Oh my friends: there are always lessons to be learned.
A little background: last year, I was scheduled to run the Dallas White Rock Half. I had been training, and had been loyal to the long run. A few days before the event, I learned that the weather was going to be HORRIFIC, at least by North Texas standards. The temperature would be low 40s, and the rain punishing. I was caring for a toddler, preparing for finals, and had a trip to the Northeast scheduled. Oh, and then I took that pregnancy test the night before the race, and saw a faint blue line. (Hi, baby girl!) I agonized. I cried. I ran to Target for rain gear. I came home and tucked H into bed. And then I told J I had decided not to run. The risks seemed to greatly outweigh the rewards.
Enter 2012, my redemption year! I ran my first half in Philly in 2010, just six months after giving birth to Hendrik. Thus, I could run another half just shy of FOUR MONTHS postpartum, right?
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’d been training for this race since I got the go-ahead to start exercising again after Ailie’s birth (just a few weeks after delivery, I was getting prepped by walking as often as I could). I had 10 weeks. And a tiny baby, still exclusively nursing. And a not-so tiny baby who demands a lot of time and energy. And a husband that gets home from work around 6. And no family within 1500 miles. You get the picture. I think I did a valiant job getting out there, but it sometimes wasn’t possible to adhere to a strict training schedule. Two-mile runs had to suffice where five miles would have been optimal.
And the long run? There’s no excuse for that. I had the time, but not the stamina. I would be ravenous after mile two (hello, breastfeeding!); or I’d have eaten to close to go-time and begin cramping. Sometimes I’d have to quickly find a bathroom. I had to walk a lot during my long runs; whereas the last go-round, I did not walk at all.
Plus, I wasn’t in fantastic shape to begin with. I’d stopped working out during the last months of my pregnancy because of the oppressive Texas heat; with H, I’d walked every day right up until delivery. I was also overweight (anywhere from 20 – 30 pounds, depending on which version of Melissa we are going with here).
So, I was fairly nervous going into yesterday’s event.
As soon as I arrived in downtown Dallas, however, the nerves began to fade. I was buoyed by the crowds (25,000 runners) and the race day excitement. I remembered why I wanted to take on this particular challenge. I stopped at a bathroom in the Dallas convention center, then meandered down Griffin Street to the corrals on Main. I drank Gatorade (which I have not done AT ALL during training, so was probably ill-advised) and enjoyed a Clif energy gel.
At 8:05 AM, the race began, and we began walking briskly towards the start. I popped into a port-a-potty again before reaching the line that began at Dealey Plaza. The race began at the Grassy Knoll, with the book depository to my right. (I find this area particularly eerie; especially when we are coming home from an evening out, and we literally drive over the X in the road where the first shot hit JFK).
I smiled crossing the start. I felt great! I began moving at a good clip for my postpartum frame, about a 10-minute mile. I was passing people left and right, but careful not to over-exert. We headed to West Dallas. I was a bit taken aback by the course initially: we ran on pock-marked roads through an industrial park, a mobile home village, and a row of tiny, dilapidated homes where people sat on their porches, staring at us. Not cheering, just staring.
There were some great onlookers and signs along the way. My favorites:
Chafe now; wine later!
Run like the zombie apocalypse is upon you!
It’s not sweat; it’s liquid awesome!
You’re not even close to done!
During my last half, I had some intestinal issues, so I was careful to stop at every port-a-potty along the route. This took awhile. When I stopped at 5.75 miles (my second pit stop), the line took about 10 minutes to get through. As I was standing, my lower half began to ache.
I sensed I was in for it.
The rest of the race was a battle. I began running again, but gradually became so uncomfortable with pain I had to do the run/walk. I stopped at the port-a-potty again at mile 8, and from there, it was a brutal SLOG. I stopped my playlist; I knew the last miles would be bleak, and I put on a podcast in an attempt to distract myself. The worst part was: I stopped enjoying myself. I was upset about having to walk, and about the pain I was feeling, and that I couldn’t find the strength to keep jogging. Each time I tried to pick up the pace, the pain slowed me once again. Irrationally, I felt like I was letting J down. He’d done so much to support me over these last 10 weeks; I wanted to finish strong for him.
I kept thinking: That’s it! I am never doing this again. I’m done. This is a fucking ridiculous thing to do.
As I neared the mile 12 marker, I texted J. Where are u? Almost there!
We’re at the finish, he responded. You can do it!
My eyes welled up. I couldn’t wait to see my family. I thought about my precious baby girl with her adorable pumpkin face. If my first race was for Hendrik, then this race was all about her. I thought about her birth; how at the time I thought I couldn’t go on, and I found the strength. Then I had thought: I am NEVER doing this again. I hate this pain.
And then she arrived and my heart swelled and I knew I wanted to do it all over again. The pain was temporary; and look at this fantastic creature that showed up and changed our lives forever for the better.
As I rounded the final curve, the finish line came into view. The disappointment I had allowed myself to wallow in for the last five miles evaporated. I was going to finish. I was not going to finish strong, but I had endured. And isn’t that what life is all about? I set a goal and I achieved it. It didn’t go as planned, but few things do. I was going to finish. A few moments ago, I had been mired in the futility of wasted training. And then I realized just how much this race mattered.
Soon I saw my family, cheering for me just before the finish line. J was jumping up and down holding a sign that read “Super Mom”; H look slightly dazed holding a similar sign. Ailie sat unfazed in her stroller. I ran over and kissed them all.
Then I jogged through the finish line.
My time was 2:56. A snail’s pace. And still. I will cherish that medal. Because I endured.
Later, over a delicious chimichanga and a large margarita, I asked J what my next fitness challenge should be.
I think you’re nuts, he replied. You just finished the half, and you’re already on to the next thing.
Such is life. And for the record, I’ve already decided. I’m running the Dallas half in 2013, and I’m going to PR.