Monday, January 23, 2012

St George Half Marathon 2012 - No man left behind

St George Half Marathon

I have to admit, I went into this one with ZERO training. Nil. Zip. Nada.   Running 6 miles does not count as training.  Remember how I was hurt after the St George full marathon?  Yeah, it took a long time to heal.  Then I got sick.  Then it was the holidays.  And finally, I just got lazy

However, in order to guarantee me a spot in this years St George marathon, I signed up to do what is called the Runner's Series.  Do two St George city races and then you get a spot.  This was one of them.

Then, I talked with a friend who works with a pacing group.  Pacers run the course at a steady pace with a finish time on a sign so that other runners who are attempting to post that time or better can stay with the pacer or just ahead of them.  I have used pacers for myself in the past, but never been one.  NGL - sounded kind of fun.  I could get this race under my belt towards the Series, and do something different.  I offered to take the 2:30 pace time.  I knew this was much slower than my usual half finish time, but I figured that with the lack of training, it would work out okay.  I don't have a Garmin *gasp* so it was nice to know that there would be another runner pacing the same time.  We would work together.

Friday night, Sheri  (a new running/gym friend) and I headed down to St Jeezy crammed into the cooper along with April (my bestest Santa Jorge friend/family).  The drive went fast since we chatted the whole time.  Hens a clucking  : )

We headed straight for Texas Roadhouse, and while April and Eric waited for our table, Sheri and I headed to the Expo to get our packets.  I met up with the leader of the pace group, got my pacer shirt to wear, pacer bracelet and then instructions on where to meet in the morning.  We also got our packets, some last minute Gu for Sheri and spent enough time for me to ogle the merchandise.

After a great dinner and fun night watching terrible tv, I crashed for the night with mild pre-race jitters.

Saturday morning.  Got ready, packed my stuff and headed downstairs to get Sheri and head out.  First thing out of her mouth was "It's raining."  

WHAT THE WHA???  I totally wasn't expecting this.  This was not part of the vision I had for this race.  Raining?  Seriously?  This is freaking ST GEORGE!  It's supposed to be sunny for the love of all that's holy!

I sighed, snatched my Low-Carb Monster from the fridge and left a thankyou/love note to Ape and Er for letting us stay and we headed out.  After a quick stop at the Maverick for the standard pre-race Maple bar, we made our way to the Expo.

Not only was it raining, but it was cold.  Had I packed for this? Nope.  Shorts, tank top, and a small jacket to drop along the way.  I was already deflated.  We found the pacer group inside the building, and I finally got to meet face to face some awesomely cool people that I had only known through Facebook.  Isn't it cool when you get the chance to actually meet someone in person like that and they turn out to be even cooler?  Yeah, it is. And yes, I used the word "cool"  too many times in this paragraph.

(why yes, that is me in the flash hat!  It's a completely reflective hat which is great for running in but not for pictures)

(the entire pacer group)

(me and Stacy pre-race.  I flipped the bill of my hat so it wouldn't flash, but now it just ends up looking ridiculous.  Oh well)

We chit chatted, I met my partner for the 2:30, met the leader, got our sign, donned a garbage bag that Jose kindly gave me, and then headed for the start line.  Stacy (my pace partner) and I lined up at the back behind the 2:20 guys and started talking to the folks lining up with us.  Got some names, talked about expectations, some positive reinforcement...... all things that I would want out of a pacer myself.

Off went the gun and away we went.  I quickly learned that I seriously made a judgement in error for choosing the 2:30 pace.  It was way to slow for my normal pace.  I wondered if I could seriously pull this off for two and half hours.

The course was great!  Mile markers at every mile helped Stacy and I stay on pace.  We had runners come and go with us, so we met some awesome people.  When running and chatting, the time seems to go by fairly quickly.  At one point around mile 9 or so, I pulled off to hit the porta potty and told Stacy I would catch up to her.  As I was finally getting a chance to push my legs and run at my usual pace, I felt FANTASTIC!  Oh, the feeling of sprinting for a while!

We continued on and now as we were nearing the end and passing runners, they would look up at our sign, see the pace time and either groan because they wanted better, or smile that they were exceeding their expectations even though they were getting passed.  At mile 10, we came up on a cute, cute lady that once she saw our pace sign tried to kick it up a notch.  She told us this was her first half marathon and she so badly wanted to be at 2:30.  She was struggling, so we talked, cheered her on, encouraged her, and then I finally told her to save her energy by not talking and just focusing on breathing and her foot turnover. 

She stayed with us for a little bit and then started to lag.  I so badly wanted to lag with her, but that's not the role of a pacer.  Stacy and I kept steady and then cute lady would catch back up, stay a little bit and lag behind again.  By mile 12, I couldn't see her at all.  I knew she was behind us, but I didn't know how far.

Stacy and I were ahead of our pace by about a minute, but at this point, we didn't have anyone staying right with us, so even though we tried to slow down, it was impossible.  We crossed 50 seconds fast.  I guess better to be fast, than behind the time right?

As I crossed, I thought of cute lady.  I wish I would have asked her name.  They cut off my timing chip and I turned around and ran the course backwards looking for her.  I remember having a friend run me in once and I badly wanted to finish this with her.  I didn't realize Stacy was right behind me for a second, but she too had the same thought.  We ran backwards looking for her and also cheering on others who had been with us at one point.  Finally I saw her struggling to move her legs but there was a man running with her.  I caught her eye, pointed right at her and said, "We are coming for you!  Let's go!"

Cute lady started to sob, thanked us, and then tried to kick it harder.  I told her to hold off, that she would finish strong, but to conserve for now.  She pulled back and we talked her all the way in.  She was so grateful and I was, quite frankly, a little overcome myself.  What a feeling.  As we came in through the underpass, the crowd cheered her even louder.  She started to kick again, but I knew if she did now, she would run out of gas before the actual finish line.  I cautioned her to hold back and that I would tell her when it was time to kick.  She kept moving forward, sobbing all the way, I was now getting teary eyed and watching the clock and the finish line.  I finally saw the spot in the road where I knew she had enough in her to kick hard and finish with more than she believed she had in her.

I pointed to the line in the road.  "Do you see those white lines?"  When we hit those, we're gonna push.  Hard.  Okay?"  She nodded and gasped yes.   As soon as got to the designated spot, I yelled, "NOW" and bless her heart - she kicked it with every last ounce of energy she had in her!  I was SO happy for her!  She crossed the finish line and collapsed in her husbands arms ( he happened to be the man who was with her when we found her).  Lot's of happy crying.  Some hugs, some thank you's, congratulations and then I bolted away from her and her husband.  Stacy had disappeared too.  We both made our way to our pacer leader to give him our pacer tank tops (yes sweaty and all).  Right then, I realized that I hadn't even gotten my medal.  I was in such a hurry for them to cut off my timing chip and turn around, that I hadn't gotten the medal.  I wandered back and sheepishly told them I forgot to get mine (lame, I know).

By now the rain was really pouring down.  At some point earlier in the course, I had ditched the jacket and garbage bag because I had warmed up and it was just a light sprinkle.  Now, however, it was pouring, I was trying to protect my ipod, and desperately wanted to stretch.  We found some shelter near the building in an overhang, stretched out quickly and then headed for the warm car.

After a quick stop at Chili's for food, we hit the road and headed back home.  Nothing like running 13 miles and then sitting in a car to have everything tighten up.  And unfortunately, the rain quickly turned to snow in some parts of the drive and so it took  us even longer to get home.  NGL - some scary slippery parts were freakin me out slightly.

Once at home, I relived the whole thing for Splenda Daddy and that's when I let myself get emotional about cute lady.  For me, it was no big deal.  I've done many a half and 5 full's so this wasn't a big deal.  The hardest thing for me was to hold back to a slower pace than I am used to.  But for her, this was a HUGE milestone.  I kept thinking about how she would lay in bed that night hurting, sore, exhausted but with the knowledge that she did it.  No one can ever take that from her. SHE DID IT!  I remember those feelings and was happy that she was feeling them too.  My only regret was that I didn't get her name.  I think she told us where she was from, but I don't even remember that.  At any rate, cute lady is the one thing that made this race for me.

Great race learning lessons for me:
1.  I don't think I am cut out to be a pacer.  At least not at that pace.  If I ever choose to do it again, I will choose a pace that is closer to what I normally run.  That being said, I'm not sure I like the responsibility of  maintaining a steady pace and having others rely on me.  I usually vary my time throughout the course so I would hate to have to maintain something steady because someone one is counting on me.
2.  I am more competitive with myself than I have previously acknowledged.  In the couple of days since, I've been reviewing the course and wondering what I could have REALLY done.  It was a great course.  Some up, some down, some flat.  Beautiful.....what could I have really posted?
3.  The fact that runners are the greatest people in the world was confirmed.  There is really nothing quite like running a race on a course filled with others that share your passion.  The camaraderie, the fellowship, the encouragement that exists from start to finish and beyond is truly something one should experience at least once in their lifetime. 

Even better life lessons learned:
1.  No matter what stage in the race of life someone is in, they always need a kind word, a friend to run alongside with, and encouraging words.
2.  You always have more in you than you believe you do.  You can do hard things.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually,  We all have more in us that we give ourselves credit for.  We sell ourselves short too often.
3. Because we sell ourselves short, we need to be a little kinder to everyone around us, and no matter what - offer a hand of friendship and support.
4.  No man left behind.  If someone slips away from you, get out there, find them and bring them back.  Sometimes just knowing that someone cared enough to find you is the lift you need to get through another day, another trial, another dark time in  life.

And that my friends, is the recap of the first race of 2012 for me.  Hoping I have lots more in the next 12 months to experience and learn from.  A big thanks to the following:
and cute lady that made the whole experience for me one that I will remember fondly forever,

And don't forget:

No man left behind


Garden of Egan said...

I bow to your greatness!
I don't need to you pace me, I need you to kick my butt!

The Blanchard Family said...

I like that a lot! I ran my first 1/2 in August last year and while I am VERY slow(!), I couldn't agree more that it is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. It was a time when I desperately needed that feeling of overwhelming accomplishment for something I did all on my own...just for me!

Jewls said...

You are so stinkin' adorable! I started crying when I read about cute lady...

Sooo excited for a new year of races, I love reading your accounts afterward! I'm still stickin' to halfs, but I'm going to post a 1:45 on UV 1/2 this year (or try my darndest!)

Amy said...

Great race story!

Just think, if you hadn't paced at a slower than normal pace you wouldn't have had the chance to encourage "cute lady" across the finish line. I am sure she will never forget you.

gigi said...

This had tears in my eyes. Thank you for writing it. I loved #2 and 3. 2. You always have more in you than you believe you do. You can do hard things. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, We all have more in us that we give ourselves credit for. We sell ourselves short too often.
3. Because we sell ourselves short, we need to be a little kinder to everyone around us, and no matter what - offer a hand of friendship and support.
L.O.V.E it!!

Jamie said...

I needed this tonight! Not feeling like I have much left to give. I am pretty sure you would never want to be my pacer...

Kristin said...

Wow! IF i ever run a marathon, I hope I have someone like you around! You're amazing!


Mrs. Organic said...

I love this! It's what life is all about - going back for the ones who need us the most. I'm going to share this with my kids - you are an inspiration!

Mom of 12 said...

I don't love running...not even a little. I manage when I play basketball but barely. Congrats!

" Hit It......." said...

You really made me cry! You are such a great lady! If I ever ran with you; I would be that gal.

Pedaling said...

Way to share and help others...What a passion you have!
You were there for her...I'm sure she will never forget that day.
Loved this story-Life is good!

Sue said...

I miss my running days. You inspire lady!

Cool story.

tammy said...

I think there was a reason you ended up choosing to be the 2:30 and that little lady was it. Great job.

wendy said...

go back to the top and read Tauna's comment.
Bummer that it was raining, but you seem to not let a little mother nature moodiness get in your way.
That flash hat...Heck, I just thought it was your halo.

Connie said...

You were a blessing in that lady's race and life! I always love reading your race posts. I need to kick it in gear once again. I just get LAZY! I'm with Tauna and Wendy, you need to kick my BUTT to get me moving!

Nancy said...

Loved this blog post! Love the story about cute lady. I loved #1 and #2 life lessons learned. Having people in your cheering section is so important. People who believe in you and want to help you succeed is such a rare thing to have! Thanks for sharing!