Ahhh, Hotel Preston, you rascal. Best way to describe our home away from home is motel 6 meets art deco. Let me just tell you that when there is a race this big in town just about every hotel within a 50 mile radius sells out. So, if it weren't for Shana promising the sales manager she would name her first born Preston, trust me, we would have been in quite a pickle. There were all sorts of fun art pieces in and around the hotel, like the giant abstract chicken...pictures will be posted soon...and the "pink slip" made entirely of crayons and named for the hotel lounge/bar. Or, perhaps the bar was named for this piece of art. Either way, I digress. The hotel was lovely, with it's furry leopard elevators. And Aveda bath products. But...I just get the vibe that one day I might see it on a 20/20 special where they swab the carpet and find out the entire staff is infected with the swine flu. Just a feeling. You can't fool me, Hotel Preston.
Despite all the obstacles, we were up the next morning at 4:30, ready for our 5 am departure. My friend Katie was running the half and she ended up doing awesome!
We spent the next hour or so before the race began making fun of everyone possible. Look at the shirtless guy's gut hanging out. Watch out chafing in corral number 18, etc., etc. This is not the best way to begin a race in which you will eventually be pleading with the Lord for sweet mercy. A better strategy may have been to help the elderly cross the road, volunteer to catch someone's pre-race jitters vomit or massage a Kenyan's feet. Anything but make fun of the people who will eventually pass you at mile 19.
Speaking of 19, we were in corral 19 out of about 32 and the corrals were released every two minutes beginning at 7 am. 25, 000 people ran the half marathon while 7,500 did the full marathon. So...it took us the better part of the first hour to even approach the starting line. Once we did...it was on. We ran strong for the first half, enjoying the bands and the never EVER ending hills. Where was my topographical map when I signed up for this nightmare? With every mile the temperatures rose, eventually closing in on 90 degrees -- the temps were 2 degrees off the record high. Water stations turned into salt stops where volunteers urged us to down packets of salt to keep our electrolytes balanced. On the back half, miles 15-17 were down a greenway in the middle of nowhere. I really thought buzzards were going to find my body. We stopped sweating around mile 18, which is a really terrifying thing if you've ever been on that side of a physical challenge and in that kind of heat.
But, we stayed side by side, praying and grunting. Dan and Blake found us throughout the run at different mile points while Shana's AWESOME sunday school friends cheered us on, too. Somehow we finished. I know God was with us and I finished the race sobbing -- just not comprehending what we had been through. We knew there was no other option than to finish and I am blessed to have run with a friend who saw it through to the end, though at times all we could hear on the course were ambulances. We even saw people passing out at mile 25...can you imagine being that close and not finishing? Here are some pics from the start of the race...more to come soon...but Dan had to go out of town for work and I think he took the camera with him!