Another bridge story this week. I just could not resist the challenge again.This week I found myself on Florida's northwestern peninsula. They called it Running for the bay and it was held in a very cold Apalachicola. Certainly was worth the drive but yikes winter in north florida by the water is no joke. I almost froze to death there. They said it was in the fifties but it felt colder then that the night before to me.
The temperature was still low when i woke up the next mornings . It was around 4am and i would have welcomed a warm bowl of cream o wheat. Instead my early morning breakfast consisted of a few bites of watermelon and cantaloupe leftover from my yesterday's lunch. I know it wasn't the kind of fuel i needed but it's all i had.
I made sure to double layer but not bundle up. I can't move if I'm freezing but couldnt run if I was weighted down in warm clothes either. I had my running jacket and pants over my race clothes, yes it was that cool. I know it would have been wrong but if they had a dunkin donuts I'd have stopped in. A hot chocolate and a plain cake donut would have done the trick. Alas the area is still rural in terms of businesses, i saw no fast food joints. I stayed in the next town down from Apalachicola and it was rural to say the least.There were plenty of vacation homes on the water though. After hurricane Katrina many had to be rebuilt. I noticed most were up on stilts don't know if that was the case before. I do know little towns don't have many lights and it was definately pitch black. The night sky was lit up with stars, something lost to me in my piece of suburbia. So when i left the resort for the race I was glad there was only one road into the town. Thankful that I couldn't get lost by taking a wrong turn down an unlit street, I eased out of the resort and drove slow on the dark and curvy road. I was not going to miss a turn and end up in the bay. When i arrived in town to look for a place to park i found noone the streets we empty. I decided to drive over near the startline and thats where i spotted the volunteers setting up. One early bird told me he couldnt tell me where to park ask the police up the street. It was so dark i couldn't really see them but i rolled down the window and asked for a good place to leave my vehicle and they responded right across the street. It was perfect and well lighted plus close to the start. I was the first one to a good spot, it's the little things that make me happy ! I could make a quick exit after the race so that was a bonus too. I smiled thinking one worry down, i fret over finding parking spaces all the time. It's an expected task when your ride is large but comfort on the road is always worth it, except when its not.
The race was planned to start just before the sun came up. There were ultra marathoners as well as the usaul distances. I toyed with the idea of doing the half but wasnt sure at the time i signed up if i could complete one. I know better now that i can. While waiting i met members of BGR from Tallahassee. They asked but i declined to get in their pictures. I can't stand looking at my fat girl pictures, an issue i need to deal with i know. The race started in time, i waited in the back with the 5kers to take off last towards a looming adversary. Just before the bridge those of us in the back of the pack group consisted of myself, a mother with her young (maybe 6 years old) daughter and two old men. There would be a few late stragglers but they were serious runners who caught up to and pasted us. I over heard the mother tell her daughter who questioned if they would finish, "we have seven hours". Then they sprinted off never to be caught by me.
As I watched them run/walk just out of sprinting distance in front of me, i thought what a wonderful mother daughter memory to make. I wished i could have caught them, walk faster i tell myself.
Then I thought of my own mother at home not doing well. I wished we could have done something like this when i was young. Through the years she worked night and day ,weekends, holidays you name it to provide for the two of us. Now she is paying the price. Her body is slowly breaking down after years of strong willing it to get up everyday and struggle on. Yet when she'd asked me if she could ride along, I'd said no. It was a long ride and i was leaving late, there was no time for rest stops. Sometimes she becomes violently ill quickly when out, i didnt need more stress or to see her suffer like that.
When i signed up for this run the plan was to take her as a surprise. I looked into making reservations but a week before we were to leave she was sick again. "I feel weak" she said in a low and labored voice. I decided not to go and told her so. She lied and said she was fine but i waited till the last minute to leave just in case. How could i take her, there are no bathrooms around finish lines except portable ones and certainly the spot o pots were not an option. It was cool in the morning and hot as the day went on, she doesn't tolerate the extremes. I would have had to lug a chair for her to sit on while waiting for me but no big deal i thought. Once again the battle in my heart that wages daily over wether i am doing enough to care for her or if i should be driving around the state doing 5k's while she's home sick began. I know in my heart these walks are my stress relievers and that every caregiver must take "me time" but it still bothers me. I've just started to take back my life after stepping off it seven years ago but in doing so i only feel guilt.
I kept up a good pace as i became lost in those thoughts. The steep grade on the bridge was no joke but unlike the previous week i was making smooth strides. I pulled even with an old man who had a gentle Charles kuralt voice. I wasn't fooled though, a lady told me once people pretend to be nice then they try and smoke you. I was ready for his move as we had a friendly conversation towards the top of the bridge. He told me it was his first race back from an knee injury. He took a year to heal himself up and wanted to stay on a steady pace himself. I also learned that he was a widower with grown kids. The other older guy bringing up the rear with us bid us good morning as he passed by. When we arrived at the crest of the bridge the sun was just coming up. What a joy to view a beautiful sunrise across the bay.
My phone rings, it's mom. I tell her Im in the race and she says have a good day. As i hang up feeling glad she sounds good it puts my spirit at ease, she is fine. The old man says "thats why i turn my phone off during races". I say it was my mom and fret over not telling her i love her.
We move on across the bridge now and I stop for a second to take a picture, then continued moving. As i walked I allowed myself the pleasure of watching the orange tinge bounce off the water as a group of birds skimmed along the grass patches on the water and circled to do the same all over again.Before i knew it i was at the decent, it was time to move. The old guy said go for it as if i needed his approval, i wasn't there to wait for him. He was walking when i took off jogging but i heard foot steps approaching behind me. It was him of course but he didn't catch me until after the bridge decent. He was doing a longer race so i kept focused on the 5k as he picked up pace and passed me.
A few feet in front of me I saw a lady cut the miles short and turn around, hope she didn't get an award. I wave to another lady i met at the start line, she was on 13 minute pace and on her way back up the bridge on the other side of the road. I stopped jogging and pushed my walking speed but i was flat. Keep moving baby i repeated in my head. I was enjoying the challenge then i looked up. The return trip back up the other side of the bridge began.
Thinking the assent would be tough i mentally prepared to work that thing as Mary J Blige would say. The cars were more noticeable to me on the way up. The slant of the emergency lanes made me work harder to climb but i had a target. A walker with a knee brace that passed me on the other side was about a hundred feet in front of me. I made up my mind i would pass her on the way down. She could feel me i know but everytime someone passed her it wasn't me. Until i made my move it was slow but steady. Finally midway down the deal was done. I jogged to the bottom and around the corner to finish. Walking just a bit before i scouted to the finish strip. I loved this race they annouce you as you cross the finish line it felt good. After all i already finished last wothout the finish being there, this made up for it. I walked over to get my medal and put it in my pocket. It was a little thing compared to the half and up medal which had a spinner. I saw people marching about proudly displaying it around their necks. I don't know why i felt like i didn't deserve it. My heart wants to run but my body is only about to do walk/run and more of the latter. I'm not happy about the situation. As of yet i still haven't unwrapped the medal. That race is behind me its on to the next thing.
I saw no all the way walkers at this event, mostly run/walking so sad it was a great race more people should be out doing this.