Sunday, March 13, 2011

Finishing the Mardi Gras Half

So...where did I leave off?  Mile 8ish was really hard until I saw Team Hoyt.  Seeing them didn't make the running easier, but it took my mind away from what I was feeling (physically speaking).  I went back to watching people, reading signs, cheering the crowd and thanking volunteers.

When I passed over the 10 mile mat, I cheered for myself because I had no doubts at that point I would finish well.  I only had a 5K to run.  I told myself I was nice and warmed up for my 5K race and I could turn up the speed now....or maybe I would wait until I got to mile 12.  About that time a woman said, "HOLY *&$@, WE JUST RAN 10 MILES!!"  I had to laugh.  We got to talking and I found out this was her first half and she had never run this far before.  She owns a gym in north Louisiana and leads groups similar to No Boundaries.  Most of the people in her group are straight off the couch, working on running their first 5K.  She was FULL of way more energy than she should have been at mile 10.  She asked me what I thought about her turning up her speed.  I told her she really did have a lot of energy, but my honest opinion (which was worth nothing since I didn't know anything about her) was that she should wait just a little longer to pick it up, then kick in a sprint the last little bit.  At the same time, she could slowly increase from here on out.

She opted for the latter, and I opted to stay with her.  My pace went steadily down throughout miles 11, 12, 13 and the finish.  However, I went from being happy and chatty, cheering spectators and thanking volunteers to a non-speaking heavy breather.  Mile 11 was spent speaking in short phrases.  Mile 12 was spent focusing on breathing and picking my knees up--FORM, FORM, FORM...BREATHE.  Thankfully my new found friend still had the energy to chat it up!!  When the "conversation" died--because I lost my ability to hold up my end--we were joined by another girl who asked us to please keep talking because she was using our chat to keep herself going.  She said she had opted to wait in the port-o-potty lines in the beginning like I did so she was one of the last people to start.  This was her first half.  She had spent the entire race trying to catch up to her training group (who started a few corrals ahead of her).  She had passed a few of them, but still hadn't met up with the bulk of her group.  She said all this in phrases, but much longer strings of words than I could form.  I knew she already had a better time than I did and obviously had more energy left than I did.

Around mile 12.5 I told them they obviously had more in their tanks than I did and they should go on without me, pick up their pace because the race was almost over and they both wanted to give it all they had.  They tried to get me to hang with them...but I knew I was holding them back so I told them to press on.  I thought about trying to keep them in sight and throw in my kick at the end...but I was running on fumes by that point.  Once they were out of sight (which took mere seconds) my pace dropped a bit.  I knew I only had less than half a mile to go...but I seriously didn't know if I would make it!!  I started telling myself...it's less than six minutes.  You can do anything for six minutes...and this is less.

And...then...I saw them.  The "GO Friend" girls!!  I tried to smile and cheer my "friends"...but all I could think was "don't puke in front of all these people before you even make to the finish!"  Then I saw the "RUN Kay-Kay! ALMOST THERE" guy. (Knowing it was an investment that would "certainly" yield a return) I mustered every ounce of energy I had  and screamed to be heard over all the cheering, "YES, I AM ALMOST THERE!!! I AM!!"  That carried me all of about half a tenth of a mile of a mile.  My mind started playing tricks on me, telling my body it wasn't going to make it.  Things like "the finish line is too far away..." and "what do you think you are doing out here" and "you know you aren't going to make it" kept playing over and over. 

I was out of "tricks".  Cheering the crowd wasn't working (much less happening), there wasn't enough time for Gu, I couldn't even remember what form was much less focus on it, I couldn't "disassociate" because leaving my body took more energy than what I had left!! 

And then I saw HIM.  My husband.  His bald head.  His goatee.  His big ole smile.  He cheered for me.  I looked at him and prayed I wouldn't throw up because he had the camera pointed at me!!  I wanted to smile at him, I just couldn't.  But seeing him and knowing my daughter (and her friend) where close by infused me with the little bit of strength I needed to get to the finish line.   As soon as I saw it, a guy in a purple shirt FLEW past me sprinting for the finish.  I wasn't very nice to him in my mind.  So sorry guy in the purple shirt.  But, somehow I found a reserve I didn't know I had and kicked in my own burst for the finish!!  (I finished with a pace of 6:45!!) 

2:19:14.  An almost 20 minute PR.

A volunteer put a medal around my neck, I had my picture taken (and had recovered enough to pose!)...and started looking for food.  I LOVE post race bananas!!  Seriously, I do.  That's when I finally saw my daughter and her friend.  They had seen me cross the finish line...my daughter was so excited I had broken 2:20...and so proud of me that it didn't matter her friend still couldn't understand why all these people would run a race they had no chance of winning!

We spent the day walking around New Orleans (which I think seriously helped me not be sore)...and EATING fantastic food.  I allowed myself to have what ever I wanted to the rest of the trip--crawfish and cheese, gumbo, biegnets, ice cream, Aunt Sally's pralines, BREAD!!!  Thankfully the "hangover" wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  A week later I would say it wasn't worth it, but it sure felt like it was at the time that good food was going in my mouth!

The whole trip was amazing.  The apartment we rented, the neighborhood, the race, the food.  I have loved New Orleans since the first time I visited (about 25 years ago).  There's no doubt they are going to be feeling the effects of Katrina for years to come, and may not ever fully recover without some scars...but the town has an artesian well of spirit that will not ever run dry, no matter how much water is dumped on them.  I think I was somehow able to tap into that spirit at the finish line!!

Thanks for stopping in, come again soon.  (I'll post pictures soon.)  :D

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