Sunday, March 27, 2011

Race Report: Laughlin Half Marathon & Sportsmanship

March 26, 2011 – Laughlin Half Marathon. It was my first Half Marathon RACE since the Vegas Half. I had trained 13+ miles each week (with the exception of a few weeks) since December. I was very mentally ready for this race. I wasn’t nervous – I was very calm the morning of.

I could say the biggest stress I had that morning was one of my son’s decided to wear his “lets not pay attention” hat that morning.  Can any parent relate? 

Me and my sons arrived on Friday in Laughlin, NV. It’s on the Colorado River and very close to Arizona. Although we stayed in a non-smoking room – the hotel/casino was FULL of smoke. As an ex-smoker, I am rarely around smoke anymore and the smell of smoke hit me like a ton of bricks. Even our room smelled like smoke, to some degree. Argh.

We arrived early enough we could stroll around the river and get ourselves an early dinner. After laying out my clothes, charging up my Garmin and iPod – we went to bed.

Woke up at 5am. Ate a banana and drank a little bit of warm water to warm me up. Kids woke up and they were WHEEZING. Poor things, luckily I brought their stand by allergy pills (see, I come prepared!)

Arrived at the race site (behind the hotel) at 7:00am. Just enough time to get a quick jog, warm up, etc. You know the drill.

Start Line. Bang! And we were off. Here is a picture of part of the course. Can we say FLAT, GRAVELY and DUSTY?

I went to start my Garmin and realized I never reset it from my last run. So, I just let it go and watched my pace only. I knew I could start my pace at 8:40-8:50 and then slow it down at the back end.

As I hit Mile 1, my mind raced back to the Vegas half and remembering how I felt at each mile…I was at a 8:42 pace at Mile 1 and I was not even winded. That was a faster pace than Vegas, and I was winded in Vegas.

Mile 2 – I was now at a 8:55 pace. Feeling good!

Mile 3 – Same pace and still feeling good. One of my fellow club runners, Will – came up behind me and ran along side of me. That was nice to have company for awhile.  

Mile 4 – water stop. I grabbed a cup, swished it around my mouth and spit. No drinking yet.

Nearing Mile 5 – first Jolly Rancher (I have decided I need a different candy - not liking the after taste of Jolly Ranchers)

Mile 5 – I felt a tightness in my hip/groin area (that stupid nagging pain since January from my escalator accident). So, instead of running through it I hopped to the right and stretched out. Trying to run smarter, than braver. I laughed as I thought of the Vegas Half. It was at Mile 5 I started to have stomach issues during that race. (what is with me and Mile 5?)

Mile 6 – I was starting to see runners coming up the back end.

Mile 7 – cruising right along at my 9:00ish pace and feeling good!

Mile 8 – I remember stepping down with my right foot and feeling a pop in my hip, but not pain – and then about 5 steps later – PAIN. I stopped, thinking I could stretch it out. Took two steps running and almost fell down. So, I stopped again – stretched and “jogged”. I couldn’t do that either.

“Okay, let’s just slow it way down and let your body adapt, it will be fine”

At Mile 9 – I tried to move into a jog again and realized I couldn’t even do that. The only way I could move was to almost drag my right leg behind me in a hobble/limp that resembled the Hunchback of Notre Dam. I knew my race was done.

So, I kept moving – I was down to a 14 or 15 minute, at it’s BEST. At that point, I turned off my Garmin. It was no longer an issue to me. I just needed to get to the Finish Line. I knew my kids would be wondering where I was. They knew my estimated time to finish.

Around Mile 10, I started thinking about my Ladybug and thinking how she fought a good fight all the way to the end. It was my turn. So, I kept up my breathing and kept saying, “it’s okay babygirl, I will be fine – just get me to the finish line, okay?”

Hobble/Limp – leg dragging (I actually had it down to a groovy rhythm!) 

Many thoughts crossed my mind as I was inching my way to the Finish.  

How were my kids? How could I let them know I was on my way?

Mile 11 – I was convinced I would finish at the 3:00+ mark, and I wondered if there was a time limit to get a Finisher Medal? Yea, I thought of the medal! LOL – I didn’t want to come all this way and come home empty handed.

Mile 12 – passed through the last of the water stations and the kind volunteers wanted to put me into the truck and drive me back. Stubborn me,  I refused. Here is the picture of me as I passed the photographer.  (Yes, I bought the picture - I wanted to have a reminder of that day to motivate myself to never let it happen again.)

I could see the turn to get to the Finish Line – just ahead of me.  That is when the tears started. I was almost there, I get to see my sons soon. (Insert a Mom's smile)

As I turned the corner – I saw two other runners waiting there, I look behind me to see who was behind me, as I figured they were waiting for one of their friends.

Much to my surprise and amazement,  when I caught up with them (Tim and Joan) they came up beside me and offered to help me in. I was so overcome with emotions, I lost my footing and starting to fall face first. Thank goodness – Tim caught me!

There it was – the Finish Line within my sight. And all of sudden, I saw two people running out to me…it was my sons - coming out to help me.

More Tears

As my kids reached me, I look up and saw more of my fellow clubbers waving signs and the Finisher Medals at me. They weren’t going to let me give up, so I wouldn’t let them down, as much as I want to just stop.

As I crossed the finish line, two fellow runners (Tim and Ken) SWOOPED me up and carried me to a table and received medical attention.  

But, I was so happy to finally have the race over! I vaguely remember someone saying to me “you finished in 2:28” – in my mind, I thought I was hallucinating, the pain was making me imagine things!   My Vegas time was 2:11 and I HOBBLED the last 5+ miles on this track?

But, I did have enough sense to ask them for my finisher medal! (which my youngest son did get for me and place it on around my neck, as he has ALWAYS wanted to do)

In the midst of the commotion of the goings on, I remember so many of my fellow racers who I didn’t know, come over and check on me, pat my hand or just say a “hello”.  Can't say that for many who claimed to care about me and for those who I shared training miles with. Thanks guys, I appreciate your kindness.

All very touching and completely unexpected.  All I wanted was medical care and a bag of ice - I would of been happy!  

Even the Top Race Finishers took time out of their race experience, despite their own pains and groans to come over and check on me. How do I know they were Top Finishers? I remember seeing their Medals and Trophies as they stood over me or when they walked up to me while I was sitting down. The Event Organizer, Ken (and you know how busy he was that day!) came over, too.

Some have called me a “warrior”, “true champion” or even a “role model”  -  nothing is farther from the truth!

In my opinion, the true champions and role models are the ones who helped me, who showed authentic compassion & concern that morning to a fellow racer. 

It is my continued aspiration that I will always display sportsmanship for my fellow racers,  like that of the Top Finishers, Finishers  and especially my fellow runners displayed that morning.  I will never leave a fellow runner stranded on the course, as many left me there.  That is my promise.  No Runner Left Behind, is my new mantra.

When I look at my Laughlin Half Finisher Medal – I will always think of the great people from that day, not my end result.

My finish time? It is true, it was 2:28 and I am very happy with it, because I finished and I witnessed sportsmanship at it’s finest.    Perfect race combination. 

Live and Run Strong,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Half-Marathoner, Business Blogger, Public Speaker & Hosts IMPACT Radio Channel
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