i have to say that i have been extremely excited leading up to this day. this is my first race back since being hurt last February in our very first training run of the season for the Lavaman Triathlon. that means i haven't raced since Pac Grove that previous September, if you don't count the relay i did for Wildflower last year. this is a HUGE day for me. not only is it my first race back, this is my first half marathon EVER! before starting this training i had never even run more than 10 miles, now i am up to 16! holy geez, how things change within a year...so it was decided last week that Paul would take his coaching responsibilities into the weekend and be the coach at the race. this made me happy in two ways - 1) he would be responsible for getting one car load of us to the race start, taking the pressure off me to get there on time and 2) he would have to be there for my first half. this second point is important because i gave up the past two years of my life to be at every single one of his races (except the one he did in PA when he went home for a visit). even though we are not together anymore, i still feel like this is something i really want to share with him. i feel better just knowing he is going to be there to hug me at the end, although i know its not something he's particularly looking forward to. i can do this race and be more than proud when i complete it, but it just seems sweeter to have him there and be able to say, "hey look at me, i'm an athlete too. I gave so much for your training and racing and now you're here to share this with me. Thanks!" so that's how i feel about that. very excited and ready for the race to get here. i am going to kick butt, i just know it :)
race morning - my alarm goes off at 4:10 AM. not only am i nervous on race mornings, i am also retarded (read retarded as i cannot think clearly and have this uncontrollable fear that i am forgetting something or going to be late), hence the insanely early wake up time. i punch the snooze at least twice as i normally do every morning so that i can slowly come out of la la land into the living. right away i notice my stomach is not happy. its a mix between nauseous and queezy or maybe that's the same thing...whatever, the point is that i was already not feeling it. even though i had been drinking lots of Ultima and taken plenty of Thermolytes, i was still feeling a little dehydrated. i decided to just shake it off and get ready.
sports bra...on...team jersey with race number attached...on...underwear...on...team shorts...on...socks...on...Glycerins with orthotics in them...on...timing chip...on...Tiger Balm and some other kind of sports cream that i love...on...stretching to ensue in 5, 4, 3...
30 minutes of stretching on the foam roller and 10 minutes of core strength. still feeling pretty nauseous so i have a small shake and head out the door. you may notice here that i did not have a run bottle on me nor a running hat...Paul was to bring the run bottle (my original one was in the back of Angie's car), as for the hat...i just forgot. refer to previous paragraph :)
now i usually go to Starbucks before every long AM run, so i figured i should go ahead and keep the tradition. i have to admit that i normally don't drink the whole thing (short americano in a grande cup, filled half way with hot water, steamed milk and foam to the top) but more to have for directly after the run. this drink strangely settles my stomach on most mornings and because this morning i was feeling extra unsettled, i thought it would help. 3 sips into i realize its making matters worse, so i stop drinking it and sort of just hold it until its time to leave. Paul is set to meet Sarah and me at the office to leave no later than 545...he gets there at 547 and i am not surprised. this is Paul Jesse we are talking about after all. i find myself very excited to see him which i am sort of surprised by because he has been pretty mean as of late. this is nothing new, but the fact that i am glad to see him sort of is. i think its because 1) this is race day and my adrenaline is in high gear 2) my stomach is unsettled and having a familiar body around that i used to care very much for makes me feel slightly better and 3) its Paul Jesse, who i shared a lot of myself with over the past two years and i'm glad he'll be there to see me finish this monster.
we pile into his car and head off to Del Mar Fairgrounds. on the way, i decide to ask about Marshall, our golden retriever. well, its technically his golden retriever, but keep in mind i fed him every morning and night, i took him out on most occasions (i'd say 8 out of 10 trips were led by me) and bathed him in the shower when he needed it. he even used to sleep with me in our room during the breakup even though Paul would sleep in the living room on the couch. Marshall loved me and i him. so upon asking how he was, i was given yet another huge slap in the face (not literally, although that would have felt better). Paul, very matter of fact, lets me know he gave him away to a friend's aunt up in LA. wow...i'm stung and speechless. i didn't even get to say goodbye.
we get to the starting area a good hour and half before game time, but that's exactly how i like it. good and early so i have plenty of time to hit the port o johns before they get too vile. on any given race day i hit it up at least 4 times before the wave goes off and this morning was not unlike any others. i have to say that i was a little surprised that the toilets were already pretty gnarly by the time i had my second go round. normally at tri races, i get at least 3 rounds in before i have to hold my breath...take that information for what its worth - triathletes 1, runners 0.
MAO, Alexis, Jenn and Elle arrive pretty soon thereafter and the whole team is here. we decide to go in the first wave, even though they say they want 8 minute per mile runners in it. we are well aware that we are all over 8 minute miles, but are a little nervous about the already growing heat, so decide to chance it and start in the earlier wave. this would come back to save us in the a couple of hours.
We did some kind of team handshake or something silly and then we were off. i have never seen anything like it. i didn't even realize what was happening. i mean we are just walking along and all of the sudden someone says "well kids, its time to start running" so we did. we stepped over the mats and heard the "beeeeep beeeeep" of the timing chips starting and headed out on a very intense training run. i didn't realize the magnitude of the race until i came around a long corner and looked up to see, literally, a sea of runners ahead of me and a sea of runners behind me. i was in a sea of people, yet i was not swimming, i was running and it felt great.
Sarah, Elle and i all started out together as Jenn and Alexis dropped back to get in their tried and true 10/2. even though we were supposed to be treating this as a training run, i could feel the competition running through my veins. being hurt sucks. being hurt in a race sucks even more. being hurt in a race and having someone pass you that you know you can beat sucks the most. i was hoping the latter wasn't going to happen, but more importantly that i wouldn't let the competition take me over and push me to hurt myself even more. i kept hearing Paul's voice in my head "don't hurt yourself, you still have Rock N Roll" followed by Dr. Martinez's voice "you can run if you promise to walk down the hills"...oy.
from here we all sort of took on our own race. we switched places and leap frogged one another until we settled into our normal pattern...Elle first, me next and Sarah trailing not far behind. i should take note here that out of the 6 of us running, Michael and Elle are the only two not injured. the rest of us are all battling pretty debilitating injuries...me - knees and IT, Alexis - left knee, Jenn - left knee, Sarah - ankle swelling...yet we were all there determined to finish arguably one of the hardest half marathons around. we are, in fact, rock stars.
first off, there was nowhere near the amount of needed aide stations. with temperatures reaching into the 90's on the coast and a straight elevation gain of 400-500 feet in one steep climb up the inside trail of Torrey Pines in a one mile stint, the lack of aide stations proved to be brutal. i always carry a run bottle with me on any training/race day but i still needed more. i hit every single stop and yet about a mile or two down the road, wondered why there weren't more around. i mean this is La Jolla people. you charge $60 per race entry...get a clue and stock up on LOTS of ice and LOTS of water, especially when the weather forecast has predicted record setting temps for the past week. i was more than disappointed at this aspect of the race, but i was already in it and i was not stopping. there were people dropping like flies, left and right. girls puking in the bushes and people laid out in front yards with home owners spraying them down with water hoses. i felt bad for the runners to follow the first wave, as they were already low on supplies when i hit the stations. each station sort of went like this: i would start walking about 10 feet from the first table, people yelling in all directions "WATER FIRST TABLE" " GOOKINADE LAST TABLE" and as we got further into the race "SORRY GUYS WE'RE OUT, GO TO THE NEXT TABLE" this was my least favorite to hear, none the less, i was able to grab at least 3 cups per stations - one on my head, a cup of Gookinade in my mouth, another sip of the final water cup and the rest on my head again. i just couldn't keep my core temp down. i knew this was critical if i was to finish this thing, Coach had always made that much clear and i was glad to have known the key to racing in this kind of heat. you would have been amazed at the multitude of runners not pouring the water on their heads, i was. they clearly needed to listen to a course talk from Gurujan.
as i ascended that bitch of a mountain, i talked to Clark the whole way. i kept telling him to come on, i needed him to help me up. although my conversation with him was completely one sided as it always is, i know he must have been there because there was absolutely no way i would have been able to run the entire uphill battle without him. i thought of Clara and her cute little smile and that helped too. maybe she will grow up and want to be an athlete like her aunt katie. maybe Clark is looking down on me and saying to his buddies in the clouds "Hey look over here guys! That's my sister. Yeah, she's pretty good, but I'm still taller than her..."
after the infamous "hill" climb and all that follows, we hit the mother of all down hills...Shores Drive. as told by my doctor, i was going to have to swallow my pride and walk down this two mile stint. thank God and the Holy Spirit that my new found running buddy Jeffery was more than willing to walk it with me. i kept telling him that it would not hurt my feelings if he wanted to go on without me. he just kept assuring me that i had gotten him this far and he wasn't going to leave me when i needed him. good man. i need friend's like him.
about half way down the Shores (approximately 10 minutes into walking the God forsaken downer), Sarah comes jogging up from behind and runs right on by. SHIT!...SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT! "keep calm, just keep walking, let her pass, it doesn't matter, you are hurt, don't hurt yourself more" - the thoughts going through my head. again, thank God Jeffery was there to keep me at a walking pace. life saver, or knee saver if we're being technical :) i figured as long as i could keep her in my sights, i could catch her. yeah right, this is the mother of all down hills. there is no possible way to keep a good distance between someone at a walking pace and someone at a running pace down this thing. she was gone and i was still walking. Jeffery and i continued to shoot the shit, him telling me funny stories, me laughing and pushing the fact that Sarah was getting further and further away out of my mind. he let me talk about Clark and i loved him for that. as the downhill finally started to flatten, we finally started to run again. i couldn't have been more ready. i had pretty much written off being able to catch Sarah, she was nowhere to be seen on the horizon...until we started a pretty good incline...then there she was. about 600 yards away with about a mile left in the race. HELL YEAH! i was so gonna catch her...
i motioned to Jeffery and mouthed something to the fact that i had to go kick some ass and pulled something from the depths of my soul to pick up my pace and get a move on. i have no idea why i was mouthing the fact that i had to beat her because she was, after all, out of ear shot. he had no idea what i was saying but got the just of my flagrant pointing and laughed. from here i just went. i completely blocked out the screaming pain in my IT and ate up the dwindling distance between us. i could feel each step like it was a gift from the running Gods, i could feel each breath invigorate my soul and each person i passed reminded me that i was back doing the thing i loved...
i passed her. i passed her and didn't look back. i did it discreetly, on the opposite side of the road so she could finish her race without worrying about me, this pass was for me, for my psyche, not hers and it felt great. as i neared the finish line, i heard cheers from all over. Tonice was there cheering me on. MAO, his wife Theresa, Angie, the other Alexis, and Emily were all shouting. i heard "GO KATRINA" from one direction and "GO KATIE" from another, telling me who was where on my final track to the finish. it was great. i didn't look up, i just picked up and hauled in a flawless stretch of form to the clock...
official time: 2:17:12
official temp: 87 degrees (record high for the coast)
official elevation: 798 ft
official feeling: elation :)