I don't even know where to begin this race report.
Let's start with the first week of school here in Doodlehem, which is actually more or less where the road begins. In a way. Actually, of course, the road began back in March, when everyone else and their moms (and sometimes their kids) gathered for the annual Shamrock Marathon and Sweet Caroline Sing-Along Fest in Virginia Beach. I, of course, was unable to even run for a minute on the treadmill under the watchful eye of my beloved physical therapist. So there I was. Deferred until 2012, eating and drinking as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, and in truth feeling kind of pissy about it. (I know. You're shocked. Me, pissy?)
So at some point later in the spring, when I was finally cleared to run for whole minutes at a time between walk breaks and rehab exercises, I signed up for RnR Virginia Beach. Somehow I felt like I ought to. Everyone else, of course, had already run it, back in 2008 or 2009, and I had yet to have the experience of slamming up the boardwalk....er, concretewalk....to the finish line, either in March or in September. I admit it. I was jealous. So, I signed up, figuring I'd have a chance to test my chops before Marine Corps and visit with at least some of the gang before school ate my brain.
Folks, this is not that race report. If you are looking for camaraderie, drunken sing-alongs at Il Giardino, late night trips to other people's rooms with more beer for the 14 people hanging out on the floor between two beds, rude comments from Carl, or folks with yellow pom-poms, go to another post. You will find no such chicanery here. This was a solo trip. Turns out I was one of precisely two people from our Old Folks' Home for Calcified Habitual Unrepentant Marathon group who ran this race, and the other one lives here. (And I saw him for all of about three minutes, not even in a row.)
Second of all, by the time the first week of classes was over, school had already eaten my brain. Two and a half days of teacher training (not as redundant as it sounds), twenty new faculty members, thirty new colleagues, two orientations, five meetings, four classes, nineteen and a half freshmen, and approximately fifteen vertical miles later, I was ready for a marathon nap, not a half marathon. Plus, I had just found out that unlike the rest of the free North American world, I actually had a full day of work and classes on Labour Day. Yeah. This meant I would be making a 24 hour turnaround on a six-hour drive. With a bad back. And 13.1 miles in the middle. As Jimmy says, whooooooo-hoo!
So that's where my zombie ass started this weekend. With my alarm going off practically in the middle of the night on a Saturday morning so I could drive six hours on roads I was only moderately certain were not underwater or washed out from last week's hurricane, after having just experienced first-hand the horrifying realisation that oh my God, they're going to make me work for this PhD!
The trip down to Virginia Beach was uneventful, right up until I completely missed the exit for my hotel after leaving the Expo, because it wasn't there. Apparently Virginia is one of those states where exits sometimes happen from one direction but not the other. And suddenly there I was, in Norfolk. Fortunately, I actually know people in Norfolk, and was planning to meet them for supper later anyway. So I just went straight there and had a lovely visit with Nicole and Brian, who went out on a special pasta-buying excursion for me (they're a low-to-no-carb family for medical dietary reasons). I left Norfolk what seemed like fairly early, but thanks to the wonders of Google Maps I once again did not go straight to my hotel. Apparently sometimes "slight right onto Greenwich Ave" means "just go straight, through the traffic light, not turning your wheel from TDC at all." So I had a lovely tour of...I don't know, somewhere, banged an illegal U-turn in the middle of Princess Anne Road, stopped at a 7-Eleven and bought breakfast supplies, and finally made my way to my hotel. Where my credit card wouldn't process. Twice. Fortunately, I carry a spare (for just this reason, to be used only in direst of emergencies like the threat of having to sleep in my car, or finding a pair of shoes at the expo in my size) and finally--finally--I was ensconced in Room 225. At ten o'clock at night. With a D-tag to affix, a bib to pin on, compression shorts to wrestle, and a four AM wake-up call. Awesome.
When the wakeup call came, I seriously had no idea what that godawful noise was. It was almost as bad as Carl singing at me, except when it was over I still had to make my own coffee. Inserted myself into the gear I'd laid out before crashing, fueled, chugged my Gatorade, peed a couple of times for good measure--hey, this is me we're talking about here--and stumbled out to my car. My first thought on hitting the parking lot was that I was not cold. When there is dew on my windshield before dawn and I am half-dressed in spandex, I should be at least a little chilly. The fact that I was not made me a little uneasy about the weather for the day.
Miraculously, I managed not to get lost on my way to the Amphitheater shuttle lot (seriously, how do those of you who live in Virginia Beach ever find your way anywhere? Sunday afternoon I must have crossed Princess Anne Road another sixteen times getting to Military Highway. Maddening.) and onto a bus. Arrived at the Convention Center, where the start line was, and....it was still only barely six AM. WTF, over? (which was another contender for this RR's code name, for what it's worth.) So, I wandered around the runner's village aimlessly for a while, stretching and trying to wake up. Thought about peeing, but didn't. About quarter to seven, I decided to head for the porta-potties of doom, and turned around and ran smack into something orange and very solid. It was, in fact, our Gunz the K, who was annoyingly chipper for so early in the morning. He said hi, wished me luck, and I'm pretty sure I grunted incoherently at him in reply. I might not even have managed that.
Peed, got settled in my corral, a good half-hour from the start line, and waited. "To infinity and beyond" is not just the name of my corral because they ran out of numbers, but also because that's how long it takes to get to the start mat after the gun goes off.
When I finally got there, after a few brief minutes of wondering why the fuck I had signed up for another race, anywhere, ever, which is fairly standard for the first five minutes of a race, I ran some pretty ok, pretty solid and consistent miles. I remember thinking that, while generally slow, they were probably pretty fast for being my first two miles out of the corral. And I was right. I was taking my walk breaks, being mindful of my mechanics, and just generally having a relatively pain-free experience, excepting a very numb right foot because I was laced too tight. Coming down into mile four or so, I saw the lovely and effervescent (and, if possible, even oranger) Flex-meister tearing it up at mile 11. Partly exciting, because I hadn't clapped eyes on the man since MCM, but also partly horrifying, despite his 30-minute headstart on me. The next thing I saw was a lovely, chalk-white bit of graffiti on the pavement. Oh, how I love ON-ON. It is a sign and a wonder. And it was a good thing, too, because by the time I got to the turnaround and back to mile ten on the flip side, there was no beer, no hashers, no nothing, just a dent in the grass where their cooler had been. Speaking of signs, the best spectator sign by far was "Run Faster, Zombies Are Chasing You!" Of course, starting to feel the effects of running while undertrained and having been up since four AM, I was pretty sure we were the zombies. I chugged along the boulevard, slurping my beer, thinking lovely running thoughts and wondering if it was the alcohol that had me feeling a little warm.
It was not. It was the warmth. By mile 8, I was distinctly unhappy with the state of my internal temperature (and my surface temperature, Len.) The scenery was lovely, as this was the only part of the course on a winding, wooded country road like I'm used to, and the company was as grand as ever, but damn. I was not happy. The only thing that kept me propelling forward at my regular pace was that the three hour pace group hadn't passed me yet.
And then, between the water station that had run out of cups and made us drink out of pitchers (though the pouring it on our heads part was grand) and the turn back off of the base, they did. I pleaded with David to tell me he was actually ahead of pace. He wasn't, save for eight seconds. I said some choice words, mostly relating to reproductive functions, and limped along. My back felt pretty good still, but my innards were getting cooked. Humidity. Dry mouth. Nausea. Not fun.
Hobbled some more. Ran down the ramp pretty good, but then ran out of steam after it leveled out. Got to the boardwalk, and....well, notice I did not call it a boardrun. About a quarter mile out, in sight of the finish line finally (it's really hard to see past the mainstage when you're this short) I tried to kick it up. Couldn't. WTF, over? I looked at my watch and discovered I now had a new PW. Then, right at Mile 13, I said fuck it right out loud (startling someone's grandmother) and hobbled back into a survivor shuffle. Fuck this, fuck the other thing, fuck your mom, I am not walking across a finish mat. Ever. I will crawl across one before I walk it.
In fact what I did is more or less launch myself across a finish mat, straight onto the arm of a medic who decided that perhaps he needed to catch me before I face-planted right there in front of God, everybody, and Frank Shorter. I wanted nothing more than to put my head between my knees--or at least close to my knees--but got the "Oh no, keep moving sweetheart." (How about no? How about I hurl half-digested blackberry Gu up on you? Nothing personal, it just seemed the only response I was capable of at the time. It was, in short, what I had to work with.) He escorted me quite a ways, hanging onto my elbow while trying to keep his shoes out of further Gu-hurling trajectory (I came up empty anyway) and feeding me salt packets. He decided I was well enough to leave when I asked him if he happened to have a wedge of lime in his pocket too. He allowed as how he didn't have any tequila either. So we parted ways, and I wandered onto the beach looking for my free mediocre beer. Instead, I found the Dailymile group sign, complete with my own personal Where's Waldo, the once again randomly appearing Gunz. I mean, he does live there and everything, but still. Enough with the leaping out from behind random people and appearing, already. Hung out a few minutes, mostly squatting down as every time I stood up I felt like zombie ass. Got to finally get a bear hug from Flex-o-rama, which was probably (sadly) the high point of my weekend, got yelled at to "drink, woman!" whenever Mike noticed I was not face-first in my water bottle, and eventually wandered dizzily over to gear check. In the process, I lost both guys, but immediately my thoughts were otherwise occupied as their friend Rich picked that moment to pass completely out. Knowing I couldn't help catch him, I did the only thing I could think of: grabbed his beer before it spilled. He woke right back up, I poured some cold water on the towel around his neck, and he decided to stand up again. A brief game of rock em sock em robot in reverse ensued, as he went down two or three times in a row, scaring the crap out of me, his friends, and the two medics. It turns out to have been a blood sugar plus heat plus standing around in one place in the sun for too long thing, which just goes to show that even an experienced runner can sometimes be an idiot in new and fascinating ways.
After we got Rich squared away, I felt like I could leave (not only was I not about to leave a friend of a friend--or even a complete stranger--who was in medical distress, my gear-check bag was propping up his feet) and made my way back to the shuttle. At this point I was feeling physically better, but my brain had developed a pretty good case of zombie ass too. I couldn't figure out my next plan. So I drove to Nicole and Brian's for a shower and a nap, having already checked out of my hotel room (at four am. Just had to get that in there one more time.)
Leaving town I got turned around (not quite lost, but not quite not-lost either) no fewer than three times (which I confess led to a very rude text to poor Mike asking him what the fuck was with the people who designed these roads) and then proceeded to get pulled over on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The worst part of this was not the humiliation, nor was it the fact that I am on a grad student budget, nor was it even the fact that I was not the only one speeding--in fact, I was merely keeping up--but the only one with out-of-state plates in my fleet. No, the worst part of this was he took twenty-five minutes to write up my ticket. While my thighs and ass were there calcifying. Also, six hours. PA. Morning class. Lecture notes. Caffeine. Coherence. Ringing any bells yet?
The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful except for the realisation of how long it's been since I used to drive out to Indiana to see my boyfriend in the nineties and would always start the road trip with the Indigo Girls catalogue. Just for nostalgia, I did the same on this trip, and even round trip I wasn't able to make my way through the entire thing. I still have two albums to go, and I didn't even do rarities, B sides, live albums, or other miscellaneous crap. I didn't even used to be able to get across Pennsylvania before I got to the end of their discography. Weirdness. Old. I has it.
Got home, pried myself out of the car without use of a shoehorn, opened my front door and found that one of the cats (I'm looking at you, fuzzy black kitten) had not only dug in, but crapped in, a houseplant.
Some races are just like that.