Every race has a story of its own. This is perhaps why I love running, why I love racing. Until you get to that day, you never know what to expect. You can prepare. You plan for the best. But it’s not until you show up, at the start line, and you begin to run, that the story of your race reveals itself to you. Some stories have no words. Some challenges and emotions can’t be fully captured on paper. This race is one of those races.
Today’s story makes me proud.
Temperature at 4am (when I woke up): 75 degrees
Dew Point: 73 degrees
Based on my new-found knowledge about dew point, race day running conditions fell into “Forget Pace – Focus on Finishing” category.
Race Plan: Run Strong
I went into this race with high hopes and a lot of confidence about what I could accomplish. If everything came together perfectly (fresh legs, good weather, good sleep), I knew I could run a 2:15 half. I quickly went to bed at 9:30pm hoping (and praying) that Chet would sleep. I finally fell asleep around 10. Chet woke up at midnight. Between midnight and 2am, I nursed him. I nursed him some more. And again. And one more time. I was finally back to sleep at 2am after whispering to my husband at least I won’t have to pump in the morning (and I must add, my husband did offer to take care of Chet that night, but with limited milk supply in our freezer I choose to nurse!). At 4am, my alarm went off. Go ahead and scratch good night of sleep of my list for the day.
Wake-up time: 4am
Race Day Breakfast: Whole wheat waffles
Race Day Attire: Lululemon tank (thanks mom!). Lululemon shorts. Swiftwick Socks. Mizunos. Garmin.
I meet up with Heidi at the oceanfront before we walked to the start line together. We did the normal prerace stuff: bag check, ate a banana, drank some water, used the bathroom. As we lined up in the corral, I was already sweating (this was not a good sign for how the day would unfold). Go ahead and scratch good weather off my list for the day.
The weather really deserves its own blog post. It was brutal. The air was thick. It was muggy. It was hard to breath. The announcers at the race kept listing off warnings about the weather. Run with caution. Drink water. Walk. Take breaks. Today was not a day for PRs. They gave out sponges along the course (this did not happen at the race last year or the year before).
As we lined up behind the 2:15 pacer, I knew I had to try. Although I knew the weather conditions would require a slower pace, I just had to try. I had to or I’d regret it. So I tried.
Mile 1: 10:14
Mile 2: 10:41
The first two miles were so congested. I passed people. I got in people’s way. People were already walking by mile 1. I ran on sidewalks. It was a crazy fight for elbow room. The first water stop was just as crazy. They were already having a hard time keeping up with the demand for water. From the beginning, I knew I’d walk for water at each water stop every mile and a half mile. Hydration was key for the race.
Mile 3: 10:22
Mile 4: 10:41
Mile 5: 10:32
Mile 6: 10:45
Around mile 2, my friend from high school found me. She was running her first half (and did AMAZING!!! 2:25!!!). We ran together until we found my family. I saw them at Mile 6.5. At this point, I knew 2:15 wasn’t happening. I knew a PR wasn’t likely. Instead of stressing over numbers, I stopped. I said hello. I gave hugs to my family. I gave kisses to my boys. Christian had his bag full of stash ready for any support I would need. He dug out salt tablets for me. The weather was taking its toll on my body. I was light-headed. My hands were going numb. I was already drinking two Gatorade at each water stop and dumping a glass (or two) of water on my head. It was just too hot outside.
Mile 7: 14:36 (family stop)
Mile 8: 11:55
Mile 9: 11:51
I like numbers. I like goal numbers. I wanted 10s on my watch yesterday. But as I turned the corner to tackle the 4 hardest miles on the course (mile 6 -10), I didn’t care. I rarely looked at my watch. Every half mile, someone was passed out on the ground. Medical teams were treating people everywhere. It was Mile 7 in a half marathon, and I saw someone getting IV fluids. I have never witnessed this many people on the ground before in any of my races. It was scary. (I saw my first person on the ground at mile 4!). Too say I was mentally intimated was an understatement. I just wanted to finish. I wanted to run (and walk) smart.
At Mile 10, I found my husband again. He gave me more salt tablets. I swapped out my hand-held water bottle for a new one. A quick pep talk and I was off. At this point my feet were on fire. My socks and shoes were soaking wet. My stomach was cramping. The back of my ankles were raw (and bleeding as I later discovered). How can one race beat up your body when a summer of training runs were good to you?
Mile 10: 13:14 (hubby stop)
Mile 11: 12:55
Mile 12: 12:28
Mile 13: 11:40
Final .1 (or garmin .24): 2:21
Normally as I round the turn to the final boardwalk stretch, I get emotional. I choke back tears. Not this race. I don’t think I had enough fluid in my body to make tears. This race I just wanted to find the finish line. I let go off all race expectations at mile 7. At this point, every ounce of what I had left in me was focused on the getting to the finish line without tipping over.
Official Race Time: 2:34:21
If you would have told me a week ago, I would run a 2:30+ half marathon, I would have rolled my eyes. Not a chance! I would have told you there was no way in hell I’d ever run a 2:30+ half marathon again. If you would have told me at the start line, I would be on the course for over two hours and thirty minutes, I would have laughed. No way. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to go for 2:15. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped and talked to my family for several minutes. But as soon as I got on the course, as soon as I started running, I knew my race wasn’t about time. It was about finishing. It was about finding a place inside myself that let go of expectations and ran with a happy heart. At mile 10, I told myself to do what I needed to do to finish with a smile on my face. Hugs and kisses from my family make me smile. Stopping to stick my head in the sprinkler from one of the spectator’s yard made me smile. High fiving all the kids along the course made me smile. Exhaling and laughing with the runner next to me as we both stopped to walk again made me smile. This race was good for my soul. Although every limb on my body felt heavy, my heart felt light.
2:34:21 makes me smile. 2:34:21 makes me proud. I fought hard for the time. I gave it everything I had while running smart. I ran my strong on race day given all the different factors of the day. I wouldn’t change a thing.
(and it was so reassuring to finish the race hearing everyone echoing my same thoughts. It was so reassuring to talk to all my runner friends who raced yesterday who said the same things I was feeling.Without a doubt these were the hardest conditions I have ever run in.)
The race was brutal. The weather was unforgiving. And if it taught me anything, it confirmed my quest for a sub 2:15 half marathon. I know I have it in me. I suspect I have a lot more than sub 2:15 too. I’m on a mission to find it. Next race: four weeks away. Crawlin Crab half marathon!