They say time heals all wounds. I don’t even know where to start with this one. What happened on Saturday is only just starting to hit me. How I feel is crushed. I sit here typing this wondering how did this happen to me yet again. You’re sitting reading this wondering what I’m talking about, so maybe I should just start at the beginning.
When I officially woke up on Saturday it seemed to be the perfect morning. Windy, but the weather was in the 40s just the way I like. After an early call for the Team in Training group photo we hung out in our hotel lobby. I finished eating my pre-race food while team coaches kept coming to see how I was, and telling me to kick butt like they knew I would. I smiled. I knew they were right. At 6:30 we started making our way to gear check, and the starting area. My friend Ken, who was also my mentor for the season, was going to try to sneak up a corral and start with me. We ran into a team in training friend on the way, and chatted till it was time for head to the corrals. I had hoped to meet up with some other members of Jeff’s PRSfit team, but with the pre-dawn darkness it was hard to see. Around 7:00 we started heading to the corrals, and since no one was checking who was going into the corrals Ken was able to sneak into corral 6 with me to help me stay on pace still the half split after mile 11. Just as the gun went off for the 1st corral we shed our garbage bags that were keeping us warm, and Ken put them somewhere so that they wouldn’t blow around. It was windy, but it was time to get going.
I’ve never seen corrals move through the start area of such a large race so fast. Within about 6 minutes of the gun we were off, and running through Savannah. Jeff’s voice was in my head. “Don’t worry about passing people at the start. Wait till it thins out at the first water stop, and then pass them,” he said. It was crowded. We had to watch out for people dashing across the road to discard extra clothes they were wearing, the road was a little treacherous in a few spots, and some people had dumped their throw aways in the middle of the road. We were in good shape after the first mile. A little slow, just like the plan. Mile 2 brought us to the first water stop, and the shoving. I have never been shoved around like that. One girl almost knocked me over, and other guy shouldered Ken out of the way, and then did the same to me, almost knocking both of us to the ground. After a few choice words to him we refocused on the splits. By the 5k we had made up the extra time from the first mile, and were on cruise control. The thing that surprised me the most about the first 10 miles was how much I had to keep slowing down. My body wanted to go faster, but I knew full well that I needed to stick to the plan. As we neared the 5 mile split I rechecked the time on the pace band Jeff had made for me. As we crossed the marker I right on the money! The next timing mat wasn’t till the 10k split though. Ken mentioned how excited Jeff would be when it popped up on the tracking, and I just smiled. I stepped on the 10k mat with a sense of confidence, looked up, and said “that’s for you Jeff!”
The early part of the race had taken us into the industrial, and poorer section of Savannah. By mile 7 we started the turn back into town. The crowds, and the wind started to pick back up, and I had to keep slowing down. I was getting a huge boost off of the crowd. I was happy, and smiling. I knew this was my day. At mile 8 we saw some friends along the course, and I almost ran straight into 3 ladies who were walking right down the middle of the course. I almost had to stop to avoid them, and getting around them wasn’t easy either. Ken might have had some choice words for them too, but I had turn my attention back on myself. We were close to Forsyth park, and getting ever closer to the half/full split. At 10 we saw one of our Georgia coaches, and for some reason I started to notice my right hamstring was getting tight. Ken asked what we needed to do. I said I just needed to focus. I needed to stay out of my head, so I just focused on my form. I had slowed a bit, and he tried to pull me back on pace. I think he knew I needed to be on my own, and with a little encouragement surged on to go finish his own race.
The half/full split brought the first section of running on the highway, and it brought a much needed hill! The change in grade helped the stiffness, and I got my act together again. Fortunately we were only on the highway for a little over a mile. I saw one of our other Georgia coaches, and after a little encouragement and a gel at the waterstop was on way, and feeling better. Just before the 1/2 way mark I ran into Elvis, who was also running the full. There was no way I was going to let Elvis run faster than me after than me. I checked my pace, saw that I was a little behind, shortened my stride, and put Elvis behind me. It was about here that I realized I knew where I was on the course. I had run this part before on my last visit. I was okay. I took it water stop to water stop, and kept track of when to take a gel or some electrolytes. The folks at the water stops were great, and encouraging. I was still running through water stops without stopping, which made me feel great. I ran down Ward Street, and thought of my friend Ward who is working through an injury. I ran that street for him. I took the next turn, ran through another water stop, and realized I was heading out to the marsh. Soon I would be to the point where the race turns back towards town!
I felt like the road went on forever. I realized I was getting tight, and I tried to focus on getting to the mile 18 water stop to take my next set of electrolyte tablets. My pace had slowed to 9:45 miles, but I told myself just keep it together. This is where I had to dig deep in my long runs. I was okay! At the mile 18 water stop I walked for a bit, and realized how tight I was getting. A team in training coach happened to be there, Chris from Pittsburg. He asked if I was okay, and I mentioned my right hamstring was tight. He told me we should go ahead and stretch it so that it wouldn’t bother me so much later. I remember thinking how odd it was that I was so tight. As we parted just before mile 19 it dawned on me how much windier it was on the back part of the course than it was earlier in the race. Thank goodness Ken had talked me into wearing my arm warmers! As I went through the 20 mile water station I started to notice how stiff I was getting, but I also knew that I was still within a minute or so of my split time. I think here was the first point that I realized how cambered the roads were, and then I realized I had been running on the right side of the road. No wonder my right hamstring was so tight. I went to the left side of the road, and felt an immediate relief. It was like my right hamstring was saying thank you. Once we turned onto a major road to head back to the highway the road finally flattened out. Now it didn’t matter what side I was on, but now at mile 21 I was starting to notice something that wasn’t good. My groin muscle that been bothering me on and off for a week, was starting to speak up. I stopped and walked for a minute. Then I tried running again with a shuffle. It didn’t feel good. I stopped, and walked again. This time when I started back up I could only take 2 steps. The pain was unbelievable. And then my friend Virginia ran past and encouraged me to come with her. I couldn’t, and I started to cry. I tried again to run, and again only made it 2 steps. I knew I was done. I was making the turn onto the highway, and saw the medical tent. Maybe they could help, or maybe I could just drop out. They didn’t know how to help a pulled groin muscle. They had salt, and ice. “Here have some salt, that will help your groin muscle,” the volunteer said. I politely said no thank you, and started up the entrance ramp to the highway. At the top were a group of cheerleaders. “Go Bonnie,” they said “You need to start running, start running girl, what are you doing?” And then they started laughing at me. It was without a doubt the lowest point of the whole race for me. I started sobbing. I hurt, cheerleaders were laughing at me, and I had to now walk to the finish. A man came and put his arm around my shoulder, and asked if he could pray for me. As he was finishing my roommate for the weekend found me, and put her arm around me. I assured her that I would eventually make it, and she should go on ahead. I could tell she wanted to stay, but I sent her on. My day was done. I just needed to get off the blasted highway.
This was without a doubt the most miserable section of the course. We had 3 miles on the highway. At the next water stop I was another medical tent. After hunting down a volunteer I again found there was nothing other than salt and ice at the tent. Then I knew this was going to be a long hard walk. At various point I had team in training coaches checking on me. They agreed that walking was my best option. And then Chris from Pittsburg found me again. He was shocked that I was walking, and I explained what happened. He sent his person on, and stayed with me till mile 24 or so. I don’t remember what we talked about, but it was enough to distract me some. Occasionally we stopped to stretch, but mostly I mentioned how much I wanted off the highway. No part of the course was as windy as the highway. It was miserable! I heard later that the wind gust on the highway had been clocked around 30 miles an hour, and I believe it!
Mile 24 brought the end of the highway, and coach Barb! She took my hand, and we walked. After realizing that I was okay, and only injured she sent me on. I knew the hardest part of the race was coming in the next mile. I saw head coach Tommy, and Jill, and lost it again. I couldn’t look them in the face. Tommy took one side, Jill took the other, and we walked. I again explained what had happened. With a hug from Jill, and more tears I went on, and came to Gretchen just after mile 25. I had less than a mile, and she had heard about what had happened. She put one arm around my waist, and I put an arm on her shoulder, and she told me she wasn’t leaving. We talked about races that had gone bad, we talked about gutting it out, and then we started arriving at the friends who had stuck around waiting for me. I saw Brenda waiting for me, and lost it completely. It was an hour over the time I had hoped for, and she was still there. She gave me a big hug, and Gretchen and I continued on. It hit me at the final turn how differently this had all played out over the past weeks in my head. I had seen myself running in to my 4:10 finish with a sense of confidence, and here I was walking. For the first time since the injury I felt like people weren’t making fun of me when they cheered for me. I felt like they understood how awful the last 5 miles had been. Gretchen walked me across the line at 5:22, a full hour over my goal, and gave me a big hug. I was done.
For a long time I just sat at the team in training finishing tent. Ken, and his wife Elizabeth who is also a friend, had waited. They kept asking if I wanted to leave since everyone was talking about their brand new PRs, and I sat there injured. It didn’t matter to me. I honestly felt numb. I knew I had two phone calls to make, neither of which I was sure I could make it through. As we walked away from the finish line about an hour later I called my mom, and assured her I was okay. She hadn’t noticed the final time. She said I had been doing such a good job for through 20 miles, and how impressed she was by my splits. After hanging up I made the tough call to Jeff. His first question was if I was okay. He keeps telling me what a great job I did. Deep down I know he’s right. The splits for the first 20 miles were something I had never done before, or known for certain that I could do. Not only had I followed the plan, I had nailed the split times down to seconds. I know at some point I will feel incredibly proud of that. The hard part is the memory of the last five miles. I can’t believe that I had something go wrong yet again. I don’t know what’s next. I listened to Jeff, and haven’t thought of a race since finishing. “We’ll take care of that after you get home,” he said. Elizabeth was ready to plan my comeback race, but all I could think about was how hungry I was, and how much I wanted to be back at the hotel, and not moving anymore.
The thing I’ve realized writing all of this is I don’t feel like I’ve let anyone, or myself down. I keep remembering my training, and how well everything was going, how much stronger I was getting just before the race. What happened stinks. I wish I could have Saturday to do over again. At some point I will have a chance at another race. I don’t know when that is. Right now I’m just focused on getting better, and hopefully heading back out on the road again sometime soon.