Friday, September 4, 2009

The Meat and Potatoes of the Pine Line Marathon

I wrote this months ago :( But of course, just now adding one of the greatest days of my life to my blog

It seemed like just a few months ago that I had broached the idea of a family marathon to my mom, but it had already been over a year. Everyone had trained through the winter months and made the trip home to Medford Wisconsin.

The race was to start at 8:00am and we had instructed everyone to arrive no later than 7:30am!! We were staying in my godparents camper, which was sweet! It was definitely an experience. My roommates were so excited to be in the near north woods of Wisconsin they were tempted to “camp” outside, but due to the horrific rains and woodticks they felt it best to sleep inside with us :) Anyway, the camper was less than 2 miles from the start, but we had to run into town for coffee…mmmmmmmmmmmm and more bathroom breaks. The rain was coming down and it was only in the 40’s (what happened to the sunshine? It was beautiful the day before!)

This was a very small marathon. There were only 11 relay teams, about 20-30 marathoners and another 20-30 half marathon runners. Heck, they had packet pick-up on race day if that tells you anything. Everyone managed to arrive on time and we snagged a few group photos before the race. My aunt who has some sort of OCD, organizational disease I can’t quite put my finger on yet, had managed to make color-coded index cards with one side listing each person’s team members and on the other side what rival “Ray’s runner” was running the same leg as them. We had four teams of six runners each. The marathon was an out and back with legs as follows (4.3, 5.8, 3.0, 3.0, 5.8, 4.3)

Our team went Meagan (cousin), Adam (need I say more?), Michelle (cousin), Ben (cousin), me and mom. It was an out and back. I was to drive my rivals Eric (cousin), Kimo (friend from California) and Brandon (roommate) out to our leg. We hung around to watch the start and of course scream for the first four “Ray’s Runners.” We then piled into the car and headed out to the first exchange zone to cheer as we had a bit of time. We were anxiously waiting to see who the first “Ray’s Runner” team would be and then it happened!! Barb Klinner, a friend of the family who had gone to school with AD came through. She was an ultra-runner after completing her leg would continue on to run the entire marathon that day. She handed the exchange equipment (a scrunchy) off to my oldest cousin David and he was off!! Shortly, after my Aunt Nancy and another friend of the family came through and my roommate Mel was out and on her way, followed by my cousin Josh. Adam was getting antsy waiting for Meagan and I couldn’t help, but laugh. He was doing his leg and then continuing on to the finish to get in a long run of 22+ miles that day in preparation for the Cleveland Marathon. Meagan had strict instructions from me to strong arm her mother (Nancy) if it looked like she was going to get ahead, but unfortunately she had taken a misstep in a hole, but kept on going (YAY MEAGAN!!). When we saw her coming in the distance we started to chant meagaN – meagAN – meaGAN – meAGAN – mEAGAN – MEAGAN, each louder than the last. She picked it up as best she could and passed the scrunchy to Adam. Adam took off at sub-marathon training pace (oh brother – I knew it!!!) Adam hates to lose. Adam cannot run easy. Adam was on a mission….

and so were we. Like I said the race was small and there were only a few port-o-johns. I knew one was at the turn-a-round, so we hopped in the car and headed out. I was getting more and more excited. I put on some “Eye of the Tiger” as we drove, but as soon as we arrived I sprinted ahead to the bathroom. Ahhhhh, sweet relief!! We saw a few 3.0 mile Ray’s Runners warming up and stretching while we were there, but we couldn’t stick around too long, so we headed back to our relay point.

Upon arrival, we learned Adam had “been flying,” which only told me he couldn’t take it and had laid it on…hahahahaha!!! He had managed to move our team into first for the Ray’s Runners teams and slapped my 2 cousins on the butt for encouragement as he passed by. They got a good laugh, I think? Mel, my roommate had been on a mission and successfully held him off for over 5 miles. Go MEL!!! (I know he’s on my team, but she is a girl and that wins every time ) My cousin Josh, who has a nagging knee injury, but has a lot of potential as a runner, cyclist and triathlete came in next (sigh of relief) and then my cousin David, who was new to this running thing, but became one of the biggest supporters of this idea (thanks Dave) came through with his mom, AD and his son Kaylob. It was quite a site to see three generations of our family running together, side-by-side.

Beyond all that I only got the news from the rumor mill. We had mixed the teams with new and seasoned runners hoping the teams would finish some what close. I know my Uncle Chuck RAN. Yea, he RAN after stating he would probably walk his leg…he RAN (Go Chuck!!) Rusty, my Aunt Barbie’s beau also successfully, completed his leg running. My cousin, Melissa and her husband, Cody hung tough and ran well on their legs. My dad’s leg was also a 3.0. He is so lovable, but he can get himself into trouble and he ALWAYS needs to be supervised, so we had put him on my roommates’ team so they could watch him. Mel was handing off to him, so she gave him the scrunchy and a nice little slap on the ass to let him know it was his turn and then she ran with him for a little to make sure he didn’t go out too hard. He has been plagued on and off with shin splints over the months and thankfully today they did not bother him.

Meanwhile, I was jogging around to warm-up and jumping off the trail to pee behind a pine tree four times after the port-o-potty stop. Ahhh, I love race day, I am like a water balloon with a hole in it. I felt better when Brandon ran off into the woods too. I was running up and down the path, when I saw my cousin’s wife Amy head out for her leg. Man, if ever there was a woman on a mission!! You could just feel the determination as she went flying by me. I shouted “Go Amy!!” She gave a smile, but she was focused. I saw Adam come through around mile 16 and he was moving at his training pace again. He told me everybody looked good. I kept on doing out and backs on the path, but then I headed out on the road for one. I had stripped all my warm-up clothes except a sweatshirt and my ipod. I was jamming. I turned around about 100-150 meters from the path. I could see my cousin, Josh waving his arms for some reason. “Hmmm, what the hell is he waving to me for? OH NO! Ben must be through!!” I started ripping off my sweatshirt and ipod and sure enough there he was standing there waiting for me. My first thought was “nice job dumbass!!” My next thought “Ben is a sandbagger!!” What I didn’t know is my cousin, Ben had run cross country in high school and dropped some sick pace and to make matters better his sister, Michelle also dropped a fast time to our delight, but they are sandbaggers nonetheless 

I took the scrunchy and headed out for my first race since Philadelphia, after all the injuries that had plagued me the last four months. I, immediately tried to settle into a rhythm as I had no idea what pace I could run after only being cleared to run one week ago. The terrain was also soft, so I ran by effort fearing the pace my watch said I was running would just plain piss me off. I had worn my capri’s, a dri-fit t-shirt, arm warms, and my Wisconsin Badgers baseball cap (which I wear in Ohio DAD!!!). I love running in 40-50 degree weather, so I should have been happy as a clam, but for some reason my breathing seemed a little too labored. The path was mostly flat with only a few slight inclines, no hills. The plan was to run a good pace for 4.0 miles and then drop it like I always do. I caught a few runners, but they were all marathoners. I felt bad every time I ran one down and spent a few minutes encouraging them to keep going before taking off. It was a very quite marathon let me tell you. I was surrounded by trees and farms and trees and farms. There were aid stations about every 2 miles or so. I thanked the people at each one for coming out and every time I crossed over a road I thanked the police officer who was directing traffic.

I could tell my pace was all over the place and I just couldn’t settle into a rhythm. I didn’t berate myself too much as it was my first race back. I kept counting down the miles until I could push the button and then the time came. I pushed the button and nothing, nada, zilch. I had no get-up and go. The run had been too hard. Now, I was pissed. This is not the runner I know. The runner I know digs deep and unlocks her mind and MOVES!! I just didn’t have it to GO, so I stayed. I suppose in retrospect I guess it was better than slowing down, but I was disappointed.

I started thinking about my mom waiting up ahead for me and thought “I am coming mom!” I had thought the same thing the first time I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon and she waited for me at the finish. I had wanted to break two hours so badly that day and she had been my motivation to get in. I had told her that was my goal and I knew she was going to be looking for me, so I had pushed so hard to get to the finish – to my mom. Today, I was running to my mom again, and with a mile to go I found a little bit of pick-up in me. I was able to surge and push my way through that last mile. It was not pretty. I had a hard time focusing and when it became uncomfortable, I couldn’t push through. The goal had been 8:00/miles. I had run 8:04/miles. Grrrrr!!! It would have happened except my mental focus (what’s that technical term) SUCKED. I suppose the road would have been sub-8:00, but still the lack of focus is very disappointing.

My mom, who had been suffering some awful chest cold for the last 2 weeks headed out for the last leg. I grabbed some water and hung out with my family at the relay point for a bit talking and catching my breath before continuing on to the finish for a cool down. It was 4.3 miles to the finish, but what the heck, I needed a cool down and I wanted to make sure my mom was okay. I left but not before threatening to tackle AD and hold her down if she tried to pass mom before the finish. My cool down pace got progressively slower each mile as my longest run back had only been 6 miles and I already run 5.8 – hard.

I spent a large part of the time thinking about how much this meant to me, about how everyone had pulled together, about how they had sacrificed their time to do this, about how grandpa had beaten cancer, about how my mom had quit smoking after all those years, about how my dad had dropped 20 lbs and his blood pressure was lower, about how my aunt and I had done Philly last year and then I started to get emotional. I could feel the tears on the brink and I let a few ago, before regrouping and pushing those emotions back down. I got to an aid station and asked if they had seen a “Ray’s Runner” go by? They said she had just passed and she looked good. I thanked them and ran on. Finally, I saw her up in the distance. I yelled at her “GO MOM!! DON’T YOU QUIT!!! She stopped and turned around. I yelled “GO!” and she turned back to her running. About a half mile from the finish, I caught her. She was wheezing from her chest cold and her face was pretty red. Her arms were tight and she looked tense. I tried to help her by telling her to relax her arms and control her breathing. It worked a little. I asked her if she wanted me to run with her or let her go. She was okay with me running with her. I was worried she was going to have to stop for a minute her breathing a.k.a wheezing was so labored and told her all she had to do was finish. She looked at me like I was crazy. Even sick, she wasn’t going to down without a fight. She always tells me she doesn’t care about time and she isn’t competitive, but I have now seen her race two times and both times she has pushed herself and run faster than in training. All those months of training and I was going to be witness to it’s ending. I heard a car honking repetitively behind us as we ran to the 26th mile marker. It was my Grandpa. He and my grandma had driven around to the relay points to watch and cheer for everyone. I waved and then turned to my mom and told her she had to finish this alone before running off the course. She knew what I meant and as she ran for the finish her dad was waiting to welcome her, watching his eldest daughter run across that finish line of the Pine Line Marathon. There was something in that moment that I will never forget. I know this was for my grandpa, but I feel like in some way this was for her too, for all of us. I felt so proud of my mom, of everyone I just stood there trying to take it all in.

My other roommate B-bop (Brandon) had been out at my leg and I knew he might run me down as he is fast, but he had decided to run with my cousin, Eric. Apparently, they had nice little chat and enjoyed nature. C’mon people this is a race not a sight seeing event!!! (Just kidding!) I was really glad B-bop had kept Eric company. Kimo however, a seasoned runner had been left to his own devices and had easily completed his 5.8 miles like it was a walk in the park. I did wonder if any of it had been due to that sport drink he was using yesterday called “Rolling Rock.” Perhaps, I should look into this more??

AD came in shortly after that putting up a blazing fast time. My grandpa welcomed her with a big hug too. My aunt Valerie came in next, followed by my aunt Barbie. My aunt Valerie, and Aunt, Barb had run together for a bit encouraging each other. My aunt, Valerie finished just ahead of my aunt, Barb. However, when Barb came up the last stretch, Rusty, my mom, her sisters and her kids ran down to finish with her, but right before crossing the mat she stopped and then took one HUGE step to finalize the completion of the Pine Line Marathon and our perseverance as a family.

I believe that day I witnessed a miracle and was part of something so great I can never completely understand the magnitude of what my family has done. Thank you all.


Oh, oh, wait Adam, I forgot about Adam. Well, he managed to run every single person in the race down, but when he got to the finish none of us were there and he had no warm clothes to put on. He went into the pavilion to try to keep warm and then when he thought my cousin’s Avalanche had made it back to the finish he ran down and jumped inside, only to discover it was some other guy’s car. The guy gave him a really strange look, but thankfully, most small town people are nice and after Adam explained to him how he had mistaken the car for my cousin’s the guy was very accommodating. Of course, we eventually made it back to the finish and found him.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping me relive that wonderful weekend. -AD

duchossois said...

That was Awesome! You are so lucky to have such a wonderful family, and they are lucky to have you. Really, that was just so cool.