February 4, 2008

Catheroo, you just ran your first half marathon. Whaddya gonna do now?

I’m going to Disneyland to run another half marathon!

If I had to sum up yesterday’s Kaiser Half Marathon Typhoon Kaiser in San Francisco in one word it would be awesome. Or cold. Or rainy. Oh, and windy. Hard, duh. And painful. Or far. And exhausting. Yet exhilarating. And exciting. Also emotional. And incredible. Any of those would be the right answer.

Most of this won’t be interesting to anyone, but I feel the need to document it, for me. I apologize for rambling on and on about me, but here I go anyway.

On Saturday night, we had our TNT Carbo Load Dinner. While we enjoyed piles of pasta, one of our honorees spoke about his battle with cancer. He was diagnosed in the 90s and was given three years to live. That was thirteen years ago. It is because of funds raised by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society that he was able to receive the treatment he so desperately needed. So, for those of you who donated, thinking “my small donation won’t make a dent in helping,” it truly does. He told us that he knew, as an honoree, he was supposed to inspire us, but for him, it was the other way around. We inspired him. With that statement, he got choked up, tears welled up in my eyes, and I stood to join the rest of the team in giving him a standing ovation.

One of our coaches followed, with some information about the run the following day, mostly the course and the weather. He had a printout from that forecasted 100% chance of RAIN during the run, combined with WIND and COLD temperatures. He then took his bottle of water, poured it over his head, and said “People are waterproof. LOOK! Water is not killing me. I’m fine.” There was to be no whining about weather during our run because weather is weather and you can’t do anything about it. And we chose to do this. The honorees we were running for didn’t choose cancer. Cancer chose them. So we could handle a little water, and a little cold without bitching about it.

Sunday morning Matte and I got up and drove from our Japantown hotel to Golden Gate Park to meet the rest of the team. Everyone was excited, nervous, worried, and anxious, but our coach was all smiles. He reminded me at the starting line, “This is the payoff. This is what you’ve been waiting for.” I almost cried. Matte hugged me and said he loved me, and I almost cried. Then I read a text message from Stacy cheering me on. Again, I almost cried.

My running partner and I were far in the back of the pack because we are not fast runners. It took around 11 minutes for us to get to the starting line in the mass of people, and that’s when I started my Garmin, so I could get an accurate account of my run time for the 13.1 miles. Over the loudspeaker, Ants Marching by Dave Matthews Band was playing. How apropos.

Once we were out of hearing range of DMB, I started my iPod with Breathe Me (thanks, MB!). It was the perfect tempo because we were not moving very fast surrounded by 10,000 runners. Plus, in my mind, I could see MB’s face, cheering me on from the start. Eventually we broke free of the mass and were able to run. Most of the first few miles were uneventful, except for some bitchy grades and a little rain sprinkles. Every once in awhile I would imagine the finish line and what it would be like to reach it. Each time I thought about it, I got choked up. I knew I would cry like a big blubbering baby when I finished.

My running partner got a cramp at around Mile 6 and we took longer walk breaks than usual. (We do a 5-minute run, 1-minute walk.) We followed the course out of GG park and headed for the Great Highway, which in my opinion should be renamed the Hate Highway. As we rounded the corner to run down that 2.75 mile stretch and back, with the ocean to our right (which I didn’t even notice for a mile or so), we were blasted with frigid gusts of wind. My running partner’s leg cramped up worse this time, and we walked some more. He apologized, saying he felt bad, and asked if I wanted to go on ahead. So I did. I felt slightly guilty for leaving him, but there was plenty of help along the course with the coaches and mentors running up and down checking on us. I headed into the wind, running as fast as I could, which was not fast because basically I was running in place. Soon my walking intervals became longer than my running ones, and just before I hit the Mile 8 marker, Save it for Later came on (thank you, Lynette!), which I thought was a sign. Why run into the wind, going nowhere, when I could walk just as fast or faster? Plus, I needed to save my energy to RUN across that finish line, dammit.

I trudged on through the wind for about a mile when the rain decided to come out and play. By that time my feet were hurting pretty badly. My leg muscles were tightening up because I wasn’t running enough and they’d become accustomed to the long walk breaks. So each time I did try to run, the forward movement killed. My feet. My quads. My hamstrings. They all hated me, and they let me know it. I thought maybe a burst of energy would help, so I pulled a bag of Sports Beans from my FuelBelt. I tore, where it said “Tear here” and a little piece of the plastic bag came off in my hand. It wasn’t a big enough tear to open the bag though. My hands were cold and numb and wet with rain and I could not grab the sides of the bag to pull it apart. I bit every edge I could find and tried to tear the bag open with my teeth. No luck. Up ahead, a police officer was manning the blocked road and I almost asked him if he had a knife to cut it open and free the beans, or would he kindly shoot the bitch open for me. But as I passed him, SUCCESS! I poured some beans into my hand and a few minutes later was back to running. Slowly.

Not even the theme from Chariots of Fire could speed me up. Instead I was emulating the film’s slow-motion scenes. The wind, combined with my aches, was too much, and I went back to walking. As I made the U-turn at Mile 10, I thought surely the wind would be at my back. But no. It still blocked my way back down the Hate Highway. And the rain started coming horizontally, pummeling my face with chilly pecks. I put my head down to block the rain and forged ahead. Every once in awhile I’d force myself to run because I really wanted to finish in under three hours. I pushed and I rested. Ran and walked. Just before Mile 12, the rain turned to sprinkles and a rainbow appeared ahead of me. At the same time, Twenty Times Time by Lazy Town came on and I instantly pictured Jenni’s daughter Vika’s smiling face. She chose that song for me to run to and my iPod chose that moment to play it. I smiled and laughed a little and started to run. Her little face and that silly song kept me moving, and then Steady as she Goes came on (thank you, Tobie!), motivating me to keep pushing through the pain and the wind and JUST DO IT. Screw my feet. Damn you, sore muscles. I am not a pansy-ass baby!

One of my mentors was up ahead yelling “Here comes Cathy!” and waving, and when I reached him, he joined me on the course. I explained I was running super slow because OW, MY FEET! and he cared not about my speed, just told me how awesome I was and that finishing was all that mattered. He told me I was almost there, LESS THAN A MILE FROM THE FINISH, that I only had to round the corner, go up a crappy hill and I would be there. Also! The wind. That bastard would be at my back at last! My Garmin told me I was close to finishing, but hearing the encouragement made all the difference, as did I’m Your Boogie Man on the iPod (Thanks Uncle Ralph!). My mentor left me so he could go find my running partner who was about 20 minutes behind, and as I turned the corner I saw one of the coaches. She was clapping and happy and joined me in a slow jog/walk. She commented on how good I was doing asked if I’d be doing the Summer session with TNT and I said “Hell yeah!” She asked if I wanted to do a marathon next time and I said “Hell no!” I couldn’t torture my feet that way. And yeah, I was still able to hold a conversation after 12 1/2 miles of huffing and puffing, but looking back, I don’t know how I did that because at the time, we were running uphill.

Next I saw the coach who had sent me off at the starting line. The one who assured us water wouldn’t hurt us. He excitedly told me there was a stop sign up ahead and shortly after that, I’d see a large clock, and THAT was my finish line! At this point I was walking, so he asked if I thought I’d be able to run to the finish. I assured him that running to the finish wouldn’t kill me, but if it did, I’d be like the original marathon runner, who, after completing 26.2 miles, collapsed and died when he reached his destination, and that would be a kickass story! Plus, I knew Matte was there at the finish with his camera as was a professional photographer, and how bad would that look, me just WALKING at THE climactic moment? Like I didn’t care? Was nonchalant? “Yeah, 13.1 miles, whatever. La di friggin’ da.” Coach grabbed my hand and said, “You are so ready for this! Here you go!” and we started to run. He slowly let me go like a daddy teaching his 4-year old to ride a bike without training wheels, and I bolted. I could hear them yelling behind me to finish strong. My feet no longer hurt. I wasn’t tired or cold or wet. My legs felt fine as I kept my eyes fixed on that huge time display and CROSSED THE FINISH LINE with my arms raised high like I had just won the Olympics.

I had just completed my first half marathon.

And I didn’t cry. Me! I didn’t cry!

Matte was right there to greet me with hugs and kisses and told me how proud he was of me as we walked over to get my finisher’s medal and t-shirt (still not crying). I immediately put the medal around my neck and every time I saw a TNT person, I said, “Check out my bling!” I had no shame because I had just run a @#$%ing half marathon and everyone needed to know that I was the most awesomest person in the universe.

Eventually, we walked back to the car (about two friggin’ miles away, along the Hate Highway, because why not?), and saw three crows in the air. They were flapping their wings, yet they were not moving forward. They just hung there, suspended in air, stuck. I tugged on Matte’s sleeve and said “See! That’s what I had to deal with!” Because it was exactly like that.

We got home quite a bit after the finish, so the benefits of an ice bath were minimal. Instead, I iced myself with one bag of peas and one of blueberries, one on each shin, then moved to the quads, and the hamstrings. Here’s a tip: If you need to ice your hammies, and want to put bags of frozen food under your thighs, do not use frozen blueberries. See, the pressure from sitting on the bag may cause said bag to pop open and ooze blueberry goo all over your furniture. Should you choose to not heed my advice, and sit on blueberries anyway, do be sure to sit somewhere that is not a microsuede sofa, and not a Green Bay Packer blanket (which, as I was on my favorite chair, were both spared blue highlights). Also, it’s good to have some cleaner nearby with that Oxy stuff in it.

And another tip: If you run a half marathon, it is vital that you have someone you love dearly meet you at the finish line. Because you will want to see that person more than any other after YOU JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON. It is also helpful when this person waits on you hand and foot afterward because YOU JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON. Might I also suggest that you have that person rub your feet and generally pamper you because YOU JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON and everything hurts. And if that person could tell you about 20 times how proud they are of you because YOU JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON, that helps too. And that is what made me cry.

12 people have roominated about “Catheroo, you just ran your first half marathon. Whaddya gonna do now?”

  • mil says:

    you may not have cried crossing the finish line, but i did reading your blog. cathy, you need to write a column or something for BIG BUCKS and include your photos. you are gooooooood. and then i cried again because your wonderful husband is my wonderful son, and i feel proud he is so thoughtful and kind. but i am over-the-top proud of what you accomplished, especially in those conditions. you are my hero! love you tons.

  • Sandi says:

    I knew there would have to be crying in there somewhere! What a tremendous victory for you. And Matte’s mother’s comment made ME cry!

  • Annie says:

    Yeah!!! I knew you could do it! and a medal! you rock baby!! Good job!

  • Mandy Lou says:

    Waaa hoo!! You’re a better woman than I – I don’t think I could run that far if Jason and Freddy Kruger were chasing after me and there was a pile of chocolate at the finish line. Congratulations!

  • Sarah says:

    Such an achievement, well done. And of course, should you choose to run this course again, you’ll know next time to start from the other end. That way the wind will be behind you and you’ll be going downhill!

  • Saj says:

    I’m so amazed at what you’ve done! You are truly an inspiration to me! Someday, you and me together, SIL! CONGRATS!!!!!!!

  • You? Are a rockstar. You are such an effing inspiration. I can think of 50 reasons to hug you at any given moment, but you just gave me about 50 more with this.

  • mcgee says:

    holy crap woman you are SO hardcore and rock like no other. go on with your bad self.

  • Begered says:

    GO TEAM! Congrats on your half marathon! Doesn’t it feel great!?! Saw you over at Michele’s and curious about the hint you were dropping…I am glad I stopped by. I am going to browse some more…

  • Lynette says:

    You are AWESOME! I am so amazed and inspired by you. Your story has moved me, and I am trying not to cry right now, since I’m at work. I’ll have to hold it in until I’m in my car driving home and then I will shed happy tears.

  • Jenni says:

    DUDE! You RULE! I just told Vika your story, and she was beaming from ear-to-ear. Good job Cath!

  • […] I know we won’t be running down Highway 101 in San Francisco for this one, like we did on my last attempt at a half marathon. One thing I am slightly concerned about is the heat. Last year’s […]

roominate on this yourself