The plan was for me and Rachael to hit the road by 11am. Then that Julia Roberts movie came on TV -- the one where she fakes her own death to escape her abusive husband. I got sucked in, then Rachael got sucked in and then some how we didn't leave Brooklyn until 3:30. Whoops.
We were heading to Utica on Saturday to run the Boilermaker 15k on Sunday morning. The race attracts about 12,000 runners each year, perhaps because it ends at the Utica Club Brewery, where racers are rewarded with unlimited free beer.
Last year we'd both run the 5k version of the race, along with my mother and sister. This course is less popular and less celebrated. I felt great when I got to the finish line and joined the post-race party. But then as the 15k runners started arriving, I got the feeling that maybe I was second rate. I should have - could have - tried harder and run the big race.
So this year I was determined to make it happen. For months I'd been training, usually running 6 - 7 miles at a time, though pushing myself to 8 on occasion. And twice I'd come just shy of running the full race distance of 9.2 miles, but I wanted to save that accomplishment for the race itself.
I felt really confident that I'd kick the boilermaker's ass because whenever I ran in training it was a breeze. Well, not totally a breeze, but I could keep a good pace and keep my energy up.
Of course, there was the matter of my bad foot. Two weeks before the race, while I was at a friend's house, I was making my way to the fridge for a beer (hey, we all have our pre-race diets) and halfway there my foot started to ache. I shook it out, rotated my ankle a bit and kept going. Throughout the rest of the night my foot would feel fine one moment, and absolutely terrible the next. The following morning, when I got out of bed and first put weight on it, I nearly collapsed because it hurt so badly. I presumed I must have hurt it while running and it took a while for the full effect to kick in.
I decided to stay off it until the race and fortunately, in that time, whatever I'd done to it reversed itself and I was no longer limping and hobbling through life. However, this meant I hadn't run in two weeks and I wasn't sure if I'd messed up my endurance.
The day before the race I was well behaved. I ate good food and drank plenty of water. Too much water, perhaps, as I had to get up and pee like 5 times during the course of the night and as a result I missed out on some valuable sleep.
The following morning, the house --Devin's parents' house in Utica -- was abuzz with runners: me, Rachael, Devin's sister's friend, Devin's mom, my mom (who planned to run the 5k again because "9 miles? What am I gonna do that for?"). I honestly didn't feel nervous. Rachael was anxious, but I kept saying, "Just do whatever. Walk if you have to, but you've been training so I'm sure you'll be fine."
Here we are before the race.
And here we are after, at the post race party.
I know, we look sort of the same. But what you can't tell from these pictures is that for the hour and a half between them I was dying.
I started off doing ok. I felt like I always do. Hotter than usual, and not used to the humidity, but otherwise nothing unusual. It was around mile 4 that I started to feel barfy, sluggish and dizzy. This was unexpected. At this point in my training 4 miles was a piece of cake. And I never felt ill when I ran. What was happening to me?
I kept on, ignoring how I felt. At about 6 miles, I got the attention of Rachael, who was running near me, and told her I was going to fall back for a bit to see if I could regroup. She trotted ahead and I slowed my pace. Sadly, it didn't really help. I was willing my legs not to stop, and yet they seemed to have a mind of their own. They were ready to walk. I was not. I kept going.
By the time I got to mile 8 I'm pretty sure I was nearing total meltdown. I was so furious with my body for failing me. For months I'd been running several times a week, waking up early to fit in 7 miles before work in the morning, sacrificing a Sunday of sleeping in to make sure I completed a long run before it got too hot outside. And now here I was, at the main event, and I could barely put one foot in front of the other.
The problem with wanting to give up during a race is that you actually can't. Even if I just walked off the road and sat in a shady patch of grass, I'd still have to some how get to the finish line to meet up with everyone else. So I walked for a minute, then ran a little more, then walked a little more, then ran a little more. It was heartbreaking to be at my worst when everyone else whizzing by me was thinking "Almost there! I'll just give it my all!"
Anyway, I made it to the end. My time sucked. I felt awful. I was really proud of everyone else, and sorry for myself. But such is life. After a few minutes of standing still, a bottle of water, and a cold beer I was feeling good again.
Now the question remains -- do I try again next year?
Following the race I rode with my parents to their house, where I spent 2 days doing nothing. Really. Nothing. It was great. Of course, my relaxed state of being was destroyed by my spontaneously canceled return flight home and the panicked rescheduling that followed.
But I won't get into that here. I'll end on a happy note: At least the race is done.