Runnin' on Empty

Words can’t describe how happy I was to drop off my bike in T2. I knew I was home free. Just the matter of a half marathon. On my way out of the transition area, I think it was Bob Babbitt, founder of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, at the mike. He spotted my uniform and asked me to turn around to show my number. He couldn’t quite make it out. But I think they worked fast to alert ‘em a couple hundred yards up the way. At that tent, they announced my name and hometown as a proud member of Team Operation Rebound. That was cool.

A couple of hundred yards later, I spotted MtnGirlInCali with a sign, “Go 623!” Ahhh, I needed a pick-me-up from a familiar face. I missed Sandy and Nikki. (Still kickin’ myself over that one.) 734’s dad was in his own national mountain bike race. My sister was recovering from leg surgery. I was sherpa-less.

The course took us through a little dirt path construction site. My coach said, “If you see a woman with pink hair, that’s my friend Lexi.” Sure enough, I did – she was finishing the race just as I was getting going on the run. She looked like Jamie Whitmore with maroonish, pink braids. I gave her a shout out. She placed 11th among the pro women.

At around mile 1, I spotted the San Diego Triathlon Club dressed like 60s hippies. They were so fun and supportive. And they had good music. Nothing like a little Marvin Gay and triathletes acting like they’re tripping out to take your mind off the pain. Then there was a stretch of boardwalk with nice ocean views. There’s a small hill that took us up to a loop of a neighborhood – not my favorite part of the course. I much preferred the ocean views. That’s where I spotted Fe-lady’s oh-so loyal hubby. Ah, another familiar face.

On the second loop, MtnGirlInCali’s sign changed to “Work it 623!” I giggled over that one. I needed the laugh. I had reached the bargaining stage of the race. You know how that goes, “if I can just get to here…I can walk.” So I played ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ with myself and said, “If I run the rest of this boardwalk, I can walk up that hill.” Plan B came when I saw one of the Operation Rebound beneficiaries, a soldier amputee negotiating that hill by turning his wheelchair around and backing up that hill with more determination than speed. There was no way I could walk next him. It seemed disrespectful. I’m healthy. I can run.

I still don’t know why I feel compelled to walk on these long runs. Is it really fatigue? Or is it frustration? I know I was darn tired. No doubt. But in the back of my mind, I still wonder if it’s just a lack of tolerance for frustration. I walked a lot in that second loop. I grabbed water at every aid station. They offered up cookies, pretzels, Gator-aid and cola. All of which seemed like it might make me ill. I stuck with sips of water. I grabbed water-soaked sponges too. I held them in my hands to reduce my core temperature. I stuffed them down the back of my shirt. I knew I was overheating. In March, I was overheating. I worried all winter about hypothermia. I never imagined I’d have the opposite issue in this race.

When I passed MtnGirlInCali and her hubby one last time, she shouted, “Come on, sprint!” I laughed. “There’s no kick left in these legs girl” I replied. But then, I surprised myself when I thought I might barely break 7 hours. I stepped on it to cross the tape in time. (It dawned on me moments later that my time was actually 6 minutes faster that the one on the clock.) So my finish was not the hold-back-the-tears, emotional finish. It was more like oh-yeah-there’s-no-way-I’m-gonna-finish-slower-than-that-I’ll-show-ya’ finish. The DJ announced my name and hometown as I crossed the finish line. The volunteers held out the tape for me. Another volunteer donned a huge medal around my neck. I did it. It was a NICE feeling.

I was quickly sent over to the Team Operation Rebound tent where their volunteers offered up all kinds of help and nourishment. All I wanted was a chair. I didn’t know what I wanted. Sort felt ill. I eventually took a Gator-aid and nursed it with little sips. Made my way back to the barren transition area to call a couple of loved ones. Took my sweet time to gather up my stuff. I wanted to click my Newtons and beam myself home. My body was as salty as a pretzel. After I got home and showered, I had the shakes and no appetite. 734’s dad coaxed me into some tomato soup after a nap. I turned the corner after that and felt much better. The next day, he found some organic margarita mix and tequila to make me feel much better. Anything to take away the pain of those sore muscles.