At some point in between 15 and 20km, I latched onto two girls that were running together. One girl was wearing a Lululemon jacket with green and black stripes (that I had admired in the store only a few weeks earlier) and the other girl was wearing a neon pink running top with writing on her back that said ‘Train Like A Beast To Look Like A Beauty’. They both were wearing neon pink hair extensions in their ponytails as well, and I would sometimes catch myself staring at the pink as it swished from side to side like some kind of hypnosis. I knew that I was running “faster” then them, because whenever I was running, I would pass them, but whenever we came to a water station and I would walk for a minute, they would pass me again. It went on like this for several kilometers, back and forth, back and forth. Every time I passed them I kind of grinned to myself and thought “Ha! Gotcha!” Every time they passed me, I grit my teeth and vowed I would catch them again soon.
Who knew I was so freakin’ competitive??? I guess the race atmosphere kind of brings that out of even the most docile personalities; I’m sure if you put Mother Theresa out on a race course, she’d be gritting her teeth and vowing to take down the guy ahead of her. Or maybe not. But you get the idea.
As I passed the 21km mark, I realized kind of numbly that I had just completed a half marathon. I was pleased to notice that I didn’t feel like I normally feel as I cross the finish line of half marathons (you know, like I’m going to just melt into a puddle on the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West when the scarecrow throws that bucket of water on her in the Wizard of Oz). I just kind of felt weary, kind of numb, foggy……
I saw Matt at the 22km mark. Normally when I see my friends or family members as spectators, no matter how much I’m hurting, I’ll smile, give them a thumbs up, pretend that I’m feeling way better then I actually am. But I just didn’t have it in me at that point. For the first time ever, I actually spoke to someone when I was on the course, and said to him “I don’t know how I’m going to do this”. To which Matt replied “Hey! I’ll see YOU at the finish line!” We had a good laugh about that later on, but at the time, I had my music on so loud that I couldn’t even hear what he said to me. He took this picture – and my face kind of says it all. I am really hurting here.
The Around the Bay course is flat for the first 20km, and rolling hills for the last 10km. My guess is whoever laid out the course didn’t actually have to RUN the damn thing. The hills killed me in that last 10km; just killed me. It was these last 10km where I started to clutch onto my water bottle like it was my life preserver in the middle of the ocean, and it really truly was. I filled up my bottle 7 times in total over the course of the race. I was gulping water from it like a fish; I took Gatorade and water at every water station. I could not get enough liquids in me. I remembered foggily at that point in the race that I had seriously debated whether or not I should even carry a water bottle with me or just rely on the water stations every 5km. I know now with absolute certainty that I would not have finished the race if I hadn’t had water with me. It turned out to be the most important decision I had made all weekend.
I can really thank those two neon pink girls for getting me through a couple of kilometers in that last 10km stretch. At one point when I was really struggling, they passed me and I couldn’t catch up to them when I started running again. I was really bummed that I had lost my competitors and kind of felt like a total loser because I had lost the entire “group” that I had been running with for the first 20km of the race. After kind of giving up on the hunt, I put my head down and just kept running….and of course, as irony would have it, that’s when I saw them. Actually, the first thing that I saw was a swish of the pink hair extensions that they were wearing in their hair, way up ahead in another crowd of people. Although my brain told me to not be stupid and conserve my energy for the last 6km, I knew as soon as I saw them that I just had to chase them down and catch them. It became my sole focus for the next 2km.
Just before we hit the 26km mark, I finally caught them. As I passed them, I promised myself that this was the last time I would pass them, they wouldn’t pass me again. Of course just as I turned the corner after passing them, I came across the biggest mother of all hills. If you recall from my recap of the Eggnog Jog race back in December, I described a nasty beast of a hill at the 5km mark. This hill was just as big and just as nasty, except it was positioned at kilometer 26 instead of kilometer 5. To say it sucked would be a gross understatement. It nearly killed me. At that point it wasn’t just my legs on fire, it was my back, my neck, my shoulders, even my abs. Everything just hurt. For not the first time, I wondered if I was even going to be able to walk to the finish line. I walked up the hill. I was disappointed to not be able to run, but I just couldn’t find it in me. Towards the top of the hill, I turned to an older man beside me and said “This is a nice spot for a hill eh?” to which he wearily replied “Yep…I think they want to take whatever we have left”. That about summed it up.
After the hill, we had about 3km to go. I could tell we were getting close because there were more and more spectators on the course. We were running down this long stretch of highway, and I recognized it as the road that my mom and I had driven down on Saturday to get to Copps Coliseum. We passed by a big and really old cemetery, where someone had dressed up like the Grim Reaper and was holding a sign saying “DEAD RUNNERS THIS WAY” with an arrow into the cemetery. That made me laugh (which hurt – so I stopped laughing quickly).
After about 5 minutes, when I lifted my head, I could see the stadium, probably about 1.5km away straight ahead. I noticed that the girl in green and black stripes and neon pink girl had not passed me yet. I took one look over my shoulder, didn’t see them behind me, and knew that I had left them for good back on the hill. I said a mental thank you to them at that point for carrying me through those tough 3 or 4 kilometers when I so desperately needed to focus on something other than the aching in my back and my feet.
If there is any small chance that they would ever read this: Thank you green and black striped girl and neon pink girl. I couldn’t have done it without you.
That last kilometer felt really long and strangely short at the same time. For the first time all race I let myself picture the finish line. I knew I was going to make it. At that point, I was so eager to get to the finish line, that looking back I wish I had taken a better look around, slowed down a bit to appreciate how far I had come, and not just in terms of physical kilometers travelled.
2013 is fast becoming the year of “I Can”. I’m starting to believe that I really can do anything I set my mind to. I said to Matt that no matter what happens with the Half Ironman in September, I’m so glad that I set the goal. I feel like already, setting the goal has switched on something in me that says “I’m scared as hell but I’m going to do it anyways”. I kind of love it. My ultimate goal for this year was to become a person that finishes what they start. Although it’s only March and I still have a long way to go, I’m starting to feel the paradigm shift already.
As we passed the 29km mark, I got overwhelmed by this big flood of emotion and started to tear up. I had been so remarkably calm leading up to the race, so much so that it was weird. It was like my brain hadn’t really registered what I was up against, or what I was about to do. It wasn’t until that 29km mark that I realized how deep down I had buried the panic and the tension and the desire to complete the thing.
As I ran the last kilometer, I felt like I could have run for miles. It’s funny how that works isn’t it? We came up on Copps Coliseum, ran past it and down around to the loading docks where the Zambonis go in and out, down an enormously steep slope into the arena, and there we were in the place that it had all started. Matt had draped his body over the railings and was front and centre when I came into the arena; he took several pictures of me coming in.
I crossed the line with tears of joy, relief and maybe a little bit of pain in my eyes. A paramedic came up to me immediately and asked if I was okay. I can’t even remember if I answered him, but I must have said yes because he left me alone. We made our way around the chute, and around to receive our medals and food bags, and then up an escalator to meet up with our spectators.
The rest of the day to be honest is a bit of a blur. I remember Matt ordering pizza, and me being over joyed that he had ordered a lot of “chicken bites” from Pizza Pizza because I love those….I remember falling asleep on the couch watching Dennis Quaid in “The Rookie”….I remember limping into my parents’ house for dinner that night and eating turkey burgers……and that’s about it.
Now, 4 days later, I am mostly all healed up from the run. My right foot is a bit sore still, I’m still dealing with some pain in my right heel, but aside from that, I’m feeling just about back to normal. It all seems like it was a dream, I can’t believe that it has come and gone.
I’m thrilled to cross this BHAG off the list. It’s been on my back for a long time. Around the Bay kind of wraps up my running for a little bit, or at least my “exclusive running”. Now it’s time to get on the bike and back into the pool.
It never really ends does it? 🙂
Maybe that’s yet another thing that we love about this stuff; that it never really does end. There’s always something else you can do, a new challenge, a new opportunity to find out what you’re made of, a new goal to work towards.
That being said – I’m stopping for this week to smell the roses. I may have a long way to go…but where I’m at right now is a pretty fan-freakin’-tastic place as well.
Have a fabulous long weekend!!