Yes, Part 1. Too much stuff to pack into one blog.
Wow, where to start!
Arrive at the hotel in Cranberry Township (just north of Pittsburgh) around 2:30 and find my dear friend Laurie5658 awaiting my arrival.
We’ve not seen each other since the convention in Cincy, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. As we sit and chat more and more Sparks arrive (too many to list), but then it’s time to head to Olive Garden for a meal together. After a L O N G wait we’re all seated; about 30 of us. The restaurant was more than accommodating to our group and a big round of applause should be given to them.
Upon arrival back at the hotel it was lights out for most, but I wanted to watch the NCAA game. Game ends at 12:15 AM and now I’m too keyed up to sleep and the alarm is going off in 5 hours. Such is the night before a big event.
Saturday - Race:
Awake, shower, dress and eat breakfast; all before 6:30. I was amazed that everyone was pretty much ready to roll to the race site by 6:40 and that’s a good thing because parking is at a premium. With some pull BobbyD31 get’s a primo spot (heated, indoor) meeting area for us to all get the pre-race shake down and photo ops. With race time looming everyone starts to make their way to the starting line, but my start is in a different location. I wish them well and send them on their way to hang out by myself. Another runner notices my beautiful Spark star (Thanks gals!) pinned to my back and asks if I’m with Sparkpeople. I tell her I am; as is she. She didn’t have time to meet with us in the barn and won’t be joining us later due to her 21st birthday at midnight.
The gun sounds and off we go! The 30K group gets a nice grade to start running up and over rather than the flat streets everyone else has started on. After that, you face the dreaded hill everyone talks about.
I was under doctor’s orders to walk this incline to spare any flare up of the tendonitis in my foot/ankle. Mission accomplished. Back to the end of the 5K course, but now I’m faced with THREE! trips around a FIVE! mile lake.
BTW, lake is drained and is nothing but mud; nothing to look at. First lap goes by fairly well; little bits of walking some of the bigger ‘grades,’ but mostly making good time. It should be mentioned that there is a 4-hour window for this race. No biggie on flat land, but this terrain would prove more challenging. After the first loop I’m feeling good and have gained almost 10 or so minutes on my “virtual partner” on my Garmin.
Having all the Sparks there cheering me on helps make anything more tolerable. I keep taking in honey or Gu and drinking at each aid stop, but the cups are inconsistent. One station barely had an ounce of water in the cup, the next almost full. The Gatorade was overtly syrupy and almost sickly sweet, but needed for some additional calories. Second lap comes and the crowd of Sparks has dwindled some, but I can hardly blame them it’s still below 32* at 10 AM.
Second lap goes off pretty normal; little more walking because ankle was a little sore. Third lap our band of Sparks is down to just a few who promised they’d stay until everyone finished.
This is where the race starts to turn down for me. I start walking more not quite realizing why, but later it would be apparent; dehydration is setting in. Right past the finish line I reach an aide table and the teens are texting and carrying on with one another; no fluids at this stop.
I walk the next hill and a Spark runs up behind me to give some encouraging words and to keep moving. I’m walking even slight grades and this point and not concerning myself about it. Next aide station arrives and a few kids still remember that they’re there for a purpose. I thank them for the drinks and walk while I drink as not to spill a single drop. I try to break into a trot and my calves want to start cramping and my heart rate jumps, back to walking. I make it to the next aide station using walk/run to find everyone cleaning up and packing things away.
They tell me to wait a minute (hindsight I should have), but instead I yell “You’ve got to be ‘an explanative’ kidding me” and trot off.
Near mile 16 I see a sight much like a mirage; another Spark (Jan_Frandsen) walking towards me.
I almost well up with tears when he tells me that he has a water bottle in his backpack. I guzzle it down and we do some run/walk for a bit when he runs ahead to the next aide station to refill the bottle for me.
Shortly after this, around mile 17, a small group of Sparks (they know who they are) came back out to join me on the way in. They’re encouragement and knowing there was just over a mile to go kept me soldiering on. By now my stomach is wanting to ingest itself due to hunger. The thought of another Gu almost makes me vomit, but there’d be nothing to come up. I know that with a mile to go I can grab something off the table after the finish line. We continue the run/walk until I can see the corner and the finish line. I muster up everything that I’ve got left, heart rate be d@mned, and take off for the finish line. I cross the line with arms raised like “Rocky” feeling like I’ve just gone 10 rounds with him. . I’m starving, cold, exhausted, but most importantly proud that I continued to push through. Training for a marathon is a very different animal than the half. Pushing out to 16+ miles is showing me that I NEED something solid to eat along the way and I’ll start practicing with things this weekend. I forgot to stop my Garmin at the end and it recorded some craziness, but time was around 3:41. I’ll never know officially because when the results came out my timing chip didn’t work or something.
This had grown long and I’ll save the rest for another day.