Has it really been three weeks since the half marathon? Time flies when it’s spring break and you decide to paint every room in your house. And then get sick. Good times, you guys. Good times.
This weekend’s 5K was a fundraiser for the James Eunice Charity Fund, created in 2011 by John and Tammy Eunice in memory of their son, James. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, John and Tammy chose to honor their son’s memory by setting up a fund to provide scholarships and donations to many worthy charities in our community. Joey and I have had the privilege of meeting them at the 5Ks, “Grilling for James” at Sam’s Club, and accidentally stalking them at Publix. They are, without doubt, two of the nicest and most humble people you will ever meet.
Funny story – the second time we did the 5K, I ended up walking with Tammy . As we approached an intersection, one of the policemen providing assistance for the race told us to turn right at the traffic light. Turns out we should have turned LEFT. Yeah…that was awkward. I ended up wandering the streets near the route to make up the distance that I didn’t cover. I am both slow and honest, and I wasn’t about to turn in my finisher’s card without putting in 3.1 miles. Even if it wasn’t the same 3.1 everyone else did.
It’s been a while since we saw our “crew” and it was great to catch up with everyone before and after the run.
I have to admit that I had been dreading the running part – we slacked off a LOT after the half, both in running and cross-training. All week I dreamed that we overslept and missed the race, or that I got lost (again) and didn’t finish at all.
But for a slacker, I did alright. Official time was 39:09. I had a little trouble starting Runkeeper so my info is a little off. The takeaway from all this is….I beat Joey. Not by much. But I beat him.
He was ahead of me for the first mile or so, then I started to gain on him as we passed the university. We were neck and neck at the water stop and then I started to pull away. Around the two mile mark we hit the jasmine wall. All of the sudden we were engulfed by the heavy scent of jasmine. Coupled with the humidity it was almost overwhelming. And then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone and we were in the home stretch. I had about a sixty second lead over Joey. I knew he was there but he couldn’t catch me. It was just me and Geddy Lee, cruising through the countryside in a red barchetta (there’s something for you to Google…).
Once we crossed the line and turned in our cards it was time to relax and scarf down a Chick-Fil-A biscuit. We took a lot of pictures and accidentally loitered in front of the porta-potty. Thankfully we didn’t have any potty photobombs.
Info below is from Runkeeper and not official.
Mile One: 11:56 (Photo on the left)
Mile Two: 12:47 (Photo on the right)
Mile Three: 12:50
Mile One – Look How Happy!
Mile Two – How Much Longer?!
Wishing/If I Had A Photograph of You (Flock of Seagulls), Through Glass (Stone Sour), Little Red Corvette (Prince), Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel), Red Barchetta (Rush), Running on Empty (Jackson Browne), Talk of the Town (The Pretenders), Call Me (Blondie)
And last but not least, this is for everyone who ran the Boston Marathon! Valdosta was represented – we’re so proud of you Debbie G!!
Next Up: The Little River Run 5K (Formerly known as The Road Kill Run) at Reed Bingham State Park
Who decides, out of nowhere, to run 13.1 miles for fun?
Normal people don’t do that. I know, because I used to be normal. I would see people all hot and sweaty, running through town in the middle of summer. In the rain. In the cold. In the dark. Normal people would be at home, on a comfy sofa. Not sweating.
One day, I casually mentioned that I might like to do a half marathon as part of my “I’m Turning 50” bucket list. Big mistake. Huge. Everyone started posting links to half marathons and tagging me. Oh, and Spartan races too. Spartans? Really? Do I look like I need to be committed? If I ever post that I have signed up for a Spartan, that is your signal that I am being held against my will and need help.
So our friend Lisa G. posts a link to the Tomoka half marathon. Price is reasonable and it’s not too far away. The course looks really pretty. Oh, did I mention there was a bridge? And you have to go over it twice?
We hemmed and hawed and finally registered. And then reality hit. In four weeks we were doing a half marathon. Um, WTH?
It turned out that getting there was as much of an ordeal as the race itself. We took the wrong exit in Jacksonville and found ourselves in a sketchy Burger King that couldn’t serve food. How does that even happen? Apparently their systems were down, and without technology you’re not getting a Whopper. Or even a drink. But it did remove the guilt we may have felt for using their restrooms and not buying any food. Thankfully there was a Mickey D’s nearby so someone-named-Lisa-that’s-not-me could get her caffeine fix.
Back on the road, we found the right exit and were heading for Daytona. We cruised along, 80s music blasting and coffee flowing. Life was good. We had 2.5 hours until packet pick-up ended. And then it happened. Traffic slowed to a crawl, and then stopped all together.
This was not good. SO not good. We inched along. I could run faster than we were driving, for crying out loud. The lady in the car next to us was making all kinds of crazy gestures. She was over it. We all were over it.
We waited. And waited.
Finally, things began to move. Once we got moving again our ETA for pick-up was 5:30. We pulled it off with 25 minutes to spare! From there it was on to the hotel and the Great Unloading began.
Funny thing about runners. We have a lot of gear. Before I got into this I thought all you needed was a pair of shoes. But I’m complicated. I need options. We were gone for just over 24 hours. I brought three pairs of shoes, at least three complete outfits – not counting what I was wearing to the race – and more technology that NASA used to put a man on the moon. (As if that weren’t enough I came home with seven new shirts, eight pairs of socks, two bras, and a hat. SMH…)
Fortunately, Lisa G. has a “three body trunk” so there was plenty of room for everyone to stash their luggage. And yes, it’s comforting to know that you have friends who measure trunk capacity in the same terms you do.
With bibs in hand and gear stashed, it was time to find some grub. After striking out a few times, we came across a place called Charlie Horse. It was FABULOUS! I already want to go back and eat there again. If you’re ever in Ormond Beach, you need to go. The seafood was amazing. Heck with carb-loading the night before a run…
Back at the hotel, it was time to get it together. The shuttle left at 5:30 (OMG…), which meant we got up around 4:45. AM. Before the sun even thought about coming up.
Yeah…Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam are in the house. Totally.
And before we had time to think about what we were doing, we were on the shuttle heading to the race. The moment we had dreaded and looked forward to was here. Before we left on Friday I posted a quick picture on my Instagramfeed with my time predictions. I had no idea what to expect. My friends told me about hitting the wall at mile 10 or 11. There was the bridge to think about – twice – and my worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my intervals for 13.1 miles.
Even if I had to walk it all, I was going to finish. Of that I was certain. I halfway thought I could finish somewhere between 3:30:00 and 3:15:00. My pace at Gate was 14:20, so it was possible.
We started in the dark. It’s a weird feeling, running over a bridge in the dark. There’s a definite advantage in not being able to see how high up you are, especially if heights make you nervous. The cars stopped in the other lane clapped and cheered as we went by and I waved to a few of them. Joey and I were using different run/walk intervals, so we would catch up with each other at random points. We were evenly paced until the three mile mark, and then I slowly started to pull away from him.
There were water stops a’plenty, and I took advantage of every one. The volunteers were all encouraging and supportive. The sun began to rise and I stopped and looked back toward the bridge for a quick shot.
But there was no time to linger. I had ten long miles ahead of me. The run/walk intervals clicked along, and at every mile marker the Race Joy app chimed in and let me know where I was. This was my first time using Race Joy, and I really enjoyed it. We were able to track each other’s progress during the race and would get a text message when we hit a mile marker. After a certain point, I think it was mile two, it started to announce our estimated completion time – 3:01:50. I shook my head. “There’s no way,” I thought to myself.
The road went on. And on. There was a long straightaway from the bridge to the state park entrance, probably a good 3+ miles or more. Finally, I made the turn into the park. There were several runners coming out and heading back to the finish line. “You’re almost there!” called one of the volunteers. “Liar!” I yelled back, laughing. She waved back.
Once inside the park, the paved road gave way to dirt. There was an aid station ahead fully stocked with drinks, gels, and bananas. As I came around a bend in the road, I looked up and saw him: it was Elvis! We saw him at Gate and now he was here, decked out in his white Vegas jumpsuit! I tried to get a picture, but it was like trying to photograph Bigfoot. Come to think of it, you never see Elvis and Bigfoot at the same time…
Not long after the King passed me by, Lisa G. was running toward me. She gave me a huge hug and I was back on my way. The turnaround point was at mile 7 and there was supposed to be a statue of Chief Tomoka there, and a good spot for a selfie. He was there, but too far away for a selfie. Instead I found a pretty tree with the sun coming up behind it. Sorry Chief.
Mile nine came up just as I was leaving the state park. My hip flexors and knees were beginning to ache a little, and my friends’ warnings about hitting the wall echoed in my head. I brushed them aside and turned up the music. Once again Tom Petty came to the rescue. The Race Joy app was consistently telling me that I would finish close to the three hour mark, and I was consistently telling myself it was a big fat liar. I still had the bridge to deal with, and I had no idea how I would feel at mile twelve.
I didn’t hit the wall at mile ten, but delirium set in for a few minutes. I imagined that I was at mile nine, heading toward mile ten. In reality, I was at mile ten going in to mile eleven. A brief wave of disappointment washed over me. I was over it and wanted to be finished. Thirteen miles was just too much. But a soft, electronic voice whispered in my ear and told me that I was at mile eleven with estimated completion time of 3:00:33. Yeah baby!
Two more miles were all that separated me from the finish line. I forgot about my hips and knees. I passed people. I had to go off the road and into the grass to do it, but I passed them. Runkeeper was set to update my distance and pace at each quarter mile. My pace had been 13:50 for so long that I thought something had gone wrong, so I opened the app on my phone for a few seconds to watch the clock. There was no mistake – I really was that consistent. Holy cow…I just might pull this off!
Just before mile twelve there was a beer stop. An amazing bunch of guys from a local mechanic’s shop were passing out paper cups of beer. Ben Franklin allegedly said that beer was proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. At that moment I was ecstatic and I told one of the guys that I thought I loved him. He laughed. I had never been more serious in my life.
And then I was there, at the bottom of the bridge. As much as I wanted to I knew I didn’t have enough left to run the whole thing. So I did intervals on the way up. When I got to the top I looked out over the water. “It’s now or never,” I thought. I couldn’t run up but I darn sure could run down. All the way to the bottom and around the corner. It was a slow, ugly run. I caught up to a couple of young women and we ran under the bridge together. Then it was a slow uphill turn to the left. There was a wonderful older gentlemen standing near the sidewalk cheering us on, and he came over and high-fived us as we passed. One more turn and there was the finish line.
I had all but ignored the timing apps, but as I crossed the line Race Joy announced that I finished at 3:02:52. I looked up and there was Lisa G. holding my medal! I have never been so happy to see that crazy, coffee-addicted woman in my life.
We checked Race Joy and saw that Joey was on the bridge. The volunteers at the finish ine were absolute sweethearts and let me give Joey his medal. He came in at 3:15:10, a good fifteen minutes ahead of his goal.
Two days later I’m still a little in awe of the whole thing. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t started looking for another half to do sometime this year. But not just yet. There’s a mountain of laundry calling my name and our running clothes should be classified as biohazards.
But we did it!
Overall time: 3:02:52
Average pace: 13:57/mile
Mile one: 14:05
Mile two: 14:15
Mile three: 13:45
Mile four: 13:49
Mile five: 13:42
Mile six: 13:49
Mile seven: 13:54
Mile eight: 13:48
Mile nine: 13:33
Mile ten: 13:39
Mile eleven: 13:39
Mile twelve: 14:18
Mile thirteen: 14:24
Black Dog (Led Zeppelin), Talk of the Town (The Pretenders), Kyrie (Mr. Mister), Time Stand Still (Rush featuring Aimee Mann), Ramble On (Led Zeppelin), Higher Love (Steve Winwood), The Chauffeur (Duran Duran), Wishing – If I Had A Photograph of You (Flock of Seagulls), Mrs. Robinson (Simon & Garfunkel), Little by Little (Robert Plant), Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Queen), Hey Jealousy (Gin Blossoms), Let’s Go Crazy (Prince), Nothin’ At All (Heart), Fat Bottomed Girls (Queen), Layla (Eric Clapton/Derek & The Dominos), Can’t Stop This Thing We Started (Bryan Adams), Stand Back (Stevie Nicks), Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin), Heat of the Moment (Asia), Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin), Desert Rose (Sting), Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel), I Would Die 4 U (Prince), Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel), Call Me (Blondie), Your Love (The Outfield), You Wreck Me (Tom Petty), Can’t Stand Losing You (The Police), Only Time Will Tell (Asia), Now It’s My Turn (Berlin), Take Me To Heart (Quarterflash), Little Red Corvette (Prince), Don’t Box Me In (Stewart Copeland), Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police), Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin), Into The Groove (Madonna), Zombie Zoo (Tom Petty), Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-go’s) New York Groove (Ace Frehley), Radar Love (Golden Earring)
Mom always said don’t play ball in the house. Wait. That was the mom from The Brady Bunch. But I’m sure at some point, knowing my mum, she said not to run with scissors. Until a few years ago I didn’t run at all, much less with scissors. Ah, the good old days.
We’ve done this race four times now. There is always a huge turnout and everyone has a great time. But the best part of this event is the artwork. The race benefits the Visual Arts program at Sallas Mahone Elementary School. Paul B. serves as both art teacher and race director extraordinaire. I don’t think he gets a wink of sleep in the weeks leading up to the race. Each mile marker gets a custom sign, painted by him, in honor of the sponsor. The awards are painted by the students. Of all the local races we do this is definitely one of our favorites.
After being left for dead at Gate last week, Joey was pretty confident that he would be faster than me. I tried to downplay my concern but the truth is I was pretty sure he was right. It had been a busy week at work and my brain was already looking ahead to the half marathon.
He was up with the chickens dogs Saturday morning. I don’t know what possessed him, but it certainly didn’t possess me. I laid in my warm, comfy bed until the last possible minute and scarfed down a granola bar on the way to the race. Meanwhile, Mo Farah made himself eggs and toast. Did he save any for me? Pfft.
It was cold and kind of cloudy, so of course we took the MG. “You’ll be warm after it’s finished,” Wonderboy declared. “Of course I’ll be warm,” I thought. “I’m a peri-menopausal woman. I have hot flashes that could power the eastern seaboard.”
We chatted with some friends who were there and then it was “go time.” The race started and I fell in line with a large group of children and adults. I wasn’t sure if Runkeeper and my watch had kissed and made up after their episode last week. I didn’t trust it to work properly so I manually started Runkeeper myself, like some kind of caveman.
Joey had positioned himself ahead of the crowd I found myself stuck in, and I could see him beginning to pull away. He wasn’t too far ahead, maybe 60-90 seconds, but I just couldn’t catch him. We crossed over the highway, entering a neighborhood near the school. The road had a few twists and turns and after a few minutes I lost sight of him. It was just me and Tom Petty, running down a dream. Or a 5K. Or, whatever.
Tom hung out with me for a little while. Things were going along pretty good, but I just wan’t feeling “it.” I was a little tired and my hastily ingested granola bar wore off five minutes after I got in the car. My time was okay but not on track for a PR.
As I approached the two-mile mark, I saw Joey up ahead. With just over a mile left, I wasn’t sure I would be able to catch up. There was always the chance that he was getting tired, and then I could make my move.
We left the neighborhood and were back out on the road to the school. I started adding a few seconds to each run interval, trying to close the gap. He was about a minute ahead of me, but still going strong. It was the scrambled eggs, I just know it. If I’d had another half a mile (or a real breakfast) I might have caught him, but I ran out of road. He crossed the line about about 30 seconds ahead of me.
It would be a long day.
As luck would have it, a little cloud passed overhead not long after we finished and a few drops of rain fell. The top was down on the MG, so someone-who-didn’t-make-me-eggs-and-toast had to run down the street to where the car was parked and put the top up. What a shame.
I waited for a few minutes, then retrieved our jackets and went to find him. He was all but finished when I got there. The 1 mile fun run was about to start and the awards ceremony would follow. Neither of us were in the running for anything, so we decided to call it a day and went home.
Next time, buddy. Next time. See what happens at the half…
As you may know, I participate in a group called Who I Run 4. Runners are matched with children and adults who have special needs or health concerns. I signed up a few years ago and was matched with an awesome little guy named Chasten. This is the second year we have been able to hang out with him and his family for a little while. We celebrated his little sister’s birthday while they were here!
Last year he barely came up to my shoulders, and this year he is almost as tall as I am!
He gave Joey and I a bracelet that he earned in basketball this season, and we will wear them with pride when we run for him. The waiting list to be matched with a buddy is long, but it’s SO worth it.
Overall Time: 39:58
Average Pace: 12:47/mile
Mile One: 13:02
Mile Two: 12:51
Mile Three: 12:38
Into the Groove (Madonna), I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty), Never (Heart), Don’t Box Me In (Stewart Copeland), King of Pain (The Police), Running Down A Dream (Tom Petty), Tainted Love (Soft Cell), Mary Jane’s Last Dance (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), You Wreck Me (Tom Petty), Zombie Zoo (Tom Petty), Don’t Come Around Here No More (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), I Would Die 4 U (Prince)
A couple of weekends ago we did a little run in Jacksonville. Nothing big, just 15K. A few people were there with us. You may have heard of it – the Gate River Run. Twelve thousand or so of our closest friends and a 9.3 mile street party. You want a mimosa at 8:45am? Mile three has ‘em. Rice Krispie treat? Mile seven just before you make that final turn for the bridge.
THAT kind of party.
Last year was our first experience at Gate, and we had a blast! As we limped back to the hotel we were already planning our strategy for next time. We stumbled into the lobby and saw one of the elite runners – we think it was Sam Chelanga – standing there, fresh as a daisy in a nice suit wearing his elite singlet and a medal the size of a dinner plate. No doubt he finished while we were crossing the first bridge! He pointed to the medals hanging around our tired and sweaty necks. “Good job,” he said, smiling. We nodded and said “thank you.” I would have asked to take a picture with him, but we looked like the sweat monsters from Hades by then.
Which brings us to this year. We’re pros now. We’ve got the Hokas and the Camelbaks, the tech shirts and compression shorts. It’s on like Donkey Kong. Our strategy this year was to start at the end of wave 3, putting us ahead of the walkers but far enough back that our intervals didn’t interfere with anyone. Usually when we run out-of-town we follow the Lost philosophy: live together, die alone. (You watched Lost, didn’t you? Didn’t you???) Chehaw was the first time we split up during a race. We decided that if one of us felt like they were faster/stronger than the other we would do our own thing.
Starting in wave 3 was genius, if I do say so. I have nothing against walkers and slower runners – I still consider myself a slow runner. However, there is a tendency to spread out and take up as much real estate as possible, which makes passing difficult. When the road narrows it’s even more awkward and it’s easy for your intervals to get out of whack.
The first bridge came up early in the race and was a piece of cake this time around. I learned a valuable lesson last year: don’t look down. The blue bridge is all metal and if you look down you can see the water. Plus it’s a lot easier to see how high up you are. And then there is my irrational fear that my toes will get caught in the metal grating and I will trip. Because I’m clumsy like that.
Keeping my eyes straight ahead, we ran over the blue bridge. Wait, what? The whole thing? Yep, the whole thing. How did that happen? Being 41 pounds lighter (me) and 25 pounds lighter (Joey) than last year and a lot of hard work. That’s how it happened. As we made our way along the “downhill” side of the bridge we looked at each other. We weren’t red-faced and gasping for breath. It was almost, dare I say it, fun. Who knew?
Making our way between miles two and three, we hit a water stop and gave a round of applause to the bands keeping us entertained. The first time check was coming up at the 5K mark. Considering the course and crowds we were pretty pleased with our first check-in: 44:03.
But the crowds. Oh my, the crowds. You remember the story in the Bible about Moses parting the Red Sea? Well, we had our own Moses moment. Joey, being bigger and much more intimidating than me, parted a sea of sweaty, smelly Spandex. I followed in his wake, in awe of the volume of people. There were short people and tall people. Like, crazy tall people. Lurch from the Addams Family tall. I swear I saw a guy whose legs were longer than my entire body.
Finally things cleared out a little bit and we passed through a little bo-ho business district, full of supporters lining the streets. Then it was on to San Marco. The St. John’s River was to our right and we were surrounded by gorgeous old homes. The streets began to narrow and were full of twists and turns. Residents sat in their front yards, passing out drinks and food. Our pace slowed, due to the crowds and my need to critique each and every house we passed (hate it…love it…nice but wouldn’t want to live in it….OMG I need to win the lottery to buy that). You know how it is.
The houses slowly changed, morphing from those that looked like they belonged on the Kennedy-compound to something us mere mortals would live in. Gradually the neighborhood shifted back into a business district. As we approached one of the larger intersections, we saw the traffic backed up for miles. I felt a little sorry for the people who were caught unawares and were wondering how long they were going to be stuck. A long time, buddy. A long time indeed.
The second 5K checkpoint was just around the corner. Despite my rubbernecking in San Marco our time was within 34 seconds of the first 5K, 44:37. Not too shabby! But it felt like we were starting to hit the wall. Joey had muscle cramps in his calves last year crossing the Hart Bridge, so he loaded up with pickle juice and tried to stay hydrated this time around. But it wasn’t enough. At mile seven he told me to go and wait at the finish line for him. I felt bad – this was supposed to be a joint effort – but I was really hoping for a finish as close to two hours as possible.
Runkeeper and my new-to-me Apple Watch apparently had some sort of falling out during the race. I don’t know who said what to whom, but it was clear they weren’t speaking to each other at that point. Which meant no data – and goodness knows I love some running data. Mumbling obscenities to myself, because right then it seemed like the appropriate thing to do, I hit the 80s playlist in iTunes and decided to handle my business. The entrance to the bridge was just around the corner and my two-hour goal was looking pretty far out of reach.
I missed Joey and at some point probably should have looked back to check on him. But Madonna and I were getting into the groove by then. That long, gradual turn to the bridge was at hand, and as I rounded the corner I saw the Green Monster looming in front of me. Since the Runkeeper/Apple Watch debacle I’d been counting out my run/walk intervals in my head. I’m no stranger to talking to myself and as I started the climb to the bridge Me and Also Me struck up a conversation, kinda like the Kermit/Dark Kermit meme. Me: Hey, so what if we run/jog all the way across the bridge? Also Me: Are you nuts? It’s almost ¾ of a mile. Me: So? Also Me: Whatever. You go on with your bad self. See if I care.
What did I have to lose? Worst case scenario, I would end up walking. Or possibly hanging out with some potentially attractive paramedics. I had the emergency number in my phone, all ready to go.
I paused for a quick selfie (because nothing really happens if you don’t get a selfie). As soon as I passed under the first green truss I began to run. I say “run” but it was a slow trot. However, it wasn’t walking. The bridge was rising in front of me as I began to pass the walkers. The 8.3 mile marker fluttered in the breeze. One mile left. In the distance I saw Everbank Field and the crowd of people approaching the finish line. “I can do this,” I thought to myself.
Eventually the bridge leveled out and I was able to increase my pace ever so slightly. Less than a mile now. Just keep going. I pulled out my ear buds for another selfie at the top of the bridge. I was halfway there. The worst part was over, everything was downhill from here to the finish line. I passed between a group of three or four ladies who were walking. As I slowly pulled away I heard one of them say “look at her! She’s still running and doesn’t even look tired. Are her heels even touching the ground?” Day officially made. Me, who used to lumber along like an injured water buffalo. I couldn’t slow down after that, even if I wanted to!
I passed under the last metal truss. Goal achieved! I hit the final water stop and slowed down to a walk just long enough to take a drink. Faster runners began to pass me as we came down the final stretch behind the stadium. Less than .25 mile was between me and the finish line. My two-hour goal had passed, but I was well ahead of my time from last year.
I was swept up in a crowd of people and all of a sudden it was over. There was my sweaty, happy face on the Jumbo-tron as I approached the finish line. 2:13:17. My last 5K time was 44:38, one second slower than the previous. Overall pace was 14:17 and my last mile was 13:25. I finished fourteen minutes ahead of last year!
A volunteer shoved a bottle of cold water in my hand. I was unaware that I had reached out for it. I looked around for a place to stop and catch my breath, and was ushered through a gate by another volunteer who handed me my finisher’s medal. I tried to go back toward the finish line to look for Joey, but was told I had to wait behind the barricade for him. He appeared out of nowhere, in a group of people who crossed the line a few minutes behind me.
Another 15K in the books and it was time to celebrate. I left Joey in the beer line while I did a quick run through the expo. He found me a few minutes later, a beer in each hand. He was in his happy place. After paying for a couple of tech shirts and a 15K magnet it was time to go. The walk from the expo to the car was slow and peaceful and the parking area was almost deserted. I felt the first tingle of a sunburn as I leaned back against the car seat. Joey and I looked at each other and smiled. We were tired and sweaty, and if I’m honest, a little stinky. All was right with the world.
Trail Runs – gotta love ’em. If you didn’t, there’s no way a rational and sane person would get up at 4:15 am and drive three hours to do one. And we’ve done this one three times now.
It’s always reassuring when you have friends at a race, and this was no exception. Deborah and Kenny, who run with us at home, were there. And our friend Chris was there with the Good Life City Runners from Albany. The GLCR also provided support for the aid stations.
It’s impossible to compare one trail to another. For that matter, it’s impossible to compare the same trail to itself because it’s different each time. Case in point: the Canyon Crash. The course has been slightly different each time, and as with the Chehaw run the finish line isn’t always exactly where you expect it to be.
There were four distances at the Canyon Crash: 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, and 50K. We’ve retained just enough of our sanity NOT to enter the 1/2 or the 50K, and it would be a little silly to go all that way just for a 5K. 10K it was. Or was it?
The first mile or so was great. We were still fresh and full of energy, and for once we were part of the pack. The slower part, mind you, but still….
We trotted along, measuring our run to walk intervals and feeling a little pleased with ourselves. Maybe a little too pleased.
As the trail turned downhill, we saw part of the stream that wound its way through the floor of the canyon. The red Georgia clay on either side of the water formed a thick, sticky mud that would suck the shoe right off your foot if you weren’t careful. We managed to escape without losing our footwear, but those poor Hokas will never look the same again.
After the LaBrea Tar Pits stream crossing we caught up to one of our friends from Valdosta. She pointed to the path in front of us and said “take a picture of that.” We looked in the direction she was pointing. And then looked up. And then up again. And again. And freaking again.
We had stopped at the base of the hill (and I use that term very loosely) and looked back and forth at each other and then back up the hill. I remembered it being steep. I didn’t remember it being vertical.
I looked down at the heart rate display on my Fitbit. 138. “Not too shabby,” I thought. I began to climb, taking short strides and leaning slightly forward. After a few minutes I paused to wipe the sweat/tears from my face. As I took a drink from my Camelbak I glanced at the heart rate monitor. In my delirium I saw OMG.
Onward and upward. Deborah and Joey were behind me and I pushed on. I had a goal. I was crossing that finish line at 2:00:00 if it killed me. My breath came in short, shallow gasps and I could feel the color flooding my face. My Fitbit mocked me. WTF.
I stopped for a few seconds and braced myself against a tree to catch my breath. My heart pounded in my ears and I felt vaguely queasy. “This is not the time,” I said to myself. “No one wants to see that BK sausage croissant you had for breakfast.”
Another sip of water and I was off. The top of the hill was finally in sight. A few more steps, a slight stumble on a rock…and I was there. The sweat evaporated on my skin, leaving a salty crust in its wake. I felt like a giant salt lick and worried that I might be ambushed by a wayward deer.
Joey reached the summit a few minutes later. Our pace had slowed to 16:20-ish per mile. Math has never been my strong suit, and after climbing the “stairway to heaven” I was in no shape to calculate our finish time.
Thankfully, the trail was downhill for a while. We were approaching the three-mile mark and wondering how far it was to the aid station. “Where are those Boy Scouts when you need them?” I asked. The first time we did this, the Scouts had set up a killer aid station in a shelter on top of one of the larger hills. It was like hitting Waffle House at midnight on a Friday after a night out with your friends.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The shelter came into view, and there were no Scouts. No junk food buffet. No drinks. Just a group of semi-conscious guys who barely acknowledged our passing.
Joey and I looked at each other. “Well THAT sucks,” I said. Joey looked back over his shoulder, wistfully. “I wonder if they had any beer,” I heard him say quietly.
The trail fell away sharply. Joey and his giant size 13 wides stomped their way down, planting themselves firmly on the hard packed clay. I, on the other hand, picked my way with laser focus. As my husband likes to say about me, “she’s a beautiful woman but she’s clumsy as hell.” He waited patiently at the bottom as I slipped and stumbled my way down.
The wind rustled through the trees and brought the sound of AC/DC to our eager ears. That could only mean one thing – the aid station. We quickened our pace and found ourselves face to face with the awesome folks from the Good Life City Runners, who we met at Chehaw Park. They remembered us from the race and we stopped for a few minutes for snacks and a picture. (Thanks again – you guys are the best!)
We had just passed the five-mile mark with a good 40 minutes or so until the 2-hour mark. But there was a flaw in the slaw. We still had the riverbed to cross, and the slow, soul-crushing climb back to the ranger station. And we were nowhere near the finish line.
I wondered if I should break into my stash of Keebler Fudge Stripe minis that were in the pocket of my Camelbak. Reaching behind me, I could feel that there wasn’t a lot of water left and decided to wait. The promise of a hot dog at the finish line buoyed my spirits as the woods began to clear.
The riverbed appeared in front of us, the slippery red mud glistening on either side. I saw the footprints of the runners who had passed before us. The mud oozed up and over my feet, clinging to my shoe as I went. Branches and limbs poked and prodded me. I gave up on the idea of dry feet and ran down the middle of the trickling stream. The cool water washed over my shoes. For a brief moment it felt good – until it hit my insoles.
The “squish squish squish” and mild chafe of wet, gritty shoes immediately wiped away any relief the water had tried to offer. I still had at least a mile and half to go and a giant hill to climb. In wet shoes. Wet, gritty shoes and socks. Wonderful.
We followed the red clay of the riverbed until, at last, we saw the sign to turn left. It was time. We were at the base of The Widow-maker: the long, steep, gravel-covered climb to the ranger station. There were several park visitors making their way down, among them a group of Boy Scouts (about time you show up, kids! Where’s my oatmeal pie?).
Their leader raised her arm as we approached. “Everybody stop!” she yelled. The boys behind did as they were told and watched with wide eyes as we came toward them. By then we must have looked like Swamp Thing. We were both caked in mud up to our ankles, red-faced and dripping with sweat. The boys moved to one side and allowed us to pass.
It was here that Joey began to fall behind. My goal of two hours was less than fifteen minutes away and Runkeeper taunted me by calling out that we had completed six miles. Things were beginning to look bleak. I heard a voice call out behind me. “Go on,” he said. “Don’t wait for me.”
I looked back. He was holding on to the railing. “Keep going. I’ll be right behind you,” he said. I wrestled with my conscience for a moment before I turned and started to climb.
The path twisted and turned, gravel crunching under my soggy shoes. People stopped and stared as I passed them. I searched their faces for encouragement and was met with blank stares. “What, you’ve never seen anyone run through a canyon?” I thought. “I hope you trip.”
It was then that I noticed my vision was slightly blurry. I rubbed my eyes and couldn’t feel my contact lenses. I wondered if they had popped out. Or maybe melted and ran down my cheeks. As bad as it might seem, that meant I had .0005 grams less to drag up that hill. I blinked hard and felt them shift, and things came back into focus.
Finally the gravel gave way to grass and dirt and I was at the top. I had ten minutes left. It was now or never. My legs ached and my lungs burned with the effort of the climb. The red markers fluttered in the trees above the path. I rounded corner after corner, thinking that the next would be the opening to the finish area.
I glanced at my watch and saw two hours had elapsed. Time to regroup. Last year’s time was 2:10:??. New goal: anything better than that.
2:03:15. I heard the voices from the finish line and heard dogs barking. Keep going. Keep going. 2:05:25. There’s the gap in the fence. I’m there. Down the hill and under the inflatable. Final time: 2:05:59.
Collapsing on the picnic table bench, I turned and watched for Joey. The smell of hotdogs floated on the breeze and my stomach growled in response.
The clock showed 2:08:00 when I saw him. I called out to cheer him on, my voice weak and shaky. I would have taken a picture as he crossed the finish line if my hands hadn’t been full of food.
With our medals hanging from our necks, we shoveled food into our mouths like we hadn’t eaten in days. Those were the best damned sausage dogs we’d ever had.
After we recovered, we decided to visit the ranger station. The red paint of our car gleamed under the sun, echoing the sunburn on my shoulders. Our plan was to drive the half-mile or so to the station. Halfway there, one of the rangers flagged us down and said the parking at the station was full and we would have to park in the overflow area. And walk. Yay! Not.
Wouldn’t you know it? When we got to the station there was plenty of parking. By then we didn’t care. We bought drinks and a few souvenirs, and sat outside for a few minutes. The feeling of accomplishment that comes after a race had settled in and suddenly my shoes didn’t feel nearly as wet and gritty. I wore my sweaty sun visor like a badge of honor.
Walking hand in hand back to the car, I smelled something. Something bad.
“Remember in the car, on the way here, I said that you smelled good?” I asked.
Run 4 Missions benefits the Valdosta State University Baptist Collegiate Ministries. This is our 4th year participating in the event, and I ran my best time yet. Turnout for the race is always good, and this year was no exception. 93 people crossed the finish line, after winding their way through the neighborhoods around the university.
Last year I finished in 1:02:05, and I set a goal of finishing at 50:00 or better. My times have been steadily getting better over the last six months and I was hopeful that I could shave off a nice chunk from last year.
The course is very similar to another that we run several times a year, but just different enough that I felt like I didn’t know where I was a few times. There are a lot of twists and turns as well as a few slight hills, and usually little to no traffic.
I crossed the line at 49:32! Twenty-eight seconds faster than my goal. My friends were waiting for me at the finish chute cheering me on. I almost couldn’t believe it when I came around the corner and the clock came in to view. Mission accomplished.
My husband battled sciatica for most of December and wasn’t able to get in much training, and finished a few minutes behind me. Usually he crosses the line first, so I savored my victory!
Playlist: Little Red Corvette (Prince), For All Tomorrow’s Lies (Berlin), Can’t Stand Losing You (The Police), Baby I’m A Star (Prince), Hey Jealousy (Gin Blossoms), No Excuses (Alice In Chains), Tunnel Of Love (Bruce Springsteen), Roxanne (The Police), Wouldn’t It Be Good (Nik Kershaw), Little By Little (Robert Plant), Rolling In The Deep (Adele), Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin), Touch (Berlin)
Next up: Chehaw Challenge 10 mile run. Our longest run yet!
You know the expression “I had my butt handed to me?”
This was the race that handed my butt to me.
As I stumbled alone through the forest, the snark grew strong and I knew it was more than Facebook could stand. It kept me going as I feared all was lost and I would die alone in the woods, eaten by a band of rabid armadillos. In my delirium I hatched a plan to start a blog and dominate the running world. Or, you know, have a handful of my friends read it and not think I had lost my mind.
Back to the race. It was at Chehaw Park in Albany, GA, about an hour and half away from home. The run followed a BMX trail that went through the park. In addition to the 10 miler that we ran, there was also a 50K and a 50 mile run. We’re always up for a road trip and had never ran a race in Albany. Throw in a finisher’s medal AND a painting made by one of the zoo animals and we’re there. For all ten plus miles.
Yeah…PLUS miles. We were warned by a friend who ran it last year that it was over ten miles. Her GPS showed 10.8. What’s another .8 mile when you’ve already done 10? Let me tell you, friend – it’s a LOT.
The first few minutes were uneventful. Lots of roots, but nothing too bad. A stumble here and there…and then it happened. Joey tripped and fell pretty hard. He was up in just a few seconds, brushing it off and getting right back into our run/walk intervals. I teased him about his fall, to which he replied “have you seen the size of my feet? Besides, my people were Vikings. We want you to know we’re coming.”
After a couple of miles, I started pulling away and he told me not to hold back. I’d set a goal of 2:30:00 for this race, thinking I could maintain a 15:00/mile pace. How wrong was I? Very wrong. Very wrong indeed.
Trail runs are an entirely different animal than a road race. Roots, holes, pine cones, and sticks are all waiting to make your life a misery. And this course had them in abundance. If I tripped once, I tripped a thousand times, muttering and swearing under my breath.
I plodded on. By mile five I had a three or four minute lead over Joey. The aid station was coming up and I decided to wait there and talk to him. I rounded the corner and across the field I saw it – beckoning like the Promised Land. A white canopy billowed in the breeze and a welcoming fire was roaring in front. Did I mention it was cold? Again? I know, I know…it’s January.
I was greeted with the most glorious spread I had ever seen at a race. Bacon. Grilled cheese sandwiches. PB&J sandwiches. Chips. Pretzels. Pickles. Cookies. Gummi bears. Drinks. Fruit. And Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies. I stood there, my brain incapable of thought, overwhelmed by choice. “Can I refill your Camelbak,” they said. “What can we get for you to eat?” Hands shaking, I cautiously grabbed two fat pretzels. “Take an oatmeal pie,” the man said. “Take a couple, we have plenty.” I smiled. “One is fine, thanks.”
As I nibbled the salt off one of the pretzels I saw Joey trotting down the path. His eyes widened as he saw the plate of bacon. He munched contentedly, accepting a cup of Tailwind, and told me not to wait for him. It was all the encouragement I needed. He chatted with the people at the aid station and Little Debbie and I were on our way.
The second half started out good. The pretzels put a little spring in my step, and I delicately held my oatmeal pie. I knew there were at least five more miles left and decided to save it until closer to the end. We made our way along the path, Debbie and I. The birds were chirping and I could hear squirrels rustling in the fallen leaves. At least I thought they were squirrels. HOPED they were squirrels. Several times I thought I heard someone coming up behind me but there was no one there when I looked back. Then I realized it was my Camelbak shifting and sloshing behind me. Idiot.
For a time, I ran alongside an old chain link fence, rusty concertina wire dangling loosely from its top. Beyond the fence I could barely make out a few old buildings, collapsed under the weight of leaves and kudzu. The sun had gone behind the clouds and the woods were shady and uninviting. I felt as though I were in a scene from M. Knight Shymalan’s movie “The Village,” running from a monster I couldn’t see.
The path began to climb and I checked my watch. I was approaching the 7.5 mile mark when disaster struck. In my distraction I tripped on a tree root and felt myself falling. As I did, my body instinctively tensed. “Please be a fart,” I thought. “Please.” Protectively I cradled Little Debbie to my chest to keep her from being smashed. In doing so my hip and forearm took the brunt of the fall, which was lessened by a cushion of pine needles. “You’re safe,” I whispered to her.
The novelty of a 10 mile race was wearing thin as I passed the eight mile marker. My hips ached and my shoes had long since devoured my socks. I took a minute to adjust them, thankful there was only a small spot of chafing on my ankle. I was tired and lonely; obscenities and frustration mingled in my mind as the roots reached out for my weary feet..
Little Debbie was looking pretty good at mile nine. I wasn’t sure how much water/lemonade I had left in the Camelbak and I knew the oatmeal pie would make me thirsty. So I waited. The course crossed a paved road and went into an open area near the highway. I could see other runners making their way along the path and thought that surely I was almost done.
But I had been deceived. The path twisted and turned on itself through the clearing. Like a drunk college student staggering through Walmart at 2:00 am, it wandered back and forth seemingly without direction. My energy was flagging and it was then that I abandoned my run intervals, choosing to walk instead.
Another runner, who was participating in either the 50K or 50 mile event passed me, cheering me on. He was tall and slender, wearing only baggy shorts and a pair of brown sandals. His dark, wavy hair floated around his shoulders and for a moment I thought Running Jesus had come to take me home. “Great job,” he said. “Keep going.” He bounced effortlessly across the road like a young gazelle. I gave him the finger.
Eventually I crossed back into the forest, wishing desperately that I had added music to Runkeeper. Lil’ Deb was still in my left hand and I couldn’t get the phone out of my belt pack with only my right hand. I was alone in the woods with no music and only an oatmeal pie for company. I felt like Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway” and wondered if I should call the oatmeal pie Wilson.
But look! What’s this I see? The ten mile marker! I was still deep in the woods. There was no way the finish line was that close. My angry, frustrated glance looked at Debbie, grinning up at me from the wrapper of the pie. “Screw you,” I mumbled to her dimpled face. The cellophane wrapper tore under my fingers, and I sank my teeth into the creamy goodness of an artificially flavored junk food cocktail. The sugar raced through my bloodstream and I longed for a chair and a glass of milk.
Having neither a chair nor milk, I pressed on. Stuffing the wrapper into the pocket of my Camelbak I saw a sign posted ahead. “Pedal pedal pedal pedal.” Obviously meant for the BMX riders, it mocked my slow lumbering pace. Left hand now free, I snatched my phone from its pouch and took a picture of me making an obscene gesture in front of the sign.
Soon the woods began to clear and I could hear music. Robert Plant’s voice floated through the trees. Either Zeppelin had reunited with Bonham at the Pearly Gates or I was near the finish line. I looked at my watch: 10.23 miles. Damn. That could only mean one thing: I wasn’t going to see the golden god of rock today. But on the bright side, I was almost done.
As I came down the hill I heard a cheer rise up from the timekeeper. “Great job,” he yelled. “You made it.” Staggering across the line, I was approached by a young woman in a Viking costume who handed me my medal, a plastic beer mug, and a painting by Alistair the mini-cow. I didn’t care anymore what my time was. I finished the longest run of my life. I bonded with an oatmeal pie. And I didn’t crap my pants.
A short time later, nearly eleven minutes to be exact, Joey made his way across the finish line. He collected his medal and mug, then selected a painting made by two ball pythons. We stood together quietly. A faint smell of burning food wafted across the field, and the beer cooler beckoned. We were done.
The Resolution Run 5K benefits the Boys & Girls Club. We ran it last year, and my finish time was 51:10. A year later, having lost 37 lbs., I hoped to run it a little faster. And I did.
It was COLD. Snot-freezing, finger-numbing cold. The kind of cold that makes you question your sanity for getting up before the sun to run in it. And yet we do. Week after crazy week.
This was my 99th race! It seems like a few weeks ago I was wading through knee-deep water in my first 5K, and here I am. I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband and running buddies. Yeah, we’re cold and miserable, but we’re cold and miserable together. That makes it all worthwhile.
Speaking of buddies, I have a long-distance buddy. His name is Chasten, and we were matched through whoirun4.com. Who I Run 4 matches people with a “buddy” with special needs. Runners (or walkers, swimmers, etc.) dedicate their runs & workouts to their buddy. I encourage you to visit the website (and their Facebook page) to find out more about signing up to be a buddy!
Pictures are a little sparse for this one – it was too cold to take my hands out of my pockets!
Playlist: Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (Spin Doctors), I Would Die 4 U (Prince), Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police), Let’s Go Crazy (Prince), Little Red Corvette (Prince), Mr. Jones (Counting Crows), Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen), My Best Friend’s Girl (The Cars), Baby I’m A Star (Prince), Building A Mystery (Sara McLachlan)
My New Year’s resolution in 2014 was to get healthy. Revolutionary, right?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, and finished my last radiation treatment in October of that year. Walking the fifty yards from the parking lot to my office was exhausting and I seriously considered asking my doctor if I qualified for a handicapped parking permit. I was 43, and I hated the thought of feeling like that for the rest of my life.
My physician told me it would take some time before I felt like myself again, and he wasn’t kidding. Eighteen months later, “normal” came creeping back. Slowly.
I was overweight. I had no energy. And I knew if I didn’t do something it would only get worse. I would go for a walk now and then, and eat healthy for a few weeks. But it didn’t stick. Why? Who knows.
Time passed and 2014 rolled around. This was it. I knew that it would take time and that I had to be realistic in my expectations. My husband decided to join me, and we decided to walk one mile three times a week. For the first few weeks, we could only manage 3/4 mile each time. Look out, Boston Marathon!
Slowly, very slowly, we got better. By early spring we were up to 2-3 miles three times a week. One afternoon I saw a post about a 5K at a local elementary school. The entry fee was cheap and it sounded like fun. We decided to sign up.
The week of the run it rained. A lot. I called the race director and asked about getting a refund. I will never forget her reply: “Oh no, honey. We’re running. It will be a mud run. You’ll have a blast.” She’s insane, I thought, as I hung up the phone.
She was right. It was indeed a mud run. Ankle deep, shoe swallowing mud and long stretches with water that was at least knee deep. She was right about us having a blast. We were freezing cold and soaked to the skin when we finished, and it was amazing. We were hooked.
So why start blogging now, four years later? We were crazy enough to run a 10+ mile trail run over the weekend, and there were so many crazy, sarcastic things that went through my head as I stumbled through the woods. Way too much for Facebook or Instagram. I needed to blog.