Going into the race I had no expectations except to use it as a recovery run from the marathon last week. I thought it was a reasonable distance considering looking at marathon recover plans runs of about 2 hours are about on par. I didn't count on a whiny calf stopping me from running during the week, but I didn't think that was going to affect it much. I was a little nervous my calf may have actually been hurt, but my backup plan was if it hurt I was walking - the race has a generous time limit so I knew I'd be okay. And packet pickup was 10 minutes from my house the day before the race - easy easy, and the shirt is nice. A brighter pink than I usually wear but I like it.
Left: Front / Right: Back. Cute, right?
So since Fort2Base is a point to point we actually parked at Rosalind Franklin University and hopped shuttles to the respective start lines (in addition to the 10 nautical mile race I ran there was a 3 nautical mile one). While I heard some drivers got confused and attempted to take runners to the wrong start line (3milers were NOT interested in ending up in the 10, imagine that!), my shuttle was easy to hop and after texting Marcia (since for the first time we know *ahead* of time that we were going to be at the same race!) to tell her I was hopping the shuttle to the start I was off!
On the shuttle! Sun barely up so it was dark.
Waiting at the start line was strange - I was there for about 45 minues and for a good deal of that I was legitly shivery. I met up with my Moms Run This Town chapter and kept my eyes peeled for Marcia, but the breeze and overcast morning had us all hoping the chill would carry into the race - it was expected to be high 60s but only 70% humidity, which didn't sound bad. (Spoiler alert..the nice breeze stopped shortly after the race started! Bummer!) I did manage to catch Marcia right before she and Emily hit the portopotty lines (I wished them luck - the lines had gotten long at that point!). I am happy to report she was even nicer than she seemed from her blog, and it was great to finally connect after being at so many races together and not realizing it until after we put up our recaps!
But the opening ceremony was there before we knew it and while I was worried it would end up long, it was actually really short after a very high pitched version of the star-spangled banner. (Not a bad rendition, but it was strange to contrast - last week at Moose's Tooth the anthem was sung low and deep by a man with a very lovely voice at the low end of the musical range...today it was exactly the opposite!) And then we were off - ready to run towards Great Lakes Naval Base! We ran a loop around the start line, finally passing it again, before we hit the official course. (I'm not sure what this loop was for, it wasn't on the course map, and there is some talk it was unplanned and added distance to the race - most people came up 11.75+, leading to speculation the course was more like 11.7 than the 11.5 it was supposed to be.)
Start line, shortly before I embarrassingly forgot to take off my hat during the national anthem. GJ me.
Once I relaxed though I realized something - I was tired. My legs did not want to move. At all. And the breeze hadn't followed us onto the course. I was already feeling hot. At least it wasn't sunny, but it felt way more humid than the 70% predicted - in trying to find data on it, it looks like the humidity never fell below 80% yesterday, which means it was probably much higher that early in the morning. Whatever it was, yuck. By mile 4 I could wring sweat of out my hair. Eww.
Mile two honestly didn't feel any better than mile 1, and I gratefully walked the water stop that came shortly after the 2 mile mark. My legs weren't loosening up and I honestly just felt awful. I took in a cup of water and a cup of gatorade.
Mile three I started contemplating walk breaks. I could already feel sweat just dripping down me. The path we were running was beautiful - a lovely tree lined bike path - but I barely felt able to appreciate it. I took more gatorade at the aid station, wondering if my electrolytes were off and it was kicking my butt.
Mile four I was dragging. When we crossed a concrete bridge that swayed with foot traffic (seriously freaky - it looks solid, but it moved like a rickety wooden bridge...scared the crud out of everyone near me who was crossing it) it took me a moment to realize what was freaking me out. I thought my balance was off.
Mile 5 I knew that whatever I needed to run a long run, I didn't have it today. My hair was soaked and I gave up on my hat - it was overcast anyway - and clipped it onto my belt. I didn't know - and still don't - if not being able to run during the week had knocked me off my game or if it was just a bad day or if I just wasn't recovered enough from the marathon, but whatever it was, I didn't have it. I wasn't ready to walk/run yet but I knew that I couldn't do this today. I wasn't even half way and picking up my legs felt impossible. I promised myself once I hit the halfway mark, I'd add regular walk intervals. I wasn't ready to walk the race - but I knew I couldn't run the whole time. I was struggling more than I did at the end of the marathon. This aid station only had two volunteers, so I skipped it and sipped from my handheld instead.
And mile 6 was pretty much when I gave up the race. It wasn't mental - physically, my body just couldn't do it. I started with walking a minute every half mile. By mile 9 I was playing tag with the 11:30 pacer, and walking every quarter mile other than a short interval where it rained a little and the cooling drizzle helped me regulate my temp a little better.
But on the plus side, we were running into the base at this point and there were only 2.5ish miles to go - some very strict service members sternly reminded a runner in front of me not to take pictures of the base when she stopped for a photo op, which I was tired enough to only find mildly interesting. My legs felt so fatigued. There was an enormous downhill in this mile, but I was so physically tired that instead of enjoying it I focused on not face planting. I am happy to report, no falls, even with the slippery ground from the earlier drizzle. At the base of the hill I watched a man wet his hands in a puddle (I'm not sure why - heat?) and a volunteer tell him there was an aid station right ahead of us, that they'd throw water on us if we needed and we didn't need to use the puddles. I found the energy to laugh as I walked into the aid station, which was filled with military personnel. I gratefully took some water, thanked them for their service (I mean - I always say thank you to volunteers - always - but I thanked them for their military service too) and walked on. I knew we had a big hill coming so my plan was to run until I hit the bottom of it.
The stretch to Hero Hill was filled with inspirational quotes about what it was to be a hero, and how to do the impossible. Exhausted and depleted as I felt, the quotes were perfect. At this stretch there was less than a mile to go in the race, and it was the perfect place to read them.
And then...Hero Hill. Wow. That sucker was enormous. I started walking up it, when a member of my running group, Angel, challenged me to race her up. She was with a guy, who ran with us too. "This is BS!" he said, and I tried to laugh, but that hill sucked. And I tried running it...but about 1/3 of the way up I gave up. "Are you sure? We're almost there!" "I'm sure. I can't. I'm sorry." I was just dead.
They went on, and I walked...until a service member (a chief, I heard them called? a navy serviceman? a soldier? Here I must profess my ignorance, but definitely active military personnel) told me to run with him up the hill. They had personnel at the top of the hill, picking runners to run them up. I find myself sitting here now with a loss for words. I can't describe the feeling of him running me up the hill. I was panting, I was sweating, but he got me up there. "You did it, you beat Hero Hill!" I thanked him, but I can't even begin to describe the moment any better than that. It was amazing. I hate hills but that moment was worth the entire race. For that moment, for that hill, I will try to run this race every year going forward. It was that amazing, even on dead legs. If you haven't done this race, I highly recommend it for this moment alone.
And then it was the final stretch. The course was long and there was the last aid station in here - an amazing one again staffed by military personnel, handing out water and gatorade and chanting - but most of it's a blur. I cajoled the man who had also been running with the kind MRTT lady to finish strong with me - I could see the finish shoot, no walking now, even on dead legs - and he laughed and told me he had no shame, he'd walked the last .2m in the Chicago marathon every year. So I told him about dragging my husband across the finish line because I was so ready to be done in those .2m. "The hill?" he asked, and I was honest and told him I hadn't even noticed it because I was so ready to be done.
And then I finished. I was medalled by a man in uniform, and given a towel. I tried to thank them, but I am afraid I wasn't terribly coherent. I collected my race food (popcorn, pita chips, water, sobe lifewater (diet?? or are they all calorie free?), granola bars, and cracker jack. And then caught the shuttle back.
One of the biggest medals I've ever gotten. And heavy, too.
In the end - I don't know why, but my body was not digging the run. My guess is it was a combination of factors, but I was not recovered from the marathon and that didn't help. This was a strugglefest, but it was also a great experience that I highly recommend.
This week, I'm taking a forced break. I dunno what this will do to training for Milwaukee, but my body is tapped out. I'm not sore, but my muscles are just tired. Deeply fatigued in a way that's concerning. I'm not injured, but I don't think logging miles this week will do me any favours...I'm going to walk with the kids, push fluids, make sure I get enough to eat, and hope that next week I can jump back in. And that missing a big long run (it's supposed to be 19) doesn't hurt me. It is what it is.