Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dingle Half Marathon - Race Day is here!

Race day has arrived! I woke up nervous as heck, jumping beans bouncing around in my stomach, but excited.

Things to note before doing a race overseas:

1. Try to know what the terrain of the race will be before the actual big day. In my defense, I did try, but theye didn't have one of those elevation maps.
2. Ireland does not wake up as early as we in the United States do. Most breakfast places don't open until 8 or 9 AM. On race day there was one place that openend at 7, but the reality is we need food three hours before the race, which was at 9 AM. Luckily, I realized this the night before so I stopped at a local bakery and picked up a muffin and some bottled water. Plus, I had my energy bars.

After taking my time getting ready for the race, I packed my backpack and hoofed it into town and to the marina. At 8 AM, that's 3 AM New England time, the place was a buzz with runners, family, friends, and spectators. There were signs displayed everywhere announcing the race. The marina parking lot was full of runners and vendors prepping for the race.

Imagine 3000 plus runners standing around talking, walking, stretching, and of course lined up to use the port-a-potties. It's amazing how when the announcer tells you that there are twenty minutes before race start a pack of runners herd to stand in line for a toilet break. In our defense, we'd have to go along the way and not make it to a rest area.

The weather was incredible for the race! I'm talking a nice breeze, some sun, but mostly overcast. The breeze would come straight at our faces and then we would turn a curve and it would be at our backs. It just could not have been better. Which is good considering the torture we had to endure.

When I say torture, that is not an exaggeration! Imagine a mountain and you have to run up it. I'm a firm believer that what goes up must come down. Wrong!

But the views were incredible. This was part of our winding coastal line. And here is a picture of the Blasket Islands.

In the case of the Dingle Half Marathon, Marathon, and Ultra Marathon, what goes up, goes up, and up, and up, and up. Not kidding! By mile 5 and a half all I did was keep my eyes glued on the pack of people ahead of me to see if they were going downhill. Nope. Never. Okay, there were two brief sections that we experienced the relief of a slight decline. It was like a starving man receiving bread and water. Unfortunately, too short-lived.

Along the route though, people spoke to each other, encouraged each other, and smiled even as their legs screamed in pain. Just when you thought your body could take no more and you relied on will power to keep you moving, the townspeople of Dingle were there to give you that added boost. Shop owners and local town folk stood on the streets cheering the runners on, handing out cups of water and orange slices. A few musicians even joined in on the fun playing traditional music and jazz.

At mile 9ish I stopped with a bunch of other runners for water and a potty break. See, I told you those port-a-potties are a savior. At mile 10, I mentally coax myself, "Hey! Only a 5K is left. You can do three miles in your sleep." I eat a pack of my sport jelly beans and keep hoofing it. Yes, my feet hurt, my toes hurt, my calves are screaming in pain, and my butt is wondering what the heck did it do to deserve this, but I keep going. Heck, even my back started to complain, but I crack my neck, stretch my arms over my head and across my chest and persevere.

Was it worth it? Was it worth the flight across the ocean and traveling to a part of Ireland I've neer visited before, to participate in a race I had never heard of until I did a search on the Internet eight months earlier?

Close your eyes and imagine crossing the finish line and realize that you just did something you never would have been able to do six months or a year ago. How does that feel?

The fact that I hurt from heel to hip and to shoulder only makes me feel the accomplishment that much more.

It was worth it!


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