What a difference seven weeks made! Seven weeks ago, I was happy just to finish my first half marathon and happy that I did it in just over 2:30:00. Since then, I altered my training, lost a little more weight, and had the confidence to set a race goal. I turned out to have an amazing race!!!
It didn't start out so amazing... The night before the race, I had to put my kids to bed when I really should've been in bed myself. I got to bed an hour late, and then it took me forever to fall asleep. Just as I was finally drifting off, my daughter crawled into bed with me because she'd had a bad dream. After trying to endure her constant tossing and turning and providing heat like a furnace from Hades, I finally got out of bed to carry her back to her room. Not ten minutes later, my son began crying really hard and wouldn't stop. Poopy diaper? Since I was the only once who heard him, I had to go get him and change his diaper. By the time I took care of him and crawled back into bed, I only had one and a half hours to sleep before my alarm went off at 5:30. Yep, you read that right: 1.5 hours of sleep before the race! I wasn't very pleased about that. I cried a little.
When my alarm went off, I was so tired that I hit snooze. Bad idea. Luckily, getting ready and eating my pre-race breakfast went without a hitch. I had instant oatmeal, half a banana with peanut butter, a small glass of milk, and some coffee. Later as I sat waiting in line to get into my pre-paid parking garage, I was really regretting hitting that snooze button! Since I was behind schedule, I had to rush to the porta potties and then try to push my way through the non-moving crowd to Corral 3. It was so crowded that I didn't notice that there was a small opening in the fence by one of the Corral 3 flags. Luckily, a race official directed us to the opening just before the singing of the national anthem. Since it was shoulder to shoulder like cattle, I didn't have room to stretch. Not being able to stretch was icing on the cake considering that it meant my lower legs might be in jeopardy for the race. With all the hindrances I'd endured leading up to the race, I was a little mad. Then... something good happened.
The starting gun went off for the elite runners. The crowd cheered, music was playing, and fireworks went off. What a big to-do this was! It was exciting! All the sudden I got fired up. I could feel the energy of all the runners around me. Sometimes being pissed off can be a positive because I turned all my pre-race frustration into excitement and motivation. I had the desire to get out there and run like mad! It was amazing to be among so many fellow runners all going a long distance, half or full. As we scooted toward the start, I was ready to go! My watch said 7:40.
Just like my first HM, the first three miles were crowded with not too many opportunities to easily pass people without exerting some effort. But once I felt warmed up at Mile 3 in Bexley, I began my quest to run my pace. My legs felt great and the racewalkers were annoying me. I wanted to get around them. My goal was to visit all the water stations but make them extremely brief and not walk between them for as long as I could. My time goal was 2:24:00, or at least better than 2:31:43 (my previous time). So, I needed to aim for 11:00-min miles. I'd made it through 10 miles at that pace in my previous HM before "the wheels came off."
At Mile 4, my watch said 43:xx. Then at Mile 5, my watch said 53:xx. At Mile 6, it said 1:04:xx. Wow, two minutes ahead of pace?! That was unexpected. I wasn't pushing hard yet. I was just going at a pace that felt good. Since I had the time and truly thought I had to pee, I stopped at the next set of porta potties. It was a short line, but I got in there and surprisingly discovered that I didn't need to go. At all. Huh?! Two minutes wasted! Once back on the course, I panicked and sped up my pace to put this mistake behind me. At Mile 7, my watch said 1:17:xx. Whew, back on target for pace! Not good enough, though; I wanted to get back under 11:00 again, darn it! Around Mile 7, I'd taken a strawberry CLIF Shot and some water. The gel kicked in somewhere between Miles 8 and 9. I pushed the pace the next few miles and got it under 11:00 again. The only things that challenged me at this point were the blinding sun on Third Street and the upcoming large groups of marathoners.
It was running down Third Street that I first encountered several teams of marathon runners. For the first time since the beginning of the race, it was difficult to pass without effort, especially around Schiller Park. This was a blessing and a curse: a blessing because these groups literally kept me from walking since I was surrounded at times. It also helped me keep a steady, mindless pace. While I was still pushing the pace, somehow I also felt like I was drafting these groups which gave me the break I needed to endure the final stretch up High Street.
I passed Mile 10 and saw that my watch said 1:49:xx. In my previous HM, this was where the wheels fell off. Fortunately in this race, I still felt okay enough to squeeze out 3.1 more miles and was determined to not let things fall apart again! Since it became a total mind game at this point and I got panicky, I suddenly "felt tired." This pissed me off since I knew I had the training to finish this thing right this time. So I began passing people to take my mind off the final miles. At Mile 11, my time was 2:00:06. That meant I had nearly 30 minutes to run 2.1 miles. Booyah! I smiled and felt like I got a second wind! That's just what I needed as motivation to get up the one major hill we had in the race. Many runners didn't make it up the hill. It was the first time I noticed people who weren't racewalkers walking during the race. Thank goodness I hadn't walked yet and had run 11 miles in training because I got up that hill running, even if it was at a slower pace.
I don't remember my time at Mile 12 because I was trying to pass people and ignore how far away Nationwide Boulevard seemed. But, I do remember rounding the final corner and seeing my family and the awesome downhill finish. I got so excited that I totally gunned it at the end! It was so nice to finish sprinting down that hill, knowing that I'd done my best and surpassed my expectations. Not counting the 15-sec water station breaks, I'd run the entire 13.1! Holy crap!!! My training runs always included walking breaks, so this was quite a feat for me. Two other things astounded me: 1) My legs felt fine the entire race; and 2) I had the energy to sprint at the finish.
After the race, I enjoyed the food, drink, and music. After my family left, I lingered a bit, listening to the band while sitting on the sunny lawn. It was gorgeous out!
As I said earlier, I did a few things differently this time around for my second HM. First of all, I didn't even plan on running this race. I thought I was done when I did the Spirit of Columbus Half in August. I actually laughed when my friend Ronnelle suggested I also run the Columbus Half. But, while I reduced my weekday training schedule, I found myself continuing to do long runs in September, steadily upping the mileage until I finally broke down and registered at the end of the month. Not having the mental stress of training for a race for many weeks, reducing my weekday training a little, and being more aggressive (less walking breaks and higher mileage) in my long runs helped tremendously. By allowing my legs to recover more during the week, I had more productive long runs. I also lost some more weight which helped reduce my pace some and seemed to make my long runs a bit easier to endure. I felt so much stronger and faster in this race :-)
For the knitters: I bought some girls over-the-knee striped socks in pink, charcoal, purple, magenta, and silver metallic to convert into some excellent arm warmers to wear at the race. All I did was cut off the toes and make a small thumbhole in each heel. Voila, $2.00 arm warmers! Sure beats the boring $20 ones ;-)