I woke up this morning after going to bed before 11pm last night…a first maybe ever for me but since my kids were asleep and I was staying at my parents without pressing household chores to do it seemed like the smart thing to do was to rest…so I did. Then I woke up and ate 3 chocolate chip cookies for breakfast and my head was spinning with all fun memories from yesterday so I decided to just capture them now while they are fresh! I’m going to have to go back and do this for my other races because they all mean something special to me, as does this one.
I swear off running at about mile 8 of any given race, but then I finish and then there’s some beer at the end and then a friend mentions a fun race they want to do and the cycle starts all over again. My mom and some friends have done Rock the Parkway for years http://www.rocktheparkway.com/ but even though I grew up in the Kansas City area I didn’t start running until much later in life. I didn’t become good at running until I quit running and lost some weight with T25 but that’s a different post.
My friend and fellow coach, Lindsay, called me crazy all last year while I was training for Grandma’s Marathon. She was getting into biking and dualthons and like all good cyclists tried to convince me it’s way easier on the knees and more relaxing. I can find no logical arguments with this, however I declared I simply cannot take on another time consuming athletic obsession so I’ll stick with running since I at least have the gear already. Well, like many of us who accomplish a goal – hers also being weight loss, we get inspired to achieve a new goal and she decided to tackle her first half marathon and wanted to do Rock the Parkway since it’s sponsored by her and her husband’s employer.
So what’s a friend to do? Join the crazy. I use the term friend a little loosely above…her husband is my oldest child’s Godfather and they get my kids if the immediate family all perishes from the exhaustion of raising my children or from the proverbial bus. She’s also a top coach on our team so, yeah…I wanted to be there. My neighbor was training for a half on the same day in our current town so it was perfect to have a training buddy. Since I’ve done 2 half marathons in Minnesota already and I’m on a half-ass 50 states quest it seemed fun to check Missouri off the list.
Insert a stressful week of packing and prepping to be out of town and a trip with a 5 and 3 year old for 7 hours and I begin to question my decision. “I could have just stayed home and been miserable running in my own town” I thought to myself around Des Moines when the kids were starving and I was somewhere between exhausted and realizing I had way too much water on the drive. So just before midnight when we would all turn into Gremlins we pulled into Grandma and Papa’s and the easy part was over. My husband stayed home so we could conserve his vacation for our family trip so after unloading the kids and the luggage I crawled into bed only to be awakened a few hours later to help find a missing lambie and probably a few more times I blocked out.
I came in on Thursday so we could have Friday to relax – which in my language means cramming a bunch of stuff into a stressful yet fun filled day! We took the kids to Fritz’s where I expected them to be wowed by the train delivering their food but the mediocre taste of frozen chicken nuggets killed the nostalgia. However we totally made up for it by taking them to Kaleidoscope, which I fondly remember from growing up and wanted them to experience. I didn’t get to stay long, but Grandma and Uncle Joe had it under control while I snuck off to get a massage. I don’t normally recommend a deep tissue massage the day before a race but I was dying to see an old college friend and I am so glad I did. I told her I was running the next day and she worked my calves which were so tight but not to the point of pain like I normally ask for and she did a number on my neck tension…or maybe it did a number on her! Either way, this decision was hands down one of my better life choices because I felt amazing after and got to catch up with my homegirl.
OK well this isn’t a travel review so I guess you’d like me to get to the part about running. You can read my IG post about my running necessities here https://www.instagram.com/p/BSm9tLpljko/?taken-by=jessica_kolde
It was an average night’s sleep…I mean my parents just need to fork over some money for a new bed in the guest room and my kids are still out of their element because they have not gotten up in the middle of the night in years but yet one or both were up in the middle of the night. When I drifted back to sleep after one awakening I dreamed about showing up to the race and all of the things I had forgotten…this was useful to me as when the alarm did go off at 5:20am I made sure I had everything ready to go. Late as usual, I raced out the door at 6:10am knowing I had to be 35 minutes away in 20 minutes. I was so afraid of pissing everyone off for making them late – we were meeting to load into one car for some elite parking with the employee badge! I was so excited to see all the girls smiling faces (3 of them in the car when I hopped in) until my friend turned and said…”I forgot your packet.” Now, if you don’t know me…I’m a runner strictly for the competition…I don’t love running but I love going for the PR and all I heard was…you won’t get a time. The race may as well have been cancelled. My first response “ok very funny.” but nope, this was no prank. They were dead serious. I actually played all the things I should have done differently in my mind…have my mom get the packet, go over there last night and get it or stay the night as planned originally. I wasn’t really mad at her…I mean I couldn’t kill her because see above…someone has to take the kids…but I was mad at myself because the thought even crossed my mind this morning to text and remind her but she is really the responsible one and it seemed like a dick move to text “don’t forget the packets.”
So on we went – me mostly silent and panicked on the inside. We made it to the registration table and explained the situation…my friend happy to say “it was all my fault” and the woma behind the computer who had that perfect stern mom look gave her a shake of the head and proceeded to give us 5k bibs and assure us everything would be fine. So in a rush and doing the flamingo pose we tagged our shoes and pinned our bibs. At this point there’s no time for my normal race warm up of high knees and runners lunges so I weaseled my way into the corral near the 1:55 pace group…I wanted to run with the 1:50s but no way was I getting up there….my friends made their way further back. I had a goal of hitting 1:50 and they were targeting 2:15 so we stopped for a quick selfie and slid into race mode.
The race went in waves and I was in wave B…this is where I get all panicked that my phone and music won’t start and so I mess with it to much and make myself crazy….until finally the feet start moving after the second horn goes off and it’s time. The initial log jam was there but not obnoxious…we’re on a business complex driveway for a few hundred feet and then onto a 2 lane road as we head toward Ward Parkway. It was maybe .5 mile of weaving around people and wondering…are you in the right wave or are you good at pacing. Starting at this pace is annoying in a 5k but useful for me in a long run so I don’t come out of the gate with all my nervous energy. The weather was nice and cool…I’ve been training in a Minnesota winter so I was freaked when I saw a high of 74 on the radar for the day but of course starting at 7:30am helps to beat that. I was afraid to use my phone because I wanted to conserve battery but if I had to guess I would say it was 55. I should probably add that I did no research on this race, normally I check top times in my age group from the previous year and stalk the course but I was really busy getting ready for this so I left it to fate. My friend told me it was a flat course and that I would love it…she was half right. Ward Parkway is a beautiful boulevard a block over from State Line road lined with old homes. I go in and out of the zone when I run so sometimes I would stare at the houses and sometimes I would concentrate on not concentrating on my legs or pace. I started our well around an 8:25 pace and for several miles maintained 8:18 for several miles. I was surprised by the first hill given my friend’s input but it was a short little climb and of course you get to go down again, but then there was another hill, and another hill and are you kidding me, my friend is a lying bitch who forgot my packet and told me this was a flat course…ok so maybe I went to a dark place for a minute and I’m sorry for what I said when I was running Lindsay :-). Somewhere around mile 6 I saw the elite male running headed home on the turnaround and thought….man he gets to be done so much sooner than me. The crowds were nice, not the best turnout I’ve ever seen, but I’m guessing the novelty of this race has worn off for some and their pissed they can’t get to their kids’ soccer games on a Saturday morning because the roads are blocked. There was a DJ and of course the kids who hold the power up signs which I always try to hit because I think it works! One thing I always do is wave and say thank you to the cops. I don’t know if they love this duty or hate it but I’m glad they are there so I don’t get hit by a car and also for all of the serious stuff they have to do later – they smile at me when I do it and that makes me forget about running for 10 seconds. Somewhere on the route was this fountain…I never saw it but it was on my medal so I’m sure it was there and pretty…maybe I was busy staring at the mansions that popped up around the halfway mark and telling myself “those people aren’t poor”
The course turnaround was nice, a little weave through a horseshoe and side street instead of a hard turn. However, this is when shit got real…a monster hill up next to a park – with tons of spectators at this point and all I could think was…these assholes lined up here to watch us suffer. I mean it when I say that I go to dark places when I run. I have done a lot of hill training so this is when my mantra kicks in…I tell myself “I’m good at hills” and “this is what separates me from the others” sometimes it works and sometimes I just swear in my head some more. On the back half of the race I was happy to see this little water feature…I remembered it from the front half and I even think there were two. Either way…it’s a reminder of a time in the race when I wasn’t miserable and that the finish line is closer now than it was then.
Another thing about me is that when I dig deep I start to sing out loud, like really loud. I just downloaded Sia’s most recent album and hand picked a few songs to freshen up my tunes…my playlist is life. Those people who run without music and listen to the birds chirping and shit…no way. I need gangsta rap and fast BPMs. After that monster hill things leveled out but I was toast…I went to a super dark place…if there is such a thing as a half marathon wall, I hit it at mile 9-10. I just didn’t think I could finish, I needed to walk, I am not going to get my PR…it was ugly guys…that’s when I remembered all the things the trainers in my workout vids tell me…your mind wants to quit long before your body needs to. So I pushed on…later I checked my splits and this was pushing a 9 minute mile so I was definitely losing it…but I told you I’m competitive and I kept thinking…if I don’t PR then it was all for nothing…so I kicked it back in for what seemed like the longest last couple of miles in the world. I’m an engineer so at this point I’m doing math in my head…counting all the hills and approximating the elevation change…later I found out the total gain was 617ft and I was damn close. Finally, unstoppable (Sia) came on and I BELTED it out…the lyrics were perfect – go listen because I’m a lousy singer. Once the finish line was in view, I gave the best push I could and crossed at 1:55…knowing that I started well after the gun this meant nothing to me but I stopped my watch and then claimed my medal and water. I walked about 20′ away, over by the ambulances to stretch it out. I was not as close to puking as I am after a 5k but still obviously sore.
Then pretty much the worst thing I could see happened…a commotion of people and a stretcher coming by…it was oddly quiet, far enough away from the finish line crowd and only a few people staring. I couldn’t hear the EMTs and I’m not sure if they weren’t talking or if I just went somewhere else but they were giving a guy chest compressions. In my mind I thought…that doesn’t happen unless it’s serious, but on the other side I thought it’s ok, there are medical professionals here and they got to him. He was young, maybe my age. Was he a spectator? A runner? It’s not that hot, what happened? Why isn’t the ambulance gone already? It was a lot to process…I had to walk away, I felt awful standing there staring. I am the person you want to make a decision on the spot but I suck at crisis…I was just frozen, not that anything was expected of me but still…it was a weird place to be
I headed to the after party of sorts, not much to write home about, a few food vendors but no massage table…wtf man, that’s the best part. I went to the results tent and this is when the panic started all over…they couldn’t find me. My mind went haywire again…OMG I did it all for nothing, I have no time, the 5k bib was pointless, I already turned in my shoe tag. The girl was thankfully sane and said, don’t worry, you’re just unlisted and she was texting the clock dude and told me to come back. At this point I ran into the girls…I was trying to be more happy and congrats on your first half but selfishly I just wanted to know my time…so after a little more stretching and gathering our final finisher we all headed up to the results area and I got my time! 1:52:36…not the sub 1:50 I wanted but a new PR so I could not be too mad. I chugged my free beer and snagged another from a friend who didn’t want hers (weird). We snagged our photos and headed for the most important race activity. Lunch and mimosas!
In summary, it was a great run. Do I need to drive 7 hours again next year to do it, probably not, but would I recommend it to anyone, hills and all, you bet! Friendly staff, spectators, well organized, great water stops and a beer at the end. I give it a solid A (deduction for no massage and credits for fixing my packet mishap)!
Thanks for the memories, girls! See in the Florida keys since we all swore off half marathons…unless there was a fun destination…there is always and unless….
When I woke up today…before the cookies…my daughter asked me “Are you going running today?” “ummmm, no” “but you have stripes on your legs” (referring to my KT tape) “those are my battle scars baby…let’s go have breakfast”