29 March 2011

The Dallas Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon

I have definitely been infected by the race bug. I constantly think about which race I can do next, how I’m going to fund the race and hope that when I do the race I continue to improve on my time. This time last year I couldn’t fathom doing a 5k. Now I think of those as “jaunts” and almost beneath me. I am not a competitive half marathon runner, in ANY stretch of the imagination, but I thoroughly enjoy the battle that wages internally and I am constantly looking for opportunities to bring out the complacent fat-girl and pit her against the determined, but still fluffy, “fit” girl. I am seeing changes – not nearly as fast as I would want but they’re changes all the same. And I know that if I were to ever be dedicated to monitoring the food I put in to my pie hole as I am to finding races to go to, I would see changes much more quickly.

2 weeks ago I attempted a half marathon here in my own area. The fact that no travel was involved (other than the 1.5 hour drive to get to Gateway) should not be as surprising as the fact that I didn’t finish it should be. I don’t know why I didn’t finish it. I kept trying to rationalize it away – I was dead last; my knee was hurting (it wasn’t); I just got over being really sick (which was true); the wind was blowing me all over the route; I had no one at the finish line for me; and, my favorite, The sag wagon was on my tail. I cannot discount the psychological reasons for not finishing – it is VERY discouraging to know you’re the only one still out on the course and it is VERY discouraging to have the Sag wagon 30 feet behind you – but I should’ve finished it. There was no reason other than I wussed out for quitting. In this instance, the complacent fat girl won and it did some damage to my confidence. Not only did I quit, but I was sorer than I had been at my very first half marathon and it took me longer to recover. Knowing that I did not finish this half marathon had me worried about the next one coming up – the Dallas Rock-n-Roll ½ Marathon exactly a week later.

I had first signed up to do the ½ with my friend, Cheri. She and I both started on the “race circuit” (as I like to call it) at about the same time. The difference between her and I is that she actually TRAINS for her races, whereas I just, um, well, I’m not sure what I do but I know it can’t be classified as training. Cheri has actually been building up to the half marathon while I didn’t do anything of the kind, I just signed up for them and hoped I would at least finish.

Cheri and I belong to a rather unique group of friends. When the internet first started out, there were these things called “chat rooms”. The chat rooms were formed around common interests or situations and our chat room was formed around single moms online, aka MOL, aka “Loopies”. Our group has 22 in it (the number has increased and decreased over the years) and we’ve been friends since before cell phones, facebook, myspace and texting. I’ve not met all of these incredible women face-to-face but I count each of them amongst my closest of friends. We’ve weathered divorces, children in trouble, health scares and severe sadness. We lost our dear friend Margo to breast cancer in 2008 and Cheri is a 12 year survivor of that disease herself. We’ve watched the Loop kids grow up, join the military, get married and have their own children. And through it all, the majority has not met face-to-face. I’ve been lucky in the fact that I’ve met about half of them but the fact that I’ve not physically given each of them a hug has not diminished the place they hold in my heart. In any case, when it got out to the Loop (that’s what we refer to ourselves collectively) that Cheri and I were going to do a race in Dallas, 2 others decided they would join us for the weekend – Terrie and Sheryl. A full-blown Loopie weekend – I couldn’t wait.

Because I want this to be a race report, I am going to spare all the wonderful details of our weekend together. Just know that if you were an outside observer, you would have remarked on how close we all were and how much history we must have together and you wouldn’t be wrong.

Race morning arrives and our alarm clocks go off disgustingly early. Cheri and I get ready and my nerves are starting to kick in. What if I can’t finish like I couldn’t finish last weekend? What if I hold Cheri back? What would Terrie and Sheryl think if I don’t finish? What if I have to get picked up by the Sag wagon? I had all of these “what ifs” just flying around in my head, making it hard to feel confident about at least finishing within the required time limit. Throughout all of my internal distress, Cheri and I were chatting and laughing and I kept wondering how she could be so calm on a morning when disaster was just a second or two away. I envied her calm demeanor and wished I could be so confident. Finally it came time for us to head out. Sheryl was just going to drop us off and then come back for Terrie and they would meet us at the finish line. Taking one last look around to make sure I had everything, we head out.

It took a little longer to get to where we needed to go due to construction and the sheer amount of people signed up for the craziness. Cheri and I were trying to make the Half Fanatic photo at 7:15 but were unable to get there in time. Sheryl kept apologizing and I kept telling her that it was ok – we just couldn’t be late for the start! We had wanted to be dropped off at the Start area but due to construction and poor instructions from the Rock-n-Roll people, the finish line was the best that could happen. Sheryl found the finish area and Cheri and I got out and we were immediately hit with something we weren’t expecting in Dallas – cold and windy AND it looked like it was going to rain. That was just great. Because of course I couldn’t be a part of a race that didn’t have crappy weather!

Cheri and I decide to jump corrals – we were assigned corral 15 but chose to go in the back of corral 14 (we’re such the rebels) – the reasoning behind this is not clear to me but it probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t want to be dead last again and if there was a corral behind me, then dead last would take a little longer to happen. At least that’s what my head told me the reason was after the fact. In any case, we’re in our corral and we’re slowly winding our way to the start line so we can actually start our walk. When we finally cross the start line, everyone takes off and Cheri and I put on our best wogging faces and hit the trail.

I’m not sure if the pace is good for Cheri but she’s not complaining and I’m actually feeling good. We had a decent pace going and before I knew it we passed mile 1. My friend, Amber, catches up with us (she was late getting to the start and had to run to even get counted in the start) and she walks with us too. So there the three of us are – Cheri and I and Amber: Amber who’s this tall, beautiful girl, walking with me, a short oompa-loompa and Cheri. And we talk the whole way. We’re walking and talking, talking and walking and occasionally, we actually shuffle/wog a little bit. We keep this up for a good deal of time and before I know it, we’ve passed the 5k mark – and if a 5k were all I was walking, I would’ve had a personal record! That means to me it is a good pace. I check with Cheri, make sure I’m not holding her back, and she confirms that the pace is working for her. Amber’s still with us and I know she’s starting to get bored with the pace. I try to convince her to move on but she says she’ll stay with us, that the pace is good for her so we keep moving and talking, talking and walking and throwing sporadic attempts at running in for good measure.

I am thoroughly enjoying this race. I’ve not turned my iPod on and have not needed to – the conversation has been wonderful and I feel like we’re making really good time. When we hit the 5 mile mark, I consult with my GPS on my phone – yep, we’re making good time and we’re on pace for a personal record for me, SCORE! At mile 6, Cheri’s K-tape has disintegrated and we pull to the curb to apply new tape. Amber takes this time to move on and we wish her speed. We fix Cheri’s tape and hit off, down the path again, to the finish line. Through our conversation, we discover that we both generally hit “the wall” between mile 8 and 9 and we make a promise to one another to not let the wall get the better of us.

We continue walking, talking, shuffling and wogging and the miles are (slowly) melting beneath our feet. We pass the 10K marker and the 10 mile marker and we both get excited knowing that we have only a 5k left. We’re still on pace to set personal records and new energy has been infused in our legs. I’m excited – I’ve never felt this good at this point in the race before and I know I’m going to finish. The doubt the Gateway ½ put in my head has been squashed and new confidence is oozing out of the sweat dripping off my forehead. I’m increasing our shuffle/wog sessions and I’ve started chanting during them to encourage Cheri. Cheri has been my personal motivator and I wanted to return the favor to her. And in all actuality, I was pushing Cheri due to selfish reasons – I wanted to finish and I needed her to get me to the finish line.

We’re finally down to the last 1.1 miles and I can hear the headliner band at the Fair Park – we are almost there! Cheri has a moment of panic and I grab her hand and talk to her, help her calm down, tell her how proud I am of her and how wonderful she is. We finish the last 1.1 miles hand-in-hand with the exact same finish time. Cheri sheds almost 10 minutes off her best time; I shed a little over a minute. And it only sprinkled on us – the downpour held off until later that afternoon. Cheri and I collect our medals, get our photo taken together, grab some grub and go out to the parking lot to meet Terrie and Sheryl. We see them, dressed in their matching shirts and hats with their pink pom-poms and I get the biggest smile on my face. AND they brought Dunkin’ Donuts. I have the best friends in the world.

The Dallas Rock-n-Roll half marathon will be held forever in my memory. Not because I got a PR. Not because there were Dunkin’ Donuts waiting for me (and that certainly helps!) but because 3 of the best friends in the world were there for me and one of them walked with me. I just love those girls! I still don’t know what the difference between the Dallas race and the Gateway race was. I don’t know why I didn’t finish one but did really good on the other. The Boy thinks it has to do with elevation – Gateway was the first race I did at a high elevation (above 6,000 feet), all the others have been just a little above or at sea level. If it is elevation that caused my issue, I’m going to have some trouble in Denver in October unless I do some elevation training.

And I almost got away with referring to me actually doing “training” without laughing…

Official time: 3:45:15
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