I registered for the 2014 holiday race about a week prior. I selfishly checked the 2013 race results to size up the competition in my age group. In the Lehigh Valley, my age bracket houses tight competition; I expected nothing different in North Carolina. To my surprise, my personal best was almost two minutes faster than the 1st female in that bracket. I had it in my head to cross first in the group. Crap.
I'd like to say that I manage myself very well on vacation - I try to keep with a somewhat regular sleep schedule, I don't stray from my dietary needs and I certainly get some exercise. This week was no different. I ran twice (6 miles each), went to a yoga class and practiced twice on my own. I was ready for this race. But Mother Nature had other plans. Relieved that we wouldn't be evacuated for the hurricane, I worried that the race would be canceled. All this internal hype could be for nothing. Wednesday afternoon, I received an e-mail from the race director stating that the race time would be moved, but it would still be held on the 4th and would not be canceled: "This event will NOT be canceled." Okay. My kind of race director!
It turned out that the original start time of 7 am was being moved to 6:30 pm. Ouch. I'm a morning runner - the earlier the run, the better. I'd have to seriously manage my food/drink intake all day. Fourth of July, on vacation, at the beach...it was a challenge for me to not pig out and drink my face off. The weather broke close to 11 am with blue skies and sunshine. We spent a good portion of the afternoon in the pool. I pulled myself away from the crowd with two hours to spare for more hydration and a pre-race snack. I gave love to my family and firm instructions to the most sober adult on the process for cooking the buffalo pork stuffed jalapeño peppers (so beautifully wrapped in bacon) before heading south on Route 12 towards Kill Devil Hills. I parked in the lot of a high school just across the street from the Wright Memorial. I desperately needed safety pins for my bib, so I motored over to the registration tent and excused myself while butting in front of 10 people to grab some pins. With a shaky hand, I pinned # 801 to my shirt. In a moment's notice, a wave of urgency crashed over me; too much water, WHERE IS THE BATHROOM? I followed a convoluted route to a line of port-a-potty's. Of course, the one made available to me was situated on a bit of a hill. I worked hard to sustain a sanitary-esque hover over the trough of waste. Oh, God. Is this over, yet?
With a little more room around my waist band, I nervously walked over to the start line, where the runners started to line up. My PR actually put me in the first corral; I wanted to line up near the start - this direction actually forced me into that spot. Another minute later, a veteran opened with a prayer and 10 seconds after that we were off. My God, the sun followed us from the sound of the air horn along the pavement. I couldn't believe that I was within sight of the top 20 people and the pacer. In classic Muffin style, I began to doubt myself, as I have in other races. Maybe I went out too fast, maybe I didn't hydrate enough, maybe the postponed start time was working against me. Maybe I should just walk. I would have to return to a house full of people expecting me to have run a great race. I couldn't let them down. I pressed on.
We approached a trail, packed with sand and riddled with pine cones and needles. The entire trail, close to a mile out and back, felt up hill all the way, although it was mostly shaded. I surrounded myself in the painful relief. At the turn-around, I grabbed water (damn I was parched) and checked out those who were ahead of me - not too many ladies up front. Nice. Could I keep this going?
Oh, God, I was dying.
I hate running.
I'm going to take some time off.
I'm not going to run Quadzilla on the 13th.
I'm probably just going to stop running for a long while.
I taste blood.
I can stop to puke, that's pretty hardcore.
Is this over?
The noise in my head was terrible. I started to creep up on the heels of an older, much taller man. He turned his head, looking back with a strange look on his face. It's as if he could hear the noise in my head. He said something to me, but I was partially deaf and I, sure as shit, couldn't answer him even if I heard what he said. I believe I grunted and continued on. The end was in sight. I rounded the final corner and kicked the last few yards to the finish. I crossed all alone. Not a soul in sight.
I grabbed a water and a metal before collapsing on the grass. Almost immediately, I began to sweat profusely. Yeah, I'm probably dying. In the blink of an eye, another wave on urgency came over me and I almost peed in my pants. Seriously, almost. As soon as its onset, the wave dissipated.
I took roughly fifteen minutes to get my bearings. I grabbed two pieces of watermelon, which I barely ate, and headed back to my car. I didn't know my place (there were no group awards) and I wouldn't know until I got back to the house. I could barely see the time on the clock when I crossed the line; the whole ride home (twenty minutes) was spent analyzing the race.
All the housemates were out back. I immediately ripped off my shoes and socks before landing a graceful, yet solid cannonball into the pool. The water felt so good on my already aching muscles. I walked out of the water and wrapped myself in a towel as I was handed a very strong gin and tonic. I hobbled up three flights of stairs to get changed before grabbing my reserved dinner. I wasn't hungry, so I, instead, looked up my results, posted in real time.
I didn't set a PR.
I did finish 1st in my group, almost 2 minutes faster.
I was the 6th woman to finish.
I was 24th overall.
I will be running Quadzilla on Sunday.
I am in week 2 of NYC Marathon training.
I guess I'll quit running next year.