My day started very early. 530AM on a Saturday is not something I like to think about. It’s that one morning I am able to sleep in. And here I was, throwing my legs over the edge of the bed and allowing my feet to realize they needed to take the first steps of the day. How did that happen? Easy, I had been plugging along with a healthy routine for a number months. I was doing well. Then my Dad was released to go home from the nursing home, I started working a new job and the construction of my new home went into full swing. In the world of “Couch To 5k”, I had lept off the couch and then slipped on the rug and fell on my face. After losing well over 20 pounds, I packed back on 10 of those. I could not kick my healthy lifestyle back into motion, no matter how hard I tried. Then last Thursday a reminder email was circulated for the Wounded Warrior 10k/5k being held in Ripley, WV. I hadn’t been working there when the original email had circulated, so it was news to me. I thought about it and thought, what the hell – it is for an amazing cause and maybe this is the boot in the ass that will get me back on track! So I printed out the registration form and lamented the fact that I was probably not going to get a Tshirt. So, I would make sure to show up at registration as it opened to ensure a shirt. So, 530AM on a Saturday it would be.
I plugged the address in Siri and set off with my hot green tea to keep me company. I like to walk/run alone (save that whole thing for another blog). So I was content in being by myself. Music on the radio, swing through Kroger and pick up a fresh pair of earbuds and then I turned onto Parchment Valley Road. Had I read the directions on the registration form I had completed and had sitting in the seat next to me, I could have saved myself from Siri’s wrong directions. She took me seven extra miles down a road through cattle country, it was so dark that it looked as if the world ended just past the pavement. When I “arrived at your destination”, I found myself in the middle of a desolate road, a cattle ramp to my left and the back half of a semi in the field to my right. Ok, yeah. I turned the car around and as my headlights lined back up with the pavement, I found myself staring down a skunk that looked the size of a pitbull! W.T.F. And, it started to run toward me. I panicked, put her in reverse and slowly started backing up. Then, miraculously, the varmint cut to the side of the road and ran out into the blackness that was beyond the road. The pucker effect was one that would require a spatula to pry myself from the car seat. Breathe in, breathe out and then head back toward civilization and hopefully the registration designation. That is when I remembered seeing directions on the registration. “When you see the red barn…” In rural WV, there are many roads with no streetlights. So that I passed a very large red barn sitting right on the road and never saw it is no surprise (that is my story, I am sticking to it).
I registered and then had a two hour wait for the start of the race. I made a quick coffee run and then untangled my new earbuds from their childproof (right….adultproof) package. I have a number of playlists and having heard a great song on the way to register, I decided to select “Ah Feck” which has a lot of Flogging Molly, Dropkicks, House of Pain, Pogues, Chuck Proffit, The Cranberries (you get the point). I have my earbuds in and am watching other folks warm up. And, no matter how seasoned the runner, sometimes you cannot help but chuckle at their routines. I opted to not warm up as I was walking and would warm on the road during the 5k. I am still looking around when I realize the woman in front of me with her lips moving and looking at me was probably speaking to me. I popped one bud, yep she was talking to me. She was asking what yellow meant? Ummm. No clue? Then she points to my number 45 and the yellow above and below it. “Oh, that. I’m a walker.” (as soon as the words left my mouth I inner-giggled because I was then seeing myself as a zombie) Then there was a whole conversation until it was sussed out completely – green = 10k (that category had no walkers). red = 5k runner and yellow = 5k walker. Then, for a brief moment I felt like it was “The Scarlet Letter”. Was I being judged because I was wearing yellow and not red or green? Was I being lumped into the category with the huge families (with dogs), the older women and the professional speed walkers? Did I want to be pigeon holed into THAT category?!? I will jump forward a little and then come back… My perception of walkers changed once the race was at full throttle. It was then that I saw one of the speed walkers that I had made fun of (in my mind, to myself). He made it back to the finish line about the time I made it half way through the course. He walked with the exaggerated hip sway that made my arthritic hip cringe. It was that sway to and fro that gives the effect of a Latin dancer who suddenly decided to walk a race. He finished ahead of a number of the real 5k runners. So, yeah, I’m a badass walker. I’m fine with that.
While waiting I also met a woman who competed in her first half marathon at 55 years of age. Now, in her mid to late 60s she has run a half in all fifty states in the US. Holy crap – THAT is badass! While talking to her, I look to my left and saw a soldier in full gear with a pack on his back preparing for the race. No, no, no – THAT is a badass! Then I thought, each of us is a badass in our own rights. For whatever reason, due to whatever inspiration, we were all there at the crack of dawn to compete in a race. That is awesome. We are a band of brothers watching the sun rise and preparing to do our best. Everyone had words of encouragement, of praise, answered questions. I suddenly realized what great company I found myself in.
Then we were being herded to the starting line (which doubled as the finish line too – for walkers, we went until we saw the water table and then turned around and came back, for the 10k, they had to go further down the road but eventually returned once reaching their halfway mark). This race does not have separate start times for the various categories. So all the colors were intermingled on the road waiting for the go ahead. I was in the front of the middle. The person in charge said those amazing words: Ready, set, go! A lot of people ran past me, their greens and reds showing brilliantly in the autumn sun. And then I sat off at my own decent pace. The route is hilly and has some winding turns and I immediately found myself on an incline. I decided to fall in behind another walker who had a moderate-to-quick pace. By keeping time with her, the first incline was a breeze. In my ears, House of Pain was singing “Top O The Morning To Ya”. I was singing along, looking out to my right along the mountain ridge at the gorgeous splash of colors against a blue morning sky. Then a smell hit me and I looked to my left to see that I was quickly approaching a cattle barn. I’m still singing along with HOP:
“Come correct and get respect when I’m flowin
Collectin my dough, I got you’re girlfriend hoein
And how do I know that she’s sprung?
I know she’s sprung cause yo, the T’s hung.. like a
Shetland pony, gettin paid like Sony
So never ever try to play me out like a phony”
And what to my wandering eyes should appear? Not a shetland pony but two cows bumping uglies. Well, one was a bull but you get the picture. Among my friends, that has to be a racing first! ((mental note, I cannot wait to tell Erin)).
The person I was drafting started to pull back a little, so after making the turn past bovine porn I passed her. I made it to the halfway mark, decided to not get a water and then started back the way I had come. When I made it to about my two mile mark the first 10k runner passed me. Show off. No bitterness here really. I knew it would happen. I passed one 5k runner (chest swell with pride). Once I caught a glimpse of the finish line through the treeline it gave me some extra pep to finish the race. As I was approaching the finish line and time judge table I could hear a quickly approaching runner behind me. The crowd at the table were obviously his family and started to cheer. For a moment I pretended it was my fanfare… I crossed the line and they called out my time 44:15 and then my fanfare started: “Great job Melissa!” ((chuckle)) It was the nice lady I met earlier before the race. I thanked her and headed to my car to grab my water bottle.
All in all it was a fantastic day. I am glad that I did it (even if it was spur of the moment). My time was a solid time for walking it. Between 1 mile and 1.5 mile I had the burning lung syndrome but was able to put my attention on the colors of the trees or the scenery around me and it was enough of a distraction to break the threshold to the other side. Being in the walking category, we were not allowed to run or we would be disqualified. I initially did not think that would be an issue until I started walking down the last steep hill and started picking up speed. I could have broke into a jog easily and had almost a hard time keeping from doing just that.
It was an amazing feeling once I finished. That amazing feeling carried over on my trip home where I immediately went online and registered for the Super Hero race in Wheeling, WV on Dec 7th. I am proud of my 44:15 walking time and am hoping that using a C25K app on my phone, I may be able to get a running time I can be proud of too in the next six weeks. If all goes well with that race, I am hoping to run or walk in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Dash in Charleston on Dec 14th. I have broken past the barrier of feeling awkward because I was alone. Now to just get training so I can be at my best for the next event.
One thing I did see that warmed my heart was two different people who went back for their partners who were having a sluggish day. Maybe there is something to running with another person after all. 🙂
Here are some other pictures I took that day. Thanks for reading.