Fast forward to a couple of months ago. Our training wasn't going as we had hoped. I took Fortis to the mall on a day with less than pleasant weather so we could spend some time on our feet. After about an hour of walking we had many conversations about what race day would be like. She was plugging along when all of the sudden a fire alarm went off! Now, I'm almost 50 years old and I've NEVER been at the mall when a fire alarm has gone off! Oh, and I found out in that moment that Fortis (which means brave in Latin) has a real fear of FIRES!! We took refuge in the car and after the fire truck came and went (and after I explained if it had been a real fire there would have been more than just one fire truck on scene), we went back in for another hour.
Fast forward to about a month ago. That was about all the training we really did and all of the sudden race weekend was upon us!! The three of us headed up to Nashville. We got checked in to our hotel and headed over to the expo.
Now, let me say, I'm a BIG FAN of expos. I love the excitement and hype leading up to a race. I love looking at stuff and just being around other athletes! This expo was held at the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum. It was small and dark but it was lively which is my main desire! We picked up our packets, bought some race branded merch and ...
TASTED THE CHOCOLATE!!!!!
I was expecting watered down Swiss Miss for the hot chocolate and some melted Hersey's for the "fondue" but what I sampled was truly the BEST hot chocolate I've ever tasted, as was the fondue. WOW!! It was incredible! I figured that was just the samples and race day would be a disappointment. Spoiler alert..it WASN'T!!
After the expo we found a vegan restaurant for dinner and then headed back to the hotel to settle in for a night of rest. But when we got to the room my stomach was not happy with the vegan food. I called down to the front desk to find out if they had any Tums down there I could come and get. To my surprise they told me they'd bring it right up!
I think "right up" must mean something different in Nashville than it does in my head. I gave up on the Tums after about an hour and decided I was fine without them. We FINALLY got comfortable and quiet (being still and quiet when you are 11 and away from home, about to embark on the biggest challenge or your life...yeah, it was hard). We played a nice "go to sleep" meditation from Head Space to help that process along. JUST as it was ending and we were all drifting off to our chocolate filled dreamland... DING DONG!!! (Yes, the hotel had a DOORBELL!!) Tums. Thanks nice bellhop boy.
Okay, dreamland take two. Again...JUST as we were drifting off...DING DONG!!! My daughter popped out of the bed and flung open the door (thinking it might be the kids in the hallway messing around)...to find two hotel staff holding out bottles of water and a bag of salted caramel candies saying "everything is okay". We found out the next day it's part of their "turn down" service and they were just running behind. I told them I love a good turn down service, but not at 10pm the night before a race!!
Dreamland take THREE!!! It probably took another 30 minutes for me to finally drift off to a fitful night of "rest". Morning came much faster than I had hoped it would. Not to mention it was MUCH colder and wetter than I had wanted it to be!
We had scheduled an Uber to take us to the race and thankfully he wasn't from Nashville because he was right on time! We got to the start area in plenty of time to take some pre race pictures, stand in line for the portopotties and to find our coral.
The race was a combined 10K and 5K. There were nine corrals, A-I. All but corral I said "NO WALKERS". We were supposed to start in coral G (I think), but it was our plan all along to start off walking and then do a walk run to stay in front of the sweeper and keep the required 15:00 cutoff pace. So we moved back to corral I. About 2 minutes before we started, the skies began to open up with the first drops of rain. ...did I mention it was like 40*?
We were having a GREAT time...walking, jogging...singing at the tops of our lungs, cheering for other runners, seeing sites of Nashville. We weren't going to let a little rain dampen our joy!! Before we knew it, the 5K/10K split off was in sight. We heard the volunteers yelling the sweepers were coming (at least that's what I thought they said) and to hurry up because they were coming to cut people off!! We made it! As I looked behind me I saw other "runners" but I didn't see the sweepers. I couldn't figure out where they could be since we were just over a 15:00 pace. But we started in the front of the corral so they had to be back there.
As we walked/jogged along about mile 4, I saw an "Official Race Vehicle" drive by us. When he stopped at a road about a half mile ahead of us, I told the girls I knew that had to be the sweeper vehicle and he was probably going to cut us off. Turns out I was right. But he didn't pull us off the course, he just had us turn around and head back with the people who were at almost mile 7, effectively cutting off 2.5 miles from our race.
To say this was disappointing to the girls would be an understatement. On the one hand we didn't get pulled out of the race, but on the other hand, we were going to get a medal that said "15K" but our total distance covered was going to be about 7 miles. More than that, we NEVER saw the sweepers. AND, there was NO mention of a cutoff point on the course. AND if we had started in the corral we were assigned, we would have EASILY been past that point when Sweeper Man got there. The whole thing was like a punch to the gut.
Not to mention it was pouring down rain and FREEZING cold. And then poor Fortis' stomach decided to revolt. I think it was the sugar she had downed at the "aid station"...the sugar I had warned against but that seemed like such a treat at the time. Probably more than that, it was the disappointment and stress of the turn around.
But as we plodded toward the (premature for us) finish line, I was reminded how wonderful it was to be out there "racing" again. I mean, "racing" is not really what anyone would call what we were doing, but participating in a fun event. AND...there was going to be hot chocolate at the finish. If it was anything like what I had tasted the day before I just could NOT wait!! And it was going to be HOT!!
The closer the finish got, the harder it rained and the windier it got. We were honestly starting to become a little hypothermic. We crossed the line and found the "food" tent. Most races I've been to have a tent you can stand under to eat your food. Usually it's to get out of the sun. This tent was for the preparation and storage of the food, and participants were just walking up to get their serving, and left to nosh in the POURING rain. I think that (along with the sweeper/course cut off issue) was a race failure. There were a couple of vendor/race team tents that gobtuns (that's southern for "a lot) of people were huddled under, but no where warm or dry. I think if I were directing it I would have rented a tent and some propane heaters, but that's just me...
As we collected our post race goodies, Fortis was really in pain. Her stomach was not even remotely caring about the chocolate she had wanted so bad every day leading up to that one. And she was shaking from the cold.
We found the Farmer's Market and headed inside in hopes of warming up and enjoying the chocolate but we were so wet the cold had seeped down to our bones already! Poor Fortis ended up pouring her hot chocolate out and although the fondue was a little hardened from the cold, it was still edible! But...as we were sitting there commiserating...in walked her mom, brother, and friends to surprise her!!!! I wish I had been able to capture the look on her face!! It was PRICELESS and something I'll remember the rest of my life! I knew Mom was on her way but the plan was for her to get there to see us finish. But since we got turned around at mile 4.5ish, we finished about 30 or 40 minutes ahead of when we were supposed to.
After the race we went back to the hotel to shower, change and pack up, then we all went out for a celebratory lunch.
In that first "training" walk with Fortis, I asked her why she was going to do this race. She said it was for the chocolate. I reasoned with her that she could just go get chocolate, she didn't need to do a 15K for that. She then added, it was for the medal. It was a golden chocolate bar! But at the end of the day it was for the experience of the journey. Embarking on a hard thing for the sake of saying you did that hard thing (or did as much as you were allowed), and overcoming obstacles and struggles...that's what it's really all about.
The real goodness is not at the finish line. It's in the journey.
Thank you for joining me for this goodness!!