After sleeping a whopping 11 straight hours last night, I woke up thinking, “Did this weekend really happen?” It was a blur from Friday morning until Sunday night, and I didn’t know it truly happened until I took my first timid steps this morning. Oh yeah, it happened all right. I’ve got the sore legs, swollen ankles, and roughed up toenails to prove it.
There were many “pinch me” moments this weekend where I had to question if it was really happening. It’s hard to come by these moments in the real life rhythm of work and weekends, but they happen often once you’ve put yourself out there in challenging situations, where you could be very vulnerable, but where you’re also most open to unorthodox happenings. I’m not the type to like moments where I feel out of control, where I don’t know the outcome, and where I may be very physically and mentally uncomfortable. That was pretty much this entire weekend, but I embraced it, as did Matt and Jeff, and it was one of the best 72 hour periods of my life.
The first pinch-me moment was the red carpet treatment in Mississippi. We could have never guessed that 48 hours out from the race, we’d be grouped with the elites, given a free hotel room, and been graced with all the amenities that came with being good runners. Jeff and I felt slightly ashamed partaking in the free meals, but we’d just point to Matt and say, “He’s the fast one; I’m with him,” and it made it a little better in our minds. It was also the first race that I could walk out my door and be a couple of minutes from the start and finish line; it’s probably spoiled me for future races because it was such a fabulous perk that I will now strive to obtain.
The next moment came after the MS marathon was over. I have to admit, the course was much harder and hotter than I expected, but I took it slow, drank tons of fluids, and doused myself with water from the halfway point on. My goal was to finish under 4 hours, mainly because it’s just too darn long to be out there much longer, and I was really happy with the run. Getting to the pinch-me moment…we had been told by the race director that a guy working for Runners World Europe needed a ride to Mobile. We offered up the empty space in our car, but never heard about him again. Then, as we’re walking out of our hotel room, we see a guy talking to the front desk with a pack of ice wrapped around his calf, looking quite distressed. It turns out it was Anders, the Swede looking for us for a ride to Mobile. He gladly accepted our ride, and we had to take him to his host’s home first (he uses Warm Showers, a network where people offer places to stay all over the country). Once we arrived at the home, we noticed there was a big, white pony in the front yard. We all took a double take. A few minutes later, while Anders was showering, we met Willow, the resident pony, and Jeff was instantly attached, though Willow wanted nothing to do with us.
Anders rode with us to Mobile, and later stayed with us that night in our condo, taking the open couch space, after we all iced our legs in the outdoor pool. It was quite a sight, all four of us with shorts rolled up above our thighs, standing on the steps of the outdoor pool, with coats on top to keep up warm. It really was a strange dream, in a way, and we woke up and did it all over again in Mobile, Alabama the next day.
I was scared about finishing the MS marathon, mainly because my hamstring has been so strained that I’ve barely run 20 miles a week for the last two weeks, and have stuck to walking. I was ecstatic to finish MS, but really scared about finishing AL, knowing I’d pushed it once, and had really sore quads in addition to a really tight hamstring. But, Jeff and I toed the line together, with Matt way up in front, and just hoped (or should I say hobbled?) for the best. The course turned out to be flat for the first and last third, with hills in the middle, but I set out to stay around 9 minute pace, and thankfully my body obliged. Everything was sore and tight, but amazingly my pace didn’t suffer, I was able to have my ipod to help me along, and even picked it up in the last 8 miles with Rage Against the Machine bringing me in. With two miles to go, I strained my eyes to see Jeff’s unmistakable shuffle just a few minutes ahead of me. I hadn’t seen him the entire race, as I didn’t want to push a pace that didn’t feel good, and here I was, reeling him in. I was so excited to see him, not just because I could catch him, but because it was so much easier logistically for us to come in at the same time, especially because I knew Matt would be watching for us. Finishing that race was such a good feeling, and the hot shower at the YMCA afterwards was even better, minus the initial shock of the hot water to all the chaffed spots.
Last, but not least, and certainly indicative of what’s to come over the next few weeks, is the picture for this post. We saw this sign as we drove home from the marathon yesterday, and had to pull over for a picture. Love it. Thank you to everyone supporting our efforts of marathon madness. I still can’t walk well or go down stairs without holding on to both railings, but somehow I have to do this all over again this weekend! Oh, what events pure madness will bring.