Yesterday, I ran my seventh half marathon, but it was the first time for me to run one solo. Circumstances happened over the training season, and the three women who I thought I'd be running with all ended up with injuries, so it was just me. And let me tell you, for someone who loves to run with a buddy, running 13+ miles all by yourself was a bit of a mental challenge. The good news is, I did it! I pulled myself through that race and didn't cop out, even when it got tough. I'm proud of myself for that...oh, and for also running a half marathon!
The day before the race, we went to the expo for packet pickup. The expo has gotten bigger and better each year; this time, it looked like a big-time race expo:
We ran into lots of friends at the expo - it felt very much like a reunion of sorts!
Here's my pre-race swag:
The long-sleeved shirt and custom race Swiftwick socks came with the entry fee; the 13.1 sticker and hat were free (I suspect they are changing up their colors for next year, so they were handing out the older stuff ); I bought more Sweaty Bands (buy 3 get one free) - love them, wear them every time I run!
We dutifully carbed up on Saturday, with French toast for breakfast and pasta for dinner. Then, it was time to (not) sleep...and then? RACE DAY! We met up with our USAFit BCS peeps and hung out for a little while. I was chatting with someone when I realized that Jeff and Sam (our oldest, who'd arrived from North Carolina a couple of days earlier) were gone. Got a text from Sam that they had to run back to the house. Now, we live just five minutes from the race start, but with the traffic coming into the parking lot, this wasn't going to be a quick trip. I was a little worried because my water and fuel were still in the car. Turns out Jeff forgot his belt with his race bib. Luckily they got back in enough time, but still...what a way to start the day!
Almost ready to head to the starting corrals - water and fuel on hand; race bib on Jeff.
We were lined up, and they made a couple of announcements, then someone started singing the Star Spangled Banner. Normally, you place your hand over your heart and face the flag when this happens...only, we couldn't see a flag up front. Then we realized the flag was flying behind us, at a USDA building, and the crowd of over 4,500 seemed to turn in unison - it was pretty funny and a nice little nerve icebreaker right before the race began.
A note about the weather - it was 61 degrees with 100% humidity when we started the race. Not optimal running weather, that's for sure! I tried to pace myself and not go out too fast - it was so weird to be all by myself, though. I started sweating like crazy almost immediately, and decided that even though I was carrying a water/Gatorade combo, I'd go ahead and stop at each hydration station along the route, just to be sure I drank enough. I ended up with a headache for the rest of the day, so I guess I still didn't get enough fluids, but hey, I tried!
It was really warm for the first six miles, and then the wind kicked up, which was nice because it helped to cool down my sweaty body. But around mile seven, we turned and were running directly into the wind - ugh! So that was a challenge. I did really well with sticking to my intervals, and even running some of the walk intervals, but there was one point, around mile 10, where I was running uphill, into the wind, and it felt like I wasn't moving - that's when I allowed myself to walk. I had hoped to finish in under three hours, but when I crossed the halfway mat and doubled my time, I knew it wouldn't happen. Still, I PR'd this race by 8 minutes from two years ago, and by 15 minutes from last year!
Fun things along the route: A little kid playing a drum set (he was awesome and I should take lessons from him), and a middle-school orchestra playing Christmas music, plus lots of homeowners who came out to cheer us on as we ran by their houses. I saw Kim, from our running club, around mile two, and then I saw Stephanie (our hydrator/Elf party person) just before mile eight. It was so nice to finally see a familiar face! She gave me a much-needed big hug. I saw Santa twice along the route, and both times he told me I was on the nice list, woohoo! I was a little sad going into the race because my friend Joni had moved to Dallas a few months ago, and she's been on the route cheering me (OK, and others) on the last two times I've run this race. Well, I'd just made a turn after mile 11 when I heard someone yelling my name from a car - it was Joni! So that was sweet to make it 3-for-3 with her cheering for me.
Mile 12 was tough. I had to force myself to run my intervals - I really wanted to walk at that point. I made the final turn toward the downhill finish, and was just so happy! I saw Loretta (who I should have been running with, darn her hip stress fracture) and CC, and then I saw Jeff, Julia, Sam and Kevin on one side, with Cary, Andi and Cristy on the other side - now that was a fun finish! Jeff said I had a huge smile on my face, but we'll have to wait for the official finisher pictures to see that, because I look pretty wrecked in the shots that Kevin took...I wasn't going to post this one, but then I figured why not - this is what the end of running 13+ miles looks like:
Shirt askew, slight grimace, number bunched up...but finishing a half marathon!
Afterward, I got my medal and a sweaty hug from running store Dan (as is custom), and then I went to the post-race food party. It wasn't as plentiful as last year - they were just about out of chocolate milk, and there were no pepperoni rolls, which were the greatest thing EVER after the race last year. I ended up with half of a small cheeseburger and a strawberry tart sample. Then I met up with Jeff, Julia and the boys in the reunion center:
Another half marathon is in the books!
Jeff and I with our Monday morning running buddy, Julia.
My finish time was 3:08, with an average pace of 14:06 - this is with doing 1:30/1 intervals. A half marathon is 13.1 miles, but I ended up running a quarter-mile more, for a total of 13:36. My splits were:
14:44 (extra time at the water stations)
14:42 (walked some hills here)
We stayed at the finish line for a couple of hours, waiting for our marathoners to come in. I got this cute shot of the girls waiting for Brian (who finished his first marathon in 4:24!):
Cristy, Cary and Andi - half marathon finishers!
For the first time in forever, I ran a half without getting any blisters or chafing! I credit a liberal application of 2Toms SportShield for that. And except for a headache/bit of a fever afterward, I felt pretty good, all things considered.
Me, my medal, my finisher's shirt, and my dog. Doesn't get much better than this.