Monday, February 16, 2009

The Harder They Fall

Have you ever heard the saying, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall"? Well, if you adapt it for Sunday's 2nd Annual 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer you could very well describe my dream of a 4:00 or so marathon. However, several things, not the least of which being the grace of God and the blessing of running with a dear friend, all lined up with me at the start to change the plan for my morning run through Jacksonville Beach and other "beach-y" towns to the north.

Saturday, 14 February 2009:
The rains water down on us nearly the entire way from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Even as we leave the Race Expo it was still drizzling and beginning to cool off a bit. But, we have our packets, numbers, timing chips, post-race shirts, lots of freebies from the expo and we are off in search of a carbo-loading yummy dinner. We check into the hotel before dinner and then cruise up A1A just a bit to a beach-y type plaza that had the look of awesome local fare. We duck into a joint called Al's Pizza and have a marvelous meal: chorizo sausage pizza, pesto chicken penne, calamari, and the requisite hydration. Post dinner showers, and "chick" TV prep us for an uneventful night of sleep.

Sunday, 15 February 2009:

About 5:00 a.m. the internal alarm in my head goes off and we are up! We are dressed; bagels peanut buttered; and skipping out the door for the shuttle to the starting line. The Runners' Village is mostly dry in spite of the rain all day Saturday, and the volunteers seem happy to be there and are thanking all of the athletes for being there and running for the cause. We wander just a bit, then check our gear. All athletes are corralled based on predicted finish time and our race bibs are color-coded to indicate which corral. Here we split and find our respective color-coded corral(s). I head off to find the 4:15 pace group per my plan. Along the way I see runners from our Tallahassee Running Group, and then I find Maggie and Jaqui. Hugs an good luck wishes all the way around, and we are all off on our own paths again.

In the starting area I find the 4:15 Galloway group and get my Garmin turned on and locked in. The runners in the group chat briefly and share a bit of why they are there and why this pace, and their history. It's going to be a great morning. There is still a bit of chill in the air which will work well with the extreme humidity to keep us from running in sauna-like conditions. We can see the jumbo tron screens from where we are, and Donna Hicken, and the woman who sings the National Anthem. The the gun sounds and pink confetti blasts out at us from both sides, and we are running!

Things go well for the first 3 miles, even though that includes all of the hills (the bridges and overpasses from the Mayo Clinic to Jacksonville Beach proper). Somewhere between miles 3 an 4 I side slip a bit on the road striping, and step down "just wrong" on a reflector or raised piece of asphalt. I come down "just wrong" on my right foot - the one that has been ailing and haunting me since Disney. And, that pretty much is all she wrote. I move off to the side and walk a bit in hopes that it is "one of those twists" we all endure from time to time. After a bit of walking, I pick it back up running and quickly realize that, "No, this is not one of those twists or turns," and go back to walking.

I know that all of my friends and running buddies who are doing the half marathon are still behind me. So, as much as I agonize over the decision while still trying to run, I decide that this is my new, adjusted plan for the morning: I will walk until one of them comes up behind me, and then I will continue on for the remainder of the half with her - whomever she may be. And, if I have to back off again, then I will walk, and repeat the process until I get to the finish line. I mentally go through the ladies I know behind me: Ana, Vicky, Maggie, Jaqui, Ann, Patty, Lynn, and a couple others. Now I settle in to wait for who gets there first.

Not too long after I have made my decision, Maggie and Jaqui come up from behind. They are moving at an easy pace that I think I can hang with and not be in much more pain than I am currently experiencing. We immediately fall into that easy chatter of women who know each other and have a lot in common. Oh, yeah, we all three are swim moms; we are all runners; and we all have boys. We have LOTS to chat about for the next 9 or so miles. And, away we go. In a short while, Jaqui leaves us to run her own race - good for her; and Maggie and I head to the beach portion of the run. Her goal is to make it to mile 7 running, and then run walk to the finish. My goal at this point is just to finish - my heel an ankle are way pain inducing by this time. We discover that as we talk we speed up, and then we have to concentrate on returning to pace and being mindful of the overall goal. We slow up just a tiny bit so that I can ease the tension on my heel some, but the chatter never slows.

It is a good run. I, from the purely selfish side, get to spend this time catching up with Maggie who I don't see as often anymore because of Mac. And, that's okay. I explain to her that I miss her being around, and that I think of her often - which explains the cell phone calls at all absurd times of the day. We talk about Colin and Aidan, and Savannah and Mac. It is good that she can talk about Mac - especially to someone who has a boy near his age. She is nearly as excited as I am that Colin is finally going to the Junior Olympics, and she has promised him she will be there to see him swim. I know that it will be extremely difficult for her to be there, but (again, selfishly) I am so happy that she will be there for Colin. It means a lot to him that she be there.

Anyway, we talk about a lot of things and sometimes nothing at all. And, after about 2 hours we realize we are almost there, and in not too shabby of a time either. She is pleased to be under 2:30 and most definitely under 2:20. I am happy to not be on the medical cart that we saw not too long before mile 11. Yippee! There will be some awesome pictures from the beach and along the way. Hopefully the one at the finish line will be as grand as we felt when we got there.

I kicked myself mentally for a while after I decided to not finish the full yesterday. I'm still questioning whether or not I could have done it. I know I could have, but what would it have cost me? One thing I know without a doubt is that it would have cost me those two hours with Maggie and all that we now share from that experience. I would not trade that time with her for anything. It is a memory I will always have and cherish.

Same time, same place NEXT YEAR. I'm already registered. I must be crazy!

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Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation

Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation
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