Almost everyone has an arch nemesis, right? I have mine, I don't know her name, or what she does. All I know is that she runs many of the same local races that I do. And I hate her. She is in her mid-40's and most likely a lovely, strong, wonderful woman, but to me, she is the one to beat.
During my first Wichita half marathon three years ago, I ended up running behind this woman and her fanny-pack belt packed with gooey liquids, water and all manner of gels. I found it absolutely irritating. Let's get something straight, I'm not a fan of the running fanny-pack during a race. On a long training run alone? Sure! While hiking the Grand Canyon? Absolutely. But in a race with 900 other people and an aid station every few miles? Really? Is it THAT necessary?
I think what sent me over the edge with fanny-pack was that we spent the entire 13.1 miles passing each other back and forth. I would pass her and without fail she would pass me back. We went back and forth like this until about mile 10 when I got to the point where I wanted to--as Mariah likes to say--"Shake it Off"--but I made the mistake of stopping to get some Gatorade and dang it if fanny-pack didn't come gliding by me in her swishy black shorts and shiny blue shirt. I was pissed. She finished minutes ahead of me. It was my first half-marathon ever, I had under-trained and didn't have a ton of race experience, so I decided I would get her next year.
Flash forward to the Wichita Half 2007. My friends and I lined up to start the race and up sauntered fanny-pack right in front of me. I started making a strategy before the gun was fired. Keep in mind I started that race injured, I had a hip issue that I refused to acknowledge and decided I would take care of it after the race.... just for future reference... bad idea.
The gun went off and I immediately ditched my friends and passed fanny-pack. I smiled smugly to myself thinking how was in better shape than last year, had eight races under my belt, and was much better prepared for this race, despite my aching hip. But after the first drink stop fanny-pack swished past me. And I'm all "Ohhhh no she diiiiin't!" So I stepped it up and passed her back then smiled again, but not so smugly.
I managed to keep ahead of her, and was pleased to find that at the turn-around mark I was a good few minutes ahead of her. However, around mile 10 I started to fade, I hit the wall and my hip was aching badly. It had never felt like that before, it had also become unseasonably hot and humid.
I was worried. So I picked a "race buddy" in an unsuspecting 60-year old man who had an elegant stride, I had a feeling he knew I was there. In my mind he was urging me on, he would look back every now and I knew he saw my pain. I, in turn, would look back to see where fanny-pack was. She was gaining. I was starting to fade more, it was getting hotter and my hip was in so much pain I wanted to stop and walk. But I kept going, I refused to let fanny-pack beat me. I kept my eye on the prize with one mile left. I dug in, gave that race every ounce of energy I had and managed to break away from fanny-pack and finish the race well ahead of her.
I cried for an hour after that race. My hip was in searing pain, and so was my pride despite my personal victory against fanny-pack. It wasn't a good race for me, I wanted to finish sub-2 and I finished in 2:02 (which was still seven minutes faster than the year before).
Now that I think about it, maybe fanny-pack wasn't so much my arch-nemesis as the one who pushed me to be better and dig in when I felt like I had nothing left. But dang it if I wasn't looking forward to TOTALLY kicking her butt in this year's half.... which I obviously couldn't run thanks to my little stress fracture. I named him Stever.
Watch out fanny-pack... Next year I'm gonna run like I stole it, and destroy you in that race!! And I obviously mean I'm going to steal your fanny-pack. Because I still think it is ridiculous to run with a fanny pack in a race.