Today, we're going to flash back to one of the few races we ever ran together. Long time ago. Like April 2011.
SBS: Standing at the starting line at the Ogden half-marathon, we stood out slightly. Two tall mommas dressed in matching outfits: our new hot pink “another mother runner” tanks (in our store later today!) and sassy Skirt Sports skirts that coordinated to perfection. Alas, Dimity stood there shivering in the morning chill, while I was quaking internally, wondering if my heel would hold out.
Dimity: I loved, loved, loved the outfits SBS put together for us, but I needed sleeves. Despite my saying out loud, “Don’t forget your arm warmers” twice while I packed on Thursday morning, I forgot them. And I think I was a lizard in a former life: I run cold.
SBS: Some backstory: Tuesday of last week, I was ripping off some last-minute quarter-mile repeats at my local track when my right heel—the one that had been emitting some low-level pain signals in the past few weeks—suddenly forced me to pull up lame. The pain was excruciating, leaving me to wonder if I could even hobble home, let alone race on Saturday. I tried to assure myself my foot had time to improve, but I was scared. Honestly scared. My mind raced to worse-case scenarios (was it my turn—finally—to be the sidelined half of the Dimity-SBS duo?) as I obsessively rolled my foot on a Trigger Point Footballer, then a frozen water bottle. I didn’t decide to race until the morning of, which left me feeling ambivalent and worried at the starting line, despite the dandy duds. I even asked a volunteer what I should do in case I had to bail mid-race.
Dimity: I was definitely not going to bail mid-race. I was (finally) going to run a smart race. I had a couple goals for this race: to go under 2 hours, to negative split (run the second half faster than the first) and to stay present: not worry about the future miles, but enjoy the one I was in. Oh, and to take in the net downhill course that runs through the kind of canyon you see in car commercials.
SBS: The snow-covered peaks of the surrounding mountains were breathtakingly beautiful, but it wasn’t the scenery that had me breathing hard within the first 50 steps. It was the altitude: The half started at 5,000 feet elevation—4,869 feet higher than where I live, sleep, and run. The only real climb in the race came near the end of mile one, and I fretted I might have to walk. Thankfully, it was a gradual ascent, and I even passed a few runners. (Probably the race’s only other flatlanders.) On the subsequent descent, my breathing rate made me feel like I was cranking out sub-8:00-minute miles—but my Garmin told me otherwise.
DMD: Meanwhile, I was sticking to my plan. I live at 5,280 feet, so I was in familiar air. I consciously tried to keep the first three miles as a warm-up, and I wanted to get to mile 6.55 as comfortably as possible. I passed about two more miles chatting with Laura and Tess, a sweet mother-daughter duo. It was hard to keep my pace slow, though, when gravity was literally tugging on me with every step. Still, because I could easily speak in full sentences, I knew I was running easily enough.
SBS: My exertion level wasn’t producing the desired outcome. It was like some warped scientific formula. A mere two miles into the race, I was a mass of conflicting feelings: awed by the beauty, yet not emotionally invested in the race. Winded as I usually feel at mile 12, but with many more miles to cover.
Thanks to the stunning scenery, though, the miles ticked by. Accustomed to running in an urban setting, it seemed almost heavenly to run though a tree-lined canyon alongside a rushing river and to view a massive waterfall of winter run-off hurling itself down a canyon face.
Dimity: Around mile 7, I saw my doppelganger ahead of me by about 200 yards or so. SBS was walking. I immediately freaked: I wondered if it was her heel or the altitude. She started running within a few steps, though, which eased my mind—and kept her in front of me for about 3 more miles. My plan was to slowly reel her in, and then around mile 12, I’d catch up to her, say “Hey sister from another mother runner!” and we’d be so excited to be together, the last mile would be the easiest of the bunch.
SBS: My mantra became, “Each step brings me closer to oxygen,” because of the race’s 700 feet of elevation loss, but it was hard to enjoy the aid of gravity when respiration still felt like such a chore. (Did I mention I suck at running at altitude?!) The course’s elevation profile made it look like there was a huge drop-off after mile 9, so I pretty much banked on being able to markedly pick up my pace at that point.
Not the finish line photo I thought of, but a close second.
Dimity: At mile 10, I saw SBS walk again. I caught up with her. “How’s it going, SBS?” I asked, a bit quickly since I wanted to keep my momentum. “I’m taking a GU,” she replied, which I heard as, “I feel like doo.” (SBS walks through her GU stops, which is what she was doing at mile 7...perhaps the only running tidbit I didn't know about her.) Being the aggressive mentor I am, I said, “Let’s go, SBS! We can finish this!” She finished her GU, and we carried on together.
When we hit mile 10.5 or so, though, the downhill course suddenly became very less downhill. We went under a couple bridges, hit a few rolling hills and I couldn’t hang anymore. The energy I thought I had conserved was nowhere to be found. So she trotted ahead, and I told myself I’d slow for a bit from 11 to 12, and then turn it back up and catch her.
SBS: I knew Dim's plan was to run the final mile the fastest. But I knew I didn't have a finish sprint in me, so I tried to bank some distance on her. Yet explaining my plan to Dimity--heck, even thinking it--took more energy and effort than I had left in me. I knew if I tried to talk, I'd sputter on every level. So I tried to channel my thoughts back to her, as I kept pushing forward, wishing for a sudden downhill with every turn in the course.
Dimity: We hit 12, and she was still 25 steps in front of me. I closed the gap a little, and yelled, “Sarah. I really want a finish line picture with you!” Backstory: I am pretty weenie-ish when it comes to asking for what I want, and SBS is much more forthright. I’ve often heard her say, “If you don’t get what you want, you probably didn’t ask for it.” So I asked for it, and I did my best to speed up more. She slowed a bit, and explained to me that she was ahead of me because she thought I had more stored up than she did. I most definitely did not.
We turned down Grant Avenue, with about .75 left, which seemed as long as a marathon. I could see the finish line, but it was about 6 (very widely spaced) stoplights apart. We were side by side, and we alternated telling each other, “This is all I’ve got.” Translation: Please--please--don’t go any faster.
What I really wanted to say was, “Can we just walk for 10 steps?” Instead, I counted 10 steps on my left, 10 on my right, 10 on my left, and just hung in there tighter and harder than I ever have. I must have been breathing in the fumes of SBS' mental toughness.
I pictured a finish line photo, us hand in hand or high-fiving or looking at each other smiling, but neither of us had any extra energy to give. We crossed the line in 1:58:16.; I made both my goals and SBS got her Half-Fanatic status. Most importantly, we made one of the few times we got to run together really count.