Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Running Story (Pt III): the Final Chapter

Thank you for sticking with this through to the end! For the first part of my running journey, start here; for part II, here.

We've now made it through my not running at all, to being forced to run in ROTC, to not running at all again, to hashing, to training for my very first half-marathon. This is where our story continues and comes to its eventual end (FINALLY!). Oh, and side note: if you just read Part I, you'll remember where, when running for ROTC, I absolutely couldn't breathe? And my superiors were all like "BLAH YOU SUCK KEEP RUNNING, NOT BREATHING IS NO EXCUSE!"? Well, as I went through my semester of my marathon-training class, I was diagnosed with slight asthma. SO THERE, stupid POCs. It wasn't just me being out-of-shape: I honestly COULD. NOT. BREATHE. (I still feel vindicated by this fact.)

The Lincoln Half took place on Sunday, May 6th, 2012: the day after I'd graduated from college. Needless to say, that was an incredibly busy, incredibly stressful weekend. My whole family, plus Colorado Mommy Jeanne and Devil/Ninja Fred (mentioned in Part I), plus our good friends the Murthas, had all signed up for the Half. On that Saturday (Graduation Day), everyone convened at the Johnson Guest House (my mom is way big on VRBOs) for a graduation party-slash-pasta feed. We had crockpot upon crockpot of marinara, meatballs, alfredo, meat sauce, and pesto to top our pasta, and my absolute favorite for the sides: two huge pans of Fazoli's buttery, garlicky, salty breadsticks. (Cute story about the crockpots: Mom pulled me aside as we were setting up and said, "Hey honey, we don't have enough crockpots to go around--can I borrow yours for one of the sauces?" I didn't own a crockpot, and I started to tell her so--until it dawned on me. SHE GOT ME MY VERY OWN CROCKPOT FOR A GRADUATION PRESENT, because she is the best mommy ever--and it's RED for the Huskers. Um yeah, go ahead and be jealous of my awsm mom.) We also had a keg of Boulevard Pale Ale, since my family has much better taste in beers than all y'all*. Although, since most of the people reading this blog are my friends/family, maybe we don't have better taste than all Y'ALL, but rather, compared to the average American populace.

*I know that for someone like me, who is absolutely crazy about grammar and punctuation, it must seem very strange for me to be using the word "y'all." Let me explain my stance. In German, there are words for "you" AND "you guys" (in both informal and formal constructions: "du" and "euch," informally; "Sie" and ...well, "Sie," formally). It Just. Makes. Sense. "Y'all" may be considered really tacky and lowbrow, but IT. MAKES. SENSE. It's a pain in the butt to say "you all" or "all of you people," or "youse guys" if you're from Brooklyn, when "y'all" works just as well. So there. As for "all y'all"--well, it means exactly what I need it to mean. Would you rather me say "All of you people who happen to be reading my blog," or "all y'all"? ...Well, at this point, the former would have actually saved you from reading a paragraph of rambling discourse on the topic of  "to y'all or not to y'all," so...nevermind.

The day of the Lincoln National Guard Marathon dawned...terribly. There was a HUGE mf-er of a storm: lightning, thunder, torrential rain--the whole nine yards--all night long, which kept waking me from my already-restless slumber. In said slumber, I was dreaming about the half-marathon itself, including that they had cancelled it due to the storm. When I kept waking up and realizing that it hadn't been cancelled, I was just that much more peeved, exhausted, and anxious. When the magic hour of way-too-fking-early arrived (also known in the military as "Oh-Dark-Hundred" [a reference to the 24-hour time system, where 7:00, for instance, is written as 0700 and said aloud as "oh-seven-hundred"--you're welcome]), I heaved myself out of bed and had a breakfast sammich and bandaged up my feet to avoid blisters (a futile attempt). The storm had stopped by this time, but it was still a tad drizzly and overcast. My carpool of Mom, Dad, Spud (little brother), and I think Colorado Mommy arrived and I clambered into the backseat. When we arrived at the drop-off zone, I suddenly realized that while I had remembered my hairband, my iPod, my bib, and my sunglasses, I'd forgotten my earband--essential, as my ears are super-sensitive to cold and will have me in tears in no time if left unprotected. I had a mini panic attack and Mom (who'd decided to sit the run out, due to injuries) told me to chill the heck out--she'd go get it for me. We walked a couple blocks across campus to the Port-a-Potty Plaza and stretched for a while (Mom returning in the interim with my earband) before convening at the starting line (or, y'know, the starting half-mile-of-solid-crowd). Dad was wayyy up near the front, and Spud and I around the 2:15 finish time pacer group. (Side note: Robin, my little brother, is known as "Spud" simply because when he was a baby, he looked like a potato. His other nickname, bestowed upon him by my uncles on my dad's side--the Clowers are less than sentimental--was "Chuck," as in "up." He has always been known as either "Spud" or "The Boy," with diminutives such as "Spudlet" or "Spudster" used as well. Since my phone recognizes him by his Facebook profile information, I have to pause pretty much any time I text him--"Crap, he's not Spud in here. What's his real name again? Derrrrrp." Love you, dorkpants.)

When the crowd started moving forward, I hit "play" on my iPod. For the past month, I'd been listening to Unbroken, the absolutely astounding story of Louie Zamperini (recommended by longtime friend Suzy--many thanks). For those of you unfamiliar with Zamperini, he was an Olympic track star who, as a bombardier in WWII, was shot down, stranded at sea--in shark-infested waters, no less--for over a month, and then captured and held in a series of brutal Japanese POW camps for years. I'd found that listening to audiobooks while running held my attention better than music did, and with a book as compelling as Unbroken, I was motivated to run even farther in order to hear what happened next. This book had the added benefit of making my running seem like a cakewalk compared to what Zamperini and his friends endured.
Tory: "Whiiiine, my feet hurt."
Narrator: "Zamperini had been held in a painfully small cell for such a long time that he was unable to walk. Since he had once come within sight of running a four-minute mile, it was a crushing blow for this once-Olympic athlete. He was also starved down to double-digits and used as a tool for Japanese propaganda, due to his celebrity. There were lots of other terrible things too, like cholera and working as slave labor and having batshit-insane guards with dangerous delusions of grandeur, and his family was told that he was dead even though he wasn't. Etc." [Roughly paraphrased.]
Tory: "....FIIIIINE, OKAYYYYYY, I guess I could maybe run a little more and it wouldn't kill me."

The very first thing that made me smile during the half-marathon was the sight of a little girl, no more than seven or so, holding a sign about half-a-mile up the street: "Do it for the mimosas." I LOVE YOU, LITTLE GIRL. Spud and I stayed together up until about Mile 5, where he then took off ahead and I slowed back, enjoying the strains of The Boss playing through a sound system on Sheridan Boulevard. Can you guess what song it was? Lemme give you a hint; it goes like this: "Huhhheh, we wuhhh buhhh uhhh ruhhhhhhhh!" ("Born to Run." I'm not a huge Springsteen fan.) I managed to run those first five entire miles without stopping--new personal best! (Remember, only six months earlier, I hadn't been able to run a single mile without stopping to walk!)

Mom met me around the Mile 6 marker with a gel-pack, which I slurped gratefully and continued on my "meh"-rry way. One of the cool things about the Lincoln Marathon is their pacing strategy: rather than having pacers who run every single mile at 10:20, for instance, the pacers instead plan to finish with a time of 2:15, which averages out to 10:20min/mile over the entire course of the race. This means that they may go faster on a long, open stretch, and a bit slower on an uphill climb. Makes it more tolerable. I was doing my best to stick around in between the 2:20 and 2:25 pacers. Boyfriend Spencer caught up with me around Mile 9 with another gel-pack, and my friends Amy and Jesse were waiting with a sign for me somewhere around Mile 10 or 11. (I was so tired at this point that I had a moment of "GAWWWD, why do they have to be here?! Now I have to expend energy by acknowledging their presence! I don't have the extra energy to wave and smile, geeeeeeeez!" Thanks though, guys.)

From about Mile 11 on, I would have a couple of seconds every few minutes where I'd think "ohmigawd, I might actually finish this, I'm running a half-marathon and I'm almost done," and I'd tear up and almost break down. I kept pounding it back down inside and telling myself, "you can bawl when you're done. Just FINISH and you can have a crying fit, but not until then."

As I came around the last straight-away heading into Memorial Stadium, where the run ends on the 50-yard line, I passed the 2:25 pacer and sprinted across the field. I bounded past three or four people and pulled across the finish line for a bib time of 2:27:00.

I almost look like an athlete here!

You may recognize this as my profile picture.

I instantly started sobbing. I was crying so hard I could hardly breathe (although this might have had something to do with the fact that I'd just sprinted the last 50 yards of a 13.1-mile race). I grabbed the medal that was being held out to me and staggered into the receiving area, where I grabbed a bottle of water and a bagel, then went to find the rest of my group. By the time I saw them ("them" being Dad, Spencer, Amy, and Jesse), I had calmed down; the second I reached them I started bawling anew and collapsed against Spencer. Dad asked tentatively, "It was that bad?"
I responded between sobs, "I can't believe I did it!"
"PHEW! I thought you were crying because you hated it, and I was upset because I'd hoped you'd enjoy yourself!"

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Took a nap, ate leftover breadsticks and pasta, drank more beer. I was still overwhelmed and in a state of disbelief: in two days, I'd graduated college (with honors, just sayin') and ran a half-marathon. Beat that!

It caught me. I was a victim of running fever. Only a month later, I ran the Deadwood/Mickelson Trail Half-Marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where I improved my "farthest-distance-without-stopping-to-walk": six straight miles; I'm currently training for my third (the Williams Route 66 Half-Marathon in Tulsa, taking place this November).

I did my best to wear all-clashing shades
of blue. Success! 

I'll have a future post about my current training plan, but I'll leave you with this: three years ago, I was 164 pounds and a size 10. I was unable to run even 100 yards. Now, I'm in the 130s, a size 6, and running anywhere from 5 to 25 miles a week. I've accrued a total of 235 miles run since the beginning of May (when I started tracking on MapMyRun), and I've gone through about six audiobooks in that time. I'm proud of myself, my hard work, and my accomplishments; needless to say, I'm thrilled that I finally inherited my dad's genetics for running. (I'm less-than-thrilled that I also inherited his propensity to sweat by the gallon.)

Thanks so much for sticking with me this whole time. I hope you enjoyed the story, and I dare to hope that maybe someone will be motivated by this. And always remember:

Source: unknown. If you know, tell me so I can credit it.
See ya later!


  1. Sorry about that! We waited for you on Van Dorn for about half an hour, but we just missed you, so we had to dash over to where you were then! :)
    P.S. You're awesome.

  2. 1. Let it be known that Boulevard was only the best of the choices available to us. There are other, much nicer, beers.

    2. Do you really call your brother Dorkpants? What does that even mean?

    3. "Port-a-potty Plaza"??? Hysterical!

    4. Love the mimosa poster. That's gonna be my new go-to poster for the runners I support!

    Great post! (Actually, great series.)
    P.S. I agree with Amy. You are awesome.