Column: Line Drives — Mini finish only the beginning

[This is the unabridged version of my column that appeared in the May 11 issue of The Commercial Review. For the abridged version, click here.]

Mentally and physically I was prepared.

I had a plan I was going to follow that I was sure would help me reach both of my goals — finish, and do so in under two and a half hours.

I was already in the area because of the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors awards banquet*, I stayed just north of Indianapolis in Fishers with my friend Eric, his wife Clorissa and their son Sawyer. (It’s my go-to spot to crash whenever I need a night in the donut.

I had an alarm set for 6 a.m. Saturday, knowing full well I was going to hit snooze a couple times. I got up, changed, and left Fishers about a half hour later.

I got to Indianapolis and the Indiana Parking Garage, where I had reserved a parking spot for myself, not knowing what the parking situation was going to be like with thousands of extra people in the area.

I parked and made my way to the starting area on Washington Street in Indianapolis.

Rain began to sprinkle from the sky through the 44-degree air. I found the gear check UPS trucks, and it was then I opted at the last minute to ditch a jacket,]. Instead, I decided leggings, shorts, a long sleeve shirt, T-shirt and ball cap would be sufficient attire for the next three hours.

Photo May 06, 7 35 45 AM

“GOOD MORNING IT’S RACE DAY”

I joined the thousands of runners who were herded like cattle between steel barriers with banners indicating the start of each of the five waves, with letters representing “corrals” within each wave.

I made my way to Wave 4 in Corral Q, trying my best to be near the front and not have to fight too much with any runners ahead of me that might be a little slower than my intended pace.

We started to make our way forward toward the starting line, with an approximate start time of 8 a.m. As I took each step, my anxiousness to run was subdued. The wind was gusting and at that moment I regretted my earlier decision to run without a jacket.

Wave 4 approached the starting line. The IndyCar zoomed west on Washington Street in the Wholesale District of Indianapolis. With the official time above my head, the emcee began to count down from 10 to signify the start of the race.

As I began the race, I left my strategy in the starting corral.

Goodbye strategy

A couple weeks ago when I ran the 10.8 miles to Fort Recovery, I had a solid plan of running 2 miles then walking for a quarter mile. It was designed to help conserve energy, because a week prior when I ran 10 miles through Portland I was completely out of gas for the final mile.

For the Indy Mini on Saturday I had hoped to run 2.5 miles before walking the quarter mile.

I never got into the routine.

I blew past 2.5 miles and reached the 3-mile mark before I took my first break. I walked for one-tenth of a mile, then ran for almost another 2.5 miles, which included going through downtown Speedway.

I slowed up again on W. 16th Street just before entering Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The second half of the sixth mile included the ramp under the race track. The hardest part was by far the decline, as my quads were burning from the relatively steep slope. The incline into the speedway, however, was much more gradual and easier than expected.

Since I had ditched my plan to help keep my pace, my next goal was to run the entirety of the lap around the race track. I got just past Turn 4 and began to make my way down the front straightaway when I had to resort to walking for a brief moment.

I didn’t want to kiss the bricks — only winners of an auto race there should do it — but as I reached the Yard of Bricks, that plan, like my initial race strategy, went goodbye. I got down on one knee, kissed the bricks, then made my way to Turn 1 past a host of cheerleaders and then through Turn 2 and out the track.

Three to go

After exiting IMS, the course directed us south on Olin Avenue toward 10th street.

It was at this point I put my focus on what I had in front of me, rather than what I had already completed. I hit the 10-mile mark shortly after reaching 10th street, and it was this nearly 2-mile stretch east that was the hardest.

My breaks became more frequent, which took its toll mentally because I wanted to keep going. Pain was shooting through my legs, first in my calves, up to my thighs and hips.

But I needed to keep going. I was “almost there,” as spectators kept reminding us.

I got text messages too, reminding me how close I was.

“You’re almost here!!!!” Chrissy sent me as she eagerly awaited my arrival at the finish line while I passed the 15-kilometer mark. My mother and friend Bri also sent text messages throughout the race. Each of them — I could read from my Fitbit — gave me motivation to keep going despite what my legs had in mind.

The finish line just seemed too far away.

DSC_0353

“Look for me at the bridge!” said a text from former CR county reporter Nathan Rubbelke. He was in town for the APME awards the previous night, and stuck around to watch the race. He snapped a few pictures of me too (above and below), bless his heart, so I could have some to remember the experience.

I turned east on New York Street and crossed the bridge to begin the final straightaway.

There, I ran into Nathan.

With less than a mile to the finish, I tried my hardest to run the rest of the way, but twice my legs wouldn’t allow me to do so. Once I noticed the number of spectators start to increase I knew the end was near, and as I could begin to see the finish line I kicked in another gear to finish strong.

Chrissy told me she was on the right side of the chute, and I tried my best to look for her. The large number of people made it difficult to try to pick her out of the crowd as I ran by, so I just focused on reaching that finish line.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get to see me run.

Sights and sounds

You can see and hear quite a bit in two-plus hours going through Indianapolis and its suburbs.

For one, I heard Justin Timberlake’s “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING” on three separate occasions. Once was right after the beginning of the race, someone was blasting it through speakers. The second was on the front straightaway of IMS, which caused a couple guys in front of me to dance a couple steps and the third was on 10th Street after IMS. Each time, it made me want to keep going.

Signs: There were some great signs.

  • There was a kid dressed in a Super Mario Mask, and a guy I am assuming was his father was wearing a Luigi mask. The kid, whom I ran by twice, had a sign that read “Tap here for a power up” and it included the mushroom from the video game series.
  • When we ran through Speedway, just before we got to the track someone had a sign that said “More (picture of runner), less (picture of Christopher Walken).” It made me chuckle.
  • On 10th street, there was a guy with a sign that said “Run as if there are 1000 kittens at the finish line.”
  • At the bridge where I crossed paths with Nathan, someone held a sign that read “Keep it up random person!”

They were all a nice way to get a laugh and keep my mind off the race for a bit.

I didn’t interact with many of the runners I encountered, except perhaps to apologize if we inadvertently got too close to one another. There was one person, however, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interact with him.

On Olin Avenue, I came up on this guy named Brian. I don’t recall his last name, despite seeing it vividly. But Brian was running (albeit slowly) in a full firefighter uniform, complete with mask and SCBA. As I passed him, I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him a thumbs-up. As a brother of a firefighter, his service to help protect others is important to me, and I wanted to thank him and give him my well-wishes as I passed him.

Finally done

A number of things were going through my head when I crossed the finish line 2 hours, 34 minutes, 43 seconds, after I started.

Where’s the water? Where can I sit down? What have I just done?

The least of which, however, was the fact I missed my goal time. The 2:30 plateau was secondary to my primary goal; the subject of the last question.

What did I just do?

I completed a half marathon. I went 13.1 miles, which was nothing but a dream 13 months ago.

But it’s finally done.

As the pictures suggest, I wore sunglasses during the race. Mainly, I wore them for their intended purpose, but also to help keep the wind out of my eyes.

Turns out, they came in handy for an unexpected reason.

When I crossed the starting line, I was hit with a wave of emotion. First, it was the fact I was actually participating in a marathon. Second, with each step I was thinking about what it took to get to that point — once weighing 301 pounds, I had gotten below 210 pounds mostly from running.

It was the year-plus of training, the hundreds of miles I had run (more than 90 of which alone in April) that helped me get to Indianapolis and to the starting line of my first half marathon.

It hit me what I was doing, and within the first two miles it was rather overwhelming.

Later during the race, those thoughts again popped up in my head as I realized precisely how close I was to reaching the finish line.

Those sunglasses hid my eyes from the sun, but also hid the tears as I realized what I was about to accomplish and what it took me to get there.

The aftermath

I struggled just to walk afterward, limping with every step as I slowly made my way into Military Park for the “post-race party.” There, I found Chrissy, sat down for a second, and worked out my calves that started cramping pretty badly.

Then, it was the nearly 1-mile walk back to the parking garage, where I changed out of my sweat-soaked clothes and into more dry, warmer clothes. From there, Chrissy and I went to get some lunch, my first meal of the day.

I wanted pasta, so Noodles & Co. it was.

With a couple hours to kill, Chrissy got the idea to rent bicycles and ride through downtown. I was reluctant to do so simply because my legs had just carried me 13.1 miles and I wanted to rest.

But it turned out to be a lot of fun, and kept my legs loose and prevented further cramps.

Perhaps it was a bad idea after all because my legs were sore for three more days. Maybe it was the bike ride, maybe it was the half marathon. Either way, the 24 stairs to my apartment were my enemy for quite some time.

Thank you

It’s taken a lot of willpower, dedication, sacrifice and pain to get to this point, and I have a host of people to thank for helping me get to here.

Donald, for always being up for a conversation about running, and for taking the time to find me on my run to Fort Recovery to offer words of encouragement. I look forward to running alongside you Saturday morning for Indiana Run for the Fallen.

Denice, Caleb, Bruce and Debbie, for giving input as to what to expect on race day.

Chrissy, for tending to all my little aches and pains along the way, including a knee scare a couple months ago. And most importantly, for braving the cold and perhaps boredom while waiting for me to cross the finish line despite not getting to see me run.  You’ve been one of my biggest supporters.

Aubree, for running alongside me in October and coaching me through the longer distances. You’ve always been there to answer questions, celebrate my running milestones with me and watch me grow as a runner. Your expertise has been the most help, and I’m not sure how to repay you.

To everyone else who has honked or waved as they saw me running through Portland; to those I’ve run with in the Run Jay County 5K Circuit and many other races; to family, friends and complete strangers who have given me well wishes on my journey of completing 13.1 miles in Indianapolis, thank you.

Each and every one of you were with me on Saturday; at the start when it was easy, at IMS when it seemed to take forever and in the final mile when I needed the most help.

Thank you.

Let’s do it again next year.


*second place for non-deadline sports story, second place for sports column, second place for sports photo and third place for deadline sports story. Also helped in winning best digital presence and taking first for general excellence.

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