Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And then I became a Marathoner

(Because a half marathon is still a marathon)

There were some great things about this race. There were some really not great things about this race. The biggest thing is...I did it. I crossed the finish line at 3:31:05. I ran all but probably a half mile of it. And I feel every one of those miles.
More than anything, this was a learning experience. I learned a lot about what works for me, what doesn't, and what a good race should be.

Zooma Race Series, Atlanta at Lake Lanier Islands. April 22, 2012

We got there with plenty of time to spare. There was plenty of parking and we got right in and started the short walk down to the starting line. Now, right before we arrived, my husband asked if I needed to stop anywhere before hand. I SHOULD have stopped for the bathroom. But I didn't. So I ended up standing in line for close to 30 mins for the porta potty. You would think at a women's race, they would have had more, but they didn't.

I finished there with just enough time to walk across the parking lot, find my start group, kiss my husband and start running.

Right out of the starting gate, I saw a tall, beautiful, black girl breezy effortlessly by me. I knew it had to be Tes, founder of RunningNerds, and inspiration to many. I wanted to yell out to her, but the opportunity had been missed. She was in the zone, and probably wouldn't have heard me anyway.

Mile 1-4: Out of the parking lot, down the road to the clock tower and onto the bridge. This is where I encountered my first car issue. Two cars tried to cut off runners to get across the bridge. I think the idea was to have one lane for runners and one for cars, and the cars take turns going across the bridge in opposite directions. Only, they had no one there to direct that, so as the runners, still in large groups, since we hadn't reached a mile yet, were fighting for position against cars. So, these two cars that didn't want to wait for the truck coming in the opposite direction, decided to muscle the runners over so they could get across the bridge. I was able to get myself in front of one of them, then ran down the middle of the lane, blocking his way, so he was forced to slow down and yield to the runners. It's a sore spot with me, since I've had more than my fair share of car run ins while running around town
When we crossed the bridge, the lanes opened up and there was plenty of room for everyone. Through the front gate and around the flags and up the hill I had heard about before the race. "Bulldog bite". It wasn't that bad, I didn't think.
It was sometime around here, either on the bridge or this hill, that I saw Tes again. She was coming in the other direction. I watched her, trying to catch her eye. She was still in her zone. The moment I thought I had lost my opportunity, she looked at me and recognition flashed across her face. We had less than a moment to acknowledge each other and keep on moving.
Back down the hill and back through the gates, across the bridge, and heading back towards where we came from. Around mile 3, I saw my husband. It took me by surprise because I hadn't expected him to wait. I thought he would leave, then come back closer to my finish time.
Immediately after passing him, I saw two girls in RunningNerds 5k shirts. They saw my orange RunningNerds shirt and immediately starting pointing at their shirts and cheering me on.
I've never met these girls before, I don't even know their names, but their cheering for me meant everything to me. I would see them a couple more times through the race, and every time they would yell out "Go running nerd!!"
Heading to mile 4, was the big hill through the water park. I wasn't looking forward to going back up this one.

Mile 4-7: I found this stretch to be really dull and boring. It was out by the campsites and was just dull, dull, dull. It depressed me to think I had to come back through here a second time. Mile 5 was the turn around point, and I was still feeling good. I joked to the volunteers standing there to "Please tell me there are people behind me".

Miles 7-10 was a repeat of what I had already done. Back up the hill by the water park. Made it to the top and enjoyed the release my legs were feeling. Back across the bridge and around the flags and back up "Bulldog Bite" and around the parking lot and back down.
At this point, I was approaching mile 10, and I felt myself giving in, mentally.My head wanted to just be done already. I had been running for nearly 2 and a half hours by this point. I was tired. My knees were protesting, my hip was starting to join the conversation. I started to break, just a little. Passing water stations, I found volunteers packing up (or sleeping in come cases). It was a little defeating. Like they were trying to hurry us up, so they could be done. Or maybe it was just me, and the head space I was in at the time.
I saw my husband again around mile 10. He came over and tried to give me a pep talk. I didn't want to hear it, but I took it, because I knew he was trying. I was trying really hard to hold my shit together at that point. I really wanted to get through this thing without crying.

Mile 10-12: Back down that damn hill. My knees screaming the whole way. Once I got to 10.5 miles, I let myself walk for a bit. My plan had been to run to 10 miles, then do my intervals. By the time I got there, though, I completely through intervals out the window. I walked until I felt guilty for walking, then ran until I couldn't pick up my feet. I was going back through that dull, boring patch.
The volunteers at this point were just as bored as I was, I guess. They were texting, and one water station was completely packed up and abandoned. I got to the mile 12 marker and snapped a pic and texted it to my husband.

Mile 12-finish: Right after the 12 mile mark, a volunteer told me I was almost there. No, I'm not, shut up. I didn't say that out loud. I said "Not close enough".  At mile 12.5 I lost the ability to hold my shit together. The tears started and didn't stop. The song that popped up on my playlist did not help. Whoever put "The Story" by Brandi Carlile on my running playlist is an idiot (that would be me).
I got to the roundabout and was told to go to the right and the finish was downhill. Thanks, but downhill is not a blessing right now. I could hear the announcer and see the finish line just around the corner. All I wanted to do was cross that line and be DONE.
About that time, I saw Tes, and my two RunningNerd girls standing by the finish line. They started calling out my name and cheering me on. I reached down and pulled out some last bit of energy and sprinted across the finish.
My husband took a video of me crossing the finish and it still makes me tear up to watch it. You can see me wiping tears from my face. He came over and hugged me and I just started bawling. I said "I'm done. I have nothing left"

I couldn't stand, but I couldn't really sit either. Everything hurt. I took a moment to look for Tes and the other girls so I could thank them for cheering me on throughout the race. I found one girl, but wasn't able to find the other, or Tes.

I was ready to get to the car, and the ice packs I had brought in a cooler. We walked over to where the trolley was taking people the near mile back to parking. We didn't get on the first trolley and had to wait about 15mins for the next one. I sat on the sidewalk and took my shoes off and tried to massage my feet and stretch out my legs. things were starting to seize up and I just really wanted to be in my car heading home.
The trolley pulled up and I got up and hobbled to the steps. Just as I was getting on, a woman in a volunteer shirt cut in front of me and swooped in and took the last seat. The rest of us were packed in, literally smooshed up against each other, standing, holding on to the strap. As the trolley moved, I was swaying back and forth and felt sicker and sicker. My stomach was not happy. As I stood there, trying not to puke, I got to listen to this volunteer tell a couple of women how long of a day she'd had. How she ran registration that morning, then headed to the finish to help hand out necklaces. How, when she was walking from the start to the finish, a trolley stopped for her, and they joked about how he wasn't supposed to do that, so don't tell anyone. Oh, hahaha, what an amusing story. Not really.

Which pretty much summed up how I felt about the race. I've since seen a lot of other comments that concur with my opinion. A lot of people felt that the race was poorly organized and that some of the volunteers were less than desirable.
There was no GU on the course, like advertised. I didn't bother with the after-party, but I've heard the massages were also missing, and the lunch was pretty sparse. Apparently you had to pay for bananas, too. I've never been to a race where bananas weren't part of the finish line fare.

Compare that to the MUCH smaller 10K I did a week prior in San Francisco, where they were giving out chocolate milk, coconut water, a pancake breakfast, and beer ...ALL FREE.

I've already signed up for another half marathon, but I can't see myself doing Zooma again.

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