Someone said they had been checking the blog to see if I had
come back to the world of the living after the race, and I did (much more
quickly than I had expected), but then work and life and sick children and a
stomach virus all my own took me down from the side.  I never even saw it coming.  However, I have recovered.

The race was a great success.  I did it, I finished well, I had fun doing it, and I didn’t
feel nearly as bad afterwards as I figured I would.  I’m pretty sure that Crystal and I trained the right way;
otherwise, I think I would have felt far worse.  Don’t get me wrong—I felt pretty rough on Saturday
night.  It felt as though my femur
bones were throbbing, I had bleeding sores on my Achilles tendons, I was really
tired, and I even had the slightest temperature, which I figure was just a sign
of inflammation.  But four
Ibuprofen and two beers later, I was asleep for the next nine to ten hours and
felt great the next day.  I
wouldn’t even say I was as sore as I’ve been after some tough workouts.  And Monday, usually the worst post-race
day, was no worse.  As far as
preparation goes, I don’t think I could have done any better.  The first lesson here is that preparation
is key.

The race itself was fun too.  The weather, after a long and cold, wet winter, was
perfect.  It was about 38 degrees
when we got to the park at the Yadkin River that morning, but the sun was out
and there was no wind.  Over the
course of the day, it warmed to the mid-60’s.  Once we started moving, we warmed up pretty quickly, and I
was comfortable in a tank top the whole day. 

Between the marathon and the half-marathon, there were
probably 170 runners or so.  I’ve
looked at results and should know this, but I don’t.  All I know is that I placed 5th in the marathon
women.  I had run with the fourth
place girl for a large portion of the race around the top of the mountain and
then back down, but she eventually went on ahead when the rockiness of the
trail began to get the better of me.
I was trying to keep up for a while, but she was a better technical
runner, and when I began to trip and fall and almost took out an innocent
bystander, I decided to back off a bit and maintain a little control.  After all, I did want to finish with
all my teeth.  I never even saw
that girl, whose name is Liz, again.
In fact, once the race was over, I assumed she had beaten me by a
significant margin, but when I looked at the results, I saw that she had come
in only five minutes ahead of me.
This made me really regret the seven minutes I spent sitting on a toilet
at the Visitor’s Center aid station.

The only issue I had during the race was about an hour of
nausea.  My second lesson of the
day was to not eat solid foods during a run.  I know everyone else does it, and I was told I should to,
but let me tell you, solid food is not my friend during a race.  Hammer-gel is the way to go.  So, anyway, at the aid station, I tried
to see if indeed I might throw up or at least use the bathroom to alleviate
some of the stomach cramping and sick feeling.  No dice.
However, I did sit down, regroup and splash cold water on my face, and
it made the last part a little easier.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t smacking my own forehead, though, when I
discovered Liz had come in only five minutes before me.  I possibly sacrificed fourth place for
time on a toilet.  Now there’s
something I never imagined I’d say.
And this brings me to the third lesson.  Don’t assume anything.

Jason had told me to never assume another runner was too far
away or that I wasn’t close to anyone, from in front or behind.  The thing about running on a trail in
the woods is that you can be right on someone’s heels, or they on yours, and
cover miles before you ever lay eyes on them.  In shorter races, five minutes would be insurmountable for
me, but at that distance, it’s different.
Could I have made up the time and run any faster?  What if I hadn’t taken the bathroom
break?  Who knows? I may have felt
worse at the end without the potty stop or maybe it would have been about the
same or maybe if she’d seen me, she would have opened up and beaten me anyway,
but the point is I assumed she had run away and that she was just better.  I don’t think I’ll do that next time.

Other valuable insights that should be noted is that my
short, not too sleek body can do some amazing things, that everyone feels like
their quads are on fire and that they can’t possibly move any faster (at least
according to Jason, though he may have been trying to comfort me in the last
two miles), that my posture sucks and needs some intense work, that pizza after
nearly six hours of running isn’t nearly as good as you might think it will be,
and that there’s nothing better than a finish line with two little kids jumping
up and down and screaming, “Go, mommy!”

However, the most important thing I took away from this
experience is that nothing, not even first place, beats good friends and
family.  From the beginning of this
silly quest to do “something crazy”, Rob and the kids have been more than
supportive, often spending entire Saturdays or Sundays without me so that I
could go run for hours in the rain, wind and snow.  Rob went on his lunch breaks to buy packets of Hammer Gel
for me and was waiting patiently (not his favorite thing) with the video camera
in hand when I finished.  Harper
Lee and Isaac were the voices of encouragement when other people said it was
probably a stupid thing to do.  My
favorite coach and dear friend who said he wasn’t going to be able to come to
the race at all showed up anyway.
Halfway through the race, I wondered if he might be there waiting for us
at the finish, but then I didn’t think about it again until I came around a
bend in the trees and heard that familiar voice saying, “Good job, girl.”  I didn’t even have to look up but was
all smiles because he was there.
And speaking of finishing, the last two miles might not have been nearly
so pleasant without Jason.  The
encouraging words and general distraction were very helpful, and I had to try
to finish well when the guy who won the whole stinkin’ race came two miles back
down the trail to run in with me. 

And, of course, I can’t forget my partner in all of
this.  It was a long, weird winter
that started back at Thanksgiving when Crystal said, “There’s a marathon in
Pilot Mountain.  Don’t tell anyone,
but I’m thinking about training for it.”
That was many miles ago.  I
told her once that there aren’t a whole lot of people I would want to trudge
around in the woods with for hours on end every single weekend, but she
definitely makes the short list.  We
know each other better than ever and, miracle of all miracles, we still like
each other.  It was better and far
cheaper than therapy.

Overall, the whole thing was a valuable learning
experience.  I think I’ll probably
do it again; I may even try a couple of different races, and I’ll definitely
keep running trails.  I’m not
kidding about the therapeutic benefits of that one.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be any good at this kind of stuff
or win any prizes or anything, but I had as much fun doing this as anything
I’ve done in a while, and that’s a lesson in itself.  Life is long, or at least I hope it will be, and while it’s
nice to win, just doing the best I can is really all that matters.  Don’t assume anything, prepare
yourself, don’t eat too much, give yourself a little credit once in a while, stand
up straight and surround yourself with good people who love you—that sounds
like a sound race strategy.