Unlike April, when I ran my very first half-marathon, I was not nervous about this past weekend's race. I felt calmer and more relaxed for lots of reasons: I was in better shape now, I had a better idea of what to expect during those thirteen miles and I had learned that not hitting a goal time was not the end of the world.
Still, Friday, the day before the race, proved to be quite stressful. I am no-longer particularly superstisious when it comes to pre-race routines - this past year has taught me that sometimes, no matter how precisely you perform your superstitions, you will not have a good race. But I do not like to be stressed or flustered the day before a big race.
It had just been one of those days where nothing had gone right and, now matter how hard I tried not to think of it as a why-does-the-world-hate-me kind of day, it seemed like every time I turned around, something else was going wrong.
I finally calmed down after good dinner (prepared by Mike, I might add) and a quick phone conversation with my parents. I started getting ready for bed, making sure all of my gear for the morning was set-out.
That is when I noticed that the incorrect D-Tag (timing device which attaches to your shoe) had been attached to my race bib. Talk about the icing on the cake.
Since I did not want my time to be recorded as whoever this other runner was, I had to adjust my alarm to make time to go get the situation resolved before the race began at 9 AM.
I was startled out of bed at 6:45 AM by my alarm. I ate, got dressed, readjusted everything and then headed out to the race. It was not raining, as was predicted, but the 93% humidity hung in the air like a heavy curtain.
It was actually quite simple for the race volunteers to switch my race bib and D-Tag, so I my correct time would be recorded.
I lined-up in my corral and zoned-out for the last 15 minutes before the race. I assessed my body - I still felt a little defeated from the day before, I was a little warm from the humidity and my stomach was for some unkown reason upset (Daddy - I blame you. You know what comment I am talking about.) But overall I felt good. I was ready.
The air horns sounded and we were off! I reigned myself in on the first mile. I characteristically go out entirely too fast during the first two miles and then pay for it later. In races under five miles, it did not matter so much - I could recover with a minimal amount of pain. But the half-marathon in April and all of my training runs had taught me that I needed to be mindful of this on longer distances.
I felt like I was standing still among all the runners zipping past me. It was a fight to not join them. I ran the first mile in 8 minutes and 30 seconds. This was a bit slower than my goal pace of 8 minutes 16 seconds per mile, so I knew I could pick up my pace, just a bit, and stay on track.
And stay on track I did for the next nine miles, passing many of those jackrabbit runners. But by the tenth mile, my stomach had had enough and began to revolt. About this time I started searching for porta-pottys along the route and made the not-so -welcome discovery that there were none.
I could only focus on the pain, which to this point I had been able to successfully block-out. But when this happens, I get stressed and frustrated and want to give up. I had to calm myself and keep my mind from racing, "Why are you doing this?!" "How are you ever going to race a full marathon?!".
By the eleventh mile, I had to stop running and walk for about two minutes. I was disappointed that I had to walk because I was so close to the end and had felt that I would finish this race strong.
For the last two miles, I ran as hard as I could. Mind you, this wasn't incredibly fast at this point, about 8 minutes and 17 seconds per mile, but my legs refused to go any faster. I followed the winding loop at the bottom of the park that eventually led back over to the West side.
That loop seemed to last forever, but I was finally on the West side. Another ten blocks north and I would be at the finish line. I searched intently for the blue finish line in the distance.
As soon as I saw it, that is all I could focus on. I didn't think about my sore legs or what song was playing or even search in the crowd for Mike's familar face. My mind repeated, "Get there, get there, get there."
I cannot adequetly describe the feeling of crossing a finish line after a race like this. The first feeling is relief - you made it, you can stop running. After that, it's pure survival - you need Gatorade and water, now. The little voice in your head that has been nagging you with questions like "Why are you doing this?!" for the last 13.1 miles has disappeared. It is silenced by the slew of emotions that have taken it's place - because I can.
Mike was there waiting with a big smile and was nice enough to grab me two cups of Gatorade while I tried to get my bearings. He poured water into my Gatorade as we slowly made our way back across the park, because I he knew I couldn't grasp the water bottle.
Back home, I went through the same routine after my long runs: quick snack to refuel, hot shower, stretch, 10 minute ice bath. I made chocolate chip pancakes, which I enjoyed in bed with my legs propped up.
My official finish time was 1 hour 49 minutes 3 seconds, which was only about one minute longer than my goal. I had knocked more than ten minutes off my finish time in April, which I was especially proud of given my schedule, which does not lend much extra time for training.
I did what I set out to do - not only running the 13.1 miles, but more importantly, not allowing the training to take over my life. As it turns out, trying to acheive and maintan a balance between all the aspects of your life is not only a key to success and happiness, but also to setting PRs.
Official Finish Time: 1 hour 49 minutes 3 seconds
Averge Split Time: 8 minutes 19 seconds
Unofficial Split Times:
Mile 1: 8 minutes 34 seconds
Mile 2: 8 minutes 5 seconds
Mile 3: 7 minutes 52 seconds
Mile 4: 7 minutes 58 seconds
Mile 5: 8 minutes 5 seconds
Mile 6: 7 minutes 54 seconds
Mile 7: 8 minutes 8 seconds
Mile 8: 8 minutes 8 seconds
Mile 9: 8 minutes 00 seconds
Mile 10: 8 minutes 25 seconds
Mile 11: 10 minutes 20 seconds
Mile 12: 8 minutes 17 seconds
Mile 13.1: 8 minutes 17 seconds