Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reach the Beach 2009?

The second I had a moment alone with Robert after our team finished Reach the Beach this year, I gripped him by the shoulders in our beachside hotel room, told him to look in my eyes and listen carefully, and spoke these words: "I'm never going to do this race again. No matter what I say, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next May, I am never doing this race again." And I forced him to nod and agree that he'd heard me.

It's good that I had that conversation with him. Reach the Beach is an incredibly difficult event. You run the equivalent of a half-marathon or more on virtually no sleep. You can't stretch out or cool down after your runs are over, because you have to jump in the van and head off to meet the next runner. You get crammed in a van with 5 or 6 of your closest friends (or people you've never met before) and try to behave like civilized humans while getting no sleep and taking baby-wipe baths to (try to) stay clean. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it's cold, and sometimes you run through blazing heat. You run afraid for your life (of moose, drunk drivers, and the Blair witch) on the middle-of-the-night legs, which are up to nine miles long.

But... it's so much fun! First of all, you get to casually tell all your friends, "I'm running in a 200-mile relay." And you burst with pride as their jaws drop in shock and awe. That's in the months leading up to the race. You train and get your body into great shape during the hottest months of the year, and get to be amazed at your own stamina and determination as you reach new heights of training.

Where else would you get to hang around talking about nothing but running for two days straight with people who know what you're talking about and actually enjoy talking with you about it? It's so much fun to chat with your teammates about the racing plans they have for the fall and the best training plans to follow.

For two days, you get to ride around in a van and act like a child, singing songs (The Final Countdown, anyone?), yelling out the windows, and laughing hysterically. You get to blame your ridiculous, juvenile behavior on sleep deprivation. It's great!

And in between the silly antics, you get to talk with your new closest friends about serious matters like work challenges, marriage issues, and the frustrations of trying to get pregnant. The camaraderie of RTB is definitely the thing that brought me back this year.

Robert, will you remind me again why I said I wouldn't do it next year?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Luckiest

This time last week I was on a plane headed to New Hampshire for the Reach the Beach Relay. As expected, the race was an enormous challenge for this recreational runner. I anticipated that I would have a great time with my friends (both real and imaginary), and that I would run through some beautiful, hilly country.

What I didn't expect is that this race would bring me closer to my husband. Of course we were close physically - he was the driver of our van, so we stayed an arm's length apart for 33 hours, except for the times that I was out running. Emotionally I felt closer to him, too.

On my first leg of the relay, as I struggled up 5 miles of hills that seemed endless, I got bored and decided to start singing. I started with the anthem "I Will Survive," and then somehow segued into my favorite love song, Ben Folds' "The Luckiest." If you know the song, you know it isn't exactly the most energetic, kick-inspiring song. But I sang that song out loud for the last mile and a half of my run, thinking of Robert, who would be meeting me at the finish line. That song always makes me cry, and this time it was no different. (Note: It's kind of hard to run up a mountain while you're crying.)

There were some conversations Robert and I had during the 33 hours of the race that we probably wouldn't have had in "real life." The emotions that strenuous exercise and sleep deprivation bring out create some interesting subject matter. Although it was difficult to run for that many hours on almost no sleep, the experience was made so much richer for me because of the time I was able to spend with my amazing, supportive, loving husband.

Thank you for volunteering to drive the van, Robert. I really am The Luckiest.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reach the Beach 2008

5 - Days until the race begins (at 9:40 a.m. at Cannon Ski Mountain)
4 - Days until we leave for New Hampshire (at 6:45 a.m. CST)
3 - Days in my work-week this week
2 - People who will be accompanying me on the trip
    (one running buddy (Shelly) and one husband/van driver (Robert))
1 - Year that I've been counting down to this trip
    (since we got home from the last one)

Hooray, hooray, Reach the Beach is here and I can barely contain my excitement!

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

I have a score to settle with the San Antonio Half Marathon. In 2005, I ran the (Half) Marathon of the Americas. Well, “ran” is probably too strong a word. I struggled through 13.1 miles in a walk/run/death march, praying to see the finish line on the horizon. When I finally rounded the corner and caught a glimpse of the beautiful time clock at the entrance of the Alamodome, the crowds of people filling the streets began to cheer. “How wonderful,” I thought, as I staggered towards the finish line, “These people are all cheering for me! How supportive!”

And as I began to smile and wave at my adoring fans, the winner of the marathon breezed past me and crossed the finish line. That’s right, the marathon winner ran 26.2 miles in the time it took me to pound out 13.1 (two hours and 36 minutes). If you want proof, you can see me in the background of the marathon winner’s finish-line photo in the San Antonio Express-News.

It took me two years to muster up the courage to attempt the half-marathon distance again. But, still intimidated by the idea of racing 13.1 in San Antonio, I didn’t participate in last year’s race here. Instead, I ran the AT&T Half Marathon in Austin this past February.

When I heard that the Rock ‘n’ Roll race was coming to San Antonio, I decided to sign up and try running a half marathon here again. Second time’s a charm, right?

I pledge that this year, with months of base-building, speed work, hill training, and long runs behind me, fantastic bands on the course, and a supportive running buddy at my side, I will finish the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon with a smile on my face (hopefully, at least a few minutes before the marathon winner crosses the finish line).