April 30, 2011

Country Music Half Marathon April 2011

Me rocking the double fist pump at the finish line

There are so many things about the day of the half marathon that I want to document forever. Like how I almost cried because I got stuck in a traffic jam the morning of and how I was mean to my husband in lieu of, or in addition to, crying. But five minutes before the traffic jam I was so happy and endorphin filled that I was rocking out to country music in my car (it's a great day to be alive, you know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes, there's some hard times in the neighborhood, but why can't every day be just this good). And I was really believing in the lyrics until I came to a complete stop on the interstate and it took me an hour to drive four miles.

The stress was all for naught because I made it in plenty of time to walk around aimlessly looking for food because I could have sworn there would be some there, stand in line for twenty minutes to use the dirtiest port-a-potty ever known to man and woman, retie my jacket around my waist six times to make sure it wouldn't fall off, and make five new friends in my corral as we pushed to the starting line.

The running part was great too. The funny thing is that I am sore in really weird places today, and I am trying to trace them back to the race.

Sore spot #1, my jaw. I was chewing gum, the only "food" available in my car. But I chew gum a lot, so I thought that the sore jaw might also be related to something else, like smiling at all of the spectators on the roadside. They were so friendly, except the frowny, bored-looking group between miles 9 and 10. Maybe they didn't realize how long they would have to wait for their friends to run by? Conclusion: we should initiate a gum chewing, smiling marathon. It is apparently even more taxing than the running.

Sore spot #2, upper back. My low back gets sore a lot when I run, probably because of some poor posture issues, but my upper back is always fine. Today, it feels like I was in a rowing event. Possible explanation: all of the high fives and fist pumps. Every single kid that had their hand out for a high five got one from me. Also, I think I did more fist pumping than necessary whenever there was a large group of people cheering. I wanted to give something back to let them know they were appreciated. Conclusion: I just need to be in the middle of a large cheering crowd to get a really strong face and upper back. Or move to the Jersey shore.

Sore spot #3, left foot, middle toe. Not even worth considering why.

Oh, and my legs kill, but I expected that.

My favorite parts of the course were the shaded neighborhoods. I kept thinking that I would see someone I knew standing in their yard. You know how you go back to your childhood home and expect to walk into the store and bump into people you know. It rarely happens, but I like to be mentally prepared for unexpected reunions, which makes them expected, but whatever. And, no, I didn't spot anyone familiar, but I saw some very funny signs, which made the race so much less boring. Running sometimes equals boring for me, but running with funny signs to read equals awesome. And I heard about some even better ones after the race from our friends who ran. Examples: "Worst parade EVER" and "If this were easy, it would be called 'your mom.'" You know I like your-mom jokes. Thanks, Nashvillians.

Oh, and the hills! I was so nervous about tackling the dreaded hills, but if you are from Birmingham and have run outside, don't sweat the hills of Nashville. Since we live in Vestavia Hills (note the Hills in that name), I should have figured that I would be prepared. The worst hill for me was at the very end. I was saturated with physical and mental exhaustion, and that hill felt longer than the rest of the race combined.

And the bling! I'm not sure why, but I wasn't expecting bling at the end of the race. I thought you only got a medal if you were top three, but for this race, they gave you a seriously blingy medal for crossing the finish line. This was the closest I've ever felt to an olympian. Bring on the podium and the national anthem.

And the final results, time 2:02:11, 339th in my division (women age 30-34) and 4,370th overall. Did I mention there were a lot of people there? It sounds better when I emphasize that.

April 2, 2011

Race Without Limits 8K

The night before my first race, Race Without Limits 8K (or 4.97 miles), I couldn't sleep. I get cold sweats just thinking about competition (even though it was just for fun, the word "race" is in the title, thus alerting my sweat glands), and I am always nervous that I won't wake up for important events. The kids, who get up with the first light, usually serve as my alarm clock, but I needed to get up earlier than them, which required my actual alarm clock. It has been so long since I used it that I wasn't 100% sure it would work, adding to my cold sweats and fitful turns in the night.

Well, crisis averted, my alarm clock worked, and A was already up roaming around anyway. I made it up in plenty of time to eat a banana, drink some water, and head out to meet my brother Jimmy, who probably had a great night's sleep as he was not nervous about the race because he is a frequent and lifetime runner (meaning that, unlike me, he did not just pick up running to prepare for a race) and was just coming back from a run with his two healthy-sized dogs when I got to his house. What? Who runs vigorously before you are about to run vigorously? Super healthy people, that's who.

The things that went well:

1. We found a great parking spot to save all of our leg energy for the race. Well, that was just me trying to save leg energy.
2. Running with J (my brother) and his co-worker (who is prepping to run the full marathon in Nashville) was awesome. They talked the whole time, which gave me a chance to listen and laugh without using too much oxygen to talk. I was sucking wind pretty hard.
3. They stayed with my pace for the first four miles, and we all ran our hardest the last .96. That meant passing a few people, but mainly just trying to stay conscious because it was hard giving my max effort for that long.
4. They had snacks at the end.
5. I finished in 41.5 (approximately) minutes and got second place for ladies in my age group. Woohoo!
6. I didn't throw up!
7. We did a family photo shoot (below) in Railroad Park in front of A's new workplace.

Things that could have been better:

1. Instead of running my hardest for the last .96, next time I will only try sprinting for the last 400 meters or so. I was quickly losing energy at the end. My brother came back from his finish and ran the last leg with me, which was good because my legs almost stopped right before that.
2. I told my family that it would take me 45 minutes to finish, so they didn't make it for the finish line. But check out the sweet victory signs the kids handcrafted (below). I still loved seeing the signs, even if it wasn't at the finish line!
3. I was so excited about finishing the race that I didn't really stretch properly or drink enough water, but I did partake of some free snacks. But the not-drinking-enough-water part gave me a large headache.
4. I left my headphones in the car, but I should have brought them so I could power song it through that last .96. Yes, I just used power song as a verb. No, I don't regret it.

Now I feel like the next race in Nashville is actually possible, and I'm starting to plan for after that. The plans won't be definite until the conclusion and survival of the half marathon, but I've put a lot of notices on my calendar about deadlines for signing up for races. Anyone want to join in? I'm open to traveling to your hometown to do a race with you. Especially if we are related! That's not exclusive, but I would love to visit family and run at the same time. I'm already looking at some events in Florida and California.

My friend who is prepping for the same race in Nashville has a nice little chart that she marks off every time she runs. She is obsessed with marking the chart, and with charts in general, and though I have a chart that I don't mark off, I am also obsessed with meeting goals. I like doing new things that make me feel very uncomfortable. Not like crack or meth. Mostly things that I know will be good for me, but I dread anyway. Usually there is a portion of the activity that I enjoy, but some huge part of it also makes me cringe. I felt this way when I started teaching group exercise and when I started playing organized soccer again. Part of me loved doing it, but the other equal part would be silently hyperventilating.

Motherhood is somewhat in this category. I knew it was something that I wanted to happen, but there were many parts of it that I dreaded. And many parts that I enjoy. So the obvious conclusion: the things that make you want to throw up the most bring you the most joy and rewards.