Monday, December 10, 2007

I really hate to tell you this, but ...

Before I finish that sentence, let me cut to the chase (for those that are a bit short on time) ... ok, "chase" might be a bit of a stretch.

I completed the 18 ... energy wise, I felt "FINE" - "JUST FINE" ... seriously, though - I still felt like there was some "umph" left in me - with the ever so small exception of my feet - which felt like vice grips were attached to them with each step I took.

Now for the full story. Skip to the very last paragraph if you have to run. It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day here in the metro Atlanta area - 70's, sunny, clear, slight wind from the northwest (just to keep us humble). I even arrived to the group meeting point AHEAD of schedule (about 5 minutes early ... something just slightly short of a miracle). It was going to be a great day!

I signed in, did my warm up lap, stretched, chatted with the coaches and mentor Page (who was ONLY doing 12) and grabbed my 18 mile map, replete with visual and written instructions.

After the stretches, Assistant Coach Yo gave me a salt packet (small paper package ... think the little red and white condiment you receive in the plastic wrapped pre-packaged silverware, napkin, salt/pepper combo). She said, "Take it now before you start, then take another one about halfway through." I did, because I have been following instructions like a good girl but ... (I laughed while I "did the shot of salt" and thought to myself - "Without the tequila? Are they just insane? How could they? It's an abomination!"

We received a few words of encouragement, remained silent for the first mile (out of respect for our honored heroes) and off we went.

At the first water stop (roughly mile 1), I chatted with Page briefly, still laughing over last week's antics (she's still speaking to me even though I wrote about her in my blog) and so it goes. She and I followed the same instructions until about mile 4, - which is about the time I realized that the print on my map was about a 7pt font (and hers was about a 10pt font). A slight amount of panic set in (the written instructions took up 3/4's of my map page (in the EXTREMELY small print). Foreboding engulfed me. I tried to shake it off.

Page and I parted ways at W. Conway (she went left, I went right) ... and that's the beginning of my unsanctioned tour of Buckhead. I followed the written instructions - or so I thought, but apparently ended up running an extra mile or so around the horse park (which coincidentally is where I got lost the first time we were in the area). It must mean something.

To continue, and I did ... at some point, one of the 18 mile runners had turned back because she was sick, and passed me at a cross street. She said, "I think you're supposed to go left" ... to which I said, "but the instructions say right". She wasn't feeling well so I thought maybe she was disoriented.


So on I went ... and when I got to the next water stop (even further behind the pack than I already was), I was in a state of frustration and said "I hate this course" - which I sincerely did at that point ... who in their right mind would map out an 18 mile course that has 40 instructions? Sure, they are trying to keep it interesting, but I'm still bitter.

By mile 9, and a dozen streets later, I was still feeling frustrated, which was probably a good thing and still venting to the poor helpful souls at the water stops.

Physically, I felt fine - mentally, I was steaming.

Around mile 12 or so, at a water stop, I re-laced my shoes, as they were feeling a bit loose and starting to rub on my heals. Did I mention that I was still frustrated? I kept looking at the map and instructions - thinking, "Dear God, please help me get through this - I have no idea where I am!"

By the time I got to mile 15 or 16 - my feet started to hurt (I mean REALLY hurt) - like the kind of pain that makes your eyes water ... and I was frustrated (I may have mentioned that). I had been running for 4 hours - 240 minutes ... and I just wanted to stop reading the map. My shoulders were tense, I was trying to dodge hummers, large luxury vehicles, and landscaping trucks driving at recklessly high speeds around blind corners. I kept hearing trains in the distance which for the most part kept me alert (because I imagined that my dad - who was a railroad engineer until he died, was sending me signals somehow).

As I passed the last bend between Lake Forrest and Powers Ferry (by Chastain Park), I turned onto Pineland (I gave up on the map) ... because I wasn't going to run around Chastain Park for a second time. About a third of the way down Pineland, the sweep car pulls along side me and the helpful TNT girl driving says, "I really hate to tell you this, but you turned a street too early."

I glared, and said in a demon inspired tone, "At this point, I really don't care." She said, but do you know how to get back to the church parking lot from here?" I said, (again using harsh tones) "Yes, I do" She continued, "But will you be able to get to the last water stop at King and Northside?" I was almost in tears at this point - because she was driving the car as I was running and it was difficult not to say - please just let me get in and drive me back. So I said with gritted teeth, "Yes, I will". That's when she said, "I'll just drive up here a bit to make sure."

I groaned.

As I crested the hill, I saw her car waiting for me at the water stop. I stopped running and walked to the last stop, belligerent and frustrated to the core. By the time I got there, the sweep car had "sped" away. No doubt, she sensed my frustration and wanted to avoid a scene. :-)

So naturally, I vented again to the poor girl who volunteered for that waterstop. I was beyond frustrated by this point (could you tell?) - the vice grips on my feet were getting tighter by the second and my shoulders had turned into stone. Energy wise I felt good - probably fueled by rage - but still it was good - I wasn't ready to fall over or anything.

I managed somehow to find my way back to the church parking lot (which was our starting point) - thank you for your thoughts and prayers on that one! I had to walk the last mile because I couldn't find a comfortable pace if I ran. I honestly have no idea how far I ran (somewhere between 18 and 19 miles I would guess). It took me somewhere in the vicinity of 4 and a half hours - but who knows how long it really took, because there was a lot of venting at water stops (during which I stopped, stretched, tried to regroup), a lot of stopping at intersections to read the map and a lot of diving into bushes in attempts to avoid being run over by high speed oncoming traffic (and I'm not going to even mention the hills ... that was insane).

But I finished (without tears), wrote down my time (including the stops), drove home without a traffic violation, took an ice bath, hydrated, stretched, put my feet up for awhile, and then went to a party that night. (Feet recovered enough to just a mild aching pain).

I'm ready for the 20.

Bring it.

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