Official Race Recap: The 18.12 Challenge Edition

Before the race: I didn't realize we matched until I saw this photo.
I've been training for the 18.12 Challenge, my longest run/race all summer. The last month has been less like training and more like sporadically pounding out a few miles. Conveniently, I can blame my lackadaisical training on the heat and humidity. Whatever was to blame, though, I definitely felt the missing miles today.

A high school friend, Jenn, and I met up this morning to drive to the race. I had her packet so she was required to see me. :) My mom came with us so that she could take my car and pick us up after.

Because I'm such a hard core runner (ha!) and thought Jenn hadn't trained much (ha! ha!), I was worried she would die somewhere along the course or do better than me with very little training. Turns out she'd trained more than I thought, weighs about a hundred pounds less than I, and can pretty much do a consistent 10-minute mile. So, though we lined up together, we agreed that each of us would run our own race.

Though it was a new distance, I had a time goal in mind. Even with my less-than-perfect training of late, I thought I could pull off consistent 12-minute miles. And I did...for the first eight miles. In fact, my first mile was 11 minutes. I felt great. By mile 6, I was thinking, "I've so got this!" Even when I had to take a slightly longer walk break at mile 9, I was still sure that I would get going at full speed again.

Not so much.

By mile 10, my Nathan was completely empty. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature that had started in the low 60s was heading quickly into the 70s. I realized that I'd forgotten my sunscreen and knew I was going to end up with a sunburn. The water stops were fewer and further apart than I expected. I felt like I was melting.

The race map: I followed the white line.
Around mile 11, I realized I wasn't going to be able to pick it up again and had to shift into beat-the-clock mode. There was a four hour time limit and I needed to finish. The thought of running that far and not making it to the finish was miserable.

There was a half marathon at the same time. As I passed the aid station right before their finish, they gave me water and said, "LAST AID STATION!" I could feel my eyes widen as I said, "Are you kidding me? I have four more miles and this is the last aid station?!" Their only reply was, "Oh, we don't know." Pro-tip: Don't tell an exhausted person in need of liquids that she is passing her last aid station. Just don't.

For the last 8 miles, my fingers were swollen like sausages. I've never had problems with leg cramps but, for the final two miles, my calves were cramping with almost every single step I ran. My sweat rate had dwindled to the point that I was concerned about my safety. I felt a little lightheaded a few times and somewhat pukey. Once some of these symptoms set in, I knew it was foolhardy to keep pushing myself to run as much as I'd like. So, I walked a lot in the last 5 miles. A LOT. And dumped water on myself several times.

For the last 7 miles, there was a woman in front of me, and I was determined not to lose her. Passing wasn't likely but following was good enough. And I did manage to keep her in sight until the last quarter mile, when the curves in the course made it impossible to see very far ahead.

I was able to jog that last bit... just barely. I was determined not to walk across the finish line. Immediately across the finish, there was a giant metal tub full of ice and bottles of water and Gatorade. I asked, "Can I put my hands in here?" The woman tending it said, "Absolutely!" It felt so good on my sausage fingers. I then proceeded to drink a bottle of water in about ten seconds and took another bottle of water and one of Gatorade along.

This race beat me up so badly that I couldn't even think straight to go to the food tent or stretch or get my traditional post-race selfie. Honestly, I probably should have gone to the medical tent but I definitely wasn't in my right mind.

So glad my mom was there to meet me. Jenn also waited long enough to see me finish though a friend was there to pick her up. I wanted to get some ice cream on my way home (carbs and protein ftw!) but the place wasn't open until 3. We weren't the only ones that had stopped either. So disappointing. We got Taco Bell instead but I only ate part of my meal AFTER taking a cold shower (an experience I might repeat tonight to soothe my sunburned shoulders).

I hope this doesn't sound too whiny. I'm definitely proud of myself but it was so hard. I'm feeling a greater incentive to do what I need to get fitter and trimmer so that it's not so difficult the next time. My mom's friend is trying to get her to do the Half Marathon next year. That's something to work on. :) And I have about 11 months before I attempt 26.2.
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