Having taken the Senior Gazelle’s advice, prior to signing up for a half, I made sure I could run the distance “comfortably” (if that’s even a thing), by running it many times. By the time it was race week, I felt pretty good.
But then there were the two disasters.
One, I couldn’t sleep the night before. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I finally dozed off sometime around 4am.
And the race started at 8am.
And it was a half hour drive to the race.
Two, in typical Fleck style, the morning of my race was absolutely miserable. It was (barely) 5 degrees Celsius.
And it was raining.
Typically, because I am
hardcore stupid, I run in a t-shirt when it’s 5 degrees. But, because of the cold wind and the rain that day, I put my zip-up on over my t-shirt. Remembering that my bib had to be visible at all times, I fastened it over my right side pocket so that if I had to lose the zip-up mid race, I could tie it around my waist and my bib could still be seen.
I placed myself just ahead of the first pace bunny, among some of the slow(er) gazelles. I still didn’t count myself as one of them, but my goal was to finish the race with, or just ahead of, the pace bunny.
The first 6KMs of the race were glorious. I managed to keep up to the gazelles, and the rain and wind died down. But, thanks to the clouds, the air remained cool.
At the 7KM mark, it all fell apart.
First, the sun came out.
Naturally, I decided to lose my zip-up, so I tied it around my waist. And all was good.
For a short while.
I’m not used to running with anything around my waist and, thanks to the pressure of the zip-up, at 8KM I got the worst cramp I’ve ever had.
I untied my zip-up, thinking I’d just hold onto it in my fist until the cramp subsided.
It was then I discovered my fail.
When I fastened my bib to my zip-up, I somehow fastened one safety pin through both the zip-up and my t-shirt. This meant I couldn’t remove my zip-up from my waist without stopping. Which, lion that I am, just wasn’t happening.
So, unnaturally, I continued to run with my zip-up awkwardly bundled in my right hand, while my left was raised precariously above my head in an effort to kill the cramp.
It was then I saw her.
It was one of the gazelles from the start of the race.
And she was limping.
As I approached, my first instinct was to
trip her pass her. But, the closer I got, the more I realized she was truly in trouble. Another gazelle I’d been drafting gently touched her shoulder in support as he passed. This nearly stopped her entirely, and I knew I had to do something to help.
“Would you like to pace with me?” I asked, slowing down.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she replied. “It’s my knee… I didn’t train properly for this and it’s acting up if I go too fast.”
We started to jog together. I was secretly grateful, because it was at a slower pace than I’d been enduring, and it was helping my cramp.
We ran together for the next 8KMs, both hobble-jogging, when she stopped.
“I can’t anymore,” she said. “It’s completely given out. You go ahead. I’ll catch up.”
“Ok,” I replied, and went on my way, refreshed from the slow jog and the conversation.
At 18KMs, she caught up, and we paced together again. By now, the sun was beating down on us and, thanks to the fatigue of a sleepless night and the race, my legs were screaming.
“I need to just finish this,” she said to me suddenly, and she sped up.
I looked over at her, and studied her face.
She’d gone lion.
“You go ahead. My legs are heavy and I need to be careful,” I said, fully resigned to the fact that at any moment that stupid pace bunny would pass me.
Near tears, I watched as she broke away from me.
As it turned out, the pace bunny didn’t catch up to me. And, as I passed the 21KM mark, I heard a volunteer yell:
“You’re still in the Elite Class! Go for it!”
That gave me the kick in the pants I needed.
Going lion, I took off at a sprint.
At the finish line, two faces greeted me.
The first was my husband who’d waited, first in the cold rain, and then in the hot sun, to see me cross the line.
The second was the wounded gazelle.
She ran up to me and threw her arms around my neck. “I never would have got through that race were it not for you. Thank you so, SO much!”
My eyes filled with happy tears.
“Likewise,” I replied. “Likewise.”
After taking my medal, I went to find the Gatorade and pizza (a race tradition). It was around this time that I saw the first pace bunny cross the line.
“Maybe I’m not a lion after all,” I thought to myself, as I stuffed my face.
Maybe I’m a killer rabbit instead.
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