Friday, May 9, 2014

Lake Minnetonka Half 2014 (Moving On)



Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon Relay (5.6/7.5 miles)

Team Time 2:51:45

Average Pace 13:07/mile

Last year I ran the Lake Minnetonka Half.  It was a painful, hilly hell.  For some reason I forgot all about that and registered again for 2014.  It was painful again, but for another reason entirely.

To preface this race report, I should say that I originally registered to run this race with my sister.  As I mentioned in a few of my recent race recaps, she has been training like crazy on longer distances and was doing REALLY great.  Was... until about a week before this relay.  After dealing with some pain in her right leg, she went in to the doctor for a check-up, and found out it was a stress fracture. 

Bad news bears.

Being that I'm in the most awesome run club ever (go CCC Run), I easily found a new partner.  It seemed like all was well.

And then, the Monday before this race, I suffered my miscarriage.

When I was in the doctors office receiving my terrible news, one of the things I asked after I had taken about 30 minutes to discuss other items of concern with my doctor was: "Can I continue to work out?"  I didn't say it to my doctor, but I needed something to look forward to given my greif.  The doctor immediately told me yes, and said that in fact if I was like many who worked out on a regular basis, it might help me burn off my emotions.

Even though the doctor told me it was ok, I decided to take the entire week off from the gym.  Which was good and bad.  It gave me a break, but it meant this run was my first official workout after my loss.

As such, the night before the race was an extremely restless night of sleep for me.  I was terribly nervous to know how the run would go and just couldn't put my mind at ease.  Regardless of my nerves, I refused to make my life stop because I had suffered a loss.  I decided I would take it slow, listen to my body, and do what it took to get to my "finish line" (the hand off point for the relay). 

The next morning, I got up, got dressed, and said to myself "you will be fine".


As you know by now, I pick all my outfits very purposefully for each race.  Sometimes my "look" is more subtle - perhaps just a sparkly spandex dress or a wild pair of pants.  Other times I go all out and shoot for the stars - unicorns, rainbows and wonder woman have been part of my repertoire as well.

For this race, though, I was suffering a road block.  I couldn't decide just how I wanted to dress... until I went to packet pickup and saw the shirt.

Immediately, I knew my answer.  I was going to break every cool runner's protocol out there and wear that shirt on race day - with the perfect pair of matching socks, of course.

Screw my tradition of wearing every shirt post race.  Today, I was going to live in the NOW.

Aside from my shirt deviation, I followed my standard pre-race ritual to a T: a caffeinated cup of coffee, a banana, and a quick check in the mirror.  I was ready to go.

Off I went to find my relay partner and another run club friend (neither of which knew what had happened to me earlier in the week), where the three of us were whisked off to the start line thanks to Husbands-R-Us Shuttle service.  Before I got out, my husband gave me a look that said "call me if you need me".  I gave him a look back that said "I'll be ok".  Well, that and a quick kiss as a tip for great taxi service.  Then, I jumped out of the car to follow my friends to the start.

There, we took our official "before" picture. 

Afterwards, my partner got on the shuttle and was whisked off to the relay point, and I split off from my friend as we both picked our start points for the race.

Oh!  Side note.  The girls who helped us take the above picture asked if we had run the race before, and how hilly it was.  My relay partner had already left, but my friend and I kind of looked at each other and took silent pity on the girls.  "Oh, it's not too bad" my friend said.  I said "It's not like you're going to climb any mountains, and biggest hill is within the first mile if I remember right."  No point in scaring them now, it was almost gun time. 

Anyway - as I wandered into a coral, I suddenly became tremendously nervous, having no idea how this race would go for me.  I was focused on the physical component, and simply hoped I would make it through.  I was so nervous I actually started to get heartburn.

To distract myself while I was waiting for my gun time, I started to do my favorite pass-time activity - people watching.  That's when I saw this guy:

Ah, my kindred spirit.  We were even wearing the same color pallet.  It was a sign.

Despite my worry about my physical capability, I chose to hop in with the crowd somewhere near the 2:00 pace group.  I know this is much faster than any half I've done, but I figured it would either motivate me to keep my 5K pace over the course of a 5.6 mile run, or if nothing else it would make me feel better about running slow (being that I would have a few additional minutes of time on the clock from the earlier start).

This idea backfired as soon as the gun went off.  I immediately realized I was in the WRONG place.

I'm a competitive person by nature.  I have a genuine desire to always do better, be better.  Surrounding myself with people who were running a 9 or so minute pace with ease while I was sucking air was a terrible mistake.

The crowd swallowed me and I struggled to keep up.  I saw the 1:50 pacer, who was just ahead of me, disappear into the distance.  The 2:00 pacer blew past me before I even hit mile 1.  I told myself to slow down, not worry about pace, and to just get my breathing into a comfortable zone.  Even though I knew it before I started the day, I had to remind myself - this is NOT the time to try for some sort of PR.

The crowd started to thin out more and more.  Eventually, by mile 2, it was just me and the few who started with me that couldn't hang with the 2:00 crowd.

Feeling like I was failing at keeping pace, I became tremendously depressed.  Not only could I not keep up, I was being hit over the head with the fact that only two months ago I was marathon ready and this run should have been a breeze.  Instead, I was still taking gaspy breaths and didn't know if I could make it to mile 3, let alone 5.6.

To make matters worse, it was my first time being really alone since my doctor appointment on Monday.  Because running has always been a time for me where I let my mind wander and process thoughts, it was like my body said "hey, time to start thinking".  Every bit of my brain was consumed with my emotions of the week, and I felt like someone had their hands around my lungs and were squeezing.  I hit a hill somewhere around mile 2.5 and said F THIS.  I started to walk.

Right around that time, my kindred spirit from before the race started to prance by.  He was just having so much fun.  I watched him go, and realized that the back of his shirt said something too...

It said "Come on, you can do it!!"

That's when I thought to myself: this is hard, but you are strong - come on, let's go.  So, back to a slow jog it was.

Not long after, I faced another "hill".  It wasn't that big, but enough to piss me off.  I saw the yellow sweatshirt glowing a few yards ahead of me, and I started a mantra.

"You run up the hill so you can run down it."

And so I went.  I ran up hill after hill so I could enjoy coasting back down the other side.  And when the hills were too hard, I told myself it was OK and gave myself permission to walk.

It was funny during the next few miles... something interesting happened every time I started to walk.  Even though that would be at the point where I would feel my worst, someone always seemed to magically sneak up on me that would help me make it through.

One time, a couple of women gave up on running just behind me.  I heard them both bemoaning the exact same thoughts that were in my head.  "Ugh, this is terrible" said the one.  "Don't beat yourself up about it" said the other, continuing with "you have to remember that the people passing us have been training for this for months, where as I barely ran 12 miles last month TOTAL."  They both snickered.  I couldn't help but think to myself that I was suffering just about the same as them and then some, and despite it all I was still ahead of them somewhere around the 3 or 4 mile mark.  I snickered, too, and said to them "Tell me about it!  I'm just happy I signed up for the relay option, so I'm done at the 5.6 mile mark."  They told me how they were jealous, we all laughed, and then I said "Yep!  Good luck to ya', suckers!"  Eventually they continued on ahead of me, but I felt a little better after that.

Another time, when I started to worry I was the last person on course, I got passed by the most fabulous pair of runners. 

How could you not laugh at someone running in that?!

Even though my brain was still processing my grief as I ran, after all this, I couldn't help but feel some sort of joy during the race.  But still, I was struggling to just watch the half miles tick by...

4 miles...

4.5 miles...

It felt like this would never be over.

And suddenly, I was there.  I was at the relay point.  I don't know what happened, but that last mile disappeared under my shoes.  I snapped off my bib belt, passed it to my partner, and off she went.  She was gone, and I had made it!!

But then, just when I thought I had made it through, I started to cry. 

I went up to the finishers stand, grabbed my medal, got some snacks and water, and I just cried.  And I cried the entire way back to the finish area - on the shuttle, walking down to the event area, and watching spectators.

It wasn't a full on ugly cry.  It was just quiet tears.  I felt somewhat like I was letting go.

The whole time, I was immensely grateful for my sunglasses.  Since I was alone and kind of hidden in the crowd, I hoped no one realized what was happening.

As I processed my grief, I celebrated so many moments of joy too.  Runner after runner were flooding through to the finish, and I was so happy for them.  I couldn't even understand all the emotion going through my head.

During all of this, I remember seeing my favorite runner from last year roll into the finish, with everyone screaming "Hi Ralph".

I also saw another friend from the gym, who is an AMAZING runner, make it through exactly on time for his 1:35 pace goal.

The mix of emotions made me realize there is so much to be grateful in life, even in times of your greatest sorrows.  Yes, my sister was out due to stress fracture.  Yes, I was suffering loss.  But also I had a tremendous network of friends around me that day to help fill in the holes I was feeling.  Not to mention a husband who met me in the finishing area and held my hand, not asking any questions while the tears I was trying to hide snuck out from beneath my glasses.

Eventually the children's "marathon" started, and celebrated their joy while watching them run their race.  Somewhere in there, both of my friends made it through, and I took joy in cheering for them too.  Thankfully I had collected myself by then, since I wanted the excitement of the race to be the focus of the day and not me.

Once we all met up, we spent a few more minutes circling the finish line, and we all went to meet up with our '"taxi".  Happy with our accomplishments of the day, my friends and I chatted all the way back home.  Once there, we realized we had forgotten the most important part of the day, and had to take one last "after" shot to celebrate our new beautiful new trophies:

By the way, I just love the medals from this race series.  They aren't particularly eye catching, but they are hefty ... definitely befitting an "uff-dah" or two.

And true to form, minutes later I totally I forgot about the medal around my neck and promptly plopped it down into a messy bowl of post-race nachos at Q-doba.

To which, I could only respond by licking off my medal, laughing at myself for such a typical dummy move, and then saying...

And that's the story of how race bib # 41 joined my collection.  To be honest, I don't know when I'll run a race again.  But, I think I'll know in my heart when I'm ready.  For now, I'm just going to focus on working it all out ... and being awesome.

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