That first entry was really fucking long, no?  And I didn’t even get to the heart of the matter; what the hell was I thinking DURING the fucking thing?

My partner J signed up to run the 5k, so she could be on the course “legally”, and we planned for her to meet me at the 11 mile mark and finish up with me.  Since her race started before mine, and from a different starting line, I sent her off and headed to my starting corral.  Thanks to the miracle of Starbucks, I managed to poop before the run, but had to go again as I waited for the start of the race.

With 11,700 runners, I couldn’t even get into the corral where I wanted to, between the 2.30 and 2.45 pace runners.  Oh well, I thought- which is probably the most mild reaction I’ve ever had to ANYTHING, and last week I would have bet you money not being where I wanted to be at the start would have caused me to have a panic attack and shit my pants.  At the same time.

Slowly, ever so slowly, we started moving towards the actual starting line.  If I had to guess, I’d say I was a good 100 yards back from the actual starting line, so it took a good while to get to there.  Which was a blessing, since I managed to spot J standing on the sidelines.  She told me it was hot out on the course, so I ditched my over shirt, flashed her a shit-eating grin, and crossed over the starting line.

Since I wasn’t corralled in the right place, I spent most of the first mile bobbing and weaving around walkers and slower runners (that was ego-boosting), but soon enough, a little clearing opened up around me.  For the rest of the race, I was pretty much in my own space- there were tons of people around me, but not ALL UP ON ME.

Miles Two – Five:  I ran all of these, with a little walking break to walk up the only hill on the course.  I’m still new enough to running that I can actually power walk uphill faster than I can run, and since the hill was at the 2.5 mile mark, I figured I had plenty more to go, and could live with a little time loss.  This was by far the best part of the race for me- there was a breeze, some snow-covered mountains in the distance, and I felt good, even though my toes were numb.  I thought that was due to the cold, and they’d warm up eventually, but it never actually happened.  I hit the five mile mark a minute ahead of my (self-imposed) schedule, ate a INTENSELY DISGUSTING Gu, and grabbed some water.  I wasn’t wearing my water bottle, figuring I’d rely on the water stations, but if I had to do it again, I’d wear it.  The water stations were fine, and not crowded, but I would have liked to have water whenever I wanted, not just at stations.

Miles Five – Eight:  These were harder, but manageable.  I started having to stop at all water stops as the temperature rose, and I took a couple short walk breaks.  The most unnerving part was that on the other side of the street were the half marathoners who had already hit the turnaround, which made me think it was soon, but NO.  They just kept coming and coming and coming.  I’d also started my watch wrong,  so it would tell me I’d hit mile X about two tenths before I actually did.  I hit the turn at mile 8.2, and according to the split time, was still under pace.

Miles Eight – Eleven:  MY PERSONAL HELL.  Once we turned, we were headed directly into the rising sun, which at 9.30-ish, when I turned, was still low enough to be essentially DIRECTLY IN MY EYE.  I logged the two worst miles of my entire run, and I walked way more than I wanted to.  Two things got me through- knowing J was waiting at mile 11, and a woman just ahead of me with angel wings tattooed on her shoulder blades.  Just keep her in sight, I kept saying to myself.  Just keep her in sight.  There was a slight hill at the tail end of mile 10, but from my vantage point, it looked like summitting Mt. Everest with no oxygen.

Miles Eleven – Finish:   I didn’t even see where she came from, but all of a sudden, there was J- laughing and clapping.  She told me later I was smiling, though I don’t remember that at all.  Very early in the race, I passed the pacers holding the 2.45 finish time, and I thought if I could just stay ahead of them for the duration, I’d be right where I wanted to be.  They caught up with me here, but with J running with me, I kept pushing to stay just in front of them, and to pass them as they paused at water stations.  This part of the race was back in the heart of downtown Huntington Beach, and people lined the streets, clapping for us and cheering for everyone.  I remember passing the 12 mile marker and thinking, OH MY HOLY GOD, only one mile to go.  And I ran it- I can pretty much guarantee that if J hadn’t been there, I would have walked the last mile, but she just kept urging me on.   My feet were in agony- I couldn’t feel my toes, and the balls of my feet felt like steel rods, but I kept running, and even managed to pick it up a little at the finish.

Final time: 2.42.19.  A perfect finish for me would have been a 2.36, but I’ll take it.  When’s the next one?