Earlier this year, I was lucky to be chosen to represent the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Marathon as a race ambassador so I happily registered for the half marathon and went on with my training, doing all the “normal” things us runners do to get ready for a half marathon. Unfortunately, disaster struck in early March when I was diagnosed with patellofemoral/meniscus tear/MCL sprain and, as of today, it’s been 58 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 12 seconds since my last run, but who’s counting?
As soon as I was given the diagnosis and told “no more running”, I started considering all the races I was already signed up for and started deferring/dropping out. Lucky for me, the course limit for the SLO half marathon is 8 whole hours so even though I can’t run, I decided to walk this 13.1 anyway. And it. Was. AWESOME!!!
I made the 4 hour road trip from Oakland down to SLO last Saturday, making a couple stops along the way until getting to the race expo, held at the Madonna Inn. There was a small area in the corner of the expo tent just for us ambassadors so I went on over with one of my Team in Training mentees, Katrina, and was graciously given a really neat embroidered SLO Marathon Ambassador poncho and running hat! Sweet!!!
The beer garden- complete with very comfortable couches and lounging pillows- was OPEN during the expo! Hey, I’m not running so not nearly as concerned about my pre-race-intake and am proud to say that I happily got a draft beer and we relaxed for a bit, chatted and enjoyed the beautiful day. (It’s STILL 13.1, I STILL need to carb load! Right???)
I was not staying at the conveniently located (and famous) Madonna Inn, rather, I was staying at Avenue Inn about a mile away, right in between the race start and race finish. Woke up at 5am race morning, got ready, and walked the one mile to the race start where I met up with my TNT team just prior to the half marathon start at 6:30am. Did our porta potty thang and went to our respective corrals…
The race started and we were off and I was walking, walking, walking… the course begins in the downtown area of SLO so we wound through the quaint little city and I walked and window shopped, then we got to a residential area- and I kept walking- all as the sun was just starting to climb over the mountains ahead…
I was feeling absolutely great and munched a Luna bar while thinking about who in front of me I was totally going to pass on the upcoming hill. Arms swinging and tunes blaring, I power-walked up the hills and really just settled into the gorgeous surroundings and perfect weather- everything was just so clean and lush and green and inviting, the weather a perfect 60 degrees with a slight breeze… before I knew it, the first 5K was done!
Then around the 4 mile mark, I believe, I was ecstatic to see one of my Team in Training coaches, Marchal, and he walked with me and kept me company for about a mile or two- we chatted about SLO, the course, all things running and where we were going to all meet for lunch after the race. I met Marchal 3 years ago during my first season with TNT and he is such a friendly, genuine, really nice guy! I was very happy for the fantastic company!
He told me that all the TNT coaches work different “zones” of the race so as soon as he got to the end of his zone, I think around mile 6, we said goodbye and the landscape- in a snap- totally changed as the course started heading towards the hills…
As you can see, the race is an out and back course so as I was walking on the left, runners were flying past me on the right and maybe it was because there wasn’t any on-course entertainment or maybe because I was taking all these selfies, but I swear every single runner was looking at me. It was weird. I guess I’m funny looking. Or paranoid. Hmmmm…
Given that my injury is on my right, I guess I now tend to favor my left so at mile 6 I was blessed with a very, very, VERY ouchy blister beneath my big toe, right where you take a step. Really hurt. Texted hubby (walking is SO convenient like that!) some pics of the course and complained about the blister and just kept swinging those arms and chugging on up those green, green hills.
As this was a Team in Training race, benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, there was TONS of TNTers cheering along the way and each time I would pass a TNT cheer section, I would pump a fist and shout a very loud, “GO TEAM!” while taking advantage of ALL the free high fives…
… and agreed that today, that ANY day we can run/walk/limp/crawl in health while raising money and awareness in order to kick cancer’s ass is certainly a VERY good day!
As I walked, I thought about my team, I considered this past season (my 6th), I pondered my mentees and their progress and stared right back at all the runners on the right, waiting to see my team heading back down. While I had the camera in my hand the whole race (AND beat my PR for race photos taken- 77 total! YEAH!), I was still a tad too slow to catch everyone on camera but did manage to snag a photo of Katrina- her first race, her first half and over $3000 raised for blood cancer.
I am an ambassador for the race but with all bias aside, the course was just SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I just kept drinking in the abundant greenery of my surroundings- I felt so happy to be there, so happy to be moving, so happy to support my team… it just can’t get better than this:
Ran into Marchal again around mile 8ish and we walked together and chatted and he left me at mile 10, saying, “You just have a 5K left to go!” But I wasn’t really counting, was just zoning out, starting to get tired, very much getting annoyed at the first blister, and then pissed at the second blister that was erupting on the right foot.
After mile 10, the course landscape changed again and I was surrounded by palm trees and bright yellow wildflowers and all these neat bridges. I figured I was at the very end of the half marathoners because all the motivational signs were no longer being held by people…
But I didn’t care, I just walked and felt really tired and increasingly hungry and very much annoyed by those stupid blisters!
At mile 11ish, I ran into one of our TNT training captains, Tim. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him but I GUESS I’ll forgive him since he joined me for about a mile and totally boosted my morale by saying, “Wow, you’re here already??? I’m impressed! You’re making great time!” Even just walking, that makes me happy to hear!
They gave out some chocolate around mile 12 and it was just what I needed to keep it up, and head on in to the finish. I was limping a bit because of those ridiculous blisters, but I stayed focused and a text from teammate Brandi (Marchal’s wife) saying, “Meet me at the beer tent” was so inspiring that I just plowed on. Turned a corner, saw our other training captain Robin, gave big sweaty hugs and BOOYAH saw the finish!
And I couldn’t help myself… saw that finish chute, was really feeling so happy and fantastic that I started running! Ran the last .25 completely pain-free through the finish line, hobbled over to the beer tent and raised a hoppy, happy glass with Brandi in celebration of one more 13.1, one more race with TNT, and the ONLY one I’ll ever walk again. (I hope!)
Finished in 3:36 which, I guess, is a PR in half marathon walking, LOL! I really loved this race, the course, the quaint and friendly city that is San Luis Obispo. Whether I am an ambassador or not again next year, I plan to make this one an annual tradition if not move here sometime in the future! The hilly, green, lush terrain, the nearby beach, the great food & drink, the cause closest to my heart, to just a downright friendly and happy town- I am in LOVE with SLO!!!
Registration is already open for 2015– will I see you there???