I was supposed to run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.
Had I run the race, I would have woken up around 5:30 or 6, eaten my ritual race day breakfast of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and a banana and made my way to the start with four of my friends.
Instead, I woke up at 5:30 groggy, tired and tear-streaked in a hotel room in Chicago and made my way to the airport so that I could board a flight that would land at roughly the same time I would have crossed the finish line.
Here's how it all went down:
My conference at Notre Dame ended at 5:30 on Saturday evening. My flight was at 7:12pm. Perfect timing to get to the airport. I cabbed it to the airport, went through security and found myself with ample time to relax, read on my Kindle and chat with the friend I was traveling with before we started boarding. We boarded what was meant to be a short 25 minute flight to Chicago that would have landed an hour and change before my flight to DC was to take off. Then they announced that they were having difficulty shutting the door to where they keep the luggage. After 15 minutes, they deplaned us saying that we would all be more comfortable in the airport...the airport that was already closed. Because it had already closed, it would take Maintenance about 45 minutes to get there. It took them an hour. The Maintenance guy stood outside with 2 other guys talking for 20 minutes before he finally walked up to the plane. It took him about 5 minutes to fix the plane. It took them about 45 minutes to board us again. When we finally took off, they assured us that though our connections would be tight, we would be able to make them if we ran because the pilots were alerting the airline that everybody on the flight had connections to make and they would hold our flights for us.
When we landed, I grabbed my bag and ran to the front of the plane. Then we sat there. Our gate was occupied so we couldn't get off. It was 8:45. My flight was leaving in 15 minutes. I checked my Blackberry and saw that there was another flight to Dulles at 9:15. Fine, it'll be tight but I'll at least be able to get on that one. I kept hitting refresh on my Blackberry. At 8:54, my flight left. 6 minutes early. Thanks for holding the flight like you said you would, United.
We finally deplaned at 9:06. Ok, 10 minutes to get to the next plane. It was 10 gates away. Luckily, I had my sneakers on and I ran. Had I been clocking my time on my Garmin, I could tell you that suitcase and all, I was easily running a 5 minute mile. I got to the gate at 9:08. There was no one there. The plane had left 15 minutes early.
I frantically used the wonderful tool that is my Blackberry to call every single airline that flies out of Chicago O'Hare to find a flight that would get me to DC in time to get to the race. Apparently, red eyes are a thing of the 90's...or maybe just weekdays because not a single airline had a flight leaving the airport. I was stuck. I sat down on my suitcase and
A woman on my flight tried to cheer me up by me about a friend who missed an ultra for the same reason. That didn't help. My mom said "These things happen," that didn't help at all. I went to the kiosk to deal with the people at United who were just abysmally unhelpful from the moment we first deplaned at South Bend. They put me in a hotel for the night and gave me a $15 voucher for food. I got to the hotel. The cheapest thing on the menu was $15. Great...now I have to dish out another $10 for a drink and tip because United is cheap. I called the Front Desk to find out if the fitness center was open 24 hours. I needed to run so badly. It wasn't. So I texted my friend Steph and told her I wasn't going to make it. She tried to make me feel better by joking around. That didn't work. She got that real fast and then she wrote this:
"I'm sad that you won't be with me in the am. But you just ran your heart out at your recent half. Got a new PR. And you have more races to come. And next year, you're coming in on Thursday. I wish I could hug you from here. I'll think of you at the finish so I finish hard. If it wasn't for you I would never have made it to the start. I won't forget that."
With that, I slowly got dressed for bed and went to sleep. I got to DC this morning at 9:30. I took the Metro to Steph's apartment and watched what felt like everyone in the building coming in from the race while I waited for her. It took everything in me to not start bawling again in the middle of the lobby. I spent the early part of the day with some friends and then I laced up and went for a run. I didn't know how far I wanted to run but I just needed to go. Around Mile 3 I started crying again. But I kept running. When I hit 8 miles, I thought about going the full 10. Then I decided not to because my heart just wasn't in it. Then I asked myself what the hell kind of runner I was and I went the extra 2 miles. Almost the entire time I was running, there were Cherry Blossoms on either side of me. I may not have run the Cherry Blossom 10-mile but I ran my own Cherry Blossom 10-mile.
It's been a really rough 2 weeks. I don't think I would have been nearly as much of a mess under any other circumstances but I just felt like this was the culmination of 2 weeks of nothing but stress.
I feel better having still run the 10 miles but it stings not having that post-race glow. But like Steph said, I have other races and that's what I need to focus on. In the mean time, I'm going to take the next 3 days that I'm in DC to relax. I'll go to the meetings I have to go to but other than that, I'm just going to relax and take the time to de-stress.
Thanks for listening.