The morning of the Santa Fe to Buffalo Thunder Half Marathon dawned…well, it wasn’t dawn, actually. It was 4:20 a.m. when my alarm went off. Shaking off the cobwebs of an anxiety dream involving a broken hairband, I kicked out of bed and lurched towards the stack of meticulously-arranged clothes. Decision-making on a race morning, much less before 5 a.m.? Um, no.
Shockingly, I managed to leave my apartment at exactly the time I had planned. I had eaten half of my breakfast, a banana, at home and munched the other half, a bagel, as I drove north. I reached the Buffalo Thunder Resort/Casino at about 6:15, right on schedule. Nothing like race day adrenaline to make a pre-dawn road trip feel easy!
I boarded a shuttle bus that took me and a crowd of other runners (exuding the typical combination of nerves, sleepiness, and excitement) to the starting area at Santa Fe’s Fort Marcy. After prompt toilet reconnaissance, I ambled around a little, smeared on sunblock, and nearly ran right into…my friend Emily! She’s the one whose triathlon I watched last weekend, and she phenomenally returned the favor by making the drive to be my support crew. After hugging and giddiness, I did a warm-up jog (she held my sweats bag, people! Now that is a friend.). Then we headed over to the starting line. I did some pre-race bouncing around while Emily people-watched, played paparazzi, and graciously tolerated my nervous babbling.
The race started, with the signal given by Mr. Billy Mills. If you don’t know who he is, Google him right now.
I had done my homework on this race; I knew there was some uphill early on, followed by a lot of downhill. I let myself have PR dreams, which were bolstered by picture-perfect weather on race day.
Well, it turns out the first two miles tilt almost entirely uphill. Ok, fine, that prevents people – i.e. yours truly – from going out too fast. But geez!
Then came the downhill. Lovely downhill! On and on, downhill! I ran along, glancing up occasionally to appreciate the gorgeous vistas in the distance. This half marathon was, admittedly, one of the most scenic courses I’ve run in recent memory.
Everything was roses until the 10th or 11th mile. My quads suddenly realized the pounding they were taking. After so much downhill, a blip of an overpass felt like a mountain. I waved good-bye to a PR but pressed on, still confident in breaking 1:30.
Until I saw the hill – this time, a legitimate one – leading up to the finish line. I had some very un-ladylike thoughts towards the race director. But then, as I shoved myself up the hill, who should I see (and hear) but Emily!! Shrieking up a storm that made me so happy I actually mustered a smile as I ran past. Another definition of “true friend”: someone who supports you even when you look like death on a plate.
My finishing time was 1:30:14. Not bad, in retrospect – especially since, as I write this, I’m more sore than I was after my last marathon.
Lesson learned: just because a course has lots of downhill doesn’t make it easy. I also learned that you forget how utterly wonderful it is to have a support crew until you actually have one. So to Emily, and to all you friends of runners out there who come out to cheer, schlep our stuff, and peel our oranges, thank you, thank you, and thank you.