Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hold On To Your Butts (Project Pretty Week 11)

(Project pretty is a personal commitment to share my weekly journey of keeping my non-New-Year's-Resolution: staying fit to improve quality of life while inspiring others to do the same. Let's all jump on the endorphin wagon!)

Really? I mean really. 
After being spoiled by all the beautiful 70 degree sun shining days, mother nature decided to keep us on our toes by sending a cold front with 27mph winds just in time for the half marathon. {Insert sarcastic "Yay......."} Wipe that smile off your face, Flo, it's 5 flipping A.M. in the morning and this is serious business. 

It was still black outside when us gals paid for our train tickets and huddled together for warmth until our ride arrived. When the electric doors opened, we dispersed, filling the last of the open seats. And for the next 30 minutes we talked our jitters out as we watched more and more people flood in, filling the isles with excited runners. 

Gear check was all too soon. So soon, I absentmindedly kept my fleece jacket on when I checked my bag (my subconscious not ready to let it go just yet), consequently having to run back, uncheck my bag, remove my security blanket, and recheck it again.  For the next 45 minutes I'd be freezing my nipples off in my super thin breathable workout shirt, envious of all the warm layers I saw on the people around me, but I knew later I'd be glad I wasn't running with extra layers dangling from my waist. 

Thinking she'd be running close to a 11-12 minute mile, Britney changed her corral to the same as mine; this being her very first half-marathon, she'd originally registered under a slower finish time. I didn't care if we'd never ran together before, I was thrilled to gain a partner!
While we hopped in place to keep from morphing into popsicles, anxiously waiting to cross over the starting line, Mr. Bobby picked up the cheerleaders.
It wasn't his first rodeo, so he knew exactly were to go in order to cheer us along at the half-way point. Don't they look so warm and happy?  
After entertaining themselves for a while, they started to get glimpses of the Presby running crew.
First up, was firecracker Missy, who put on a show for the camera.
Next was Jessica, my hero.
Then I imagine, they had plenty of time for people watching in between, since Jess and Missy started about 8 corrals before me and Britney. 
It didn't take us long to work out a good system. I like for my partner to be on my left, and Britney's dog runs on her right. We admired the shiny downtown buildings, the ridiculously gorgeous mansions and beautiful hoity-toity landscaped scenery in Highland Park. We laughed at all the creative posters people held on the sidewalks. Despite the wind blowing so hard at times I actually had to hold my head down so my hat wouldn't blow off, we found a sweet steady pace right at a 10:30 minute mile, faster than we'd anticipated, but that's the beauty of the race day environment.
Somewhere around mile 6 was a long hill, and seeing as I'm a slow and steady hill climber, Britney pulled a bit ahead of me. Just as I was closing the gap, Patrick noticed her running by. "She's right behind me," Britney says.
And just like that, I missed Patrick and he missed me. Never even saw a glimpse of each other. Apparently, he took a picture of me without knowing, though. Below, in the middle of a group of people you can see my bright sherbet shirt and white hat, and Britney just about to run out of the frame.
Immediately after I'd unknowingly passed my husband, I saw Bobby, called for his attention. Then my brother, my mom. They all cheered and Dusty got a picture of my jazz hands. "Did you see Patrick?" they called from the sidelines.
WHAT? I missed him!?! He called me 5 minutes ago. I told him where I was. I'd been looking to the left and to the right. I'd been anticipating seeing his smiling face since before the run even started, and I missed him?!?!?
In that moment I caught up with my partner and we deliberated in disbelief at how something so retardedly (yes, I just made that a real word, just go with it) ironic could have happened. I was the only one my husband didn't see, and the only one he was really looking for. 
Somewhere around mile 8, my pace partner high tailed it and left me in the dust. She had to pee. On another unfortunate note, my running app had stopped updating me on my pace time back when Patrick called me. So there I was, alone with my thoughts for the next 5 miles, the same miles I needed the most motivation for.
In the last couple of weeks, I'd only ran twice (due to my strained calf). Once was the St. Patrick's Day 5k, the other was my last long run of 10 miles, a solid 16 days ago. I kept after it, trying not to think about the struggle, but by mile 10 my hip flexers were ready to call it a day. One foot in front of the other, I chipped away at the last 3 miles, keeping in mind my friends were already done, waiting for me with my family, and we'd all get to celebrate once I finally crossed the finish line. 
I really got the feeling of urgency when the 2:30 time pacing crew caught up with me. No!!! I will not finish slower than last time! I REFUSE!
I dug deep and pulled away, running as fast as my dead tired legs could handle......which wasn't very fast, but sufficient enough to beat my last finish time by 6.5 minutes. Sure, the last half was technically a harder course than this one, but my training this year was also way shorter, I've been adapting to minimalist shoes, AND I weigh more (sigh). I'm still not the speediest or the slowest for a female my age, but for 2 hours 26 minutes and 23 seconds I ran. And judging by my running app, I ran pretty darn steady for 13.1 miles (the red part is post race and us walking to the car, since I had no idea it was still tracking me).
It's something that can easily seem mediocre when surrounded by about 14,000 other people who did it too, but the reality is a half-marathon is a long way, creating a wide-open target for posing hurdles, guaranteeing some kind of personal demon is going to be fought one way or another, and triumphing is something to be very proud of, no matter what.
I'd been so worried that I might not even get to finish. But not only did I finish, I did it without the partner I was convinced I so desperately needed, and I beat myself. I defeated my mental block of being companion dependent in a mentally and physically challenging situation, and I achieved a new PR.
I even kissed my medal before kissing my husband.....but you better believe he got some sugar soon after.
These girls were right there waiting for me to do what they do best: giggle and hug and tell me how awesome I did........
........And I was right there waiting for my jacket and sweats!!! Gear check prevailed and earned my trust by not losing any of my stuff!
It's amazing how cold you get after you stop the strenuous exercise.
I was so thankful my Mom drove 2 hours to come stand around for a few more hours, just see me run for a collective time of 36 seconds!! And so proud of her for wearing that adorable knit hat!!
And my brother who woke up at the crack of dawn to do the same......please ignore the optical illusion of my pot belly. Jess had her own set of supportive cheerleaders.

It didn't take us long to find the rest of the girls (and boy, if you count Ale's bump).

We all hobbled together to take a few group shots, then quickly switched gears to one of the best topics in the world, FOOD. Pappasito's, never knew what hit 'em.

Patrick and I spent the rest of the day together snuggled up in bed watching movies and snacking. Can we say, "Awesome Sunday?!?!"

What's your ideal running weather? When it comes to races, do you like to have a buddy or prefer to fly solo? How do you overcome tough mental challenges? Gear check: use it or lose it?


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