Race Report: Towpath Half Marathon

*With the inclusion of this race, there are now two half marathons on the Towpath. This is not to be confused with what is clearly the superior race in the fall.

Official Race Website

Race day started like many others … except this one I was prepared the night before. I charged all my electronics, laid out my outfit and gathered food. It was a weird sensation to wake up and not feel panic! I checked my messages from friends and went about my business. Yes, I still walked out the door a little later than I wanted, but it wasn’t in a hurried leap into the car, shoes and shirt falling out the door.

Onto the turnpike I was immediately greeted with a sign it was going to be a GREAT day. What was the sign? Well believe it or not…it was a REAL sign. Yep, pretty painted metal announced the latest and greatest update to my life. 70 MPH! Woot! As this is the speed I normally would go…I mean no I wouldn’t…I didn’t feel “rushed” once more. I was starting to get used to this not feeling rushed stuff.

Gale and I pulled into the parking lot at the same time. With a quick greeting we established we should try to park closer. Back into the cars…not before I noticed the COOLEST license plate I have seen for a while. It read “RUN A 5K”. Sure, that’s only 3.1 miles and I was about to do 13.1, but I loved the sentiment!

Together we found better parking and started the other part of getting ready. This includes putting on better socks, shoes, bodyglide and all sorts of pins and lotions. We walked over to get numbers and packed things back into the car. Of course I’m a spazz as I get ready and I’m acting like I’ve never gotten ready for a race before! Couldn’t find my head if it wasn’t connected to my neck. Gale is telling me stories about life, love and friends…and I glance at her over my shoulder as I grab my inhaler. She half-way looks at me and I say with a laugh “Shhh don’t tell Lee!”

We run over to the bathroom and see our friend Kelli in line. She shows off her AMAZING engagement ring. It’s so so pretty! I’m so happy for her. Apparently she’s going to Vegas in Dec for the race and to get married. I love it! She’s so lucky. No, luck isn’t what it is…she deserves every moment of happiness she has with her man.

Standing in line, waiting for the bell or horn or whatever would send us off into the unknown I make a final decision to put my car key into my water bottle. Gale looks at me and says very firmly “Do NOT put your key in that bottle”. I try to convince her I promise not to ditch the bottle, I promise not to lose my key. She keeps looking at me and says again, even more firmly if possible “DO NOT put your KEY in THERE”. OK maybe I’m being dramatic. Still, I slip the key into my bottle and away we go!

** **

During the first mile, my calves are very tight! I try to ignore it and get into the groove. Gale and I chat and I’m starting to get worried about my condition. By mile two I start to accept the cramps are not going away, and I see my time and get very upset. As I start to climb the first hill/bridge I slightly ask for anything else other than my calves to hurt. Well, be careful what you wish for! The incline of the bridge matched with my idea of short stride/high turnover works the kinks and all of a sudden the tension in my legs releases! I think I’m home free, when out of no where both of my feet go totally numb. I’m running along on cement blocks and it’s not even mile 4!

Part of me decides to do an experiment and I discover whatever side I hold the water bottle on, that is where my foot hurts the most. Lucky me, just after mile 5 I run into Ed (Gale’s boyfriend). I’ve never been so happy to see someone! I stop in my tracks, pull the gloves from my bra (which yes, by the way I do have chaffing from that!) and hand him my water bottle. Yes, yes, the SAME water bottle. I tie my jacket around my waist and get into a groove. See, the course was FANTASTIC in that it wasn’t hilly and there were aid stations like every 2 seconds. I felt safe in giving up my water.

Not too long after I realized something…my feet weren’t hurting, however my stomach was telling me a story. A story I did not like hearing. Suddenly it was a mission of life or death to find a toilet. I seriously started thinking about using the canal! Haha. If there had been more tree coverage I probably would have. Then I saw it…a green and white castle in the distance. I jump up a little and say “YES” as I keep jogging toward the structure. If I had arrived seconds later there would have been a terrible end to my first half marathon of 2011!

So back on the road, stomach feeling better, feet feeling not so bad and legs not too poor either. I gather a little speed and I see a sign for mile 8…and for the first time I accept I will finish this race. I also start to get VERY annoyed with the course. Why did I just see a sign for 11? Why am I on the course with runners MUCH better than myself? Did I miss something? Am I about to cut the course terribly short? Should I push myself and pretend I’m THAT awesome? Do I have faith and keep my pace? I’m looking at Garmin and mile 9 has come and gone…where is the sign? I see a sign for mile 12? WTF? Suddenly I notice a small grouping of people taking a very strange left turn/loop instead of heading up the hill past the mile 12 sign. A guy (volunteer) says to me “I don’t recognize you, take the turn around”. Not going to lie, I was so tempted to cheat and finish…I was in an unbelievable amount of pain! Somehow I summoned the courage and honesty to take that turn.

I jogged down the trail, looked at the mile 12 sign and pointed at it. I said “Hey you, I’ll be back in a few minutes!” I jogged off into the “woods”. Yes, I have started saying “jog” not “run”. I should be saying limped, shuffled, and staggered. Around the loop and back onto the section where miles 8 and 11seemed to coexist so beautifully. What keeps me going at this point? The music on my Ipod. I loaded it with a CD from high school. WOW holy late 90’s music. Holy moody teenage girl who was always falling in and out of love. Oh wait…not much has changed since high school I guess!

At long last I see my friend the mile 12 sign! Up onto the hill to meet mile 13. Now in a normal race this means I have POINT ONE miles left. NOPE not a normal race! I run for another half mile! WHY??? A little girl joins me and is so cute asking “Do you mind if I jog with you” I think “PLEASE don’t talk to me, I feel like I might die”…I say “Sure” She mentions she can’t find her Uncle. I tell her there is a guy in all black behind me. She darts off behind me shouting “I see him, I see him!” After 3 terrible, long hours I see the finish line. They’re tearing it down…and I understand. Painfully and near tears I stumble across the end and get my medal.

It’s a beautiful medal and I’m glad to have earned it. I do not see anyone at the finish and I start to panic…I ask where the shuttles are. Based on where I saw other people I “know” Gale couldn’t have finished much sooner. I’m directed to walk down the road to the “finish line” party. I feel like it’s another half mile away. It involves roads, and construction and sidewalk. Basically a horrible walk alone and cold. At the finish line “party” I do not see Gale. I seriously start to freak out. I do not feel well, I just want to go home…and remember? SHE HAS MY KEY IN THAT WATER BOTTLE!

Saddened I ask where the shuttle is, and tell someone I need to find my friend. The race director takes me name and I start to make a plan. I’m going to call my Mom to get Gale’s number from Facebook…or have her email Gale who will get it on her phone that she needs to save me! They (race people) make me take a sandwich and I board the bus. Silently I pray she’s at the cars. We (bus) arrive at the cars and I don’t see Gale’s. Again I almost start to cry. The driver is about to take me back to the “party” to get help, when I see something on my windshield. I stumble across the lot and read the note “WATER BOTTLE BY FIRE WAIT TIL YOU HEAR MY STORY! G-“

I look around the lot for a fire hydrant…although I don’t know why she would do that. Across the way I see a fire department connection stand. I turn around to put my shirt on the ground. Ya know, because the tech shirt (which I picked up at the “party” with my sandwich, forgot to add that) anyway the shirt is going to weigh me down! When I go to set my stuff down I see my water bottle and gloves! Up on my tire. Oh TIRE not FIRE. Sheesh! I wave the driver away with a sigh oh relief and climb into my car.

I talk to Gale all the way home. I find out she missed the mile 9 turn around and finished in 2 hours. (CHEATER) HILARIOUS update…she took first place in her age! She needs to fix that ASAP. She agrees the mileage is off and the signs were screwy. We also both agree the shirts are AWESOME and the medals are AMAZING, but sometimes the best part of a race is the music you listen to and that it’s over.

Once home, I fear I can’t get out of my car. Mom and Emme see me from the balcony…I call Mom to tell her I can’t get out of the car. She tells me “That’s nice…see ya later” without a care in the world. Apparently, she’s used to me. Emme is obviously barking at me “Mom MOM get in here!!” Eventually I do get into the house and onto the couch!

So far the verdict is…I won’t do it again!

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