Skirt Chasing in Louisville

(and it's pronounced LEWIS-VILLE here in Colorado, folks...)

This past weekend I was scheduled to attend my friend Rain's wedding and run the Hatfield and McCoy Half Marathon. I say "supposed" to because I was - I signed up for the race, committed to Rain to be in attendance and even talked my dear friend Amanda into not only signing up for the race as well but being my "plus one" at the wedding.  But procrastination hit, airline fees laughed, work happened and my plans were put on hold.  

When I first registered to the the Hatfield and McCoy, flights were reasonable.  I could actually get out to The Boonies Louisville, Kentucky (and via rental car to Williamson, WV then to Knoxville) fairly economically . . . 4 months ago.  2 weeks before the race, not so much.  2 weeks before the wedding/race and flights were $100 less than a round-trip ticket to Scotland plus add on the rental car, hotel and food?  I think not.  Which worked out because work required that I be in Denver for the weekend to meet with a snake charmer car dealer recruiter and water people (apparently the water industry is going to be facing a severe labor shortage in the coming years and the car dealer recruiter wanted me to do his job for him while he collected his "finder's fee") which meant that not only was I going to save a little money by not flying/driving all over the south, but I now had an opportunity to do a race I had my eye on - the Skirt Chaser Half Marathon in Louisville, CO (coincidence between KY? Perhaps not...) put on by Skirt Sports, a Colorado company.

Before my meeting on Saturday, I made my way to Boulder where Skirt Sports has their HQ and shop.  With my registration, I got a gift certificate to use in their store and I thought I would at least be able to get some socks or something.  My experience with running skirt inventory, with the exception of Sparkle Skirts, has been that the skirts - and any active wear, for that matter - are made for the typical "runner girl".  Basically - they're not made for people of any dimension (and I have a LOT of dimension) so I was prepared to buy tons of socks and perhaps a water bottle with my gift certificate.  Fortunately, I was positively let down in my assumption.  Not only did they have dimension skirts but they had them in variety - skirts, shirts, tanks - were available in my size and I was wonderstruck.  And thrilled.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  I didn't get socks.  But I did get a new skirt and a water bottle.  Yea! Skirt Sports!  Now I have TWO stores that I think of as my personal outfitters!  Wahoooo!

The average person, looking for attractive, comfortable active wear will have a hard time understanding the sheer excitement that I felt by being able to go into an actual store and find my size.  Not in bright yellow flower prints on neon green background or huge-ass applique boats, anchors and whales strategically placed to make one look like a buoy warning of shallow water, but actual attractive clothing that you feel confident wearing.  This is what Skirt Sports did for me.  It gave me affirmation that I am worth providing running skirts for because, while I may not set any world record out on the course, I AM OUT THERE and deserve comfort and class while dripping sweat from every pore.  Thank you, Skirt Sports!  Y'all rock!

The Skirt Chaser event was basically a female event but it did have the occasional male runner, scattered about for character.  I guess to have a "skirt chaser" event, one must have those who want to chase the skirt and it's much more diverse if its inclusive of all those who chase skirts.  Or it could just be that it was called that because the finisher award for this event was not a medal, but rather, a skirt.  Who knows.  Your guess is as good as mine.  But in any case, I digress.  The race was organized by Skirt Sports, had a majority of female participants, had an expo "manned" by mainly women and was pink.  And it was one of the best-run races I've done (and I've done a lot) (this is where I brag and tell you that this race was my 29th Half since October 2010) (and this is where you tune me out cause, really, who cares?).

The heat was a huge concern of mine.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I start whining about the heat the minute the mercury goes above 68 and I don't quiet down until it comes back down.  It baffles me continually that not only did I pick something that generally requires warmer weather but regularly takes place in full sun and full heat.  So because of the concern of the heat (it was 80 degrees at 8:00 am the Saturday before the race), I asked for permission to start early.  I shared that I would carry my own hydration (water) and fuel (food) and that I wasn't concerned about an "official" time but I just wanted to get a jump start on the course before the sun wilted me like water dissolved the Wicked Witch.  Permission was granted and I started my course at 0630 (as opposed to the official start time of 0700).

I wish I could say that this race was easy, that my stride was strong and that I didn't have any of the nagging self-doubt plaguing me from the beginning to the end.  I wish I could say that my shins behaved and that they didn't fill me with pain for the first 2 miles.  I wish I could say that I didn't entertain any idea of quitting, of finding a short cut, of being disappointed that while I started early, I was still last.  But I can't.  The heat, combined with that obnoxious voice in my head telling me that I am not good enough, did everything possible to cut me down, to make me doubt and to make me feel like an oompah-loompa (dressed stylishly, mind you) waddling along embarrassingly slow.  I had grandmas, 7 year olds, men in skirts, and women pushing strollers pass me.  But I kept going.  Every few steps I would think I could do it and every few steps I would wonder where I could quit.

At mile 7, I was warned of the hill approaching and at mile 7.1, I saw the hill and my resolve weakened a tad.  But I had just been passed by a man in a skirt who looked like he was out for a lovely little stroll and I put my head down, told the voice to shut up and started up the hill.

The beginning of "The Hill" - that's the guy in the skirt.

This hill was a killer.  I think it was about 1 1/2 miles long but it felt like it was about 10 miles long.  And as you can see by the picture, there's no shade, no relief from the sun.  And the sun was gruelling.  At about this point, it's about 9 or so in the morning and I still had over 6 miles to go.  I do believe "Oh shit" was a frequent, and loud, outburst.  But what was I going to do?  Put out my thumb and hope someone would give me a lift?  I don't think so.  So I took each step, exhaled each breath, and tried to focus on something other than the words that were whirling around in my head.  I entertained the thought that women wore just their bras out on the course because it was the only socially acceptable way to go topless in a society where men could do it for anything - whether or not they should.  I looked at people's shoes - and wondered why they weren't causing them as much pain as mine were.  I gagged on someone's perfume as she rolled on by me wondering if she carried her perfume with her in her race belt.  I admired the mom running with her 7 year old and wished I had started this lifestyle so much earlier so that I would do these with my daughter.  I thought about training more, as I always do, and blasted myself for not training, for not taking this seriously, for not doing it right.  Then I yelled at myself for being negative and told myself that I was my own worse enemy.  I thought about never doing another half marathon again.  And then I thought about the regret I would carry for not working towards my goal of completing one half in every state.  I thought about past boyfriends and wondered what they ever saw in me.  I thought about the incredible scenery and how amazing it was to be out in it.  

And then I crested the hill.  And I looked down at what I had just climbed.  And a huge-ass smile came across my lips.  I mean, seriously.  Who wouldn't smile at that view?

Once I recovered my breath, gave a fist bump to the guy at the top encouraging us on and took a swig of hydration, I headed out and began looking for Mile NINE.  I hate Mile NINE.  Hate. Hate. Hate. HATE.  But it gives me hope for Mile Ten so I look for it each and every time.  The course now led off of the road onto a trail in some of the most glorious open space ever.  The path was rough, with pebbles, rocks and twigs lining it but the view over to the Rockies was gorgeous and the wind, blowing through the prairie grass was gloriously mind-numbing.  I couldn't focus on the voices in my head when there was so much beauty to behold and so much sound to absorb - crickets, birds, people walking/running - it kept me occupied.  I stopped wondering where I could quit.  I stopped looking for a hidden short cut and I stopped secretly hoping that my knee would give out so I would have to quit.  But I couldn't ignore the rapidly growing collection of pebbles in my shoes so when I saw a bench overlooking the valley and into the mountains, I had to stop.

Little did I know, I stopped at the unmarked "Mile NINE"

After I dug out the pebbles in my shoes, I got up and continued along the trail - wondering where in the world Mile NINE was hiding and absolutely sure I had already passed it.  Eventually the trail wound me back to where I entered the open space and I asked one of the workers where in the world Mile NINE was hiding because I didn't think I could continue on until I knew where it was and that I would soon cross its barrier.  She handed me some Skratch (a really good hydration product - oh so much better than Gatorade) and said,

"Honey - you've got less than 3 miles to the finish!"

I hugged her.  This savior of mine who spared me Mile NINE.  She got a big, sweaty hug.  And she didn't care.  Have I mentioned how wonderful the volunteers of this race were?

With renewed vigor and the mantra, "less than an hour now!" pumping through my head, I whipped out my iPod and turned on my tunes.  I regularly do "less than 3 miles" as my "training" runs so I knew I had this.  Not long and I'd have some ice cold water, perhaps a banana and my finisher skirt.  I was so going to Rock. This. Out!

And as quickly as the renewal came, it went.  It felt like I had been walking for MILES and every time I looked down the path to the finish area, I saw the path taking me further and further away.  This is not cool.  To have the finish area within view and lead people away from it.
My "WTF" Face

Eventually, ever-so-slowly, I came to the finish line.  Despite what I had felt, I hadn't actually walked MILES out of the way but the appropriate amount to bring my course to 13.1 miles.  13 point one freakin' miles.  And it didn't kill me.  That dangerous voice of mine is quieted now, for a time, but this course it almost had me.  The voice and the heat led to one of my worse times on a course but I finished it.  And I've got the skirt to prove it.  And a banana.  I got a banana.


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