Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Your Mark... Get Set... Save the World

Thank you, Solomon family.
It has been a GREAT run.
I realized this week that I am one of those Superstitious Athletes.  I don't really know how it happened, but on Friday night, I was taking my freshly laundered running tights, new top, et al out of the dryer, and I painstakingly rummaged around to make sure I had both socks that had the BLUE Champion® logo.  "I need to wear the blue socks," I thought to myself.
Why?  I have no idea.  I have a pair with a pink logo and many pairs with the gray logo.  They are all the same socks.  I could even wear one sock with the blue logo and one with the pink, and I would not be able to tell you the difference.
But as I set out my race day attire, I HAD to have the blue sock.
Earlier in the day, I got mad at myself for not getting to the ribbon store before it closed.  I have to wear a bow in my hair (usually just a plain ol' grosgrain ribbon), the color of which is representative of the race somehow.  How I came to add this to the wardrobe is a long story, and since this is going to be a long post anyway, we'll have to wait for another time on that.  I thought about going to one of the craft stores that are open until 9 or 10PM, but I decided to wear a ribbon that I already knew I had at home, the one I had worn to the ovarian cancer 5K I ran back in September.
"Gosh, I hope that it's OK to wear the same ribbon."
Yeah, like anyone was going to notice.  But I still thought that, multiple times, as I resisted the temptation to make just one more stop to get myself the "perfect" ribbon.
So, there we have it.  I'm a Superstitious Athlete.  I can no longer make fun of the baseball players who polish their fingernails or football players who must eat the same meal before each game.  I am one of them.  Just not extremely famous and well-paid for my amazing athletic talent.
Even though The Husband set his alarm to go off a half hour earlier than I did (he usually takes about an hour's worth of hitting the snooze button to rouse himself into his pre-coffee, almost-humanlike state - he actually left the race to go get coffee, although races ARE pretty boring, so I am not holding that against him; that he didn't bring me back a doughnut is what I hold against him), when my alarm went off, Zooey naturally thought it was Time to Run.  Sorry, girl.  She begrudgingly went on an early walk with The Husband while I brushed my teeth, put on mascara (a race is no reason not to look your best), and choked down my pre-race breakfast of a Naked® Green Machine smoothie and a sesame bagel smeared with peanut butter.  The other day I had played with the idea of making my own pre-race smoothie.  Then I remembered how early I had to be up.
Last year, I was terrified that I wouldn't get to Schnepf Farms (the amazing local peach farm that has hosted London's Run for the past several years) on time to start the 10K.  The farm is out in Queen Creek, and the road narrows to one lane each way.  Of course, because of the event, traffic was extremely backed up last year, and while I made it in time, I didn't want to risk it for the half marathon, which started before the 10K.
We were out the door by 6:30, and we got there with enough time to spare so that we were able to sit in the car for a bit, enjoying the heated seats (that was just me) before it was time to head out into the pre-dawn chill and hit the Porta-Potty line (seriously the best half marathon advice I've gotten).

We actually were there early enough that I was able to snap
a pic before the crowds converged onto the starting line.
The thing that sucked about being there that early was that we had to get up early on a day when HRH was at my mother-in-law's, which usually means I get to do what all parents of young children usually only dream of: sleep in.
The thing that made being there that early great was this:

Arizona sunrise - the second most gorgeous thing in Arizona.
Right behind an Arizona sunset.
Since this was the last year for London's Run, the opening ceremony included the introduction of many of the families who were the beneficiaries of London's Run over the past 7 years.  Some of the families who climbed onto the stage included the beneficiary (some still in treatment, others in remission).  Sadly, though, several, including the family of Breanna Pena, a beneficiary of last year's Run, didn't.  On to the way to the Run, we had heard a story on NPR about a young adults' novel that centered around two teenagers with cancer.  I was thunderstruck when the author, John Green, shared something a child had once shared with him - the idea that the one thing that's worse than being a kid with cancer is having a kid with cancer.  Knowing that the parents who were standing in front of the sea of runners were those parents brought me to tears, and the race was still 15 minutes away.
Then London's mom spoke.  Her graciousness and appreciation was almost too much for me to bear.  I honest to goodness had to hold myself back from running right to the stage and throwing my arms around her to thank her for letting us share in London's story.  It really put everything into crystal clear perspective for me.  Her words brought me back to why I started running in the first place - to support those who are sick and struggling to walk ten feet (like Breanna did last year during the Run - she wanted to finish the race herself).
Last year, my friends and I ran to support Lily, my friend Alicia's daughter.  This year, I had planned to run in celebration that Lily is in remission (after this week's chemotherapy session, she is finished with her treatment).  But as I listened to London's mom, I realized that I can't run in celebration only, because there are too many people who are still fighting to make it through another day.
It was this thought that carried me through the entire race.  Like last year, there were many signs posted throughout the course, signs that had pictures of some of the kids at Phoenix Children's Hospital who are fighting for their lives.  Some of the signs had simple words, like "Good luck!" or "Keep Running!"  Others were funny: "Toenails are overrated;" while others were heart-wrenching and inspirational: "Hey, stranger - I'm proud of you" and "Find joy in the journey."  When I wanted to stop around mile 9 (my wall came earlier than I had thought it would), those signs made me keep running (I am happy to say that I ran the entire way except at water stops, when I walked as I drank, in order to not slosh all over myself).
I made the decision not to bring my hydration belt and to utilize the water stops.  I think that was the only decision I am not pleased I made.  While there were plenty of water stops (three of which also offered Gu), I still had to have water when I got there, not whenever I felt I could use a swig.  And since this race was almost completely on dirt, I felt that often.  I definitely was happy that I brought my own Gu; I had some about 5 minutes before the start of the race, and I could feel a difference when I sucked down my second packet out on the course.  Gu is a little sticky, but it's far easier for me to take in than jelly beans or gummy things while I'm running.
So, that was mile 6.  Mile 8 was when I felt like that wall was upon me, and sure enough, by the time I got to mile 9, I had hit it.  Hard.
I honestly don't feel like I ever got my second wind.  I'd love to say that I did, that those signs or another packet of Gu re-invigorated me, but I honestly kind of wished I had signed up for the 10K.  It really wasn't until today (Sunday, the day after the race) that I am able to reflect back on it and think, "Yeah, it really was not that bad, and I'll do a half marathon again, but I can't say 26.2 is anywhere in my near future."
Finally, finally, I saw the finish line.  That arch of balloons was the prettiest thing I had ever seen (although the camel that we ran by in the first mile or so was pretty cool, too).  I was SO ready to be done.
Even though I was tired and had slowed my average pace from an acceptable 9:39/mile to a disappointing 10:11/mile, I had enough energy to sprint the last 400 meters.  Once I hit that final straightaway, I was determined to beat someone.  Sorry, woman in the white shirt whom I paced for about the last three miles; you always finish your race strong.

The Husband took this picture.
Had I known he was, I would have tried to look happy.
PS - Can you see my ribbon?
DAAAAAAY-UM!  The second I actually stopped running and walked, my calves started protesting.  Wow, ouch, soreness that I have never felt before.  Then my hips joined in the protest, and I knew I'd be in for a long evening if HRH decided she needed to play Upstairs Downstairs (nothing like the TV series - literally going up and down the stairs like it's the most fun thing ever).
All I have to say at this point is Hooray For Free Post-Race Massages, even though it was only about 5 minutes long.
See?  I know he's taking the picture,
so I look happy.
Of course, I was DONE, so I WAS happy.
Sorry about the sweat stains.
My official time: 2:13:59.  I finished in 253rd place, which is just about in the middle of the pack, considering how many people had registered (as of the night before the race, there were 200 of 750 slots left for the half marathon).  I had set a goal to finish the race in fewer than 2.5 hours, so I am happy that I was able to finish with more than 15 minutes to spare.  I had hoped to be a bit closer to the 2 hour marker, as I generally have been running about 9:30-10:00/miles, but I had never run farther than 10 miles before, so I really am using this event as a baseline, and let's be honest - taking exactly 10 minutes for each mile would put me at the finish line in just over 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes), so, really, I can't complain.  It was a great event, and I am sad that it has come to an end when I have just started my running journey.
I hope that the seven years of London's Run has brought comfort and a semblance of closure to the Solomon family and to those families who have benefitted from the subsequent runs.  I hope that every step, every breath, and every heartbeat out on each course (2-mile fun run, 10K, and half marathon) in each year have positively impacted those children who are fighting so hard for their lives.  It is because of these families and children that I lace up my shoes each week and head out the door; I am running to save the world, one cancer, one illness, one person at a time.

We all have our finish lines.
Remember to always finish strong.
I must extend my gratitude to the Solomon family, the four ladies who have planned London's Run for all these years, Schnepf Farms, and the ENTIRE Town of Queen Creek for hosting an event that not only raised money to save lives but also other vital resources.  United Blood Services had three RVs there, and I am so proud of The Husband for heading over to the Be The Match booth to swab his cheeks while I got that post-race massage (I already received my BTM donor card in the mail about a month ago).  If you aren't a blood donor, please consider becoming one, and if you haven't become a marrow donor, know that signing up is extremely easy.  Neither donation comes without a bit of discomfort, but I can guarantee you that the knowledge that you helped save a life overcomes the discomfort by leaps and bounds.

I thought I'd share a few more random photos from race day with you as well, should you want to end on a less teary note...

Hey!  Look!  An alpaca!
(The woman holding it was also holding a fennec fox)
Call me Dusty.
 Oh, and the post-race meal?  Oregano's garlic bread (I ate it too fast to get a picture), veggie thin-crust, and a pizza cookie.  I am almost ashamed to admit how much I ate.

The "Lawrence's Original"
spinach, mushroom, and garlic
This is why people come to Oregano's:
The Pizza Cookie.
Hello, unbuttoned pants


  1. Wow, what an accomplishment! You have such a beautiful soul and do so much to support both the research and those whose lives have been affected by cancer. Your involvement in these events is inspiring! Hugs to you!!!

  2. Thank you so much, my dear! I can't even tell you how your comment just warmed my heart and made my day! I am so glad that we have been able to reconnect. Hugs right back at you! <3

  3. DOn't be embarrassed about how much you ate...seriously, after I did my half marathon, I ate like a pig that night!! I know that professionally athletes eat like 10,000 calories a day, so it's probably normal to be a pig after running 13 miles!!

    Way to go! And maybe for the next one I can actually join you...although, I KNOW I can't keep up with you!!

  4. Yes, you can join me! And remember, we all run at our own pace and have our own finish lines.
    And that pizza was, next to the apple juice I was given after HRH was born, the best thing I've ever eaten. :)

  5. I ate FOUR PLATES of meat at the Famous Dave's Brunch Buffet after my first half and after the marathon last fall, we hit a German Buffet for dinner.

    Nothing tastes as good as victory dinner.

    Also? My first half-marathon time? 2:13:58. It's a sign. Someday we are running TOGETHER. My heart is basically exploding with pride right now.

  6. Are you serious? That is in-flipping-credible. Yes, we ARE running together someday! But not a full. I'm still not sold on those. I, unlike Pheidippides, am not from Sparta.
    What I wouldn't give to have a German buffet as handy. I would wreck that thing, not that the entire loaf of garlic bread didn't taste like victory.

  7. I am SO proud of you, Allison! Way to go! And way to listen to your body. I was planning to do my 1st half in May, but got "locked out" when it filled almost 24 hours sooner than usual. I took it as a sign to attempt a 10K first. ;) I really, seriously want to do the relay run with you & Kat someday...if you guys don't scoff at my 11:30-12 minute miles!

  8. Wouldn't a #RunningPackintheSky relay team be absolutely awesome!
    Thank you for all your support, Kirsten, and you WILL get that half done! Now that I'm thinking about it, I did enjoy the half a lot, but I think the 10K might be my favorite distance on a regular basis.
    That being said... Disney Princess Half Marathon February 2013.

  9. I found your post via Twitter (@__MeganJohnston) and just wanted to say congrats on your first half marathon! I just did my first half last weekend and just barely made my goal! Congrats again - and I loved your post, especially all the emotion about the kids and the history of London's Run. Touching.

    - Megan

  10. Thank you so much - and congrats to you as well! It is quite an experience, isn't it? Now that I'm that week removed, I am already thinking about doing another one in the fall. :)