Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Had A Secret: The Results (aka I Make Shelley Cry)

This is part two of a two part story.
For the first part of the secret, go here.

So my friend and I, and another of her friends drove to the race, chatting about it because they've done it before.  When we arrived, they both said that it seemed like there were a lot more people there than usual.  As it turned out this was a record number of runners for this race.  They ran out of bibs!  I think in part due to the fact that we'd had hard rain on Friday that helped clear our roads of much of the ice and also because it was forecast to be around 35 degrees.  Only problem is that the temps tumbled overnight and we got a dusting of snow.  So although the snow was pretty much off the roads, there was a fair amount of ice anywhere the sun hadn't hit, even though the race started at 10 AM.

Peeps.  OH EM GEE and HOLY CARP.   This was the hardest race I have ever done in my entire running career - and that includes the full marathons I've done. Hills? They weren't hills. They were runner slayers, they were pace killers. These hills were so hard and so steep that even the downhills didn't feel good because they trashed your quads and then all you could do was stagger and quiver on the uphills.  (Go here and scroll to the bottom to see the race elevations. Yes.  Click there.  You NEED to see how hilly this course was!)

The race STARTS on an incline.  Yay?  I had to keep telling myself to hold back and just chug away because though I knew the course was generally hilly, I really had no idea what I was in for even though I'd asked my friends a million questions.  I just kept chugging along, and my worst nightmare began to happen even as I ran... I had the sweeper/Police car right behind me for 2 miles!  GAH!  I kept thinking, how is it that I really did end up being last?  But then I had to remind myself that I needed to not focus on negative thinking that I just needed to push through. Literally, I thought of Judy fighting her cancer and I know how important it was for my SIL Pam to have a positive outlook while she was fighting hers so I made myself start chanting my running mantra, "Just keep running, just keep running, Don't quit, just keep running!" And I did.  Slowly but surely, I started picking people off... those who had started too fast were already walking by the time I was around 5 miles in.  That tells you just how bad those hills were.  But it was pretty... I ran by cows!

and rolling brooks

I had heard that Rick, the race director, was a lunatic and would pop out of nowhere along the course and run with people.  I'm so slow I never thought I would see him after the beginning race announcements.  As I approached the mile 6 mark, I saw a directional arrow on the road and a guy standing in the middle of the road.  As I approached I realized it was Rick.   He high fived me and said, "HEY!!  YOU'RE DOING GREAT! I'm going to run with you... look at those hills!  Isn't it beautiful?  Hey, what's your name?  Where are you from? (I'm gasping answers because we are running up a hill.  Well, he ran, I staggered.) You must be a first timer, don't recognize the name!  You know how to conquer this race?  Just SCREAM, I LOVE HILLS!  I LOVE HILLS!"

Here is the hill that Rick ran up with me.  It doesn't even look that steep, but it was steep enough.  Plus no one told me that part of this running would be on trails that had snow and mud!

I wanted to say, "No offense, dude but please shut up." But I didn't. Really his enthusiasm was infectious and gave me a little shot of adrenaline that definitely helped me get through the next few miles.  Little did I know it, the monster hill at mile 8 was on it's way.  I couldn't run it folks. I tried but I can't explain how monstrous this sucker was.  I walked and didn't even feel bad about it because every single other runner I could see was walking too.  At the top of that hill was one of the aid stations and I looked right at the volunteers and said, "I'm getting ready to cry like a girl," which made them laugh. Ha Ha very funny.  That hill added a full 90 seconds to my overall average race pace and took just about everything out of me.  I was never able to make up that 90 seconds per minute and right then gave up the idea that I might finish in 2:30, which I had been on track to do.  The race continued to alternate between being on paved roads and dirt trails (which still had hills!) and there was nothing to do but try to enjoy the scenery and slog along.

Mile 10 - and I never did catch that guy.

As I came out of the trail part of the run and back onto the main road there was a volunteer yelling as I staggered past, "Pizza, pasta, and non-alcoholic beverages are just 2.1 miles up the road!"  Hurray! Except, no one warned me that the last two miles would be a steady climb up hill.  So, the race starts on an incline and finishes on an incline? Yikes! Oh, did I mention the wind had picked up and was blowing straight in my face?  Ever tried to run up a hill with the wind blowing you backwards?

I briefly considered quitting right at this point.  I had developed severe cramping and charley horses in my right calf, plus my achilles tendon was not happy.  Stupid hills. But again, I literally used thoughts of Shelley and her mom, along with my running mantra, to power me through.  As I got to the 11.5 mile mark, I kept hearing a strange noise.  I was still picking off a few runners at this point and there was one ahead me who seemed to be struggling worse than I was.  As I got right up behind him I realized the noise I was hearing was him screaming at the top of his lungs.  I asked him what was wrong and he was crying and whimpering that his right knee and left ankle were killing him and he just wanted to die.  Then he would scream.  Then he would whimper that he just wanted to go home.  Then he would scream.  All of a sudden my various aches and pains didn't seem all that bad.  In fact, I was just behind him giggling my head off, thinking, it's true, this race does take down grown men and make them cry!

As it turned out, I would pass him and then he would get mad motivated and speed up to get back by me.  But when he realized I had on a Garmin, he kept turning around between screams to ask me how much longer, farther, etc. and so I decided to stay right behind him and coach him through the last mile.  He was terrified of being last and though I told him he wasn't, (and at this point who even cares if you are - you've conquered this hilly race!)  he wouldn't stop worrying about it.  It was actually quite comical!  Suddenly I saw a sign that said, "School Zone" and I looked at my Garmin and we were at 13 miles.  So I told him, "It's only 1/10th of a mile. Run because there will be people with cameras!"  So we ran and a couple of my friends were patiently waiting for me as I crossed the finish line.  The man I coached was literally seconds in front of me and after I crossed he grabbed me, gave me a big bear hug, and told my friends, "This woman saved my life!"

Yes, that's how hard this race was.  But you know what?  Still not as hard as what Shelley and her family, or many other families, or even what my own inlaws are going through.  It was a good reminder to me that positive attitude can carry us a long way and if we fight, we do make it to the finish line.

I still needed to tell Shelley the secret so when I got home I sent her a series of photo texts.  (Excuse the bad photos, it's hard to take pics of yourself with an iphone!).

(Oy. Winter running = not the most flattering look)

My Text before this last photo:
Hilliest, hardest race I've ever done - ever.  And cold and windy.  But I fought through and finished.  Tell Judy if I can fight so can she!  Big hugs my friend.

Not my best time - in fact this is more like a full marathon pace for me. But no matter.  I'll celebrate the simple fact that I finished a really hard race. There were over 470 starters and only 409 finished - that's how hard this race is.

Wanna see some photos of me crossing the finish line?  Go here and there are a few of just me.  Oh, and the photos just before mine?  That would be the screaming man lol!


  1. Hee hee! I got up at 4am just to read your race report!! Seriously, I have to get up for work at this time, and your report just made my day! You know I've got the hills going on around here, so I felt every up and every down that you did. Personally, I think the cold was your greatest challenge. Aaagh. Don't. like. cold.

    I got a little teary too, Helen. What a wonderful surprise for Shelley.

    Did you eat pizza?

  2. Oh Lord, you made me cry too. What a great friend you are.

  3. In tears here, too. Goodness gracious, Helen. You are a warrior!

  4. Amazing. Seriously, how do you take pictures while running? They aren't even blurry. Do you stop?
    I am SO impressed with you!!!!!!!!!

  5. Definitely crying here too!! Helen you freaking amaze me...you have such a lovely heart and soul. And a tough one too. :-)

  6. I'm speechless!

    Incredible, fantastic, hero, proud of you, want to be like you, amazing, you're such a great friend to have.

    This might be your toughest race ever but I bet it is also the one you will always look back at with so much pride!

  7. You are SO gorgeous! Even in your winter running gear. Heck. ESPECIALLY in it. Do you have any idea how amazing you are? Your head is an awesome, inspiring place.

  8. This is going to sound corny, But Helen - I can't begin to tell you how giddy with pride I am regarding this story. The way you write it is just priceless and the fact is, you DID it! You defeated the ultimate beast!! How cool is that? Plus, you did a selfless act for someone else and that always gets a round of applause in my book. Oh, and that guy? HE must have been on that runner's high; or bi-polar, not sure which.

  9. Freakin' awesome post! I love it.
    The best part is the feeling you get when you conquer the tough things. Makes you feel like a superhero with no limitations. Amazing job, my friend. Amazing.

  10. Great - I am sitting at my desk right now with tears streaming down my face - so proud that you stuck with it Helen!! And you are right, just a positive attitude can make everything okay.

    And as much as I think my life has been turned upside down the last month or so, I read that a friend of mine's five year old nephew went down for a nap and never woke up.

    So each day I wake up, take a deep breath and say "its going to be a great day!" You never know how many more you are going to get.

    I am sure Judy loved this post too! :D

  11. What a great story. You should be a personal running coach, seriously.

  12. It's great that you did this though can you say you ate a box of See's for Shelley and her mom like I did? Plus last night I had some popcorn. So there.
    This kind of work you did takes perseverance. You are amazing. And a good friend. See's?

  13. Great job and great accomplishment. So true too, it's nothing compared to someone going through cancer.

    You inspired me for my Big Climb (69 floors). Thanks!

  14. I'm so impressed and inspired and a little bit jealous. I just got benched too but next year, I'm running that thing. Congrats!!!!!!!!!

  15. Best news I've heard all day!
    You inspire me as well!

  16. I'm teary and choked up all over again...I still can't believe you did this for us. And holy carp indeed - that was one hell of a race! The hills, the crazy race director, the screamer - yowza!!! Really, just amazing. Best surprise ever. You are the best IBF, truly. Love you!!!

    P.S. You really do have a future as a running coach...based out of our running store. ;)

  17. As tough as it may have been, I LOVED reading about it!

  18. fanfricktastic!!! I am beyond impressed...those hills were loooooonnnnng loooooonnnnng hillllllssss.
    You were awesome.
    Great job Helen!
    Makes me want to find a hill and run up it.

  19. ahhhh late to the soiree but SO SO SO IN AWE OF YOU nonetheless.