In 2020, I had 20 races on my calendar, a collection of half marathons and fulls with a few 10K’s sprinkled in for good measure. I ran one, the Liberty in Missouri, and then the pandemic hit and everything changed. This spring, after over a year off, I ran the Omaha-half, but it felt somehow different. I used to be a runner. It was my identity. I went to races, paced, chatted with the regulars, and competed. That was gone when I came back, and I found myself somehow an outsider in my own sport. Then a few weeks ago, Vanessa emailed asking for pacers in Omaha. What the hell? I thought, and committed to only my third race in two years, the Omaha Marathon, which was this morning.
I got there right at 6AM to meet the pace team. We were a small group, but pacers are great people–intense, tough, gritty, but fun. Our leader, DL, ran the Mount Rushmore yesterday, drove nine hours, then paced Omaha this morning. That’s the kind of people we’re talking about. Guts. They’re fun to hang out with. I’m proud to be one of them. At one point shortly after 6, a homeless man asked if I’d buy him an energy drink. Why not? We walked to the corner store. His energy drink of choice was Coors Light. No worries. I got him some cash too. Not like I’ve never needed a beer before. I got back in time to pop a few ibuprofen and some acetomenophen about half an hour before the first gun. Bib? Check. Pacer stick? Check. Garmin and backup Garmin? Check. Laces double-knotted? Check. Sunglasses? Check. ID? Check. Band-aids on my nipples? Check. Nut butter? Check. Ready to go.
Prior to the race I saw Cheryl and Deb. They run the charity supported by the race. Partnership for Kids is a great organization. They’ve helped many of my students over the years, and I’ve done what I could to support their work in return. It was really nice to get to see them again as I prepared to race. “Thank you for pacing,” Deb told me, “And for having your kids run that aid station.” I thought of my cross country team. I was excited for them to see a race like this. I hope in time they’ll all grow up to be runners for the rest of their lives.
The race itself went well. I felt great from start to finish and managed to maintain my 9:55 average pretty well throughout the race. On occasion, we broke ten on a mile, on occasion, we slipped down to 9:40, but on the whole those who ran with me and drafted off of me held a steady pace throughout. I felt strong the entire time, with just a little knee pain creeping in around mile eleven. After going from someone who ran ten to twenty races a year to someone who felt like a racing outsider, it felt pretty great to know I could deliver on a time goal with that level of precision. Maybe, at the age of forty, I have some good miles left in me still. Something tells me we’re going to find out.
By the end of the race I was running with a few folks who were finishing their first ever half, and I enjoyed helping them. “Your legs are exhausted; let your arms do some of the work,” I said to one woman drafting off of me around mile ten. “You’re a good coach,” she replied. I was gratified to hear it. I crossed the line, unofficially, at 2:10.02, as close to my precise pace time as I’ve ever been in any of the more than thirty races I’ve paced in my life, and yet immediately those two seconds lodged in my paw like a thorn. So close to perfect. So close, but not perfect. Sigh. There’s always next time. My team all came in under the ten minute mile mark. I’ll take the dub.
I had deliberately parked in front of Culprit Cafe so I could snag doughnuts for the kids on the way home. I got Sonja a piece of cheesecake, me a pain au chocolate, and was greeted upon my return home by the sweet smell of bacon roasting, egg-bites with cottage cheese and spinach coming out of the oven, and a melon being cut up on the counter. I sipped a beer while I stretched out, took a shower with my new bourbon-cedar bodywash, and put on my race shirt. Then I popped the cork on a bottle of bubbles and headed to brunch.
The Haute Couture rose’ just fell into my lap, and I love it. The bottle is about as bougie as it gets, pink with gold foil and fishnet stocking inlays, and the wine inside backs it up. Light pink, with notes of strawberry, creamy notes, toast, rose petals, and hints of red apple, the bubbles are vibrant and lively and the bottle costs a mere $20 giving it a pretty killer QPR. Excellent post-race bubbles, for sure, and they paired nicely with brunch.
Today was a success–as if any day graced with brunch and wine could be anything but. It was great to step back into racing, to see some old friends, make some new ones, support and amazing local charity in Partnership for Kids, and be reminded that I can, in fact, hit those mileage and time goals when called upon to do so. Feeling pretty great this afternoon, I think I may go ahead and pop another cork. The weather on the patio is glorious, the Counting Crows are playing, and my kids seem content to play with their kinetic sand. Today was a success indeed.
Cheers to your successes!