Sunday, November 18, 2012

Charlotte Thunder Road 11/17/2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012
7:45 am
Charlotte, NC
Thunder Road Marathon 

The second time I have been here for the marathon distance. Third time total, once for the half marathon distance where I fell in love with this race.  But the romance truly blossomed at mile 20 ½ in December 2010, when I completed my first full marathon.  That is the dreaded wall that any runner talks about hitting or hoping not to hit when it comes to the old 26.2 mile marathon distance.  

In 2010, it was my race, I had done endless miles, crossed trained endless hours, nothing had stopped me from getting close to my goal of 4:00 marathon time.  When I started that morning, I told Nik by at the start, told Lori and Cindy, to wait at the finish line and I was off.  Before I left I told Nik that I would see him between 4:00 and 4:15 and I did just that.  I crossed the finish line at 4:10:13.  It was a glorious day with much pain after, but I was on cloud nine.

Fast forward to October 31, 2012, the day that a wrench got thrown into everything.  Listen, I am in no way making excuses for not getting in my run training but Nik and I both put our lives on hold. At 8:30 or so that morning our gym caught fire due to a faulty heater that exploded.  Lucky for us, our house didn’t go up and neither was no one injured.  But on my gosh, the damage do to smoke and fire was incredible, I did what I could to help and Nik worked tirelessly on rebuilding with help from some great people and now the gym is currently back in operation.  The next thing that was going on at the same exact time, my mother was being rushed to the Heart Hospital at Richland Memorial due to an aneurism in her heart.  She spent the next week and a half in ICU.

Skip ahead to Saturday, November 17, 2012, it is 7:25 in the morning and we are meeting Lori and her husband in the lobby of the hotel.  

My dearest friend, who is crazy enough to sign up for races with me.  Our friendship blossomed after I asked her over three years ago about helping me check off a bucket list goal of running a marathon before I turned forty.  She had been my client for years, had spoken of running often, so I asked if she would be interested in training with me.  Believe it or not she had and still does live about four miles from me, coincidence? I don’t think so.  And that is where it began, we have missed I think three runs the entire three years and three months, only because one of us was out of town.  

It is freezing, 34 degree and the north wind at 15 mph is blowing, of course a head wind…wouldn’t expect anything different.  Embrace the suck.  Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon is a hilly course, but I love this course and the scenery is beautiful.  Here is how the day went to the best of my knowledge, some thoughts could be impaired by endorphins or utter loopiness from the runners high.  

We start.  I had told Lori to run her own race. I don’t think it is fair to hold another runner back, even your training partner.  Every race is different. Every runner is different.  Some days are your best race, and at marathon distance anything can change at any given minute.  

Mile 1: creeps up real fast, all I kept hearing in my head is Laura Howell saying you should feel like you are running the first half too slow, so I pull back the reigns. My Garmin (though battery charge complete was flashing when I put it on)  died at mile six, was reading I slowed back to a 10 minute mile. Thanks. Laura. J 

Mile 2 through 6.2 miles, pretty uneventful, just running with Lori and enjoying the race but wishing the crowd would thin out, doesn’t happen though until the half marathon turn off at mile 12.  Maintaining my slower pace, pretty evenly.  Happy with the pace that we are going, just enjoying the day. 

Mile 8:  In the mind of a marathoner, this one any way, I think only 18.2 more to go! Warped I know but just hold on, it gets better. 
Mile 10:  At the actual mile marker, a guy is laying on the ground, unconscious.  Someone is with him, but how terrifying,  we get on down the road and here the cops who are directing traffic for us calling for help.  Then we hear the ambulance,  not what we want to hear or see.

Mile 11: Just another mile

Mile 12: Here’s the split, half marathoners to the right, marathoners straight ahead.  The crowd thins and as we turn off we can hear the crowd cheering for those cheering for the finishers at the half marathon.  

Half marathon split 2:11.

Now the countdown to the 26.2 begins. 

The next few miles tend to speed by kind of like rapid fire. 

Miles 14 thru 18 and then I tend to get a little sad, only 8 miles left.

Mile 19, I start to wonder, am I going to hit the wall, face plant into it, not be able to finish the race?   Is my stomach going to flip?   Am I going to have to walk the finish?  Then I start to count my steps, 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4.…yes, repetitious but its my step partner that keeps my breathing regulated.  

Mile 20 thru 24.2 and the whole reason I just love this race, the course and the people of Charlotte…at Mile 20 ½ there is “The Wall Party!”  There is a wall constructed for us to run through, with both sides of the road filled with cheering people, on the other side…starts the beer tables, Chocolate milk tables, random people with table of orange slices, strawberries.  Signs that read “ 26.2 because 26.3 would be insane”  and  “Chuck Norris never did a marathon”  and “Run faster so you can get the last Twinkie.”  The streets are colored with chalk all the way to Mile 23 ½.  The crowd is loud and cheering, they come from their houses and the reception is intoxicating, they make the whole race worth running.  There is music ranging from “Rocky Top” to the Rocky Theme Song, “Super Freak,” “Push It,” and those are just the ones I can remember.  

At Mile 24.2, a cop is holding a piece of typing paper with “Only 2 more miles” written on it.  I smiled. I can do this, Lori can do this.  We got this. We got this, it is almost over.  I feel like I can do anything, probably even fly… 

Mile 25 + a lady says up the hill and around the corner and you will see the finish.  I look at Lori and ask her if she can hear them, the cheering we can hear the finish line, everyone is waiting on all us crazy marathoners to finish. All of us crazy people who pay to torture ourselves, to ache after, to give up endless hours of our lives to be on the road in constant training, to sacrifice time with our families due to long runs and dedication to the sport…yes, all those at the finish line are the ones who support us crazy runner people,, they are cheering and waiting to celebrate with each of us whether a first time finisher or an old pro…each finish comes with a sense of accomplishment and a healthy dose of endorphins knows as the runners high.

Oh the sweet taste of adrenaline…

I can see the Finish Line, hear the crowd and then I hear my name…Pam Rodriguez from Elgin, SC, strong finish.  I crossed that finish line at 4:35 and though it was not my best marathon time, it was probably one of my proudest moments because I had had such a rough three weeks, my training had stopped mostly, and my stress level and anxiety were through the roof.  But when I hit the road on Saturday morning at 7:45 am, I had no expectation but just a strong desire to run and to smile which had been missing from my face for the last three weeks.  It was a care free few hours I had with my best friend and “sole sister” Lori. 

 After I crossed the finish line, got my blanket and medal, had my chip removed. I stopped and turned around to wait and watch Lori cross the finish line.  I rushed to her, walked with her to the snacks and water areas and got Nik to get her some ice for her knee.  We both had a great day.  

This marathon made my marathon total three for the year.  What a year is all I can say.

While we were standing at the finish I asked her if she was coming back to Charlotte next year, she said yes. I said that I was too.

The aftermath of this race has not been as bad as before.  Usually I need a lot of assistance post marathon, not this time.  I can walk up and downstairs, dress myself and put my own shoes on, sit Indian style and sit on the toilet without wincing!  All big pluses. I had no swelling post race, no stomach flip, no nausea, no joint pain and a lot of smiles and overload of endorphins.  

I love to run, as if it weren’t already apparent and I sincerely cannot wait to cross the next finish line, even if it is the imaginary one that is in front of my mailbox.  

Many thanks to my sweet supportive husband, who is a worry wart J but I wouldn’t have him be any other way.  He is always so proud of me, sometimes I think more than I am about my accomplishments.  He’s the love of my life and my biggest fan and cheerleader. I am one lucky girl. Thanks, Nik.

Post race, we go to our room, Lori and Greg in tow… I have a surprise. I had a cake made for us to celebrate.  It had a banner that had the name of the marathon and silhouettes of two runner girls with ponytails.  The front said “Sole Sisters 26.2” and along the bottom a quote that Lori had said to me when she was getting me through my first half marathon when I wanted to quit…”Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.”

After a brief rest, we all went to dinner at Vida, a great little restaurant in the Epicenter.  Then we ate cake…

I wouldn’t trade yesterday for the world, I needed that run and I needed my Sole Sister and our supportive husbands. What a great day and as I sit here and blog a twinkle in my eye and a grin on my lips, I am happy, anxiety has subsided and soreness is minimal.     

Everything happens for a reason, people come into our lives for a purpose, not by accident and I know for a fact…running can change your life. It has mine. 

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