12Ks of Christmas (and 5K too) - Wetumpka, AL
Saturday, Dec 10, 2011
Overall Time: 1:47:00 - Average Pace: 15:20 min/mile
(course was short by .5 miles)
For another perspective on this race, you'll nee to go to my friend Amanda's Blog Start.Run.Finish - I promise you it is worth it to read her report too! LOL
To begin, I was really happy to know that there was a local event, close to my new home, that I could make my Holiday Run tradition since I am missing the Jingle All The Way 10K in Washington, D.C. this weekend. And this 12K event did not disappoint - it was a challenging, somewhat hilly course that ran though the downtown/main street area of Wetumpka, AL - over the Coosada River - through local neighborhoods and then back over the Coosada River again and along the river though a pretty park to the Finish Line.
My role on this day was to be the Race SHERPA for my friend Amanda and support her as she ran her longest run to date. Prior to this, her longest run was 10K (6.2 miles) a fact that I had conveniently forgotten. (making for funny moments later in the race) So my job for this race: to stay with Amanda, at her pace, for the full 12K; to be keeper of the Mile splits while she was keeper of the 2/1 Run/Walk Intervals; and to keep her moving and motivated to the very end.
The race was small, only about 100 runners and started with a run down Main Street and up a large hill (out and back) and then across the main Bridge over the Coosada River. Amanda started out a little fast, pressured internally to keep up with the group of runners. I kept my eye on the first Mile split and gently told her we covered the first mile and not to worry about the pace ahead of us. I don't think she heard me, at all, because she was busy saying "OMG, would you look at that hill?" My immediate response was "It looks worse than it is - don't you think about it - 'short and quick' at your own pace and we will get to the top." (short steps / quick turnover) I sang/chattered our way up the hill "Come on Ride the Train, Ride it - I think I can, I think I can" and we made up and over the top to the turn around and then WHHHEEEE, downhill we went.
That climb in the first 2 miles of the race took it's toll on Amanda - she was already sneaking peaks at her watch - looking to see when her "2-minute" run would be over. I wrote it off as a hard beginning effort (which it was) and just kept the chatter up, reminding her that she's not usually feeling good until about Mile 3 so just hang in there.
After crossing the Bridge with a beautiful view and telling Amanda we could do our Photo Op on the way back toward the finish line - the time had come for us to split off from the 5K runners. The 5K folks went straight and we went right. That is when we dropped the rest of the "Back of the Pack-ers" who were all doing 5K and became the official "Back of the Pack" and picked up our Golf Cart escorts for the remaining 9K of the course. I had told Amanda not to worry about the "Golf Cart" - that I had talked to the race director prior to the race to ask about a cuttoff and they said not to worry because they would keep the finish line up until everybody who started finished - and she really didn't seem pressured by the escort at all. In fact it was great! We had somebody watching out for us at every intersections and plenty of warning for every turn. (of which there were many!)
Mile 3 passed and we took in our first nutrition - some GU Chomps for me and a GU for Amanda. Amanda was eating this GU like it was some dainty little treat - while I was thinking "Um, you have to eat this and get water in a minute before our next run interval" - and out of my mouth came the following: "Hey, GU is not a SNACK! We got a run interval coming up, eat it and get some water." The startled look on Amanda's face made me giggle and made me realize I sounded like a Drill Sargent. We both got a good laugh out of that.
Mile 4 came and I was encouraging and cheerful, "Half Way Done!" but Amanda was starting to feel the miles and was not saying much nor looking like she was having much fun. Her pace while running was staying steady but she was slowing down on her walk intervals. I kept up my chatter, asking her if she wanted to me to talk more or be quiet for a while. Her response was "I don't know" so I continued to chatter away - finding songs to sing and stories to tell to make the miles pass.
Mile 5 was a hard mile for Amanda, she was pretty much silent except when I would ask her direct questions. I was trying to gauge her effort and I was getting quiet, one word answers and she mentioned she felt "a little sick." I told her that she might want to go easier on the water, that I noticed that she was taking drinks of water at every walk break. She looked up at me in a bit of a daze and said "Oh, yeah, I guess I am - that explains why my tummy feels sloshy" and from that point on, she only drank a bit at Mile 6 when I ordered her to "eat 4 GU chomps." I was hoping that this would perk her up for the final 1.5 mile effort. Amanda did as I advised and only later told me that she really didn't want to eat 4 GU Chomps, only 2 but she didn't feel like complaining and just ate all 4 as she had been told.
Mile 6, it seemed to me that Amanda really rallied back - she did have one goofy moment when mentioned she was worried that we would hold up the Christmas Parade - which I reminded her was not until 3PM (It was only 10:30AM, LOL) but her spirits lifted as we rounded a corner and saw the Bridge over the Coosada River just ahead. The Bridge meant less than 1-mile to go and the promised Photo Op - she seemed in wonderful spirits to me and I was excited that we were close to being done!
We stopped for our picture mid-way across the Bridge and then we exited the Bridge and the course turned Right down an back ally and Amanda stopped in her tracks, in complete disbelief and dismay and said:
Turns out that she had it in her head that we were headed back to the finish line via Main Street. She was thinking "Three or Four Blocks and I am Done" and that right turn away from Main Street and the Finish Line was not at all in her mind. At this point, I watched as my friend and running partner's virtual "wheels fell off" and her motivation just flew right out the window. She was tired (rightfully so) and kind of queasy and here we were taking another detour / another turn away from the Finish Line. I rallied around her as much as I could, "Amanda - you are doing great! Your OK, we have got this in the bag, You have DONE this distance before, you can do it again!
Okay, so I forgot, she had not done this distance yet, we were supposed to do it the week before but a bout of dizziness cut the long run short and I ordered her to go home and rest up. So while in my head, 7-miles had come and gone on the running schedule, I HAD COMPLETELY FORGOT THAT WE DIDN'T ACTUALLY RUN IT. D'OH!!
Bless Amanda's heart because she never said a word about that while we were running, she just kept trying to put on foot in front of the other down the shaded park trail. (it really was a beautiful spot to run - reminded me of running along the Potomac in DC) Sadly, Amanda was seeing nothing beautiful about the park, just so much further to go - and she said the words that I do not abide...Amanda looked at me, when our Run interval started and said loudly "Holly, I Can't."
Oh my, did this get me all riled up - here we are less than 1-mile from the finish line - I can see the parking lot that leads uphill to the finish line from where we are on the trail - and my friend who has been working hard since August, slowly adding miles to her running, just told me "I Can't."
"Don't you dare tell me that you "CANT", because you CAN and you ARE!" and I took Amanda's hand in mine and said "Come on, Amanda, just keep walking, keep moving forward...look ahead, see we just have a little more trail and then we run passed your car through the parking lot and at the top of the hill is our Finish Line"
The beep when off, telling us to run and, still holding her hand, I said "Come On Amanda, try - I know you can do this, I wont let you quit" again, I heard "Holly...."
but this time is was followed by a soft voice "....Thank You."
Nothing more was said for about 4 minutes, Amanda just picked up her feet and did her best to run those intervals and recovered on her walk and then there we were, on last hill and she said it again, "I don't think I can, really Holly, I don't" and I roared (at least I felt like I roared) "Come ON, I can see the Finish Line, YOU CAN DO THIS, I PROMISE" and I'll be damned if she didn't just pick her head up and say "OK" and run up that hill. As we topped the hill, the Volunteers and many racers who were still around let up a rousing cheer and I grabbed Amanda's hand and we crossed that finish line!
And then she wrenched her hand out of mine and put it over her mouth - I thought she was going to cry - but she turn a full 180 degree circle and stuck her head in the nearest trash can and threw up all that extra water and the GU Chomps that had been sitting in her stomach for the last mile. TWICE.
And immediately, felt 100% better...
So many people came up to us, after she was done, congratulating her on her race - telling her how she is not alone, that they have all had races where they threw up after the finish line - congratulating her on pushing that hard at the end of her race - leaving it all out there. (literally!) I could not have been more thankful that fellow runners approached Amanda and congratulated and commiserated with her. That act alone did more to let her know that she was one of the tribe - a runner - than anything I could ever say or do.
I have no regrets that I was so hard on Amanda in what would be the last half mile - I know her long terms running goals and I know that the "Voices in our Heads" are powerful and hard to ignore. In that moment she did not need a friend who would say "OK, let's just walk", she needed a friend to say "You are stronger than you know, now MOVE!"
Of course, I have promised her that the next time she says she feels like she might have to throw up, I will believe her...but hopefully we can get her nutrition right so that won't happen again.
CONGRATULATIONS AMANDA! You ROCK!
Life is Good! LiveSTRONG!