Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Dam Half Marathon Adventure

It all started with this crazy lady.  Now she's really nice, but she bambozzled me into running a half marathon trail race after someone else had conned her into running a marathon trail race.  Pretty sneaky, but I'm glad she did.  You see, it was my first half marathon, my first trail race and honestly the first time I had ever run more than 8 miles, and I only did that once.  Sigh.  I must have lost my mind. 

Anywho, I got up at 4 A.M. and arrived just in time to get a quick hug and wish my crazy lady friend, Melissa best of luck running her marathon.  Then I spent the next hour talking to her husband, Rick and fighting off the urge to puke. 
Me and Melissa before her Marathon....Yes, that's the last time I smile for several hours.  HA.

Start of my half marathon....I'm the one in purple in the middle.  Didn't want to puke now....wanted to finish!
 So 7 A.M. finally arrives; I haven't puked and the gun went off.  We meandered down the pavement and onto a dirt road which lead us across a quick moving water way and then towards the first aid station.  Now, I had prepped my old MP3 player with plenty of upbeat songs to keep me going.  It died on me within the first mile and found its fate amongst the used water cups at this first aid station.  What?!  I sure as heck wasn't carrying anything that wouldn't work or help me for another ten or so miles.  That's just crazy. 

Now I have never run this far, but I was informed by Melissa, who has way more experience at this then me, that I should eat a bit of something every few miles in order to keep up  my energy and such.  So I did.  I ate pretzels and downed a cup of gatorade.  Alrighty then, I'm doing good and have to turn around and head back the way I came.  No problem. 

At this point I run past a, I presume, married couple.  They were stopped to fix something and the man was asking her if she needed a snack or something, to which she replied, "No, not til mile five.  You know that."  I kinda giggled to myself and thought how neat it was that they were doing this together.  They finished way ahead of me, by the way.  So sweet scene fades from memory as the pain in my hip begins to flare.  Now, I have a VERY high pain tolerance so I just keep up my walk a bit, run a bit theme.  No pain is going to make me quit.  I'm a Kessinger, after all.  We don't quit! 

At this point, I finally hit the trail.  It's gorgeous and I love it.  The view almost takes away the hip pain, as I begin to understand why Melissa so enjoys these kinds of races.  I'm running all alone, through a mass of trees, fallen logs and slippery rocks.  I can hear the crickets cricketing, the frogs croaking and the wind wrestling with the leaves above.  It's cool, clean and the smells are amazing.  Then, to my left, I hear a rustle in the brush...a rustle that really shouldn't be.  Scenes of bodies found in wooded areas from CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds pop into my head.  Yes, I watch way too much death.  Suddenly, out pops this head, a deer head not more than twenty feet from me.  He or she, I didn't stop to ask, gives me one looks and then takes off in the other direction, all the while I'm continuing my forward motion much more quickly.  I'm surprised I didn't go tumbling down the hill.  The rest of the trail was much more peaceful.

As I come bursting out of the trees, okay, okay...more like slowly breaking forth from the trees, I see the dam rising before me like the mythological entrance to Olympus or something.  It was HUGE!  I'm at mile five and you want me to climb that thing?!  Are they nuts?!  I'm already tired.  I've conquered the trails; it should be easy from here, right?  Wrong.  The incline had to be 70 % and it was a long way up there.  None the less, I set one foot in front of the other and off I went.  By the time I got to the top I was nearly on my knees pulling myself up.  When I arrived there were two very nice men making sure everyone was okay.  I looked at them and said, "What idiot thinks it's a good idea to get up at the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles?"  One guy looks back and with a straight face replies, " I was thinking ya all were idiots, but I sure wasn't gonna say it."  I thought I was gonna die laughing.  Then I turned and headed around the top of the dam. 

It really was pretty up on the top of that thar dam; however, the running was not so much fun.  The wind picked up and the road was very rocky.  I'm not talking little dirt road rocky, rather ankle killer rocky.  I just went back to my walk a bit, run a bit thing and kept going.  What seemed like miles later, oh wait; it was miles later, a couple, in fact, I reached the end of the dam and an aid station.  Thank you God!

There were more nice fellas there.  I downed some more gatorade and pretzels.  Those two things didn't seem to mess with my tummy and I happen to really like pretzels.  I was also eating some honey stingers and while I was tired and sore, I wasn't exhausted.  I was, however, approaching the furthest I had ever run...8 miles.  I told the guys that I felt like Sam from the Hobbit when he reached the edge of the shire and tells Frodo that when he takes one more step that will be the farthest from home he'd ever been.  As I took those steps I found myself in the grasslands.  Here was more treacherous terrain.  The trail was basically a four foot path bushwacked winding its way miles away from everything.  If you die here, they'll find your bones next year.  :)

For the next like five miles I trudged, yes, trudged through this grassland.  It was getting hot.  I was exhausted.  I'd gone further than I had ever run before and now both hips felt like someone was stabbing ice picks into the joints with every step.  It didn't matter if I was walking or running, they HURT.  So, I trudged.  Not much else to say about this part of the race other then I used every bit of my stubborness and determination to keep going.  I wanted to quit, but I couldn't becasue I was in the middle of nowhere.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn't because the tears just wouldn't come.  So I pushed on.  I prayed and I let my mind wander and I finally came to a beautiful place with flags flying and an aid station.  They told me I was very close.  The 13 mile mark was coming up and then the finish line.  Halalujeh! 

Then I was back on the trails again.  The coolness was refreshing and I ran more and more.  I was past the point of feeling pain and was running on pure joy of running.  Yes, I was in my happy place.  It's really beautiful and pretty much perfect there.  I smiled to myself when I saw the 13 mile marker, and thought, there's only .1 more to go.  Easy stuff.  And then the trail went on and on and on and on.  I began to feel like the greyhound running around the track and never catching the blasted rabbit.  Finally, I arrived at pavement and then continued running.  The joy was pretty much gone.  I was ticked.  Where the heck was that stupid red blow up finish line?  Come to find out whoever had set up the last .10 mile had totally gotten it wrong and it was nearly another mile to the finish line.  None the less, I finally saw Rick and knew I was close.  I ran under that silly red blow up finish line and smiled....for real.  I had done it.  I ran my first ever trail race and my first ever half marathon.  Ah, satisfaction!  Satisfaction of knowing that with only three weeks of training, yep, that's right, and inner strength and the stubborness that drove my parents crazy as I was growing up, helped me finish that half marathon.  Of all the medals I've earned over the years...this one is the best. 

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