This is my 100th blog post, and, appropriately, it's a bit of a triumphant one. I successfully ran the Amsterdam Half Marathon on Sunday, October 17th!
This race feels like it's been a long time in coming. I decided to run it (warily) two months ago, when two of my fellow tour-mates, Alyson Ling and Holly Lynn Nye, said they were doing it. It was summer then, and I was running more than ever, and pushing my long runs a bit more each week, so I thought, what the heck, I'll sign up. In my mind there was always an "out" - if my training didn't go well, if I got injured or sick, if it rained, etc. etc., I was OK with bailing out.
But no such excuses came through. The worse that happened, really, was that running in the fall got significantly harder. Between all of our travels, and the weather getting colder, and the long runs having to become really long runs, it was not a fun couple of months. Running in Amsterdam has been surprisingly unpleasant. Here in the center of the city, there seem to be hardly any other runners. The cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, and bicycle traffic make it all fairly hazardous, and people look at me like I'm insane. Even the times I have crossed passed with another runner, there are no smiles, waves, or shared looks of compassion. Heads down. (probably to avoid tripping over the cobblestones).
So with all this, my sights were set on October 17. I believed, and still do, that this might be the end of my running career. I've had a solid few months of challenging myself, and now I'm running a race I never would have dreamed of at the beginning of the summer! This may be a good time to retire.
In any case - race day happened! Holly, Alyson and I made our way, anxiously, to the stadium starting point Sunday afternoon. We were fully geared up - ipods, running watches, energy gels, layered clothing, electronic chips and numbers pinned to our jackets. Dressing was challenging - temperatures peaked at 50 degrees today with a bitter wind. I wore my fancy running jacket, got too hot and had to take it off and tie it around my waist a couple of miles in, and then fell into a deep freeze as soon as the race was over, wishing I'd brought a heavy coat.
I went through a whole range of experiences during the afternoon. From nervous anticipation, to feeling like a corraled animal in the starting lineup and first mile (there were 15,000 people running the Half Marathon, and an additional 15,000-20,000 running the full marathon and other races that day); there was the adrenaline rush of the beginning of the run, and the first 5 miles, realizing that the miles had flown by and I was feeling great. Then things started to get really hard, around 9.5 miles. I started feeling aches and pains in places I never had before. And stomach cramps. And a general feeling of "oh, god, I don't know if I can do this."
All that stress and discomfort lasted pretty much till the end of the race. At 12.5 miles I did get a small burst of energy, realizing that I WAS going to finish it. And the race had a really nice ending - the last 1/2 kilometer was a lap through the stadium, with loud exciting music and a cheering crowd. My finishing time was 2 hours, 18 minutes.
The adrenaline drop was immediate and harsh afterwards. From physical exhaustion, chills, stiffness and pain, to emotional - I suddenly felt terribly lonely, wishing Greg and the kids could have been there to see me at the end. Everyone seemed to have friends and loved ones seeking them out, bouquets of flowers, and hugs. Thank goodness I was able to find Holly and Alyson a little later, to at least have someone to share the success with. But overall, my biggest feelings were - thank God it's over. And I want a hot shower more than anything in the world.
So, Personal Record - check. Time to put running on the shelf for a little while, have a really long sleep, and then see what Amsterdam holds in store for me next.