22 October 2009

A "W" for #TeamDanie (iii)

They say you can't sleep the night before the race. I set out to prove them wrong. And I failed.

The way I remember it, I was in a deep, replenishing sleep until I heard the familiar tinkle of a text message. I didn't check the message (I keep my phone out of reach when I sleep) and rolled over to continue my snooze. Too bad my brain jumped to hyper activity.
Who sent that message? What time is it? Am I late meeting my running mates? Why didn't my alarm go off? Why didn't Jesse's alarm go off? Did the power go out? That wouldn't matter. Just check the phone. Well look outside; is that "3AM dark "or "5AM dark?" They would have called if you weren't there. Go back to sleep.

But nerves had been rattled. I slowly convinced myself I hadn't overslept. I even convinced myself I had gone back to sleep for a bit. But I really just woke up with my eyes closed. I did a body check for injuries. I did an in-bed stretch and some deep breathing. I even re-checked my checklist. And after all that, it was only 4AM. I lay in bed for another hour.

The "race day ritual" had been set for months. It's the same as any "run day ritual." I had trained my body to be a creature of habit. And that moment of truth did not warrant a moment of change. I had toast and coffee 90 minutes before run time. I gulped down a tall glass of water. I packed my utility belt. I checked my phone (the 3AM text was from my dad). I updated Twitter & Facebook, and stared at myself in the mirror. I was ready. I just had to wait for the rest of #teamDanie.

I brought Jesse & Joel a blank sign from the Expotique Thursday night. It was so they - as spectators - could write something encouraging for me to read as I passed them. No, I never handed them markers. But Jesse & I share a desk. So he knows where the pens & markers are. Still, sign coloring didn't commence until a quarter to go time Sunday morning.


Joel getting started.

A two man color job once we realized it was time to go.

We then walked down the street (see me & Joel to the left) to meet designated running buddies Joanne, Charlene and (girl) Jesse. Charlene & (girl) Jesse are mentors with Team in Training. Neither was technically my mentor, but we live in the same neighborhood and shared a lot of sweat this season. Joanne lives near my job. She and I run close to the same pace. So we became friends during the season and decided to at least start the race together. We met at 6:15 and walked down to Union Square. It was starting to hit me.

We saw other runners as we headed down the hill. Imagine being up at 6 on a Sunday morning, walking to your workout, and finding first hundreds - then thousands - of people doing the same. It was surreal and for a minute I felt as if I couldn't open my eyes wide enough for my brain to understand it all. I stopped thinking about the course, about the running, about the everything. I was just there. It was mighty exciting.

My butt & utility belt.

Me, (girl) Jesse, Charlene & Joanne

We sorted ourselves by pace time. Basically we were wrapped around the black from the start line. Once at our designated corner, we waited. We tried to take pictures to capture the moment, but it honestly wasn't possible. It wasn't the same as being at a ballgame, or as being on the Las Vegas Strip for New Year's Eve. It wasn't even the same as being floor level at a concert. It wasn't even like the 5k I ran in September. It was its own feeling, felt only by the people who were there or who have been around a large group of runners. There were 20,000 of us registered. People like me brought two supporters. People like Charlene and (girl) Jesse weren't registered. It was quite the "to do."

The corner for our pace group.

Waiting.

Yup. I ran with my phone. Since Jesse had the camera, I needed it to document. Plus I have trouble "disconnecting."

Jesse & I planned meeting spots along the course. Based on me running a 1o minute mile, Jesse wrote down times and mile markers on a piece of paper. He tucked the paper in a folder with the course and the spectator guide and put that in his back pocket. He was ready, not deterred even after I told him there was no way I'd be starting right at 7. There were elite runners. There were Impalas. There were 8 minute milers. I think there were even wheelchair racers. There was no way I'd be starting at 7, but Jesse said he wasn't worried. And then neither was I.

Jesse's race day packet.

Jesse's orange marker. It was a lot easier for me to find him than for him to find me.

He & Joel went to the start. I stood in the street. The music got louder. There were various bouts of cheering. There were faces in the windows of the hotels surrounding us. I started wondering if they knew what was happening. I made sure my friends were close. I started singing along. I kicked a few fallen water bottles. I looked for Jesse. I checked my phone for his locale. I updated Twitter. I saw the starting mat. I looked at Joanne and I memorized the moment. I was racing.