Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, a Race Report

Current situation: soaking in my tub with the water just the right temperature with loads of epsom salt. Ten hours ago I was getting ready to head to the race. I could really use a nap but I will resist because my hubs is cooking a fabulous anniversary dinner for us and I have two hours until food will be ready. Dinner won’t take that long to cook. He’s being very gracious and letting me have some soak time. I sure do love that man.

Today was the 6th Gazelle Girl event. Started in 2013 it celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, the law that equalized athletics for women in collegiate sports. I’ve run the half marathon every year. This year was my fourth year I had the privilege and honor to be on the Pace Team. I’m a certified member of the Turtle Herd and paced the 14:00 min/mile group. We usually start with a handful of runners and by the finish we are usually alone.

Training the last couple of months became a challenge. I had a slow motion fall on my bike about 7 weeks ago and landed on both of my knees. Going down I knew it was going to hurt. After 2 weeks I was still sore and went to see a doctor who specialized in Sports Medicine. She diagnosed me with a bone bruise on the inside head of my tibia. They heal with time. And they like to take their sweet ole time doing it, too. The other thing Doc noticed was a weakness in my right hip, hip flexor, hamstring… basically the right leg between my knee and waist. I started physical therapy a few days later. It was hard. It hurt. It helped. Now I just have to keep doing the exercises so I can stay strong. I spent two weeks on the ‘no run list’ and was cleared to restsart so long as I had no pain in my knee. In the between time I spent some quality time with Bluebird on the trainer in the basement, and with Netflix.

Needless to say I slowed down a tad bit more. I told the Pacer Coordinator about the short sidelining, and kept her updated with my progress. It wouldn’t have felt right to keep that to myself. It’s only right, ya know?

I start stalking weather forecasts about 2 weeks in advance. Because that’s ever so practical and helpful — in West Michigan — in early spring. The 15 day forecast was looking … let’s call it bleak, okay? Grey, cold, 100% chance of rain all weekend long. yaaaay! what joy! (You need to read that line with the lame sarcasm that only a high school student can, or their weary parent. You choose.) Every day I checked. Every day it looked a little better. Last weekend the weather was downright awful. God foresaken, makes you wonder if global warming is real, and why haven’t we moved to Arizona yet awful. Places (much) farther north, west and east of Michigan got dumped with snow. You know it’s back when New York City closes schools, right? We stayed cold and wet, and had flood watches and warnings all week.

This morning started around 34 F (+1 C). So, sooo flippin’ cold here for late April. The good news was that full sun and 65 F (18 C) were coming by 1:00pm. Know what that means? What the heck do I wear? I loathe the cold, and heat up quickly when temps get past 50. So, do I shiver or melt? I opted for a little melting and wore Skirts Sports Bolero and added sleeves I cut from a shrunken wool sweater under. My shirt layers were a lightweight long sleeve shirt the pace team got last year as a bonus from a sponsor, and this year’s Pacer singlet. On the legs I wore Skirt Sports Redemption Knicks with a Happy Girl skirt over, and a pair of mid-weight tall (non compression) socks by Smartwool. Shoes were Hoka One One Arahi. One-and-a-half miles in and I was peeling off layers, then putting them back on depending if there was sun or shade. At 4.5 I handed my bolero and wool sleeves to the daughters of one of the women in my run group. I’m pretty sure they had no idea who I was. Scratch that, I’m almost definitely sure.

By this point the 21 weeks pregnant pacer in my group had gone to the bathroom at least 3 times. The other forgot her sport watch in her hotel room and had no idea about details of pace or distance. At the 6.5 mile turnaround the Momma-to-be had to drop back because her heart rate was in the 170’s. That can be normal for me, but I don’t think it’s very good for Baby. As we approached 7 miles I needed to use the porta and ran ahead to take care of my humanity. The group passed while I was taking care of business. Running to catch up made my piriformis complain and shimmy a little. It wasn’t a full-on spasm, but just enough to say “Woman! Don’t make me go that fast for that far.”

INTERMISSION — help yourself to a fresh cuppa whilst I shampoo

The half-way point is also the course turnaround. On the way back the breeze started to pick up giving us a light head wind for the return. The temperatures started to climb and I was getting hot. When there was full sun. The breeze and shade from buildings and trees helped. I debated taking off the long sleeve shirt. The pros: cooling off immediately. The cons: being cold in the shade and wind, arm chafing because of the pacer singlet and no product with me to prevent it, sunburn. I kept the shirt on and pushed my socks down instead.

The piriformis and right tohkis went from complaining to a full-on whine by Mile 9, but never did go on strike, thankfully. Did I remember any ibuprofin? Of course not. My pacing partner was now keeping me on pace.

There was a happy distraction from one fella cheering/volunteering/spectating around mile 10.5 who hollered out, “Where are all your runners?” “They’re all runnng their own pace!” I shouted. I could’t believe I came up with something so witty since runner’s brain melt had definitely set in. Brain Melt? That’s what happens when you go a long distance and answering any question other than saying your name becomes a trial in mental skill. Simple math gets hard — for real. It goes away with food, water, and time.

At Mile 12 I asked for some ibuprofen from the medical tent. They could hardly hear me yelling over the sound of a lone tuba player doing his version of tuba karaoke about 30 feet away. Sorry, no pictures, because brain melt and focusing on getting my tohkis to stop hurting. The medic suggested I wait until the finish because we were so close. I insisted. It took a long minute for him to find them. (Note to self: suggest on the post-race survery that med tents have their little boxes labeled with the contents.) I was on my way and facing the big hill of the course. I trotted about 15 feet then hiked up the rest of the way. Tohkis — very angry with me. The best part of this hill is the downhill in the shade on the other side.

Near the final turn to the finish my Sole Sisters were gathered to cheer the rest of us still out there into the finish. They were just the boost I needed. I ran the rest of the way in. I finished just the way I’ve always encouraged new runners to do: a big smile, shoulders back, arms in the air in victory.

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My legs were quivering a bit as I walked around the finish area. I knew there was a small blister on the arch of my right foot. I celebrated with a beer and hard cider from the beverage sponsors. My Hubs was there ready to help Sherpa all my things. All of me ached, and it felt sooo good.

Sole Sisters – Michigan

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