This is the race I accidentally spectated last year, having signed up for the so-called "Dolphin Challenge" sometime before all the ass-foolery that sidelined me. So I had a special appointment with St. Patrick's Day weekend in Virginia Beach this year.
Um, you might have noticed some talk about my complete lack of training. There was a lot of that. Some of you seriously underestimate my ability to undertrain. I was deeply worried not only about potential reinjury (honestly, though, aren't you getting tired of hearing that? I'm getting tired of worrying about it, frankly) but also complete mortification and being lapped by marathoners who started 15 miles and 90 minutes south of me.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. (See? I even got lapped by this blog post.)
Crazy week, crazy semester, packed in about fifteen minutes Thursday night without doing laundry (which resulted in a very funky sports bra experience during the 8k, I am sorry to say) and by the time I left Friday morning I was sure I'd forgotten something, or my leg was going to fall off, or I was going to be arrested on entering the State of Virginia, or I don't know what all. I just didn't feel focused. I did, however, manage not to get lost driving around the Hampton Roads area for the first time in the history of the universe. Not once all weekend. I did miss a turn, but it was hiding behind a shrub. Not even my iPhone was expecting it to be there. Went straight to the expo, missing the Blisses, Jerry, and Gunz by about three minutes. Of course. Spent about a minute and a half in it picking up both bibs, scoring a pair of my favourite Mizunos for less than my monthly internet bill, and yakking with Team Hoyt VB and these fine ladies from LiveSTRONG, as they know a friend of mine from last year's Ride for the Roses.
|LiveSTRONG ladies say hi Rica!
Left the expo in a big hurry, ran into the only other two people I know in the area, one of whom I've known since high school, checked into the hotel, and hoofed it up Atlantic Avenue to meet the crew for dinner.
Whereupon of course it started raining. Bucketing, actually. By the time I got to the restaurant, my hair was soaked, my Chucks were soaked, my underwear was soaked--then I hugged Gunz and Gunz was also soaked. Hey, I warned him. Had a sad bowl of mac and cheese that was actually quite good and seemed to be penne in alfredo sauce, but I really wanted chicken alfredo. Alas, it was Friday. It was Lent. I may not be really good about being Catholic in ways that matter, but for the life of me I can't eat meat on a Lenten Friday. To save my life.
After a certain amount of beer,
and several goofy multi-race plans for the fall (go ahead, Gunz, I dare you; no, I double devil-dog dare you to run back-to-back marathons on back-to-back weekends) and lovely conversations with Deb's mom Billie (the titular one, in fact), I was escorted back to my hotel on the ass end of the planet--seriously, it's the only thing further out of town than my start corral--and only managed to be a moderate asshole to Gunz after he delivered me to my doorstep. I must be losing my touch. Anyway, got upstairs to my room and a text and turned on the TV just in time to see the last six seconds of holy shit possibly the biggest upset in the history of NCAA basketball. Seriously. The one weekend I'm not in town, and this happens. We do love us some CJ, here in Doodlehem.
Needless to say, that wrecked any pretense of sleep for the next hour. Add to that the beer, the restlessness, the general stupidity, and I kid you not I was up every 90 minutes until 5:45 when the alarm went off. I was not a happy FireCat.
The 8k was kind of fun--the best thing about a distance like that is it's an automatic PR. Yes, I've never run an 8k before. They can't count to eight in Pennsylvania, everything has to be a multiple of five. Didn't feel awful, didn't feel great, just ran. And then they gave me beer and cookies. I was back in the hotel by eleven, tried desperately (and failed) to nap for a lot of the afternoon. Caught up on some reading for school. Laid low. Didn't even get down to the beach the entire weekend because any time I wasn't running, it was cold and grey and foggy and windy as hell. Seriously?
Oh, also let me not forget to mention the extreme stomach distress that immediately followed the 8k. I attributed it to something weird I'd eaten (probably the Filet O Fish on the drive down, because...you know, Friday) but things were....ahem. Well. Unpleasant. And mostly not in a way that you can take care of by puking in the middle of the street, which as we all know is perfectly acceptable behaviour during a distance race. So I was really worried about Sunday. Didn't eat a lot at dinner, stayed with whole wheat pasta with chicken and broccoli, no cheese whatsoever, no dessert, no beer...all in all it was a very sad dinner. Also, there was no Sweet Caroline sing-along this year, because we couldn't get reservations there. Still, good craic and I didn't actually get sick during dinner.
By Sunday morning the worst of the grumblies had settled down, and I hadn't yarfed in like 15 hours, so I figured I was good to go. Or as good as it was going to get. I had no plan. My plan was to run until I fell over, let the medics tape me up, and then run some more. Actually, that's not too far from my usual plan. I decided to stay with Deb, who was staying with her mom Billie, for as long as I could, judging from the times at the 8k. And damn, those ladies are some fine pacers. Billie just puts her head down and goes. Deb gives her advice or split times or pace from time to time, but mostly just does the border collie thing and keeps Billie in sight. I trained my eyes on Deb's Michigan visor and imprinted on them like a little baby duck (apologies to one of you, because I know I stole that from someone who ran Wineglass in the shitting-down rain last year, but I forget who) and just kept waddling and quacking.
Despite feeling like I was going to die a couple of times, I also felt good some of the time, and managed to keep up their pace until about Mile 8.5, when I started to get that head-squeezy feeling that says, "Um, you should walk now." And, really, if that's going to happen, Fort Story is not a bad place for it. So I let my mama ducks go and did some check-in with myself. And my self was starting to think this was stupid. On the other hand, there were no fewer than FOUR, count them FOUR beer stops (ok, one was the Hashers on the return loop) so I was getting lots of good carbs at least, some of it served to me by my friend Moo in a green dress. (Let me explain that Moo is a guy. Thus, green dress being notable.) More than anything, I was tired, and warm. Nothing particularly hurt. No, wait. I mean, it hurt, but it didn't....you know, hurt hurt.
Hit Mile 10 in pretty decent time. Hit Mile 11 in...wait a minute. Is that right? That can't be right. Hit the LiveSTRONG corner right at Mile 13 and realised that unless I fell over and required medical assistance in the next 150 yards, I was somehow going to PR in a race for which I was completely untrained. I'll be damned. The Nita Training Plan works.
Hit the mat, got my medal, got my cookies and beer, found Deb and her mom and Jerry (who had also all had really good races) and stood around kicking ourselves for not signing up for alerts for Gunz, who was running the full. In a kilt. Because he is an idiot. But he's our idiot.
|There are some things you can never unsee.
This is one of them. You're welcome.
After a good while I found Flex. Flex! Flexmeister! Flexorama! Also known as Jon Leiding, Flex had just tied himself to four other men and set a Guinness World's Record by running the marathon in 3:06 (which is also within 90 seconds of his PR not tied to anybody, as far as I can remember).
|I love Flex. Big Flexy love.
Stood around yakking with Flex and his wife, Nicole, and Shep. Still no Gunz. Decide to head for my car. It was then that I remembered that Gunz is like Goldbug from my old Richard Scarry books. He's always popping up somewhere when I'm not looking for him. Therefore, I proceeded to run smack damn into him. And he did not look particularly good. In fact, he looked like I'd felt most of the day before, like he just wanted to find the nearest couch and sack out for three or four days. Still, it was nice to know he wasn't dead.
Ran into Nicole around then and ended up waiting with her for her husband, finishing his first full marathon. When he finally limped in, he looked like hell, but once he crossed the finish line reality set in and he was floating on air. I have never seen someone more proud of an accomplishment, and I doubt anyone deserves to be. In the last year and a half, Brian has lost 150 pounds and started exercising for the first time really ever. And here he is, a marathoner. Damn, Whitaker. Way to earn that medal, bro. Wear it proud. (PS, you look really good in running shorts.)
By this time I was hungry, cranky, having post-race, post-seeing-my-friends letdown, and had a six-hour drive home. And class to teach in the morning. Ugh. So I hit the road. Made pretty decent time up the Eastern Shore, but still didn't get home in time to hear Lehigh lose to Xavier (thanks for keeping me updated via constant text, Deb!) As usual, couldn't be arsed to take a hot soaky bath. Just went straight the fuck to bed. Woke up the next morning to discover that Billie had placed second in her age group! Go mom! Also woke the next morning to discover that my quads were, in fact, entirely trashed. Colour me surprised.
Needless to say, I did not hold office hours in my third floor office on the side of a mountain Monday morning. If anybody really needed me, they could follow the creaking to the first floor lounge.
So. Not a particularly memorable race, partly because I was focusing really hard on keeping up (the thing I remember most clearly on the course, sadly, is the remains of a car-flattened fox in First Landing State Park) but memorable as always for the company I kept, and the stupid ideas we came up with for next time.