Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Make My Heart Race...With Pictures!

***if you are new here, and have no idea what this is going to be about you have two intelligent choices:

a) Leave Now.
b) Start here, then work your way back, m'kay?

On the eve of a big, life changing event, everyone seems to want to tell you to get some rest. "Get a good night's sleep" they say. "Good to bed nice and early" they urge. Really? Does anybody really manage to just drift, peacefully off to sleep, waking refreshed and bright eyed the next day? Because I? Will invariably toss and turn, heart thumping loudly, head racing, full steam ahead and try to will myself asleep.

The night before the race was no exception.

We woke (or rather, gave up the pretense of being asleep) at the crack of dawn, and started pulling on our race day ensembles.

Nike running tights - check
Long sleeved white technical t-shirt - check
Heather blue fleecy hooded running sweatshirt (fresh from Target, mere hours before) - check
Balega socks - check
Newton Gravity shoes with timing chip in the laces - check
Twin Cities Marathon headband - check
Running Bib - check
Gloves - check
Garish blue lensed sunnies - check

We pulled together some clothes to change into after the race, to put in the sweats drop bag, grabbed some other sundry items then loaded up into the car. The sun wouldn't be up for hours.

My partner in crime was lending my husband his bike, so that he might bike the course and play paparazzi along the route. We drove into Minneapolis, and dropped him off a few blocks from the Metrodome, where we would be meeting up before the race, and taking off from.

As he got out of the car, a sickening sense of panic rolled over me, as the reality of what was happening in just a few short hours jumped up in front of me and pointed in laughed. Holy shit...holy shit...holy shit.

I mustered every last bit of nonchalance I possessed and pretended that it was no big thing, and casually said "See ya in a bit."

My P.I.C. and I at the Metrodome. Pre-race.

Having deposited him into the heart of the city, we continued on to St. Paul, where we would park the car and catch a bus back to the metrodome.

We tried small talking, but honestly, I haven't the slightest idea what was said. My mind was too busy casting desperately about for clues that this was really just a convoluted dream and that this wasn't really happening right now.

We parked, and walked over to catch our bus...and old style school bus, that was bursting at the seams with antsy runners. I was freezing, even bundled up as I was. Looking around, I saw folks that were even more warmly clothed than I was as well as people who looked like they were headed to the beach. I was amazed at the contrast.

After a short, loud ride, we wandered, lemming style, into the metrodome, and began wandering about aimlessly. My husband found us shortly after, and I felt myself relax.

Outside, headed for the corral.

Before I knew what had happened, it was time to line up in our corrals. Because this was my first ever race, and I did not have an official finish time, I would be in corral 3. Home of the slowest racers and the unknowns. This would also mean that we would be the last to leave. We would get to hear all of the announcements...we would see all of the other runners leave...we would see the odd clothing explosion that happened, right before people taking off.

There was absolutely no turning back now.

Moments later, we would be crossing the starting pad, and officially running a marathon. I looked at my partner in crime, smiled and waved one last time, and took off on my own. (We run at vastly different paces, so this was a foregone conclusion.)

The moment I crossed over that pad, all of the cares and worries I had been hanging on to about this race just sort of floated away. Rigth from the first step, there was an enormous crowd cheering and waving. It was almost intoxicating. I felt myself grinning and could barely contain my excitement.

The first part of our course was right through downtown Minneapolis. After all the months and miles logged on country roads, lined with cornfields and cows, to be running down a road in a major metropolitan area was crazy. Sure I had run in the city in Lousiville, but that was on the sidewalk. This? Was an entirely different animal.

An announcement had been made, early on, that there were 25 "Medtronic Heroes" running the race. To wit, these were individuals that were actually pacemaker patients, sporting Medtronic pacemekers. Each of them was identifiable by a special shirt, with a big white star on it. As I was running the first 1/4 mile or so of the race, I saw one of the stars up ahead of me. I( was excited to see e of these heroes, and made my way up and over to him. Just as I did, he fell, face down on the pavement, and started writhing about.

My blood ran cold and I think my own heart may have considered stopping.

I stopped, unsure what to do, but was immediately urged on by what seemed like a whole platoon of medical staff.

I hesitated a second longer, then obediently continued on my way and was quickly swept up again in the euphoria that was being dished out by the crowds.

Minneapolis is a beautiful city, and we were on nice, wide streets. I was very thankful for this, because it meant I had plenty of room to dodge and weave through other runners. I tried to resist the urge to speed pass a huge crowd, only to have them later overtake me, and instead just find my comfortable pace, and pass when needed. The only problem with this was that, especially in the beginning, the race was a bit claustrophobic. I felt almost trapped, with people all around me. Slowly, steadily I found small openings and made my way around slower runners. Each time I passed someone I wondered, "Will I see you again later? Will you be passing me?"

In the groove.

The first couple of miles were a blur. We ran from the downtown area out into a more residential neighborhood. The streets were still lined with excited spectators, amny bearing signs with funny or encouraging phrases on them. I scanned through the masses, wondering when and where I would see my husband, but just kept happily gliding along.

On a typical run, I don't bring water with me, unless I am going at least 5 miles. The race offered plentiful water/Powerade stations to provide you with hydration. When I came to the first of these, I made a decision then and there that I would grab something to drink at every stop. A grabbed a cup, from an eager volunteer and immediately realized that I, picture of grace and elegance that I am, am in no way capable of drinking out of an open cup while running, without coating myself in liquid. And so a second, equally important decision was reached. I walked while I drank from the cup.

Soon we were outside of the city proper, and making our way to  the first of the lakes that we would run along. There was a small incline, nothing compared to the hills I run at home, but an uphill nontheless. I suddenly felt like a gazelle or something, as people started petering out and complaining about the hill, as I bounded around them. This? This wasn't a hill. This was barely a speedbump. This was my wheelhouse.

First spotting my husband!
It was cold and crisp out. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the sun was shining on the water. Fall leaves would catch on the breezes and rain down on us, like golden raindrops and I again wondered whether I was dreaming it.

Finally I caught sight of my husband and I was so excited that I felt like a kid a Christmas. Camera at the ready, he started snapping away and telling me how proud he was. I felt unstoppable!

According to my plan, I drank at each stop and walked, for my own safety as well as that of the other runners around me, while I drank.

Along the way the crowds cheered, rang bells, held up signs and kept your attention. There were bands and deejays and even a group of bagpipers playing. Kids and grownups lined the route, with their hands held out, just wanting to give you a high five. In this race, everyone was a superstar, and everyone had a huge fan club, clamoring for their attention.

I  was doubly blessed. Because I also had one extremely devoted fan that met me, every mile or so, and gave me encouraging words and a beaming smile.

Warming up now...

As the race wore on, I finally started to warm up. I removed my gloves and handed them off to my husband.

A short while later, my headband came off.

Finally, a good long way into the race, I was done with the outer shirt. It wasn't until that exact moment, as I peeled off that shirt, that I remembered that my Nike watch had been running the whole time, sandwiched between the layers. I looked down for the first time and noticed two things:

First: The distance on the watch was a few tenths of a mile further than the mile marker flags seemed to indicate. This puzzled and frustrated me to no end, but I decided not to obsess. (I would figure out later that it was not the watch being was me underestimating the extra mileage that bobbing and weaving through other runners will add to the route. By the time all was said and done, my marathon was closer to 27 miles than 36)

Second: My average pace was 9 minutes.

No. Freaking. Way.

Even with the walking at each drink stop? That seemed crazy.

As we approached the 17th mile, I knew that a little energy boost, in the form of a Cliff Shot would be awaiting me. I walked while I ate it, then grabbed a drink and kept walking. My husband joined me for a bit. walking on the sidewalk next to me, and we chatted briefly. Finally it was time for me to take off again.

As I passed that 17th mile I had the amazing realization dawn on me that I now was into the single digits...less than 10 miles remained. I could totally pull this off!

Starting around the 20th mile, my hips started to ache a little bit. As I continued on, the aching turned into a steady pain and finally was punctuated by small spasms of sharp pain. At mile 23, I finally relented and started to walk a bit more.

In those last few miles, I saw more entertaining sights...bounce houses and inflatable slides...tables with cups of beer set up for runners to grab - but only for the "quitters". The more "seasoned" runners would actually leave the course, hop on the slide and then get back on the course. This pleased the spectators to no end, and amused me greatly.

Hi honey!
Finally I hit the 25th mile, and decided that this was it. I was running from here on out. Just 2 more songs from my play list, and I would be crossing the finish line. I could do two more songs, no problem.

As I cruised towards the finish line, I could see the capital building. The street was lined with people, and a big red and orange"finish" sign stood boldy across the road. There were grandstands and cameras flashing. I'm not sure how, but I managed to find my husband in that sea of faces, just before I crossed the finish line.

 I had done it. 4:26:43 (Pay no attention to the clock...that's not my official time)

They gave me a medal and *everything*

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