Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Beat the Blerch...Barely

Well, yesterday's marathon didn't go as planned, but I got my way to the finish line, albeit, beaten up and demoralized.

My running friend Kelly reached out to me when the Beat the Blerch Marathon was announced a bunch of months ago. It was 20 minutes from her house and she asked if I'd like to join. A race organized by a cartoonist that I love? And I got to run it with a friend? Oh yeah, I was in. It also fell on the weekend the Pope was coming to Philly, so I got to scoot out of the city before he came (and later, figure my way back into the city with Pope Francis here).

My work was closed Friday before the Pope came, so I was able to get up, pack my bags, relax, and hit the road mid-day. I made my way to Kelly's area, grabbed lunch, then waited to meet her at her place after she got out of work. We met up, drove to pick up our bibs, then got dinner. It was great to catch up with Kelly, then we went back to her place and hit the hay.
90s kid nostalgia. My costume was a player from "Legends of
the Hidden Temple."
The race was only about a 20 minute drive from her place, so we were able to "sleep in" until about 5:30 AM before the 8 AM race start. We didn't have any parking issues (others weren't so lucky), so we got there pretty early. We were able to get to the bathroom with zero line, snap pictures on the couches before the race, and relax in her car before heading to the start. I got to see a bunch of other running friends before we started and at 8:10 AM, we were off!
Kelly and me on one of the many couches before we started the race
The trails were really beautiful. The first few miles had a decent amount of easy trail and hillier roads, then we got into the tougher, more technical trails. I have been lucky enough to run a decent amount of trails (for a road runner) the last few months, so I felt okay the first 6ish miles in. I knew that lots of people signed up for this race without even reading that it was a trail race and I worried for those runners/walkers.

After the 6ish mile mark (by the first mile, we all saw that our watches were short and the race continued to be short, clocking in at 24.4 miles total for me), I started to struggle on the uphills. I noticed that I couldn't catch my breath going up and it was like my lungs couldn't open up fully. I've never had breathing issues, so this was odd. We also went nearly 4 miles without water, which would normally be fine, but I was clearly also dehydrated and the first half of the 2 loop course had so many water stops along it.

Kelly was super understanding and I felt okay when we got through the first lap. I felt happy that the first loop went by quickly and felt like I could do well through the second lap. Alas, my breathing was not cooperating with me and I had to walk up nearly all of the uphills and boy, there were a lot.

With about 8 (of the 24.4 miles) to go, I told Kelly to leave me. Neither of us was racing this and she raced the Air Force Marathon the weekend before, but I felt horrible to be keeping her back. It was just truly not my day, but she wouldn't let me go. She happily walked with me whenever I needed it, let me keep the pace when we ran, and was super understanding. She even offered to hold my bike helmet (part of my costume) and said if dropping was better for me, she'd be fine with that, too. I feel bad that I'm so stubborn because I sure as hell was getting to that finish line and she had to stick with me! Glad that I wasn't alone and that Kelly was so supportive!
We enjoyed some couch time with a Blerch!
In the second half of the last lap, we passed lots of half marathoners who were walking. A lot of them did not look like they were regular exercisers and a lot of them commented about how hard the course was. A lot of them said, "There was barely any road in this race!" I've gotten so used to being around distance runners and many who run trails regularly. I was bummed to hear their frustration because the race was clearly labeled as a trail race and one that was technical at that. We saw runners with twisted ankles and knees, cuts and bruises, etc., which made me worried about the racers. Seeing the Facebook page after the race, lots of racers complained about things that are so common in trail races, but they lacked the experience to know what they were getting themselves into.

I did fall with about a mile to go (I was surprised that it took that long), but thankfully I didn't cut myself and while my one calf seized, it loosened up nearly immediately. I hobbled to the finish, with Kelly being so supportive and nice. A lady we kept leapfrogging during the course, Kat, finished a bit a head of us, but found us with about .25 miles left and ran us into the finish line. Meeting people like her make racing like this so worth it. We were able to support each other throughout the race and could finish it smiling and cheering each other on.
It was brutal, but I finished and got my dang medal!
We finished in 5:18 and change, which was nearly an hour positive split for the second half. I needed a good marathon race under my belt, even if I wasn't actually racing it, but that will come another time. I got to explore some beautiful trails, spend hours running with a friend I don't get to see in person a lot, and I was was able to push through to get marathon #16 in the books. I even felt well enough to run 10 road miles with John and some friends less than 24 hours later (couldn't pass up running on the empty roads here in Philly). On to the next one!

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