Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feaster Five - Results

31:18, 10:05 minute miles
9000+ participants
Feaster 5, Andover, MA
Thanksgiving Day, 2009

My alarm went off at 6:25am. And again at 6:31. And again at 6:37, which is when I finally sat up and started putting on my clothes. My Runner mumbled, groaned, and turned over, a kitteh coming into the room to take my recently vacated warm spot. As I sat up my head felt like it was gonna fall off. Normally I don't have hangovers, but between the small amount of water I had the night before and the approximately 3 hours of sleep, I was, as Auntie Mame would say, "indisposed." I was excited for my race, no doubt, but I silently cursed Pocket Sized in that moment for picking the Feaster Five; not only did it start at an early 8:30am but it was 68 miles away. After a few more smooches and a promise to call him with my results, I pulled myself away from My Runner's warm embrace and headed down the interstate.

Pocket and I had spoken the previous night about meeting at her house in Nash and travelling together to Andover. The trip from her house to Andover normally takes about 30 minutes, but with race traffic, parking, getting to the start line, etc., we figured we would leave her house about 7:30. I was running pretty much on time coming from EBF where Runner lives, thanks to the minimal traffic on Thanksgiving morning and my little car being able to get up to 80-85mph. But I left My Runner's house without coffee (he doesn't drink it - can you believe?) or breakfast, so I desperately needed both. It was 7:30 exactly as I got off the exit to Pocket's house, and stopped by the Dunk's in the Shell station which was about the only place I saw open that morning.

While I was inside I got a phone call from Pocket. She was nervous, upset, thinking I had headed straight down to Andover. Since I was less than 3 minutes from her house when I got the message, I decided not to return her call. She seemed a little relieved when I got there, but it was 7:42, we were a little behind schedule, and really needed to get going. I had never done this before, she is sort of naturally cranky at that time of morning (sorry, Pocket, but you are - it's the theatre in you), so we both were agitated as we got into her car and headed to MA.

We pulled off the highway into Andover at 8:05 - good timing. As we're heading down the off ramp we both exclaim as we see cars PARKED ON THE GRASS ON THE OFF RAMP. Seriously. Pocket asks, "Should I just... park here?" and I'm all for it. Her little Saturn takes the granite curb admirably, she centers the car on the curve of the ramp as best she can, and we're ready to head. She's dressed in running tights, with a tech shirt from a recent race and a sport coat from Ann Taylor that looks both comfortable and fashionable. I'm mis-matched in my navy yoga pants, black VT50 shirt earned from crewing (yeah, I mixed black and navy, what of it?), and olive green random long-sleeved shirt from Target. She looks like a runner. I look like a slob. See:

Pocket Sized is the only thing keeping this photo from

I swear I did not mean to have my shirt up so you could see my mis-match-y-ness. I did not intend to hunch over so you had no idea that I'm almost half a foot taller than Pocket. This is pre-race and I admittedly look like hell, though I was feeling pretty good. The ibuprofen, coffee, and third of a bagel helped the hangover, and the nerves were there, but harnessable.

As we headed to the starting line we couldn't help but notice the crowd. We knew it was a big race - the website had said over 8,000 people participated last year, and Sherpa had also mentioned the crowds when I told him what race I was running. But nothing - NOTHING - prepared me for what I saw. A SEA of people. The stats at the top of this post indicate that over 9,000 people ran, plus spectators. o. m. g.

We worked our way up near the pacing block for 10 minute milers - the approximate pace we had been running while training. We were still in the back third of the crowd, though, and unable to get farther up. Once the race officially started, it took us at least 5 minutes to get past the starting line, and even then it was like being on the treadmill as it worked it's way from half a mile an hour to you desired pace. Running with that many other people was like driving in commuter rush hour traffic. We were constantly dodging people who were slower, trying to stay out of the way of faster people, folks would abruptly stop in front of us, or "change lanes" and cut us off.

I was running the 5K, but Pocket was running the 5 mile. Both paths started together, so for a bit we chatted about the craziness of the amount of people and strategized moving around them, commented on the silly things we saw some folks wearing, and coo'ed over babies in cute outfits. The courses ran together for the first mile of the race, which included the first "big" hill up Main St. in Andover. It was long, but we adjusted our strides, kept our arms pumping, and made it through. I was proud of both of us. Huffing a little, I still was in good spirits as we topped the hill, but sad to part ways with Pocket. She had her ipod to keep her company, but I had left mine in my car. It turned out not to be a bad decision for me - I was grateful.

As we parted ways I was able to take in my surroundings a little better. There were so, no SO... no SOOOOO many people. It was incredibly crowded. I spent a lot of my time passing or dodging or just people watching. All ages were running - two girls who couldn't have been more than 9 running as comfortable as-could-be well into the second mile, chatting away so much like me and Pocket that I had a glimpse into their future. An older man passed me, grunting with every breath he took. He sounded like he was being tortured. Moms and Dads encouraging their kids, or alternatively asking them if they needed to walk (that burned me - don't underestimate them! They'll walk when they need to!). Folks running alone with their music in their ears, other folks with friends.

The race pretty much took over the town of Andover. Entire roads were closed. People were spectating all along the race course, which was great. I didn't hear a lot of cheering, which made me a little sad, but knowing that people were watching kept me from walking. When I did hear cheering, I made sure to make eye contact, and if I could, thank them. I remember what it was like cheering - kinda boring and repetitive - but now that I was on the other end I appreciated it sooo much.

The 5 mile course re-joined the 5K course a couple of times, though the race coordinators tried to keep them in separate lanes. It seemed like they assumed the 5 milers were the "more serious" racers and would be running at a faster pace than the 5K'ers. Which, for the most part, was true, but I must say I weaved into the 5 miler lane to pass many, many people running the 5K. I always checked behind me - I wouldn't want to impede anyone trying to get a good time, but the 5K lane had so many people running (or walking) so slowly that it was hard to get through.

There was a clock at the 2 mile mark - the time was 25 minutes when I passed it. I was a little bummed... I had been running 10 minute miles in training, and while I expected to be a little slower because of the hills and the dodging, I didn't expect to add 2.5 minutes to my mile! It was then I realized that the clock had started with the start gun, not when *I* crossed the start line. I had no watch, no ipod, no way of keeping my own time or of knowing how far I'd come or how much I had left. All I had was running.

It was then that I really started to enjoy running. I had nothing to track my time or distance, so I had nothing to think about but my body running. And honestly I can say that this was the first time I truly enjoyed it. I felt great. I relaxed into my body, which fell into its pace. I looked at the houses and woods and roads around me. I let my breathing happen as needed. I felt the ground beneath my feet, the air around me, and the sky above me. I was surrounded by people but my experience was singular.

This feeling stayed with me for the rest of the race. It was interrupted only twice - once when two 5milers passed me shortly after the 2 mile mark, one saying, "Home stretch, buddy," which I figured then and now know to be COMPLETELY untrue (how dare he trick my brain into thinking it might be time for naps!), and again when the same girl passed me twice only to stop abruptly and walk right in front of me. Both times.

We were approaching Main St. again, so I knew we were actually on the final stretch now. We were headed up hill, but it was a pretty gradual grade, and I so had to pee and was so excited to cross the finish that I barely noticed. A theatre colleague who also ran the race commented on the "final hill" on my facebook page, and honestly I had to think long and hard to figure out what he was talking about. I never noticed it was hard - I was too busy being excited. It wasn't easy, but it certainly wasn't hard, and here I was, finishing my first 5K. 3.1 miles, on the ground, mostly by myself, running the whole way, no walking, no whining, no crying, no pouting, just running. And kinda liking it.

I crossed the finish line at 36:20. I was pretty happy with that time, then remembered that it took use time to cross the finish and was excited - maybe I even did this in under 30 minutes!! But whatever - TIME TO PEE screamed my body. Waiting in line for the port-a-johns, I felt a tap on the shoulder and heard a "Hey!!"

It was D! She had mentioned weeks ago that she might run the Feaster, but we never re-connected. Here she was! We hugged, discussed the race, congratulated each other. D is A Runner, in the way that I want to be. She's done marathons, she runs, but she's not some crazy chick who runs 8 million miles a week and only eats whole grains and protein shakes. She's lovely and fun and I hope to run with her soon. It was great to see her there! We wished each other a happy Thanksgiving, she went to get her pie and I went to pee.

After gathering my pie and complementary post-race snacks and water, I went back to the finish line to wait for Pocket. I knew she averaged a 10-minute mile, but I had a feeling that she was going to run faster than that today. Even though she hadn't had time to do much running this week, I just knew that the competitive spirit of the race would infuse her and make her pick up her pace. I was right - she came across the finish line at 52:01 - less than 15 minutes after me even though she had run 2 miles further. Hugging, pie, snacks, etc., we headed back to the car.

Celebratory photos with our pie:

I definitely had some post-race euphoria. Called My Runner, as I said I would. It was nice to hear him say he was proud of me. But it was great to say that I had achieved my goals - I finished, and I had run the whole thing. I was happy with my time, even though I didn't know it exactly. And I had fun. I couldn't believe it, but I actually had fun. I had been looking at another 5K in NH - a trail run in Hollis, but didn't want to commit until I had actually run the first race I signed up for. Now I knew I was kinda hooked, and convinced Pocket to sign up with me (though it's in December and she won't run if it's too cold... anyone want to contribute advice about cold-weather running gear?)
So..... that's the VERY long story about my kinda short run. But it will always be my first race, and I will always be happy about it. I had a great experience with Pocket, and I learned a lot about myself. I've done a lot of things I never thought I could do, but I've rarely done things I never thought I *would* do... and even more rarely have I decided that I was previously WRONG in my thinking. There's probably some message about how this has made me a stronger person, blah blah blah, and maybe it has, but...

Wow... maybe it has...

Thanks, Pocket, for helping me along this journey.

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