Sunday, August 17, 2008

Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Everyone has the occasional bad day on the marathon course. That's what I kept reminding myself today. I also reminded myself of my promise to not run summer marathons, and figured that today illustrated exactly why...

Last night when I checked, temps were predicted to be 50 at the start and around 80 at the end. I figured I could manage that. I stayed up late - till 10:00 - hanging out with Riley. His last big night at home - he's busy tonight and he leaves for college in the morning. I forced myself to go to bed at 10:00, but I couldn't force sleep. It was hot in the house and my mind was a-whirl. The last time I checked the clock, it was 11:00. The alarm was set for 4:00 am, so I'd be ready at 4:45 when the gang - Abi, Marco, Jenny, Margaret and Cat - arrived. Unfortunately, a huge thunderstorm rolled over the house at 3:20 am. At 3:30, I gave up - the thunder was shaking the house, I could hear the dog dancing outside my door and I was wide awake. What the heck - running a marathon on 4.5 hours of sleep is no big deal, right? I mean, rest is overrated!

I was a little surprised to discover that it was still 70 degrees out, and when I quickly checked online, to find it was 70 at the pass. Uh-oh. Everyone arrived and we piled into Cat's version of the infamous Yeti, fondly known as Sully. (I've never known so many people who name their cars!) We got to the finish just as the buses were pulling up, and ended up rushing to catch the early start bus. At the start I found myself walking around comfortably in a tank top. Another uh-oh.

These "little marathons", as they are known around here, are so much fun. The same runners come out and it's like a mini-reunion each time. We visited with lots of friends, and then lined up to start. The next uh-oh came 3/4 of a mile in when we got to the tunnel. It's known for being cool year-round, but today the humidity was so high that both the tunnel and I were sweating. It was almost hard to breathe. We made it through and rejoiced in the breeze when we stepped out side. Two miles down, 24 to go.

We trotted along fairly steadily for miles. Cat and Margaret took turns trying out Jenny's and my packs - which was kind of amazing because mine was loaded. I had a full bladder, 22 ounces of iced tea, a Starbucks double shot, a sandwich, M&Ms, mini-Snickers and pretzels. I was already struggling a bit, so having them carry the pack was wonderful. And, just so you know, I drank everything I brought, plus refilled the bottles several times.

So anyway, we're running along, coming up on mile 13 and I started to feel wonky. Jenny was talking and her voice sounded far away. I was muttering that I needed to sit, but was kind of whispering to myself. When we got to the aid station, Margaret took one look at me and asked if I was okay - all I could do was shake my head no. I sat on a cement wall, and took my pack off. Margaret and Cat started urging me to drink and pulled out my sandwich. I didn't want to eat, but I took tiny bites, and sipped at the espresso. With in a matter of minutes, I was fine. I guess it was a blood sugar crash - I hadn't been eating a lot because it was so stinking hot. Cat put my pack on, despite my protestations, and off we went.

My journey forward was up and down from then on. Strong moments, bonking moments, shuffling ever forward. We ran for two telephone poles, walked for one. We ran in shade and walked in sun. We ran fifty paces and walked fifty paces. We walked for long, long periods. It wasn't all bad, we had moments of hilarity - especially when I used the hose on my pack that was on Cat's back. I was encouraged (in a strange way) to see many other runners walking. I started daydreaming about seeing Eric and Rob (who had their own weekend adventure) on the trail, and soon enough, about five miles from the finish, we did. They were trail angels for sure - ice cold water, an entire bottle! Eric let me drink some, then made me pour some on my head and down my back. We left them and resumed the shuffle.

At about mile 25, I began to feel the first signs of my heart acting up, so we settled in to a walk. Oh, and by the way, everything hurt. Quads, knees, shins, feet. I could feel two good blisters in the usual spots. I so wanted to be done. We saw Abi and Marco (who both ran a tough 50k yesterday and the marathon today) walking up the trail toward us - they said round the corner and we'd see the finish line. There it was! We started the shuffle, a slow, agonizing trot to the line. But wait! There's foot steps and breathing behind us and it's Mel. Mel, who's something like 70, coming up behind us and Margaret says we can't let him pass us. I don't know what came over me, but I picked up my pace. So did Mel, then I heard him bellow "GO!", so I did. And I crossed with Margaret, Cat and Jenny, just steps ahead of Mel. Done. So, so done.

I did set a record - call it what you like: a PW - personal worst, or PS - personal slowest, a 6:30. But, by golly, I gutted it out and finished. And I had the world's best companions pulling me in and babying me the whole way. I can't tell you what the friendship of these three women means - they've shared good runs and bad with me, and they never give up on me. And then, one more. When I crossed the line - there was Sonya and Patch. Just for fun, on a sultry and hot summer day, they drove up to see us finish. And, my two darlings of the trail, Eric and Rob. Am I just about the luckiest person on earth - surrounded by those kinds of friends? I think so.

Pictures will follow in a day or so. First I'll have to get through Riley heading off on his grand college adventure, and get used to a quiet house with just the two of us again. You know, it's been 21 years since it was just Eric and I at home. I will say this - I feel happy and proud and excited for our boys, and I know they are ready to step out into the world. I'm a proud mama bear, and I'm ready for the next season of life. I guess it starts tomorrow...

21 comments:

Legs and Wings said...

Gritty effort on the course. Good job in toughing it out.

And, a new season for you as the boys are off. It will be an ajustment to say the least. All the best to you.

Wes said...

A tough day fo sho! But you toughed it out!! Way to go!!!! :-)

robtherunner said...

It was a tough day as you suspected it would be. The 50 degrees at the start would have been preferred, but you survived the heat and outsprinted Mel at the end. Way to go!

kayaksuccor said...

I ran this course too. Glad to hear your comments about the heat. I thought it was just me. I have never drank so much during a run. Good job on your finish.

Anne said...

You're one tough broad, Michelle. The quiet in the house can be sad at first, but afer awhile you fill the void with things you forgot the two of you used to do. We're getting ready to reacclimate to just the two of us again after a very noisy summer.

wendy said...

oh, honey! way to gut it out. I was wondering about you out there, because my HR was at 170 in the first five minutes of my run, which I attributed to the heat. Gosh - you have the most amazing mental strenght, pulling yourself through that.

If you want some nice easy recovery runs this week, let me know! I miss running with you since you're so speedy now!

anyhow, congrats on finishing yet another marathon, and yes, I agree, we have some of the greatest women to call friends in our group.

Joe said...

Awesome friends you have, Michelle...yes, you are fortunate!

I could add some comments about summer marathons but I suspect you've already made them to yourself :-)

All the best to Riley. And to you and Eric. Our house goes empty again tomorrow....we've grown to like it and be friends with our sons in a new way. You'll do the same.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

It really was a great day out there, despite the heat. You were a trooper and a true "burly woman athlete." I'd run it with you all over again.
Try to enjoy the quiet, I know it will be tough at first, but a grand new adventure awaits (with new furniture and all!)

Jenny

Sarah said...

Good friends and family...that's what its all about! You've certainly "won" that race. : )

Ryan said...

Yeah had a bad day but never gave up, way to hang tuff and finish. Big steps...I wish u and ur family the best.

Jack said...

Way to hang in there Mama Bear, I'll remember your courage when I sweat through what looks like will be a hot marathon this coming Sunday.

JustRun said...

Way to grit it out. I need some grit these days, so thanks for sharing! :)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

alright!

olga said...

I agree on definition of "small marathons" or anything small:) Count it as is, and don't worry about PW.

Steve Stenzel said...

Wow! What a run! Way to gut your way through the heat. Nice PW!!

Dori said...

It sounds gruesome, but congratulations on finishing another marathon. That was nice of your friends to stick with you. You must really be loved. :-)

I'm guessing it won't be quiet for long--you and Eric seem the type that will be filling the house with friends. Let me know if a marathon brings you down my way.

Darrell said...

Always pushing yourself - not sure if I should congratulate or chastise. I am glad that you had so much support our there.

Enjoy the new season.

Irene said...

There's something to be said about PW's, which is you stuck it out. Perhaps it would have been easier to quit, but you didn't. So, there!

Congratulations!

Meghan said...

Michelle aka Tuff Lady,

You've got some serious guts. I'm glad you gutted it out and that your body held up for you to do so.

Watch out for Eric now that you're empty nesters. My mom always said that my dad caused more mischief once I left the house! Good luck with this new adventure in life. ;)

Meghan

jessica said...

You crossed that finish line, and I'm sure you had a smile on your face. You are a trooper, just remember to listen to your body, it will tell you when to stop. Great job sticking with it and finishing. I am getting excited for the inagural Michelle's-Grande-Ass Marathon!
Hope to run with ya soon!

Sarah Elaine said...

Good job on gettin' 'er done.