On Friday morning I headed downtown to pick up my race packet and bib. The expo was huge with lots of vendors and interesting running things. For packet pick-up, the name of each runner and their corresponding bib number was arranged on a board by distance. I wandered to the 25k board and searched the W’s for my name. It was pretty incredible how many names were there. I wandered for a little bit and then headed home with my packet and Julie’s, a few sleeves of Clif Shot Bloks, a new running shirt, and some Nuun. Friday night was spent trying to coordinate what time we would leave to make the trip to the start line. Julie’s race started at 7:30 and mine started at 8:20. After figuring out that we would need to leave by 6:30 at the latest to give us a decent amount of time, we headed to bed.
Saturday morning started bright and early and I quickly realized that the day wouldn’t go quite how I had hoped. My Garmin, after giving me a few problems the night before was still not cooperating and I was forced to face the fact that I would have to run watchless. Add to this the fact that my stomach was rumbly and really uncomfortable (so much so that I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to pop some Tums to keep the heartburn and ache at bay) and I was beginning to get anxious. We made it down to the start with plenty of time and I stood with Woo before she hopped in the gates for her 5k.
After watching Woo start her race I met up with Rebecca. My stomach was still unhappy and nerves were starting to build. Reb and I decided to park ourselves in the 9:30 pace group. We stood and watched the 10k start, then the hand cycle 25k start, and finally the wheel chair 25k start before it was time for our start.
We took off. I remember feeling elated at the start and a little nervous about my upset stomach, but I settled into a decent pace and managed to wind my way through the throngs of runners.
The first 3 miles just kind of flew by and were unremarkable. Shortly after reaching the 3 mile marker, the threatening skies made good on their promise of rain (but only a little) as we ran along a narrow wooded road. Everyone seemed in good spirits and I felt great until it became necessary to part ways with Reb so I could make a pit stop (the first of 4 throughout the race) at mile 4. I was really upset and knew that stopping wouldn’t help me get across the finish line under my desired 2:30:00 goal, but told myself that I had to do all I could and that it would have to be enough. I dug deep and raced ahead trying to catch up with the 9:30 pace group. I knew my mom and Julie would be camped out near mile 7 and when I rounded the corner there they were!
I smiled and waved and made all sorts of goofy faces before getting on my way. At the halfway mark, which seemed to sneak up on me, I stopped again. (At this point in time, I was still on track for a fantastic finish, and the tracker predicted I would cross the finish line at 2:24:59.) Things went a bit downhill from here and I began to feel much less than stellar. Still, I pushed on, making sure to take water at each station to keep myself hydrated. Mile markers and water stations seemed to arrive more slowly than they had before, and I noticed myself slowing down. I struggled through miles 10-12 and made a final stop before gathering myself and reminding myself at the 12 mile marker that I had a little over a 5k to go, and giving in was not an option.
Refocused and reinvigorated by the return to more residential streets with more spectators (and the Grand Rapids city skyline rising in the distance) I dug in. I pushed and pushed and turned my music up until reaching the “1 Mile To Go” sign. It was time to pull the plug on the music, ditch the headphones, live in the moment, and run. The last mile flew by and as the finish line got closer and closer I saw familiar faces and heard familiar voices - my family and Woo screaming and cheering me on at the finish.
I teared up after crossing the finish line. Equal parts relief and disappointment. I was so happy to be done and so proud of myself for finishing, but disappointed that my goal, which was SO achievable, just wasn’t meant to be. I wobbled toward the people holding medals and then followed along with the rest of the finishers as we were herded through food and water stations. I met up with my family and gave them a quick rundown before posing for a few pictures.
After checking out a bit of the post-race party, we decided it was time to head home before the still-threatening sky could do its worst. (Plus, my youngest sister had to get her Prom preparation show on the road!) I took my usual ice bath while enjoying a beer. (Because what good is finishing the longest race you’ve ever run if you can’t enjoy a celebratory beer!?) The rest of the day held food, napping, more beer, Prom pictures, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over my sister, and lots of laughs.
The take home lessons from this race: