13.1, Done.

2013-04-28 09.25.09

As I waited for the gun to signal that the Country Music Half & Full Marathon had officially started, my aspirations of a sub-two-hour finish rapidly diminished to a hope that I would somehow finish.

Gone were the thoughts of a competitively paced race. Instead, as I stood very ill-prepared for 45-degree, windy, rainy weather in a t-shirt and shorts, I was aching for at the very least a trash bag to use as a poncho. Maybe even a hat? What about something as simple as my long-sleeve mock-zip that I wrongly had checked with my gear? (“I’ll get too hot!” I had thought.)

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Out of all of the cold weather that I have endured; nothing was quite like the cold matched with rain that brought a whole new light to the saying that I felt ‘chilled to the bone.’ Nothing was dry. In fact, my shorts were feeling quite heavy and there were puddles in my shoes. Not to mention, I was pretty sure from the sympathetic gestures and looks from fellow runners nearby that I must have been heavily wearing my look of misery.

“Just start already! Maybe if I’m running, I’ll warm up.”

That is if I didn’t cramp up so bad that I fall into a fetal position and get trampled.

That was also a legitimate worry.

As my corral finally made it to the starting line I was excited for us to be released; not out of adrenaline or anticipation–there was none of that. Instead I was just glad to be moving. Glad to be one second closer to being done and maybe out of the bad weather.

I had known fairly quickly it was a terrible idea to keep my music and earphones with me; but that was only confirmed short strides into the course. Wet ears do not mix with ear buds; nor does loud rain mix with music volumes. I couldn’t hear anything.

So less than a mile into the race I was left contemplating throwing my headphones off the side of the course; only to settle with stuffing them in my bra instead.

“Well that may be an unfortunate chafing factor,” I thought.

And there I am. Running. Still soaked through in my tee and shorts. Now also carrying an iPhone that I’m not even listening to.

While some people were brave enough to ditch their outer layers, trash bags and ponchos; a mile didn’t warm me up.

On the other hand, I was so cold that I was looking at the items on the wet ground contemplating how gross or warm it would be to recycle them. I decided on gross since they mostly just looked wet and laughed at myself.

There were churches with groups cheering and bars with patrons staring. There were so many people and I couldn’t help but be grateful for the people who somehow sucked up the bad weather and were there cheering for others when they didn’t even have to be there.

I missed the one-mile sign and before I knew it I was off of the roads I remembered driving and walking the day before; and then I was on unknown roads already passing mile 2’s marker. Partly because I was distracted texting myself some Nashville photos on mile 2 (I was obviously concerned about what was going to happen to the ol’ phone in the rain).

Even though the first two miles seemed to be over in a blink I knew I was going slow. There were a lot of people passing me (‘what in the world people, it’s raining — how can you race?’) and I could tell from my watch that I was going at about a 10-minute mile stagger. But I was two miles in. And still cold. It hurt when my feet hit the ground. With every muscle stiff from shuddering in the cold, I thought something might eventually shatter.

While I had worried about the hills going into the race, I smiled when I saw the first one ahead.

This was going to get my blood pumping. Warmth!

Mile three was a welcome scene of hills and exiting downtown Nashville for neighborhoods. The next three miles were a wonderful welcome of:

– warming up,

– getting used to running in the rain,

– realizing I was overly comfortable with my pace,

– finding that I wasn’t having any of the cramping I had worried about,

– being distracted by the question “do I have to pee or is it just the rain?”

– smiling at the people cheering on the sidelines,

– abandoning the effort to avoid puddles,

– embracing the hills and thought that I had prepared well enough,

– and genuinely finding some way to enjoy myself.

Who would have figured that those rolling Tennessee hills might be just what saved my run.

There were cheerleaders and family members, locals and business owners. Maybe it was the emotion of what I was doing, maybe I’m nearing that time of the month, or maybe I was just fragile from being in the cold all morning—but countless times I was almost moved to tears at the amount of support that existed in spectators who were sitting in the cold rain and encouraging us one by one.

“It’s not raining at the top of the hill!” one shouted.

Another yelled “Anyone can run in good weather; it takes a real runner to be out in this rain!”

One supporter’s sign read “Run if you can, Walk if you must; Whatever you do finish for Boston.”

And I had to choke back a few tears.

Who knew that running 13.1 miles would be as much of an emotional journey as a physical one?

Man, I wished that those affected in Boston could see the number of signs on the sidelines, t-shirts on the runners, body markings and wristbands that showed “Boston Strong.” It was an incredible sight.

By the time I got to mile six I was feeling strong in a personal sense, too. Not only was the halfway mark looming, I was fairly shocked at how fast the time was going. No music really, many of the bands must have been scared away by the weather. A lot of quiet besides the padding of sneakers in puddles and mixed chatter between runners. And still not a second did I think “THIS IS DRAGGING.”

Every bend brought a new neighborhood or poster. Every passing runner had some entertaining shirt or expression.

Around mile six is when a guy who had ferociously passed me on mile one seemed to sputter out and I somehow passed him again when he was sucking air. I couldn’t help but feel a little vain that I was pacing myself better than he was.

My stride felt natural and I rarely found myself looking at my watch other than to check my pace at mile-markers.

There were friendly runners talking about that last hill or how they remembered the next neighborhood from last year’s race. There were runners joking about how no one would even notice if they peed themselves and there were runners who talked about stealing a snack along the way. There were runners who looked visibly tired but kept trucking along and there were runners who seemed to like mixing sprinting with walking.

It was an eclectic crew and I was somehow surprised to find the amount of conversation that happened along the way.

Running a half-marathon was far different from 5Ks or 10Ks where everyones pace is set on speed. Instead this race seemed to be about finishing and lasting, and sometimes that required some conversation and moral support from fellow runners along the way.

After I crested the mile seven marker in a neighborhood that felt strangely like Asheville, I knew I was set to go. I was halfway there and it was safe to pick up my speed a little bit. Some runners balked at the free beer from local restaurants; but I was afraid of it.

If i could just make it to mile 8 I was going to take advantage of the Gatorade which was luckily my favorite; but unluckily I think spilled on myself as much as I was able to drink.

The only drawback was that I could tell I was off-pace to break two hours. But, just maybe, if I stepped it up I could trim it down as close as possible.

Eight miles had always been the magic cross-over. I don’t know what was special about it except that maybe that was the most comfortable long run that I had finished so far.

Eight miles came easy but it was also at mile 8 that I began to feel things. Picking up my legs was a little harder.

The sign “Does your butt feel like bowling balls?” didn’t mean much when I saw it the first time at mile 2; but at mile 8 it started to ring a bell. My calves were feeling a little tighter. It was like my left leg was remembering that it had a shin splint and my feet weren’t just swimming my shoes anymore–there was definite sloshing.

If only I could get to mile 9 then I would only have four miles left and that was a short running day. That should be in the bag.

A few bands and again multiple pockets of spectators later I crested the 9-mile marker and started to kick up my speed. After mile 9 I didn’t feel like there was much looking back. You could tell that we were winding back out of the suburbs towards downtown and the tenth mile which landed us back in the city again put me on familiar roads that I had wandered with Nathaniel the day before.

The hills didn’t make too much of a difference and even though I couldn’t feel my toes or really my hands at that point, I was still feeling strong. My breathing was picking up; but it was steady. My heart was pumping; but it was keeping me warm.

The only hard part?

People walking.

At one point I about had to hurdle a girl who decided to bend over in front of me to stretch at the last second.

People walking meant you had to weave. That meant that sometimes people would get huffy if you cut them off (understandably). And it also meant misery if you had to get around them on a sidewalk that meant pushing off and leaping onto a raised surface. That’s when I could really sense I was going to hit some fatigue. Luckily as mile 10 blended into mile 11 there was a GU stop. Never had it before; but one of the French Vanilla packets later I was pretty confident that it would give me what i needed to push through the final two miles. For each of those walkers though I wanted to look back and yell “Come on! We’re almost there!” Maybe I should have. But I was too shy.

Passing the 12-mile marker was the biggest adrenaline kicker. ONE MILE. As I sped up, the man next to me warned that three-quarters of the finish were uphill. I didn’t hear him. I just kept going. Just maybe I could hit 2 hours on the dot. Maybe. But I would have to be fast. Every corner I hoped I would have a glimpse of the finish—but nothing.

Until finally there was the marathon course running alongside ours again. And in the distance I could see the finish fixture covering the route.

The rain was still pouring as hard as when we started; but somehow deep inside I had enough left in me to sprint out the finish.

And when I looked at my watch it read 02:00:13. I had made it in two hours.

(Only to see on the actual recorded time that I hit 01:59:57. Talk about beating 2 hours by a hair.)

As I crossed the finish line I was so overwhelmed with “damn, I finished” and “holy crap, I got cold again really fast” and “oh my gosh, I did it” and “good grief, I’m emotional” that I about burst into tears. Walking through and picking up my medal, chugging a bottle of water, grabbing a Gatorade, inhaling a banana, snatching a Powerbar and snapping a photo later I was completely overcome with cold. Shaking. Barely could pick up my feet. So much pain. And the car was so far away.

I was lucky to not run the race alone. It was far nicer to find a familiar face at the end who had shared the similar challenges of the day than end the race by yourself like I had done in Charleston. I’m not sure many other bonding experiences you can share with a person other than pushing your body to its complete limit subjecting it to miserably cold, wet weather for six hours and also running your heart out for a good part of that. And finishing pretty strong, I might add.

A day and two aching legs later; it’s still hard to shake my thoughts as I ran my race and I still find myself dreaming about the 13.1 miles start to finish. I’m still taking ibuprofen and I’m still drinking a Nalgene of water every two hours. I’m still stumbling up and down stairs and I’m definitely still finding spots of chafing from wet clothes and  knots from cramped muscles.

But.

All that said. I’m somehow, shockingly, sad that I can’t run today.

What?

I know.

So, surprise surprise, I’m pretty sure that 26? Yeah, 26 is going to include running a full marathon. Maybe 25 will see another half. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

I can’t say exactly when or why I started running; but if you’re going to be addicted to something I can’t think of a better (albeit time-consuming) drug.

So, check that off. Another 25 by 25 bites the dust.

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The Long Run.

I finished my second-to-last long run Monday evening and I felt a little bit like I had been hit by a truck. It was only (ha, only) 11.5 miles and I somehow managed to keep a 9.5-minute pace; but it felt so slow. When mile 3 felt like mile 8 I knew that it was going to be a long afternoon. It was hot. I was thirsty. I have never been one to drink water while running–at Cooper River Bridge I was frustrated by how every water station slowed me down with people pit-stopping–and by the end of mile 9, a Corona commercial on the radio had me longing for anything–even a beer. I now understand the runner fanny packs and water-bottle belts.

But, 11.5 miles. Only 1.5 miles to half-marathon distance. I’m fairly confident in the “I can finish this” part — now it’s just the “I can finish this in under 2 hours” part that I hope to make come true. Since I’ve had that finish time in my head all along, I hope that I don’t wind up disappointed if I still finish and it’s in 2:02:35 or something crazy.

Yesterday I experienced the woes of long distances though. Oddly swollen feet. A knee that seemed to catch. I definitely needed rest. So, instead of the usual workout I did a leisurely 3.5-mile walk and hung out with elevated feet and frozen peas for the night. I was still able to close out the day happy though.

13.1 miles is happening and, you know, I actually feel pretty ready.

Half Birthday; But a Lot of 25s Left to Do.

Number 8, take a trip with brother, is officially done. This past weekend the two of us went to Charleston and also tackled number 5 to break out my should-have-been-used-by-now tent. 25 by 25s getting checked off all just in time for the half-way mark today; my half birthday (not something I celebrate, PS).

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In the things that were my favorite of the three days, not to be missed are:

– An abundance of Chacos weather,

– Campfires,

– Road trips with bad food,

– Sleeping bag conversations,

– Wandering downtown Charleston and Fort Sumter/Moultrie,

– Running one of the most fun races I have ever been a part of.

The Cooper River Bridge run was incredible. 40,000 people is astounding. And running in the midst of that many people? Overwhelming. But the adrenaline seriously carried me through at least half of the race. Then I just purely enjoyed the back half. My pace was actually a little slower than I felt capable of but because of the people and I had never raced that far I kind of cruised a bit. Still finished in under 53 minutes; so I was quite happy.

Overall, this weekend was awesome. Now I’m just sad that it’s over. I guess now I can shift focus to Nashville. Cue butterflies.

Six months to go and 14 to-dos remain, some scheduled, some ongoing and some that I need to make a move on. Need to start making some more plans for books, education, acting, shooting, publishing and traveling – ha.

What Remains:

  1. Learn to play guitar. In progress.
  2. Get a stamp in my way-too-empty passport. Canada in January…but no stamp, so not 100 percent done.
  3. Write a book proposal.
  4. Run a half marathon. April 27, 2013
  5. Volunteer time somewhere that really counts. Find a non-profit to dedicate passion.
  6. Re-immerse in the arts: read more, listen to bands I’ve never heard of. Ongoing.
  7. Continue my education. Enroll in a class or make a point to find non-traditional ways to keep challenging myself and growing.
  8. When you see family members are calling, answer it. When you see long-distance friends are calling your phone, answer it. When you don’t want to call, don’t underestimate the power of sending the unexpected letter. Ongoing.
  9. Be outrageously spontaneous at least once. Want to watch a sunrise on the coast? Go. Want to see that band that only plays on weeknights at a hole-in-the-wall in New York? Make it happen.
  10. Try for other acting experience.
  11. Learn how to handle a firearm. Okay, and maybe shoot one too.
  12. Be published in a news forum that I haven’t been published in before.
  13. Be vulnerable. It’s OK to tell people how I feel every so often. In fact, I should tell some people every single day.
  14. See a play on Broadway.

Countdown to Cooper River Bridge!

Just two days and we’ll be setting up camp in Charleston, S.C.!

Not only is it my first time tent camping in far too long. (I hope it’s the first of many instances this summer.) But, it’s the first trip my brother and I have taken just the two of us.

I’m excited for waking up to the birds and the sunrise. Hot tea and oatmeal. The ocean. Running 6 miles. Good music. Maybe some comedy club. And just enough good car time.

Fingers crossed for warm, sunny weather because I’m sick of feeling so pale. And also fingers crossed that I don’t forget any essentials.

Craziest thought is that after this race is over, the next one is the Nashville Half. Gives me butterflies just thinking about it; but after my 10-mile run on Monday I’m feeling confident.

This month is going to be so, so great. I just know it.

First 5K of 2013, Done.

 

A late night to bed, not enough running the week of and a really crowded 5K group made me wonder if I was really going to be able to use the Winston-Salem Color Run as a training block. Five color stations, a few hills and 25 minutes later though, I was super happy with how my first 5K of the year went. A PR and good times with friends. It was nice to run with a friend+coworker and running in a tutu wasn’t such a big deal. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a timed race–so no record of the PR (ha)–but it was a great course.

Only challenge? The 45-minute shower to get all of the color off.

Now, anticipation for Cooper River Bridge 10K in just two weeks!

Country Music Half Marathon? Only 5 weeks, yikes.

Countdown to Race 1.

Okay, so this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to a 5K–but this is the first of three races building up to my first half marathon. Pretty crazy excited that this time i get to be a part of the Color Run. This. This will be me in just under TWO weeks.

And I am feeling pretty awesome.

Keeping to my running schedule? Yes.

How many miles now? Yesterday I ran seven. (Seven!)

And my pace isn’t half bad; but I need to keep working in hills. I have been forewarned that Nashville is by no means flat. So, hills. Circuits. Sprints. All of that need to be added more.

Two weeks until a 5K.

Five weeks until a 10K (Charleston, here we come).

Eight weeks until 13.1.

Yikes. But, I feel like I’ll be ready!