Yes, you read that headline correctly.
I got lost. During my 20 mile race.
I'll pause here while you laugh.
Let me start at the beginning (the part BEFORE I got lost).
My day started with meeting up with Salsman (of #ProjectAdam fame) and my #Miles4Smiles teammates, David and Katie, plus my homegirl Laura (who got me hooked on this race last year).
After grabbing my bib, finding my crew, and making my way to wait for the start, I ran into Dani (of Weight off My Shoulders) this was an epic way to start the race because Dani and I have been trying to meet up in person for oh, at least a year.
The start moved locations from last year, so that threw me off right away, but I felt strong for the first 10 miles, and kept about an 11 min/mile, which was my goal. Not fast, but steady enough that I would have steam left for the last 10.
When I came through the chute to head out for the last 10, I was feeling strong. I thought at first the out and back, and out and back nature of the course would get to me, but it wasn't terrible with so much to look at and so many people.
When I got to mile 15, and had continued to keep my pace steady, I thought, OK, Elizabeth, you got this.
But then, mile 18 hit and something went wrong: Namely me -- in the form of a wrong turn.
Either I was so in the zone that I missed the sign showing where the next turn was when I came back into the center of Salem, or the sign got knocked down -- but I didn't see it. So, I tried to remember where I had come from.
Apparently I could not find my way out of a paper bag.
When I looked at my watch and saw that I had run 19 miles, but didn't see the finish line, I knew I had done something terribly wrong. So, while still running, I pulled out my phone and texted my teammates who had run the 10 mile race (bonus: two of them were from the area, so they could help direct me.)
When I texted Salsman that I had somehow wound up near a Target, he messaged me back that I was WAY off the race course.
I looked down at my watch again, and saw I had run 22 miles. "Well," I thought, at least I didn't stop and walk anywhere, I may be slow but I KNOW I can run this distance.
As I made my way toward Pep Boys and waited for Salsman to come find me, I thought about how nervous I was that I wouldn't have the stamina to run all 20 miles. I'm slow at these long distances, and running without big crowds cheering me on and basically solo for that long had me slightly worried.
Apparently, my stamina was not the problem-- my sense of direction was.
When Salsman finally found me, I had a big smile on my face. Sure, I could be mad that my time was going to suck since I went so far off course, sure I could be mad that my race didn't go the way I hoped.
But the truth is, I wasn't upset at all. Actually, I'm glad it happened.
Today I learned that no matter WHAT kind of planning you have, or prep work you do, you just never know how your race will go. I was worried about the distance for no reason: I got through those 20 miles just fine, and I wasn't fast, but I felt strong. So strong that I even had it in me to run two extra miles.
I also learned a few other things:
- That high-fiving a fellow charity runner buddy of mine out on the course and hearing him say "looking strong" does wonders for a bit of extra pep in your stride (thanks, Josh!)
- That saying "good job" to fellow runners ahead of me or next to me as I passed them was actually appreciated by those runners, who took the time to say it back to me
- That nothing beats a hug from a friend who biked (in the bitter cold) to the finish line just to say "good job."
- That I am incredibly lucky to have amazing teammates and friends who were not only cheering for me when I finally crossed that finish line, but who made me feel like I had won that darn race
- That nothing tastes better than a hot cup of coffee after running in single-digit weather in New England for 20+ miles
- That "wow, Mama, I want to run fast like you and get a pretty medal, when can I race with you" is pretty much the single best phrase ever uttered and makes me want to never stop running.
And today I didn't stop. Not for 22 freaking miles.