Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rehoboth Runparty PR Bonkfest

A year ago, I thought I didn't need to go to Rehoboth again. It had given me my first BQ in 2013.
A tutu PR in 2014.
And the best race ever in 2015.
What else could I need from this race in Delaware?

Apparently nothing and everything.

I had everything I could want in 2016. There is so much to recap, but I'll do that in a separate post. I signed up for Rehoboth mid-year without any goals or expectations in mind. In fact, I still would have been satisfied with merely a medal around neck. The finish time never mattered.

And not that I'm dissatisfied with a PR (spoiler alert!), but it solidified that my relationship with running and racing is not always measured by the clock.

Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Megan came by as promised to paint my nails. She found a fabulous nautical theme that matched my previous finishers' medals.
She also dropped off an envelope for me to open on race morning.

Thursday, 11:00 p.m.
I brought our senior dog, Luxy, downstairs to go to the bathroom outside. She had been whining off and on all evening, but I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. When I set her in the grass outside, she started having a terrible seizure. I watched helplessly as she shook. After a few minutes, I brought her trembling body inside and called for Adam to come down. We watched over her lying on her side, wordlessly wishing that the pain would be over for her soon. Neither one of us spoke much and eventually, I pulled the bed over by the family room rug so I could lay on the floor.

Adam eventually fell asleep on the sofa with Torrance and Moe. I dozed off and on, resting my head on a cushion on the floor, one hand on Luxy's failing body. I changed out paper towels at intervals and fretted about what I was going to do when it became imminent for me to leave for the airport.

Friday, 5:45 a.m.
Wrecked with guilt, Adam and I were forced to discuss how/when to take Luxy to put her down. I hated to leave him to take care of it all. It seemed so wrong and selfish of me to go. But I was also relieved as I knew that I didn't want to be sitting around for 4 days (that I had taken off work for Rehoboth) at home, surrounded by sadness.

It took me 15 minutes to walk out of the house after I tried to leave the first time. My slow tears grew into big, ugly sobs. I kissed her forehead 100 times and held her in my arms. I ran upstairs before I left and grabbed her collar (which she hadn't worn for a few months as she was no longer a flight risk) and stuffed it into my purse. As I stepped out the door and forced myself to close it for good, my heart ripped apart. The drive to the airport was about an hour and I spent a good 30 minutes gasping for air while I cried uncontrollably.

The tears subsided as I parked, checked my bag, and went through security. When I reached my gate, I texted Adam for an update. He called me back and told me that she had passed at home while he was getting ready. I tried to keep my composure among a terminal full of strangers, but tears streamed down my face with the news. I was relieved for the end of her pain and the feeling of closure, but I allowed myself to feel grief. Sweet girl, you are missed.

Friday, 11:30 a.m.
I was so wrapped up in the my thoughts when I stepped off the plane that I didn't even notice Steve was waiting for me in the terminal. I started walking with a purpose towards baggage claim and he had to catch up to me. Seeing a good friend gave me a sense of relief. Though my heart was heavy, Luxy's death was also a reminder that our time here on Earth is short. I could allow myself to be sad when the moments washed over me, but it was okay to be happy too.

We went to pick up the rental car, got a free upgrade (!!), and headed out to Rehoboth Beach. There was the usual stop of Subway and a supply run before we pulled up to the beach house right behind Erin and Bacon.

Friday, 3:30 p.m.
Erin and Bacon were wearing the race shirts from packet pickup because both didn't have an extra long sleeved shirts. They were about to do a 20 minute shakeout run and suggested we come along. I decided to walk the block down the street to packet pickup (awesome rental house location!!) and then I switched shirts in the street so the 3 of us could wear our race shirts during our shakeout run. Unnecessary and superstitiously bad? Yes. Hilarious and worth the odd stares from strangers? Also yes.

Friday, 5:00 p.m.
While waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, we headed over to Dogfish Head to grab a beer or 2. DFH never disappoints and I had two brewpub exclusive IPAs.
A few more joined us for the second round and then we all walked back to the house. Dinner was started (thanks Caitlin and Chris!) and soon, we were sitting around the huge dining table cramming spaghetti into our mouths. Others joined us later and a total of 12 stayed at the house this year--a small group compared to the first year I went, but the smaller number kept things like meals much easier to coordinate.

Friday, 8:30 p.m.
After dinner, we sat around talking about running as runners do. I was exhausted from barely sleeping the night before and was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Once the first suggestion was made to call it a night, I bolted upstairs to get some sleep. Caitlin and I were sharing a room and we laid out our flat girls before snuggling into bed.

Saturday, 5:15 a.m.
I heard Caitlin's alarm go off and I laid in bed knowing that I didn't have to get up right away. My alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. and that was plenty of time to get ready with the start line only a couple of blocks down the street. I got a bagel and coffee first and then went back to change into my race clothes. I tore open the envelope Megan gave me when she painted my nails and inside was a bracelet inscribed with the words she believed she could, so she did.
I immediately knew that I had to wear it while racing. I touched Luxy's collar in my purse and then met everyone downstairs.

I had a Snickers bar right before we left and felt completely at ease as we walked towards the start. A PR was definitely possible given my year, but I knew it would completely depend on how I felt once my legs got moving. The weather was perfect at the start. Chilly and sunny. The wind seemed to be okay.

Saturday, 7:06 a.m.
Everyone was murmuring about when we were to start, but the gun finally sounded a few minutes after 7. I took my time easing into the first mile and tried to relax as we spread out. People position themselves fairly well for this race and I didn't have to do too much weaving. I tried to stay close to the right hand side of the road, knowing the first few turns were right.

My legs felt pretty good from the beginning and I decided that I would make a go for it when I hit the second mile. If I failed, at least I had given it a shot. The wind was noticeable as we headed on the straightaway along the 3rd mile. If it kept up, I knew I would be in for some tough miles later on. 7:39, 7:13, 7:22

I saw Erin, Bacon, and Ken on their way back after the turnaround for the half-marathon. Then the full marathoners split off onto the first section of trail. I noticed the slight increase in effort right away, but it became ridiculous when I hit the crosswinds next to the lake. 7:17, 7:30, 7:24

I was still trying to reel in runners in the single digit miles as the course wound through Cape Henlopen State Park. I'd run shoulder to shoulder with someone and then one of us would slowly fall back while the other inched forward. At the out-and-back I saw 2 females ahead of me and a bunch right in my shadow. 7:33, 7:15

The highway section felt particularly tough this year. The headwind going into miles 9 and 10 was ferocious and I tried to stay in the back of a pack of runners. There were 3 guys and 1 other girl and the 5 of us fought together, jockeying for various positions as we ran down the stretch. 7:31, 7:32

At the turnaround, I felt a sense of relief as we picked up the tailwind and headed back towards town. There were still 16 miles to go, but there was something about running "back" that felt good. The other girl we were running with dropped back along with one of the guys and the other 2 guys in our pack took off in front of me. I saw Steve, Caitlin, and Angie on their way out and mustered waves and smiles as best I could. 7:23, 7:16

I wavered a bit at mile 13. I was about to annihilate my fastest half marathon split in a full. But I started to feel the efforts of the first half catch up with me hard. As we ran up a very teeny hill around the lighthouse, I knew the second half was going to be tough. I hated having these negative thoughts so early, but I allowed myself to know that I would still had an awesome afternoon/evening no matter what it said on the clock. 7:20, 7:40, 7:30

There were big stretches where I was alone at this point. My thoughts drifted to Luxy and a few tears dripped down my face. Running in the cold had my nose dripping enough; this was just excessive. I touched the bracelet on my wrist a few times and fought through the dark places. 7:31, 7:40

The course travels back through town at mile 18 and runners (cruelly) can see the finish line. I was not in a happy place. As the course hit the road section that connects to the second trail, huge gusts of wind nearly stopped me in my tracks. I felt as though I could have leaned into the wind and it would have held me up. Gah! 7:44, 8:00

There were still a good number of half marathoners on the trail and so it became quite crowded again. I was actually glad for the mass of humanity as it gave me small targets to hit with each step. But without looking at my watch, I knew that any chance of my second half matching my first half was not going to happen. I saw the first place female who was way ahead and then I saw the second place female about a minute ahead of me! 8:06, 8:11, 8:02
Whoa. Third? I ran a 3:20 at this race last year and was 10th? I saw a few females not too far behind me so I definitely had to find another gear for the last 4 miles. Except it wasn't anywhere to be found. I knew 4 miles was a long way to go at the end of a marathon and it could shred anyone no matter how close to the finish they were. I saw Steve, Caitlin, and Angie who all managed to shout or give high fives. 7:49, 7:44, 8:02

When I hit the pavement again and could spot the mile 25 sign, I was so relieved that it was almost over. And I was 3rd overall! I spotted JB crouched down along the road and whacked him on the head as I went by because I was so elated to see him.

The race photographer got a few shots along this stretch too.

The smile is fake. I am dying inside. I come around the sharp corners of Canal Crossing Road and then out onto Rehoboth Avenue. My arm warmers are annoying me and I take off my gloves. As I am shoving them into my sports bra, a girl goes flying past me in a marathon bib.


I try to find that other gear. Revved with adrenaline of being passed at mile 25.7, I dig deep and.....shred my calf.

What. The. Eff.

My gloves fly out of my sports bra as I struggle to even keep up with the pace I was at. My calf is screaming in pain and I am hobble-running into the final turns. 7:22

I come into the finish chute and feel wrecked. I cross over the finish line with a shiny new PR and am shocked at how pissed I feel about losing 3rd.

Who is this person?! When did I start caring about that kind of thing?!

I collect my race medal and heat sheet and then I have to collect myself. Holy emotion Batman! I should be happy about my PR. 3:19:22!

But it doesn't sink in yet. I am mad about losing 3rd. I am mad that my calf hurts. I am mad that the race was really hard. I am mad that my dog went over the rainbow bridge. I am mad that I am not happy.

I laid on a side street spread eagle on my back for a few minutes. I am exhausted and broken, but I know a few minutes alone dealing with it will point me back in the right direction. Eventually, I pull myself up and see Jenster walking down the street towards me.

Saturday 10:40 a.m.
Jenster and I walked down the street and wait to see Steve, Caitlin, and Angie come through the finish. There is nothing like watching people finish a marathon to cure you of moping. Within a few minutes of cheering and clapping, I shut down my sorry parade. It really didn't matter what the clock said or what place I came in or how tough it was. I'm lucky enough to be doing it and lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of really, really great people afterwards. And that's everything I need.