Monday, September 22, 2008

First half marathon

On Saturday I walked 13.1 miles at the Champoeg Half Marathon. For you out-of-towners, that is pronounced sham-POO-ie, and it is the name of a State Park here in Oregon.

As you know, I've been training to do some beginner running races in the coming weeks. I thought it would be fun to throw this fitness walking challenge into the mix too, mainly so I could take pride in covering a greater distance, I suppose. I wanted a companion, so I sent an email last month to a select group of friends who both a) were in good enough shape to keep up with me for the distance, and b) I could envision sharing a pleasant 4-hour conversation. The only person I was able to recruit was my friend and Curves employee Linda. Now, Linda is almost 60, but I knew she walked 91 miles the week of Relay for Life this year, in honor of her mother who died of cancer at age 91. And I happen to really enjoy Linda's company, so it emerged as a good match.

I haven't been specifically training for this event, since I've replaced most of my walking with running. I do still push MBW in the stroller through my very hilly neighborhood sometimes, but we don't usually cover more than 3 miles at a time. But come on, it's just walking, right?

Well, Linda and I did just fine, but the last few miles were pretty intense. My iliopsoas (front of hip joint) was the most sore, and my back and ankles started aching too. I never felt like I needed to stop or like I couldn't finish it, but was pushing myself through some mild discomfort.

Here are my three favorite stories from My First Half Marathon Ever:

1. The Thirsty Runner
Walkers embarked on the course an hour earlier than runners. So about an hour and a half in, we were being passed by runners. The race brochure promised 3 water stations along the course. After the 5th mile, we still hadn't seen one. Around a bend in the road, we started up a fairly steep hill. From just behind us came a young woman's grunt of agony. She yelled, "Where is the water?" as she jogged painfully past us up the hill. Several people in the vicinity agreed that a tasty drop would be presently welcome.

This woman, now about 15 feet ahead of us, exclaimed between breaths that she was dying of thirst. She seemed pretty miserable, and so I said, "You can have a drink of my water..." The woman pivoted on her heels without delay and jogged toward me, mouth agape like a shark closing in on its prey. But I didn't have a water bottle I could squirt in her mouth, I was wearing my Camelbak, which has a straw-like apparatus attached over my shoulder, and which requires complete oral closure and suction to extract the refreshing water from within.

So we fast-walked side-by-side while she awkwardly tried to position herself in a way to get her mouth on the straw and suckle a sip. I was contorting as well to provide assistance, and explaining the technique in case she wasn't familiar with Camelbak's unique valve. Within a few moments she was off and running again, surely better off for the hydration. I honestly can't remember right now if she thanked me, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt here and imagine that she did.
Linda and I continued walking, taking a few moments to contemplate what had just occurred. I broke the silence by stating my observation that she didn't even hesitate. Roles reversed, if I would consider taking a stranger's offer of water, I know I would say, "Really?! Are you sure you don't mind?" And then, once I discovered that it would be impossible to share the water without a significant exchange of mouth cooties, I might seriously reconsider, thanking the person for their offer without taking advantage of it. Her immediate voracity, turning to me with mouth open wide, made me chuckle all the way until we reached the top of the hill...where we encountered the first water station.

2. Satisfaction Denied
Since I haven't been training for this event, I really had no idea what our mile pace would be. I expected it would be under 15 minutes per mile for some reason, so when Linda checked our time past the 8-mile mark and we were at 2h 15m, I was a little bit disappointed. But I didn't feel like we were walking slowly; we were definitely not strolling. We had not passed any walkers the whole time, and although I knew there were at least a couple of people behind us, I was surprised that we were so far behind the rest of the walking pack.

When we starting gaining ground on a couple of walkers ahead of us, I was pleased. Although I wasn't in the race to win, it would be satisfying to know that we picked up our pace enough to get past someone who started ahead of us. As we approached the two ladies, I noticed they weren't walking very fast at all. As we closed in, it became apparent that one was hunched over a bit, and I realized they were both adorable little blue-hairs, just out for a leisurely morning stroll. These two weren't participants in our event at all, our walking paths just happened to cross. So I flipped them the bird as we blew past them and shouted "So long, suckers!"

Just kidding.

3. Default Ribbon
Talk about a fanfare-free finish. By the time Linda and I pulled into the home stretch, most people had eaten their celebratory Clif bar, stretched their quads, and headed home. As we walked through the finisher's chute at 3h 42m, a young girl unceremoniously handed me a couple of medals, assuming I could do the honor of presenting Linda with hers. I examined the label on the back of the medal as I walked, and just as I asked aloud, to no one in particular, "Why does it say, 'Vancouver Marine Park 2.5 mile--'", I was interrupted by the same young girl running purposefully toward me with a sticker for to place over the existing label, this one printed with the information for the event which we had actually just finished. Leftover medals. Nice.

The announcer was reading off the runners who had placed in each age group as Linda and I rested and stretched on the grass. There were maybe 20 people hanging around to listen. Then he moved on to the walkers, listing the overall winners plus 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each gendered age group. He read off the female winners for age 20-24. Then 30-34, followed by 35-39. He skipped age 25-29 completely! So after all the names were read and a couple of people emerged from the remaining "crowd" to claim their ribbon, I approached the table.

"You didn't read the winners for age 25-29," I said politely.

He looked at his papers and replied, "Oh, there wasn't anyone in that age group."

"I'm 27!" I said, with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. I just crossed the finish line 15 minutes ago, but it was looking like I won first place in my division.

As he was getting ready to hand me my blue ribbon, the last four walkers crossed the finish. No one had come in between Linda and me and these two pairs (which puts us at 6th from last place, woo-hoo!). The man hesitated handing me the ribbon, looking at the final finishers. He wanted to make sure none of them would be first place in my age group. Even though they were all coming in after me.

He said, "What about that girl...no, she's probably over 30." Really?!?!? I don't care if she's 29, but give her the second place ribbon. Clearly she did not beat my time since I am standing in front of you and she is just walking across the finish line! I finally pryed my prized ribbon from the announcer (not really) and laughed all the way back to the car thinking that I came in nearly last place overall but still brought home a blue ribbon.

Walking the Half Marathon was a great experience, and I would enjoy doing it again. Maybe one day I'll run it and get there before all the Clif bars are devoured. Thank you for joining me Linda!Notice the empty parking lot...

8 comments:

Jennifer said...

Great stories! I'm glad you had fun--thanks for sharing!

Bridget said...

I wonder if they hired the ribbon guy on his age-recognition skills. Hilarious! I loved this story. And good job on the 1/2 marathon.

Jenifer said...

First of all I just have to say you are a liar... you said you sent out that email to people who were in good enough shape to walk with you, I know for a fact that isn't true cause I so could not have done that!!! lol and then there is the fact that I would have been so out of breath that I couldn't hold a conversation, let alone a pleasant one... But thanks for thinking I am in better shape than I am. hehe
I tell myself if it because I just had a baby 2 months ago, but I am not entirely convinced of that...
Anyhow, good job, I am glad you had fun and that you had someone to go with you.

Anne said...

HAH! I've done that event in prior years so the lack of promised water AND the confusion regarding age group awards does NOT suprise me at all. :) Congrats!

So....shall I be seeing you at Race for the Roses?

director said...

Kristen:

Great stories - thanks for including me in your email group list! And, thanks for all your work on Sunday as well -GREAT once again!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! It sounds like you had a really great time and what an accomplishment. Now you are ready for the full marathon LOL.

Julia

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 1/2 marathon! I loved reading your story:-)

Beth

s.ekman said...

Kristen,
Next time you'll have to find a more "classy" race to enter, where they have REAL medals, everyone cheers as you cross the finish line, and they actually provide water!! I'm proud of you....
Love, Aunt Susan

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