The morning of the half marathon began as expected, but quickly turned to the unexpected.
As we arrived at the starting line, the temperature was comfortable, there was a light breeze, and the sun was playing peek-a-boo from behind the occasional billow of cloud. Perfect conditions for a 21km trot. However, the morning forecast had predicted blazing heat with no cloud cover, but we'd have to wait and see what was in store for us. As I conferred pre-start with my running mate (and dear cousin) regarding landmarks, water stations, running etiquette and hand signals, our time to begin was quickly approaching. She was our acting time keeper and pace monitor. I had instructed her to push us to our limits, as I knew her pace was slightly faster than mine and her natural tendency would be to maintain our desired clip. As we crossed the starting line, our pace locked in as though we'd been training together for months, though she'd just arrived from out-of-town two days prior.
After the first 5km were behind us, we found ourselves cutting an effortless path through the streets, well on pace to surpass our personal bests. The temperature was rising, but the clouds mercifully remained, keeping us protected from any energy-sapping direct sunbeams. By the time we reached the 10km mark, I felt fantastic. My joints were pain-free, my breathing was steady, and my pace was true. As she provided us with our progress report, I performed a quick calculation to estimate our time of arrival. By the 10km mark we were set to cross the finish line at around 2:10, which would have eclipsed last year's time by over 20 minutes! I became very excited, but had to reel in the emotions. We were already halfway there, but still had halfway to go.
As we ducked and weaved through residential streets, I looked up through a canopy of trees to notice the clouds had all but left us. The heat and humidity were still rising, but up to this point we had been spared from the sun's direct gaze. Having experienced the layout of this course before, I already knew what was waiting for us just around the bend. The open road. The shield of green was behind us, and we were fully exposed to the unflinching brutality of the sun. As it beat down on my brow, I could feel my legs becoming weaker and my breath beginning to labour. Only 6.5km remained, but it was destined to be the most difficult distance I'd ever had to endure.
The first 15kms that seemed so effortless was quickly forgotten. Our once confident bounce had been reduced to a shuffle. The water stations seemed to grow further apart, and our pace had noticeably slowed. The crowd that lined the streets were armed with water cannons to help cool us off, but we needed actual internal hydration to accompany the exterior temperature relief. Sirens had begun to dominate the once tranquil atmosphere as EMT's were attending to, and transporting away, exhausted participants that had fallen to the side of the road. The severity of the situation became more apparent as we approached the final hill and the last 5km.
It's a relatively flat course, with the only real incline occurring less than 5km from the finish line. We had made a promise to each other not to stop or walk under any circumstance, as once that rhythmic bounce has ceased, it would have been an impossible mission for either of us to start up again. We pushed our way up the hill, passing hordes of runners forced to walk or unable to continue. Pace was the furthest notion from our minds as we reached the crest of the final hill, all we wanted was to finish.
Less than 3km remained. I could feel my body yearning for rest. I began searching for a song that would provide me the inspiration I needed to push on. After a few moments of fidgeting with my music device I swatted the headphones out my ears in frustration. My mental stability was starting to break down. My breathing was so laboured it began to resemble a sort of sobbing...crying. I looked to my cousin for words of encouragement, but she was having a tough time of it as well. She didn't respond, though I can't verify that the sounds coming out of mouth at that point were coherent enough to be considered a language. Only 2km left, and my feet spontaneously attempted to try walking. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My knees felt like rubber and I thought I might fall. I used a sort of "falling forward" motion to start shuffling again, and caught up to my cousin who hadn't gotten too far ahead of me. As I approached her, I muttered the words "too fast" in hopes that she'd allow us to slow up a little bit. She spun around, whacked me on the arm, and told me to "SHUT UP!". My body was still in shambles, but that shot in the arm gave me the burst of mental stability I needed to power through the last few kilometres. As we entered the stadium, she said "Let's go!" and we "sprinted" across the finish line on wobbly legs. Our feet simultaneously hit the mat and we were promptly escorted to the recovery area by the wonderful volunteers.
After refueling and feeling a little more normal, we met up for a post-race analysis. I thanked her for the smack in the arm, and told her it briefly snapped me out of the mental fog I was in, and gave me the encouragement to push hard to the finish. She gasped, "Too fast??? I thought you said too fat! I didn't want you to be negative, so I smacked you! I totally would have slowed down." She then pointed to her right shoe that had a fair amount of blood soaked through. She admitted that she should have trimmed her toenails prior, as one particularly sharp one rubbed a hole into her toe fairly early on. Ouch!
2:27:38 was our final time, still almost 10 minutes faster than last year!
Afterwards, I swore that would be the last one for me. The memories were so fresh and horrible, there's no way I'd ever put myself through that again. But two days later, I was already lacing them up. I suppose either the benefits outweigh the pain, or I'm just an idiot. ;)
P.S. You may notice that my weight is heading in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I'm addressing it now before it once again gets completely out of control. I think 235 by October is still completely possible. I'm working hard, and hoping for better results as the summer winds down. Thanks for reading, and look for another update near the beginning of August.
Weight Loss And My Struggles With It
This blog serves as an inspirational and entertaining progress report on my seemingly never-ending journey to 200 pounds.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Posted by trev at 12:19 PM