Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sarasota Grouper Half Marathon Race Report

I might have slept 2 hours the night before the race. I just could not relax. I met Reg and Mike outside at 4:45am, Reg was driving. We parked less than a mile away and did a fast paced walk to the starting area. By the time we got there we were already sweaty and feeling sticky. It was soooo humid! Not good at 5:45am already.

I spotted Ed, Joan, Mike, Frank and Josephine as we walked over. They rode in on the "love machine". That's Ed and Joan's camper we took to the Endurance races over the summer. They invited us to ride with them but we wimped out for the extra hour of sleep. Seeing them pile out of the love machine made me wish I sucked it up and rode with them (for a split second...lol) My husband opted to sleep a little later too and would be meeting us at the finish line. With the hours he's been putting in, I was feeling the love when Bobby said he wouldn't miss this one.

We went to the 9 minute pace corral and felt the excitement all around us. I truly, truly love this part of all the races. Everyone is happy and excited. It's palpable. Sharing the road with over 2000 fellow runners is an amazing feeling. Running can be such a lone sport, to be surrounded by so many people who share this crazy love makes me happy.

We sang the national anthem...even Reg from Canada sang it! He knows all the words! I am impressed! The gun went off and we kinda did a little skippy run through the crowd. It was pitch black, a few spot lights were shining but it was still hard to see ahead of us. I was behind and to the right of Reg (my usual spot). At about a quarter mile out from the start I saw a man in front of Reg jump up and over. Unfortunately, Reg was too close to see that it was an orange cone the man was jumping over. Reg hit it full speed and went flying. It was very dark and I hoped against hope it wasn't Reg, but it was. I stopped and helped him up but it was too dark to see anything. I asked him if he wanted to pull out but he refused. This was just one of the many moments of determination Reg would be showing while running this race.

Let me stop here a minute to remind all of you something. This half marathon was going to prove to me that I either would continue to run distance or become "Princess Of The 5K Races". I have neuropathy in both feet/ankles and have a "yet to be diagnosed" problem with my muscles following commands, feeling sensations and cramping from hip to feet whether I'm running or sleeping. Balance has also been an issue. Very frustrating.

Reg came to the gym I work at to sign up while he would be here visiting from Canada. I had the good fortune to be working when he walked in and I instantly recognised his runner legs. You know what I mean. So I casually mentioned Runners Club was meeting the next morning. He said he'd be there. I asked him if he did marathons and he said no, 15k's were his longest races and he had no wish to ever do even a halfer. He runs those distances, he just never had a desire for the half or fulls. I told him I was hoping to do the Sarasota Half but he was less than interested. At that time, lol.

We have become very good friends while I frantically try to keep up with him. He knows about my leg issues and has been so supportive. We did all my long run preparations for this half together. He supported me all the times I had to stop, either from leg fatigue or pain. He knew how worried I was about this race. Then one day he said he was going to run the half with me. I was very surprised. What I didn't realize at this time was Reg meant RUN WITH ME. I finally got it when he said we'd cross the finish line together, no matter what. Words cannot begin to describe my feelings. I'll leave it at that. I'm sure you know.

I kept telling him if he felt the urge to fly to just go, I'd be fine and meet him at the finish line but he ignored me. At the starting line we hugged and said good luck. I again told him to go if he felt the pull. He said NO WAY. Wow.

All of this went through my mind as I saw Reg falling. As I helped him to his feet I asked if we should pull out, he said no and away we went. As we ran he told me he thought his elbow was bleeding, his knees were sore too but we couldn't see yet. Then the sun started to come up. I was behind Reg and saw a very large dark spot on his brand new pure white singlet. He was bleeding. A lot. I thought it was his side but it turned out to be that elbow. He had blood pooling in his hand! We started watching for a med tent. I was so worried it made me have to pee! Good friend I am, huh??? He's bleeding out and I had to stop THREE times at the port-a-potty. In line too. Reg waited every time.

At about this point I spotted Sondra, Sherry's friend. Reg was up a little ways so I was talking with Sondra as we ran around a huge cull-de-sac type circle. Reg ran back to me to tell me he saw a med tent but we had to back track a little. He had the nerve to tell me to go on. Like I'd leave him. I told Sondra we'd see her at the finish line and I followed Reg to the med station. OMG...that was a nasty, nasty cut. The doctor said he needed stitches. I told Reg we were stopping the race. Here's where he showed his determination a second time by saying NO. I reminded him he was BLEEDING and needed STITCHES. He asked the doc to dress it up and back on the road we went. We caught back up to the 2:15 pacer, we were happy to see him. I was feeling some leg fatigue by now, kinda earlier than usual but I put it out of my head. I could see Reg's elbow was bleeding through the bandage. We watched it until he finally decided it needed to be redone. A different med tent was back at least a half mile. Reg again told me to go on, he'd catch up but of course I ignored him as we ran back to the doctors.

There were 3 doctors at this station. They were very nice. They all cleaned him up and asked if he was planning on stopping at this point. Reg asked if it was safe to continue and they said yes. I had mixed feelings at this point about continuing but as the doctors bandaged Reg I saw that look of determination for a third time. I didn't bother to voice my worries.

Getting started back up after this 10-15 minute break was very hard for me. Reg is in fantastic shape and I could tell I was sooo holding him back. There's a small hill at the bridge, the bridge itself is a steep incline and my legs were not into it. I wanted to cry. I was glad Reg was ahead of me and couldn't see. A couple times he got pretty far ahead of me and when he turned to check on me and saw I was too far back, he'd stop and wait. I told him to go on. He said we would cross that finish line together.

I saw so many friends and that kept me happy. As guilty as I felt holding Reg back, I was so thankful every time he stopped to wait for me. By mile 9 I was hurting. I was also mad. I pulled Reg into a race I couldn't even run. I felt so emotional. I realized my bad attitude would only make us miserable so I sucked it up. I walked/ran pretty much the last 2.5 miles. At about this point I heard the pitter patter of big Asics wearing Mike feet...LOL...he'd caught up with us and was just enjoying himself. A couple times while running I stopped and hoped they'd lose me. I wanted Reg to get a strong finish, but every time he knew when I fell behind.

When we saw the mile 13 marker we said goodbye to Mike. He'd decided to run it last minute and ran it bandit, had to skip the finish line. We ran to the finish line together. I saw Bobby and that gave me an adrenaline rush as we crossed the line. I was so relieved to see my husband. He was relieved to see me too because it took us a lot longer than I told him it would. He told me later he was worried I'd be upset to not PR. I was. And am still, but all in all I am glad we ran it.

Finish time: 2:46:16....oh man...LOL

Reg went to the doctor yesterday but I haven't heard from him yet to find out if he did get stitches. He told me he felt fine as far as the run but was sore from the fall. He admitted he's a bit disappointed with our little journey through Sarasota too. Can't blame him.

I saw Sherry and Sondra at the finish line. They did fantastic, I'm so proud of them both. Sherry knows how I felt about this race and I knew I couldn't fool her. Sherry and Sondra let me cry and be sad. It's a girly thing I think, to be able to just be honest with the grief I was feeling and cry a little right then. They both stayed and talked with me for a while. It meant the world to me. I hope they know it. xoxoxo

I rode home with my husband, who knew how I felt without us even having to say a word. He said all the right things and listened to me ramble on all day. We went out to dinner that night, just us. It was so nice. We had a quiet evening together and I felt so much better.

So, here I am with all kinds of emotions. It took me this long to write this post because I feel so torn. While I'm happy I can run, I really wanted to run Boston someday. But unless this problem with my legs gets solved that isn't going to happen. Then there's a little voice inside me that's saying "how bout one more try"....