13(miles)x30: My first Half-Marathon

It was my birthday and I was slow to get out of bed as the grey morning light filtered through the gauzy curtains, but I had a promise to keep.

Alone in the house, I was in no hurry to get my running clothes together, but neither was I lethargic at the task. Today is the first day of Act II of the Life of Julia.  Eager, I am, to set the pace for the next thirty years.

I weighed myself nude: 202.8 pounds. Despite constant monitoring of what or how much I eat and regular exercise, I have yet to break the 200 barrier, but I think I may lose enough in water weight during my 13 mile run. I search for my cell phone to take a “before” picture of the scale. (The human brain insists on recording arbitrary milestones, doesn’t it? Much like when your odometer says 111,111.1 miles; it’s worth documenting. Why?)

Dressed in my über-bright pink t-shirt, which screams “I am a human being!” to any driver within a mile of me, I consumed a half-liter of water and grabbed a second bottle to place at the stop-sign which would mark my half-way point. 13 miles is the distance from my home, to the stop sign, to until about thirty yards passed the toll road, back to the stop sign, passed the toll road again, and then back home. I tracked it on www.sportdistancecalculator.com as suggested by phyllis45. (Thank you much! I’ve been looking for a site like this for a while!) I marked the time on the dry-erase board before I left the house: 8:35.

Yes, it’s January. But it’s Texas. And the sun was up. So I was a little surprised when I stepped outside in a t-shirt and micro-thin yoga pants to find frost still accumulated on my vehicle and all over my lawn (per NOAA, it was 36 degrees).  I had already stretched out indoors so at least I could get moving immediately. The skin on my forearms tingled with the chill. And my hand was complaining that I was also carrying a refrigerated bottle of water. I trotted around the block and out of the neighborhood. I have set my mind to something and, dammit, I’m gonna do it. This is the first day of the rest of my life.

I listened to Flogging Molly on my iPod as I gleefully deposited the water bottle. I’m amused by how much I enjoy Irish punk. It makes me happy and keeps my heart rate up as my breathing works passed the laborious phase and I meet my stride around mile 2.

I also had no feeling in my fingers; it’s just that cold. Har, har! ‘tis the trials of a glorious rite of passage! I continue my journey, curious what the drivers think of the crazy lady in the bright pink t-shirt as they blast the heaters in their SUVs.

While I was a little concerned how I might handle my water bottle with numbified fingertips, as I reached mile 5 or so, I sensed a new tingly feeling as my hands began to thaw. Until this point, I couldn’t say I felt tired even, I ran-jogged the entire time from my driveway. But now my legs wished to re-negotiate the terms of their agreement. I told them we would walk once we got to the water bottle. That placated them for a time and we all had something to look forward to.

Mile 6.5 –at the stop-sign. I just ran 6.5 miles with no break. Holy shit. I earned that water and I was glad to have it. My legs, however, were none too pleased by what had just occurred. My right calf and left quad were knotting up. And it seemed an angry person had a firm grip on my ass.

Walk it off, walk it off. I drank the water and started a light jog toward the service station where I would throw away the bottle. After a bit, it seemed my muscles would rather continue jogging than walking. I happily obliged, as the thought occurred to me that if I turned back at the service station that would still be a 10 mile run and still quite an accomplishment. But no, I set out to traverse 13 miles on my 30th birthday and that is what I shall do.

Leaving the gas station sans bottle, I was now listening to Indigo Girls; the folksy intellectual-spiritual tunes are excellent for endurance and inspiration to achieve. Yet as I approached mile 10 by the toll road and the furthest point from my home, my legs again lost their work ethic. Make it to the turning point, I said, I’ll walk after I turn around.

If something was to be learned from the first walking experience, it was that it’s only going to get worse. My legs were now in full-scale revolt, my back hurt, and my mouth was dry—very dry. I was a little on the light-headed side. This is one of those moments for which the cell phone was invented—and also why I didn’t bring mine. I walked—painfully walked—back to the service station. About 2 miles. I breathed through it. My legs seemed to propel me forward by an unseen force. My muscles were just that tight and operating on autopilot. I imagined my father helping me to stay upright as he had done once before. A feeling creeps forward from my childhood: I have found myself in a pickle and I must now find my way out of it. I didn’t have cash nor card with me either. But I needed water. Maybe they’ll have a fountain… I also longed for the toilet, just for sake of sitting. I wondered if the pain from walking would be made worse by sitting. I staggered into the service station and prayed no one was in the restroom so that I may rest!

Excellent. Alone. Sitting. I get up occasionally to drink from the well-decorated but poorly-cleaned sink. I breathe through the pain. Oh dear, I’m in a pickle. How long must I rest before I continue home? Walking. Painfully walking. I realized this is why people do this crazy shit in organized settings where there are other people to give you water and more water throughout your route. I drink ever more water from the sink until my head becomes less foggy and I continue home.

Breathing and walking. Walking and breathing.

-- Ow. --

I reach the first of two traffic lights and know I shouldn’t casually stroll across the intersection. I grit my teeth, check the timing on the light, and jog my way across. Again, I realize it’s less painful to jog than to walk. And now with some more fluid in me, I might can serve the dual purpose of feeling less pain and finishing strong.

And I actually jogged the last 1.5 miles or so. Dear Lord, the human body is an amazing thing.

Gatorade, couch, ceiling fan…ahh… I check the time: 12 noon. Even with the pickle, I completed my personal half-marathon in 3 hours and 25 minutes. Wow. But I remembered I still had one thing I needed to document. Surely within that self-inflicted torture I had lost at least three pounds in water weight.

 Before consuming too much Gatorade I crawled – yes, crawled—my way upstairs, wishing I had the forethought to bring the scale downstairs. But never mind. I must document this moment. 

Since I had been wearing and took off my prescription sunglasses, I had to take the picture blind then look at my phone: 201.6.

That was so not worth crawling upstairs.

It took 3 hours, 3 Advil, and a shower to adequately recover. All said and done, I’d like to do it again…in an organized setting…with other people and water stations…before my right knee becomes too cantankerous to let me.

The Galveston Mardi Gras half-marathon is February 5th

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