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Equinox Half Marathon

A half marathon is a journey.

That journey begins with anxiety and doubtAs you arrive at the start line, you feel your nerves flutter in your chest, lift to the surface of your skin. You feel it well in your throat as you pin on your bib, adjust your shoes, layer your clothes appropriately. The thoughts start to pollute your mind.

What the hell am I doing?

Can I do this?

Can I really run 13 straight miles?

Am I crazy?

I don’t think I can do this.

You huddle among the excited masses in various degrees of running gear. You admire the other shirts, the other hydration systems. You take note of the other brands of running shoes. Then the start. The pack begins to seethe as the stream of heads bob up and down, and the path laid out before you is nothing but runners.

The run begins stiff and rough. You struggle to unearth your rhythm and stride from reluctant muscles and a mind still clouded with contradicting thoughts. The first miles stutter out beneath your feet, your breathing chaotic and seeming unpracticed, your body still protesting the idea.

Yet with each fragment of a mile, the run seems more natural. Your flesh is seduced into the will of your mind, nerves dissolving into the pace, thoughts fading away into the sounds of the road beneath your soles. As you enter the float, the half marathon seems like a brilliant idea, maybe the best you ever had.

You cannot believe how easy and natural it feels to be on the trail. You are honeymooning with your race, euphoric and idealizing. You begin to think of how you’ll describe it when you finish; you begin to plan for the next half you will do. If they all felt this good, you would do one every month.

Then there’s a twinge, a discomfort on the edge of your high. The first ache blooms in a joint or a muscle. Then another sings out in symphony. Random pains begin to crop up over the map of your nerves until the movement of running is lined in discomfort. Maybe you feel a blister forming on the bottom of your foot. Maybe your pelvis becomes a throbbing ring of pain.

The suffering breeds and spreads until you run face first into the wall.  Maybe it is your only wall, or perhaps it is the first in a long and painful series. Every cell in your body says, STOP! WALK! TOO MUCH! Your breathing gets heavier; the muscles in your legs start to feel like lead. Strides turn into miles. Time slows down. All you can hear are the calls of your nerves to abandon such a stupid, ill-conceived idea.

You just keep breathing. Out of sheer stubbornness, you just keep running. One foot in front of the other. One more stride. You spend every step waiting for the next mile marker, counting down.

The only thought in your head is, Don’t stop; just keep running. Over and over again.

Yet the pain lifts. It does not disappear. It suspends you in a limbo where you are functional enough to finish. You focus yourself on the stride and breath and once again lose yourself in the core purpose–the run. Then the finish line is in sight. You dig deep and pump your legs until the acid burns under your skin, until your desperate breath is tearing at your throat. You push until you have left everything you have on the pavement.

You sprint sloppily across that line into bliss. Into accomplishment. Into a successful runner’s high. You float over your sore feet as you collect your medal and free banana. You smile stupidly as you regroup with your running party.

In the end, you did it, and that is all that matters.

***

Yesterday, Trisha and I ran the Equinox Half Marathon in fulfillment of Trisha’s post partum goal (now the second half I have run to satisfy a crazy running mate’s dreams) and also in redemption of the Revel half being cancelled.

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The first few miles started stiff with doubt. I could not get a handle on my breathing; the running motion felt awkward and unpracticed. I was questioning my sanity for agreeing to do another half and questioning if I would be able to pull it off at all.

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The route was promised to be downhill and scenic, and it did not disappoint. (Note: All race photos in this post were taking while running. I don’t stop even for the perfect shot.) Even the 45-minute early morning bus ride to the start (the Mishawaka Ampitheater) was pleasant to endure. Yet running down the gentle grade, the scenery was engrossing. The temperatures were mild alternating between the rising sun and long shadows cast by the mountains. The high altitude breeze was welcoming.

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Like all races, as the first 2-3 miles disappeared behind us, I found my rhythm. A gentle float gradually infiltrated my experience. I was able to see and appreciate the glorious surroundings; I was able to chat with Trisha about inane subjects.

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We began to honeymoon with our race, perhaps Trisha even more than me, both knowing full well what was happening. Yet, even with the complete knowledge that this was merely a phase in the journey that would have a painful and abrupt transition, it was impossible not to be seduced by it. We felt amazing, invincible. I thought how happy I was to be out here, how right it felt to be running this race. I mused at how maybe all my training had actually been accumulating and paying off after all.

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We were stupid. I made the fatal mistake I so often make with fitness. I permitted the word “easy” to slide across my mind, lining the nail up over my coffin just by flirting with the idea. Even as I thought to myself, Wow, this race might actually be easy, I knew my trespass. I knew the price that would later have to be paid. But so entrenched was I in the float, that I did not even care.

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We floated high and hard for over 5 full miles (the full distance of other runs we do). This half seemed like the best idea we ever had; I couldn’t wait to come home and write about it. Even when the solitary hill greeted us at the end of mile 7, I felt good, refreshed even. More than once, Trisha had to reel me in from the float coasting me faster and faster down the hills. I felt like I could have just let go and let the hill run me down.

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Then the sun emerged in full, horrific glory. The glowing orb of suffering climbed the sky, up over the crests of the peaks. Shade vanished; temperatures rose. Our easy, fun floating came to a sweating halt. The sun is my nemesis in life and most vividly in running. The run became a run again, and we had to work for it.

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The heat affected Trisha more, for potentially the first time in our partnership. I think because I pressed her pace in the preceding miles. Nausea began to wear on her, begging her to stop and walk for just a moment. I, being the relentless drill sergeant of a running mate that I am, would not comply. There was yelling; there was me being a stubborn bitch; there was me jogging in little circles while she dry heaved on the side of the road. I wanted to stick with her; I wanted us to finish this together, especially with the majority behind us.

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The last 4 miles were long and seemingly endless miles. At every length, we looked for the next mile sign. Every stride was forced; every breath was sour. It was a battle against the sun, the heat, the ache in our joints, the exhaustion in our muscles.

I fell out of euphoria and the honeymoon phase and began to notice what I did not enjoy about the run. The strange side grade of the mountain rode exerted my calves in new and unpracticed ways, making me feel like I was always falling over. The road was not closed to traffic; we were relegated to a bike lane’s width on the shoulder lined with cones that kept getting run over. The closer we got to the finish, the closer the massive trucks towing campers seemed to get to killing us.

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Through the entire run, I did not exert much cardio. The delightful downhill grade shifted the run out of my lungs and concentrated it within my muscles. I did not even sweat until the sun greeted us at the top of the late hill (a first since I sweat an inordinate amount). It was a strange change, since I spend so much of my running career winded and sweaty. Yet the last miles felt more familiar, as the grade disappeared and my body became more drained. Every part of me, from my blistering feet to my chapped lips, were in sloppy concert to finish.

At mile 12, I lost Trisha. She had to puke on the side of the road, and I could not stop. If I hesitated, I would have walked that final mile. She called out to me to continue running, and it was all I could do to comply. The sun seemed to bake even hotter; the course had lost all scenery and decline and became slow, flat torture. I just kept running. Through the burning pain in my soles I knew would become blisters, through the encompassing ache surrounding my hips, through the heavy burn in my legs. Just kept running and desperately searching for the finish.

I managed a tragic sprint once the finish arch was in sight. I crossed the line a shell of a person.

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Something unusual then happened to me after the race. Even after the exertion faded, even after my heart rate calmed and my body temperature regulated, I did not feel right. My head felt foggy and dizzy; my legs felt agitated and uncomfortable; my stomach felt unsettled and refused food. Unfortunately, my runner’s high was delayed until food and water back in Fort Collins resolved whatever dehydration or blood sugar crash I had earned myself.

All told, I finished in 2:42:43, which is actually 4 minutes faster than my original half marathon time in NOLA.

I will take it. And when I looked at our splits from the race, we were much more consistent than it felt. Zombie turtles, no doubt.

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The question becomes, will I ever do another half again? And the answer is, I have no idea.

I think saying I will never run a half marathon again would be stupid; however, it is probably safe to say that it will be a LONG time. I checked it off my bucket list then proved to myself I could do it again after having my son. If the right race or fitness level comes along in the distant future, maybe. Other than that, I am moving on to fall running season and races over 5K and under 10 miles!

Christina Bergling

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Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
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TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

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Guest Post (Trisha): “Anticipation”

(My running mate, Trisha, has decided to grace the blog with a bit more narrative about our upcoming half on Sunday.)

Race day is coming. After a completely heartbreaking last-minute cancellation at the REVEL Rockies race in July, Christina and I searched for another option. We found the Equinox Half in Fort Collins.

In July, it was so far away. Plenty of time to stay trained up. Lots of time to recover from the emotional turmoil of being so very ready for a race we didn’t get to run. Only it took longer, at least for me, to recover from that disappointment. Each time I put on my running shoes and left for a run, I just felt resentful. For weeks, I only ran a few miles. I couldn’t find my float, and the heat and the frustration kept me from pushing myself.

It took about three weeks for running to feel right again, but then the school year started. I’m teaching an extra class this year because we’ve got a national shortage of qualified teachers. I’ve got two girls at home and a new puppy and two other dogs and the desire to do things like sleep. I’ve not been good about running and training and pushing. I’ve been even worse about the strength training and yoga routine I know will help me battle downhill for 13.1 miles. But in the past two weeks we’ve run together, we’ve pulled together enough to feel like we can do this. I’m not sure it’s going to be pretty – it seldom is – and I don’t feel nearly as ready as I did in July, but I’m starting to get those pre-race butterflies of excitement and nerves.

I’m keeping my expectations low. I can’t handle another rollercoaster of frustration. But the race is in my second home (Ft. Collins). The colors are changing on the aspen that line the Poudre Valley, and this morning the wind had that bite of fall and the chill that comes from the valleys of the mountains. If nothing else, it’s a weekend with people I love and a break from being mom, just for a night.

So here’s to that anticipation. Here’s hoping for a beautiful morning and a successful race and some beer and football.


Back!

Somehow, last week, I did not lay down a single mile. I am not sure if this has ever happened in my running career aside from when my doctor cut me off while I was pregnant with my son and while recovering from birth. Life just got in the way. Specifically, a pink eye infection ran rampant through my house (which is another story for a parenting blog I have yet to launch tentatively titled “That Time We All Got Pink Eye from my Niece’s Shit”).

Yet the half marathon looms just two weeks away. When we lined up for the Revel, I felt ready; I felt trained up. Unfortunately, that training fell unconsummated. Now I feel horrendously far from that.

However, we hit the trail hard last night. When we set sneakers on the pavement, we intended an 8 mile second of our downhill practice run.

The run ended up being a strange blend and blur of running states. Initially, I felt revitalized by being back out in the increasingly crisp evening air, felt at home back on the run. That gave way to feeling every day off and every missed run in early aches and pains in my muscles and joints. Then I coasted on a gracious float. Then I tumbled right into an exhausted wall. Then I ascended into another float. It was a schizophrenic internal battle every mile.

Then it turned out we did not do our research well and actually selected a 10 mile section. The addition was unexpected, especially for our running mate who had previously only run a 6 mile stretch before.

In the end, despite my internal struggles, the run felt AMAZING! After my conclusion sprint, I was completely cashed and flying high. Plus I felt much better with a 10 mile practice run over an 8 mile, much closer to the 13.1 we are facing.

It hurt, but it was good to start back into the rhythm. I have to stop fucking around. I have to kick the running into gear. It is the redemption half marathon then three races in October (including Cripple Creek and a 10 miler). I am booked on races until New Year’s.

My first week off breastfeeding has not gone well. I have been crazy sick, feeling like I am pregnant. I spent the 10 mile run nauseous with heartburn and cramps all appearing and vanishing randomly. I have just felt exhausted and ill, assumably from changing hormones. Hopefully from changing hormones that will pass. Then my poor breasts are like heavy boulders waiting for the milk to dry up. I have been counting down to this day for over a year, yet I still don’t feel free. And I have also put on weight and fat in this week, so it seems like all the more of a slap in the face.

But onward. More slow miles. More healthy moderate eating. More dance. More (ugh) strength and lifting.

I am walking a 5K with my family this month; then my daughter is joining me for a series of 5Ks (doing the associated kid run) in October, November, and December. I am excited to share this fitness with my family, especially to bond with my daughter with it.

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com


Half Failure

My running mates and I have been registered and training for a half marathon for months now. For two of us, this included training back up post partum.

Any distance under 10 miles can become routine for me. 13 miles never has. Every time I run it, whether in my one actual race or practice, I hit 10 miles, and I am done; those final 3 miles are a struggle. So it is a lot of work and effort, and it is a challenge.

However, we never even got the chance. Months and miles and many dollars later, we stood in line in the freezing dark for over an hour, and we were turned away.

The race, the Revel in the Rockies half marathon, was to be a scenic downhill route, snaking through breathtaking scenery as the sun rose.

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Instead, I woke up at 4 am, pumped breastmilk in a cold, dark car, stood in a .75 mile long line that never moved while I shivered in the dark, and left with all my training completely unconsummated and feeling utterly unsatisfied.

I have had races cancelled for acts of God. Both the Bubble Run and the Devil Dash were cancelled on the same day when Denver/Boulder/Lyons had such severe flooding a couple years ago. That happens. And honestly, what can you do? It is always disappointing, but nothing can be done but reschedule or refund (almost always just reschedule).

This was not an act of God.

We stood in line pointlessly because there were no buses. Per the email from Revel after everything unraveled, the 52 contracted buses never arrived, and they had to cancel the half marathon due to permit restrictions. Even considering that this failure was completely human error, after my rage and disappointment subsided, I could dig some understanding out from the back of my brain. The buses the event contracted did not show; what could they really do about that at 3 am (besides actually having a Plan B)?

Angry, confused, disappointed, and somewhat lost, a contingent of our team decided we were running anyway. We drove into Morrison, found a park, and just ran. We needed to do something with all that anger; we needed to satisfy some of our bodies’ expectations for the morning.

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We were not happy, but it was something more than just returning to camp fucking livid.

The run we found would have actually been quite delightful–on any other day. Compared to the beautiful downhill half we had been anticipating so long, it was instead a slap in the face. The park had a paved trail that snaked through some lovely fields and trees before winding along a creek. It was gentle uphill on the way out then downhill on the way back. Not as good as 13 miles of down but still so much better than the brutal hills we live among. There was even shade and breeze. The weather was wonderful, mild with cloud cover.

All the perfect conditions for a half.

And I felt great running. The anger lay heavy on my pace. We ran 8 miles, and I could have kept going. The sun even came out, and it got hot. And I could have kept going. I sprinted hard at the end. And I could have kept going.

My body wanted to run that half marathon. Everything was aligned for my 13 miles. Except access to the route.

We did our run. We packed up camp and left. As we moved on with our normal lives, I tried to just let it go, only getting riled up again when we explained what had happened.

However, then I got home and learned from social media and the internet that 350 participants did in fact complete the half marathon. And it was supported. And they were timed and had winners and an award ceremony.

How in the fuck is that cancelled?

Learning that, I was just as pissed all over again. I understand they had participants at the start; I understand they could not allow the 1500 participants in line to drive themselves to the start. I understand the logistics there. However, if you support the participants that did make it up, the race actually happened. It was not cancelled, and I was prevented from participating my factors under the event’s responsibility.

And that is bullshit.

My understand and empathy have vanished, and I want my money back.

I don’t know where to go from here. I have two awesome shirts that I am hesitant to wear because the sight of them inflames my anger and I feel guilty because I did not complete the race they advertise.

Completing a half marathon was supposed to cement my recovery from pregnancy; it was supposed to bookend childbirth and return me to the condition I was in when I ran my first half when I was in my first trimester. The fact that it did not happen just seems to confirm that I have not made it back; that I will not make it back.

There is no way back.

Now do I try to run a different half marathon? Do I abandon the idea and return to my favored 10 miles and under? I just don’t know.

As upset as I have been at different instances today, I have not lost perspective entirely. It is just a race; it is just a superficial problem. It is extremely disappointing after so much work and preparation, and the entire situation was even worse for my sister who flew out from Boston exclusively for this race. Even if they reschedule (which why would they since they did actually hold the race?), it would do nothing for her. But, in  the end, it is just a run.

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I am anxiously waiting to see how Revel intends to rectify this clusterfuck of a lack of a race.

**Update**

Revel sent out an email taking full responsibility for the chaos and promising the choice of either a full refund or a registration transfer to any 2015/2015 Revel event. That resolution seems perfectly appropriate and has quelled my anger. I have made peace with my disappointment and am returning to considering a replacement half marathon. It seems wasteful to squander all that training.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning, coming July 2015

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com