My last training run before the Crim was a tough 8.4 mile route up at my parents’ place. When I got home from the run, I said to my parents, “I really hope adrenaline kicks in during the race because that was really rough.” For the rest of the day I felt crappy. I had a headache and knew that I didn’t hydrate well enough and wasn’t eating the best. So my goal for the week leading up to the crim was to eat well and to stay hydrated.
On Thursday before the Crim, my friend and I headed to Flint to pick up our race packets. (I am so glad we decided to do this because the day of the race was so hectic, we would have never gotten our stuff and to the start on time!) We walked around the expo for a little bit, checking out all of the cool runners swag. I was tempted to buy a few things: a 10 mile magnet for my filing cabinet at work, a sticker said “Does running late count as running?”, and a few different tank tops/tech shirts with funny running sayings on them. The packet pickup was at the very end of the expo. The wall of names to look up your bib number was absolutely incredible. I knew that this was a big race, but actually seeing that wall of names and the crowd of people picking up their race bibs really started to put it into perspective. As we were leaving, my friend and I got our picture taken with the race maps. The woman who took our picture struck up a conversation with us, and I told her that this was my first Crim and that I was really nervous, especially for the Bradley Hills. She said, “Oh, the Bradley Hills aren’t really that bad. They are hard and then they are over. It’s the gradual incline after the Bradley Hills that sucks. But then once you get through that, it’s all downhill.” Oh great! After going to the expo, we headed to Pestos in Flint, a restaurant owned by my friend’s uncle that is absolutely to DIE for. We met my other friend and her fiance there and finished our evening with great conversation and amazing food.
My dad came down to stay the night Friday and go to the race next morning, so I cooked a nice dinner of fish, mashed redskin potatoes and sauteed zuchinnin, mushrooms and onions. Not long after dinner, I was ready for bed. Getting to sleep wasn’t hard the night before, but staying asleep was a challenge! I was nervous and excited, and I kept having race dreams. I was dreaming that we got all the way to Flint and I realized that I had forgotten my race bib.
My alarm went off at 5am. My stomach was in knots. I made myself a bagel with peanut butter but could only finish half of it. I was so nervous and excited that I forgot to keep drinking water. I had a coffee and probably drank about 8oz of water before we finally got on the road. I was really excited that my husband was able to come with us, since he didn’t have to be to work until later that night. So the four of us – my dad, my husband, my friend and me – jumped into our Civic and made our way to Flint!
We arrived at the shuttle lot and I thought, hmm, there’s not that many people. Then I realized that there was a line that was probably about a quarter mile long waiting for the shuttle. That’s when I started to get nervous, because it was already about 20 minutes after 7 and the race started at 8. We got into line and my friend and both realized we had to use the bathroom. Someone else pointed out that there were two porta-potties across the lot, so we got our warm up in by running over to them before we got onto the shuttle. Now, I have used a lot of porta-potties in my day. And I have used some really gross ones. These were not necessarily gross, but I was absolutely amazed by how much human excrement was in them. Like how could that much poop come out of a person?? And I am a dietitian, so I have seen and heard of a lot! At least it gave me a good laugh as we were getting ready to board the shuttle. Mind you, when we finally boarded the shuttle it was about 7:45am…
The shuttle arrived near the start line, and I hurried off to get into my corral. I left my friend, my dad and my husband in the dust! I just wanted to get there and not miss the start of the race! Of course, I got there, and things hadn’t really even started yet, but I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of people. I couldn’t even get up to my corral, so I started with a slower group of runners and walkers. The National Anthem was played, and the race was off! They had a DJ playing loud music to pump us up – most of it was music that we dance to in Zumba, and I was half tempted to do a quick Zumba warm up while waiting to start! Wave after wave of runners and walkers started before it was finally my turn to go. Once my wave got up to the start, I found my husband, dad and friend and waved to them. That was when it really hit me – I am about to start the longest, biggest, most difficult race of my life! I checked my phone as they called “Runners and walkers, ready… set… go!” – it was 8:16am.
I had to contain my excitement and adrenaline as the race started. I always start too fast. I tried to keep a slow and steady pace, reminding myself that if I saved up the energy now, I could go all out in the end! The route took us through U of M Flint’s campus and into neighborhoods. All along the route there were bystanders cheering, plenty of water stations, and lots of entertainment! I did pass by the infamous beer and champagne shots, as well as donuts being passed out, and even a sorority giving out jello shots. Although everyone encouraged me to participate and take these, I only took water and gatorade, but laughed and enjoyed watching other people have fun with it.
As I approached mile 5, I realized I was getting close to the infamous Bradley Hills. Since I was run/walking, every time I would start a walk interval, I’d update my husband and friend with my distance. I had originally had a goal in mind of finishing in 2 hours, but in my training my pace had slowed down so I was now aiming for a finish of 2 hours 10 minutes or 13 minute miles. At this point I was maintaing a pace around 12:30 minutes per mile. As my next running interval started, I turned onto Bradley street and thought uh oh, here we go! We had climbed a pretty good hill around mile 2, which definitely wore me out, so I was nervous for these huge hills. And yes, they were huge. But they weren’t as bad as I had imagined them to be. They were steep but fast, and the encouragment along the way was absolutely incredible. There were signs along the route saying, “Only three hills to go!” “One down, two to go!” “Push!” “You got this!” I was listening to the cheering around me, music playing, and to the runners and walkers around me all pushing and encouraging each other. I actually had my best pace going through the Bradley hills, and my walk/run intervals were timed perfectly so that I was running the entire length of the hills, then got to rest. When I got through those suckers, I thought, “Yes! I’m more than halfway there and the hardest part is behind me!”
Not long after the Bradley Hills, we were in a beautiful neighborhood with huge houses. I guess this would be “along the golf course” looking at the race course map. There was a marching band playing and when I realized what they were playing, I got goosebumps. They were playing “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King. There is a long story behind it, but when I heard a marching band playing THAT song, I knew my husband’s late mother was with me, cheering me on. I had to fight back tears.
The woman that I had talked to at the expo about the race was right. The Bradley Hills were tough, but the slow, steady incline afterwards was tougher. It seemed like the hills were never ending. I caught myself saying several times, “If I never see another hill again, it will be too soon!” I was slowing down, and athough my breathing and everything was still doing okay, my legs were turning to jello. I hit the 8 mile mark and had now officially run the furthest I had ever run. Only two more miles to go, but they were hard. And the little hills just kept coming. With 1.5 miles to go, I wasn’t able to keep up with my intervals anymore, and just started to run a little, walk a lot. I was still under my goal pace and the last thing I wanted to do was hurt myself or just fall on my face from exhaustion, so I just went with it. As the course started to turn more into downtown, I felt that sense of excitement again. Unfortunately it had also heated up quite a bit and now the sun was out full force, so even with the sense of excitement I wasn’t feeling that burst of energy to push me through. I kept trudging along though.
With less than a mile to go, the encouragment from bystanders got louder and more intense. I was almost there! Photographers were snapping pictures and I was giving them my best game face. A race volunteer said, “This is your last turn, you’ll see the finish up ahead!” I saw the bricks of downtown Flint and thought, this is it! I’m almost there! I wanted to give the finish my all, so I saved up the energy and walked quite a bit of that last stretch. Then I caught up to a couple and heard the woman say, “When should we start running again?” The man replied, “In 10… 9… 8…” (You get the picture) so I counted down with them and started running when they did. I ripped my earbuds out of my ears because I didn’t need my intervals anymore, and I definitely didn’t need the music – there was loud music playing and the crowd cheering me on! I took in all of the sights and sounds as I finished strong. I finally caught a glimpse of my husband and my dad (my friend had started the 5k at 10am) near the finish line and waved to them as I pounded the pavement. I finished strong with an official chip time of 2:08:36, just under my goal!
The end of the race was chaos, people everywhere trying to get to their friends and family, grabbing water, gatorade, granola bars, bananas, chocolate milk and even popsicles. I finally made my way back to my dad and husband. They were impressed with how calm and relaxed I looked – that I didn’t really look like I was gonna keel over or anything! We found my friend after she finished the 5k, not too long after I was done, and headed back to Saginaw to stuff our faces at Tony’s. I pretty much spent the rest of the day eating and drinking water – I don’t think I have ever been so hungry in my whole life!!!
As I was getting ready for bed that night, I looked at the picture my husband had snapped of me crossing the finish line, and I thought, “Wow. I finished a 10 mile race today. I did that! Thank you God for giving me the strength to finish!” The next morning I went to Mass and my prayers were full of thanksgiving for the incredible strength and perseverence that God has given me. When I got to my pew and started singing the opening song, I realized that it was song number 816… the race started at 8:16 a.m… which coincidentally is also the title of one of my favorite songs by my favorite band. God is good. :)