Monday, September 7, 2009

Never Again...?

Rock and Roll Half Marathon Virginia Beach, check. Yup, did it, and did it pretty well, for having hardly trained at all. What a tremendous experience! One of 20,000 who registered to run or walk 13.1 miles from the convention center, over rudee inlet, down General Booth Blvd., through Camp Pendleton, and finishing up on the boardwalk, all the while with residents, cheerleaders, and bands to motivate us, and hundreds of volunteers ready with water, Cytomax, and encouragement pushing us on.

My sense of dread on Saturday just kept building, realizing I hadn't trained near as much as I'd hoped. But the goal had all along been nothing more than to finish and finish uninjured. I would run as much as I could, but listen to my body.

We had eleven folks staying at the house that our friend Chris so generously rented. We all got checked in and enjoyed some of the expo shopping, got a little beach time in, and then enjoyed a spaghetti dinner complete with two delicious salads and yummy bread. A nice walk on the beach under a full moon completed the night. We could hear the music until about 11, and then all got quiet. And I couldn't sleep. All told I may have gotten 2 1/2 hours. I was up at 5:30 and ready to go by 6. We all walked over to the start of the race, and then waited for over 30 minutes as each group of runners started.

Each group (or corral) is staged based on their estimated finish time. Many folks move into different corrals once they get there, based on how they feel and how they've prepared. I was placed in corral 18, but moved myself back to 22. I was not feeling as optimistic as I had been in April.

Finally our corral was off. My friend Amy stuck with me during the entire race, and I am so grateful. She let me set the pace, walked when I walked, ran when I ran, and doesn't like to talk while running...just the perfect race support buddy! The first six miles we mostly ran, with some walking interspersed for recovery and stretching. Even the Rudee Inlet bridge wasn't near as troublesome as I thought it would be. Miles 7 and 8 we mostly walked. This was on Camp Pendleton and was mostly in the sun. The distance between mile markers started to feel longer and longer, so by the time we reached mile 10 I was really losing my enthusiasm. We had allowed ourselves to think we might finish in three hours (and Amy could have) but the last four miles killed that for me. I've heard it said and now believe it to be true, each of those last miles seems longer than the last! Finally, with about 3/4 of a mile to go, Amy sprinted to the finish. I began jogging again, feet burning and lower back aching, and the strains of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane" reaching me from the finish line. I really was going to finish this, I realized!

Crossing the finish line was a bit anticlimactic, but it was enough to get that bottle of water and a medal around my neck...I had done it! I found Amy again, she congratulated me, and we walked to the family area to meet some of the rest of our housemates. We listened to the music for a while (one of the better bands that I heard, Vinyl Headlights) and then headed back toward the beach house. Along the way a church group had set up for free foot wash/massages, so we stopped for that. What a welcome treat that was. Finally, we arrived back at the house to the cheers of the remainder of the group. We sat and received more foot massages from our race support team member (she didn't run, but she cheered and had snacks and rubbed our feet!) and talked about our experiences from the day. All in all, an unforgettable triumph for me. I am so glad I did it. And even though I kept saying yesterday, "Never again!", I find myself now thinking, "What if I actually trained? I could do the Marine Corps Historic Half, couldn't I?" Somebody, slap me!