Monday, April 27, 2009

"Your mercy reigns, your mercy comes, your mercy falls and rises with the sun..."

"... it's new every morning, it's new every morning, it's good enough for me."

This song by Shane & Shane came on when I hit mile 6 and my quad felt like it was tearing in half. Needless to say, I was begging for mercy. And it came in the form of a water station where I grabbed a cup of orange gatorade from a happy volunteer 
and sipped some of the magic which gave me the boost to push through the pain. 

So it's a week overdue but here are the details from my experience running in the Charlottesville Half Marathon last Saturday (April 18th 2009). Enjoy.

#2166. I picked up my race packet from the Charlottesville Running Company in downtown Charlottesville the evening before the race. Downtown was swarming with people due to the marathon and apparently good ole Dave Matthews was in town for a concert at UVA. Korey Canfield and I used Mike's GPS to find a nearby seafood restaurant (I am convinced that seafood makes me run better... I've tested it) for my pre-race dinner. Bonefish Grill was the winner.. and delectable. I highly recommend the tilapia with the mango sauce and the jasmine herb rice. Anyway Korey and I had a room at a bed and breakfast near downtown which was sufficient for our one night stay. We got back to the cottage and I went straight to bed... except I couldn't sleep. I was too excited/nervous/anxious. I don't know what I was.. I just knew I was going to be running 13.1 miles at 6:30 the next morning. What was I thinking...

I beat my alarm and was up at 5:00am. I took a shower to make sure I was alert and ready for the morning's endeavor. I ventured into the kitchen to make myself a fuel filled breakfast which consisted of a peanut butter whole wheat bagel, a banana, a Nature Valley granola bar, and some sweet iced tea. I was feeling good. Six o'clock came around and Korey was up and ready to take me to my race. She dropped me off at the starting line and snapped some pictures as I took my place in the pack. There were so many people and I didn't know anyone. I didn't take much time to really talk to very many people either... I was too worried about what I had gotten myself into. 

The sun was barely rising when the starting bell rang. Two thousand some people slowly funneled their way through the narrow street and the madness was officially underway. I plugged myself into my mom's iPod shuffle (which she let me borrow for the weekend) and there was no turning back. I spent the first couple miles taking it all in. Employees of the local businesses lined the streets and people leaned out their second story apartment windows to cheer for us as we ran by. It was great! Then, the hunt began. I needed to find a pace partner/running buddy (this was part of Mitch's advice when I saw him the night before at EMU). It took me awhile but by mile 3 I had spotted my victims. They were two girls who
looked about my age and were going about the same pace that I had been training at for the past couple months. They looked like they were pretty serious about the race too so I knew they would help keep me motivated, and they did. Pace partner(s)... check. 

Dodging the sporadic puddles of saliva on the pavement, I ran past the university... I made my way over a bridge with the highway below 
my feet... I ran into the countryside where white fences lined the country road... I ran past trickling streams,
fields full of freshly bailed hay, and pink blooming dogwood trees. It was a beautiful landscape to run through... it really was. 

But then again.. at this particular time in my life... I did not see the beauty in the Virginian hills. Normally, I would. I love to see changes in elevation since I've been sheltered living in Michigan all my life. However, as I was running the race, a feeling of agony would be more appropriate. There were quite a few little hills throughout the course which were a decent challenge but nothing I couldn't handle. Then came Mount Saint Oh-My-Gosh-I'm-Going-to-Die. I had been running through a shaded area where there were streams and pretty trees that made a sort of canopy over the road. I had just finished mile 4. I was feeling great. My feelings of tranquility were abruptly interrupted when I emerged from the woods, turned the corner and saw the 3/4 mile hill staring back at me. I immediately had a flash back to my college preseasons in Traverse City and all I could do was laugh. Here we go.

I summited and this is the part where my quad was about to snap in half... but the magic orange gatorade saved the day and I was on my way to victory once again.

I made it to the turnaround mark and pitied the marathon runners who had a good 20 miles ahead of them. I was glad I only had 6 more to go. Making my way back through the country was probably the hardest part of the race. I had to make my way back down the mountain that I had climbed about a mile and a half earlier and I was struggling to keep my pace (even though I was still following my pace partners). I had to stop on mile 10 for a quick stretch. I told myself I would not stop for more than a minute. By 45 seconds, I was back on the move.  A couple days before I left I was talking to Kevin and his advice was to "keep the pace." I kept telling myself this for the entirety of the race, especially the last 3 miles. Running is a mental battle for me so it helped me stay focused. Keep the pace... check.

The route changed course as I entered the city limits. To finish we were guided to run through the campus of UVA. They even had part of the marching band playing for us as we ran past the tennis courts. It made me smile. I was getting really excited... I was almost there! It was time to leave my pace partners behind. I didn't know where it was coming from but I had so much energy! Maybe I spoke too soon because there they were again... those darn hills! There was a volunteer at the bottom of the last hill on the course who was overly jubilant. I think this was strategic. Ma
ybe they thought if we saw how much energy he had we would forget that we had been running for 2 hours and not be irritated that there was a hill less than a mile from the finish line. 

No matter. I was almost there and I was determined to finish hard. I sprinted the last half mile. It wasn't a full out sprint but it was as fast as I could go after running 12 miles. I couldn't feel my legs but I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I was in pain but I felt so good. 

As I made my way past the finish, they collected my time chip off my shoe, handed me a bottle of water and Sobe vitamin water and awarded me my medal. YAY! Korey was there to document my finish and capture the exhaustion afterward. I was glad she was 

I did it. 
I went. I ran. I conquered.