Okay fine. I’ll write more about running.
Clayton never intended to run the half marathon with me. But after I decided not to run in my first choice of race–the Virginia Beach Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon–because I didn’t feel ready and my husband witnessed a full on breakdown after a long run gone wrong a few weeks ago, he stepped in to rescue my sanity. And I’m so glad he did…even if I trained for almost six months and he trained with five runs. We won’t get into that right now.
With our fall schedule filling up at lightning speed, this half marathon was virtually my only option once I dipped out of the RnR. Had I been forced to continue training for another month or two before actually racing, I don’t know if I could have done it. I am very close to my limit of running out of training necessity as opposed to running for “pleasure.” I will not miss those weekend long runs and ensuing nausea. Not even a little.
The eve of the race left me really excited. I didn’t have any nerves or jitters; they wouldn’t have fit in my body along with the Olive Garden soup, breadsticks and linguine anyway. Carbo loading. Look it up.
On race day, I woke up at 5 a.m. so I’d have plenty of time for the important things. Like drinking coffee. And taking self portraits.
My “Did I really agree to this?” husband got his wake-up-ear-nibble around 5:45. We left the apartment around 6:15 and headed to Fort Eustis, the military base hosting the race. To enter the base, there’s obviously security and strict regulations. The security officers were actually making everyone get out of their car and searching all vehicles, which created a little backup when we arrived. Luckily, they opened an extra lane and we were able to sneak on over.
When the search-and-report cop approached, he asked for Clayton’s driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. When we handed it to him, things got interesting.
“This expired in July,” the officer said.
As soon as I heard the word “expired,” I knew he was talking about the insurance card, and I could have sketched an entire picture of our kitchen, including the exact spot on the kitchen table where my new insurance card has been sitting for three weeks.
“Nat, this is expired. Do you know where your new card is?”
“Yes…it’s on the table. At home.”
And that’s when the officer sweetly piped in with, “Well then you’re going to have to go get it from the table.” He kindly gave us directions out of the base, and that was that.
Insert very quick freak out here.
We went to the exit, knowing full well there was no way we had time to go back to our apartment and return in time for the race. Then, rising out of the pavement, in almost palatial, life-saving stature, was a Holiday Inn Express. We pulled in, parked and got our warm-up walk on.
We passed a duo of port-a-potties and, as time ticked away and the entrance gate seemed impossibly far away, we took advantage. If you feel like your dignity would benefit from being taken down a peg, sign up for a road race. That’s all I have to say about that.
We made it to the entrance and zipped right in front of the huge line of cars to get top-secret pedestrian clearance with only our ID’s and ankle socks. When the security guard informed us that the starting line was a mile and a half away, it was clear life was going to get real awkward real fast. We’d have to hitch a ride with a fellow runner and/or military serviceman to avoid that exhausting walk.
And then we learned just how awesome our legs would look if we lived in New York City because of how awful we are at hailing passing cars. Clayton’s attempts only resulted in drivers waving at him, possibly wishing him luck in case he actually did make it to the race before Sunday. I didn’t even rack up any attempts; I stayed on the sidewalk to strategize and shout out Clayton’s next play.
“Red Tahoe. Wait. Wait. Now! Go! Red, red, red! DANG IT! Hold on, okay, white Tundra coming up. Tundra, do it! Now! TUNDRA!”
Inconceivably, this plan bombed. We gave up, hung our heads and started truckin’ it. Then a darling couple with an adorable dog pulled over and asked us if we needed a ride. We thanked them continuously for the entire ride and told them it was our first half marathon. The guy was also running, and every time we passed each other during the race (meaning when he would already have hit the turn-around and we were still a good ways away from it), he’d cheer us on. And he was there as we approached the finish line offering creative suggestions: ‘”Race each other to the finish line!” Or, how about our marriage survives this assault and my husband lets me finish first. Yeah, I like that idea better. But he did incite us to sprint to the finish, which is always way cooler.
The race itself turned out much closer to a best case scenario than any of the nightmares I had beforehand. The first four miles went by quickly. Miles six through eight were tough and dragged on and on until the end of time. One of my earphones shorted out at mile eight, leaving me with only the instrumental and background portions of my playlist for the rest of the run. If I had the extra energy, I would have filled in those missing lyrics for the enjoyment of all my fellow runners.
I tried to think of the race as three smaller runs: five miles, four miles and four (plus 0.1) miles, so mile nine was a mental milestone. An unexpected burst of motivation and momentum bombarded me at mile 10.5, and we picked up the pace. Until that motivation turned the corner and started running uphill. Then she went bye-bye. Miles 11 to 13 were, by far, the hardest. Our (My) pace slowed dramatically, and even though I knew I was going to make it to the end, I thought it might take me another hour to get through those last two miles. The Garmin was not moving and I thought I might be on a treadmill. Clayton was a hero during those two miles and would not under any circumstances have let me quit. Luckily, I was still strong enough mentally to do the same for myself. Plus, my husband pointed to a walker and said, possibly too loudly, “Don’t quit like that guy.”
When we rounded the final corner and faced the straight away, the small crowd combined with our chauffeur-stranger-friend yelling at us to race gave us a last push to “sprint.” And 13.13 miles were in the books.
After we walked off the rush of lactic acid and urge to collapse in tears, we waited around to snack on oranges and Gatorade, hoping maybe this race would hand out age group awards based on heart and spunk, rather than finishing time. No such luck. And then we remembered we had to walk around the world to get back to our car. It was slow going, and I had certainly lost the embarrassment of stopping for breaks by this point. No good Samaritans stopped this time, and we were so gross, we wouldn’t have actually accepted any offers. Well, Clayton wouldn’t have. I would have agreed to strip down naked if they wanted me to. That walk sucked.
Our drive home was a thrilling mix of jubilation, Gilmore Girls-style fast talking, nausea, chocolate milk, Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, calf stretching and more jubilation.
The rest of the day was spent dual-massaging each other’s feet and calves, napping and watching Florida State lose in typical fashion. But I gotta be honest—I’m going to be in a thoroughly undeterred good mood this weekend no matter what any football scoreboard says.