And yet, in the days leading up to my trip to Medina (meDYna, which is not my default pronunciation) to run the half-marathon, the weather forecast looked more like Austin’s than Ohio’s. In fact, at one point it was warmer at K’s house than mine. But what can you do?
I arrived Thursday afternoon, and a little while later we picked up our friend J who had flown from Canada. It was the last day of school in Medina, so we went to the historic square district while the kids had a celebratory dance party, and then we ate dinner at one of the restaurants on the square. We had tentatively planned a post-travel shakeout run for that evening, but after burgers and fries, we scrapped that plan.
But Friday morning K and I ran a two-mile loop around her neighborhood. The sun and humidity made it feel like we were running in MY neighborhood, which needless to say was not a good sign for the race the next morning.
Around noon we headed to the rec center for the race expo. Packet pickup was super-efficient, and our bags (half marathoners got a reusable one) contained all kinds of goodies, including a candle–presumably because Medina was originally founded by a guy who made candles. Which explained the bee theme everywhere. Anyway, we wandered around the expo and collected freebies: microfiber hand towels, anti-stink laundry detergent, stuff like that. We also met some of K’s friends (The Turtles) who were all involved with the race in some way–racing, volunteering, or both.
Later we took K’s dog for a walk on the trail near her house. I am impressed with Medina’s trail system and its miles of tree-lined, paved paths. Perfect for a leisurely walk the night before a race.
The race started at 6:45, and even though K lives maybe two miles from the start, we were out of the house by 6 to ensure time for parking and porta potty lines. J was running the 5K so she had some extra time to wait. My stomach complained, despite yesterday’s bland lunch/dinner and a dose of Imodium, and as we waited in already-too-warm temperatures at the start, I had kind of a bad feeling about the whole thing.
And then we were off.
The first mile was flat, even downhill at times. K and I ran with her friend C–it was her first half–and we ran it a bit faster than I had planned. But as we wound through some neighborhoods I felt pretty good. At least until about 1.75 when I tripped on some uneven pavement and fell hard, twisting my right foot in the process. I ended up on my butt (I’d stopped my Garmin, naturally) and felt like an idiot. The pacers behind us stopped to make sure I was okay and helped me up. A quick inventory told me I had no major damage, and after walking a few steps, I shook off whatever happened to my foot and ran normally.
But my stomach must have felt left out of the drama because by the next water stop I knew I couldn’t run ten more miles like this. I sent the other two ahead and stopped at a porta potty. I never stop during a race, but after the issues I had the last 2.5 miles of 3M back in January, I knew that only three miles in, I really had no choice. Besides, I wasn’t racing for a PR, so a couple of minutes didn’t really matter.
The next two miles, I sped up a little in an attempt to catch K and C again, and when the course turned into a parking lot, I met them as they waited for a pit stop themselves. K told me the next segment would be on an unpaved surface, so I decided to continue on slowly, and they could catch up.
I walked through the rocky, uneven parking lot and emerged at Lake Medina. A kayaker paddled around; behind him, I saw runners in the distance. Okay, so we had pretty far to go up here. But a nice breeze drifted off the lake, somewhat combating the increasing heat. Runners doubled back on the path below, so I knew at some point we’d turn away from the lake. But before I reached the turn, I met two spectators, one of whom held a sign asking, “Have you seen Melissa?” I told her I didn’t know her but my name was Melissa too, and I took a picture of her sign. K said later that she told them she had in fact seen Melissa, that I was a little ahead of them, by then on the lower path. Looking back, I remember hearing laughter and snippets of chatter from the path above that must have been from them.
Of course, the lake breeze did not reach the lower path, and by the 10K split I jettisoned any remaining time goals. Just finishing would be enough.
As I emerged from the park and turned onto a sunny road, a course marshal told me, “It’s always cooler on THIS side of town.” More lies. I ran-walked the next mile or so, sticking with a couple of women doing the same thing. The police were doing an admirable job of holding traffic for runners–I crossed half a dozen major intersections but never once was stopped (I’m looking at you, 3M) and I wanted to make it easy on them if I could.
Somewhere after the next water stop and the squirt gun lady, K and C caught up to me. They were slowing down too, and we walked together for a while. We got ice from a lovely couple standing on a corner. They were wearing winter gloves covered with surgical-type gloves, scooping ice out of a giant cooler, and it was the best ice ever. K dumped some under her hat; I held mine in my washcloth, popping some of it into my mouth and dropping some down my shirt. By now it was hot even for the girl from Texas. I mean, this shit is why we race in January.
At some point around mile nine or ten, C ran ahead–she seemed to be feeling pretty good, and it was her first half-marathon so she deserved to finish in the best possible time she was capable of. K and I suffered along at a walk-run. Several residents had set up sprinklers or sprayed water on us–lifesavers, these people–and a couple of adorable kids boosted our spirits. A little boy wearing a Minion hat with a full Batman costume (“I’m Batminion!”) gave double high-fives, and a little girl ran up to us from two houses away for hugs and high-fives. At some point we saw one of K’s friends and pretended to run while she took our picture.
The women with the Melissa sign had relocated here–or at least K said so. I didn’t recognize them easily because now one wore a full bunny costume and the other held a sign that said “There’s no I in poop” and I focused on that. Then I said to K, maybe there’s not an I in poop but there is an I in shit. Which tells you everything you need to know about my mental state.
At one of the the last water stops, we were greeted with icewater. It was so amazingly cold, it could have come from the Flint River and it still would have been the best icewater of my life.
Around mile eleven we passed directly in front of C’s house where her family and K’s awaited us. More K than me, really, but a welcome sight nonetheless. Christ, we still had two miles to go. K was at that almost-crying stage of misery, so I turned into the cheerleader, urging her on and promising we’d finish together. I knew she was feeling better a mile or so later when she yelled at a driver who passed us at a speed well above something reasonable for race day.
After we got through the last major intersection, we saw K’s family again, and her son ran alongside us. I tried to get a high-five from her daughter, but she snubbed me for her mom. Fair enough. 😉
I could see the finish line ahead–at the top of the hill, dear god why?–but my Garmin only said 12.75. I’d lost the ability to gauge distance, and I half-expected some additional detour before crossing the damn thing. But no, it was a straight shot. As K and I covered the final 25 yards or so, I finally smiled.
Out of my nine half-marathon races (not including three that were untimed) this finishing time was number five on the speed scale–and I use that term loosely. But by effort level, it’s right up there with my fastest. And the medal is pretty sweet too.
Afterward, we sat on the grass, exhausted. J, who had beaten her 5K goal by more than a minute, had fetched my lime water from the car so I was happy to sit there with my friends and rehydrate for a while. K had gotten someone to make a 5K medal for J, since the 5K didn’t offer one. K’s son lost two of her Race Dots and we combed the grass looking for them–I found them by using the ones still stuck to my race bib.
The better part of an hour passed before we finally mustered the energy to drag ourselves off the grass and walk the block back to K’s car. Just then, the race director announced that the last finisher was approaching. She rallied nearby spectators to cheer for her, then celebrated her finish. I am sure she was ready to shut the thing down, but she made sure every finisher was recognized.
After the race, K and her husband hosted a huge cookout and pool party. Their kitchen overflowed with food and laughter. Her friends were welcoming and friendly, and one of them presented J and me with Medina Bee-themed wrap bracelets to commemorate our visit. Love!
I have questionable social skills on a good day, but the race had drained my energy and at some point I fell asleep for an undetermined amount of time.
After my unplanned nap and a caffeinated beverage, I felt better. But then, as I stood at K’s sink, I turned to pick up something from the island. Most of my weight was on my right foot–the one I’d twisted when I fell roughly ten hours earlier–and suddenly a sharp pain radiated across the top of my foot. Talk about a delayed reaction! I iced it for a while, but it definitely still bothered me when we took the dog for a walk an hour or so later. The strap of my shoe pressed exactly on that tender spot.
It was no better–but no worse–walking through two airports on the way home Sunday, but Monday is a school holiday and core class is canceled so perhaps another day of rest will resolve it. Fortunately my klutziness didn’t prevent me from finishing the race. I had enough challenges as it was, and at least I was able to earn a medal at the end of it.
Yeah, the weather made for a miserable race, but I was in good company AND I got spend a couple of days with my friends. Totally worth it. 🙂