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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heartbreak at Heartbreak Ridge Half Marathon

With the pain in my wrist acting up again, and these dang toe problems I decided to take it somewhat easy this week as far as running goes. Eleven miles on Tuesday, then it was just fun non-running workouts for the other days. Thursday, I swam. After 3,000 yards, I felt I could do more, but dried myself off nonetheless, because I've got this Writer's Conference looming ahead and lots of chores at home.

And then the wrist pain attacked without mercy. I'm referring to the injury from Santiago Truck Trail (Slam Dancin' with the Trail) and then the re-injury at Bulldog 25k. After crawling in the mudrun last week, the swimming really did my wrist in. Thursday I slept restlessly all night, waking in pain constantly.

Friday, I took the day off and immobilized my wrist. To bed by ten I had another weird, restless night of sleep, I figured that Saturday's half marathon, though a "trail" run would be relatively easy. Besides that -- I took it easy this week.

I had a long drawn-out drama dream the night before this race, about me trying to convince some adult children to attend the 4th or 5th wedding of their drunkard father. He was really in love this time and was gonna change his life. One daughter was in tears as I tried to convince her to sing at the wedding. Before I knew it, I too was bawling over the phone re: her pain. After finally convincing all the children to attend, I guzzled champagne like water, and searched a department store for an open bathroom (I couldn't find any!). Then I woke. The clock read: 7:05 AM. My half marathon started in 55 minutes, and if I didn't jump up now, drive 80 miles an hour on an empty tank, I wasn't gonna make the start line in time!!! What a morning : ( I barely had time to brush my teeth, but I made the start line with minutes to spare. Amazingly, I got a parking space right up front.

They were out of t-shirts (no big deal, I have too many anyway), and the bathroom lines were empty by now too -- as everyone was already lined up to run. I took off comfortably under cloudy skies, the first mile over asphalt complete in 0:9:40. I planned to keep that pace, maybe pick it up some. I really hoped that we'd hit the trail soon, which we did, and I was at ease. : ) I made mile 2 by 0:20:00. My pace was falling, though we were running on a slight incline.

When the tougher climb began, I ran it, not feeling too uncomfortable. In fact, I felt good. Mile three was a ten minute pace. I wanted to pick it up, hoping for more of an average of a nine something pace for the race. At about mile 4 or so, I began a fun descent on that wide dirt fire road. Thing was, the sun came out, and it came out in vengeance. Still, I felt pretty good on this out-and-back half marathon (I really don't enjoy out-and-backs, that is: run to the halfway point, then turn around and run back the same way).

At about mile 5.5 the front runners were passing us on their way back, and I realized that I had been running down hill for quite some time -- too long, in fact. I began to fret about the turnaround, knowing that I'd have to run back up this thing in the searing heat that was now weighing me down.

Just make it to the turnaround, I told myself. JUST MAKE THE TURNAROUND. Worry about the rest later. I was not in a good state of mind though this morning. Having rushed out, and having to deal with these injuries, not to mention the negative self-talk over my persistent procrastination (in general for everything, but in particular, over the writer's conference).

Well, the turnaround came much, much later than I felt it should. Already drenched in sweat, I began to resent the cute little sayings on those Mile Markers. Things like: "The Goal is Pain" -- It is so NOT the goal. It was so not the goal, that at the turnaround I downed three ibuprofens to subside my toe pain.

I don't think I have the energy to relay just how defeated I felt coming into mile eight. One guy ran by and said, "After mile 9, it's uphill for a mile, then all down hill from there." I smiled (because that's how I am, try to make nice) and made some small talk. But I thought, "what the hell is he talking about, we're running uphill right now!" At a bend, I chuckled at the Marine who said, "Just a little hill up ahead, you can do it!"

Little hill my ***.

They were really little hills compared to what I've conquered in the past. But for some reason this morning, I got beat -- completely mentally defeated. I felt like I couldn't take another step. And so I began walking the hills, as did most around me. I ran as fast as I could on the flat portions, which wasn't very fast at all. And I began to think to myself, "just walk the next 4 miles. Or maybe, just quit."

Upon reaching the high point (around mile 10) I felt relief running down hill. It was crucial though I did not fall, so I kept a keen eye on the ground. One more hit to this wrist, I'm gonna end up in the E.R.!

I don't think I could have smiled at this point if I tried. Even on the downhill, I felt I couldn't run another step. And then when we finally leveled off, I did something I thought I'd never do on the flat portion of a race -- I walked. I wanted to quit. I wanted to just walk away from the group and pretend I never started this race. I was SPENT, and doubted that I'd ever run again. I wondered, "What the hell am I doing? Could I be any bigger of a loser." (I'm sorry, but that's really how I felt, utterly and completely defeated.)

And I continued walking as fast as I could, one ambulance passing, then another up a ways loading up another runner. Marines stood out on their balconies watching us come in, and I still walked, feeling ashamed, my eyes to the ground. I mean come on -- 13.1 miles on a trail race with not even 2,000 feet of elevation gain. I can do that -- can't I?

Not today.

Then I remembered a marine yelling out, "just one more bridge to go!" I didn't recall any bridges on this race, but up ahead, I saw a bridge, and so told myself, "when you hit that bridge RUN."

I ran over that bridge, and after a turn in the now paved road, I could see the finish line balloons not too far off. I saw one female racer cut through the parking lot, shortening her run to those balloons. She must have felt like I felt -- SPENT, out of gas.

I finally crossed that finish line at 2:25:55 with the sad, sad feeling that I was finished running for good. I was reminded of Forrest in Forrest Gump when he just stopped running because he simply didn't feel like running anymore.

After crossing the finish line, I grabbed 2 waters, walked straight to the car for a quick stretch. Before leaving the marine base, I filled up the car with much less expensive gasoline than we civilians usually pay, and I drove home.

I wept at home relaying the race story to my husband. I told him that I thought I was done running. That I had been mentally beaten, to which he responded "you're no quitter . . . you just need a break."

That I do.

I guess I have made my decision. No marathon for October, and as I cut back my miles I will finally make it to the doctor for x-rays on my foot and wrist.

And that is the story of my heartbreak at Heartbreak Ridge. Who knew that the title of this race would be so apropos.

Final Standings:

I placed 32 out of 47 women ages 40 to 44.
Overall I placed 781 out of 1,079 civilians.


  1. You had a bad day but you finished, and ahead of quite a few others, too. It's a tough course. Good job!

    I don't really like to talk about this, but it may cheer you up - the first time I did that race, my time was 2:49. You kicked my butt!

  2. Thanks Tom! You know, it wasn't my time so much that got me down. I kinda had an realistic goal anyway (I was hoping for two hours, ten minutes, which would have beat my best half marathon, which wasn't even a trail run). What hurt most was the mental defeat. I just hate that! But I'll be out there again soon, trottin' along like usual : ) I didn't post a Tuesday run, because I'm not sure what my running plans are this week -- I'm going to just let it happen if it does and take it easy.

    I hope that you are doing well and healing up.

    By the way, you must have been crazy to try Heartbreak Ridge as your first half.

    See you soon.

  3. I meant i had an UNREALISTIC goal : )

  4. it must be frustrating not to make your goal - but i know the heat and hills can really affect a run. you still came in 3 minutes ahead of me =)


  5. Hi Jessica B. Thanks for commenting. That was a tough race wasn't it!! I wasn't so bummed about my time, because it really wasn't that terrible. What I was really bummed about was my attitude and the fact that I wanted to quit. Does that ever happen to you?

    Thanks again for the comment.