This is going to be a bit of a bittersweet post for me.
Although I might stop in from time to time with a random post or musing, I probably won’t. The whole purpose of this blog was to document my journey from a sometimes-10k-runner to a man who had completed his first Half Marathon at the 2015 Cowtown.
As many of you know, I ran the Cowtown Half yesterday (Sunday, March 1st, 2015), which means that this race recap brings the Run Bear Run blog to a natural closing point.
I have loved writing these posts, and interacting with all of you – but as I’ve told some of you, there’s only so much you can write about running, especially now that running itself has become more of a “daily habit” for me rather than a new adventure. My biggest fear if I were to continue is that my writing would become boring, and that’s just not fun for anyone.
Better to burn out than fade away, as it were. Right?
Anyway, enough about this. Let’s talk about Cowtown! Here’s my race recap. Grab a hot beverage and join me for a trip down why-the-hell-did-I-do-this Lane.
The Night Before
For the duration of the six months that I’ve been training for this half marathon, I had always pictured the night before race day the same way. A healthy but hearty dinner and hitting the sack early for 8-10 hours of sleep.
Wanna take odds now on whether that actually happened?
Instead, I was blessed (truly) to have Sarah’s parents, my brother-in-law Cam, and his wonderful girlfriend Niki come and visit us this weekend.
We had a wonderfully fun time on Saturday exploring Fort Worth, getting pedicures (the ladies), and buying a gigantic new 60″ television (the gentlemen, because that’s what men do when left to their own devices. Besides starting fires… but it was too wet outside to do that.)
That night, we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Fort Worth, Reata, to celebrate several different occasions, including Cam’s birthday (happy early birthday, buddy!)
Afterwards, Sarah pulled a total BMOC move and used her connections at Billy Bobs to get all six of us free stage tickets to see Stix.
It was an incredibly fun time. INCREDIBLY fun. Although, I have to poke fun at myself on one count.
I’ve been living in Fort Worth for nearly a decade. I’ve been to Billy Bobs countless times. I own multiple pairs of boots. I own a nice beaverskin cowboy hat (and it’s well broken-in from wear). I have a Carhart jacket, and I can two-step.
But on this particular evening, I wandered into Billy Bobs wearing the same clothes I wore to Reata – clothes more befitting a Yuppie country club than a Honkeytonk.
How I didn’t get my ass kicked just on principle, I’ll never know.
If not getting my ass kicked (even though I deserved it) was great, the downside is that we didn’t get back to the house until just after midnight.
Midnight. With an alarm set for 4:45AM.
Race day started bright and early at 4:45AM… and looked a little something like this:
Luckily, it only took me about 10 minutes to remember why I was awake at the ass-crack of dawn and get excited.
This was it. THE day. The big one. The one that I had spent half a year training for.
Countless miles logged (okay, so I could count them, but I’m not going to.) Social events skipped so that I could train. Missing time with Sarah so that I could train. Watching my weightlifting PRs in the gym atrophy so that I could train.
Nothing, not a lack of sleep, not nerves, not the ice, could stop me from being out-of-my-skull excited about this.
Too nervously excited to eat anything, I grabbed some coffee, donned my gear (including my awesome Iron Man race shirt that Sarah got me), and promptly busted my ass sliding down my ice-covered driveway to get to my car.
Did that stop me? Hell no. It was 5:00AM, 30 degrees outside, and I was going on about 4 hours of sleep, but I was just too excited to be angry. Someone probably could have run past and nut-punched me and I probably would have screamed “FUCK YES” like a completely insane person.
After a 30-minute drive during which I
considered cutting and running away to start a new life in Tijuana had no reservations about the upcoming race whatsoever, I parked outside the WRMC and skated (literally) into the Expo to pick up my race packet.
6:30AM – I was met at the packet pickup desk by a very nice (and FAR too awake) volunteer who immediately identified that I was a first-timer. I have no idea whether they have some sort of “newbie watch list” behind the desk, or whether something about my appearance screamed “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL I’M DOING HERE.”
She also noted that I was an “adorable ginger,” but that that was okay because she’s married to a ginger.
We are everywhere. Join us. Resistance is futile.
6:50AM – I felt like I should have been making more of the experience, but for the life of me I had no idea what else to do.
We didn’t need to be in our corrals for another hour, and I’d already been through the expo twice.
And I sure as hell wasn’t going to go stand outside with the idiots running around to “warm up” in the 30-degree weather. There’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.
7:20AM – I get tired of sitting against a wall screwing around on my phone (I’m also concerned by the fact that my phone – my sole source of music during the run – has gone from 100% charge to 60% charge in the span of an hour,) so I get up and start walking circuits around the expo center.
That counts as a warmup, right?
The walking definitely isn’t to relieve any pre-race tension, because there is no tension. I am loosy goosy. At least until I feel a blast of arctic air from an open door, which reminds me that in a scant 40 minutes, I’ll be out running in that shit.
I’m an idiot.
7:50AM – I’m in the corral, hyped up, and ready to go. The place is nuts. And thankfully there are plenty of bodies close by to keep me warm, because it’s 30-effing-degrees outside.
I find my pacer and get near him, set for a 2:10:00 finish. That’s about 10 minutes more than I wanted to run my half in, but I’m also realistic… not one of my long training runs was sub-9:30, so that’s just not going to happen. 2:10 it is.
8:00AM – Right on cue, the starter gun goes off. I watch the elites run through the archway and I think, “this is it.” I’m hyped out of my MIND.
8:10AM – I’ve never run a race this big before, and thus had no idea that just because the gun has gone off doesn’t mean you get to start running.
It’s about 10 minutes since the elites ran past, and I’m coming up with increasingly colorful words to describe how cold I am now that I’ve been standing outside for nearly half an hour in nothing but shorts and a long-sleeve compression shirt.
8:15AM/Mile 0 – I finally, FINALLY cross the starting line, and we’re off to the races.
Everything’s clicking. Birds are chirping. People are cheering. I feel great. I’m right behind the pacer and I’m thinking “hell, he seems like he’s barely moving. This is going to be an easy run.”
I know this is going to be a great day.
Mile 3 – I pass the 5k mark at 30:40, which is a new personal record “official” 5k time for me, and my legs are feeling great. I could easily hold a conversation at this pace.
At some point around Mile 3 I pass probably the funniest “marathon sign” I’ve ever seen. A man is sitting by himself on the side of the road in a lawn chair, a cooler next to him, drinking a beer, and holding a sign that says “THIS IS THE WORST PARADE I’VE EVER SEEN.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Mile 6 – I pass the 10k mark almost exactly an hour after I crossed the start line. We’re just approaching the stockyards, and I’m excited because, aside from crossing the finish line, the moment that I’ve most been looking forward to is literally just around the next corner: running beneath the enormous “Fort Worth Stockyards” sign on Exchange Avenue.
I’m not as fresh-faced or fresh-legged as I was when I passed the 5k mark, but I’m still feeling good, despite the fact that the brick roads in the Stockyards are truly a bitch to run on.
Mile 7 – I look at my Garmin, see it flip from 6.99 miles to 7 miles, and instantly it’s as though some alien spacecraft hovering above me has sucked the life force out of me.
Although I’m still keeping up with the pacer, it’s now a true challenge, and I’m starting to question everything. Is something wrong with me? Am I sick? Why is my heart beating so hard? I’ve run 7 miles at this pace plenty of times with no problems at all. What the hell is happening?
Worst of all, I still have six miles to go, which seems absolutely daunting at this point.
But I soldier on. There were plenty of times during training that I “felt bad” for a mile or two, but it always goes away as long as I push through.
Mile 9 – I hit mile 9, or 15k, at just about 1:33 (an hour and 33 minutes). Things haven’t gotten any better since Mile 7, and now I have “The Hill” on N. Main Street heading up to the Courthouse looming right ahead of me.
At this point, I make a crucial decision. I’m going to have to shift down a gear and give up on my goal of keeping up with the 2:10 pacer in order to complete my primary goal of finishing the race.
It was a decision that I’d normally be pretty upset about, but at this point in the race, pragmatism took over. It just is the way it is. You can either keep up with the pacer for probably another half mile and then walk, or you can slow your pace and finish the race. That’s not even a choice.
Mile 10 – The run down Houston street through downtown is a welcome respite from “The Hill”. The street is level (it might have even been a slight decline), and I’m able to catch my breath, calm myself down, and set into a new rhythm.
Most importantly, I remind myself that in one mile, I’ll only have two miles to go, and two miles is a piece of cake no matter how you feel.
I learn that mind games like that might be the only thing that get distance-runners through it all.
Mile 11 – We’re back in familiar territory. I can see Trinity Park coming up on my left and the back end of West 7th coming up on my right as we run down W. Lancaster Avenue. As we cross over 10th street, I see the Will Rodgers Memorial Center – where the finish line is – come over the horizon.
Even though I feel like I’m crawling (I wasn’t) and every ounce of me from the waist down is screaming in pain, the end is in sight.
The only thought that goes through my mind for the next two miles is, “you’ve told too many people about this. Don’t shame yourself by quitting now. You’re not a walker, and you’re not a quitter.”
Mile 12 – I hit mile 12, and a wave of relief washes over me. Even though the finish line is still 1.1 miles away, I feel like I’ve made it. I know that I can do a mile. I could have a broken leg and still do one measly mile. Everything hurts, but that’s very temporary now, because in 10 minutes or less it’ll all be over. As long as I keep running.
I pass by several people who have started walking, and none of them look outwardly injured. It’s something that I still can’t really understand. How can you not run the last mile? You’ve made it this far. All of the training, and sacrifice, not just over the past months, but especially today, in this weather… and you walk the last mile?
I can’t understand it. It just doesn’t compute.
Mile 13 – I hit mile 13, and we’re in the Will Rogers complex proper now, off of the main streets. Even though my eyesight is going a bit fuzzy and I’ve confirmed that my beard is 100% frozen, and all I can think about is left foot right foot left foot right foot, I rip my earbuds out. When I run down the finish line chute, I want to experience all the sensations – the sights and the sounds.
The crowd – such as it was – was cheering, but it wasn’t the roar that I expected (not for me, but for all of us). I think those who were there were cheering their hearts out… it’s just that there weren’t very many there, probably because of the weather.
Finish – I cross the finish line at exactly 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 35 seconds – about a 10:30 mile pace – but I don’t find this out until later. I’ve forgotten that the time displayed at the finish line is your “gun time,” or how long it’s been since the starting gun went off (not how long it’s been since you crossed the start line). My “gun time” was 2:35:20, and that’s what I saw when I crossed the finish line.
I was happy that I had finished, but I was absolutely devastated with a 2:35 finish time. That’s almost a 12 minute mile pace. That’s basically walking. That’s not what I trained for.
It wasn’t until much later, when I looked at my Garmin, that I realized I’d actually finished in 2:19, and that the time displayed at the finish line was the “gun time,” not the actual amount of time it took me to run the Half.
Just after the finish line, race attendants wrap a thermal blanket around me and shove a bottle of water into my hand. I can’t feel anything below my waist, and I’m so light-headed I think I might fall over. I still don’t know whether that was from exertion or emotion. I probably never will.
I wander like a zombie through the cattle-chute of race volunteers, and when I round a corner someone says “Congratulations, Carter!” and places a finisher medal over my head. It’s the first time since I crossed the finish line that I actually start to feel like I did good.
I shamble over to the gear check table, grab my bag, and drag it behind me like a child dragging a wagon.
I really didn’t give two shits how it looked (the answer is “pathetic”), but I do have to admit that I was jealous of the other people I saw who were celebrating their finish a little bit more like this:
But you know what? None of that mattered. None of it.
I had finished.
It was the culmination of six months of daily hard work, done in just over two hours.
And I had succeeded.
I let those thoughts wash over me as I hobbled back to my truck, which I’d parked outside Ben and Jen Cole’s house a block away. I knocked to say a quick hello to them, give my godson a high-five, and then it was FINALLY… finally… time to sit down.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t care how long the drive back to the house would take. It could have been five hours. Wouldn’t have cared. Because I got to sit down.
By the time I sat down in my truck, the soreness was already settling in. I briefly wondered whether I’d given myself rhabdomyolysis, since I’ve run long distances before and had never been that sore that fast, but I quickly chalked it up to some weird mixture of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, hypocondriasis, and anxiety.
As of today, I’m still sore and walking funny (cue “did you have a date last night?” jokes), but no Rhabdo.
One unintended (although perhaps not unexpected) consequence was that I may or may not have spent more time Sunday evening in the restroom than I did on the couch. Apparently half marathons are all you need to kick your gut into overdrive.
Sarah was sweet enough to post updates on my race to her Facebook as they were happening (she signed up to get text and e-mail notifications), and so I spent a relaxing Sunday evening with her reading all of your wonderful and encouraging comments on Facebook and binge-watching Season 3 of House of Cards.
Speaking of all of the comments on Facebook, I want to thank all of you so much for following me through this journey. To those of you who encouraged me, supported me, gave me advice, laughed with me, worried with me, and got your sweat on with me, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. And especially to Sarah, for being the biggest beacon of support, the most understanding and compassionate pseudo-nurse and psuedo-psychologist, and also for all of the horrible, horrible laundry she had to put up with.
This isn’t the end of my running adventures. Far from it. I know there will be many, many more 5ks, 10ks, and Half Marathons ahead of me in my life.
What’s the next big goal? A full marathon. I’m toying with running the Big D marathon on April 12th, but we’ll see about that. I’m not going to run a full marathon without being completely prepared, so I’ll need to see how training goes for the next few weeks.
After that? An Ironman. You heard it here first. Some time before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2018, I will be Carter Schimpff, Ironman.
Mark my words. And after THAT? Well…
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.
Thank you all so, so much for being with me during this journey. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your advice.
Thank you for laughing, even when I wasn’t funny.
Most of all, thank you for being my friends.
Run Bear Run, out.