Let me rewind a little to the last few days, where I have been sicker than sick with terrible allergies. We're talking about a head full of snot and wheezy, hacky lungs. Not pretty, and definitely not conducive to good running. I pulled the plug on a planned 6-miler before I even crossed the street yesterday morning, it was that bad. So, I readjusted my already lowered standards and just hoped I'd be able to walk the half at a decent hustle.
I got a pretty good night's sleep and was up at the crack of night to drink coffee, eat oatmeal, make my post-race shake and attend my all-important "morning meeting." I got dressed in an outfit just a tiny bit too warm for the weather if I was running, but that I hoped wouldn't be too cold if I was walking. It was hard to judge, really.
We were on the road by 5:15 (race start was 7 am, and Modesto is about an hour away) and cruised right into some easy parking and no porto-potty lines. Score!
|You can see on my face that I'm a little apprehensive about the day.|
I kissed UltraIronHubs and wished him a great race (more about that in a minute), got my mom settled in a spot where she may or may not see us start, then lined up at the way back. The way, waaaaaaaaaay back. It was already warmer than I had anticipated, but I was in a pretty good mood. It's nice to not have any expectations for a race. In fact, that's arguably my favorite thing about trail racing - you really never know what the day is going to bring you, so you might as well settle in and enjoy the scenery.
|Off like a herd of turtles! That's me right of center in the socks and skirt.|
I had already determined that I would start the race by walking, then pick it up if I felt like I could. I had truly planned on being okay with walking the entire 13.1 if necessary. But when the race started and the crowd surged forward, I felt like I couldn't really walk across the starting line, ya know? So I put on some hustle pants just to see how it would feel. It wasn't bad. It wasn't exactly good, either, but I found that I could move at a trot without too much trouble in my lungs. I stuck with the trot and decided that I would just play the whole day by ear. Maybe I could do a half-trot, half-walk sort of day.
Within the first block or two, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a friend of mine from high school! How exciting to see a friendly face! I had run into her a few years ago at the CIM expo and we are friends on Facebook, too. Recently, she had posted that she was all done with marathons, so I was surprised to see her here. As it turned out, she was doing the half also. I briefly imagined glomming on to her and her friend for some company, but it was painfully, coughingly obvious that they were going too fast for me. I watched her disappear into the crowd in front of me and I tried not to hack up a lung.
As it turned out, I could sort of cough and trot at the same time. I found a really nice pace that I could sustain that gave me the least amount of trouble with my lungs. No wheezing, just occasional coughing fits and a nice, steady heartrate. I resolutely refused to look at my Garmin, because I just really didn't want to see how slow my trot was. It felt good, so I was sticking with it.
There are a few twists and turns the first few miles which wind through a nice neighborhood where the people come out with their kids to cheer in their sweatpants and pajamas. It's so pleasant, and I really wish more of the course was "in town" like the start. I wanted to be a friendlier race participant, but when I tried to smile or say thanks to the spectators, I started coughing like a demon. So. Headphones in, game face on, keep trotting forward. I wasn't here to make friends. Except that I'm always here to make friends!! Chatting with other people is what makes race day so much fun! It was hard to stay quiet.
The first several miles passed very pleasantly. I was trotting along and enjoying my music and only needed to walk when the course went over the overpass.
|Happy to say that I survived this summit not once but TWICE on this course!|
Roundabouts Mile 6, I was thinking about taking a little walking break to text my mom, still feeling pretty okay, when I got a text from UIH: "Not my day. :(" Ugh! I felt SO bad for him. I knew he was dealing with some allergy issues, too, but I was hoping he could push through. Not so much. I walked for a bit, texting with him and updating my mom, then picked it back up to my trot and carried on with it.
At Mile four, I had expected to start seeing runners coming back at me. By Mile 5, I started to suspect that the course was not really an out-and-back at all, like I had remembered from the inaugural year. I missed a lot of Mile 6 because of the texting and whatnot, but at Mile 7, I started to feel a gnawing worry that I had somehow missed a crucial turnoff for the half marathoners. We were still running out. That was bad, right? I looked around at the runners near me and there were plenty of half marathon bibs, so I wasn't too concerned. I mean, if I was accidentally running a full marathon, at least I was in the company of plenty of other fools.
Just before Mile 8, the course splits off, sending the full marathoners on their out-and-back, and the rest of us back into town. Aha! So I wasn't actually lost. I guess there's a first time for everything.
By Mile 8, I was taking somewhat regular walking breaks. They weren't timed or anything, but about every half mile or so, I would walk for as long as it took to slow my breathing and then get back to the trotting. It was sort of strange to me that my coughing was actually worse while I was walking than while running. I was a phlegmy mess. My nose and throat felt so full that I finally decided to try something I've never, ever done before: blow a snot rocket. You might think, being a girl who is no stranger to peeing in the bushes on trail runs and talking about my bowels on the internet, that I would have some experience with snot rockets, but no. I do not. Or rather, I did not until today, when I popped my snot rocket cherry. If there's a skill to these things, I apparently do not possess it. Or I just really, really had a lot of snot, because holy crap it was a fucking mess. The blowing part was easy, I mean, hello. Blow out the snot. It was the release that was tricky. The snot just sort of...hung there. I ended up slicing the connection with my hand and sort of shaking it off, then wiping the remnants onto my gloves, then carrying the gloves sticky sides together. There's got to be a better way, but maybe next time I'll remember to just bring a Kleenex.
Mile 9 was a pleasant surprise, because that's when I did the math and realized how close I was to the finish. Only four more miles? I can do that! I trotted, I walked. Most of the people around me were doing the same. I really, really wanted to chat with some of them, particularly this one guy who was walking every time I was running and running every time I was walking. We seriously passed each other dozens of times, but he was wearing headphones, too, and I knew if I said something I would just start coughing. So on I went.
I updated my mom with excited texts: I'm coming up on 10 miles! I'm at the overpass! 12.5! I didn't think I would feel this good to be finishing my slowest race ever, but I got completely choked up at the last aid station. The volunteers were going crazy, ringing their cowbells and cheering so loudly - it was awesome!! I felt like a rock star! I pulled out my headphones the last half mile because I could hear the finish and it sounded like all those people were cheering for me. I made that final, exhilarating turn into the finishing chute, waved to my mom, heard them announce my name and bounded across that happy Finish Line! I did it! I (sort of) ran a half marathon today!
|I earned this. Official finishing time was 2:42:05, 893rd out of about 1400 participants.|
No sooner did I cross the line and receive my nice, hefty medal than I ran into another friend from high school! I swear Modesto is a bigger city than you might expect from this race report. It was so great to see Lancer. We're friends on Facebook, but haven't seen each other in probably 20+ years. And just moments after that? Yes, another friend from high school said hi and gave me a hug. Best. Day. Ever!
UIH had been sending me updates, but he was still a few miles away. I felt so bad for him. I've totally been there, watching my PR dreams slip away while feeling more miserable and exhausted. It was much hotter than the weatherman had predicted and that long, long stretch on 9th street feels like Hell when you're having a bad day. I couldn't let him finish this thing alone. So I started speed walking/trotting back up the course until I found him, a little past Mile 25. He was in better spirits than I had feared, but we didn't talk too much. I've been on the other side of this equation enough times to know that even though you're totally grateful for the company, you don't have much to say. So we walked and ran from cone marker to cone marker and just like that - bam! - he finished his 15th marathon!
|We worked extra hard for these medals today!|
|Another medal for the rack o' bling!|
|Read it carefully. I guess there's no spell-check on the engraving machine - oops!!|