Sunday, September 9, 2012

USMC Heartbreak Ridge 1/2 Marathon - 2012 Part Deux

Alternate title:  A view from the other side.  What it's like to be on the finish line end of a race.

I was so STOKED to be able to be here for the kids first ever half.  STOKED I tell ya, what I didn't really anticipate was the complete and utter frustration, and disappointment of being on the other end.

After the kids race, they started the half marathoners in three waves.  Male Marine's first.  Male Civilians next and then all the women.  Corb got ready and lined up in the chute.  A rule is that they are not allowed earbuds and clearly the Marine's are compliant so he left his behind and instead took my Garmin so he could have something to concentrate on.

He started off great and it was exciting to see him run out the chute!  I've run with him before, I know his stride, his cadence and his general mode of attack - I figured he would kill it.  I did the one thing I rarely do and that was look at the actual course the night before.  UGH.  Hills, hills and MORE hills.  In the heat, with a course like that, knowing he was not racing just using it as a training run, I figured he'd be in somewhere around the 2 hour mark.

Next up, they sent off the civi men and then Karalee was lining up.  Cutie patootie put herself right at the start line because she knew we would want pictures.  Love it!  Kar's plan was to finish.  She had no expectations other than she knew it would be hard, it would hurt, but she would finish.  Can't ask for anything more.

Once she was off, then the waiting begins.  First of all - props to Splenda Daddy.  I have a WHOLE new respect for him now.  I have lost count of how many finish lines that man has waited at, but really, it takes a hella lot of patience.  And many of those he had Chloee to entertain as well.  This time, they walked back to the car to rest and play on the kindle for a little bit.  I started that direction with them, but then decided I wanted to say at the finish line and just absorb the energy, cheer the leaders in and try to see what it's like to be on the waiting end of the game.

(sportin her shirt and medal)

Of course that gave me plenty of time to think, feel sorry for myself, think some more, feel grateful, and then go the whole range of emotions again.  And I love to watch people, so really - boredom just doesn't get me.

I bought a diet pepsi from a vendor, found some shade to sit in and watched.  My eyes caught the flag in  a glance and I thought back to the presentation of the colors earlier that morning.  WHAT A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE!  I have done many a race - too many to even count and there are less and less that will do the National Anthem at the beginning anymore.  I find that sad.  The few that do, usually do a great job but the spectators, which are really the runners, leave a lot to be desired in their actions and respect.

The minute it was announced that the color presentation would begin, parents began shushing their little ones and settling down.  The music started and every Marine came to attention (easy to spot them) and every other civilian stood stone, cold silent.  Even more silent than the actual moment of silence previously in memory of 9/11.  Every child, teen, adult stopped in their tracks, turned and faced the flag, hand on heart or at military attention.  SILENT.  No quiet talking, no rustling of pinning a bib on, no giggles, no last minute drinks of water, no earbuds in and ceremony ignored.  Absolutley silent and respectful.  A child sneezed behind me and it actually startled me because it was the only sound in the entire area other than the National Anthem.

As I sat in the shade on the concrete stairs, my heart swelled in pride and of course tears came to my eyes as I reflected back on this earlier experience.  What a stark contrast.  These men and women KNOW patriotism.  They KNOW the sacrifice that goes into a life for their country, their flag, their people.  And not only do they know it, they SHOW it.  They RESPECT it, and they teach their children that same reverence and respect.  I couldn't have been more privileged to have witnessed it, and been a part of it.

We'll just blame that for all the commencing emotions the rest of the day shall we?  Not that it would have anything to do with the fact that I was sidelined for this race.  Or that I felt sick and hurting.  Or that my heart was DYING to run.  Nope.  None of those things caused tears, no it was the whole colors ceremony.  That's my story and Imma stick with it!

During this time, I watched as other people waiting for their runners settled in with books or breakfast. The race announcer kept playing music and occasionally updating us on past records, what to expect and keeping us apprised of time.  From where I was at, I could see the finish line but I couldn't see them coming around the final corner.  As it got close to the time that a leader could potentially fly in, I tossed my empty can and meandered over to the chute.  Just then I saw Splenda and Chlo coming up from the car.  Clearly Splenda has done this a time or two, he knows when to get serious about watching for a runner.

While there, a cute older lady asked me if I had an iPhone.  She needed help figuring out how to set the video so she could record her husband coming in.  We got to chatting and hearing about their racing (mostly him), and her last experience.  She runs in honor of her Marine son who was KIA.  She doesn't do races very often but when she does, she has a shirt with his name and she shared her experiences while running and knowing he was beside her.  Again the tears.  (that darn colors ceremony).  We got her video figured out and next thing I know the announcer is telling us the leader is a quarter mile out.  Oh my word that man came screaming in fast!

As I mentioned, the course is extremely hard.  It was unusually hot and humid so the past course records would not be broken today, nevertheless, the winning time was 1:24 and some change.  Amazing for the course and conditions.  It was another 6 minutes or so before the next runner made it in.  I loved standing there at the top of the finish chute cheering each and every runner in.   I recalled all the things I loved hearing at the last few yards and hollered those out in hopes they motivated someone else too.  I loved watching ones come sprinting in and finishing strong.  I admired the man whose calf seized up and he literally limped his way in on that cramp.  I applauded the Marine who came around the corner, stumbling a little (dehydrated), hit a pot hole and almost went down.  Instead, he righted himself and continued swaying his way in.  And with each round of applause my emotions were torn in two.  So happy and excited for the finishers, so bummed that I would not be one of them.  Bummed is putting it lightly.  I guess I don't really have the right word, just such bitter disappointment.
(for the record, these two Marine's ran in gas masks, fatigues, boots AND carried the flag - I saw another one in full fatigues, boots and carrying his loaded backback - serious respect and props to those Marine's)

Watching the clock, I figured Corb would be coming in soon.  Splenda had put himself up at the corner to video him coming in the last little bit, and I was still at the top of the chute.  When I saw him my heart LIT UP!  There he was!  Looking strong, like a walk in the park.  Perfect cadence, same stride he left with.  Looking extremely strong.  Of course, got emotional again and may or may not have made a cheering fool of myself, but I didn't care - I was so stoked for him.  He ran past and sprinted through the chute to the finish.  I noticed the clock had 2:05 and some minor change. (Official time 2:04) Well done!

After walking Chloee over to him and congratulating him, I told him I was going back for Kar.  I started to walk/trot the course backwards looking for her.  He thought she was about 45 minutes behind him so I was mentally trying to gauge how far back I should go.  Since I can't do math and figure any of that crap out, I figured I'd just keep moving.  I stopped in the shade of a tree about a half mile out right at the top of a wicked hill.  I started my cheerleading again and watched the runners struggle.  It was a brutal hill.  Right at mile 12 or so.   Off to the side, a Marine was sharing the shade of the tree waiting for his wife.  I hadn't seen him cross or go by so I asked him how he was doing.  He and his wife had gotten food poisoning last night and neither was in good shape.  He was dehydrated and pulled off to wait for his wife in hopes that they could just finish together.  We chatted for a bit and then I moved on to wait for Karalee at the last aid station which was right at mile 12.

As I got there and stood under a tent in the shade watching for her, an ambulance went by with a runner in it.  GAH!  I wanted to stop them and ask who they had.  I didn't think Kar would end up in the back of the bus, but I didn't want to stay waiting if by some awful chance something had happened.  The ambulance hit it's lights and pulled away.  I went back to watching the course and just around the corner - here she came!!

Oh my goodness she looked good!  I knew she was ready, she had hydrated, she had trained, she had done everything she could to be ready and it showed.  She smiled as she came into the aid station, got her water, and dumped some on her head.  I asked how she was feeling and her ever positive self replied, "Great!  I feel great!  This is so awesome!"  The pacer in me came out and I ran alongside her. I reminded her that she had the big hill, some down hill, another short hill and then the finish.  We talked about how she was doing, how she was feeling.  I told her how well Corbin had done and basically started the chit chatting one does when you are attempting to take a runner's mind off their fatigue and back onto their goal.  I should clarify - this girl didn't need no stinkin pacer - she was on point!  But I am glad that she indulged me.  I ran alongside her until we hit Splenda and Corb and then I backed out so they could get video and pictures.  As we rounded the last corner and headed for the chute, I pulled my famous "Ready to kick it?  When I say kick, you give it everything you got!"  She smiled and right at the top of the chute she found another gear, sprinted to the finish and I pulled off to the side.

More tears.  Tears of incredible happiness for my kids.  Tears of knowing that unexplainable feeling of accomplishment.  Tears of knowing that they had worked hard, set a goal and DID it!  I think I was even more thrilled for Karalee.  Corbin's boot camp had been probably the hardest thing he had ever done physically.  13.1 was hard, but nothing in comparison.  But for Kar - this was likely the most challenging physical endeavor she had ever done.  And she did it.  Did it strong!  So many more tears (darn color ceremony).

We found Kar at the other end of the chute and while they got water and stretched, I met Corbin's commanding officer, Captain Miller and watched other runners come in.  Again, the pacer in me wanted to head back out on the course, and run the sweep.  I debated.......but as I was thinking it over, I saw Marine's running in some racers.  THEY were running the sweep!  Totally cool!  I think that is MUCH more meaningful than some old lady  in a tank top and shorts.

I gave a final look at the parade deck with the start/finish line, the tents of vendors, the announcer and music, the runners and their support staff, the race staff, and even the blue porta potties.  
So many emotions.
Beyond happy, thrilled, excited, proud for my kids.
Bitter disappointment, sadness, heartache for myself.
It wasn't my day.  I've had plenty that were for me, but today was not one of those.

Ultimately I found peace in knowing that it wasn't supposed to be.  It was THEIR day.  Watching the glow of happiness, the light in their eyes, and even the stiff legged walk when they first stand up, all reminded me that my emotions were really happiness in knowing they found joy in the same things I find joy in.  That we have some commanalities that now bind us.  They are part of the brotherhood of runners.  So yeah, not my day, but THEIRS.

And I am so, more than totally, okay with that.

At least for today : )


Haacke/Hansen said...

I think this is one of my favorites of your blogs. I am so proud of them. I am proud of you too. It takes a lot to be at the other end.

Give them both big squeezes for me and let them know how proud I am. Loves to all of you.

Steph :)

Mae Rae said...

i cried. i really cried. I cannot even start to tell you how much pride I hear in your written words. EXCITING!!!

Sue said...

What a great post. You captured all the emotions from both sides.

I love your energy, your heart and your perspective♥

tammy said...

I can only imagine how hard it was for you not to be in it. But how great that you got to see the kids do it.

It always makes me a little mad when people don't show the proper respect for our flag and our country. I used to love visiting my sister on base.

karen said...

Well, I know it was hard for you to not participate in your usual position, but what a great day for the kids, and especially to have your there to cheer them on. Awesome high fives all around.

Mom of 12 said...

What an awesome day for all of you!

Khairul Islam said...

Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.
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Pedaling said...

these runners are complete! You make a great support team, example and cheerleader! I am over the top impressed with your kids and the other participants!