Saturday, October 12, 2013

My 3/4 Marathon: The Cold, Windy, Rainy Sloggening

For the past three months, you've been listening to me complain and worry and obsess over my 3/4 marathon. Well, not so much listen as READ, unless you hang out with me in real life, in which case you totally did listen to me freak out about the race, but you get what I'm saying. Anyway, that fateful day took place a week ago, and I'm sure you've been wondering why I haven't posted about it yet! (Because you're all such loyal readers/listeners. Yes, I love you too.)

If you just want the basics, here they are: It was 19.35 miles. I ran it. I finished it. It took me 4:17:07.

If you want more details -- well, my friend, are YOU in luck because darn tootin' I have more to say!

(via Coach E Race)

The Coach E 3/4 Marathon is a race run in honor of Brunswick, Missouri's former high school basketball and baseball coach, the late James Edmundson, fondly known as "Coach E." The reason I chose to run this race? Well, when my dad Googled "3/4 marathon," there were two races that popped up. One takes place in Althone, Ireland; the other in Brunswick, MO, which is about an hour to the northish-east of Kansas City. Seeings as how my parents live in Stillwater, Oklahoma and I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, Brunswick seemed a perfect place to convene for a weekend of Family Fitness Fun (tm). My dad and I mailed in our registration forms.

Well, as you may or may not know, my parents then up and moved. To GERMANY. My mom nabbed a long-deserved (and -overdue) librarian job at the Heidelberg International School and took off mid-August; my dad followed her over Labor Day. I'm really proud of my mom and I'm excited for them, but I'm also jealous and more than that, I miss them. A lot. So when it came time to drive down to Missouri with Spencer for the weekend, I was feeling a bittersweet mixture of sick, nervous excitement and good ol' gloominess.

That feeling got even stronger as I prepped for the race, laying out my clothes and setting my alarm. My family has been present at every major race I've done (ranging from South Dakota to Nebraska to Oklahoma), so it felt very strange to know that they weren't going to be cheering me on in person. Mom & Dad did call me the day before the race to wish me luck, but I'm sure you understand that it wasn't the same.

(via Coach E Race)

Now, the Coach E race takes place along a stretch of Missouri Highway 24 (here's my MapMyRun, if you're interested), starting in Salisbury and ending in Brunswick. Didja catch that? It STARTS in Salisbury. It ENDS in Brunswick. Somehow, despite my hours of poring over the course map, examining the Google Street View, and generally immersing myself in the route I'd be running, I completely missed that important fact. Our hotel was about half an hour away from Brunswick, so with the race starting at 9:15, we left the hotel a little past 8:00. Just as we reached Brunswick (and were slowed to a crawl by a horde of Coach E 5Kers), I realized that we were headed to the WRONG END of the race! 

Here's some background on me: I freak out. Like, quite a bit. If I'd been born ten years later, I'd probably have been diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder. As it is, I'm a heck of a lot better at managing it than I used to be, but I still have a hard time holding myself together if bumps in the road hoist themselves into my way. So when I realized that it was 8:45 and we were still, oh, 19.6 miles away from where I needed to be, I PANICKED and told Spencer to "WE HAVE TO TURN AROUND. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS. OHMAHGAHHHH I'M SUCH AN IDIOT ADFSJHGLSKJDALDJGHSKJFDGH." (That's the sound of me hyperventilating/crying/spouting gibberish.)

Spencer, bless his heart, has had over four years of dealing with my insanity, so he knew to just do as I said. As soon as there was a break in the pedestrian traffic (did I mention we were in the middle of the 5K race?), he flipped a U-ie. Here's where I need to tell you the Clower Family Motto: "Nothing is Ever Easy." It's depressing, but we're realists. The Clower Family Motto was in full force on race day. After turning around, once we'd cleared the end of the 5K, guess what Tory realized? If your guess was that we were headed in the WRONG DIRECTION, you win a prize. It's a lifetime-supply of frustration. You're welcome.

This is what we kept driving through. I apologise sincerely, 5Kers. (via Coach E Race)

If I wasn't already freaking out enough before, now it was a full-scale panic attack. Spencer turned around AGAIN (and again, bless his heart, that man deserves sainthood) and we drove BACK through the 5K, this time taking even longer because once we'd cleared the runners, we ran into the Pecan Festival taking place in downtown Brunswick. Once we were on the road, he gunned it and we made it to Salisbury in about 15 minutes. Let me remind you, this is the exact  route which I would be running for the next, oh, four-and-a-half hours. Yugh. We hit the Salisbury city limits about which point we saw the racers (all ~twenty of them) already out on the course, because apparently the race started at 9:00, not 9:15 as I'd thought all along. (Still not sure where that break in communication took place.)

One of the things about which I'd been nervous was the very real possibility (more like a probability, actually) that I would be the AEC -- Ass-End Charlie, or LAST. I kept telling myself the week before the race, "'Dead Last' beats 'Did Not Finish' beats 'Didn't Even Start.'" So seeing the runners out merrily bouncing along the road was actually somewhat liberating: now I wasn't going to be the AEC because of how much I suck at running: it was because there were CIRCUMSTANCES! Mitigating ones! Hooray!

As I headed to the bathroom, Spencer got my registration packet for me and chatted with the guys manning the table. When I came out, after having splashed some water on my face and calming down somewhat, I pinned on my bib and got my various GPS apps up and running on my phone while one of the organizers told me "You're only about 13 minutes behind them! I betcha you'll catch up and maybe even pass some of them." This bit of HILARIOUSNESS served to brighten my mood a bit as I guffawed, rolled around on the ground, and passed out from lack of oxygen due to laughing so hard. Once I'd regained consciousness, I told him that he was seriously overestimating my running capabilities, gritted my teeth, and took off. 

The racecourse was laid out along the shoulder of the highway. The first eight miles were on gravel. This was very hard. It was also in the mid- to low-50s and WINDY, and do you think the wind was at my back? If you answered "yes," you obviously didn't pay attention to the Clower Family Motto mentioned above. Nothing is Ever Easy (c). I was running directly into the wind. It was also overcast and dreary and by the time the race ended, I'd been rained on three different times. Highway 24 is fairly well-traveled, and apparently they're building a pipeline somewhere in the area. I learned this because I was passed by no fewer than SEVENTY BAJILLION "Oversize Load" semis, piled with huge pipes, preceded and followed by their companion flashing-light warning trucks. (After the seventy bajillionth truck, I resolved to pay attention to their license plates to make sure it wasn't the same goddamn truck passing me over and over again. It wasn't.)

I pulled this up via Google, and it's from a Canadian site, but it might very well be the exact same truck.

Around Mile 2, I wanted to quit. Ditto Miles 3-7. At Mile 8, Spencer was waiting for me with a PB&J I'd prepared that morning. I snarfed it, dumped some gravel out of my shoes (picture Westley dumping boulders out of his boots after climbing the Cliffs of Insanity -- if you don't get this reference, I'm not even going to bother explaining it to you [side note: did you know that they filmed the Cliffs of Insanity at the real-life Cliffs of Moher in Ireland?]), and kept going. I waved Spencer down as he passed me to grab my radtastic glow-in-the-dark skeleton gloves since my hands were freezing and also because I needed an easier way to wipe my runny nose than onto my sleeves. Hashtag classy.

After that, I mostly just zoned out. I was listening to the end of The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands and then the beginning of The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass on my iPod, which was pretty captivating. It helps that I have a huge crush on Eddie Dean (he's so snarky, swooooon) and a huge man-crush on Roland (definition of man-crush, according to Urban Dictionary: "When a straight man has a 'crush' on another man, not sexual but kind of idolizing him"). Upon reaching about Mile 15.5, I started feeling pukey if I ran for more than a couple minutes at a time, so I slowed my already-infinitesimal pace to roughly the speed of negative light. The race organizers had thoughtfully provided a big bucket full of water bottles and Gatorade bottles at every mile marker, so it was nice to know that there was always liquid available.

This was at about the half-marathon point.

Upon reaching the city limits of Brunswick, I was escorted to the finish line by two guys on a four-wheeler. Of course, my book got to a really climactic part just as the in-town traffic picked up, so instead of being grateful for my escorts' help navigating the traffic, I was thinking "ARGH EVERYONE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE, I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT EDDIE'S RIDDLE FOR BLAINE-THE-PAIN IS GOING TO BE!" (Don't tell me. I still don't know. I shut it off to make sure I didn't miss anything.) I also was having a hard time hearing the book due to -- I kid you not -- a group of bagpipers practicing before the Pecan Festival Parade started. It totally made me think of that "Substitutiary Locomotion" battle scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which was a supercool way to end the race.

The sun finally came out as I neared the finish line (too little too late, Mother Nature); Spencer ran over and jogged the last 30 or so yards with me; I received a finisher's medal and a pecan pie. I did NOT barf and I did NOT fall over. Chalk up two wins for me! Yes, I was dead last, by a solid 20 minutes, but that was actually much better than I was expecting. Here are the final results; if you don't want to bother clicking through, I'll sum them up. There were 21 people who ran the race. Out of those 21, six were on two-person relay teams, so only 15 of us ran the entire race, and I was the youngest out of everyone!

We debated sticking around for the Pecan Festival, but Spencer had already scoped it out and knew the parade was about to begin (as he'd already driven through the parade lineup a couple of times), so we decided to beat a hasty retreat. I cranked up the heat in the car and told Spencer that all I wanted now was a stuffed-crust Pepperoni Lover's pizza from Pizza Hut. Upon reaching the hotel, I gimped to our room for a much-needed shower while Spencer walked across the hotel's parking lot to the conveniently-located Pizza Hut. As I was showering, Spencer pulled the curtain aside and held out a steaming-hot piece of cheesy, greasy goodness to me.

This entire racing story can be summed up thusly:

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