I’m not exactly sure how to write the post but all I know is that I need to. What I can tell you is this, in the words of a blogger friend; you better have your boots ready because there’s some verbal vomit coming.
My previous race was the Rock n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon on Nov 12. This was an absolutely amazing race and even though I didn’t meet my goal time (due to injury), I still finished faster than my first half. Afterward, I took a couple weeks off to rest my IT band and concentrate on stretching it.
Then came the month of December and I tried to get back out there and get my mileage back up and work a little on pace. Even though I was training, I’ll admit, it was hard and my heart wasn’t fully into it. My training partners and I run after work and it was always dark and cold, sometimes very cold. At this point, I had full intentions on running the Cowtown Half in the end of February followed up by Rock n Roll Dallas in the end of March. Honestly, I was really excited about this schedule and anxious to see if my body could hold up to 2 months of half marathons. There are a lot of runners who do this but it would have been my first time.
Then New Year’s Eve came and I ended up with unexpected surgery that took me completely off my feet for two weeks. My surgeon cleared me to start “lightly jogging” on January 20 and fully training again on January 30. This leaves me with a total of three weeks to train for the Cowtown Half. Some of you may be looking at a calendar and notice that if I started really training there would be four weeks to do it. But Wait..There’s More!! Since October we’ve had a ski trip planned from February 17 through the 25th. That’s right, I scheduled a ski trip the week before a half and planned on doing as much downhill skiing as I could stand for 4 days.
Our vacation was truly fabulous. A lot of fresh snow fell our first day there, which helped make for some great skiing. We took my first ever snowmobile tour and managed to get it stuck only twice. This was the first time in my life, I had been in snow up to my thighs and still wasn’t standing on the ground! It was quite interesting and much harder to move in than I expected. Every day we made as many runs as we could handle and ended up totally exhausted every night.
Originally, our plans were to drive about 8 hours toward home on Saturday and drive the rest of the way Sunday. Once I registered for the race, this meant either leaving on Friday or doing the entire 13+ hour drive on Saturday. No one wanted to give up that last day of skiing so we decided to leave at 7am on Saturday and make the whole drive in one day. I knew it wouldn’t be good for my body to be sitting in a truck that long the day before but honestly hoped it would help a little and give my legs some rest from skiing. In 13 hours home we stopped three times, twice for food and once for fuel. It actually wasn’t that bad of a drive but I was dying to get out of the truck by the time we got home at 8:30 that night.
We quickly unloaded the truck and I started to find my clothes for the race. The weather on race day was supposed to start a little chilly but warm up quickly. Most everything I had planned on wearing was in the tub we took skiing and once I rounded up everything else I would need for that day, I headed to dig out my clothes. Hubby had locked the ski tub so when we were stopped for food no one would mess with our stuff. When I asked for the keys, he thought I had them and I thought he had them. We searched for nearly an hour and couldn’t find them anywhere. At this point, I gave up and decided to wear something else. I know there are a lot of others out there like me (or at least I hope there is) and if I can’t wear what I have planned out in my head, my race automatically starts off going in a bad direction.
I actually slept okay that night but I think it was from pure exhaustion. Rachel had picked up my packet for me so we met that morning and rode together. After we got there we rounded up most of our team members and nervously waited for the start. We talked about pace and how we hoped the race would go. I was shooting for a 2:30 finish but joked I hoped to just finish, it wasn’t until about 2 hours later did I realize how true that joke would become.
About 10 minutes before the start of the race, I took my first Gu. I started off at what felt like a comfortable pace but somewhere around a mile and a quarter, I felt the bubbling in my guts but nothing too uncomfortable. After just a little farther the bubbling went from mild to severe. Thank God the first porta-potties were just ahead!! I have never made a pit stop after only a mile and a half but there was no way to avoid it. My surgeon warned me that after gall bladder surgery that there will be foods that make you sick that never have before. That morning, I learned Gu was one of them. After re-enacting the scene from Dumb and Dumber, except in a porta-potty (sorry for the visual but that’s what it felt like); I managed to get back out on the course but my mojo was gone. Every step seemed a struggle to find my pace and enjoy myself.
Most of miles 3-8 are pretty much a blur. I just schlepped along, alternating between walking and jogging. Somewhere between mile 7 & 8, I found Elaine. We exchanged high 5’s and went on with our races. It’s always great to see a smiling face at that point in your race. Just after mile 8 is when you start the uphill climb on the Main St Bridge that goes over the Trinity and this is where my pain started. At this point, my thighs were exhausted but I was still moving. After topping that hill, I managed to jog for a little through downtown but slowed again to a walk. Another runner runs up beside me, looks me square in the eye then slowly down to my feet and slowly back up to make eye contact. She nicely smiles and says “C’mon! You can finish! We’re almost done!” I can only imagine how pathetic I looked at this point because I felt absolutely terrible. Not too much farther into we passed Starbucks and I wanted so badly to stop and get a coffee, thinking the caffeine would help. I resisted (which seemed overly hard) and kept on trucking.
Somewhere around mile 10 everything below my belly button ached so badly I could barely move and had totally stopped even trying to run. I pulled out my phone and started to text my husband, knowing is encouragement would keep me moving toward the finish. I walked along constantly thinking how there was only a 5k left and I had to finish. Once I started down the Lancaster Street Bridge it took everything I could muster to even move. Rachel texted needing me to call because she was having a hard time getting a line out. Soon as she answered, she mentioned where they were and wanted to know where I was. “The Bridge” was the only thing I could say before I started to cry. I remember her sweet and encouraging voice saying “Just finish Jess. You can do this.”
There were multiple times on that bridge that stopping and standing there was the only thing that would relieve how badly my body hurt. I have never sobbed because my legs and feet hurt so badly during a race but that day I did. Suck it up! and Finish your race! were phrases that went through my mind hundreds of times in that mile.
Just after passing the mile 12 sign and knowing there was just over a mile left, I tried to pick up my pace. It was still a walk but a slightly faster one. Every step was painful from my thighs to my toes. As I’m walking along, I see Marci. We went to college together and she’s one of my best friends but as we met on University Dr., she looked straight at me and didn’t realize who I was until I managed to mutter “Hey Marci” and give a slight wave. In my mind this drives home even more how terrible I look if she doesn’t recognize me. Her first words to me were “Oh God! You’re still out here! You hurt…” and she jumped off the curb and gave me a huge, tight hug. All I could do was stand on the street and sob uncontrollably. I remember telling her how bad my body hurt and how I wasn’t sure if I could finish. She just kept hugging and told me how “everyone needs bad races to truly appreciate the good ones” and how “this wasn’t a race and to treat it as a bad training run.” and how no one expected me to have a great race because I had skiied for a week prior. I think she followed that up with how skiing before a half was possbily the stupidest thing I could have done. It was the brutal truth and that’s why I love Marci. I’m not even sure I said bye to her but remember pulling away, crying and saying “I’m just going to walk.” I have no idea where the emotion came from or how to stop it.
I rounded the corner, expecting to see the finish line but it wasn’t there. Race organizers had moved it and it was around another corner but I wasn’t sure how far. Once I made that final corner, the finish was about 400 yards ahead and I started to run. I hadn’t ran in miles but I was going to at least run across the finish. The race clock read 3 hours 34 minutes and 18 seconds.
Even walking was difficult but I eventually made my way to get my finisher’s shirt and find Rachel. Immediately she hugged me and I started to cry again. Rachel, Toybeth and I headed to look at the results posting so they could see what their official time came in at. Both Rachel and Toybeth set a PR that day and had fantastic races. Rachel came in just under 2 hours for her half and Toybeth just over 2 hours. It was slightly depressing to know they had been waiting for me to finish almost as long as it took them to run their half. Their excitement over their finish was a pep to my spirit though. Excitement always leads to energy and I needed that.
Today was the first time I actually looked up my times and I’ll be honest, after Cowtown, it’s been hard to get back to running. I have ran twice since the race: once for 1.7 miles and a 5k last weekend that turned out fantastic. In the weeks since Cowtown, I’ve thought a lot about my running and where I want to go with it. For now, I’m going to concentrate on strength training and working my 5k and 10k times. With any luck and a lot of effort, hopefully, I’ll run the Dallas White Rock half in December.