24 October 2009

A "W" for #TeamDanie (v)

Sometime after the Marina, most of us runners got really quiet. Anyone who had studied the course knew we were heading up and that "up" was going to last a while. The first hill was so narrow, most of us walked. There were a few runners who tried to zig zag through the crowd. As far as I could tell they ended up tripping themselves as they stomped on the other runners. We were halfway done and I was still worried about conserving energy.

The next hill was steeper. It was wide enough for us to actually run and it's where I first noticed the silence. There were no bagpipes, choirs, street performers, water stops, or cheering sections. It was just the runners and the road. I heard a lot of breathing and a lot of "we're almost there." Those focused on the big picture were identifiable by their "the next one won't be as bad" mantras. I don't remember exactly what I was thinking. I know I wasn't still sad / disappointed / angry. I know I was determined, and that I kept reminding myself I had run that road before. I knew I could do it because I had done it. Reaching the top was like a mini-finish line. A woman standing by herself at the top cheered me. She called me Diane, then got it right. I smiled and was happy again.

The course turned flat, and then down. I found Joanne and we maintained our safe pace. Even more than halfway through the race, I was worried about going too fast. I had not run 13 miles before and I was afraid my body would just shut down after 11. Plus we knew there was another hill approaching. Joanne (one of those big picture people) said it was twice as long as the last one at half the elevation. Basically it was supposed to be easier. Still, it was an intimidating sight. The hill went up, then turned. The end was not in sight and as I looked up at it, I felt myself slowing down. I shortened my stride, put my head down and took one step at a time.

It was difficult. The body was tired. Shot blocks and water were not enough. I went to a mental place I did not know existed. I was alone. But I was running next to myself offering encouragement. While part of me was really tired, another part was really proud and excited. My tired self could feel my encouraging self. I don't think I've ever been as proud of myself as I was at that moment. I saw a sign that read "you're not a runner. You're a marathoner." And I started to cry - which brought me back to the reality of three miles (and further up) to go.

And then there were oranges. Kaiser Permanente had storage bins full of quartered oranges. There were thousands of them, and they were the most juicy, satisfying, delicious oranges I've ever tasted. I tried to eat just one. I didn't train with oranges and I didn't want to mess with my rhythm. But they were really good, and the line of orange givers was long enough for me to taste one, have a debate, stick to my guns, change my mind and do something about it. Man, they were succulent.

And then we were at the last hill. It wasn't steep. It was just there. It was the last hill, and I thought the last thing keeping me at a slower pace. I wanted to charge up (powered by citrus) and coast to the finish line. But I was already tired. And my charge was more like a... well it certainly wasn't a charge. I saw one of my coaches toward the top. He ran to me and we ran up together. It made a difference. I was able to go faster and keep up because I expected to be able to go faster and keep up. We hit the top and that was it - the last of the hills. The most intimidating part of the entire race was literally behind me. It was literally downhill from there. I hadn't done it, but I was so close. I wanted to do a little dance. But there was no energy for that.

"Daniela."

There, just before the start of the descent, were Jesse & Joel. I have no idea how they found me - I was looking in the opposite direction at the time. I was near no specific marker on no specific point along the route. But there they were. And I was happy to see them. Jesse reeked of relief, admitting he knew I was "sooo mad." Their adventure somehow took them on a bus. I'm not clear on the details - because honestly, they don't matter. They had found me. And the only wrong of the entire day had been righted.

Just as they found me. I like this picture because you see a lot of purple. Those are all Team in Training runners. We represent.