Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Divas Do Grand Rapids

Well, I told myself this run would be the determining factor whether or not I would really try the marathon.  I know I am already signed up for the darn thing, but mentally I needed the nudge that said "hey, if you can run 15.5 miles and not die, you should be able to do 10 more with out medic assistance".  I am happy to say I am so excited to do my marathon in Baltimore because I had SO much fun at the Fifth Third River Bank 25K.  I would be wrong to say the actual run was the highlight, though.  It was great, don't get me wrong, but it was the adventures before and after that made the trip.  And lucky you get to hear about them all...settle in...this is a long one.

I wasn't sure if we'd even make it to Grand Rapids on Friday. But after a lively game of Chinese fire drill, we figured out our carpooling situation and all got down to the Amway Grand Hotel Friday evening.  Thanks to the handy restaurant guide that Peg whipped out (just one example of our Type A behaviors of the weekend), we found a BIG O's (don't even go there with the name...), a cute red and white checkered tablecloth Italian restaurant.  I inhaled a heavenly pre-race dinner of spaghetti and bread.  And a liiiitle glass of Mark West Pinot Noir.  Hey, a girl needs to calm down her nerves.  (Sidebar:  Do not consume mass quantities of garlic bread before any running race.  I think I was still burping it up at mile 5).

After dinner we checked out the expo.  Along the way we spotted the signs for the starts of the different races. 
(Left:  the girls pose by the 25K start sign.  Right:  Peg and Tom pose at the 10K sign, which Tom smoked!)

Not that any of us were nervous about actually running the race. Nope. We were more concerned about the weather. Even though I kept checking on my Blackberry so much my battery died, the meteorology situation did not budge. Saturday morning's forecast: 44 degrees (real feel 32), 25 mph winds with gusts up to 38 mph, light rain 30%. Awesome. Like it's not bad enough to run in a cold, spitting rain, but then to throw some wild whipping wind in your face. So after stuffing our faces with Italian cuisine and checking out the expo, the clothing neurosis began.  First Staci and Sara came bounding down the hallway in their proposed morning racing outfits.  Then Lisa and I spent a good hour pulling together what we thought we should wear: Should I do the purple coat?  There will be high winds and rain after all.  But the rain chance is low.  Perhaps I should just do my long sleeved shirt.  Should I bust out shorts? Hat or no hat.  And on and on and on it went.  My Nike duffel bag (that I stuffed with every article of running attire I owned) was like a magicians' hat.  It seemed to have no depth as I pulled out more and more clothing options.  

At 9:30 pm we settled on an outfit and decided we needed to test it out.  So we laced up our sneakers and down the elevator we went, into the elements.  No, I am not kidding.  We took a little jog around part of the hotel to see how it all worked out.  Satisfied, we headed back into the hotel, passing an elite Kenyon/Ethiopian guy on our way (Tom pointed him out earlier to us at the Expo).   I exclaimed, "We can't be that crazy...he is doing the same thing!".  Lisa pointed out he probably does that as part of his "elite" training regimen.  We were doing it simply because we are Type A freaks.  Point taken.  Keeping with our OCD neurosis, we neatly layed out our clothing, gadgets, race bib and sneakers (with timing chip already attached), and settled down for a long winter nap...

The alarm(s) blared at 6am and before I could even put my contacts in, I checked my Blackberry yet again, willing it to change the forecast.  It hadn't.  Lisa and I stumbled down to Peg and Tom's room to grab some coffee (waking them up in the process) and went back to our room to watch the local news (and weather).  Grand Rapids Saturday morning weather man:  I hate you.  Why?  Because in his cozy newsroom, in his ugly purple shirt and tie, he states in his meteorology fake voice, "A band of rain makes its way over downtown, just in time for the runners".  Thankfully we were distracted from all of this because from our 11th floor vantage point, we could see the early morning race preparations.  We even watched the 5K racers start at 7:30 am.  We headed outside for a final clothing check and promptly turned around and went back upstairs (way too cold to stand out there).  At 8 am the 10K racers started (GO TOM GO!).  Still hanging out in our room, the hand-cycle race was lining up at 8:10 am.  Hey, doesn't our race start soon (yes, ladies, it starts at 8:20 am)?!?!  After posing for a few random pictures, we bolted downstairs and shot outside, hearing them announce "Just 2 more minutes until the start of the 25K!!!"  Lucky for us, we could see the start mat from our hotel and we lined up just in time to hear the start horn blare.  And off we went.

Since I was so preoccupied with my clothing, I hadn't given much thought to the race, and the fact I'd be running 15.5 miles that morning.  I barely had enough time to put my ear buds in and start Sara's Timex (Zach trumped me on the Garmin...something about a dumb 20 mile training run...) when I crossed the start tarmac.  I settled into my pace in the first couple of miles and was in my own little world. Thankfully, the hated-purple-shirted weather guy was WRONG and there was no rain.  We headed into a trail that took us alongside the river and the trees seemed to wrap themselves around me, shielding from the wind.  It was PERFECT. 

I was pretty carefree for the first 8 miles.  I chatted with an older man about his Boston Marathon aspirations.  I checked out all the attire, from the lady running in her old school high top purple Reebok's (yes, I passed her), to the guy with the crazy 80's printed running shorts (jeesh!).  I dodged farmers blows and launching spit, as well as water/Gatorade cups and GU wrappers (what a mess...I did try to be eco-conscious and throw mine away, but in the last few miles I can't be sure what I did...).  And although I didn't run it with any of my girls, I did run back and forth with cool-purple-vest lady.  I'd always see her out of the corner of my eye...she was my pace partner and she didn't even know it.  Like when we rounded the corner and started our way back towards downtown.  The carefree wooded trail gave way to mean hilly pavement with that dreaded wind whipping my face and blowing my hat practically off my head at times.  I'd look around, and take comfort in seeing my cool-purple-vest lady.  I'd pass her.  She'd pass me.  I'd run by her side,  focused on the run ahead but strangely comforted by her presence.  The hills finally passed us as we weaved back into the city through neighborhoods with cheering fans.  It was exactly what I needed to kick it in and finish the longest race I have ever done!  2 hours and 17 minutes (and 18 seconds for those counting).

Through the finish corral, a volunteer put a medal around my neck as I gasped for breath.  I stumbled over to where the food/water was, hoping to spot any of my fellow divas.  Someone tapped my shoulder and I looked up to see cool-purple-vest lady in front of me.  She thanked me for a great race and she said, "As long as I saw your white jacket and white hat, I knew I was doing OK".  I laughed and told her I thought the same thing about her.  And after she left, I spotted Lisa and Sara. 

The first order of business:  BEER TENT

lisa and I put one back
Lisa, me and Sara in the beer tent...

Next on the agenda:  MASSAGE!

even the Douglas J guy looks excited! little does he know he will be rubbing down Sara's sweat through her cute pink shirt :o)


Snug in Sara's bed...

After a trip back to BIG O's for an Oberon and big fat slices of pizza, it was time to tell Grand Rapids good bye.  But the Divas will be back...hopefully with some of you out there too!

Post race:  Staci, me, Lisa, Sara and Peg


1 comment:

  1. That was awesome!!!! It made me smile smile and smile again :)xoxo sara