6:30 AM: It is dark and cold in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. I, my friend Cory, and #Run3rd Captain Extraordinaire Sean Astin are all huddled under a heat lamp in the media tent. It's 46 degrees out! (New Englanders, don't laugh.) Sean and I are standing on chairs to get closer to the heat. Sean is telling us all about his new vegan diet, which I gotta admit is fascinating and admirable. I also must admit that I have learned more about nuts and legumes than I ever wanted to know. : ) Sean asks what my projected finish time is for this race. NOPE, NO WAY. Not falling for this trap again, Astin!! You see, Sean and I have had this ongoing bet ever since the Hollywood Half last year. He continuously underestimates his finish time, and then he continuously runs 6 minutes faster than me. It doesn't matter how fast or slow I run - Sean will inevitably run 6 minutes faster. Sean mentions that he is hoping to finish in 2:30 based on his Tinkerbell time. I mentally make note of this, but do not give away any hints about my projected finish (which is actually about the same - 2:30).
6:31 AM: I look up and suddenly, I see Joey McIntyre standing with us! WOW, I can't believe my NKOTB radar didn't go off! Joe says, "Hey!" to me and I step down from my chair to give him a hug. I can't believe how calm I feel, I think it's because I was caught off guard. Normally I develop a raging case of mutism any time I'm within five feet of Joe Mac. I tell Joe I'm excited about his Boston Marathon training. Joe introduces me to his trainer, LB, who is also standing on a chair to get closer to the heat lamp. I shake her hand and say, "I hope you're kicking his ass!!" She laughs, Joe smiles and says, "Nah, there hasn't been any ass-kicking yet!" LB is tiny but a little spit fire. I kinda love her! Sean notes out loud that out of the three short people standing on chairs, he is the tallest! It is already a good day out here at the Pasadena RnR 1/2 Marathon, people.
6:33 AM: I introduce them to my friend Cory, who then shakes Joe's hand and says, "Hi, I'm Cory. You were my wife's first crush!" OMG. Subtlety has never been Cory's strong suit.
6:48 AM: Then the media people ask if they can take some B-roll of us (interview footage). Crap, I hate interviews, mainly because I'm so bad at them. Joe who wasn't listening says, "What are we doing?" and I say, "B-roll." I think Joe is also not totally thrilled about this, even the interviewer seems indifferent. In fact, I think the only person who is excited about this is Sean who is excited about everything running-related. The interviewer gal says, "Who wants to go first?" None of us answer, but I'm standing in the middle closest to her, so by default it's me. CRAAAAP. Joey and Sean move to the side and I'm thinking, not only do I have to do an interview, I have to do an interview in front of Joe?!? This is like the worst possible scenario for me to achieve any type of coherency whatsoever. Fortunately I don't have time to stress, the camera is rolling, and even more fortunately, Joe gets distracted by people asking for photos with him. THANK GOD because my interview was about as bad as they get, I just kept repeating the same thing over and over. NEXT!
6:50 AM: As Sean and Joe do their interviews, I get ready for the race: Gu, hydrate, pee, pin bib, and put my hair up in a ponytail with my Boston hat. I finally find my lip gloss in my bag and Cory says, "You should have done that before your interview!" Good point. I was too distracted to remember.
7:05 AM: The race organizer grabs us and says it's time to walk over to the start line. We all walk together - Joe, LB, Sean, Cory, and me. Sean decides NOW that he has to pee and he'll catch up with us. For a fleeting moment I feel that I should wait up for Sean. Instead I decide to keep following behind Joe and The Infamous Compression Tights. : )
7:10 AM: The race organizer walks us literally to the Start Line, as in the space right in front of the elite runners and wheelchair racers. Wow! This is a first for me. Joe asks me, "Can we start with them? I'm supposed to be in Corral 4, I think." I tell him, "Yes, we can start with them or whenever. You just let all the Kenyans run past you, while we run off to the side." Joe just nods his head but does not laugh. Crap. I realize there aren't actually any Kenyans in this race, just really fast American record holders. Was my joke culturally-insensitive?? Maybe I'm over-thinking this. Note to self: don't try to make jokes. Stick to cursing around Joe and you'll be golden.
7:21 AM: I notice that Joe and I are wearing the exact same shoes (Brooks Pure Flow) just that he has the men's version and a different color. I think in some cultures this means we are engaged. : )
7:29 AM: The countdown is on until the starting gun goes off! We collectively decide not to go out with the first corral, especially since we are still in the holding pen. The gun goes off and the elites are off runing! Next thing I know, Sean jumps down and starts running without us! Uh, what happened to waiting for Corral 2?? The rest of us walk to the start line with the second corral and wait the 30 seconds until it's our turn. EXCITEMENT!!!!! BUZZING!! I LOVE THIS MOMENT!!
7:31 AM: Our gun goes off and we are off!!! I am already feeling the runners' high and I just started running. I hear Joe's trainer giving him instruction behind me and suddenly I realize...Joey McIntyre is right behind me. While I run. Bad bad bad BAD BAD BAD. I can't contemplate this for very long, purely as a defense mechanism - the horror of it is too real to fully absorb in my brain. I can't even *think* about what's jiggling back there. (For real. When I run I feel like the greatest ultra runner, but when I see the photos/videos, the reality is I look like a 90 year old woman running. Not exaggerating.) In order to persevere I just keep on going, straighten my back, run faster. I can at least try to appear to have good running form. I hear Joe's trainer say, "See now a lot of people are going to go out too fast. They will crash and burn toward the end." Ironically I am a prime example of this. I am running way faster than I usually do in order to keep pace with this group.
7:33 AM: Joe and LB pass me and get in front of me - THANK YOU SWEET BABY JESUS. This is a far more acceptable view. I am running. With Joe Mac. Two of my favorite things combined! It's like the heavens and stars all came together and God decided to shine down on me for this moment in time. I may have actually heard angels sing. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but damn if I don't consider myself blessed beyond measure.
7:38 AM: I manage to stay with them for the entire first mile. But then we hit the first hill, more and more people pass us and we eventually lose Joe and LB in the crowd. But that's okay, because right about this time Cory and I pass Sean and we all wave at each other. Sean is running a slow but steady pace, just as he projected. Hmmm… I might be able to pull off a win after all!
8:10 AM: I lose Cory to a porta potty at Mile 4. I keep running and feel really inspired by the beauty of running through Old Town Pasadena plus the sheer number of people/cheer squads who came out to cheer on the runners. Right at Mile 4, I see marathon record-holder Deena Kastor blazing a trail back up the street in the other direction (mile 8 for her). All of us runners cheer for her and I get chills. What a moment!! The course is fantastic and I decide I'm continuously impressed with the races put on by Rock-n-Roll & Competitor Group. High energy, well-organized, and super fun.
8:15 AM: I'm actually feeling really good for the next several miles. This is a pleasant surprise because I lost a lot of my stamina when I had to stop running for 6 weeks over Christmas break because I had pneumonia. My lungs still aren't fully recovered, so I'm actually thrilled that I feel as great as I do between Miles 4 - 9. At Mile 9 we run across the historic Colorado Street Bridge and I experience one of those serendipitous running moments where it all comes together and you feel like you are on top of the world. The beauty of the Pasadena hills nearly takes my breath away (or maybe that was my stamina). I have never felt more alive! But then…
9:30 AM: Mile 10. Another dreaded hill. Pasadena is a lot more hilly than I expected (but then again, rarely do I look at the course/elevation map before a race). Here is where I start to struggle and crash (Joe's trainer was spot on!). Running experts talk about the importance of the long run in your training, and never have I felt that more than now! I consistently run 5-6 miles several times a week, but I gave up that Saturday long run a few months ago and today I could really feel it. I hit the wall and have to alternate jogging/walking for the last three miles. But I still haven't seen Sean pass me, so I'm feeling pretty good about my finish…
9:53 AM: I finally approach the finish line. As I cross the last sensor, I hear the announcer say over the microphone, "And that's Kimmy Gibbler crossing the finish line!" Ummm… WHAT?!? I've heard my name announced at the finish line in the past, just like they do for other runners. But never my character name! So much for being incognito in my hat! I have no doubt my finish line photo will show me with a very confused look on my face.
9:54 AM: I receive my finisher's medal, water, pretzels and Jamba Juice, but decline the chocolate milk. That is one recovery method I just cannot get on board with. I am so f'n hot and nauseated after I run, the *last* thing I need is chocolate milk curdling in my overheated stomach! (Ewww.)
9:55 AM: I head back to the tent and see three ladies standing out front. Two of the ladies are wearing NKOTB shirts and carrying signs, and the third one takes off her sunglasses and it's… fellow Team #Run3rd Captain Leah! (@leahmari11) I'm thrilled she came out to cheer for us #Run3rd Captains (and oh yeah, maybe a certain handsome blue-eyed singer *wink*). She tells me about Team Betty LA and the 5K they are running next month, and that I should join her. Well maybe I just will! : ) I ask Leah and the girls if they have seen Sean yet, and they say no. But the last time they saw him on the course, he was behind me. Yes!!!
10:00 AM: I go into the tent to get my bag and try to figure out where Sean and Cory are. (Cory ended up having a lot of knee pain during the last few miles and finished later than expected.) I see Joe eating lunch nearby and want to ask how his race went, but I simply cannot approach him; it's a disability I have where I can't talk to him unless he suddenly appears in front of me and I don't have time to over-think it. I do finally locate Sean and he asks, "Well?? How did you do?" I tell him I was too distracted by the "Kimmy Gibbler" announcement at the finish line so I didn't actually see the clock. But I think I ran a 2:25. (It was 2:23.) I am eagerly anticipating this moment of glory and getting to lord it over Sean. Sean smiles. I ask, "Well? What did you run?" He replies, "When did I pass you?? I finished in 2:14." FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE MILK. How does he DO it?? Every.single.time. Except this time he wasn't 6 minutes faster than me, he was 9 minutes faster than me. Clearly I need to up my game! One day I will beat you, Sean Astin. Mark my words! #Run3rd for friendly competition. : )
10:30 AM: I finally locate my friend Cory and we inhale a much-needed lunch. We head back out to the #Run3rd meet-up location and who do I see?? #Run3rd Captain Heather! (@captainstewie) Heather and I have been trying to meet up for several races now and have failed every single time (mostly due to my tardiness and inability to juggle pre-race rituals with media photos). But today? We finally meet!! I give her a big hug and can immediately feel a kindred spirit. It's like we have known each other for years.
So to sum up this never-ending race report (I think this is less "race report" and more "hey here is the lock & key to my stream-of-consciousness journal") - the entire experience? EPIC. A blissful, beautiful day filled with unexpected surprises and a ton of fun. I did not do any #Run3rd dedications for this race (bad captain!), but if I did, I would have to say I #ran3rd for budding friendships. New friends, old friends, and a shared profound joy for running. I can't wait to do it again.