Last Sunday, I was set to run my second half-marathon. I was determined to have a better experience than my first half-marathon.
I was already in better shape, but I trained smarter. I ate better. Will and I decided we would get to the (not premium) parking lot early and sit in the car, so there would be no frantic hustle to the starting line. The day before, I didn't drink, even though we had a birthday party to attend. We got home early and packed our bag, and I made sure to grab a pair of gloves, put them in my hat and then stash everything in our race bag for the next day.
Because the only thing that really worried me, and the only thing I couldn't train for, was this:
Because that was the projected temperature for the start of the race on Sunday morning.
We were in bed by 10:30pm, with an alarm set for 4:30am.
We were ready.
The next morning we were up before our alarms. We gathered our belongings, let Daisy out to pee, I double checked that I had my ID and some cash and that our bananas and my hat was in our race bag. I grabbed my phone and we were out the door. Two seconds in the car Will realized he didn't have his phone.
We searched through the bag, but it wasn't there. He ran inside, and I could see his silhouette through the front curtains dashing frantically from room to room. He came back outside. He hadn't found it. I told him to sit still, and I'd go look.
It was on the record player. I said goodbye to Daisy again and we were on our way.
The 10 was under construction so we transitioned to side streets and found our way to parking by 5:45am. We parked by the bathrooms because there is some biological imperative that forces you to pee 17 times before a race. I ran out into the darkness when the cold shot through me. I cursed a body that required me to take off my pants to relieve myself, then dashed back to the car.
I couldn't stop shaking.
Around 6:20am we gathered the things we'd be taking with us to the starting line. I reached into the bag to grab my hat and gloves.
They weren't there.
I took everything out of the bag and put it back in. I opened all of the zippered pouches and turned them inside out. I shook it, willing my hat and gloves - the one thing I specifically remember packing - to fall out.
I made Will get out of the car, thinking when we rifled through the bag earlier, my hat must have fallen out. I climbed in the back seat of the Mini Cooper and shoved my hands under the front seats, convinced that they were here. They had to be.
"I know I packed them. I promise you, I packed them!" I repeated over and over.
"But they're not here now," Will said gently.
A little known fact about me is that I have abnormally cold hands. When I'm working on a show, I always have three to four pairs of fingerless gloves I keep at the office, just to keep my hands warm. But I was most panicked about the hat. I could pull my sleeves down to cover my hands but what about my head?
Thankfully, Will had packed an extra hat. His JETS hat.
So instead of wearing my hat from a canceled TV Show, I'd be wearing a hat from a failed football team.
But warmth was warmth so I pulled the JETS cap over my ears and we made our way to the starting line. We said our goodbyes five minutes before the race start to get in the proper corrals (you line up based on projected times) and I went to meet up with our friend Tim.
I confessed to Tim that I had sort of trained for this race, and my pie-in-the-sky time that I really wanted to hit was under two and a half hours. But realistically I was just hoping to beat my previous time of 2.45.10.
And then we were off.
I won't lie, the cold had me worried. I felt tight and was concerned I'd pull something, so I made sure to take short strides and really have a chance to warm up. I hit my stride at about mile 3 felt good until mile 6, and then started to flag. I took my GU and kept going. My hope was to run the entire course. What I didn't realize was the course had changed slightly from the previous year, so instead of having a gradual incline, mile 8 had a steep hill.
At mile 9 I realized my GPS had me .3 miles further along than I actually was. Point-three miles doesn't seem like a lot but when you're at mile 11.7 and it's saying you're at mile 12, it feels like forever.
At mile 11, I started to feel dizzy. I kept running but realized everything was getting fuzzy around the edges so I started to walk. I watched the two-and-a-half hour pacers pass me, and decided it was better to finish the race upright at a time I didn't want then pass out and not finish the race trying ot get a time I did want.
After about a quarter of a mile, I was ready to run again. I ran to mile 12, although my pace had slowed considerably. Since my GPS was off, I predicted I would finish around 2.35. That would still be ten minutes better than my previous score. I would be okay.
Then I saw the timer at mile 12. The timers start the second that the race starts, so your time will always be better than the timer's time because you don't cross the starting line at 0.00 - it usually takes anywhere from thirty seconds to a couple of minutes to get to the starting line at any race.
The mile 12 timer read 2.18.03
It hit me that I could still finish under two and a half hours.
At this point, everything hurt. I wasn't injured, but I was tired, I was sore, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do the thing that I hadn't told everyone I wanted to do because I was afraid of failing. I thought because I had stopped to walk that it was all out of my reach. But my training had paid off - provided I could gut out the last little bit.
One foot in front of the other, I plodded through the last mile. I recognized the downhill slope that would take me to the finish line, and as soon as I crested over it, there it was. About fifty yards before it was Will and our friend (and seriously inspiring runner) Billy, cheering me on. I gave one last push, and I crossed the finish line, the clock read 2.29.
I did it. Chip time: 2.27.45
Me, Will & Billy
Later at home, I never did find my hat.
Roam free, ghost hat. Roam free.