Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Little Runner That Could

I am bracing myself to run the Ravenel Bridge. It's something I've always dreamed of doing. Well - not really always. In fact, I don't know exactly when the idea struck - but sometime between getting bit by the running bug and knowing I was going to be in Charleston, I have dreamed of running The Bridge.

I am with Iron Man. It's just after 5pm on an early September day. I have noticed that while it's not HOT as it can be in sometimes in Charleston, it's not exactly cool. Iron Man thinks it may be 90 degrees. At least there's no humidity.

Iron Man is lending me his GPS watch so I can see how fucking amazing it is what it's like to train with one. This will tell me everything I need to know from distance to time to calories burned to elevation to heart rate to pace. He buckles it on my wrist and points out the 4 data points tracked on the main screen. I am most concerned about distance and pace.

We get ready to run. Iron Man runs slower than I do and he plans on running a shorter distance. He has given me an extreme detailed outline of the run: 3/4 of a mile from the office to the bridge. A total of 2 miles by the time you reach the first diamond. Two and a half to the second. If you run the bridge in its entirety and find yourself on flat ground - that's 3.1 miles also known as a 5K.

Iron Man has told me about the 6% incline on the back end. Easy going down. Quad busting on the way back. He's warned me to pace myself. It's easy to take advantage of the downhill slopes and forget that for every time you go down, you must come back up.

We've talked about goals. Every race, every competition there should be two goals. The Happy Goal and the Mountaintop Goal. The Happy Goal is basically what do I need to do to complete this endeavor and feel good about it? The Mountaintop Goal is what do I need to do to complete this endeavor and feel fucking absitively GREAT about it? Knowing my average pace and times, I have decided that to run 10K (there and back over The Bridge) I would be happy to complete it in under 56 minutes and FUCKING PSYCHED as all get out to complete it in 53 minutes or less.

I press Play on my iPod and start running. Although it's late in the day, the sun is still shining and it's hot. I am used to running on a treadmill as of late so I check the GPS watch to monitor my pace. I have 6.2 miles to conquer - I don't want to burn out too soon.

The first 3/4 of a mile is a breeze. There's something kicky on my iPod and I am pumping my fist and shaking my ass. As I round the turn onto the bridge, I feel a sudden rush. It's been a while since I have been for a run outside and it feels good. It feels good to be in the sun. To smell the water. It feels good to feel safe. I love that I am not on a treadmill or running circles around a track. There's a breeze off the water. I reach the first diamond and feel great.

When I pass the second diamond I start to pay attention. This is the 6% incline. Going down will be easy. Too easy. I check the GPS and see my pace is below a 7-minute mile. I slow down.

It's hot. I am thirsty. When I run the track or run at the gym, I always have water. When I get to the bottom of the bridge I spy a water fountain but there are people clustered around and so I pass. I run exactly 3.1 miles and then I turn around and begin the return journey.

It's hard. Oh so hard. Quad busting doesn't even begin to describe it. And despite the fact that I have recently done some interval training on the treadmill, I am not prepared for this. I am huffing. Puffing. Occasionally exclaiming "Fuck" or "Crap" or "Holy Hell" to the stream of cars passing by. I have never stopped mid-run before but OMFG...I eventually have to. I Can. Not. Breathe. So I stop to walk for a minute. I feel disappointed in myself. Who stops to walk? Sixty seconds pass and I pick up the pace briefly but once again I Can. Not. Breathe. I stop again. This time for a minute and a half. Now I know this is going to fuck up my pace and my time but there's nothing I can do. I trudge up that 6% incline trying not to pass out but all the while kicking the shit out of myself mentally.

I can see the second diamond. It's within reach. So I start to jog - slowly, methodically. I tell myself if I can reach the second diamond - I can stop and walk again. I make it - and decide to continue onto to the first diamond. If I can make it to the first diamond, I can walk for a minute.

Somewhere between the 2 diamonds a breeze comes in off the water and chills me. Literally. Despite the fact that my core temperature is probably over 100 degrees, I am also drenched with sweat and the breeze blowing over my wet body leaves me covered with goosebumps. Which causes me to panic. Really. Who has goosebumps when they are this hot? It can't be normal or healthy. Words like hypothermia race through my mind. I wonder if I am dehydrated? Or something worse? I wonder if I am doing any kind of serious physical damage by being so physically hot and yet feeling chilled? So yeah - my neuroses kick in big time and I feel like I want to die.

And then I have about 1000 different thoughts including but not limited to:

* Holy crap. I am so unprepared for Kiawah. So unprepared.

* Running the track and treadmill are fine but if I have any intention of really being ready, I need to get my ass outside in some road conditions. Hills. Sun. Whatever.

* How can I possibly have to pee given that I am dehydrated and that I have probably sweat out 10lbs. of water?

* I can't do this.

* I want to die.

* I want to quit. Can I quit?

* Holy crap. I am so unprepared for Kiawah. So unprepared. Really.

And then I want to cry because what the Hell have I been doing for the last 2 months? Seriously. I am kidding myself if I think that 8.5 miles on a treadmill is remote training for a half marathon. And OMFG I stopped to walk. CRAP. Who does that? I am writing the blog post about failure in my head as I huff and puff my way across The Bridge.

It was rough y'all. Really, really rough. But at least my mental ass-kicking got me to the other side of the first diamond and onto a slow, steady downhill leg to the start of the bridge.

Ok Country Girl - I know you wanted to run 10K but really - you might vomit up a lung AND you are dehydrated AND you might have hypothermia so it's ok to stop at the base of the bridge. Really - that's just over 5 miles. Clearly you aren't ready to run 10K in real life conditions. You can walk the last 3/4 of a mile back to the office. This is what I tell myself.

The last leg of The Bridge takes forever. I check the GPS watch obsessively to see how far I have left to go. As I approach the bottom I think about the water fountain I passed on the way out. I must stop and drink. But when I get to the bottom, there is a crowd around the water fountain. I keep on jogging.

Three quarters of a mile. Three quarters of a mile. There is no way I can do it but I know if I stop to walk, even for a minute, I will never be able to start running again. My whole body is screaming in pain and I want to die. Plus, I am hot and cold all at the same time. AND I am dehydrated and yet have to pee. My body hates me. Clearly.

Construction. I remember passing some construction on the way out. I tell myself if I can make it to the construction, I can stop to walk. I slow my pace. Going for time is out the window.

I am at the orange and white barrels. I consider stopping but then tell myself that I can make it to the Texaco station. The Texaco station is a few blocks from the office - if I make it there, THEN I can stop.

I reach Texaco. There is a car blocking my path and so I run around it. I am tempted to stop but then in the distance I see a figure approaching. It looks like Iron Man. I know he was supposed to finish about 10 minutes before me and I think this is him walking up to meet me, to cheer me on, to run the last leg with me. I get a fraction of my second wind.

I run towards him, breathing methodically. Trying to limit how many times I can let the word "Fuck" escape my lips as my entire body inches towards rebellion.

It's not Iron Man. The figure walking towards me is NOT Iron Man. I only figure this out as we actually pass each other and discover it's some dude texting on his cell phone. But at this point I am too far to turn back. And then, I can see the corner. THE corner where we started. And there in the final distance, is Iron Man. I can definitely spot him.

I need one final push. Something to get me the last 2 blocks. When I run on the treadmill and I can control the speed, I always sprint the last half mile. However this is different. I am pretty sure there will be no sprinting. I just want to finish. And then...Hey Ya by Outkast comes on my iPod. And Holy Hell y'all - if that ain't the kickiest, ass-shakingest, shake a tailfeather song EVAH then I don't know what is. I get the back half of my second wind and book it the last 2 blocks.

I press stop on the GPS without looking. I can't breathe. I am hot. Cold. Dehydrated. And have to pee. Iron Man is trying to read my stats. I drag him across the street back to the office (because I need water) with him still trying to unbuckle the GPS off my wrist.

53:07. I have run near damn 10K (At 6.18 miles I fell 47 feet short) in 53:07. Despite stopping to walk twice, my average pace is an 8:35 minute mile. My best pace is a 6:12 minute mile. I have burned 827 calories. HOLY FUCK Y'ALL - 53:07. All of a sudden blog posts about failure are out the window.

53:07. So close to my Mountaintop Goal...and you know what? I might not quite have scaled the mountain, but I bitchslapped the Hell out of that Bridge.

And if that ain't further proof that I am a total Bad Ass, I'll kiss your...


Karen from Mentor said...

Ok, I think that this is the best post you've ever written.

I was LITERALLY sitting on the edge of my seat mentally trying to help get you to your goal.

and at the end I both had tears in my eyes [so proud of you] and GOOSEBUMPS!!!!

holy hell country're a badass.

Karen from Mentor said...


[fought it...but my mommy instincts MUST say...]



[but gently]

kyooty said...

way to go girl! And you didn't puke!

Fiona Picklebottom said...

It's hard to run in Charleston - the air there is like breathing water (I know, I grew up there). You did AWESOME!

Shelly Overlook said...

I agree this is one of your best posts ever. I couldn't breathe just reading it. & that was from the comfort of my couch while in my jammies.

You go on with your bad self, Beast!

AndreAnna said...

You must invest in a good Camelbak.

And Wat to Fucking Go!

So proud of you!

Country Girl said...

Thanks y'all - both for the compliments on my writing and for the support in my endeavors to physically push myself to the brink of insanity. I won't even discuss what my trainer did to me this morning (besides seriously kick my ass). The upside of Kiawah is that there are rest stations every 2 - 3 miles with water and oh yeah...Port-a-Potties. xo CG

debb said...

I loved this post. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what you did.

Awesome job! Did Iron Man explain the cold while sweating thing?


Eiya said...

Way to go, Country Girl...and all like that (that's what my brother in Nashville says all the time when he's wrapping up a sentence).

Great writing!