We had been standing near the starting line for probably 25 minutes before the race started around 7:15. During that time, my toes had gone completely numb. The first mile or so I spent mostly hoping they'd warm up. I couldn't tell if the strange-feeling lumps in my shoes were toes or something else (what else? I have no idea. Boulders, maybe). It was seriously trippy. In the beginning, my friends and I ran together. One friend's training had been less than stellar (what a stud!), so she fell back after about a mile. My other friend is actually the person who first got me into running and who showed me that running more than a couple of miles is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds. Running with her is always a blast, so we stayed together for a while, but it became obvious she wanted to run a bit faster than I did, so I fell back some and focused on getting into the groove. I had given her my watch prior to the race, so I have no idea how fast I was going. I probably started a bit slow, but I'm actually really glad I did. In the past, I've always started out way too fast and tried to stick to a very specific pace the entire race, and that always blows up in my face. Always. My plan for this race was to run strong the entire time. In the end, I think I could have run a bit faster, but I definitely fulfilled my one and only goal for the race!
The first few miles of the race looped around the Naval Academy. I think we approached the Academy from every possible direction. My friend had given me what turned out to be a totally inaccurate description of the race course beforehand ("we're going to run along the water the whole time!"), and I was cursing her at this point because it looked like we were going to spend the entire race seeing how many different ways we could circle the Naval Academy. No offense to the Academy (well, a little offense), but that was not my idea of an interesting race. Pretty much the only thing of interest during this part of the race was a girl on a walk of shame-she looked like she was going to sh-t her pants when she saw 3,000 people running towards her. Just as I was considering sprinting ahead to find my friend and smack her on the back of the head for lying to me, our route switched up a little. We weaved through some neighborhoods and onto the main street in town, which was way cute.
Me running on way cute main street. Funny how the photographer so strategically cut out my face. I look like kind of ridiculous, I have to admit. My shirt says "Alaska" on it! I love it.
I had no impression whatsoever of Annapolis before visiting, and was pleasantly surprised at how cute it was. Stupidity admission: I had no idea it was along the water. Water makes any town/city infinitely more interesting. My friend told me after that during this part of the race, an obviously hungover hipster-type stuck her head out of her window and screamed "YOU'RE CRAZY!!" before ducking back inside. She may have had a point-this race started entirely too early for me.
After going through town, we went over some bridge. It was kind of steep, but I was feeling awesome so think I sped up a little. It was at this point that I caught my friend. We chatted for a few minutes before I continued ahead.
The course continued along a few rolling hills on a highway before we started along a narrow wooded path for an out-and-back. I hate out-and-backs. For whatever reason, I usually lose all motivation on these things. Give me a loop anyday. We ended up doing 2-3 miles on this. It got pretty cramped since there were somany people running the race. It was kind of annoying and made it hard to pass people, which I was doing fairly frequently at this point. But it also made for some seriously cute running when I got stuck behind the cutest, tiniest little boy running the race. He was running in all-black spandex and looked like a total boss. He ended up beating me. While I was running I was wondering what I would do if it came down to the two of us on the final stretch; would I hold back and let him be all adorable and beat me, or would my inner bitch come out and force me to run him down? I'd like to say I'd let him win, but that's probably not true. Luckily it didn't come to that since he kicked my ass. I wonder if it's harmful running that much when you're so small? This kid looked like he was 6 or 7 years old, although I could be totally off.
My mind occupied by adorable little things, I suddenly realized I was probably nearing the last quarter of so of the race. I have no idea because, as I mentioned, there were no mile markers. Come on, Annapolis Half Marathon. I took it much better than most of the runners, who seemed to be yelling at anyone even remotely associated with the race. I probably would have joined them, but for the most part it fit in well with my race strategy. If I had known how far I had gone or how much I had left, I probably would have waged some enormous mental battle and collapsed in a heap in the middle of the road. I had no idea how far I'd gone until mile 10 when some guy yelled it at me. Actually, one guy yelled it, and then about 3 minutes later, someone else yelled the same thing. And then someone else. You see why it was confusing? I also heard someone say she was at 1:34 a couple of minutes after we may or may not have hit 10 miles, so of course I immediately wondered if I could possibly aim for sub-2:00. I knew that was ridiculously foolish since there was no way I was going to run the final 5k in 26:00, but it definitely sped me up a bit.
It was at this point that I turned on my music. Coincidentally (or maybe not-my running playlist is pathetic, only 10 songs or so), the songs that came up all seemed to have the word "running" in them. I'm sure the lyrics in no way helped me, but it kind of took my mind off the fact that I had sped up significantly. We had to go up the same bridge we had crossed earlier, and this time it was infinitely harder. I assumed the end of the race was just at the other side, but of course, once we got over to the other side someone yelled "Only .6 miles left!" Thanks. Asshole.
The last quarter mile felt like an all-out sprint, but it probably looked more like this guy. The song "fly" by Rihanna came on, and the lyrics sustained me until the finish....
"I came to win," (sure, I'm not actually anywhere close to winning, but I guess you could say I'm winning this race) "to fight," (I'm definitely fighting! This feels like shit) "to conquer, to thrive," (yeah, sure, that sounds like hippie bullshit, but I can dig it) "I came to win," (again with the winning-I think we established I'm winning this thing) "to survive," (yeah, I'm definitely trying to survive-am I going to puke? I think I'm going to puke. No, Jean, get ahold of yourself! You're almost done!) "to prosper, to thrive," (okay, this is getting to be too much-am I going to puke in front of the race photographers?) "to fly, to fly" (okay, holy shit, there's the finish, I hate this song. You're wearing a fanny-pack, but try to look cool for your finish photo!).
And then it was over! I got my medal,
leaned over, and tried not to throw up. The nausea went away pretty quickly, so I hobbled through the different places they were herding us and got out of the crowd to wait for my friends.
We were smart and didn't figure out a place to meet after the race, so I went and sat on a little hill by the porta-potties (great choice, Jean). I had been okay heat-wise during the race, but after a few minutes I thought I was going to die of hypothermia so I swallowed my pride and went and got one of those shiny blanket things. I think those things look ridiculous so had passed one up my first time through, but between dying and looking like a baked potato, I'll take the latter every time. It was actually pretty effective (dammit-they look ridiculous! They also give you sun blindness-that's a thing, right?), so I sat on my little hill for a while until I finally saw people I knew.
After the race, we showered, stuffed ourselves silly at Chick & Ruth's Delly (Man v. Food guy went there!), and passed out for a few hours. We were all walking around like gimps, which felt fantastic. I actually feel great except for the soreness in my calves. This is the first half where my skeleton hasn't felt on the verge of shattering post-race. A success for barefoot-ish running! That was the farthest I had ever run without highly-padded shoes, and I definitely felt better than my friends today. S, though, must be applauded for setting an insane distance record for herself. She had never run farther than 4 1/2 miles. Ever. Maybe not the greatest training strategy, but the fact that she finished, and in 2:41, is pretty amazing. Major props to her!
We took a bus back to New York Sunday morning, and once I got home I set out for 15 minutes of really easy running. I guess that's supposed to aid in recovery since it gets the blood moving. I don't know how much I believe that, but it sounds legit. My calves loosened up nicely while running, but they seized up after I got back. I have a feeling, though, that I'm going to kick recovery's ass and be up and running in no time. I have a marathon to train for! Someday I'll talk about that. But not now. Deal with it.
Full disclosure: I ate 3 bagels yesterday. But only two of them had cream cheese. One was a salt bagel. If my friends were asked to say the first thing that came to mind when they hear my name, they would say salt. No joke. Only recently did I realize a salt bagel's a thing. It's also the day I started eating at least one a week. Don't worry, my grandpa has low blood pressure and has to put salt on everything, so I'll probably have to as well. Right? Right?!?
Apology: I'm failing at the whole photo thing. Will try harder.