From there we shuttled to the hotel, checked in, peed, snacked and headed towards the expo. It was as we stood in line for shuttle #2 of the day that Jason started in with some teenage hysterics. If you're like me you'll take a look at the thuggie boys standing next to one of the buses and wonder what the big fuss was all about. If you're like Jason you'll know that one of those gentlemen is Method Man. (That's right. That there's a link to his Wikipedia page. You know, for the occasional blogging runner unfamiliar with '90s rap.)
The expo itself was an experience. There were a ton of vendors, a few great products and even more people. I walked away feeling confident in my Christmas wishlist and with a Halo headband. There's a rubber-like strip on the bottom of the headband that's supposed to redirect sweat away from your face. I was sold after one look at their snazzy demonstration model. While I don't drip sweat while I'm running, I definitely pour buckets in the yoga studio, and I'm hoping this will do the trick.
I don't really have anything to say about this other than I thought it was funny.
Unfortunately no amount of runners high or retail therapy kept me from getting grumpy and claustrophobic. There were too many people to maintain a healthy bubble of personal space. At one point some guy turned and walked straight into me. I stormed forward, eager to find some breathing room. He put his hands on my shoulders from behind and told me he was sorry, but I wasn't having it! I mumbled a sorry under my breathe in a tone that said something more like, "Watch where you're going dickwad!" and continued to charge ahead.
Jason was a few feet behind me and managed to get a picture of the back of his head.
As well as the front of his head.
Excuse me, WHAT?!?! My turn for some teenage hysterics!!! Uh, turns out random body check came from...oh...you know...Mark McGrath!!! Only the lead singer of Sugar Ray and subject of my high school celebrity crush! (I've decided not to link to his Wikipedia page because I want you to do your own Google image search on this guy.) Don't worry. I learned my lesson. Be patient. At least until you know who you're dealing with.
After the expo we grabbed some lunch and snuck in a nap. Dinner was magnificent, but I'm going to save it for my Team Challenge recap. Let's just get to the point already.
The expo was good practice for the race. There were so many people! I started in corral #13 and learned a valuable lesson. Under predict your finish time by A LOT. I was weaving in and out of people for the first four miles! (And I'm going to pretend like that had nothing to do with starting off too fast.)
I checked my watch after the first mile, and it read 8:26. I knew this was faster than I wanted to go, but didn't worry too much about it. I always let the race atmosphere get the best of me and run my first mile fast. No problem. "Just back off," I told myself. My goal was to run between a 9:00 and a 9:10 pace for the first 8 miles and then reassess.
But then I went and ran the second mile at around an 8:45 pace. "Whoa, Laura. Relax." Said my head. My legs had a different plan. Miles three and four were pretty much a repeat of mile two. That's when I got greedy. I was feeling good. I started thinking I might be able to sustain that pace for the whole race. I didn't bother doing the math because I didn't want to jinx it, but the idea of super-sub-2 was seductive.
And I did hold onto that pace until about mile 6.5 when I caught up to the 2 hour pace group. I didn't know what corral they started in but knew they must have started a few minutes before I did. I don't remember feeling especially tired, but it must have been slowly sneaking in because I told myself to pull back and run with the pace group until mile 10.
That plan lasted all of maybe a half mile. There were too many people crowded around the pace leader, and the longer I hung around the more frustrated I got. By mile seven I had had enough and sprinted ahead of the group like I was running from Mark McGrath.
It wasn't too long after that that the reality of my body's limitations started to kick in. I could feel my pace slipping. I figured as long as I stayed ahead of the pace group I was okay. And even though they stayed out of sight, I continued to slow down. By mile nine I was ready to be done.
I went into "just keep moving" mode. I tried to give myself little pep talks:
- "Just remember that no matter what pain you're feeling right now, it's nothing compared to what Stacey's had to endure with Crohn's. This one's for Stacey. Don't let her down."
- "Just pretend like these are Kelsea's legs, and she's stepping in to finish the race for you."
- "This is a choice. Your body can do this. You just have to make the choice to run in a place that's uncomfortable."
Except for my body couldn't do it. As it turns out, these races aren't completely mental. There is also a physical element and mine was breaking down. The only self-coaching I was able to respond to was, "Just don't stop running. Put one foot in front of the other, and don't stop."
Around mile 12 an angel came and saved me. It was my 6 foot 60 inch teammate (Can you pick him out in a line up?). There was his head, bobbing up and down above the sea of heads way off in the distance. It was just what I needed. I vowed to catch up to him. And even though it took me the better part of that last mile, I did. I couldn't have dreamt of a better finish.
The rest of the day followed suit. We ate the most amazing brunch - veggie omelette, potatoes, bacon, ice cream and bottomless mimosas! (Why is it that food tastes so incredibly good after burning 1300 calories?) And slept pretty much all afternoon. Once rested we celebrated our victories with margaritas and guacomole at the Northern California Team Challenge after party!