I don’t even know where to begin. I guess the beginning makes sense (duh) but it doesn’t get exciting until the end! (The finish line! Which I crossed happily :))
Oh well, the beginning it is!
I’m not sure “Expo” is exactly the word I would use here. More like glorified packet pick-up. Quite well organized though- except for the part where they couldn’t find my race bib. No worries, apparently someone was just struggling with some alphabetizing- I can’t blame them, I have trouble with that too sometimes. Bib numbers, parking passes, and race t-shirts in hand, Amber & I set off to explore the Expo. It was mostly just stuff for sale- there was a bunch of goodies with the race logo on them, which was pretty cool. I treated myself to a shirt & pint glass. (Is having a pint glass with a marathon logo on it an oxymoron? I guess no more so than running a marathon on an old tobacco trail…).
Amber and I both decided to sign up for the 2:20 pace groups. We were a little wishy washy about signing up, but they promised it made no impact whether we actually ran with them or not come race time, so we went for it. I knew from my training times I’d probably be running anywhere from 10:30-11:30 miles, so I figured that split the difference pretty well with 10:41 miles. The two things I knew I wanted to do for the race were 1. Not start out too fast 2. Push myself more than I do in training. Signing up for the pace group gave me a little confidence that I could do both of those things.
The Night Before
Anyways, I already told you about pizza for dinner and all that jazz, so I’ll just fast forward a bit. Four of us ending up staying in a hotel room about 15 minutes from the race site- Amber, Kirsten, Amber, and me. It actually worked out really well- we had nice beds to sleep in, a tiny kitchen (essential for AM coffee making), and were much closer to the race site than we would have been otherwise. We got ready for bed around 10 and tried to fall asleep, but I think it was a struggle for all of us. I was actually surprised at how well I slept compared to what I was expecting. A guess a long exhausting week does have some perks. 😉
Half marathon playlist ready to go:
Our 5:03 wake up time came all too early. I was immediately awake and ready to go. (Like a kid at Christmas much?) When I didn’t hear anyone else rustling around, I rolled over and told Amber “Time to run!!” She responded with an emphatic “No!” and pulled the pillow over her face.
The “tell me how you’re feeling” picture:
Despite a little resistance, we were all up, dressed, and fueled up to go right on time. I wasn’t sure what the breakfast situation would be, so I had packed two peanut butter-banana-sunflower seed bagel sandwiches just in case. It was the perfect pre-race breakfast- no preparation and easy to eat. I also had some hotel-coffee. (I only ended up eating one.)
Even though we had gone to check out the race site the day before, we still ended up getting lost this morning. Luckily there was a GPS in the trunk and all was good. (Why weren’t using that before I have no idea.) There were enough of us in the car to score an onsite parking pass, which was just awesome. We were just a little bit later than our intended arrival time, but we ended up sitting in a line of traffic waiting to get into the park anyways, so it didn’t matter at all.
Once we parked we had just enough time to make the obligatory porta-potty stop, drop off unwanted clothing in the car, and head to the start. We headed towards the back of the pack where the 2:20 pacer was waiting with balloons in hand. (One of the Ambers decided to be a rockstar and stop at the 1:40 pacer.) They had us all lined up (voluntarily) by pace anyway so I’m glad we’d thought about what we wanted to do.
After just a little bit of waiting and chatting, we were off! There was a bit of a false start and the whole pack started running forward and immediately stopped and bumped into each other. I think it was a back of the pack thing though 😉
We started off pretty slow. Partly by trying not to start off too fast, and partly because it was so packed. I’d say a majority of the race was pretty congested due to a fairly narrow trail. Not too bad, but definitely called for some weaving action.
Amber & I ran the first 3 or so miles together, with Kirsten just behind us. We were probably running close to 11 min miles at this point. I knew I was intentionally keeping it slow at the beginning, but by the time the full and half marathons split, I felt I was holding back just a little too much. I was having fun experiencing the race with Amber since we’d never run together, but we each had to have our own race too. At this point were off the road and on the trail. I just went with whatever pace felt right. There were certain points were I knew I was going faster than I did on training runs, but I was paying close attention to how I felt and how far along I was. I know I always race better than I train, so I wasn’t too too worried. Race-day adrenaline is my best friend.
I grabbed a pack of Gu Chomps at mile 4 just because someone handed them to me and I wasn’t sure where the next ones would be. I carried them for awhile, but thought I’d just eat them slowly as a I went along so I could wash them down with some water at the next aid station. Eww I did not like the Cranberry Apple flavor. I think I had maybe 3 chunks before I decided I didn’t want them- they seemed to be messing with my stomach just a little and I really didn’t need them. I probably had a sip or two of water at each station (every 2 miles), and electrolyte drink at one of them. I had lost most of the feeling in my hands, so it was a struggle to even hold on to the cup long enough to take a sip. I also grabbed 2 Gu’s along the rest of the course. I had one at about 1:15 and another around mile 10. I didn’t really need them, but I kept having this fear of crashing and burning and then it’d be too late. They certainly didn’t hurt, so it was ok. They gave me a little distraction too 😉
Apparently I don’t read well for comprehension, because I didn’t realize part of the course was out and back. It was pretty narrow for runners to be going both directions, but seeing the super-fasties whiz on by definitely put some pep in my step. (Not to mention seeing the first full marathoner going the other way when I was at mile 9- that certainly upped my motivation factor.)
When I got to mile 6 I glanced at my watch and saw I was exactly 1 hour. That was when I knew I could do it. And I was going to push myself to do my absolute best. I seriously was having the time of my life- the weather was perfect, I felt good, and I had friends to meet at the finish line. Sometime around this point I saw the 2:10 pacer ahead of me on the trail. My eyes locked on him and he was mine! (I never did get behind the 2:20 pacer—I figured as long as he didn’t pass me I could meet my goal.)
It definitely started getting harder around mile 10. I knew that was as far as I had made it in training, but I was trying to push that out of my head. I started calling on the mental power to get me through. Then I got to mile 11. Now it was really all mental. I was obviously going to survive -barring nothing drastic- it was just a matter of how. Mile 12 was hard too, but I knew I only had one more full mile to go. I was only 10 minutes from crossing that finish line. I tried to pick up my pace. I didn’t want to be left thinking I had any more to give. I saw the sign for mile 13 just as the course turned back into the park, and I floored it. Seriously I was thinking I’d never run so fast in my life, but I was going to hit that finish line strong. (Looking back I don’t think I was really going that fast, but I felt like I was going to take off and fly.) I crossed the finish line in 2:04:25. Take that goal! Shattered!
(I was a little slow stopping it…)
My times (by my watch)
Mile 1-4: 41.30.57
7: 18:03:05 (This felt like a reallllly long mile- then I got to mile 9 and realized I didn’t see the sign for mile 8) So I guess we can say 9:01ish
9: 8:37:17 (I realized I was getting too excited here…)
449/1266 Females (They didn’t post overall or age group yet)
Now I know I run faster in a race than I do in training (I think a lot of people do), but I wasn’t expecting that much faster. It’s really got me thinking. If I could do that today, why can’t I do that on my own? I guess I need to work on learning how to push myself…or something. That’s too much to wrap my head around right now though:)
I grabbed a water, a medal, some orange slices, half a bagel and immediately turned around and darted back to the finish line to find Amber. I didn’t know how much time I had and for sure wasn’t going to miss it, so I booked it. It wasn’t until I started running again that I realize that everything hurt and I’d just run 13.1 miles. I squeezed into the finish line and was able to catch pictures of Amber & Kirsten finishing. (Other Amber was long done by then.) It was so fun seeing them cross the finish line! I think they both shed some tears they were so proud of themselves- and rightly so!
(I love this picture! By the way, this was Amber’s first race. EVER. She rocked it. And she just had a baby a year ago.)
I passed some pretty good signs- I tried really hard to remember what they said but right now the only one I can come up with is “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”. One really made me laugh, I’m so mad I can’t think of it. Is there such a thing as runner’s brain?
Amber’s family came to see her finish, so we chatted with them, then I made a bee line to the pizza and bread samples. YUM. I really wanted a post-race massage, but the line was pretty long and no one wanted to wait. I did force them to go to the beer tent with me though, but they bailed on actually getting a beer. Not me. Hard work deserves a reward 🙂 I ended up not finishing it though because I felt like I was holding everyone up. So much for post-race party time!
And just like that it was over. We all beat our goals. Smashed them actually.
When’s the next one? Oh wait, that’s right…it’s in 4 weeks 🙂