Sunday, November 7, 2010

Part 12: The End is Near

Kirsten said, “Can you see the white tents up ahead?”

I looked ahead where she was pointing and all I could see were the backs of the people in front of me.

“Um no. Not yet.”

Kirsten is like a full foot taller than me. Lucky duck. She could see over the people’s heads to the tents in the finishing area. I however, could not.

“Well, they are just down there. You’re almost there!”

“Awesome! I just might make it!”

“You’ll make it! I’m going to take off and let you take it in. Good job! See you at the victory party!”

“Yeah. See you at the party. Thanks Kirsten!”

And off she went. I had no idea how I was going to make it to the victory party! I felt like as soon as I got off my feet, I wouldn’t get back on them again. But I’d figure it out.

“What?! You’re going to walk the last 3/8 of a mile???”

I looked over to my left. There was this guy talking to whom I guessed was his girlfriend. He was trying to get her to run the rest of the way in. I looked at her and it was obvious she gave it her best and was now just finishing by any means necessary. The last thing she needed to hear was ANYTHING other than, “You’re doing great! I am so proud of you! You are going to be so excited when you hit the finish!”

Because right now she was beyond the “Bite Me” zone. She was what I call “Spent Out Pissed!” or SOP for short. Spent Out Pissed is when you have worked so hard that you stopped having fun a long time ago. You have spent all your energy up to this point and much more. You are dragging in on energy credit and you are not looking forward to paying off the debt when you’re done. You are spent out and pissed about it!

You are no longer excited about the amazing feat you signed up for. You are no longer joyfully anticipating crossing the finish line. You are mad as hell (mostly at yourself for signing up for this) and anything said to you can only be taken in the worse possible way when you are in that state of mind.

I believe the boyfriend meant well and maybe was concerned she would be disappointed if she didn’t come in running. But I’m sorry to say, he was a complete idiot!!! Anyone, with a molecule of awareness could see she had no run in her. She was beat-up-whooped! She looked worse than the walking dead. Even zombies would have rejected her!

He kept trying to goad her on and another lady on the far side of the girl said, “She’s going to hit you.”

“She can hit me.” He replied.

Yep. Total idiot. He has no clue what is happening with her at that moment. If he really wanted to encourage her to go faster (which again was stupid. Just let her finish) he should have been using positive reinforcement.

When someone is in that state of mind, if someone says, “You don’t want to walk the last 3/8 do you?” all the SOP person hears is, “You’re not good enough. You should be going faster. What’s wrong with you?” and it just beats you down further and drains any hope for joy.

Stupid stupid stupid.

I wanted to say something to that effect to the guy. But a couple things kept me from it. One, I didn’t think he’d understand and two, I wasn’t sure I had the energy to do so. I felt terrible. But I just passed on by and worried about my own race. (Yes, she was going so slow that I  passed her)! I know she finished. I just wonder if he’s still her boyfriend.

To this day I wonder if I should have spoke up.

I was still joyfully anticipating the finish line. I was still in pain. But I was so happy I decided to do a marathon. I love endurance events and so far this had been the most exciting for me. Then as if it was the cherry on top of the sundae I saw coach April again!

I had seen her at around mile 11 and here see was by the finish. I love coach April! She always answers your questions thoroughly, is consistently encouraging and always always has a smile for you!

She flashed me one of her signature smiles and started walking with me. It seemed that the closer I got to the finish line, the faster I was walking. I told her I was already planning my strategy for next season (which was true) and babbled. But by now my mood was improving since the finish was now in site.

All of a sudden I saw Coach Jim heading away from the finish and looking like he was searching for someone. I thought that was funny since he usually had to look for me on the team runs. He was the full runners’ coach which means he couldn’t pack it in until all his runners were in. So he often had to wait for me to come in after everyone else.

(One day in training I had gotten on the course without him seeing me. So he didn’t know I was running that day. He saw me come in and was surprised! He thought all his runners were in and then here I come waddling in! Oops!) :)

So I looked over and yelled, “Hey coach! You lookin’ for me?”

He grinned his big grin, trotted over to me and said, “We’re all looking for you Jill!”

 “Am I the last one in as usual coach?”

“No. There’s lot’s behind you still.”

“Not runners.”

“Yeah, runners too.”

I didn’t believe him. There were a lot of people behind me. But I didn’t think any of my TNT Central Coast teammates were still behind me. But it was nice of him to say so just the same.

I had seen the sweep truck when I was at mile 23 or so. That’s at a point were the course doubles back on itself. So you are running out as the people behind you are running in. There the sweep truck was at about mile 17 or so. I was happy to see it still that far behind me! 

So there I was at the last quarter mile flanked by my two favorite coaches headed to the finish. I know we chatted and chatted. But I can’t remember a word of what was said. I just remember Coach April smiling and Coach Jim grinning. The only words I remember were when Coach Jim said, “Ok. There you go Jill. You take it from here.”


I looked up and we were at the start of the finish chute!!!!!!” The sky opened up and the angels started singing!

“Run it in!” Coach said.

I took off my jacket and held it in my head. I told the coaches, “No jacket for me. I have to make sure everyone can see my singlet. I got to represent for TNT!”

“That’s right!” Coach April called and off I ran!

I couldn’t feel any pain at all! I was in the chute! This was in-the-bag! Then I saw the pot holes. The road was soaking wet with standing puddles here and there as well as deep pot holes that were full of water. I had to be careful if I didn’t want to fall on my face in front of all these people!

There were hundreds of people standing out in the pouring rain on either side of the chute. All yelling and cheering! I heard “Run Jill Run!!!!” I looked over and there was this guy. I complete stranger. Leaning over the railing looking me square in the face, yelling again “RUN JILL RUN!!!” I did! I can’t tell you how being cheered so enthusiastically by people you don’t even know gives you energy to move!!! It was amazing!

I ran and tried to not slip or trip over the pot holed road while I scanned the crowd for Kris. I knew he was here somewhere and knowing him, he had secured a spot right on the railing somewhere. I just had to spot him.

I was more than halfway down the chute and was starting to worry Kris might not see me come in. Oh well. I knew we’d find each other. We had a meeting plan just in case this happened.

Then I spotted him! He was on the opposite side than I was. But we saw each other and I was so happy for him to see me not just on my feet but running. Especially since the last communication he had from me was that terrible text message at mile twenty five.

I was grinning ear to ear and the blue finish mats were coming right up! I prepared to obey racing commandment number 11: Thou shalt rock the finishing pose for the camera.

At the TNT training runs they make you practice a finishing pose as you come in from each run. Of course, I had to try a multitude of possibilities including the ever-popular “Saturday Night Fever” pose. But in the end I decided on the classic “Arms straight up in Victory” pose.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see where the cameras were. So I timed it a little too early and the camera caught me as my arms were coming back down. So it looks like I am coming in with my arms straight out in front of me. The rarely used “ Tank” pose. Ah well. Our finishing photos can’t all look like Joan Benoit’s! :) 

As I expected, I didn’t give any thought to which fireman I went to to get my necklace. I do remember mine was blond and the second one in. (I have his picture below. He’s the one on the left of the picture). I don’t know why I went to that fireman. I think he was just the closest when I was ready to get my necklace.

I love that NWM gives out a finisher’s necklace rather than the usual medal. I wear my necklace ever day and no one has said, “Gee Jill, don’t you think it’s a little vain to still be wearing your finisher’s medal everyday?? The marathon was like three weeks ago!"

And I do wear it......everyday! :) 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Part 11: Deep in the 'Bite Me' Zone & How One Piece of Licorice Saved My Life

I recognized that I had entered the bite me zone somewhere around mile 23. Actually, I’m sure I had entered the ‘bite me’ zone much earlier. But just didn’t recognize it until then.

At any rate, my legs were cramping worse than ever. I would stop all the time to stretch. But the stretching didn’t seem to help. So I tried to just ignore the cramping and just keep walking.

Other runners were in the same shape. Most of us were limping and so many were on the side of the road stretching too. I walked as long as I could without stretching. But my body started screaming at me. (I guess it got tired of me ignoring it’s grumblings. So it started full on yelling).

I needed to stop but there wasn’t any light posts or railings to lean against. So I kept walking. I knew there would be something soon. But there wasn’t. So I broke racing commandment # 10: Thou shalt not stop in the middle of the course.

If you have to stretch or stop for any reason, it is extremely bad form to stop in the middle of the course. If there is a fast runner behind you, you are asking for a collision. But I did it anyway.

And a TNT coach spotted me immediately and ran right over to me.

“How you doing? How you doing?”

“I really need to stretch but there’s no posts or anything.”

“Here, lean on me.” he said bending down so I could put my hand on his shoulder for balance.

I started stretching my quads, “I can not tell you how much I appreciate this. You are saving my life.”

“No problem,” he said.

“You want to hear something funny?”

“What’s that?”

“My knees are hurting and they never once hurt in training.”

“Well,” he replied, “You are running a marathon.”

That got a smile out of me.

I thanked him again and started back down the course. I realized I hadn’t ate or drank anything for at least an hour which I know wasn’t good. But I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating or drinking. Even the kids at the water stations were getting on my nerves!!!! And they were just there to help.

I knew Kris was probably at the finish line now. He had sent me a text a while back to let me know the buses wouldn’t be getting him to any other point on the course. So he would have to meet me at the finish. We had planned to meet up at more places on the course but that wasn’t going to happen. I figured I should update him. I figured Cindy had already made it across by then too.

My last message was at mile 21 and Cindy wasn’t in yet. When I hit mile 24 I got a text from Kris saying Cindy still wasn’t in yet. Kris texted, “I think you can catch her. Run Jill Run!” I was amused at his enthusiasm. But at the same time I worried that Cindy was having a bad time of it too if she wasn’t in yet.

The weather kept deteriorating and by now it was dismal! Rain was falling in cold curtains. We were freezing. We did not train for cold ironically. We were so proud to have finished our 20 mile training run in 104 degree weather. Fat lot of good it was doing us now! That made me laugh!

When I finally got to mile 25 I sent another text to Kris. It was full of uncharacteristic profanities.  I’m sure he was relieved to know I was just past a mile out. But I’m sure my unusual attitude gave him pause for concern.

About this time, deep into the ‘bite me’ zone, I saw our mentor Kirsten standing along the sidelines done with her race. I love Kirsten. She is just neat neat neat. However at this moment I thought, “Oh look at Kirsten. The tall, skinny long legged blonde done with her race ages ago because running a marathon to her is like riding a bike around a block for me. I bet she got in before the rain even started! Lucky bitch. I HATE her!”

OMG! I knew it was the marathon brain talking. And the last thing I wanted was for Kirsten to see me in the ‘bite me’ zone. I really do love her. She was so encouraging during the training and always answered all my stupid e-mails and followed my blog and she is just the sweetest person you’d ever meet. And she’s fun! And she worked every bit as hard at each mile as any of us did on the marathon.  Oh and one more thing: Girl can run!!! She ran a negative split on her first marathon. Yes Kirsten...YOU ROCK!!!!

I wish I could be even half as cool as Kirsten. Not just as a runner but as a person too.
So while I was really happy to see her, I didn’t want my bad attitude to come out in front of her. So I did what I do best to cover it up; I babbled. I don’t remember everything I said. But I do remembering babbling on and on. I think I told her how much pain I was in. But assured her I was going to finish. And told her about the text I sent Kris which probably made him worry. And I was so so tired.

Then I hear “Run Jill Run!!” from the right side of the course. I turned to look and I saw a lady standing there. She had seen my singlet and was cheering me on. And she was holding in her outstretched hand a....bag....of......TWIZZLERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In mid-rant I exclaimed, “Is that licorice???!!!!!”

The nice lady nodded.

“Can I have one?????” I pleaded (though it was obvious she was giving them out)!

“Of course!”

I grabbed one piece and held it in both hands, “OOOOOHhhhhhh THANK YOU!”

I took a bite and was just in heaven!!! The pain lifted and I knew it was going to be easy going from here. And finally Kirsten could get a word in while my mouth was busy with the piece of licorice that saved my life

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Part 10: The Sufferfest Peaks

There is a term in endurance sports “Sufferfest”. Seems like an oxymoron as ‘fest’ implies some type of celebration or enjoyment. But it is paired with the word ‘suffer’ which has obvious meaning. But the endurance athlete is an odd one. For some reason, we enjoy the suffering....sort of.

A race is more satisfying the harder you have to work for it. It’s hard to explain it. My theory is that the endorphin rush is better the more you hurt. Maybe it’s some odd natural crack. Whatever.

I knew I had arrived at the sufferfest at mile 20. I actually SAT down! I was in so much pain I had to sit and take a load off my feet and legs in the hopes a little break would leave them refreshed.

I knew I would get back up. But unfortunately, when I did, I didn’t feel any relief. I reversed my ratio to 1:9 run: walk. But soon I just ignored the time all together and walked as fast as I could and shuffled for a few steps to try to break up the walking. The last 6.26 was going to be the longest 6.26 of my life.

The mile markers had stopped clicking by a long time ago. Now it seemed like hours between each one. I knew once I reached mile 24 I would feel better mentally because from then on it was down hill. But I was still looking for mile 21 and I had left mile 20, it seemed, hours before.

Finally, mile 21! Just one more mile until the rest stop that was giving out Ghirardelli chocolate. I tried to be excited about it. There was much excited talk about the chocolate mile before the race. But right now, I couldn’t care less! In fact, I felt a little sorry for the kids at that rest stop. They were trying to be so chipper and hand out some of the best chocolate in the world. But so many of us just ignored them.

The weather was worse and so many of us were hurting. I was reminded of the old zombie movies where everyone is spaced out and walking funny.

I remember mile 23 would never show up. The mile between 22 and 23 was the most painful and seemed to take the longest. A coach came up to me and started the assessment.

“How you doing?”

“I’m in pain. But I’ll make it. I’m just thinking how much worse it was doing a century. It’s worse when your butt is sore because you’ve been on a bike seat for five hours!”

“Well, it helps to think about which fireman you’re going to pick when you get to the finish.”

I had heard a lot of other women talk about which fireman they were going to pick at the finish. I didn’t get that. Who cares?!?! They all will be handsome and I was more interested in getting the necklace than looking at the firemen. Besides, with the way I was feeling at this point, I was sure the firemen would all look like blurs.

I was just going to head toward anyone holding a light blue Tiffany’s box! (I just hoped I could tell the difference between a fireman and another racer at that point. It wouldn’t be very sportsman-like to take the box away from another finisher! Oops!)

So I kept plugging away.

Somewhere between mile 23 and 24 two tears plumped up out of my eyes. First out of the right eye then out of the left. Plop. Plop.

What was that? Am I crying? I paused to make an assessment. Hhhm. No. I’m not crying. At least there’s no more tears.... Is there? .....Nope. That was it. Huh. Weird

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Part 9: Separate Ways

Some time around this point Cindy and I ran up against racing commandments 7 & 8: Thou shalt take from the end of the water line and Thou shalt not throw your cups on the ground.

At the water stops you will either find people standing in a line holding cups out, or cups lined up along a table ledge ready to grab. Especially, if you are a less experienced runner and take a little extra time to grab a cup, grab the very last cup on the far end. This way you do not slow down the line and make other runners wait behind you to get water. If you grab the farthest cup, you leave all the cups behind you available for the runners behind you also.

At every water stop there were multiple trash cans lined up after the stop so you could toss your cups when you were done. It is very important not to throw your cups on the road. If they are wax cups, it makes the road slick and runners can fall when they hit a waxy spot. If they are of the plastic variety they can also be slipped on. 

At this particular stop there were TWO rows of trash cans down the middle of the course.  So when the lady in front of us threw her cup on the ground Cindy exclaimed, “Hey, you’re not some hot shit elite runner that can throw your cup on the ground!”

I clipped back, “You’re right, if she was a hot shit runner she’d be able to make it in the trash can!”

The rain was getting heavier as we went and the air was getting colder. It took me a long time to realize the reason I was tiring out so much faster on this run than any of the training runs. First, it was a damn hilly course! Second, the cold sucks up your energy. When you are chilled, your body has to work harder to keep your core temp where it needs to be. Which zaps energy.

The cold has another sinister effect: it makes your muscles cramp.

Each step was getting more and more painful. Cindy looked over at me once and said, “You look like you’re in pain!”

I replied, “I am!”

There were TNT coaches strung along the whole course. There were from teams all over america (and Canada). Their job was to watch the runners and help anyone who asked for help or looked like they needed it.

After mile 16 I noticed the coaches started to run up to me and ask, “How you doing? How you doing?” They didn’t give Cindy the time of day. They could tell she was hanging strong. :)

I had this unreasonable fear that a coach would try to pull me off the course. Stupid I know. But every time I saw a coach up ahead, I’d smile and try to say something ‘happy’ to them so they wouldn’t think I was hurting.

Coaches will not pull you off the course because you are in pain. Pain if often a part of endurance sports and I already knew this. I expected to have to manage pain on the marathon. I was just really hoping not to have to deal with it until well after the 20 mile mark.

By mile 19 I knew I was going to have to ditch our 9:1 run:walk ratio for a lot more walking. It was time to have ‘the talk’ with Cindy.

Cindy my running partner is a much stronger runner than me. She runs a lot faster. Yet each training run we were both at she always ran with me at my pace. I never understood why she’d run with me when she could clear the courses so much faster. I didn’t mind at all. I always loved to run with her. My only concern was that she might not ‘ditch’ me in the marathon if we got to the point where she needed to.

In endurance sports, there comes a point where you and your partner have to split and finish the course separately. The only two times you wouldn’t do this is 1) if you made a pact to finish together or 2) if you can tell your partner will not make it in alive unless you drag them in. In that #2: “you never leave a [wo]man behind!!!!”

Cindy and I made no such pact. But since she had never left me during training I was worried she wouldn’t take off here either. I was convinced she needed to. She was tired and sore too. But she was in much better shape than I was. I knew she could go much faster and get off her feet sooner.

Racing Commandment #9: Know when to ‘stick’ or ‘Kick’

She had never ran a race before. To my knowledge she had no endurance sport experience before taking on the marathon training. Also, I don’t think she knew how much experience with endurance sports I’ve had. I had completed a century ride and several metrics and halves. I knew what I had to do to make it to the finish line. But I didn’t know if she was as confident in my ability. Besides, it was obvious I was in a lot of pain now.

“Cindy,” I said just as we passed mile 19, “We need to have a frank discussion.”

“Ok, let’s have a frank discussion,” Cindy replied.

“I can tell I’m going to have to walk a lot more coming up. If I were you, I’d ditch me. You can get in much faster than I can.”

“I’m fine.”

“I know you’re fine. But I am making it in. I have no doubt.”

“I know you’re making it in.” She said.

“I’m finishing even if you have to go on. I don’t want you to hang back with me because you’re afraid I won’t finish if you go on without me.”

“Oh I know you’re finishing this!” Cindy said this with so much conviction it took me back for a second.

“Good. So promise me you’ll take off when you need to because I’m going to have to start walking more.”

“I’m fine,” she said, “If I want to take off I will. But for now I’m fine like this.”

“Ok. As long as you promise me.” I was going to be pissed if she didn’t ditch me when she should.

That conversation ended at mile 19.5.

At the rest stop at mile 20 Cindy turned to me and said, “Ok, I’m taking off. See you at the finish!”

We gave each other a hug and off she went. I was so proud of her! I really was worried she wouldn’t leave me behind and miss her chance to run HER race. Now I could run MY race too. I couldn’t wait to find out when she came in.

But here at mile 20, I had to figure out what my race was going to look like from here on out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Part 8: "I'm so Fat!!" And other things you should never think when running a marathon!

There was a long down hill piece after the "Orange" hill. Running downhill is as difficult as running uphill. Gravity is working just as hard against your body on the downhill. It's just that instead of fighting gravity to go up; you fight against gravity from pulling you down ...too fast! It pounds your body hard.

The weather was getting colder and it was now sprinkling. The first elite runner just past us. She, of course, was FLYING!

At the bottom of the hill was the 10 mile rest stop. My legs were already feeling tight. Not fatigued. But I really needed to stretch. So Cindy and I decided to take our first significant break. We re-filled our water belts, stretched thoroughly and ate a salt packet. (Or as we call it; did a tequila shooter without the tequila). Yuck!

Then we were off again! My legs were not happy and we weren't even to the half way point yet!We were running through Golden Gate park by this time. I knew there were pro runners up ahead to cheer us amateurs on. But I got distracted from them.

Right at the corner up ahead was a gigantic video monitor. The sick race organizers set up a camera so you could see yourself running up the route, bigger than life. I watched it as I approached looking for my image. To my great dismay as soon as I saw myself I thought, "Oh my God! I'm a beach ball! Look at that; I'm huge!!"

What???!!! The second thought was [pardon the harsh language] "What the FUCK was that!?" I am running my first ever marathon. I've trained consistently HARD for months. I am more fit than I have ever been. I was completing a feat that less than 1% of humans will ever attempt and the first thought is I'm fat????!! That is just wrong! And it hurt!

How could I think that about a body that has never let me down. That keeps meeting every challenge I throw at it and does more than I ever thought it could, all while I don't always treat it as nice as I should. I should NOT be talking smack about that body!!! It just drove home how the bullshit you are fed all your life from society, family, 'friends', school mates, work acquaintances and everyone else gets ingrained in your psyche. You must actively reject those comments and messages otherwise it will fester in your dark places to spring out and take you down in your fragile moments.

I felt whipped and beaten down. That is the last damn thing I needed when I already felt discouraged because I was more tired at the 11 mile mark on this run than I ever was on any of the training runs. I needed encouragement and thoughts of "you are doing great!" "You have this in the bag!" Not this 'Oh look how fat you look!' bullshit!

Then I saw Kris.

He was standing on the left side of the trail smiling from ear to ear. When our eyes met he threw up his arms and yelled, "Yeah Jill!!!" And clapped his hands. I ran right to him and got a big hug just when I needed it.

"How you doing?" He asked.

"I'm real tired already. But I'll do it. I think if I can stick to the 9:1 ratio I'll make it in fine. But I'm TIRED already!"

"Well you look great! You seem strong!"

I can not tell you how much I love my husband!

I continued on through the park. Looking back, it seemed like we were in the park FOREVER! They run you from one side to the other and back! It was really hard running back along the route you just covered. You feel like you aren't really getting anywhere. But I kept telling myself every step was getting closer to 26.2. Doesn't matter if you're running in circles. You're still covering the miles.

Cindy and I kept at it. It started full-on raining rather than just sprinkles. All of a sudden, there was a big stream of runners joining us from the right off another trail. We figured out it was the half marathoners joining the main route after being diverted to a short cut. The split occurred around the 11 mile mark. They set up two separate lanes and the halfers go down one lane and the fulls in the other. I had mistakenly got in the wrong lane. But realized my mistake and quickly jumped back to the correct lane.

Kris told me later he saw me coming down the route in the half marathon lane and wondered what in the world made me change my mind about running the full. Then he said he could tell by my face when I realized my mistake and he saw me jump back into the full lane. I bet I looked pretty silly!

So the halfers were joining us now and I think Cindy and I both harbored a little jealousy toward them at that point in the race. We were feeling pretty rough by then and we were past the 15 mile mark at this point and still had more than 11 miles to go. These halfers were coming in looking fresh and happy with less than a mile left in their race. Bitches.

John Bingham during his inspiration speech told us about the 'bite me' zone. I think Cindy and I both got a short preview of it then. But honestly, we shook it off. We both knew we wouldn't be happy doing the half. We were in it for the long haul.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Part 7: And We're Off!

It was still dark out when us early start runners took off. It was nice running through the city at that hour. Though I couldn't say it was quiet. There were thousands of us just in the early start alone. But it was neat to be running through the streets with the stores still closed and no traffic noise.

I was looking forward to mile 1.5 which is where the first on route entertainment would be. The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir was there dressed out in their robes and everything! They sounded great and as you ran by they'd look you in the eye and smile and wave at you while they kept perfect pitch. They were just awesome! To top it off, they were there ready to go for us early starters. Many of the other on route entertainment weren't there when we went by. I supposed they planned to set up for the regular start. Too bad for me.

At mile 2 there was a coat donation station. It's pretty cold in the morning when you start. But you warm up pretty fast once you start running. So instead of having to carry your coat with you or toss it on the side of the road, a group is waiting to take your coat from you and they donate it to the homeless. They are helping people in need and keeping the streets clean! Cool!!!

The weather was pretty nice in the beginning. But as soon as we turned right at Ghiraradelli Square a COLD wind blasted us right in the face! Oh it stopped us in our tracks! But we had to push on.

It was still dark when we hit Chrissy Fields. There were motorcyclists perched at certain points on the trail to shine their headlights down the paths so we could see where to run. Very nice!

There were so many people who came out to help.

The next several miles were just hills. Uphill, downhill, uphill, uphill, uphill and so on. I was getting tired and the temperature was dropping even though the sun was up now.

We were climbing this stiff hill that just went on forever! I was about to tell Cindy I needed to take a break when I saw this young boy up in the distance wearing a bright orange shirt. He was looking down the hill at us expectantly. As we neared I saw he was holding a HUGE pan of orange slices!!!! Oh wonders of wonders!!! Carbs and liquid that wasn't out of my hydropack!!! I get sooooo sick of my stupid electrolyte drink over a long course. But you have to keep a steady supply of carbs, sodium and fluids going through your system. So you keep drinking it until you just can't stand it. The oranges looked better than slices of gooey chocolate cake!!!!

"OOOHHHHH ORANGES!!!!!!! THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU!!!" I gushed as I grabbed an orange on my way past. The boy just looked at me with a worried expression. I wondered if he understood why one little orange sliced made me so happy.

We kept climbing the hill and there were people in orange shirts lining both sides and they literally cheered you up the hill!! As I said, I was already exhausted and this was the steepest, longest hill on the course so far. But I didn't even slow my stride simply because there was not one yard where there wasn't multiple people cheering you on. You just couldn't stop when they were working so hard to encourage you to the top! It was just freaking amazing!

And I did make it all the way up the hill! And at the very end there was a man holding out a canister of handy wipes!!! I just wanted to cry!!  Why would handy wipes make me cry?? Ok, sometimes when your body is under extreme stress you get a little fragile and sensitive.

Actually, seeing the handy wipes sent a clear message: "We thought long and hard about what you runners would need from us to support you." They thought about how our hands would be sticky after the oranges and they gave us handy wipes so we wouldn't have to run the rest of the race with sticky fingers. Seriously, that was so sweet. In a marathon, any little annoyance is amplified into a huge annoyance! Those handy wipes was a symbol of their caring about us. :)

If you think I'm crazy talking so much about a stupid handy wipe. Just wait until mile 23 when a piece of licorice saves my life.