Back in the Game!

Don’t you worry… the running doesn’t stop at the end of one little marathon!  I have just been taking it easy over the past few weeks; getting back into the groove of running.  I found a new group to run with on Thursday nights (well, my good old running buddy is in that group… we still plan to keep each other motivated for as long as we can).  I even get to return back to my favorite bridges on those nights!  I’m lovin’ life!

Well, what’s next?  A personal record (PR) on a 5k (that’s 3.1 miles for you non-runner types).  I have to run the thing in under 27 minutes.  Why?  Well, there is this crazy race here in Jacksonville every March.  It is known as the Gate River Run.  The largest 15K in the nation.  Needless to say, everybody who calls themselves a “runner” has to participate in this race (I suppose they don’t have to, but it is like some kind of unwritten code of the running world).  Now, you can’t just sign up for this race because then you will get stuck at the back of the line (they did say it is the LARGEST 15K).  Imagine pushing past thousands of people and weaving in and out of walkers.  So, in order to get a spot near the front of the mass crowd, you have to achieve set times on certain types of races.  So, here I am, trying to make sure I’m in a good spot by doing well on my next 5K.  Just so I can run a 15K next.  Did any of that make sense to you?  It doesn’t really make sense to me, but at least it gives me goals.  I need goals in order to stay focused and keep pushing forward.

So today, my buddy and I decided to try a practice 5K in hopes of achieving our time goal.  Well, we start off flying fast down the road.  Then we realize that we are probably going too fast and we might die soon if we don’t tone it down a bit.  After the first mile (and why did it seem to take forever to reach that first mile even though we did it in 8:17?), my buddy says something about coffee, sick and puke.  We couldn’t really talk in complete sentences because of how fast we were going.  She stopped to do her business (which I assumed was to be sick in the bushes… however, I later come to find out that she didn’t actually do the deed) and told me to keep going.  I kept running, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hang without someone running next to me.  The next mile took forever, but I would have to say that the third mile was the longest.  I visualized mile 22 of the marathon and thought about how awful I felt then and how I felt just as awful at mile 2.5 of this quick jaunt.  It was a different kind of awful, though, because I didn’t feel like my limbs were going to fall off… I felt like my lungs were going to explode.  Somehow I made it to 3.1 and fumbled around in my pocket to grab my phone in an effort to check my time: 25:31.  Whew!  I did it!  As I looked up, my buddy was right there!  Whew!  We both did it!

Then a nice, lovely 3-mile jog back to our cars.  Okay, it wasn’t really the greatest jog of our lives, but it was much better than the speed race we had just completed.  I think we are ready for the real thing on Saturday!  Oh man, do we really have to do that all over again?  In the beginning I thought that maybe I was made for speed.  Now I think I would rather take a slow 12-mile jog over a fast 3-mile run!

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THE EVENT

The happiest place on earth… really??  Then how come at around mile 22 I wasn’t feeling so HAPPY?  I think I could have related more to Grumpy from the seven dwarfs.  A sweet, young lady had turned into a venomous, cursing ugly woman who no one wanted to run next to.  Okay, let me rewind for a minute.  How did I get to become this monstrosity (hmm, that sounds like the description given to Stitch)?

It was a pleasant morning in the world of happiness.  Okay, that is still stretching it.  I don’t think any morning is pleasant when you have to get your butt out of bed at 2:00 a.m. especially if nerves did not allow you to fall asleep in the first place.  Even though my roommate/running buddy and I had everything laid out the night before (which could be another story pages long because there was a debate about what clothes to wear based on weather predictions… not to mention the horror of my roommate searching frantically for her ipod) before we still struggled to get out the door in time to meet our group in the lobby.  There we were, forcing ourselves to smile as they snapped several pictures of our peppy little group.  Then, on to the buses.  You don’t know how happy I was to actually have a seat and not have to stand for the short ride to the event parking lot.  I wanted to snooze on the bus ride, but that wasn’t happening.  Too much excitement (or nervousness… whatever you want to call it).  Off the bus we went and found an area to congregate around a sleeping bag a buddy bought at Goodwill just days before (ready for disposal once the race began).  Then we were guided through the bag check tents and as we came out the other side we realized that we had lost a member of our group.  Actually, we think that she intentionally tried to lose us so she could enjoy the 26.2 miles in peace (I guess I jabber more than I thought??… no, it’s not me… must be the other 2 ladies).  The Porta-Potty lines were horrendously long.  I hate these types of facilities.  I would much rather pee in the bushes… as some people did just that.  I am one of the lucky few who doesn’t seem to have to use the restroom during long runs.  I am usually the one running in place outside.  After everyone else in the group had relieved themselves, we made the 3/4 mile trek (yes, can you believe that they actually made us walk that far??!!) to the starting line.  This would have been a quick journey, except for the fact that over 14,000 people were trying to get to the same place.  It was more like herding cattle.  We were more or less doing the shuffle dance.

After the long, tiring journey we finally reached the corrals.  There we huddled together to keep warm while waiting for the race to start.  It was just slightly chilly… okay, lets just say that I was glad I had purchased a cheap pair of sweats that I could discard once the race began (yep, this is what we runners do… once the race starts, we start stripping and it is quite an amazing sight to see people dodging flying articles of clothing).  All of a sudden the fireworks went off!  Oh wait, it wasn’t our turn yet.  The fireworks went off again!  Oh, still not our turn.  I think we were able to start running once the fourth set of fireworks went off.  Some character was dancing on stage as we passed the starting line, but I can’t remember if it was Goofy or Mickey?  I guess I didn’t really care at that point.

It sure is fun to run in the dark.  Okay, maybe only when you are running through Epcot.  Stitch was there waiting for us.  Quite a few people were stopping for pictures, but our little group was too eager to get the marathon finished.  Soon, we were out of the first theme park and back out on open road.  Not the most scenic route, but I still felt a little claustrophobic weaving in and out of runners.  I was wondering if the crowd would ever disperse until I realized that most of them were in that spot because they have a pace similar to mine.

One mile at a time.  Our next motivating factor was Magic Kingdom.  I just kept thinking about how my daughter would be happy that I was running through the castle! I even stopped to take a picture and then hightailed it to catch up with my group.  Wow, it was exhilarating!  I felt pretty darn good.  Then back to open road.  At some point along this road we crossed over the half-marathon point and I remember feeling not too pleased about having to run another half-marathon.  We were keeping a decent pace, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep it up.  All of a sudden, I didn’t feel like I was having a good race anymore.  My lower back started to hurt and every mile I discovered a new body part that gave me pain.  I wasn’t looking forward to the stretch of road after Animal Kingdom.  It was pretty awesome to run past the Everest ride and wind our way through a section of the park.  It was interesting how we always seemed to enter and exit through the backstage.

That stretch of road after Animal Kingdom was my worst nightmare come true.  I started to slow my pace as my running buddies decided to quicken their paces.  I was even thankful at one point when one of them had to stop to use the loo.  I continued on knowing that she would definitely be able to catch up.  And she did.  Not only did she catch up, but she passed me.  Around mile 22 I was alone.  Remember the beginning of the story?  Yes, this is where I had a personality change.  I was in the “bite me” phase. Every part of my body was screaming and I was so pissed that I couldn’t run any faster.  I was so ready to be done with this race!  I had to do everything in my power not to stop and walk.  No, that would have been a huge mistake.  I kept chugging along trying to keep one foot in front of the other.  I didn’t care about my form anymore (not, that I have a good running form anyway… so I have been told… and is evident in my pictures). So, there I was.  In the middle of my nightmare with people running past me on the left and on the right.  Then, there he was at mile 25.  My running coach.  He gave me a small pep talk and that was all I needed.  By the time I hit mile 25.5 I was somehow running like a mad woman.  Yeah, I was running fast again.  So fast that I was the one passing people on my left and right.  I was pumped and I knew I had enough energy to make it.  I kept saying “you can do it!” over and over again.. not just in my head, but out loud.  I might have mixed in a few obscenities in there, but I didn’t care what the other runners were thinking.  The aggression just turned into pure adrenaline.  I was FAST.  I was DETERMINED.  And then there it was… the FINISH line.  As I ran through the last line of spectators I pumped up my arms and just started yelling “GO TEAM!” at the top of my lungs.  As I came across the finish, I high-fived Mickey himself and happily accepted my golden Mickey medal.  That was the climax of my performance.

Then, it all just hit me like a ton of bricks.  I could barely pick up my legs.  I was in some serious pain.  My back was killing me, my legs were placid, my arms ached… it was worse than any pain I had experienced along the way.  I just felt like crying.  Crying because I had finished and crying because I was in so much pain.  So, I did.  I cried. Here’s to you dad, mom and anyone who has endured cancer.  I did it for you and I did it for me.  I DID IT!

Now, will I do it again?  Who knows… probably.  What crazy people do this to themselves over and over again?  People like me I guess…

So, this is not the end.