I've wanted to sit down and write this post out sooner than later, but it's taken me a few days to regroup and get back into things. I tried to shorten things and cut parts out, but then I kept adding them back in. I know this is a much longer post than you are used to reading, but bare with me on this one. If it's longer than your liking, I promise I won't be offended if you chose not to read on and check back in a few days when things resume as normal again.
We headed to Seattle on Thursday so we'd get there in time to pick up our race packets and enjoy Friday at the fitness expo. What's the fitness expo? In a nutshell, it's a big room full of hundreds of vendors, free food, and speakers to listen to. We first listened to John Bingham who wrote the book Courage to Start. (I think last year was the author of Born to Run.) Then we mingled around, sampled all sorts of free food, took goofy pictures of ourselves in their photo stand, visited the onsite sports medicine doctor, and filled out swag bags with large amounts of free handouts and treats that kept being thrown our way. Great way to spend the day before the race.
I had been very diligent about the caring of my feet, so we visited the local gym both Thursday night after the long drive over and again Friday evening before the race, to use the hot tub and soak my feet. It has become something I do often to help with healing and recovery, so they appreciated it.
Friday afternoon set in and the weather in Seattle began to not look so promising for our run the next morning. Rain, cold, and more rain. I had laid out all my clothes the night before so I'd be ready to go in the morning. I woke up several times in the night to the sound of the rain just pouring. The thought came to me, "This could be miserable!" Don't get me wrong. I love running in the cold and a light shower of rain but a downpour? No thank you. I remember laying in bed just listening to the rain pound against the roof and windows just praying to God that he would see fit that the weather would make a turn, and that the 24,000 people who came to Seattle to run this race would be able to enjoy themselves. I then must have drifted back off to sleep because the next thing I knew it was time to get up, and I didn't hear rain like I'd heard just a few hours earlier. We got ready and just as we were heading out the door the toilet decided to overflow all over the floor. Yep, 4:40 in the morning and we're mopping and cleaning as we're trying to get ourselves out the door. It wouldn't be normal to not have a minor kink in the road on race day, right? A load of towels later, we grabbed our breakfast and headed out the door. We made it across the floating bridge and to the exit with plenty of time to make it to our pre-paid parking garage before traffic was at a standstill. We barely made any movement for 30 minutes and our 6:00 a.m. must-be-parked-in-your-parking-garage time had come and gone. I started to stress at this point. I know being from Seattle that it's hard enough to find a parking spot on a normal day, let alone when 24,000 people are trying to do the same thing. As we finally started to make some progress we were diverted the opposite way in which we needed to go. The thought of what to do next started to race through my mind when not more than 3 blocks up the road we pulled into a parking lot and parked the car. In a real parking spot. It was that easy! And it was FREE! In some ways I think it was God's way of helping us get to where we needed to be so we could get to the starting line before the race began. We quickly gathered our things, I literally ate breakfast on the run (heading to the start area), and we headed off. We dropped our bags at the row full of UPS trucks and headed off to the dreaded porta-potty line. Best part about this was that because the race had technically already started the lines were rather short. SCORE! Just as we finished we hopped in our corral and it wasn't but a few minutes later that the horn was blowing and we were off.
Within the first few minutes of the run we were running right down the streets of downtown Seattle. I was loving it! (I knew from that point that I was going to like this year's course far better than last year's running-from-Tukwilla-to-downtown course.) We were passing by all the big tall office buildings downtown and it was bringing back memories of visiting my parents at work as a kid, as they both worked downtown in those buildings. The atmosphere was great. People running, bands playing, sun peeking out, people lining the streets cheering. I almost forgot for a moment I was running. I was so enjoying the moment and what I was doing. We ran like this for a while and then I could see up ahead that people were making a left turn. I think this was around mile 4 or 5. As I got closer and turned the corner myself I looked ahead and saw the people up ahead of me running straight up this huge hill. I chuckled and said, "Seriously? We're running up that?" I almost couldn't believe it. It was huge. (FYI - if any of you watched to preview video of the course...well, that didn't come close to being accurate as far as showing you the hills.) But up and over we went and it was practically like sitting down to scoot down the other side. From there we ran along Lake Washington for several miles and what a beautiful site it was. We were entertained along the way and enjoyed fellow runners, spectators' signs cheering us on, and just being outside. It wasn't long before we were getting close to mile 9 and yet another shorter, steep hill that ended up in a mile-long tunnel. We actually ran this part of the course last year so I knew it was coming. It was my least favorite part last year and it was where I really hit a wall. First off I don't like being claustrophobic in any way and to be in a mile-long, dark tunnel with several hundred people breathing, (so there is not fresh air to breath) was not my idea of fun in the least bit. This time around as I entered the tunnel, it wasn't that far into it that TJM said, "You can do this! Go to a happy place and stay there." At first I couldn't even see the other end of the tunnel. I could tell it was going to be a long mile. Then I got my mind in the right spot, went to a "happy place," got into a groove, and just ran. It was as if I'd almost forgotten where I was at for a moment, and before I knew it I was coming out the other side saying "That wasn't so bad!"
The first 9-10 miles actually went by rather fast. For the most part I was really enjoying myself. I wasn't scared or worried like I was last year. I knew I could run a half marathon. It was just a matter of keeping my feet happy. I was so enjoying the miles, people, scenery, and the runner who stuck beside me. (TJM that would be you.) It was after we ran past Century Link and Safeco field (mile 11) that we did a windy hill and that is when for the first time my feet started to talk to me. (Usually they complain around mile 4 or 5.) They weren't bad. I think the hills were just starting to get to them at this point. As we continued on the next mile, which was a gradual climb up the Alaskan Way viaduct, they began to feel more painful, heavier, and altogether sensitive. I could see the top of the viaduct and just kept telling myself, "I just need to make it to the top of this hill and I'll be fine." I could see the Space Needle at this point so I knew the finish wasn't that far off. I wasn't moving fast, as my one foot was not happy, but I was moving. It wasn't long before we were at the top and I figured it was home-free from there. As we ran down a small hill and made a slight turn I saw up ahead my worst nightmare. Yep, another tunnel. I couldn't believe it. Not now. I'm too close to the end. I remember my mind started thinking all the bad "What if's?" TJM was being as encouraging as one can be. Building me up. Encouraging me as we got closer to the tunnel. (I on the other hand didn't want anything to do with that tunnel and it showed in words and actions.) It was the craziest feeling in that very moment. I'm not sure I can even describe it. As TJM was talking to me trying to get me through the moment, my mind immediately wanted to do exactly what she said but it was as if my body wouldn't cooperate. As we entered the tunnel my body even flailed about as if it was going to rebel against me. Arms flapping, body hunched over, and my feet dragging along. (Yes, I'm sure it was quite a site to the many spectators.) I could feel my feet start to act in the same way they had acted just weeks before when I ended up dropping on the side of the road and couldn't move. I kept praying. Not here. Not now. I'm almost done. I've almost made it. I knew I had to pull it together. I quickly said a prayer as I ran through that tunnel, got focused, started repeating all the good "what if's" and off we went. I wasn't sprinting by any means but I was moving and I wasn't catastrophizing either. Slow and steady wins the race right? The last tunnel came and went and we rounded that last corner. I could see the finish line. Yep, at the top of yet another hill! Only in Seattle would one end a half marathon on a hill. As we neared the top of that final stretch it was all I could do to grab TJM's hand and together we crossed the finish line for the second time. We did it! I did it! My feet did it!
I'm sure I'll venture out and do half marathons other than Seattle but the Seattle Rock N Roll will always have a special spot in my life. I plan to run it each year. You see, I lived most of my life there and most of that was spent living in a heavy, fat, unhealthy body. There is something very therapeutic and forgiving about going back and running that race. Not only that, it's extra special to be able to take my best friend, one of my huge supporters in this whole weight loss journey back home with me every year to run it with me. She is truly a Christlike advocate in every way.
What was my time? I know some of you will want to know this part of the puzzle so I will share. I did the race this year in 2:24. About ten minutes slower than last year. Am I disappointed with this? Nope, not at all. Was I trying for a PR? Nope. I honestly had told myself that I would be happy with 2:30 considering everything my feet have been through the past year and still trying to heal. Then to add all the hills I wasn't expecting on top of it, to come in at 2:24 I was thrilled! It made it all that more of a victory. Do I still at some point want to PR my race from last year? Of course. Is there a little itch in me to someday run a half in under 2 hours? Sure! How will I get there? One day at a time and one foot in front of the other. Why? Because I am a runner! I am the runner God is with.
P.S. On a side note: We took a detour on the way home and left our mark on the Oregon Coast. This is how we roll after running a half marathon!