Pikes Peak Ascent – 08/19/17

Pikes Peak Ascent will always be a bittersweet memory for me – I’ll start with the sweet and if you make it through this novel of a post, you’ll find the bitter.

This event entry was my birthday present from my parents and I was eager for the challenge. I spent all summer hiking with my friend (whose great idea it was to begin with and signed up first) to prepare for the relentless climb, torturous early mornings in the altitude room trying to acclimate to activity in the thin air, and months of excitement of conquering my first 14-er.

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I boarded my flight to Denver on Friday morning, landed and picked up my rental car, enjoyed the 75 MPH speed limit on the Colorado freeways, and found my way to the race expo in Manitou Springs. I picked up my packet (which consisted of a bright orange plastic bag and my bib. End of list.) and then headed out to the Colorado Springs airport to pick up my friend. We hurried back to Manitou Springs to pick up her packet and then wandered the streets and found a cute bar for our pre-race grub. The entire town was ready for the race and I loved how supportive everyone seemed.

Our hotel room for the night was a hilarious, “cozy” place – you just had to like leopard print! Our bizarre, yet helpful front desk clerk showed us the place and we called it a night; 5:30 AM would arrive soon enough.

We hurried through our early morning continental breakfast and threw our stuff in the car. We had about a mile walk to the starting line as our “warm up”. We bid the Harley Davidson gang adieu and took off. The race officially started at 7 AM, but runners were sent off in waves every couple of minutes. We were going to start around 7:20. I met up with a friend from Denver briefly (she would be running the full marathon the next day), had a little photoshoot, and at long last, we began our race! (P.S. See all my race day photos here!)

The golden summit in the background is the destination!

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Course from Google Earth / Pikes Peak website

It was a slog right from the gate. Funny enough, one of the steepest sections of the entire course is on the pavement right in town. It’s known to be one of the world’s toughest half marathons, and it proved that to be true early on. We slow jogged as far as was sensible, then the hiking commenced. As expected, once we hit the singletrack it was a bottleneck. It was hard to pass and also hard to be passed. My friend and I didn’t talk much – we just listened to the complaints of other racers, took in the increasingly beautiful view, ate and drank as needed, and just…were. The trail was truly stunning and made me fall even deeper in love with Colorado.

The minutes ticked by and seemed to quickly turn to hours. We were leap-frogging with a few runners, which eventually became mentally exhausting. We also were typically by-passing the water stations, as they only had water or Gatorade. No food.

We made it to the first cut-off point (Barr Camp; 10,200 ft; mile 7.6). We were supposed to be there by 10:30 AM and we rolled in around 10:25. Eep! Here they had grapes, Goldfish crackers, bananas, oranges, pretzels, and a few other food items. Plus more water and Gatorade. And Search & Rescue. And, we discovered, a helicopter. Really, there was no way to get off the mountain save for a medical emergency. Everything had been hauled up by horses or humans, which is impressive. While I lament the fact that there was no Coke (because I am a spoiled ultrarunner now), I can appreciate the difficulty in providing aid stations for this course.

Note the time on the clock..!

After a few minutes, we left the aid station to carry on. We had to make it to the next cutoff (A-Frame; 11,950 ft; mile 10.2) by 11:45 AM. Here is where the going got really rough and I had to have the conversation with my friend about how we’d continue. We both accepted that I would carry on without her, so after a brief check-in about supplies and planning, I took off. I had to hustle and my anxiety carried me up the mountain. I passed so many racers; some walking hands-on-knees, others sitting on rocks looking defeated, others giving it their all. I felt great, but it was warm and the trail was steep. Unfortunately we were nearly above tree-line and we could hear the finish line announcer, despite having 3+ miles to go. It was a total mind-fuck.

Eventually I came up to the A-Frame aid station and was shooed away by the volunteers. “You can’t stop here!” “Keep going!” “There’s no time!” “Just 4 more switch backs – you only have 5 minutes!”. I was both accepting of the fact that I didn’t have time to stop but also miffed that the timing chip wasn’t before the aid station. It seemed ridiculous to turn runners away (honest and encouraging, sure, but it was poor planning). I dug as deep as I could and ran those switchbacks, desperate to make the cutoff. I passed an older gentleman digging deeper than anyone, shouting in agony, and I burst into tears for him. The intensity of that moment was so much, and so pure as we both raced toward the technology that would determine our race fate. I crossed just in front of him and slowed to a walk to assess what was next. I looked to the top of the mountain and could see the building at the summit. I could hear the announcer. And I could see the steady stream of racers inching their way up the mountain. So close, yet so far.

Tuning back into my own surroundings, I noticed dozens of runners sprawled across the rocks just after the timing chip. Clearly they dug deep enough they needed to rest before the final push. Feeling fine, I took a mental shrug and joined the single-file line to the top.

From here it was straight up on the left, straight down on the right, switchback, and reverse. I could see Manitou Springs and the beauty of Colorado beyond it. We were all going slow enough, it was easy to snap photos and enjoy the view.

The only way to pass others was if they sat down. It was a bit of a lost cause to try to squeeze around someone because the next person was just as slow. We passed more Search & Rescue volunteers, another aid station (with food and at this point I was obsessed with eating green grapes and couldn’t get enough), some kazoo players (whom I didn’t care for, but appreciate the light-heartedness of the moment), and scrambled over endless boulders. At some point, when it became necessary to start using my hands to help with the scrambling, I began to notice blood on all the best hand holds. I was equal parts concerned and annoyed, as it added an additional layer of difficulty to the task. Finally, the infamous Golden Stairs (i.e. the 32 switchbacks to the summit where every step is literally a step). I heard the announcer say “Just 4 more minutes until the official timing ends!” and I panicked. I could make it, but not behind the slowpokes in front of me. I picked up the pace and my “On your left”s held an aggressive edge. I “sprinted” to the finish line and collected my medal. What I later learned was that the finishing time cutoff was 6 hours and 30 minutes from your start time, so I actually finished with 15 minutes to spare, but at the time, I was certain I was cutting it close!

The finish line was lonely for me. I didn’t get to cross with my friend, as we had planned for months. Jesse wasn’t there, and I knew no one else around me. It was such a big event that there was no race director to shake my hand, no volunteers serving food to joke around with, no one I recognized from the trail for a moment of solidarity. There was no finish line music, the food was just MnM’s and grapes (and more Gatorade) and the line for the shuttle bus was 13.1 miles long, so I just quietly took in the accomplishment. I physically felt great, like I could just run back down had it been marathon day. I enjoyed the views from 14,115 feet, had some kid push sand on my head as I rested against the building in the shade, and ultimately just collected my drop bag and stood in line for my ride back down.

The first 1/4 of the drive was in a 10-person van. With 8 other sweaty runners and an overzealous driver, I started to feel sick. We were soon at the drop location and I boarded a school bus. The infamously winding road was beautiful, but I had to keep my head down so I could keep my grapes down. I watched the altitude on my watch drop until I felt better: ~9,000 feet.

The view from Pikes Peak (on the other side)

Back in Manitou Springs, I texted my friend that I had arrived, hoping she would be ready to meet up and recap the day. Still feeling a bit queasy, I found a shady spot in the grass to lie down. After about 15 minutes I moved to the adjacent park with still no word from her. I was distracted by a deer family for a few minutes and texted Jesse about the race. At this point I’d been back in town for about 30 minutes and after some mental math, realized I hadn’t seen or heard from my friend in over 4 hours. I tried to call her, to no avail.

I wandered over to the race tent and found two ladies with radios and a list of runners. I asked how I might go about finding my friend, whom I was certain did not finish (DNF). They suggested she may have just returned to the hotel room, which I found to be an utterly useless answer and was extremely frustrated. As I continued to explain why that was unlikely, my friend sidled up next to me, asking what the problem was. “Oh, thank GOD!” I said, hugging her. “What the hell?”. “I just got down…” she explained. Confused, I asked what she meant. She told me that she made it to the A-Frame aid station (mile 10.2) but not within the cutoff period and they wouldn’t let her continue to the summit so she had to walk back down. Instead of a 13 mile day, she had a 20+ mile day. I couldn’t believe it. In hindsight, I can understand the reasoning, but to this day I am still baffled about how such a huge event is so unprepared (and subsequently how runners are taken by surprise) for those who do not make the cutoff.

The icing on the cake is that in order to receive a race shirt, runners must cross the finish line, get the coveted “black Sharpie X” on their race bib, ride the shuttle back down, and pick it up at the expo tent. I got my X at the top and picked up my shirt back in town without a 2nd thought, but as they turned my friend away at the aid station, she received the “red Sharpie X” and therefore could not receive the shirt that she not only paid for, but also deserves. (Note: the shirt does not say “Finisher”). To make matters worse, the shirt could be purchased in the gift shop tent. I was blown away at the audacity. They did, however, give her a token for her efforts.

All in all, I am proud of my accomplishment that day (and my friend’s. My goodness). I hope to return to repeat the course with Jesse one day – but not for this particular event; I found it to be completely elitist. Perhaps I am being overly defensive of my friend and a bit unfair to the event, but for an expensive race on public land with basic aid, a lackluster finish, and withholding race tees to those who DNF, I’d argue that if you’re not on the podium, the race doesn’t give a shit about you.

We took off from Manitou Springs and headed to Colorado Springs to my friend’s sister’s fabulous new house. We got all cleaned up and re-capped the day with each other and everyone else. After a beautiful dinner, we spent the evening relaxing and called it a night.

Sunday was spent with more family and my friend’s mom so sweetly saved the Sunday newspaper for me – my name was featured as a finisher, which was fun.

On Monday (eclipse day), before I left for the airport, we took in a hike at the Garden of the Gods and I got to see a rattle snake in-person for the first time! Have I mentioned how beautiful (yet terrifying) Colorado is? Colorado Springs stole my heart with their pink highways, red rocks, cute and clean city…oh, and their affordability! PDX, I love you, but I also may have to leave you.

We took in a bit of eclipse viewing (which may arguably be my favorite memory from the entire trip) and then I took off to meet up with some friends in Denver before finally flying home.

I wish I had a more diplomatic view about this race. My experience was exactly what I expected from such a large, internationally known event where I was a solid back-of-the-pack-er. And I can appreciate that events like this are not designed for the last place runners. But as the day unfolded, the way those who did not / could not make it to the summit were treated rubs me the wrong way. “Get yourself off the mountain” – fine. Tactless placement of “funny” signs as they were coming back down – OK.  But give ’em their damn shirts.

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Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon- 7/9/17

As you know, I am a trail runner through and through, which means I typically gravitate to the woods, to the mountains, and to small-time races. I walked up to the Fueled by Fine Wine race feeling out of my element, as almost 1,000 runners gathered in the small park in Dundee. I had been hemming and hawing about bringing my own hydration and my friend encouraged me: “You may benefit from it. Those hills...”I have my own hill challenge on my schedule in August, so I’ve been filling my weekends with power hiking and my weeknights with hill repeats. I brushed off his comment, feeling full of myself. Before I even hit mile 5, his words were on loop in my brain. “Those hills“. Indeed.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 8.07.30 PMIt’s been a warm summer in Oregon already and the race started at 7 AM from a park and it warmed up quickly, as we immediately ran up a pretty good incline. Running through vineyards is not exactly shady, so the sections of road in the trees were coveted.

2017 FBFW Half

The first aid station was right at mile one and I zipped by. There was plenty of aid throughout the entire course (as well as port-a-potty access), with water, electrolyte drinks, gels, and at one point I saw some gummy worms and Reese’s peanut butter cups! The volunteers were all so happy, helpful, and encouraging and I wish I could thank them all personally. We ran quite a bit on paved roads, which was a nice way to make up some time. Though the hills never quite let up, it’s much easier running on pavement than through lumpy grass amongst the grapes! Mt. Hood and (I believe) Mt. Jefferson watched us all morning long. When the downhills arrived, I greeted them with gusto! Arms outstretched like a 5-year old, I sprinted down (while secretly hoping I wouldn’t crash and burn). Perhaps my favorite part of the run was at the Lange Estates Winery. We just ran up a grueling hill and came into their aid station, where they had a sprinkler running! I wasn’t the only one who lingered under that puppy! It was a refreshing way to gear up for the hill ahead: 10% grade!

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This was the last of the major climbs (this was from mile 8-9, approximately) and we were generously met with another aid station and a sight for sore eyes:

2017 FBFW Half

The sign was a bit premature, as we had a few little climbs to make yet, but essentially, it was time to pick up the pace. The race ended on a downhill, so I mustered a sprint finish, grabbed a bottle of water, and headed toward the shady grass to relax with some post-race snacks and to enjoy the rest of the morning before the hot drive back to Portland.

2017 FBFW Half

2017 FBFW Half

Silver Falls Half – 11/8/15

Silver Falls is one of those events that sells out within about an hour of registration opening. Jesse and I happened to be running the Cascade Lakes Relay when that happened – I remember the moment vividly and giggle. In The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Oregon 5 of our 6 crazy runners registered from their smartphones. It might have been a little ambitious, but it had to be done.

Months later, it was no longer 100° F outside and race day arrived. Jesse was still in Germany and he gave his spot to my colleague so there were really only two-thirds of our CLR team; but it was a fun reunion nonetheless. (I ran into Matt and Lee from CLR at the final aid station; they were both all smiles!)

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John and me – enjoying the post-race rain and grub!

It was a rainy, drizzly day, as you’d expect in early November in Oregon. I knew the falls would be raging and I was excited about running this event. Jesse ran the full marathon two years prior and it was easily one of the top to-do events on my list.

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I started out too fast; it’s easy to do when you’re feeling pumped. It had been a few months since I’d done an event and pre-race adrenaline didn’t help matters. Around mile 3 I lost my timing chip (they were the zip-tie to your shoe kind) and I had to stop and re-attach it. My colleague caught up to me at that point and we ended up running the rest of the event together, which was great. It was nice to chat with him and having a running buddy during an event is always a treat.

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I had a finishing time of 2:21:03, which I was feeling pretty good about (considering I walked the last slippery hill). You can see the professional race photos here and here.

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We enjoyed the post-race stew and reminisced about Cascade Lakes. After a while we were all getting chilly as the wind picked up so we hit the road for home…but not without another race registration on the books (we’ll all reunite in April for the McKenzie River 18-miler)!

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Lacamas Lake Half – 7/27/14

I came back from Canada about a week before Jesse did and thought I would take advantage of the Lacamas Lake Half before he arrived. I hadn’t done my own half marathon yet (no running buddy, no support crew, just me). Lacamas Lake is a road event in a little town across the border in our neighbor state of Washington and just a quick 20 minute drive from our new place, which I continuously enjoy that being the standard time from our house to basically anywhere in the PDX-metro area. Also, I realize we’ve been here for a few months now and I can probably stop referring to it as our “new” place.

When I bought my new running shoes – the fabulous Brooks Ravennas, I might add – the store had their brochures about the event everywhere so I grabbed one and it’s been hanging on the fridge for months. It seemed like a decent run, for a road event *cough cough*, so I signed up kind of last minute and thought I’d give it a go.

The day arrived and I was cursing the 7:30 AM start as I pulled out of the driveway at 6:30 AM. I’m not even up that early on weekdays! C’mon!

I had never been to Camas, Washington…dare I say “who has?” It’s pretty small, but fairly cute, though I will say this event certainly helped liven the place up. There was also a 5k and a kiddie run happening and the main street was action-packed. I picked up my packet, downed a GU (strawberry-banana flavored, no caffeine) and elbowed my way to the starting line.

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Now, as most of my longer distances, including the half marathons already “under my belt”, have been on trail, I had no idea what pace group I should even aim for. 2:15 I guess? I found the petite girl with her cute little sign and waited patiently as the clock ticked down…and secretly kicking myself for not having any water with my GU (that stuff basically coats your esophagus, suffocating you).

Pretty soon and after a while and before I knew it we were all running. It’s always tempting to bob and weave through the crowd to find your place but since I had no idea what pace I should be at, I kept myself mid-pack and figured it’d sort itself out later. About .1 miles in, we hit the “hill”, which made the pacers completely moot as everyone started walking already. I powered on ahead, trying to push myself for a decent time.

Running on pavement is really not super fun. It can be almost as bad as a treadmill; running next to the white fog line, feeling like you’re standing still. The lake and lush trees provided some nice scenery, but my mind still rejected the asphalt.

There were aid stations about every 2 miles, but I didn’t stop for anything until mile 8 – even then it was just a sip. I didn’t bring my Camelbak and packed exactly 4 jellybeans in my belt, of which I only ate 3. The last one melted / smashed against my phone at some point. So that was fun. Otherwise I relied on my headphones for fuel (Dear Fall Out Boy: thank you for helping me make it through. Sincerely, Bobi Jo).

The first 5 or so miles were surprisingly hilly and I quickly became annoyed at the pace I was keeping. After a few more miles, the course straightened out into a long flat stretch and I was quickly bored. My thoughts included:

  • “My shadow looks weird”

  • “What is that noise???” *looks behind* “Oh, a dog panting. We could bring dogs? Better to not have Riley here, that’d be a disaster. Is this dog really running all 13 miles? I wish Bear WAS a better running buddy though. Man, he was really confused when I left this morning. Poor guy.”

  • “Some of these houses are really pretty. Jesse and I could live there. Or there. Or there. Or there. Definitely NOT there. Oooh, horses! Ugh, they smell so good. Why is that?”

  • “I have to get away from this guy with the minimal shoes. Stop shuffling – PICK UP YOUR FEET, MAN! Holy crap, he’s like 70 years old. At least! Impressive. But still annoying. I should try to run like that.” *tries to run like that* “How does he run like that!?”

  • “We’re over half a mile past the last aid station – why are all these drink cups out here? This would never happen in a trail run. That’s grounds to be disqualified and never allowed back. Who are these clowns who think this is ok? That’s totally the top of a GU packet just thrown on the ground! Who does that!?”

  • “Seriously, my legs in my shadow are all sorts of messed up. Do they really bend in like that? I have such a weird stride. All these other people look normal when they run, why do I look so weird?”

  • “My face is too sweaty with my sunglasses on but my corneas basically melt without them. Why is this an issue? I am glad we started so early, though. It’s getting pretty warm out already. #firstworldproblems”

…among other things. I wish I had more productive things to think about that morning. You know, some deep life issues I’d finally have light bulb moments about. Some epiphanies, some therapeutic “me” time. But instead, I occupied my mind with insecurities of my deformed shadow. I clearly did not make good use of my time!

Around mile 8 I started to feel really good! I was passing all sorts of people and would give out encouraging messages as I ran by! “Good work, ladies!” “Over halfway done, you got this!” When most of those went unanswered I couldn’t be bothered anymore – some people can be so disappointing!

The last few miles were on a dirt path around the lake and it was nice to be away from the traffic for a while. Then the course fed right back into town, down the big hill we started with, and finished off downtown. I was ready to be done – but not because I was fatigued. More because the sooner I was done, the sooner I could pick Jesse up. (Not that that was true. His flight was going to land on schedule and me finishing my run early wouldn’t change that. But still. You know what I mean).

My time? 2:06. I impressed myself and was extremely pleased – for my first road half.

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I downed a few cups of water and sat on the curb for a few moments to stretch and wind down. The finishing line at the event was complete chaos and I just wanted to shower and drink lots of water so I left fairly quickly.

My favorite part about the whole thing? I wasn’t even sore afterwards; not that night, nor the days following. I guess that means I need a new goal!

Ft. Steilacoom – 10/20/13

My first half marathon…Ft. Steilacoom, October 20th, 2013. So many miles logged. So much anticipation (or as I generally call it…anxiety). It was on a Sunday and I made sure to hydrate, eat well, and do basically nothing else the day before. I was careful not have a repeat of the sore ass debacle that was my 10K.

We had about a 2 hour drive to Lakewood from our house that morning, so I made sure to put out everything I would need the night before. Pants, shoes, socks, backup socks, blister treatment, sports bra, long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, rain jacket (let’s be real. PNW in October?), drink bottle, regular clothes for afterwards, GU. All the things. Called it good and I’m fairly certain I was asleep by 9 PM.

We left the house super early, since we didn’t really know where the hell we were going. About 60 miles from the event, the gas light came on. Because we were cutting the time short as it was, we had a Kramer moment of “Where’s the needle!? Oh, it broke off, baby!”. Finally, 9 minutes to our destination, Jesse couldn’t take it anymore and had to stop to fill up. Typical of him to not risk it! Note to self: use the bathroom whenever you can. The lines at the porta-potties are just not worth it.

Arriving at the park (which was a bizarre place in and of itself, but I digress…), we picked up our packets, attached our bibs, downed some GU, and took a quick ‘before’ photo.

Oh hi!

Oh hi!

The temperature was actually perfect for running that day. It was cloudy, a little misty, and about 45 degrees. So it was cold at the starting line, but just perfect once we got going. It was a diverse event with 50K, marathon, half marathon, 10K, and 5K options, but each had a small enough group of runners that I wasn’t feeling too intimidated. The race began and there was a camera guy first thing. Go figure. Can you find us!?

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Keeping up with the pack, Jesse reminded me to stick with my own pace and to not get dragged along with everyone else. It’s easy to run with them for a while but it might not be sustainable for the long-term. So I was careful to find the pace that felt familiar.

The course was a nice mixture of grassy meadows, gravel roads, pavement, single track, etc. It had pretty much everything, as well as some good climbs and equally good descents. The half marathon course did a 5K loop, a 7-ish mile loop, and the 5K loop again to finish. The 5K loop had a fun single-track bit, which I’ve decided was my favorite part of the course. I guess it was just familiar and jumping over logs and dodging roots added a little flavor.

Here we are around mile 2.5 – and me hamming it up for the camera!

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The 7 mile part is where things got interesting. This is where I had to really trust myself that I could finish. I wouldn’t try anything more than a couple MnMs and sip of water at the aid stations and I was feeling thirsty, which was new for me on a run. I had never taken water on any of my training runs (aside from Jesse’s Camelbak on our mountain bike/run adventure). I’d never responded well to anything in my stomach while running, so I was torn about my decision to feel thirsty or to feel nauseous. Luckily, keeping it really basic with small sips worked and I didn’t have any major issues.

Somewhere in the 7-mile loop part, a guy was behind me and I started feeling crowed (and self-conscious) so I stepped aside to let him pass “Oh no,” he said “I need someone to pace me”. I pointed to Jesse and responded “Then you should follow him!” He replied “Nah, I need someone slow.”

WTH, dude!? I had to laugh it off because he didn’t mean it the way he said it, and he ended up being pretty cool, but still! Burn!

In other news, much to my surprise and delight, my calf was not bothering me at all! I’ve conceded that it was just my body telling me to slow the training down and to trust that I was prepared enough and that I shouldn’t push things so much. My blister situation was non-existent as well, so I was feeling pret-ty good.

Until, as I mentioned in my last post, mile 11. The home stretch. Only 2 miles left. I could run two miles, easy. But my hips were not on board with this plan…..

My only issue before mile 11 was on a fairly grueling climb where I ended up gulping some air and getting a massive side ache. Slowing down the pace at the bottom quickly eased it and I was back in the swing of things. But at mile 11, things were different. This was my muscles on strike and getting pissed. I was careful not to cry (not from the pain, but from feeling like a failure at this point) and Jesse’s sweet offer to walk for a minute was met with a stern “No”. But my new habit was checking my watch every few minutes (er, seconds) until I could see the final stretch. I didn’t beg my body to finish, but rather, begged Jesse to distract me. To sing, to tell stories, anything to pass the time. At this point, 2 miles was going to take about 25 minutes so I needed anything to divert my thoughts from the agony. I’ll keep it to myself as to why, but I ended up laughing a whole bunch and being so grateful for him (the whole way, but mostly these last few miles).

Somehow, in the final stretch, I was able to pull off a sprint (well…”sprint”) finish and felt really good about the race in general…

Final time:

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My legs were D-E-A-D though, and I couldn’t stop to hug Jesse properly, as I strangely felt the need to keep moving (such a bizarre sensation). I managed not to collapse, walked a few minutes on wobbly legs, and then commenced the painful stretching routine. After and adequate amount of sitting, we ate some pizza (well, Jesse did. I wasn’t going to risk it), solicited a spectator for a quick ‘after’ shot…10-20-13 after

…and headed home. Again, I think I spent the rest of the afternoon asleep. It was a really great first half marathon for me and I am proud to say I ran the whole.damn.thing.

Here’s our sweet (and/or crazy) map:

Steilacoom 10-20-13

One thing I loved so much during all of this was being able to see real runners just doing their thing. And being one as well. 5K fun runs are great, but casual. Being at Jesse’s events is so inspirational, watching everyone take off together and come in one by one in varying states. But this time I was out there, feeling it for myself and seeing everyone else in action at different stages on the course. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive and that isn’t typically what these “races” are about. You’re really only trying to be your best. Whether your strategy is to be a consistent runner the whole way (my goal), or to be fast on the flat and walk the hills (the woman in front of us), or to just finish in general (which I experienced just this past Saturday), it’s really all about running your own race the best way you can and comparing yourself to others is absolutely, 100% minute.