Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jeff Galloway, my life would suck without you.

In the words of Kelly Clarkson, "My life would suck without you", Mr. Jeff Galloway. Why?

Because without your never ever ending belief that any individual can be a runner, and a method to make that belief a reality, I would have still been in bed at 7:30 this morning, rather than taking in the city of Pittsburgh on foot.

I've run two half-marathons in my life. One in 2002 where I attempted to run the entire race, only to be frustrated that I had to take a few walking breaks. And lost a toenail. The second was in 2005, where upon adopting a run/walk/run method, I took about 10 minutes off my 2002 time - but still lost a toenail.

This time? My personal goals of finishing in front of the 2:30 pace team, and keeping all my toenails became a reality.

It all began at 4:00 AM. Daylight savings time messed with us this year, and while I thought my poor man's iphone would adjust to reflect "falling back", it did not. Nor did George think to change the clock prior to setting the alarm. Thus, I was up at 4:00 AM, (thinking it was 5) and dressed and ready by 4:30 AM anxiously waiting for two friends to show up - one, who was running her first half-marathon, and the other who was supplying the sweet ride and the most enormous amount of encouragement a girl needs when it's 34 degrees at the start of a 13 mile adventure.

I realized quickly upon turning on my computer that it was not the time I thought it was . . . first glitch.

The second glitch had to do with girlie stuff . . . I won't go into that here.

And the third glitch, (although this didn't happen until mile 3) involved my interval timer. Yep, you guessed it. It failed me. Don't be surprised if you see me riding around town on a bike threatening, "I WANT MY TWENTY DOLLARS!"

At the Start, I decided to place myself between the 2:20 and 2:30 pace teams. For while my inner goal was 2:30, I was honestly thinking that I'd come in around 2:40, so I figured that pushing myself to stay between these two pacer groups would help me.

It was a good call. I think had I started with the 2:30's I may have fallen behind between miles 9 and 12 . . . better known as "the lonely miles".

All started well. Felt good. No shin splints. No side stitches. I was keeping pace with the 2:20's although I knew, and was ok with the fact, that I most likely would not be able to stick with them the entire race. And then, after what I thought was a particulaly long 3-minute interval, I checked my timer.

The screen had gone completely blank.

I switched to my watch and began counting in intervals of 3 minutes (run) and 1 minute (walk), and just tried not to let it bother me.

The view of the city from the West End Bridge was beautiful and I wish I had had a camera on me to snap a shot of the city in the morning.

I also wish I knew more about the engineering and architecture of bridges, for while they are certainly fun to run over, that run comes with an incline - and yes, a decline, but it's not the decline that sticks with you. Duh. I know. Duh.

I had my head about me enough to look at the city while running and even channelled Fernando at one point, cutting a walk break short so that a race photographer would snap me running while Heinz field loomed overhead behind me.

At the 10K point I was good. At the 8 mile point, I was good.

And then, the boredom set in.

It is lonely to be Gallowayer. My other friend who was running has a faster pace, so she was well ahead of me. There were a smattering of people surrounding me during miles 9-12, but truely, I was running by myself. The music helped. I opened my hands in praise for one song, but really, I was facing "the wall". It was big and nasty, and smelled a little like exhaust.

I spotted a woman whom I nicknamed Mullet Girl. Mullet Girl was pretty tall and stocky and there was no question that she could clock me good in a mano y mano match. She didn't stop for walk breaks and kept a steady pace. However, when I ran, I quickly overtook her. When I walked, she overtook me. I knew that I had found my rabbit. As long as I wasn't in the ring with her, I'd smoke her.

But thoughts plauged me throughout miles 9-12. "This isn't worth it", "I've made a mistake and the 2:30 pace team has already passed me - I just didn't see them", "My right quad and left glute are going to stop working at any moment", "I can't finish."

I found my mind cluttered with stinky negative thoughts. No self-help talk, or affimations, or even music, could clear the thought that I should just forget it and walk the rest of the way. Afterall, wasn't that a chest pain I was feeling?

And then, I remembered a verse we talked about in Mom To Mom and I began reciting it over and over, "And David found strenght in the Lord His God." Strength wasn't coming from my catchy tunes, or from reciting "You can do it" over and over and over. Ultimate strenght wasn't coming from the knowledge that I could overtake Mullet Girl. No, I had to rely upon God's strength, and enlisted the help of my girlfriend sitting in Caribou waiting for me, to help also.

"Lord, please tell her to pray for me. I'm so close. I don't want to stop now, but my body just can't do it."

It was not easy, but I made it to mile 12 and then decided to take one last walk break up the incline of Hot Metal Bridge.

And then Viva La Vida came on. I love that song.

Having just finished walking the incline to the bridge, I began running again, quickly passing Mullet Girl, and though I could see the vicinity of the finish, I still couldn't see the actual finish.

And then, behind me I began to hear loud cheering, "Come on 2:30's!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are almost there!!!!!!!!!!".

The 2:30 pace team was on my tail.

Not on my watch.

I would NOT let them overtake me. I took on Mullet Girl, I could take on the 2:30's.

Mile 13 came upon me quickly as I exited the bridge, and then, I was in the gate.

And while I couldn't press on any faster, I knew had beat my rabbit and the pace team and now only had .1 to go.

And then, just like that, it was done.

They announced "Joline Atkins from Beaver" at the finish, just as they had done for the 10K. That felt good.

Thoughts on this race:

  • I am a true Gallowayer. I am not very sore right now (although the Advil could be helping). I don't feel shin splints, joint pain, or pain in my feet (I wear a pretty heavy orthodic). I don't feel taxed.
  • I have zero interest in running a full marathon. Zip, nada, nope, not on your life, no way, don't go there, fugetaboutit.
  • I DO have interest in gathering some girls to run the Marathon Relay on May 2, 2010.
  • Bridges have inclines.
  • Mullets are not flattering.
  • Port-0-john's that flush are most desireable. Thank you.
  • "My Life Would Suck Without You" is a great song to run to.
  • Post-race snacks should not include bowls of pretzels in which people dump their sweaty, and possibly Swine-fluy hands. Come on! Have we not learned anything from bowls of mints? You don't touch those! Only pre-packaged goodies, please.
  • Knowing that you have friends to cheer you on at the finish greatly impact one's mental stability during a race.
  • Pittsburgh is pretty.
  • Gymboss will be hearing from me. They are in the doghouse.
  • It's yoga, tennis, and one day of running a week for me from now until Spring.
  • I did it. And have the magnet on my car to prove it.


Angie said...

How can you lose (or not) a toenail?

Good job on the race!

chmbaker said...

He is our strength when we are weak!!

You did it! Or rather, God gave you (and me) the strength to do it. To God be the glory!

Loved reading your blog today!!

Cuppa Jo said...

Ang, sometimes the wrong shoe, or a sock rubbing in the same spot for 2+ hours can create a blister right near the nail, which in turn can end up, well damaging it so that it falls off. Or, if your toenails aren't manicured, they can rub also getting the same result.

Since the prior races where I lost a nail, I went up 1/2 a size in my running shoes and invested in real running socks.

Kim, you know it . . . I'm a wee bit sore tonight but looking forward to my tradition of post-race buffalo wings!!!!!!!!!

Urban Outland said...

Awesome job!

I know exactly what you are talking with those negative thoughts at that point past half way but still not close to the finish.
On my team,we have whole workouts where we row at a face pace for a long period of time just to go through that. By doing it on a consistent basis we're figuring out how to deal with that mental block and push our bodies' threshold for pain. I get through it by finding a rabbit to chase, rocking out to some awesome music, and sending a prayer God's way.

It's amazing what happens on race day after doing those awful workouts for weeks on end. In the middle of the race when I hit that spot I know exactly what it's going to feel like and exactly what I need to do to get through it and then all of a sudden the race is over and I never want to race ever again. :)

Just thought I'd let you know I sympathize and I am very impressed! Nice job!

Leslie Urban

Cuppa Jo said...

Thanks Leslie,

I hit a similar wall when I did my 10 prior to race day, and was actually a bit worried going in, as mile 9 always seems to be a kicker for me. It's amazing what the mind can conjur.

It's also very cool that I have all three Urban's following my blog these days . . . I'm flattered.

Amy said...

Congratulations! That rocks. And I'm glad you kept your toenails.

Debbie said...

Congrats, Joline! You are an inspiration! Blessings!

Riki said...

LOVED IT! Being with you two was such an honor. I wonder if that exact moment you said to God for me to pray is when it hit me at the coffee house in a loud way that it was time to pray again for you girls.....I am thinking a big fat YESIREE

Cuppa Jo said...

@ amy: yes, I like my toenails,and now I deserve a pedi.

@ debbie: how sweet. I am convinced that anyone can do this with Galloway's method.

@ riki: :) I'm certain of it. Mile 9-12 was when I was calling out for God's strength and backup from His saints sipping hot coffee in the cozy chair that they staked out and wouldn't move from for risk of losing it to another customer! LOL.

Anonymous said...

I loved your descriptive narrative. Thank you.

What a great scripture to remember. You will have to share the experience with your kids - calling on God when you are low/down.

Congratulations on your excellent race. Way to go.

I agree on the open pretzel comment - especially thinking of all the sweaty hands - Yuk.

Elizabeth L