But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Day I Walked 13.1 Miles

4:00 AM
Alarm went off. Got into a hot bath to get the muscles loosened up. Got dressed. Hair and makeup fixed.

4:30 AM
Ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Drank a Fresca.

5:00 AM
My groupies arrived and we headed to Fort Wayne.

6:00 AM
We parked in the parking garage and walked to the Start line, where Channel 21's Jeff Bowman (cameraman) and Mary Collins (news anchor) were ready for broadcasting.

Seven months ago, I would never have believed I would be standing on a street corner in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, at 6:30 in the morning, excited at the prospect of walking 13.1 miles as fast as I can walk it. I wanted to be running it, but at my eye doctor appointment yesterday, I got the no-no for that.

As members of our training group trickled in, we were all smiles and ready to go. We'd been through so much as a group - moaning and groaning as Jamey put us through our paces, sweating as we used muscles we didn't know we had, encouraging each other in the down times and rejoicing with each other over the many milestones we passed along the way. Now we were putting all of that together as we prepared to walk/run either 4 miles or the full 13.1 mile half-marathon in the first ever Fort4Fitness event.

The race registration reached its limit of 2000 for the half-marathon and another 1000 for the 4-mile weeks before and next year those numbers will be doubled. I have no doubt they will reach that, given the comments heard after today's race.

Mary began her coverage of the race at 6:30, and she interviewed our group somewhere around 6:50. She didn't talk to each of us, but I was one of them she did. I don't recall a single thing she asked me or what I said, with all the excitement coursing through my veins; I just hope it was somewhat intelligible.

We did some stretches, then headed to our starting areas. We were to place ourselves in the corral that corresponded with our expected pace. My walking partner Diana and I guessed at 12:00 minute miles, although I knew that was probably optimistic. It didn't really matter being that far back, because the serious runners were yards in front of us anyway. It turned out that most of the rest of our training group started at this point, too.

The crowd started to move forward and in a few minutes, we passed the starting point.

We wore timing chips on our shoes and as we passed over the starting line, the blue pads detected our chips and recorded our official start time.

There were large crowds lining both sides of Main Street as we headed west, just as the sun was coming up.
My family and some friends that were there to support me were sporting yellow t-shirts, designed by our older daughter Kara.

Jim, a friend from Chicago, had brought a large orange sunflower so I would be able to find them along the route. I have to say that helped a lot, as I looked ahead several times on the route for that sunflower, knowing there would be smiling faces and cheers of encouragement when I got to it.

For about three miles of the race, the 4-milers and the half-marathoners shared the same route, but then the two groups split, after going through historic West Central neighborhood and rounding through Swinney Park. We headed north at that point, and I wouldn't see my groupies until the end of the race. They had taken a donut break before attempting to meet me around mile eight and they missed me. I have to say that I missed them, too, as I was expecting to see them somewhere around that point.

I didn't begin to take advantage of the water/Gatorade that was offered until halfway through the course, wanting to stay hydrated, yet not wanting to have to take time out for a bathroom break either.

We went by the beautiful University of Saint Francis campus. I especially enjoyed the scene to our left as we passed the Bass Mansion overlooking the lake.

We then headed north towards Franke Park and I was glad to get to the port-a-potties. That took a minute or two, which would prove to be just enough to prevent us from meeting our time goal. :-(

All along the route, there was so much encouragement from those that lived along the route and those that made an effort to be there to cheer us along. The police department did a great job of patrolling the streets that had been blocked off and they also shouted out encouragement to us as we passed by them.

There were several people that had cow bells they rang as we went by, and one woman in particular moved along the route as we progressed and whooped it up with her well wishes. We saw her several times.

Somewhere around the 12-mile mark, my right thigh began to cramp up. I tried to relax it as I took my steps forward, which required a lot of concentration, but it didn't help a whole lot. I felt myself falling behind the pace and no matter how hard I tried to make my legs move faster, I just couldn't. I almost felt like I was walking in slow motion. I tried to ignore it, knowing we were nearing the end.

At this point, we met up with Bill, one of the members of my training group. As we rounded the last corner, Diana's brother met us, having finished about an hour before us and he went the final .4 of a mile with us. Also at this point, I encouraged Diana to go ahead and run in for the finish, which she did, although being the sweetheart she is, she was reluctant to do so.

I was never so glad to see that finish line up ahead and even happier as I saw my family and friends along both sides of the route. At this point, there were even more people cheering as I finished, since my first name was on my bib and there weren't that many people coming in around me. That felt great as I approached the blue mats at the finish.

Once I was over the line, Mary Collins was there to give me a hug and the emotions just came rushing out. Mary was crying and then I was crying and I just don't think I can find the words to express how all of that felt. Mary said to me, "You did it! I wish you could have seen the look on your face as you came to the finish line. You were beaming!" I was. I don't know which hurt worse - my legs or my cheeks from smiling so much.

Jamey then came and hugged me too and at that point I just collapsed into his arms. Had he not been holding me up, I would have been on the ground, because my legs just gave way.

Romie then came up from behind and he held me and told me how proud he was of me, followed by the rest of my family and friends. It was just such a great moment! I'm actually tearing up as I write this.

I went on to the tent beyond, where they cut my timing chip off my shoe and I received my medal. Then I got an apple, a bagel, and some pretzels, along with a bottle of water - all provided free by the race committee. It all tasted wonderful.

In that last mile of the race, we had passed near the Perfection Baking Company and we talked about how the smell of bread baking was making all of us very hungry.

Mary was interviewing each member of our training group as we finished, and once again, I don't recall a lot of what I said, but I do remember that it was hard to talk. I was quite emotional, my voice was cracking, and it was just hard to put things into words at that point.

I remember I commented on how our training group made all the difference in the world in my meeting this goal. I told her if you have even just one person to go through it with you, it helps immensely. I would have quit twenty times had it not been for the group.

Barb and I walked past the Healthy Food Expo booths, where many Ft. Wayne restaurants offered food for sale. Past those, at the east end of Freimann Square, was a tent where the official times were posted. I finished the 13.1 miles in 3:02:02. Not bad, for walking. That gave me a pace of 13:54 per mile or about 4¼ mph. I'm capable of walking faster than that, but to maintain a faster pace for thirteen miles is another thing altogether.

Now that it's over, I'm not sure I realize fully what it is that I accomplished just yet. It doesn't seem like such a big deal, yet 13.1 miles is about how far it would be from our house to Van Wert. Walking or running to Van Wert just seems ridiculous, yet that's in effect what I did. Maybe I'll realize it more in a few days.

I'm asked if I'll keep running. I didn't think so a few weeks ago, but Romie and I talked and we want to run a couple of miles three or four times a week to stay in shape enough to do some 5Ks together. And after doing this half-marathon and not being able to run it, I really think I want to do it again next year and hopefully run it. Kara has told me she and Adam want to do it next year, so we'll likely make it a family affair. We'll encourage Jenna and Joe to join us.

I've learned a lot about myself through all this. You can do things you don't think you can, if you do them in the right way and you have people to encourage you along the way. I'll try to be more of an encourager to others, now that I know what it takes to get from Point A to Point B.

One of the reasons I signed up for this was to hopefully find a way to improve my fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. As far as the pain is concerned, I don't feel that it helped in that respect, although an unrelated hip pain that I'd experienced for about three years disappeared shortly after I began training and hasn't returned. (Yay!) But I haven't had many of those "totally wiped out" fatigued days that I had so many of before I did this.

No doubt my cardio-pulmonary condition is greatly improved and I know my muscle tone is 200% better than it's been in decades. You just can't train like that and not experience a dramatic effect. I didn't gain or lose any weight throughout this, but Jamey didn't think I'd experience much of a change in that respect, other than perhaps a slight weight gain as I built up muscle.

I spent the rest of race day taking it easy for the most part. I was incredibly sore all over and walking was pretty painful. On Sunday, it was a little bit worse, but Romie and I took a leisurely walk of a little over a mile to help prevent more stiffness and soreness. I still limped a little, with my right hip joint and thigh muscles giving me the most problems. That was where I experienced the cramping during the race.

This morning, things were better. No more limping, and the soreness has diminished to a very specific couple of spots, mainly my gluteals. (That's butt cheeks, in case you don't know.) I know it will only get better and rather quickly I would imagine. It was worth every bit of it though. I will schedule a full massage later today for sometime this week with a gift certificate given to me on Mother's Day this year by Kara and Adam. That will feel wonderful!

I want to say a big thank you to those of you who have followed along, giving encouragement via comments on this blog or by e-mail or personal encounters. You have no idea how much each and every one of them meant to me. You all were an important part of my experience.

I also want to thank Mary and Jamey for choosing me to be a part of this very special training group. Not only would I not have done this without you and them, but I've made some great friends that I will stay in contact with long after this race is history. I know that I was given an incredible opportunity and I don't take that lightly. Thank you.

There will be a party at Linda's tonight for our group and it will be fun to talk and compare notes about our experience. I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say about their own personal journey. Everyone has a story!


Edited to add: Mary's interview with me can be seen on the Channel 21 web site here. Scroll down the page and click on my name and the interview video will begin.


Kevin said...

Thanks, Kylee, for the great narrative that really sums up the feelings of all of us who went through the training process with Jamey! It was an awesome experience, and I wouldn't trade it for the world! You did great, and are such an inpiration to so many who would have never thought they could do something like this!
Kevin Roe

Pam/Digging said...

Didn't you look cute and fit in your running skirt! I enjoyed the story of your race day, Kylee, and even teared up a little just reading about your emotional finish. You did great!

I can't imagine running a half-marathon myself, but for several years I've been a supporter of my husband, who runs. I can say that it is a very emotional experience just being on the sidelines and cheering on someone you love--or even total strangers. I've seen a lot of determination and grit, as well as some heartbreaking failures, over the years. It never fails to move me.

And yeah, taking those donut breaks can totally throw you off track as you try to navigate blocked-off streets, an unfamiliar route, and throngs of pedestrians to get to the next "groupie spot" before your runner passes it. Following a marathoner along his or her route isn't as easy as it sounds, so be sure to give them a big thank you for all their support. Good luck in your next race!

Shady Gardener said...

Yea! Congratulations! You're very inspiring, you know?!! ;-) Great job!! Thanks for the full follow-up on the race.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Way to go Kylee!!! I knew you could do it. Since you did this I am sure you can accomplish anything you set your mind and body to do.

I thought of you saturday wondering if you were nervous anxious or just wired and ready to go. The weather here was just great and I am sure you had good walking weather.

I hope you aren't sore for too long. That massage will really help no doubt. Again Congratulations.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Oh, Kylee, I'm so proud of you! You had me tearing up too. What a great accomplishment and I'm incredibly impressed by your family's support and encouragement. You must feel so blessed and loved.

Muum said...

what a great accomplishment! congrats!

Rose said...

Congratulations, Kylee! You can be proud of such a great accomplishment. I remember watching my son complete his first marathon and my daughter-in-law the half-marathon. People all along the route were cheering everyone on and shouting words of encouragement. Afterwards, both were so exhausted, so I know how you must have felt--well, not really, because I was standing at my son's race just minding the baby.
You are an inspiration!

Meems said...

Kylee, YAY! YOU DID IT!!!!And you did it well... great time for walking... really great time actually.

So good of you to take us on your journey all these months but getting to hear you describe the actual day from the time the alarm went off made me feel like I was there too. (My heart was with you that day for sure.)

I can just imagine you trying to take it all in and not wanting to miss a single minute or emotion of such a fantastic feat. All your hard work and determination paying off for you. Just being in better health for participating would be worth the training.

Love the fun t-shirts too. Good for you getting out to walk your mile the next day. It would be a shame not to keep up some form of walking/running after all that work these past months.

You are truly an inspiration. Makes me want to find a partner (or six) and get out there and do better with my routine. I really need something to spur me to a new level.

congrats again!

Defining Your Home said...

Wow! What a wonderful experience you had! I loved reading your story. Congratulations! Cameron

sagaciouspines said...

Great post half-marathon write up. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm glad to read that you're going to keep on running.

Congrats on the finish. :-)