To be fortunate enough to travel.
To be confident enough to road trip alone (and smart enough to fix my overheated car!).
To be healthy enough to not only run a marathon, but to pace a time that I was following just 4 years ago.
To be surrounded by inspiring people all weekend long.
Everything just seemed so damn fabulous and I was pinching myself that this was my reality.
Megan painted my nails Thursday night ala Rock n' Roll themed. (Btw, she's my best friend. You can't have her.)
What weirdo stops to run in a town named Climax?
Jen and I catch up briefly and then we drove to the airport to pick up Angie. We had a little time to kill before getting Caitlin at the train station so we drank IPAs and talked about running.
In the morning, we headed over the Umstead for a short shakeout run. We ran for about a mile before intersecting with the Umstead 50/100 course and followed the trail until reaching a 3-way intersection. There was a nearby aid station and we cheered on runners for a bit until heading back. We were just chatting and cheering and all of a sudden, I saw Jay running the opposite direction. I met him at Hinson Lake and he ran miles 97.5-100.5 with me. He was literally the only person besides the timer to see me cross the finish line of my first 100 miler! Naturally, I turned around and ran with him for a short while before letting him carry on with his race. But not before getting in his race photo.
I finally made my way back to my other friends and we walked along the course for a bit cheering on runners and enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.
Eventually, we wandered back to the car and got cleaned up. Jen took us to a great rooftop restaurant where we enjoyed beer (notice a theme?) and lunch.
It was ridiculously fun.
At least 50% of the fun was because I was teamed up with Rogelio and we were either talking about running or cracking jokes the entire 5 hours. We were slinging hamburgers and encouraging runners all afternoon. While I am super tempted to come back and try to run, I would be thrilled to come back and volunteer.
At 8 pm, I was sad to leave, but knew that we had to try to grab dinner and sleep for our own marathons in the morning. Though I had been snacking all afternoon (a hot dog here, a piece of pizza there....), I was ready to try to top of the calories. Ha!
I met the other pacer, Teresa and she said that she was just coming off of a foot injury and might peel off at 11-12 miles. I told her that I was happy she didn't seem super OCD about the whole thing and would just kind of go with the flow depending on the hills, water stops, etc.
Rock n' Roll actually does a great job of stopping each corral at the start by 30 seconds to alleviate congestion on the course. Perhaps because I was holding the sign and people were bunched behind me I never felt like I had to do any weaving? Teresa and I chatted for the first few miles about very basic stuff and a few runners came up and introduced themselves as they ran alongside us.
I panicked a bit when we hit the first mile marker too fast and constantly was looking at my wrist to try to stay on pace. I had printed off 2 wrist bands with pacing charts on them. One that was perfectly even splits of 8:34 the entire way and one that accounted for the hills that was an even effort. We continued to trend under by about 5-10 miles the first few miles, but I knew that the back half was loaded with hills as well so I was hoping that anyone that might still be with me might appreciate a slightly slower pace. Bad pacer!
The weather was pretty perfect for most people. I was too warm as always, but I dumped water over my head a few times. The easier pace effort made me really glad I wasn't going for a PR. Too warm and too hilly for a PR effort.
I only glanced back a few times to see the pack of runners following my little stick slowly dwindle as the mileage increased. Once we reached the split where the half-marathoners took a different course, we were really a small pack. Teresa disappeared from my sight for a bit, but I kept moving ahead and looking at my watch trying desperately to not screw up someone's race.
Just after the turnaround at Meredith College around mile 10 or so, I saw Teresa pull ahead of the group and slowly increase the pace. I panicked a bit, looking at my watch and seeing we were at an 8:10 pace. I didn't want to try to catch her because we were already trending under, but I was concerned that maybe I was doing something wrong? But I had the pacing stick sign, so I just let her go and assumed that maybe she was just going to peel off and stop.
As we headed into the teens, my core group made themselves known. I talked a little with Clark, running his first marathon, and John and Patrick who had some pretty amazing times in their running career and were looking to run a little faster than 3:45. I tried to make sure to pump up the crowds as we ran by and wahooed as much as possible. I collected a bunch of high-fives and thanked as many police officers and volunteers as I could. I took a grape otter pop from a cute little girl and got "lei'd" around mile 22.
By the time we got into the last hour or so, the core group were the ones left standing. I knew everyone was hurting. My pain was masked by the task at hand. Somehow my mind covered up the fact that I had run 22-23 miles and getting these guys to the finish was my #1 priority. I was smiling so much that my face hurt. Around mile 24, John and Patrick decided to stay on our slightly faster pace while I held back a bit aiming to come in as close to 3:45 as possible.
Clark stuck with me and trudged up the hills even after I lied and told him there were no hills. I told him and another guy around mile 25 that they can do anything for 10 more minutes. Just 10 more minutes! He was hurting bad, but still moving and I backed off the pace to ensure that I didn't lose him in the final stretch. Once we crested the actual last hill, he finally was able to see the finish line and shot out ahead of me.
So I came down the final quarter mile of the finishing chute by myself. Womp, womp. I actually stopped to give the Geico Gecko a hug to kill off a few seconds. 3:43:56 was my finish time. A minute fast. Oops. Bad pacer!
John, Casey, and Caitlin all found me around the same time and we were all smiles with all of our races successfully completed!
But instead of feeling sad as I headed down the road with the windows cracked on a 65 degree day, classic rock jamming loud, and a car full of stinky running gear, I was feeling lucky. This life stuff can be sticky and complicated and crazy, but it also can be simple and spontaneous and undeniably fun.