Race Weekend

So … 10k … check.

It was … not exactly what I expected it to be. But, as always, there are stories.

Saturday! Saturday dawned stormy. Being the trooper he is, the husband went out for his final 2 miles, mostly to test out the weather. Even better, he let me sleep in and then came home for cuddling. I got up, got some food, showered, and headed out to the expo.

Oh, the expo. What a disappointment. I’m starting to realize that my first experience with marathon expos (Pittsburg) was abnormally well done. For as much hype as this one was getting, it was just not that good. Small, with far too many people (blame that on the fact that we waited until the final day to go), and not all that many exhibitors. Most of them were other races looking for sign ups, and services (as in Aetna Healthcare, a Nissan dealership, various banks) that didn’t make any sense, other than being race sponsors. Oh, and the official race shop (which had a great variety of Marathon wear, but NO 10k … oh well!) was poorly stocked. Again, I realize it was the last day, but really, they said the jackets sold out THURSDAY. As in, the very first day. As in the day it was only open for 3 hours, in the middle of a workday.

Needless to say, I had a very, very disappointed boy on my hands.

Still, there were a few highlights. I got to sample some Sport Beans and stock up on flavors I LIKED. (Previously I’d only had the berry … not really a fan.) Also, Clif had all their products out for samples. I was finally able to convince the husband I just do not like Clif ANYTHING, and to stop trying. There was also a massage booth set up … and in 5 minutes I was able to get enough of an idea at just how good the masseuse was that I asked for her card.

AND! I finally managed to try yurbuds! You see, I have this problem with finding headphones I can wear more than 10 times. If they don’t fall out/hurt my ears, they end up shorting out. These, I’ve been told over and over again, are guaranteed to do neither. But buying them online is risky, because you need to be sized. Well … lo and behold, they were there! The salesman sized me, put them in, and then YANKED on the cord several times. Guys … it HURT, he was pulling so hard. And the things DID. NOT. MOVE.

I consider them $30 well spent.

After confirming that the races would only be cancelled in the event of an ice storm, we left the Armory to find … snow. I was highly amused and transfixed by the pretty (it was a coating, nothing big), but not worried.


Home, dinner, and mindless TV later, it was time to pack our bag check totes and lay out our gear. In doing this, I realized we are matchy matchy people:


For the record, the boy’s stuff was orange and black. Very Halloweeny indeed. So, undies/bra/tank/capris/jacket/headband/socks/long socks/shoes/bib … check. Off to the left there are Sport Beans, a baggy containing my ID/Metro card/cash, and a pair of sweats/sweatshirt that I would leave behind at the starting line. (They were donating anything left behind, which was AWESOME.) Oh, and a trash bag to wear over everything, if it was super cold. I was SET.

The morning of, it really WAS super cold. And dark … being 5:30am and all. I wasn’t fully awake as I dressed, but it was time to go, whether I liked it or not.


Goofy face and stance … just for you.

Since our starting points were in two different places, we split up in the metro. Arriving at The Mall, I emerged from the station to find … very few people. It was so cold, most were sheltering in the station. Not to be deterred, I dropped off my bag at bag check (the Marines and UPS guys there were the most cheerful, genuine people I encountered all day) and proceeded to march myself up and down The Mall … from the Washington Monument (or, as close as I could get) to the Capitol (ditto) and back. The moving kept me warm, and I donated the trash bag to a girl who was shivering in her race wear*.

A trip to the porta-potties later and it was time to get to my corral. The sweats were left behind there, and just as I was about to cross the starting line I threw my sweatshirt at a young girl (who’d been eyeing down the bright yellow hood) that looked cold. When I looked back, she was wearing it. ::grins::

The first mile and a half of the race were great. There was the excitement of the start, and then, barely a mile after, a drum group playing (and dancing!) loudly. Talk about enthusiasm. ::grins:: Then, we hit 14th Street Bridge.

The mile long bridge was not just frosty, it was iced over. From the looks of things, no one had anticipated it. Screams of “ICE!!” filled the air so that runners behind us would be warned, and the entire group I was in (probably about half way back) slowed to a very careful walk. We made it across the first bit unscathed, and when we got to the very center, found a patch of road not even wet, so we ran again … only to hit another patch of ice.

This time we were not so successful. People went sliding every which way … me included. Determined not to fall I windmilled my way through the paths of several racers, and managed to stay on my feet. Finally we got off the bridge, and continued running.

Less than a minute later, there was a shooting pain in my right shoulder, and my hand went numb. Uh oh … that can’t be good. I slowed to a walk and massaged my shoulder until the pain (and numbness) went away, and tried again. 30 seconds in … same deal.

This, to my utter disappointment, set the stage for how miles 2.5 – 6 would be raced … in 30 second spurts interspaced between several minutes of walking. A few times I pushed through to a full minute (and one time TWO MINTUES!) of running (with my hand hooked in the strap of my bra to keep it from bouncing) … but the pain in my shoulder started creeping up to my neck during those times, and I needed to stop right away.

I did, however Charge the Hill (in Arlington Cemetary). Though now, I wish I hadn’t. In all the pre-race communication, we were led to believe the finish was RIGHT AT the top of the hill. Um … not so much … it was 200 meters further. Had I known this in advance, I would have done the hill slower, and charged the finish line. As it was, when I got to the top and saw how far off the finish was, I stopped and walked. To have a Marine say “Only 200 meters to go, ma’am! You can do it!” I turned to him and said (while massaging my shoulder) “As soon as I can feel my hand, I’m THERE.” He looked shocked, realizing I was injured, and saluted. Which, for some reason, made me giggle.

I did run across the finish line. No stupid shoulder injury was going to rob me of that.

Standing in line to get my medal I had time to come to terms with what I’d just done … and not done. Pride at making it to the finish line warred with disappointment in myself for not doing more. But then, the Lt. was in front of me, congratulating me, calling me ma’am, and putting a medal around my neck. A finishers photo later, I was on my way to the med tent.


The medics were great. The woman assigned to me probed my shoulder for a while and then whipped out a portable x-ray machine. AWESOME, I tell you. She determined I’d not broken or dislocated anything, but that there was a pinched nerve … which explained the numbing and shooting pain … along with a minor strain. Clearly, I should have just let myself fall on my ass when I slipped, instead of windmilling.** She used a TENS unit to relax the nerve, and sent me on my way with some painkillers and orders not to exercise for a week, as more bouncing could re-pinch the nerve.

It turned out, I completed the race in 1:22:42 – a 13.19 minute pace. I have to be honest, this shocked me: I was SURE I was hovering right around (possibly slower than) 15 minutes. That I somehow managed to be well above 15 minutes/mile while walking most of the last 4 miles was stunning.


Yah, his medal is prettier than mine. But he went an extra 20 miles so he deserves it. And I like mine!

So … that’s done. While I wish I’d done better, there’s really not a whole lot I can do about it … especially when an unexpected injury, right? But I’ve learned a few things:

1. I run faster when not on a treadmill. I’ve been using a 10 minute pace for my training. It’s a speed that felt good, so I stuck with it. But seeing my time? When I know I was walking super slow for at least a mile? I can honestly say if I’d run as much as I’d intended, I would have finished 20 minutes faster … and 1:02 is an even 10 minute pace. Considering I’d planned on walking some of it anyway, that means I’m running MUCH faster than I thought. Now, to figure out how fast that actually is.

2. The only thing doing the entirety of my training on a treadmill did was not prepare me for how much harder impacts on the road are. But even then, it was barely noticeable. The hills and road changes didn’t affect me at all. I do not recommend this route to anyone else, and am going to consider myself lucky.

3. I need to be in lighter-weight shoes. I’m in a mid-weight padded shoe now, and I think I need to step down to a minimalist. I tried on a pair of Kinvaras a couple of weeks ago, and felt like I was in dance shoes. My Guides, by contrast, felt heavy the entire race.

4. Starting in the corral of the time I expected to run (1:10-1:19) was a mistake. What I failed to anticipate was that my expected time was a combo of running and walking. EVERYONE around me was expecting that time based on running the entire way. Which meant I spent all of my running moments darting around people … and a few times getting stuck and having to walk, just so as to not run them over. While it was nice to pass people, it was irritating to have them in the way. Next time, I start with the group running at the same speed I am, and let them pass me if I have to walk.

5. This is not the race for an empathetic person to run alone. There were far too many “In Memory Of” shirts going on. Being the shorter race of the day, there were a lot of families. I was choked up almost the entire time, but the shirt that got me crying were a family who had each shirt personalized. There was 1 “In Memory of My Grandson”, 2 “My Son”s, and on a 10-year-old girl “My Brother”. The photo was of a handsome boy, no older than 20 at the most. I was lost.

6. Backpacking on number five, it’s also a very lonely course. Most spectators/entertainment are not out yet, as they have a full 2 hours before the front-runners of the marathon came through. (It kind of made me feel like my race was the “red-headed stepchild” of the day. Race organizers should do something about that.) Add to it the fact that 80% of the course is on freeways where there CAN’T be any spectators, and you have one quiet course. I regretted not bringing my iPod by mile 2.

7. I’m glad I got lazy on my training. Hurting myself and needing to walk was disappointing … but if I’d trained properly and planned on running the entire thing? I’d have been devastated to be forced to stop. Not saying this excuses my laziness, but it makes me just a little bit glad for it.

So, all in all … an accomplishment yes, but a learning experience even more. I’m already signed up for another race (the Jingle All The Way 8k in December), so I intend to do things properly there. I’ve got one “could’ve-should’ve-would’ve” under my belt. Now, on to being a brave adult.

Thanks, everyone, for the support along the way … it really means more than I can say.

Oh! And for one last little bit of fun … at least we know my reflective patched clothing works:


I had a good giggle over that. ::winks::


* I was one of the only people in throw-aways. How does THAT make sense?

** The last time I didn’t just let myself fall on my ass I broke my wrist in 2 places. You’d THINK I’d have learned my lesson!

8 Comments to “Race Weekend”

  1. So, so proud of you! I like your medal too. I hope you wore it today.

    I could not have seen those t-shirts without bawling. Heck, I was crying reading about it.

    During my first marathon in Chicago, just when I was feeling like I couldn’t go any further, I looked up and there was an elderly man standing on the side of the road with a sign that said “you will never doubt your ability again”. I lost it. I can’t say that it’s always been the case…but the thought of that man with that sign comes back quite often.

    • Thank you! And sadly, no … but I DID wear it all around yesterday, even after I’d showered and changed to run errands.

      That sign is so, so good. It reminds me of an inspiration quote I found recently, that I love:

      “Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells “CAN’T”, but you don’t listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper “Can”. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no matrch for the one you really are.”

      Good lord, if that doesn’t get me every time.

  2. That quote is so good. I’m a sucker for those types of things.

    I’m glad that you wore your medal! Can’t wait to hear about your next race!

  3. Congrats Sarah! =) You are awesome awesome awesome! Inspiration doesn’t even begin to describe what you’ve done for me here!

    I’m glad you listened to your body and did what you needed to make it to the finish!

    Oh, and I too nearly cried when I read about the memorial shirts.

  4. Sorry about the shoulder but congrats on getting it done!

  5. Glad to hear I’m not the only one whose 10k this weekend kinda sucked. Bridge freezes before road, indeed. I’m so proud of you for finishing despite injury, though! Your time was really fast considering you had to walk a lot!

  6. What an amazing adventure!! I’m so proud of you both! Even with all of the bumps and bruises and pinched nerves. 🙂

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