Monday, October 15, 2012

Four Weeks, Four Races

The Great Race
 Before the race, and after

A few weeks back I mentioned that Verne, Collin, and I ran in Pittsburgh's Great Race, but I never wrote any more about it. It was a busy weekend, and we had a very late night the evening before as we attended the Pirate game and then headed out for an extra late supper. Sleep was elusive, and we woke early to get to the starting line on time.

We drove to my brother's home, which was a ten minute walk to the starting line. We parked there, left Abigail in his charge, and made our way to the start. The air was brisk, and I was grateful. I prefer running in the cold.

The energy at the starting line was amazing. People were in such good moods. Everyone was talking, laughing, and singing. It didn't feel overly crowded, though there were 8200+ people participating. The gun went off, and the crowd started slowly moving. And then stopped. And then started moving. And then stopped. We were positioned about mid-way through the crowd of runners, and it took us nearly five minutes to reach the starting line. Thanks to chip-timing, our results would be based from the time we passed over the start line, and not from when the gun was fired.

The first mile was slow, but still so much fun! There was a man playing a bugle in his front yard, and the crowd of runners would yell, "CHARGE!" I waited for the crowd to thin out, but it never did. It started raining, which I didn't mind a bit. I actually love running in the rain. The Great Race is "predominately downhill", and when the roads became slick because of the rain, and the crowds were pressing in around me, I forced myself to slow down. A fast time isn't worth tripping and not only getting hurt, but possible being trampled. It truly was a little scary.

Once I slowed down, I mentally told myself to "just enjoy the experience." I really did enjoy running in the city, seeing the spectators cheering despite the pouring rain, and being a part of it all. Collin and Verne had long left me behind, and I was surprised to see Collin ahead of me shortly after mile 4. I intended to keep behind him, but felt myself inching closer as two older women were cheering to the crowd, "Don't stop! You're almost at the top, and it's all downhill from there!"  Just as I reached the top of the hill, Collin looked over his right shoulder and spotted me.

"Hello, Mom."

"Hello, Collin!"

"How long have you been there?"

And we continued to chat for a while until he found an opportunity to pull ahead of me once again. (Collin's entire goal was to be me.) I caught up with him once again, but near mile six he found the will to pull ahead, and left me behind. I was proud of him. He finished 24 seconds ahead of me, and there were roughly 125 people who finished between us. Yes, it was a very large race.

Verne beat both Collin and I, and loved the entire experience. Collin and I agreed that while the energy was fun, we didn't really enjoy running in that large of a crowd.

All in all, it was a great race. Haha. Get it?


The Color Run

The very next weekend after the Great Race, Abigail, Autumn, and I participated in The Color Run. I only started hearing about these races last spring, and immediately decided I wanted to do one. These races are mostly done by women, and are strictly for fun. There's nothing competitive about it. You start with a plain white t-shirt, and run(or walk) 3.1 miles passing  through several "color zones" where you are blasted with color. There are no awards, and there isn't even a clock.

We spent the night in a hotel, just us girls, with Autumn showing up around 2:15 AM because she'd had to work, and then make a drive to join us. Needless to say, we didn't sleep much that night either. Instead, we lay awake, giggling, and snuggling, and listening to Sufjan Stevens. (That was Autumn's doing!)

We woke early after very little sleep, and greeted the morning. We had been afraid it would rain and the race would be cancelled, but the rain stopped, and we faced icy air. It was in the mid-40's as we left the hotel.

Autumn looking very enthusiastic!

We made our way to the start, and jumped in behind everyone else already standing there. It was after we stood there waiting for about 30 minutes that we were told we were actually at the front of the line, and not the back. Oh, dear! 10,000 people and there we were, right up front. I was worried, thinking back to how it had been the previous week in Pittsburgh, and warned Autumn. "When they start, RUN!" And run, she did. I stayed with Abigail, and Autumn took off like a shot, afraid of being trampled. Thankfully, because the race wasn't timed, the crowd was very mild. 

Mac and his girlfriend arrived to watch early that morning too. Mac captured this shot and the one above. This is at the finish line. Everyone is given a packet of color, and after everyone is through, they count down and everyone throws their color at the same time. It was so much fun to be there with my girls. I do have to say that as the colors mixed, and the dust began to settle, I felt a little like we were in a nuclear explosion. As Mac watched from the sidelines, he said he had the same thoughts.

I thought Mac needed a little color, and hugged him. Here he is with both girls. 

My shoes after the race...and my socks. Oh, my! 

Although the color is, in effect, colored cornstarch, it does not come off of your skin easily. Or out of your hair! It made a lovely paste in my hair, and I had to work for quite some time to get it out. 

I think it's safe to say that all three of us had a great time!

Thin Mint Sprint

I'm saving all of my race t-shirts and making a quilt with them. When I saw that the Thin Mint Sprint shirt was going to be exceptionally cool, I wanted one. Problem? I was running a half-marathon the next day. I knew there was no way to run hard one day, and run a good half-marathon the next day, and so I wrote the race off. That is until Abigail said, "You could run it with me." See, Abigail runs slower than my training runs. Since I would do a three mile run the day before my half anyway, running with her would be perfect. If I was there solely to encourage her and be her "rabbit",  I wouldn't be tempted to run fast, and I'd have enough energy for the next day. Perfect solution! 

True to my word, I stuck with her, encouraging her along the way. I made her do fartleks along the course, and pushed her to go faster than she normally would. I didn't let her win, as I didn't want to patronize her, but I kept just far enough ahead to make her work harder. I'm so proud of my girl! She finished in 29:16, which is a good three minutes faster than her normal 5k time! She took first in her age group, got a cool t-shirt, and a box of Thin Mint cookies. You really can't beat that, can you?

I don't think I stopped smiling all day long. 

Iron Horse Half Marathon

After our morning race, we got cleaned up, took a walk, and lounged. We napped for awhile in the evening, and after Collin got off work we set out for a hotel close to the race. Once again, we had a late night. Surprisingly, I slept much better than I anticipated, and we were up early once again. 

Since my first half-marathon in the spring, I'd been planning on my next. I worked so hard building up to that first half, and then summer arrived. I'm not much for hot weather, and although I ran nearly every day, my mileage decreased significantly during the hotter months. I managed a few longer runs in the last two months, but didn't think I was in near the shape that I had been earlier in the year. Oh well. I knew I could finish the race, and that's what really matters. 

I woke feeling unusually laid back. I felt good, and wasn't at all nervous, though I had been earlier in the week. "Just enjoy the day," I told myself. 

Verne was checking his watch as we got in line for the porta potties. We heard the announcement, "Five minutes to race time." 

"So, what are you going to do?" he asked me. 

"What do you mean? I'm going to wait and use the bathroom! If I don't go now, I'll have to stop and go on the course. If you want to get in line, go ahead."

He chose to wait, too. Being the hygienic people we are, we both chose to use the portable hand-washing station as we exited our respective potties. I got lots of soap, and couldn't get it rinsed. There I stood, pumping my foot, desperately trying to get some water onto my hands, and the gun went off. We looked at each other, and shrugged. "Good thing it's chip-timed!" 

We made our way to the start, and started a slow run as we crossed under the chip sensors. Starting at the back isn't without advantages. Sure, you  have to weave in and out of hundreds upon hundreds of people if you want to move up, but you can't take off too fast and wear yourself out, either. 

The weather was warmer than I would have liked, being in the low 60's, but it was breezy, and felt pretty good. Verne and I made small talk when we weren't weaving this way and that. He'd had a bad night, and had an upset stomach, and I silently prayed for him. 

The early pink light of that mid-October morning was gorgeous, and I drank it in. This is my time of year. Crisp temperatures, spicy smells, a gentle breeze. It was perfection. Though there were throngs of people, it didn't feel nearly as crowded as the races I had done in the previous weeks, or even as my first half-marathon. 

We came up over the crest of a hill, and though I'm not a horse-person, the sight and sounds filled my senses, and I was overcome with emotion. We were running through a majestic horse farm, and a large herd of horses was feeling frisky, I suppose due to the hundreds of folks running past, and took off to one end of the pasture, circled around, and came thundering back, screeching to a halt right at the fence.   Judging from the remarks of the other runners, I wasn't the only one in awe.  

Around mile three I noticed a woman holding her side while making her way up the hill. I ran behind her, praying for her, and as I approached her side I asked her if she was okay. She said she was cramping, but trying to rub it out. I told her that I had noticed, and that I was praying for her and would continue to do so. She smiled and thanked me. All the while, I was praying for Verne too, as he was slowly falling behind me. 

As I came up over the crest of another hill, a very large stick fell from the tree and landed not more than eighteen inches in front of me. Immediately after that a walnut fell. I was well aware of God's protection, and silently thanked Him for keeping me safe. My race could have ended right there. 

We came back through the town, and once again, emotions ran high. There was a great crowd of spectators cheering us on, and little children lined the edges of the streets to slap the runners' hands. One woman in the crowd made eye contact with me, and told me that I was doing a great job. I got teary, thankful for her encouragement, and ran a little faster.

The next four miles flew by with little effort. And then, at mile 11, I began to grow tired. I could feel a blister on my toe. My thighs were burning, and I was growing weary. I didn't let myself slow down. Right around mile 13, I spotted an acquaintance who had been rather far ahead of me, and the adrenaline kicked in. I've never sprinted like that in my life. Just before I finished I heard Abigail yelling, "GO, MOM!" I smiled as I passed her, and then immediately heaved. Repeatedly. Thankfully, nothing came up, but I had never felt so sick after running before. Verne says he had a coach that told him if you don't vomit when you're done, you didn't run hard enough. So, there you go. 

Ill prepared as I felt going into this race, I knocked 6 minutes and 21 seconds off of my first half-marathon time, and finished in 1:48:03.  

Verne finished well, too. His stomach ended up not causing him any problems, and for that, I'm thankful!

I intended to take the day off today, but put in several miles with Abigail. Call me crazy...


sherry said...

crazy. ;o)

wow. whoa. whew.

Canna said...

Tracy, wow lots of running going on! I was scheduled to do the color run as well, but just found out I am expecting again and my doc said said that since I hadn't been running every day that it wasn't safe to go that distance this early on. So I missed out, maybe next year!

Tracy said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy, Candace!

Canna said...

Thank You!

Mim said...

Wow. So much running! Very inspiring :) Lovely to see the whole family involved. The colour run looks like so much fun.

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