Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Today Is NOT That Day

July 3, 2010

I was awake before the alarm. The birds woke me up. Or maybe it was nerves.

I sprung out of bed to initiate my pre-race ritual of a warm shower, green tea with honey, some carbs and yoga. For once during the past two weeks time seemed to slow down. I focused on my breathing while sipping my too sweet tea and reviewing my check list for the day. Some team members were planning on arriving around 6:30, so I rolled out my yoga mat at 6 and continued to unwind with some Sun Salutations. This helped center me and also stretch my hamstrings. My poor hamstrings.

With the blink of an eye I was putting on my sneakers as people started pouring into my driveway. Gus tried to manage the parking situation while I wrapped the fuel belt around my waist. Already three people I didn’t expect to participate happened to be standing in my driveway: 1). Steve, my crazy neighbor, handed me $10 towards the Lance Armstrong Foundation and asked when we’d be hitting the road. 2). Chris, a former co-worker a few years back, walked up to me and hugged me so tight. He had dropped about 80 lbs. with the help of some regular running. I knew he would help me on my way. 3). Finally, Bruce…oh, crazy Bruce. He shows up with a GPS device that will be used to track my every move. Ahhh, Bruce.

Dan was also present. He wasn’t a surprise, but his determination later in the morning was surprising.

Jeff strapped on his back pack and helmet as I walked to the edge of the driveway. After some short good-byes and a hug from my supportive husband I started my watch and took off up the road. I wouldn’t be seeing my team until the Fish Hatchery about 7 miles into the race. Boy, did the miles fly.

We were engaged in conversation for the majority of the leg. Tour de France, movies, cars, houses, work, chi running, losing weight, past races and this marathon. Maybe I should have saved my energy and kept my mouth shut, but the group naturally lent itself to verbal communication. Since Steve had a previous engagement we left him behind at mile 5 and pressed on towards the Fish Hatchery. We descended down Devonshire and made a left onto Keystone. Keystone is a gorgeous, narrow road that hugs the Little Lehigh. My body temperature dropped as soon as I hit the shaded section of road and heard the rolling water. I reflexively grabbed one of four water bottles and took a swig. We rounded another corner and encountered two groups of teen-agers, clearly members of a cross country team. I giggled as they sprinted past me.

The final curve in the road put me in a direct shot of the Fish Hatchery Parking lot. I saw a group of people holding signs and screaming for me; someone was ringing a cowbell. This crowd directed all their attention to me while I chugged on toward them. As I got closer I could read the ‘Go Mommy’ and ‘Go Muffin’ signs being held by my Ava and team. I greeted everyone without stopping, passed my phone off to Bruce (thankful to ditch the extra weight) and handed some empty bottles off for refill. I continued through the Fish Hatchery and planned to loop around. Just before hitting the loop I noticed a gentleman sitting on a bench. He was slightly slouched with his legs crossed and appeared to be waiting for someone. Turns out that I was that someone. Rick was waiting for me. I exclaimed, “Holy Shit'”, but please note that I didn’t stop running. We jogged back to the parking lot, both with smiles on our faces. I left him behind and picked up two runners.

Gus, Dan and I left the lot and hit the trail towards the Indian Museum. The next stop was the covered bridge in the Parkway. Gus checked in with me to make sure I had everything I needed to make it to the following stop. We ran together with pride. We crossed the bridge to avoid one of the most ridiculous hills and maintained a steady pace towards the covered bridge. Gus stopped to get ready for the next station while Dawn took his place next to me and Dan.

That Saturday morning proved to be a beautiful day in the Parkway. This was evident by the volume of walkers, runners, bikers and fishermen. At certain spots through that leg we had to navigate groups of people. I noticed some familiar faces like Molly, a former network employee who I’ve become friendly with thanks to local races. I yelled “Hola Senora” as I passed my high school Spanish teacher. We, too, have become friendly at local races. Like the first leg, this stretch flew by. There’s a short, but steep hill just before the public restrooms going towards Martin Luther that I coached the team through. We joked about that hill being a literal ass burner. As we approached the third hydration station I gathered my empties and requested another gel packet. Gus, as always, delivered, Dawn stopped and Dan, expected to stop at that point, felt the urge to continue.

With Jeff leading the way on bike we headed back towards the covered bridge via the trail on the opposite side of the Little Lehigh. Although it was getting warmer, the volume of people seemed to double. Oddly enough there were quite a few young ladies jogging on the course which seemed to be strategically placed by some force looking to knock Dan off his stride. Dan immediately refocused and continued on.

I ran this route numerous times; I knew what to expect. I knew there were a few gradual inclines coming up, but I was prepared for them. Dan took the lead on the first hill, but I took it easy; I didn’t want to burn out before reaching the second. In true Chivalry fashion, Dan let me go first and glided through the second elevation. What a relief to get to the top. Just as we were coming down the hill I noticed a handsome gentleman leaning against a tree looking for trouble. A smile came across my face as I recognized that man for my husband. He was ready to run with me again. I gathered up my empties before seeing the group again equipped with signs and noise makers. Another stop full of surprises: my brother and Gus’ sister and brother-in-law.

I was half way there…well, almost.

Jeff moved on and I picked up Dawn again, lost Gus and maintained Dan. Another gradual incline took us to the opposite side of the avoided ridiculous hill. After about 13 miles of running this sharp decline was torture on my legs. I believe that I came close to a trot down that path. I hit the ground hard and moved forward towards the Indian Museum. Just like that I was done with the Parkway and onto the second half of my journey.