Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Happiest Race on Earth: Wheelchair Edition

It's about time I finish writing about the half marathon. This is just going to be a stream of consciousness situation, and it'll be more about the aftermath of the race than the race itself, so please don't feel compelled to read it, seriously.


First and most importantly, I need to say that even though the details of our trip are starting to slip deeper into fuzzy memories and the raw emotion of what I accomplished isn't so raw anymore, this is something that I'm going to carry with me forever. I feel like I can accomplish anything now. I have a completely new perspective on myself. I can walk around with my head held high and actually love the person that I am now. That's pretty new. While it's somewhat of a shame that I didn't have this moment until I'm pushing 30, some people never get there, so I feel like one of the lucky ones.

Last time I wrote about the race, I mentioned that the possibility of getting kicked off the course for my slowness was indeed genuine and not just a vague threat by the race organizers. This stressed me out to no end, especially when I started losing the pacers. The last few miles were physically excruciating, but I was fairly certain by that point I'd be allowed to finish, so the pain doesn't feel so bad when I look back. Excuse my candor, but in addition to whatever physical discomfort and fatigue my body was feeling, I had to pee like a mofo. I just kept thinking about that medal, that finish line, and I carried myself to the end.

Andy and I had planned to meet at the New Zealand (our honeymoon destination) kiosk at the Food and Wine Festival after I finished. When I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I was so nauseous, so disoriented, and so unable to take any more steps (I even tried to go to the bathroom and couldn't, that's how wound up I felt after only thinking of finding a bathroom for the past hour) that I sat down next to France, which was just across from the finish. I sat there trying not to throw up next to the nice people enjoying their food and wine until I gathered the wherewithal to text Andy. He made his way over and found me, at which point I promptly burst into hysterical, hyperventilating sobs of relief and happiness.

So happy to see the big white ball:

I tried to get up, but my body just wasn't working. It was the weirdest combination of emotional pleasure and physical pain at the same time. I knew I shouldn't have sat down, I should have walked around, cooled down, stretched. But I was so overcome by the whole thing that none of that occurred to me. Andy mentioned that he had seen medics handing out wheelchairs and asked if I wanted one. All of a sudden, that sounded like the best thing in the entire world.

It was already well after 2 am at this point (the race started at 10), and the party ended at 3 (as did the buses running from Epcot back to our hotel). So if I wanted any chance of seeing the festivities and/or getting back to the hotel that night, a wheelchair was the way to go. While Andy went to find a wheelchair for me (he had run the race too but was feeling fine, such a champ!), I called my mom. It had just started to be her birthday, and I thought I'd share a bit of my elation with her. I was still hyperventilating and sobby but I'm pretty sure she was thrilled that I called, since she kept saying it was the best birthday present ever.

Andy came back with the wheelchair, and after some wobbles I was able to hoist myself from the ground to the chair. We meandered til we found a bathroom, and this time I was successful. I got to see some of the booths and the food and drinks they were serving, but there was no way in hell I wanted to consume anything at that point. I was also freezing. I don't remember if it was actually cold or I was going through a post-race temperature drop, but we found some hot water and it warmed me pretty well. The endorphins kicked in right around then, and catching up with Andy, hearing about his race, and most importantly trying to describe to him how much his gift meant to me made the time fly, and before we knew it, the party was shutting down and it was time to head to the buses. Quickly before we left, we used our food tickets- Andy got a spanakopita from Greece and I got a Nanaimo bar from Canada. The Nanaimo bar was awful, but I didn't care at all, I still hadn't regained any kind of appetite.

Icky Nanaimo Bar: (they're supposed to look like this)
Icky Nanaimo Bar

As we were wheeling around Epcot for those 45 minutes or so, I remember looking over and seeing someone else being pushed in a wheelchair, but this person was slumped over and looking almost like death, while I was chatting animatedly away on my endorphin high. I remember feeling so grateful that I pushed myself just hard enough to finish, and just hard enough to feel like I was at my absolute physical limits, but that my body knew not to go too hard, too far, too fast. My muscles were severely sore, sure. But that's all it was: muscle soreness. I heard murmurings later on about how a lot of athletes pushed themselves too far that night, perhaps because it was at night, who knows. But I was there, I was present, and I was so grateful for that wheelchair and for my husband who would push me anywhere.

The next day, we met up with Jeff and Stella (my friends who surprised me!) at Epcot. I was wearing my medal and my "I Did It!" shirt and a giant smile, still incredulous that I had actually done it. I'm not going to lie, it was really really hard to have fun that day. The whole point of being at Disneyworld is to walk around and see stuff, but walking, even at a snail's pace, was kicking my ass. After Jeff and Stella left us to head back to New York, we had dinner and then went back to Epcot one more time to go on a few more rides and see IllumiNations, the fireworks show.


At that point, I decided that if there was one available, I wanted a wheelchair again. Of course there was one available-- anyone can rent one as long as they're willing to fork over the cash. The nice intern at the rental place saw our medals and comped us the chair, and I was able to really relax and enjoy the rest of the night. I felt sort of silly being pushed around when I was physically capable of walking, but it was just so damn uncomfortable and slow, and Andy was happy to push, so I took him up on it. We stayed at Epcot past closing time that night, strolling around the world and taking it all in.

Feeling awkward and oh-so-comfy:

I think that's all I have on my mind tonight. If I think of anything else as time passes, I'll definitely come back and write it here, and of course I plan on documented my continued fitness efforts here too. To wrap up this post that means so much to me, here are some photos that Andy and I took at IllumiNations that night after the race. These pretty much sum up how I feel about this whole experience. If anyone is actually out there reading this, thank you so much for your support, I couldn't have done this without you.





Sunday, November 7, 2010

Race Against Pulmonary Hypertension 5k

My 10th race was this morning: The 10th Annual Race Against PH on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto.

This race was a first for me: my first race in the rain! It felt familiar, since I was training for months during the never-ending rainy season in the Pacific Northwest last winter, but that didn't necessarily mean that it was the most pleasant.

Fake Starting LIne - Race Against PH
You'd think this was the starting line. You'd be wrong. It's just a giant blowup arch perched on a little hill.

I wasn't trying for a PR today. Just wanted to go out and have fun. Mission (mostly) accomplished. Mile 1 was killer. The course was really narrow, and the fast runners who started at the back of the pack were brutal. I got body slammed from behind by one of them trying to get around a cone. There were also lots of kids on the course. If you know me, you know I'm all for the presence of kids in any context. But these particular kids felt the need to bob and weave around me, and especially to stop dead in their tracks right in front of me. Killed the groove a bit. That, combined with the rain and just feeling sluggish and tired from the start made it a challenge.

Stanford in the Rain
Stanford in the rain. Still beautiful.

Mile 2, though, was amazing. Mostly because I'm 99.9% sure the Mile 2 marker was placed *really* early, resulting in me running an 11-minute mile without even trying. My previous fastest (ever) is/was around 13, so I really don't think it was placed correctly. At the time, though, I wasn't thinking about it, and got a huge boost of energy from my false sense of superwomanhood. I was able to make up some time during the last bit of the course and managed to finish under 45:00, which was the goal I had set for myself today.

Race Against PH
This was the design on the t-shirt. Adding some pastels to the mix finally!

A bunch of Andy's [very fast-running] coworkers also came out for the race, and we ate brunch afterwards together. Food is always my #1 motivator. Most importantly, I got another shirt to add to my collection!

We're trying to decide whether to do a 5k next weekend too. It's in Monterey and sounds like a really fun course. I'm nuts, I know. I just want the damn t-shirt!