER, a taxi showed up. It was one of the jankiest taxis I have ever ridden in, but we did not care. It got us there.
Arrived to find thousands of people streaming toward the starting corrals. They had a “wave” start with people lined up in corrals based on estimated pace time. I was in one of the last ones. But what I did not realize is that the “gear bag check” area was not anywhere near the corrals, and I was in a bit of a panic that I was going to miss the start. By this time it was about 6:55. I needn’t have worried.
Finally found the gear check area, which was actually awesomely organized. I had packed a giant plastic bag (supplied by the race people) with warm dry clothes, an extra jacket, socks, etc. Then I rushed (I mean RAN) over to my corral. And then proceeded to stand there for like half an hour. I could tell by Tweets that Sue O (aka @mrsfatass) was in my same corral and I really wanted to meet her! But she was packed into the center of the corral like a sardine, and I was kind of claustrophic so I stayed outside the corral “fence” until the herd began moving forward.
FINALLY we started moving toward the start line which was way, way, way off. The anticipation was both killing and exciting. We kept seeing clumps of people hear the “GO!” signal ahead of us, and then we would trudge ahead a few more feet. This was a big adrenaline moment.
Then it was our turn. I was only about 3 people away from the actual start rope and the feeling at that spot was amazing. Then the 3…2…1… GO! And we were off.
I had a hard time “finding my feet” at first, trying to figure out what pace to go. I knew I wanted to walk but I was so tempted to run and I did run a very short distance before realizing that was a bad idea. I also used the first mile to figure out my electronic situation. I had an iPod shuffle which I had meticulously loaded with great music the night before. My plan was to use the Shuffle for my music, and to save my iPhone for occasional tweeting and to text Junior and possibly Mr. McBody during the race, but we had signed up for this service that gave pace and distance updates via texting during the race, so I figured he’d be updated.
Well. First problem I discovered that the NEW EARBUDS I had purchased at the Expo did NOT WORK with my Shuffle! It did not have the little volume and song-choice control button thing on it. It had a microphone, and I could swear the sales person told me or maybe I assumed, but I had NO control over the volume (it was so low I could barely hear it) and worse, I had no choice over what song I was listening to. It was NOT set to my Running playlist. AGHHH.
Music is one of the lifesavers of my running experience. It is super, super important to me and can make or break a race for me. So I immediately felt panicky about losing my best music. I had a choice: I could randomly listen to whatever the Shuffle turned up, or I could put the earbuds into my iPhone and access my playlist. But this would also suck up the battery life and then I might not be able to use the phone for actual communication.
For the first part of the race I just went with the Shuffle. I was amused that certain songs that I’d never consider “running songs” actually worked. Including “By My Side” from the Godspell soundtrack (ßnostalgia for high school era musicals).
Where are you going? Where are you going? Can you take me with you? I’ve got a pebble in my shoe. And watch me walk. I can walk, I can walllllllllllkkkkkkk…. (swelling chorus)
That kept me going for a while.
As we went down the strip I realized I had not seen any mile 1 marker. I don’t know if they didn’t have one, or I missed it because I was messing with my music. But I was really unhappy during the first 2 miles. My left arch was aching, I just wasn’t feeling GOOD, and I thought, holy mackerel, if this is the first mile, I am dead.
We passed the Mile 2 marker after what seemed like an eternity, and then I perked up because I realized I’d just finished 2/3 of a 5k. At that point I had still been seeking out the Mile ONE marker and I was beginning to freak out. But when I realized I’d gotten to Mile 2, I felt immediately better. I knew that in 1.1 mile I’d be at the first 5k.
I texted Mr. McBody to see if he was getting updates on Junior, who I knew was way ahead of me. He said he’d gotten nothing. Hmm. As it turned out the whole “auto-update” thing had technical problems and issued an apology and refund promise at the end of the day.
Texting him made me realize how much I needed that support. I began sending some updates to Twitter and it made me feel sooooo good to receive encouraging “Go Foodie!” tweets in response. It was HUGE.
Okay, so a little about the course. Basically it was my understanding (I did not study the map in huge detail and I thought I understood it) that we would run up the Strip past this giant landmark called the Stratosphere, then go a little ways past it, then turn around and come back down the Strip. So for the first part I was just focused on getting past the Stratosphere. I sort of thought of it as my halfway-ish point.
This is where the mental part of running comes in. What happened is that we passed the Stratosphere. Yay! Then a few blocks ahead I saw a bunch of runners going perpendicular on a cross street, and I thought, oh, just a couple blocks, then we’re going to turn left and come back down! WRONG. What happened is that we passed the Stratosphere and then went through this freaking long MAZE of streets, I mean it felt that Harry Potter maze of death. Within this maze we passed the 6 and 7 mile markers, the 10K etc. But it seemed to take FOREVER to get to that place of turning around and heading back down the strip.
In reality it was like this: 1/3 up the strip, 1/3 wandering around a horrible maze of downtown Las Vegas, including decrepit awful depressing liquor stores, strip bars, tacky Wedding Chapels (not the cute tacky kind, the truly bleak kind) $25-a-room crack dealer hotels, and just AGHHH, and then 1/3 down the strip. This was kind of horrific. Race planners, I think I would have preferred that 1/3 wandering around in a desert or a subdivision or the AIRPORT then that particular plot of geography. But whatever.
We emerged from the Maze and once again faced South. My first impression was, there’s the Stratosphere again. And OMG it is SO FAR AWAY. At this point I was completely disgusted with the volume and choice of musical offerings on my Shuffle so I switched to my iPhone. This again perked me up immediately and I am sure I really sped up here. I was about at mile 9 and feeling pretty good. I passed the 15k and then Mr. McBody texted me that Junior had just finished, at 2 hours 24 minutes. I was so excited for her and feeling good.
I passed ten miles. At that point I knew I was getting into territory I’d never been before: running more than 10 miles. I told myself I had just one more 5k to go, one more lap around my beloved Lake Merritt.
It started getting really hard. My left arch, which had been aching virtually since mile 1, started feeling actual intense PAIN. I did not know what to do. My right ankle, which has plagued me since the dawn of time, was miraculously feeling good. The rest of me felt pretty good – no hip or knee pain. But my left foot! (hey, wasn’t that a movie? ;-)) was suddenly KILLING. I tweeted plaintively, “11 miles oh Jesus.” I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by that, but it was an SOS of sorts. It was like… I am not sure I can do this. It was my Faltering Point.
At that moment I can say, thank God for Twitter because the encouraging messages started popping up on my phone. I cranked up the best music I could find, watching my battery level sink lower and lower. I had to pull out all the guns. Then it occurred to me that maybe I had given my left foot TOO MUCH support (is there such a thing?) by wrapping it in that ankle wrap. I had done that prophylactically, to keep from injuring it, but something was killing my arch. So I pulled over to the side and undid the Velcro straps. I contemplated taking it off completely but I did not want to stop for too long because I knew it would make me start feeling weak and sick. So I just undid them and let the flop about. I think it may have helped me a little bit. It helped me psychologically.
Miles 11-13 were hard. They were damn freaking hard. I’d say the first two miles and the last two miles of this race were the worst ones for me emotionally. I stopped tweeting and texting and just put on my determined face and powered through the best I could. Junior came up to meet me about ½ mile out and gave me an encouraging rub on the shoulder and a “Go mama!” I kept going.
Damn that last tenth of a mile! When I saw the 13 mile sign I was SO READY to be done. But we had a final tenth to go and it was, I swear, mildly UPHILL – the only hill in the entire race. I was so not in the mood for a hill of even one degree grade at that point. The end of the race was kind of confusing because there was a half-marathon finish line, a marathon finish line and a big puffy arch thing. I wasn’t sure which point was the actual stopping point. I kept running even through the finish line because the puffy arch was still a ways a way and then I asked the people, “Am I done?”
When they said, “Yup, all finished!” I just burst into tears. I cried and cried. It was so emotional. It was a big moment. Then I went to get my gear and find Junior and Julianna and listen to a few minutes of Bret Michaels (his music is Not My Thing but I like him bc he’s now a diabetes advocate). One of the COOLEST thing they had at the Post-Race Village was this tent with big cushy benches and giant TUBS OF ICE where you could go soak your throbbing feet. I took huge advantage of this. They provided big thick plastic knee-high bags to put over your socks and when I put my feet in that tub… Ahhhhhh. Nothing had ever felt so good. It was just… ahhhhhhh.
Getting back to the hotel after the race proved to be… challenging. The taxi line at Mandalay Bay was INSANE so we decided to take the Monorail. Let me just say that this was not easy and it added a good 2-3 miles of walking to our race. Not a happy thing. We were hurting and tired and at this point I started feeling all the familiar gastrointestinal symptoms of running a long race. (I will not give TMI, but let me say I was not feeling very good)
It took us over an hour and a half to traverse the 4 miles to our hotel. (which we had already passed twice during the race) Got there, showered and then Junior and I went down to the hotel spa for our post-race massage that I’d scheduled earlier. I was so zonked at this point that I just said, “My feet hurt. Please rub them,” and then I passed out on the table. I think it felt good. But when I stood up my feet STILL hurt, so she did not manage to perform any miracles.
Then we went to the room to nap for a bit then headed over to Serendipity3 at Caesar’s Palace. I am a lifelong fan of Serendipity3 in New York City and I never pass up a chance to get a Frozen Hot Chocolate. We enjoyed an amazingly delicious dinner of Kobe Beef Sliders (adorable and delicious), sweet potato fries, Summer Bries (turkey apple and brie sandwich) crab cake salad (@pubsgal) and a foot-long hotdog (Junior). It was a perfect post-race meal. Then we sent Junior off to the airport and Julianna and I came back to the hotel. And CRASHED HARD.
I was so happy to wake up this morning with only very minor aches and pains (I’ve had worse pain after sessions with my trainer) and an extreeeeeeeeemely swollen face. My lips were gigantic. That’s from all the hydrating! But after some coffee and resuming my blood pressure meds and a lot of water and trips to the bathroom, I am balancing out. I got on the airplane and came home. The end!
I learned a lot during this race. I think even though it had its Very Difficult Moments, it was one of my favorite races of all time. I learned:
I can pretty much run a half marathon. I think I walked a total of 2 (maximum) out of the 13.1 miles. Just knowing that is just an amazing feeling and it gets me all choked up just thinking about it. For most of the time leading up to this race I did not intend to run ANY of it, but something caught ahold of me just in the last month and I ended up shocking myself.
I’m getting the hang of this hydration thing. Drinking sports drinks instead of (or in addition to) water has made a HUGE HUGE difference in how I feel. Ditto on the nutrition. I had about 2/3 bag of Gu Chomps plus about ½ pack of regular Gu during the race and I think that was about right. This was the FIRST LONG RACE I’ve done in which I did not experience frightening numb/tingling hands, shortness of breath, dizziness or otherwise feeling like total death. So GO ME for figuring this out.
My final time was 3:09 so now I have a new goal of sub-three hours. Which is pretty modest but also I think quite attainable. And yes I am thinking of the Next One!! I do not think I want to go to full marathon level, but we shall see. I want to get better at doing halves.
My final race pace average was 14:26 minute mile, or 4.16mph. When I saw those stats I got very teary because my goal was 15 minute mile and I really did better than that. This is shocking to me because it means even though I walked a bit at probably 18-min pace, it means when I was running I was running quite a bit faster than 14:26 at some points. That’s like… wow.
I need to NOT TRY NEW STUFF on race day. Like wearing an ankle support thing just for the heck of it. Or trying new electronics. Those things both hindered me big time. On the other time, my new compression socks worked out just fine and I think the KTT taping was also a good thing.
It felt good. It felt soo gooooooood. To do something I really really did not think was possible. It’s such a mental thing! I cried (yeah I’m doing a lot of crying!) when I saw what Mr. McBody posted on my Facebook page (something he RARELY DOES):
Overcoming adversity and numerous obstacles. 2. Overturning lifelong limiting beliefs. This required great bravery and internal fortitude. It’s a beautiful thing. Susan is my hero.
Overturning lifelong limiting beliefs! And boy, does he know this. He remembers when he’d try to coax me on a one-mile run and I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it. He remembers when I’d go YEARS without exercise and was 40 lbs overweight.
I think he pretty much summed up why I feel so damn good about this weekend. How’s THAT for a Moby Dick of a race recap??
I have been battling the war on Clutter for as long as, or maybe longer, than I have been battling with my weight and food issues. This morning I saw a great and inspiring post by MizFit about her own Clutter challenge. (watch the video!!) And because maybe One Challenge Is Not Enough For Me Right now (AM I INSANE??) I am jumping in to this one too. But you know, MizFit is giving away 30 things in 30 days. If I gave away 30 things, it would not even make the slightest dent in my house. So I am going to go for TEN GIVEAWAYS per DAY!! I will do some of these giveaways via Freecyle.org, and a few of them via this blog. Only a few because I’m going to pay for shipping fees, and if I do Freecyle, there’s no cost.
So: today I am giving away, via this blog, THREE ITEMS.
If you want one of them, send me an email with your snail mail address. Tell me which item you want. In the interest of time management, I will not be asking for any fancy challenges, and I will not be doing any random choosery. I will just be sending each item to the FIRST PERSON who jumps in and asks for it, along with their address. I will also NOT be responding individually to people and saying, “You are not the first person.” I will announce the First People in tomorrow’s giveaway, and better luck tomorrow!
Today’s three items: (note: these are all beneficial items, but they are redundant to things I already own)
1. Weight Watchers Complete Food Companion: points values for over 17,500 food items! (UPDATE: TAKEN!)
3. Making The Cut by Jillian Michaels (Jillian rocks. but we have two of these books in our house, and I sure don’t need more than one!) (UPDATE: TAKEN!)
OK? Ready set, GET THESE OUT OF MY HOUSE PLEASE!! Only one per customer, please. Let the decluttering begin!!