Looks like I forgot to post this way back when, so here it is...
I sat here trying to write a short version of this, and there just isn’t one so bear with me here.)
This was the second year of the Twisted Ankle Marathon and Half marathon – Last year I volunteered and somehow managed to forget between then and now all the reports of how hard that course is. I can assure you – that will never happen again. That race is unbelievably hard and I really wouldn’t recommend it as a first half marathon. There was absolutely no prayer of running a fast race – it was all about finishing.
The last race I registered for, I didn’t finish – that was not going to happen again. My training really didn’t go how I wanted it to, thanks to a lot of different factors and I knew I wasn’t ready for this thing. Once I found out I was going to have to do the whole toe surgery thing I reevaluated my goals and decided all I really needed to do was finish. In the weeks leading up to the race I was getting extremely nervous, and Randy, Amy, and Christina all agreed to run with me – they are wonderful people.
Race day was hot and humid, as Georgia typically is in late May I suppose. A little before 8:00 Pete and I headed out of our cabin and down to the race start – Pete didn’t want to walk all the way around on the road and convinced me to ramble through the woods on his own little shortcut – I was super nervous about that….and it turned out to be the easiest part of the day! We got down to the start and found almost all of the other people we knew and chatted for a while before the start. When we were all lined up at the start listening to Becky's opening speech I flipped my HRM display over to Chrono mode and checked out my heart rate – 154! Yeah…a little nervous. Sure enough, we started running and my heart rate actually went down!
I had a major case of nerves at the beginning and just couldn’t get over it and get into a groove. Amy and Christina went ahead of Randy and me at probably mile 2 or so and the two of us just kept plugging along. Not long after the girls went ahead, I started dry-heaving. A lot. Like every five steps.
I wasn’t really looking at my watch, because if I looked at the time I would also be looking at my heart rate, and at that point I just didn’t want to see it (but I did want the data, so I wore the monitor anyway - I’m such a nerd). There’s a hill right around mile 3 called Becky’s Bluff. First – that’s no bluff. Bluff sounds like a little grassy knoll in the middle of a meadow on a beautiful spring day. Everytime we came to a hill I’d say “Oh, this must be it”, then we would inevitably get to the top, I would realize it wasn’t, and Randy, in his cute southern accent, would say “I wasn’t gonna say anything.” And then all of a sudden, there was Becky’s Bluff. As I said – that’s no sweet little hill, it’s a dirt WALL. While climbing the bluff we met Ben – a guy from Raleigh who was having an even harder time than I was (very difficult, I can assure you). He walked with us for a while, but finally decided that his stomach just wasn’t up to the job and turned around to head back to the start. Randy and I were plugging along oh-so-slowly when I stopped, turned to him and said “You’re my new best friend – and Elizabeth at the top is Jesus”
We finally made it to the top of that thing and found Jesus and I felt instantly better. My legs were shot, but the mental block was lifted and it was much easier going from that point. Still slow – but easier. At about mile 5 or 6 we met Jackie who was run-walking the course and were more or less with her for the rest of the race. Somewhere between miles 4 and 7 we saw Jim, Margaret, Chuck and Rick, Amy and Christina, Mary and Lori who weren’t at their aid station, and finally made it to the half way point. On the way back out to the point where we would head back down the mountain we started seeing marathoners and I felt really guilty that Randy was still with me and probably apologized 50,000 times, but he stuck with me like the Southern gentleman he is. When we got to the final aid station at about mile 9 I stopped and put a blister block on the blister developing under my big toe – that didn’t do a damn thing. Also, somewhere in there I told Randy I was sure my left foot was bleeding as I forgot to trim my toenails (oops) – but my toes were numb so it didn’t matter.
We started heading down the hill, running right along, only to come up on a Ranger who told us they had reports of a rattlesnake on the trail – ok, we’re walking. We made it to the bottom of the hill and hit asphalt – yeah – 2 miles to go!! We tried to run on the asphalt but quite honestly, asphalt sucks! It didn’t work. A few minutes later we were going through the campground and Randy said he thought we would make it without getting passed by a marathoner – not two minutes later the first marathoner passed us and we felt a breeze as he passed – he was flying!
By the time we got to the final mile I had full-blown goose bumps and chills and was trying not to cry. At one point I was stopped with my hands on my knees, hyperventilating and half-crying, and Randy practically picked me up and said we had come too far to stop- he was right, so we kept going.
The end of the course was a nice little run across a bridge and then about a 20 yard jaunt on the grass to the finish line. As we were approaching the bridge, Randy told me I had to go first because if I stopped he was going to push me. A little before halfway across the bridge, I hear Randy behind me yell “There’s a hill on this bridge!!” and it was all I could do not to die laughing. We finished (finally) together in about 3:50.
The tears hit again when we got across the line and apparently I was looking pretty bad because within a minute I had 3 medics asking me all kinds of questions. Rob and Christina got me some ice, powerade, and food – and Amy’s girls brought me a bottle of water (they are so sweet!).
Honestly, if Randy hadn’t been there I would have dropped out for sure. It was too hard and hurt way too bad for me to have finished it alone. So thanks, Randy, for being such a wonderful person and pulling my sorry ass through that race. I appreciate it more than you could ever understand…