I was actually reasonably impressed with my lack of pre race nerves this time. Pre race nerves are a funny thing- usually before a race, I will have a massive knot in my stomach. It’s funny- I think I was LEAST nervous before my first race!
Before the race, I succeeded in putting it out of my mind- maybe too well! Even after going to the expo on Friday to pick up my bib, I felt good. It wasn’t until late-ish Friday night (bedtime) that I started to feel the pit-of-my-stomach nerves.
When I woke up Saturday morning- ugh! I’ve never been a morning person and I’ve never been a morning runner. Add a twist of nerves and, well, ugh! I could barely force down breakfast, and I probably could’ve vomited pretty easily!
In the car on the way to the race, I sipped on a bottle of water and responded to a few emails and text messages from my friends. (my parents were driving so I could focus on the race.)
We didn’t have *too* much trouble finding a parking space once we got to the race. My first planned stop at the race was the bathroom- as I’m sure most runners can relate, bathroom-related problems are best avoided during a race. The start line is near a large private high school, and last year I used the bathroom at the high school’s stadium. (My parents later discovered that there was a track meet at the high school.) This year, the stadium bathrooms were locked tightly.
I walked down a bit closer to the start line and finally found a large courtyard filled with something like 90 porta potties. The courtyard was crowded and every porta potty had a line. I chose a line, and of course it turned out to be one of the slower lines. Go figure!
The weather held on race day, thank goodness. The weather forecasters were predicting terrible storms this weekend, with tornadoes and thunder and lightning. Rain I could deal with, but lightning would mean they’d have to cancel the race. Of course, the storms DID come, and I do not at all mean to make light of the lives lost or the damage caused by the tornadoes, but it did not rain at all during the race.
In the porta potty lines, though, several runners were discussing the impending weather and what they would do if the race was cancelled. The general consensus was, even if I have to rip off my bib, I’m gonna run this race!
Once I’d finished in the bathroom/courtyard, I returned to the starting line corral area and found my parents, who were holding on to all my things. I remember passing a runner who was laying out in the grass. Pretty smart, if you ask me- anything to help you stay calm!!
Right around this time, the announcer came over the PA and said there was only 5 minutes left before the start of the half-marathon. I dug around in my bag for my lip balm. My mom sprayed sunscreen onto my arms, chest, and back. I grabbed my water bottle, stepped into the corral, and waited for the gun.
I stood with the 3:00 pace group. I was hoping to run at least a 3:00 race this year. I knew it would be challenging but I thought that just maybe, this year I would be able to break 3:00.
One woman in the group had a brace on her hand- it looked like the kind you get when you break a finger. She said she hadn’t broken anything, but had a deep cut. She clipped her Ipod nano onto the end of the “finger” portion of the brace, which was kinda funny. Another guy in the pace group said he had broken his nose the week before, and had postponed surgery to repair his nose so that he could run this race. It wasn’t terribly obvious, but if you looked, you could see that his nose had kind of a funny bend in it.
The gun went off, and we slowly began the race. Interestingly, this year the race seemed to have fewer spectators than last year. There were DEFINITELY fewer costumed spectators (none!!), and I didn’t see any costumed runners this year either.
Like I said, the weather held, and other than being somewhat humid, it was actually kinda pleasant for a run. It was overcast for most of the run, no harsh sunlight at all. I brought my sunglasses because I HATE to run without them in the sunlight. For a good portion of the race, though, I ran with my sunglasses perched on the top of my head.
I ran with the 3:00 pace group for a few miles, but pretty soon my legs began to give me trouble. This is a phenomenon with which I’m quite familiar, but I’ve always struggled to describe it. It may be a remnant from my accident or a remnant of all those years of not running- probably some combination. I just couldn’t push myself as hard as I wanted, and it was turning into a step-by-step struggle to maintain that pace. Around mile 3, I gave in. The 3:00 pace group pulled ahead.
There was a spectator around this point, an older guy who was incredibly cheerful and encouraging. As I passed him, he high-fived me and said, “You look like you’re having fun!” Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth, but it was encouraging nonetheless.
At this point the race became emotional. In my mind, I wanted to go faster, but my legs refused. Letting go of that pace was hard. The tears flowed. For several miles, my mantra became, “My race, my pace”. I wondered why I had ever wanted to run with the pace group. I became exquisitely aware of every motion of my body. And I cried. A lot.
The next miles blurred. There was crying. There was acceptance. The route turned to a residential neighborhood, a gorgeous area for running. I ran around the perimeter of a park, past several runners who were jogging on the park’s asphalt trail.
One fun part of running through this neighborhood- MANY of the homeowners had come out onto their yards to cheer us on. I especially enjoyed the families with young children. Every chance I got, I would ask the little kids if they were planning to run the race next year.
Around mile 6, I very clearly heard a siren. Soon, a fire-support vehicle and a fire truck drove onto the course and past me, lights and sirens blaring, full speed. There was no real danger to the runners- the road was fairly wide and the runners were quite spread out. I never did figure out what the emergency was.
At mile 7, at one of the many intersections where the police were directing traffic, I watched an SUV pull onto the race course, against police instructions. Slowly, this driver began rolling down the street. The police officer chased the SUV on foot, and it was honestly almost comical. He had no trouble catching up to the SUV. The driver said he was “just going really slowly for just a block!!” The police officer, in his meanest police officer voice, yelled back, “no, you were just backing up and getting off this street!”
Around mile 9, the police began reopening the roads. They moved the runners onto the sidewalks or, where there wasn’t a sidewalk, the shoulder.
I met a runner here named Brent. It’s amazing what comes out on the race course. Brent was older than me, but very kind, and told me about his experiences having a bad car accident and dealing with arthritis. I told him about my own car accident experience. We paced each other for the next few miles.
At mile 10, I saw the “high five guy” that I’d passed at mile 3. He still had at least as much energy, and he was still high-fiving and cheering us on.
Near the end, at the last aid station, one of the volunteers told me he’d seen my blog and that I was doing great. I’d never seen him before, and honestly I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again- my mind was getting pretty foggy at that point. But Mr. Blog Reader, you made my day and you gave me the push to finish the race!!
Finally, finally, I saw the finish line ahead of me. Pushing myself those last few blocks was both incredibly tough and the easiest part of the race. My feet were screaming. I pushed as hard as I could across the mats to register my chip time.
And on the far side of the finish line, I stopped. My feet were screaming. I couldn’t take another step. An amazing volunteer thrust a bottle of water into my hand and bent down to remove the chip from my feet. Another volunteer handed me a finisher’s medal. My parents caught up with me and hugged me. Eventually I made my way to a curb and sat down.
My final chip time was 3:28:12.1. Slower than I’d like, for sure, but also still not bad at all. I definitely had to push myself, a lot, and I finished the race.
I have four blisters, and plenty of general friction-burn sensations on my toes. Since the race, I’ve been dealing with plenty of sore muscles and an odd side effect of insomnia. For the past few nights, my physical exhaustion has driven me to bed, but then I’ve laid in bed wide awake. Too sore to move, even to turn onto my side, but wide awake! I suspect this is because I have not been exercising during the day (my go-to cure for insomnia), plus my sleep schedule has been off in general- not a long night before the race, a long nap Saturday afternoon, another long nap Sunday afternoon.
I could name a lot of things that were right about my training, and a lot of things that were wrong, but that’s a topic for another post. This week, I’m resting and refueling, and I’m already thinking towards my next races. Maybe some shorter distances, to build my base a bit more. This race didn’t go the way I’d planned or even the way I’d expected, but that’s okay.
13.1 and done. I may not be fast, but I am unstoppable!