My official time is in. 2 hours, 58 minutes, 22 seconds. Just a smidge shy of the maximum time I gave myself to finish this race. Phew! I made it!
I've had a little time now to relax, recuperate, and reflect on my big day so I could recount it all for you. What a day! I've been asked how I feel. Yesterday I was so numb, post race, that I wasn't sure how I felt. Proud? sure. Excited? I think so. Triumphant? sort of. Cold? oh my gosh you have no idea.
Turns out, all my weather fears were right on. I tried to prepare. I tried to buy all the right running-wear that one should wear in wet and cold weather, but the sales guy kept downplaying my fears and talked me down a couple notches of what my gut told me I needed. I should have listened to my gut. Always listen to your gut! It was probably just about the worst possible weather for running a long-distance race. (Aside from heat and humidity, apparently). It was painful. Low 40s, continuous rain, light wind (with a couple of gusts). Definite hypothermia conditions; a cold that reaches so deep, it grabs it's icy, stinging fingers around the core of each limb and pulls against your every step. I was so thoroughly soaked with this frigid rain that the only dry stitch on my body was a patch of my underwear which I was truly amazed to find, after the race was all over and done with. The rest of my clothes were drenched. Monica underscored this at lunch afterwards, when she took her thin, thin headband and wrung out an unbelievable amount of water. It was sloshing around in our shoes, it was dripping off our hair. It was piercing our legs. It hurt. But I mostly didn't feel it. If not for Monica reminding me of it, I wouldn't have thought about it much at all. At least, not in the beginning.
I was also asked about all the great sights of downtown Denver that we passed. I didn't notice any of it. I was slightly aware when we shifted from city streets to park, how long we were in the park, and then the shift back again. Other than that, I had no idea that there was anything beyond the street under my feet and a few cheering spectators at the side. All I felt, all I saw, all I heard was the walking and the running.
When we started the race I had a lot of energy. I expected to be super hyped up from the excitement of the crowd. But I was so nervous from our frantic rush to get ready in the morning and everything, that I didn't get to soak it in much. But you wouldn't believe the number of people. I called fellow Bunny, Amanda, on her cell so we could start the race together, her, Monica, and I. She said she was at the corner of a particular pair of streets, so was I. She was standing right under the sign, so was I. She asked me to jump up and down (Monica did), and we couldn't see each other. I told her I was actually standing up on the sidewalk of the corner, so she came a little closer and we managed to find each other a few minutes before the beginning of the race. It was so packed with people! Monica and I had bunny shirts, but you couldn't tell because of all of the layers we were wearing. But we Bunnies started together, Amanda and I wished each other luck and then she was off. She was going to try and run the whole thing. WAY TO GO AMANDA! We walked a crazy pace, and we did intervals of running. Our running pace was too fast for the other runners around us and we easily passed anyone near us, but our walking pace, though fast for us, was slower than the speed walkers. So though we passed them up several times with our runs, they each eventually left us in their dust, or 'mud', as Monica and I joked.
Our pace was strong in the beginning, but difficult. And it wasn't until the 3 mile marker that the crowd thinned out enough for us to see how far along we were. I kept thinking, oh no, we're still on the first mile! This is going to be impossible! And then the ball of positivity that Monica is with this stuff certainly didn't move me on more in the beginning. She complained about the cold, the speed, the difficulty of the runs, the growing blisters on her ankles.* Eventually she warmed up and got her groove. I think, in the beginning, she did slow me down slightly. I could have left her a couple of times. But I'm so glad I didn't. We first saw our cheering section at the 4 mile marker. As we walked past them, I was making goofy faces for Teddi's camera and blowing kisses to my little boy.
Our initial pace proved to be a bit too difficult. I shortened up the intervals, and we seemed to do better. I was strong at mile 9 when we saw our crew again. But we were running, and they were supposed to give us Monica's rain poncho and me my bottle of Recharge, but they didn't hold it out for us, so I ran towards them screaming, "Give me the bottle!!!!!!" and ran off. Then, around 10 miles I began to feel disheartened. I had forgotten to take my ibuprofen, so my problem SI (back-pelvis) joints started to seize up. The cold was finally getting to me, and I really began to feel the pain of those runs. I felt like a cartoon character who was slowly freezing as I was moving, and I was sure I'd have an icicle growing from my nose soon. Also, I was just coming back from my terrible sugar headache that had resulted from eating a Cliff bar and drinking the nasty Gatorade that they'd had available. I think I must have also been going through a sugar crash too. Finally, just as a run interval was due to begin, we were made to stop and wait for traffic. It was the only time in the entire race we were made to do this. Usually the cops were REALLY good at sending cars through the small gaps in runners, but this cop just let a long stream of cars through. We cooled way off and I lost my momentum. For Monica, I suspect it may have been a welcome break, since she seemed to be energized at this point. For me, it was almost impossible to go on. The run after that was nearly unmanageable.
Monica kept me going. She carried my bottle through the last several runs, and encouraged me to keep running. We shortened the intervals further. The 11 and 12 mile markers were so long in coming. The strain of the seemingly constant, Escher-esque, uphill loop we were running was growing. Any hint of downhill didn't come till mile 12. When the 13 finally came I couldn't believe the end was finally there, in sight. Monica and I ran to the finish line from the 13-mile marker. I threw my arms in the air and screamed. I think it was as much from relief as from triumph. Although I had been thinking of this day as the most important day (after Regin's birth, my wedding, and my graduation) of my life so far, honestly, my 12-mile training run felt much more triumphant. It was a gorgeous day, I was pumped, I felt amazing. I charged towards the end of it. I was overcome with emotion. Not only was I really going to achieve this goal I'd set myself, but I had really, really stuck to the difficult training program, and that was almost the bigger success. My hubby and boy were there for me to throw my arms around at the end. It was a great moment. The end of the half marathon was not quite as spectacular in some ways. I was numb, I was in pain, I was hobbling and stiff. My great supporters were also sluggish with cold and weary from walking from point to point. But it felt so amazing to hold my little boy, with my medal around my neck. I kissed him and told him that he was there the day his Mamma did it. He's too young to be proud now, but I hope he will be proud years from now, when we show him pictures from this day. That feels good. But you know what makes me feel really good? That I affected your guys' lives and gave you all these potentially life-changing events. I am really proud that I convinced a few ordinary gals, who had not ever thought of doing this, to realize their strength and go for something really amazing.
And I have to take a moment to tell you all about my AMAZING friends. They are unbelievable. They are the best supporters anyone could hope for. They showed up, without me asking, on this MOST MISERABLE of MISERABLE days, between 7 and 8 am, and stood and walked around in these frigid temps for about 4 hours! It was so, so, so, so incredible to have them there at the 4, 9, 12, and 13.1-mile marks, cheering us on, and hugging us at the end. Stacey told me she'd had it on her calendar, long before I'd even thought about who might be there. She brought her boyfriend who was a really great sport and was there to support two girls that he was only just meeting for the second time on a freezing Sunday, early in the morning! Teddi, probably the best dressed of all of us, who is now, what, four months pregnant? walked like 3.5 miles, when it was all added up, so that she could be there and cheer us on at all those check points. George, who seems to be infinitely supportive, was in his usual, amazing form. And Monica, whom I could have left earlier in the race, kept me going in the end, and refused to leave me when she had the energy I no longer had. She actually slowed down to stay with me and help me through.
Katrin said that it was a real athlete who would tough it out through weather like this. Well, it is a real friend, and a real supporter who will not only show up that day, but show up that early, and stay through all that weather, and still greet me with huge smiles and hugs at the end of it all. Thank you so much guys. Having you in my life is such a great gift.
Another really cool thing to experience about a race like this is the camaraderie. There was a definite feeling of belonging to a kind of fraternity. At places where two sides of the course swept next to each other, runners going were cheering on the runners coming and telling us how great we were doing even while they were doing it themselves. After the race, medaled runners were walking around downtown Denver, congratulating each other and patting each other on the back for doing such a great job (no matter what the finishing time was.) And spectators who had never seen us before were cheering us on the whole way. Some of them were shivering on lawn chairs in front of their houses ringing cow bells, some of them left a pitcher of juice and a stack of cups out for us, some of them had music blasting from boom boxes and car stereos, and blaring from living room windows (the "Eye of the Tiger" seemed to be a popular choice). All along the way there were people telling us we were doing great and to keep pushing through. I often talk about how much I hate people and how much people bug me, this is one of those times when I realize how much I really love people.
How do I feel after the race? Physically? Initially, I had trouble getting around. I was so cold, and so stiff from frozen SI joints, I hobbled for a while. It took several hours before the chill finally left my blood, even after I'd changed out of my drenched clothes. I was wiped out the rest of the day. The day after, all I wanted was sleep and rest. I'm still so sore that I dread the thought of having to go up or down the stairs one more time. But the excitement of what I have achieved has grown. I am really proud. And that medal I earned will now be one of the top things to grab in a house fire.
It's oddly like my experience of birth. It was painful, and I went numb, and disconnected from my experience to the extent that I was sort of in a kind of distant shock at the end. It was long, exhausting, and seemingly unbearable, but it finally ended. I knew I should have felt elated, charged, on a high, but I felt foggy. After the aftershock of pain left me, I began to feel all those great feelings you're supposed to have. The biggest difference between this and birth (other than the whole, obvious, baby aspect) is that I know I did this myself. I was in charge. I controlled my pace. I was the master of my experience. And I was solely responsible for my success. That's a pretty cool thing.
*Monica really wasn't being whiny. She had terrible blisters around both ankles, which were bloody by the end of the race. The next day, both ankles are swollen, and she is just now starting to notice the pain of sore muscles as the pain of her ankles is starting to wear down. Poor girl! She says the cold took the pain away through most of the walks, but she felt it screaming again each time we ran (every 3 minutes). Ugh!