Thursday, September 26, 2013

Trip Day 1: Montana Half Marathon- September 15, 2013

I am struggling with how to write the posts about my 6 in 6 challenge. At first I thought this was going to be just about running, but it became so much more than that. Other than running (which was a big part of the trip), this was about pushing myself to my limits, about physical and mental perseverance, about strengthening old friendships and about kindling new ones. It was about blood, sweat, tears, and blisters. It was about having a life-changing, perspective altering experience. It was about overcoming adversity, and remaining strong even while feeling incredibly weak.  If I had only one minute to say what this trip was about, this would be it, and I could end the blog post right there. And that would be OK.

But there are so many things I want to remember. And an occasional few things that I would really rather forget (see bedbugs in previous post). But in the end, it was all of these things that made my trip so amazing. And how do I write about it and ensure that I do it justice?

If you haven't figured it out yet, this is part 2 (day 1) of a seven part (6 day) set of entries.
The next installments are coming, but it might take some time... Afterall... I've got a lot to say. When do I not?


Sunday September 15, 2013, Seth, Brina and I woke up before dawn in our warm little hotel room in Billings MT, ready to start the experience of a lifetime with the Billings MT Half Marathon.

The course was fairly straightforward. It was a Point A to Point B course with the Finish line at the local high school in downtown Billings. All runners for the full marathon were brought via bus to the start line 26.2 miles away, and half marathoners were brought to the midway point for our start about an hour later.

When we boarded the bus to the half marathon start line, we immediately realized how chilly it was going to be. We all knew that Montana would be cold, but as honorary South Floridians, we really weren't quite prepared for this type of cold. My heel was bothering me, but I knew that this was the only race that my time really mattered to me on. I was determined to set a PR and bring my half time down by 2.5 minutes so that I could get a better corral for my first full marathon (upcoming in January). The drive to the start was spectacular with the Rim to the north, and the mountains to the south. I had never quite seen such beauty (this would be an ongoing theme throughout the trip, you'll see).

Our claimed sagebrush
While waiting for the start, Brina and I both had to use the restroom, but the lines for the port o potties were too long. We debated waiting, but ultimately figured that if peeing in the fields was good enough for the local cow population, it would be good enough for us. Brina scouted out a lovely sagebrush to provide coverage for us to squat behind, and we each took a turn.

I am only bring this up because it was probably the most heavenly moment I have EVER had while relieving myself. I squatted behind this beautiful little bush to pee, and my face went right into the sage brush and I inhaled deeply. The smell was soothing and refreshing and really settled my nerves. It was pure bliss for me, though for Brina, it was entirely different. Turns out she must be allergic to sagebrush... and she spent the next 2 days with itchy watery eyes and sneezing. Poor girl.

So anyway, what was really cool about this course was that the majority of it was downhill, and that it basically followed the same route that the bus took to bring us out to the start. The field of runners was small and with this being the first time that I ran on my bad heel, I knew that the field was going to thin out fairly quickly and leave me behind.

But Brina knew that I had a goal. I needed to get a good proof of time to be able to move up a corral during my first full marathon. I hate to remind people (lest they he shocked that this is a run pace, or try to call me "lesser than"), but I do run, walk, run intervals of 1min/1min. My times have increasingly lowered and lowered as I have become more accustomed to running, but I still seem to average approx 15:15 minutes per mile with a PR of 15:04 per mile. The goal was to bring my pace down to approximately 14:45 per mile.

And this is why I love Brina. She sees my goal, she tells me to cover up my garmin and not look at it. then she coaches me through the entire event so that my goals become my reality. She's tough, and sometimes on the course, she can irritate me, but I am CERTAIN that goes both ways and I drive her batty as well. During previous races we have done together, she has NEVER left me behind. Even during that terrible horrible no good very bad race that made me so incredibly sick for days afterward. She repeatedly forgos reaching for a personal best to instead stay with me, socialize with me, and try to usher ME into a new best.

When this injury had cropped up this summer, we had a long discussion about how I didn't want to hold her back during this trip, and how if my heel was acting up and I had to take it easy, I wanted her to make the best of the moment and do something great for herself, and she was hesitant on giving me an answer. I isn't that I didn't want her company (because we all know that I love her dearly) but I didn't want to be the thorn in her side holding her back from awesomeness.

So there we are slogging our way through the miles in what I thought was the most gorgeous course I had ever seen, and Brina was pushing hard. She started bumping my running intervals out to 1:15 and walking intervals to 0:45 and kept encouraging me to move forward. She stopped to pick up pennies, she relished in looking at the wild turkeys and the horses (even screaming at them like a giddy 4 year old, which I LOVED), but my heel pain kept building.

And I thought to myself, "Oh shit. If I have 5 more of these things to run, I should probably back off just a little." But I didn't, and the pain kept building. And by mile 8, I was at my breaking point. Brina was no longer pacing me from beside me, she was about 10 feet ahead of me. And I couldn't keep up. I was limping (although not really that badly), and I was near tears. When the timer went off to tell me that it was time for another run interval... I just couldn't do it.

Brina looked at me irritated at first. And tried to encourage me to move forward. I begged her to leave. I told her that I was at my breaking point, and she saw this as reality, wished me luck and left. I'm sure she was irritated with me, because *I* was most certainly irritated with me.

I walked for a few intervals to allow myself a nice cry and a good pity party, and when I was done with the tears, I looked at my garmin.

My average pace for the first 8 miles was 13:58.

How the heck did that happen???

I picked up my pace again and finished the race out strong completing almost all of the run intervals as planned at 1/1 ratio. My heel pain was so excruciating at that point though, I was well aware of the fact that I was running SLOWER than I was walking.

That last couple of miles felt like they took forever (and they most certainly did), and I watched the time on my garmin slowly creep higher and higher. As I rounded the park near the finish line, I knew that making my time for Disney was out of reach, but I still wanted a nice strong finish.

And I did. Because entering the chute at the finishline, I saw Brina leaning over the railing taking a picture of me with my nice strong finish. I flew through the chute at a sprint, fueled by the fact that one of my closest friends was there cheering me on.

As I crossed the finish line they announced my early birthday, gave me my medal and water, and congratulated me. I looked down at my garmin, and realized that I may not have gotten my time for Disney, but I still managed to get a PR!

At our post race celebratory lunch.
Time: 3:16.36
Pace: 15:00/mile
OA: 360/370
AG: 57/57
Gen: 328/278

Incidentally, It wasn't Brina at the finish line but a look-alike instead. Brina and Seth were at the car, thinking I wouldn't be finishing for another 15 minutes or so. Guess I proved them wrong. ;)

So we did it. 13.1 miles down, only 65.5 more to go.

To be continued...


  1. Awesome job! You got me a chilly! I cannot wait to read about the rest of them!

  2. A bit of overshare on the sagebrush.

  3. Sorry about that heel! Congrats on the PR!! And I have a less pleasant but funny in retrospect story similar to your sagebrush one. It involves a mesa in Sedona and an unexpected cactus! Good luck on the rest of your races!