1.) Wear shoes that you know
2.) Never mess around with hydration or nutrition 24 hours pre-race
3.) Stay healthy
On Saturday, I broke all of those rules. All of them. Maybe rules are meant to be broken?
The drama started early last week. I was shoeless. Truly. My well-worn and well-loved Brooks had over 300 miles on them. It simply had slipped my mind to get a new pair. Plus, I wasn't really feeling my Pure Flow 3s anymore. The 4s never fit, and I was 99% sure my current shoes were responsible for all of the issues with my left foot. The love I felt for my new Adidas Takumi Sen racing flats rivaled Dorothy and her ruby slippers (or more appropriately - Dumbo and his feather.) I'll admit, I was feeling a little sneaker-curious. Was it time to make the jump from something other than Brooks? This was so...bold. So audacious.
I found an amazing pair that just so happened to be the older brother of my Takumis aptly named Boston Boost. Only problem? The store had to order them. I patiently sat through last weekend, drumming my fingers and trying not to think about it. They'll be in by Wednesday, no worries. Then on Labor Day, something hit that they weren't coming in. I went to Amazon and bought the same pair; guaranteed delivery by Thursday, 9/10 at 8pm, thirty-five hours before the race. I've never cut anything this close in my whole life. I would have to skip my run on Thursday and do it on Friday to break the shoes in. Even then, I'd only have three or so miles on them. This was running Russian roulette. My audaciousness suddenly skyrocketed to cheeky gutsiness.
That instinct was right, however, and the store never called. At 7:55 on Thursday night, a cheer went up in our household when the doorbell rang and the kind UPS driver delivered my new shoes. Friday's run went great. They were light, streamline and perfect for my long skinny feet. Having spent the last four or so years running in men's shoes, it was nice to have a somewhat feminine looking shoe. They were actually kind of pretty.
As I dragged the suitcase upstairs, I realized I couldn't lift my arms over my head. My face and ears were burning. My throat was scratchy. Despite the heat, I was freezing -- I had donned a sweatshirt, socks, and long pants even though it was closing in on 100 degrees outside. I randomly took my temperature - 101. Huh? Where did this come from?
I'll be honest, I considered not going. All I wanted to do was crawl in bed. But like a dutiful solider, I set out my clothing and gear and just packed. Head down, mind blank except the task at hand. First step: pound some Advil. Second step: Get in the car. Third: get to Utah.
By the time I reached my hotel, I was ready for more meds. I had hit that burning hot/freezing cold/everything ached phase of illness. Do I attempt Theraflu and risk GI distress? What if it keeps me up at night? These little questions, these binary yes-or-no queries, set the eventual path for the race's outcome. I hated knowing each answer would put me further down a path - was it the right choice? Can I go back and redo it if I've made a mistake?
By the time I had my packet, bib, and room key, I triple checked all of my running gear. I didn't care if I had to drive home naked, but I needed all of my gear. It appeared to be there. Yes I had forgotten my glasses, toothbrush and iPod shuffle cord (I grabbed Brian's phone cord instead, making it impossible for him to charge his phone for the night) but I seemed to have the important things. Brian texted me to let me know I had also accidentally locked Chewie in one of the upstairs rooms and she was pissed. Whatever. I'll deal with the angry kitten later.
Food sounded horrible. I limped to a nearby coffee shop and ordered the only thing that seemed remotely edible: a giant spinach wrap with carrots and Romaine lettuce. This was the worst carb-loading in the history of racing. Feeling utterly defeated, I got a side order of Swedish fish just to cheer myself up. Advil and Swedish fish: the dinner of champions.
Jammied up and tucked into bed by 7:30, I was halfway through that wrap when I sat straight up. Gels! I forgot my running gels. Oh for heaven's sake. This was ridiculous. If this was a test run for St. George, I was quickly learning just what a disaster a race could become when you're using half a brain. I eyed the bottle of honey I had brought with for my oatmeal in the morning (yes, it's not vegan. I'm aware of that) and briefly considered squirting it into two baggies to be used during the race. But honey is so sweet - too sweet. I needed about 100 cal of pure glucose twice during the race - honey seemed like overkill. Not to mention, I had failed to look up how many aid stations there were. I wasn't planning to run with water. Even two or three miles with the aftertaste of sticky sweet honey made my stomach turn.
I threw on a pair of shorts and headed out. Thankfully, the one sports store in town was still open. Though they did not have my caffeine-free organic Honey Stingers, beggars cannot be choosers. I said a silent prayer the caffeine in the gels wouldn't destroy my stomach like it did two years ago and headed back to the hotel. What else could go wrong? A meteor hit my room? Zombie apocalypse?
The last and final freak-out occurred Saturday morning after a rather fitful night's sleep. Utah is on Mountain time; Vegas is Pacific Standard. When I looked over and saw my phone read 5:20 (with the last bus leaving at 6am), I suddenly wondered: had my phone synced? There was no alarm clock in the room. What if it's really 6:20 and I missed the bus? I hightailed it out of my room to the park across the street, fearful to be met by silence.
The buses were still there. My phone was correct. Whew.
After that, I'll be honest, I stopped caring. I think my nerves were so shot I couldn't muster up any additional concern. And talk about a ton of wasted energy! I was shaking my head, annoyed at myself, but thankful this wasn't St. George. What a giant waste of a weekend.
But it wasn't. The Cedar City half marathon was probably one of the most beautiful halfs I've ever run. By the time we exited the buses, the temperature was a perfect 55 degrees. The pine trees! The camp fires! The stars that shone in the complete darkness! It was all so peaceful. Aside from having to run 13.1 miles in the next few minutes, I suddenly found myself at total peace. This was killer! Totally worth all of the stress of the last 48 hours.
By mile 5, you could tell the folks who had trained on downhill courses and who hadn't. Paces slowed. Walking commenced. Quads were turning into jelly right before our very eyes and folks were hobbling. I said a quiet thank you to Mount Charleston for the knowledge it had bestowed upon me in August. Downhill is fast and fun, sure, but continued downhills will wreck your legs. I kept an even pace.
By mile 6, I was having fun. Like, too much fun for a half marathon. My legs felt great and my shoes were delightful. "Fit and focused," my wise friend Teri had once said. I felt both. I focused on nothing more than the runner in front of me, which I took great pleasure in gobbling up. I wasn't even breathing hard! I am Pac-Man. I am Ann Transon. I'm Kenyan. I am a running god...
The only mistake I made was looking at my watch at mile 7. For whatever reason, it just shows my pace per mile, not the actual amount of time elapsed. It said 7:38/mile. I flipped to the time of day, knowing we had started at 7am. Now it read 7:59am. Fifty-nine minutes had elapsed in 7 miles? Yikes. How was that possible? That meant I had to maintain an eight minute mile pace for the rest of the race to come in under my worst-case scenario time of 1:48. I picked things up a notch.
I would find out later that we didn't actually start the race until 7:06am, hence the delay.
I picked off more runners. Mainly I was gunning for females who appeared between 35 and 39 years old. Yes, this was absolutely silly. However, having three podium finishes this summer, I was hungry for more. I want more. I've become a monster, I know. This was a much bigger race with a more competitive pool of athletes, but whatever. I could try. By mile 10, I wasn't just running anymore, I was racing. And while intense, it was fun.
In the last mile, there were only two women in front of me. One was walking. The other stopped to encourage the other to continue. I blew past both of them. Suckers. The taller one (who looked a bit older) was not pleased and suddenly she was right next to me. I ran hard. She ran harder. The third girl dropped out of our make-shift death match after about 20 meters. With about 50 meters to go and tall girl and I neck-and-neck, that voice in my head said to me very quietly, "Kim...don't kill yourself. This isn't worth it." I slowed my pace. The chick totally outkicked me in those last few meters, but that's okay. I'll save that last go-big-or-go-home sprint for George.
When I finally saw how much time had elapsed, I gasped. And swore very loudly amid a crowd of families with little kids. If there's a finish line picture of me, my mouth is gaping open because I'm saying, "Oh SH*T!" It read 1:40. Huh? Way, way, way faster than I intended to run. Seriously, 1:40? How the heck did that happen? Did I just destroy myself for George? The body felt okay but I wouldn't know until Monday morning just how much carnage there was.
So just imagine my surprise when I went to get my official time and the guy told me, "1:39:42." Again, I cursed (loudly) among the small children. (My apologies to the good people of Cedar City). A sub-1:40 half? Even in my wildest dreams, I didn't know that was possible. I was deliriously happy. Elated. Concerned for my recovery. Unreal, really.
Curse of Mom's Marathon Journeys struck as soon as I got my phone. No kidney stones this time, just a sick Bear. Scotty's fever was 102, having picked up what I had the day before. This meant no friend's birthday party and no first baseball game of the season. Thinking I didn't have to race back to town to coach, I hung out at the finish line, cheering as my friends finished and talking (without vulgarity) to the locals. It was truly a beautiful morning.
I was in Vegas by 2:30 and at the baseball diamond by 3pm. I sat there, counting pitches and strapping catching gear on kids' legs in 104 degree heat, wondering if the morning was nothing more than a dream. It certainly felt like one. 1:39:42. Who would have guessed??
I had an easy 6-miler this morning before boot camp and my recovery efforts were not in vain. Everything felt great; a bit tired, but certainly not like my first Mt. Charleston expedition. I did no damage and still manage to emerge with a ridiculous time. Someone pinch me.
Sadly, Scotty is still sick and home from school today. Not the 37th birthday I expected, but at least he's on the mend. All I asked for was a new half PR, cooler temps in Vegas, and a key chain shaped like an Ewok. We're batting a thousand, friends.