This Sunday October 5th, 2014 I will have the pleasure of running a half marathon with my peeps Johnny Carpenter aka JC, Diana Maris aka DNice, Sarah Watson aka “Doc Watson”, and my fantastic wife Constance Alston aka CA aka Closing Time (after her More Core GLC performance). Rumor is Doc Watson’s imaginary friend “Alicia” will also join us. We’ve never met, so I am not sure she exists. 🙂 This will be my 4th half and their first. This is a group that never thought they would have what it takes to run a half but there’s something in that H4L water that pushes us to higher achievements. It all started with a 10K race a little while ago. My man JC tell the story as only he can…
Finding Your Friends
It takes seeing people at their weakest to appreciate how they overcame. And so it was at Midtown Raleigh Spring Race 13.1, entering its third year with ever growing attendance. Four of us from our fam at SAS ran in the event: Mike “Make Me An Offer” Rubes and John “The Fire Breather” Firlet ran the 13.1 who btw both finished at just around 2 hours with John a few minutes ahead; Diana “D-Nice a.k.a. ‘Tato Chip” Maris, and me both of us running the 10K. No alias for me. Sucks to not have one, right? Haha. Well, there is that one JP gave me. You’ll have to ask him about it though. But I digress… You’ll have to excuse me. This was my first official race outside of SAS.
Let’s begin at the beginning. My morning began this way: Ripping and running to make breakfast for the house before leaving, all panicked that I’m forgetting something important. Like my clothes, the right shoes, my race bib. Quick stop by the bagel shop to complete the “prescribed special race breakfast” of blueberry bagel with peanut butter (and a boiled egg from home). But I was a bundle of nerves. I’m rushing out the bagel shop when I hear: “Sir, do you want your change?” “Why, yes. Yes, I do. I was just testing you.” “Good luck in the race.” “Thanks!”
Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. But more so for that of friends: I’d made it to the race location in good time with 30 minutes till the start of the half-marathon and 45 minutes till start of the 10K . I’m standing in one of three looooooooong lines for the port-a-johns, doing my version of the potty dance when Mikey rolls up. “What’s up, Johnny? I see you like to do things a little differently.” He wasn’t calling attention the dance, but to my race bib. The ^%^& was upside down. Sad part about it? I pinned it on in front of the mirror. Aah, it’s gonna be a GREAT day. Like I said, I was a mess of nerves. I eventually ran into John, wished him luck and saw him and Mike start their race. After things thinned out I came across Diana, also, as we waited for the start of our own race. She was all nerves, too. We used the nervous energy to make plans about our starting pace, how we would change up after the first mile, and about our goal to finish in under an hour, etc.
And just like that it was our time to start and we were off. Needless to say we had to scrap our plans pretty much from the get-go because the race route began immediately with a steep hill, roughly a mile descent into residential terrain of huge castles and old, shady oak trees, nestled inside the I-440 beltline of Raleigh, NC. Normally, I’d have said we were toast but we had been blessed with temperatures in the 60s and (later) a mostly flat route. We considered slowing down deliberately, but scratched that idea and kept the same pace, as we neared the end of the first mile at St. David’s School and then the end of the second mile near the turnaround at Buncombe and Allegany. It was looking good so far. And Diana showed no sign of flagging. We hit the turnaround and mile three back at St. David’s. But I had started to puff a bit and Diana admitted she wouldn’t be able to go any faster. “Cool with me,” I said. “Catch your breath and hold what you got.” Meanwhile, a few miles away Mikey by his own later admission, is starting to struggle. Three miles in. Had to have been the boxing class the day before, right? ‘Cause Mike is a beast, and three miles is cheese to him. And John? John is somewhere out there in the zone. But they’re both on a collision course with that 13.1 finish line, and nobody had better get in their way.
But in the here and now Diana and I are passing Millstream approaching 4 miles and looking up toward the short bridge across Crabtree Creek. “Greenway trail is just up ahead on the right, Diana. You ok?” Her response is quick, “Yes” and she’s trying to breath. At that moment I’m thinking it’s time to get up, encourage. But I’m starting to feel it, too. “It’s one mile in and one mile out. We got this! Slow down, catch your breath if you need to, but you can do this! Let’s go. ” She hits me with, “I don’t need to slow down but…I can’t go any faster.” Where have I heard that before? “No need. Our pace has been in the 8:00’s since we started. You’re doing great.” A short while after crossing the first bridge on the greenway I say, “We’ll be done with this race in less than 20 minutes. You got this.” The two miles of greenway in hindsight seem to have gone by quickly. We would find out later in the Finish area from one woman that she got just behind us in the greenway stretch, also that she heard all the encouragement and that she did her best to stay with us, let us pull her along with our energy “But I couldn’t keep up.” She said. Then I suppose it was near the end of the time she was running “with us” that I said “We have a mile to go. We start back up the hill just after the next bend in the trail.”
The Up Hill
The hill beginning from the Lassiter Mill/Scotland intersection toward the North Hills is a climb of approximately 66 feet “up into the sky” over a 1-mile stretch. From the greenway trailhead on Lassiter Mill most of that mile remains to be covered when going northward in the direction of the Finish line. Diana had been dreading it. “Let’s do this, Diana.” And we plowed into it. This was some real work right here. About half-way up I look over and she’s struggling. “You ok?” “Yes. But I just need to catch my breath.” “Ok. Catch your breath. We have 11 minutes to finish under an hour. We’re gonna do that. You can walk it if you have to. We’re still gonna make under an hour.” By now I know what she’s going to say: “I’m not gonna walk… But I can’t go any faster.” I wonder what the woman that got left back on the greenway stretch would have said. What *I* said was “And I’m not gonna *let* you walk it either if that’s how you feel.” So we keep our pace. I zone out for just a sec preparing mentally for that last kick up the next rise of the hill. I had said I was going to think of spicy potato chips whenever I needed to take my mind off the present. Don’t know why potato chips. Just came to me that way… JP will be my witness. Then I come out of my daydream and look over to Diana to check with — OH MY GOSH! Diana’s as white as a GHOST!! Somebody call a MEDIC, I’m thinking! This hill’s done broke Diana! And just as I’m about to literally kick her to the curb so we can find out what’s wrong with her, I realize…it’s all good. “Diana? What is that?! Sunscreen? It’s running all over the place.” All she could manage at the time was a “Yes,” and the faintest “Oh, @#$%” expression. Later she would tell me she was laughing on the inside. But when it was happening I was certain she had “flipped a switch” and was about to “open up a can” right there on that hill and redefine “Romanian deadlift” on my hind parts. Time to save those parts and quick. Change the subject: ”Just over the last rise right there is the finish line. You can hear the announcer now. We’re there. Let’s do it.” She said she couldn’t go any faster but I’m certain she had a kick as we leaped across the median nearing the finish line. I took off my headband and twirled it with a flourish as we ended our run. Under an hour! Just like we set out to do. 1000 calories had given their tiny little lives to get us each where we stood. And I, for one, was thankful. “I’m so glad I did it,” Diana says, out of breath. “But I’m so glad it’s over.” The more I thought about it the more the spicy potato chip thing seemed to apply to her. The lady showed some fight up that last hill stretch. Yep, she was thin. She had a pretty tasty kick to finish, too. Dat ‘Tato Chip.
Those Who Ride the Lightning
We waited around to see Mike and John finish the Half-Marathon not sure who would come across first. We didn’t have to wait long to find out. John comes across with a full head of steam. I mean he’s on FIRE. We walk over to congratulate him. He goes, “Thanks. I’m gonna walk…” He was pointing northward. Dude hardcore. We give him his space to wind down. “But where’s Mike?” Now we’re thinking we missed him and that he’s pulled a “Firlet.” Maybe he’s off somewhere shopping by now, I think to myself. But then here comes Mikey finishing. Mikey’s DEFINITELY feeling it. He walks around a bit. Then he takes a seat on the curb. Later he stands up. But every couple of minutes he closes his eyes, and they seem to roll back a bit. It’s as if any second he’s gonna tilt back onto his heels and I’m gonna have to catch him. “I started having trouble at mile 3,” he admits. “I wondered if it was the boxing yesterday morning, ” he says. From where I’m standing Mike looks like he would trade anything for a good resting place, a firm bed maybe. “Make me an offer,” his body language seemed to be saying. But these guys had earned it. The right to be tired. The right to doze off. The right to wander off. The right to complain. The right to celebrate. We all had. And I loved every minute of it.
My man Rev used to have Drake on replay, and that hook sums it up best… “Started from the bottom. Now we here. Now my whole team here.”