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Monday, May 9, 2016

The Amazing Race: Half Marathon Edition

Two weeks have past since I completed the half marathon in Nice. I flew straight from Nice to Geneva, Switzerland where Doug and I met up for a pastors conference. The days were busy and it's taken me awhile to find the energy to begin to recount the events of the half. Doug gave me this awesome little gift when we returned home from Geneva. His support was stellar from afar.
It was an exciting weekend. I arrived later in the day on Saturday and went over the expo to get my stuff. Fun to see my name listed!  Then I joined my group for dinner that night. The mood was frivolous and fun. An electric mixture of nerves and excitement surrounded us. The race had arrived. Most of us thought we were ready. Nice is a gorgeous place and the course ran all along the sea front. Great, except for the sunshine bearing down on me!
Sunday we woke up, ate some breakfast, got our stuff together, took group photos and got ready to wander over to the starting line.
The entire Women Running the World group from London.
We were lucky that the hotel was almost directly across the street from the start line. It was a warm and hazy morning. We were happy for the cloud cover.
My favorite running pal, Denise, even though she is much faster than I am. 
I felt pretty good at the start. I was pleased with how I had slept and was ready to tackle the goal I had set so many months prior. I had hydrated really well and felt like I had given myself the best shot at doing well.
The first 10K (6 miles) were great. I enjoyed the route and the company. I was feeling fine. The next 5K (3 miles) were OK but the heat was starting to make a difference and I was finding it difficult to cool down. I was squeezing sponges filled with water over my head every chance I could but the sun was now out and it was bearing down a bit much. The course was set up in a such a way that you ran out towards the airport, turned around and came in another 4 miles to the finish. We began seeing some of the runners from our group on their way in and it was fun to see how people were doing. I was happy because my hips, feet and quads were doing well, but the hotness of my head was starting to bother me. Once we made the turn, I was braced for the 4 miles in to the finish line. 
I was still just trying to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping to not have to walk. I was drinking water at every station and took a couple of boost gels along the way but I could tell that I was running out of gas. It was frustrating as my legs felt good.
Finally a 17K (10 miles) I had to walk a little just to try to regroup.
I was bummed about this as one of my goals had been to not have to walk. And I didn't have to walk because of body aches and pains, but instead because of feeling off balance and overheated. At 18K(11.1 miles) we started to run again. Just 2 more miles. (I was with one of the coaches who was great. She kept encouraging me, trying to distract me, just keeping me going.) I was pretty much shuffling along at this point, a bit concerned about passing out or throwing up. I tried to just keep on keeping on. The last 2K (1.5 miles) were very tough. I was feeling pretty rough by then, overheated and absolutely running on empty. I did finally see the finish in sight and crossed the line. I had finished under 3 hours with only a little walking.
People from my group were there cheering me on but I was in such bad shape that I had to seek out medical help. Unable to find it, a group of us ventured down to the sea where I promptly pulled off shirt and got in the water.
The rocky shore beach of Nice was hard on the feet but the cool waters of the Mediterranean were just what I needed to start feeling more human again.
The fantastic women from church who got me into the business in the first place!
Mugging for the camera after I got feeling better!
Soon after many runners joined us and lots of women started hopping in the water! It was a fun sight.
I was a bit disappointed initially. It was tough to finish so depleted. Didn't get any help from adrenaline. Couldn't enjoy the cheers and clapping, didn't have any sense of the joy in finishing. I was 10 minutes slower than I had really wanted to be even though I got in under 3 hours. I ended up with about a 13.1 minute miles and I had hoped to stick closer to the 12.30 mark. My final time was 2.51. Leaves lots of room for improvement! My fitbit stats for the day were pretty great! 
It has taken me a few days to sift through all of my emotions and disappointments to allow the accomplishment of finishing to emerge as the top feeling. I am really glad I finished. I had just wanted to finish in a much stronger fashion!
Our spectacular and amazing coaches.
I enjoyed a massage in the afternoon. We gathered for our final gala evening and the mood was great. It was fun to sit with my peeps and enjoy some good food and laughter. I was given the job of writing the thank you speech for our coaches. I wrote a song called 3 Days a Week to the tune of 8 Days A Week by the Beatles. Appropriate since we trained 3 days a week in the shadow of Abbey Road Studios. The entire beginning group sang it together. The more serious speech was hard to get through. Tears flowed as I considered the selflessness of these 5 women who urged us on and fought so hard for us. It was interesting to feel the sadness of having the challenge behind us. As I think back to all of the mornings I have spent running this year, I marvel at everything we accomplished. Starting with walking 2 minutes and running for 1 and building up to complete a half marathon. It's pretty special and I will treasure the memories of this entire experience for a life time. And the course was gorgeous!
I will never again be trying to do this for the first time. But as most of the runners told us, at about 18K during the race you will be thinking, "Never again. This is so stupid. Why in the world am I doing this?" A few hours after the race, you begin to consider doing another one and by the next day you are making plans for the next one! I have seen myself wander through these emotions and of course, I am motivated by a desire to improve my time and finish better!
Pre-race, our beginning group plus coaches
I finally got back to running last Friday and did another one today. I love the group, love running around London, love the challenge of getting up and going. I hope to continue but for sure, running alone is not the same as running with my pack. Next year, I will miss meeting up for runs with these women, these touchstones in the week that have given birth to wonderful conversations, heartfelt conversations and friendships that will endure.