~Thursday, July 07, 2011

Independence Day 10k

Girl from Irish Pub had contacted me a week and a half ago and asked me if I would like to run the Independence Day 10k. It's the state's most popular race that draws in the Kenyans and Ethiopians to put everyone else to shame. The race is such a tradition that the organizers had to cap it at 60,000 runners; racers are granted a bib number through a lottery system. Girl from Irish Pub had come across an extra bib number and offered to sell it to me.

Despite my drunken prance through the rain, June had not been a good running month for me. The endurance I had built up with Schmoozer had dissipated through too many mornings where I just didn't push myself hard enough and too many afternoons where it was just too hot. Last week, I drug Schmoozer out on our lunch breaks for a run. It was a hazy 93 degrees out. I made it 2.25 miles before I doubled over in a coughing fit.

"Do you have asthma?" Schmoozer asked me, concerned.

"No," I sputtered, still coughing and unable to catch my breath. I was full-on wheezing. And the frustration of not being able to breathe in the heat and humidity made me form a lump in the back of my throat, which made the not-breathing thing even worse.

In that moment, everything I wrote about forgiving myself for not being as good as I wanted to be seemed like utter bullshit. Even more frustrating than not being as good as I wanted to be, is knowing that I used to be better.

"Lift you arms above your head and leave them there. It'll open up your lungs," he instructed.

I was lightheaded and my lips were tingling. I couldn't run anymore. We walked the mile back to our cars.

I slumped in my driver's seat and dialed my mother. It wasn't 30 seconds into the conversation before I burst into tears. "I only did 2.25 miles before I overheated. There's no way I can do 6.2 miles in the race on Monday."

She tried to calm me down, saying I had made so many lofty goals this year and had accomplished most of them. It was okay to let this one go. Everyone else had been training for months for this and I had a week and a half's notice. She said I am my mother's daughter because I put too much pressure on myself, which is the family way. She then expressed concern for my health and urged me to call my doctor to make sure it was even safe for me to run that distance in the race in that heat.

So I quit. I didn't quit the race, but I joined the group who was walking it instead of running it. While Girl from Irish Pub and Statham were running the race, First Baseman and Statham's Good Friend and GF's girlfriend were walking it. I felt giddy at the prospect of letting all the pressure fall away. At not trying. I could have done better. I could have probably run 4 of the 6.2 miles, but I chose not to. It was liberating, pun intended.

We met at 6 a.m. at the train station to ride to the start line in Uptown. First Baseman had a loaded backpack strapped to him.  "There's a case of beer in here," he told me, gesturing to the backpack. "We're going to drink a beer every mile."

While everyone else was chewing on protein bars and stretching, we—the walkers—sat on the curb and relaxed. There were 27 waves of 2,000 runners being released every five minutes. We were in wave #26 and our start time wasn't for another 2 hours. The Kenyan had won the race about an hour and a half before we even started. (When asked to say a few words, the Kenyan marveled at how hot it was.)

First Baseman unzipped his bag and passed out the first round of beer. We cheered on the start line and popped the tabs. I still wore my runner's watch and kept us paced at 15-minute miles, which meant a new beer every 15 minutes. At mile 2, our bellies began to feel frothy, but we pushed through it. At mile 3, we stopped for a keg stand in front of one of the local restaurants before trudging up the big hill of the race. At mile 4, we couldn't feel anything anymore thanks to the keg stands and jumped through the open fire hydrants meant to keep the runners cool. I think we also had a bathroom break here. Radio announcers would call out our foursome as they saw us walking with our raised beers. "American water for American runners!" one radio personality teased.

At mile 5, we spotted a group of spectators chucking cheese puffs into the crowd and we stopped again to catch some in our mouths. Any time we passed someone, we felt great because we were multitasking. They may have been walking the race, but we were walking faster and drinking. At mile 6, we debated jogging the last bit, but ultimately decided to not ruin a good thing. We crossed the finish line with our arms holding our beer cans extended, so our beer could finish first. Our time was 1 hour and 39 minutes and included keg stands, a bathroom break and cheese puffs. Of the three, we regretted the cheese puffs.

We collected our prized t-shirts and met the runners at the park in Midtown. They were tired and cranky. We were energized and ready to keep going. I thanked First Baseman for making the experience so enjoyable.

When Schmoozer asked me about the race, he shook his head, "Only you would do a 10k while drinking!"

"We were still safe. We hit up every hydration station for water."

He insisted I forward him our finish-line photo when it was ready. The picture is glorious. We're drunk and laughing with our beer cans pointed at the camera.

"You know what's sad about this picture?" he said.

"What?" I whined defensively.

"There's people behind you. You finished the race, while drinking, ahead of other people."

"You don't understand. We were walking 15-minute miles; we were booking it. We passed literally hundreds of people and finished with earlier waves."

"If I was in this race for real and I saw a girl with a beer can walk past me, I'd just give up. I wouldn't even finish the race. I would be shamed out of competing ever again."

I laughed.

I felt really good about the race and my decision to not run it. Sometimes it feels good to not push yourself.

There's no hangover for the 10k though. The next morning I was back on the running trail and performing better than I had in weeks. It's just a matter of time before I get my old endurance back. I just have to learn to not put so much pressure on myself.


j said...

You are awesome. You make me want to walk a marathon like this. Well done!

Sarah said...

Don't give me any more ideas!

Breeza said...

Good for you!

Lpeg said...

That sounds like a killer way to spend your fourth!

Bathwater said...

If you can't enjoy the event way participate! You made sure you enjoyed it! No harm done.

J said...

Love this. Gotta walk-drink a race soon.

Northern Lass said...

This post will get me through my 10k run next weekend.

Thank you. x

Scrumps said...

Awwww! Congratulations! :)

Jess said...

Oh man Sarah. You are my new hero.

Maura said...

More fun, less pressure. A pretty good rule of thumb.

Je m'appelle Danielle said...

The heat gets to everyone, even me, who worships the hot yoga room. At least you burned off a hefty amount of beer calories.

Miss Devylish said...

I wish you could put up the pic.. I'd love to see it. Sounds awesome and you should be proud of yourself sister.. truly. xo

Charlotte said...

I totally hear ya. I feel as though I put this unecessary pressure on myself all the time and for what? You ended up having a great time with good friends--and really, that's all that matters. There will always be other races you can compete in when you are ready and prepared. This sounds like a wonderful experience and I would love to see that picture!

nicole said...

that sounds like so much fun!!


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