Saturday, September 21, 2013: RACE DAY!
The alarm is singing, but I swear I just fell asleep! My husband has caught my awful cold and snored me out of the bed and onto our tiny couch about 1 AM. I tossed and turned, never really getting comfortable and I’m fairly certain I stared at the clock until at least 4:30 AM. Then, wouldn’t you know the stupid alarm is going off and it is officially race day. I don’t even bother hitting snooze and I’m up and at ‘em.
I find the clothes I laid out last night and get into my gear, sans long-sleeved shirt as it is warmer outside than I anticipated. Orange top, to support my Vols as it is also Game Day, and black compression crops with pink details–because everyone knows pink and orange are two of my favorite colors! I throw my hair up and put on my headbands. I put my Garmin on my wrist and then I wander into the kitchen to toast a bagel, despite having zero appetite. I force down half of the bagel along with 500 mL of water. The banana will just have to wait; I simply can’t stomach anything else.
I fill up my handheld water bottle with Gatorade, ensuring I have my Stingers in the zippered compartment, grab the banana, and put a handful of trail mix in a bag. My husband is stirring and I have him snap a few quick photos before I grab my bus card and head out the door at 8:47 AM to make the journey to Phoenix Park.
I’m beginning to get nervous — not about the race itself, but about whether or not the bus is actually going to make it to the park on time! We have stopped at EVERY single stop thus far and hit EVERY single red light. Why is it that when you are in a hurry this always happens? If I had caught the earlier bus I would’ve been to the park in 10 minutes! But because I waited for the later bus, it’s a 40 minute journey–super frustrating given there is no traffic at this hour in the city!
I finally make it off the bus and haul tail into the park. Luckily the half a mile walk warms up my legs so I can get some pre-race stretches in. I make sure I target all of my muscles, not just my legs. I think some people make the mistake of thinking they ONLY run with their legs. I’ve been running long enough to know that your arms matter too, just not as much of course! After the stretches, I make my way into the masses. The race will have three waves. I find my wave, the 120 min+ wave and get ready to start the race!
Approx 10:15 AM
The first two waves have begun their race and it is finally my wave’s turn. The moderator sends us off and I hear the “beep” of my timing chip as I cross the start line. Queue Garmin & ITunes Race Day playlist. “Thanks for the Memories” carries me out of the gate. The first mile is a pretty packed mile, but the runners in front of me are keeping pace with my music, so I don’t bother to start dodging in and out of people as I know it will begin to thin out eventually. We are running on a footpath that is fairly densely covered so the sun (you wouldn’t know it from above, but the clouds cleared out QUICKLY!) is not beating down on us, but I am already sweating buckets thanks to the 92% humidity level! At about 1.5 miles we leave the footpath and hit the main road, Chesterfield Avenue, in the Park and make a turn towards the zoo. I see my friend, Alison, who has come out to support me and take photos during the race and it gives me a boost of energy. I wave like a crazy lady at her, tell her a quick hello as I pass, and keep running with the rest of the group.
Approx 10:40 AM
I’m running in the road, and there are no trees anywhere around. The sun is HOT and it is definitely heating up outside. (It’s probably only 18C/60F, but when running in full sun, it’s much warmer than that!) I’m nearing the 3 mile mark and between the sun and humidity I’ve almost convinced myself I’m never going to make it to the finish line and should just go ahead and give up. Water stop number 1: Squirt a few sips into my mouth and dump the rest on my head in an attempt to cool off. I suppose it helps as I take a quick tenth of a mile walk break in the process. I’ve now realized there are about 5 ladies, 1 single and two groups of two, keeping a similar pace to me so I focus on staying close to them for the next little while. Luckily we are on a pretty flat stretch and I know if I just keep running that we’ll find shade again eventually. I lose myself in my music at this point.
Approx 11:45 AM
I really don’t recall what happened between about mile 4.5 and the half way mark. I know I had to stop to tie my shoe once, but I must have been so focused on singing to myself and keeping one foot in front of the other that I lost those two miles. Not all bad, right? At mile 7.5 I hit the second water stop. Because I had been in the trees for so long, I had cooled back off so I actually chose to enjoy this water! And it was also a Lucosade stop, but I still had half a bottle of Gatorade so I opted for just water. About a half a mile later, I saw Alison again. She kept saying how I was still all smiles and I was leaning back to tell her I was only smiling for the photos — so she got quite a goofy angle out of it, but I love it!
Approx 12:27 PM
I got a burst of energy about mile 8.7, and after looking at my watch and seeing that I was actually still on target to hit my 2:30 time goal, I used that burst of energy and had a sub-10 minute mile for the next mile and a half. Then I hit the water stop at mile 10.5. I was out of Gatorade at this point so I refilled my handheld bottle with two bottles of water from the stop and set out again. I had been dreading this moment since the start of the race! I began the incline up, the incline that almost killed me in the 10 miler I had done a month before. Why the race organizers wanted to torture us and leave the hills for the last 3 miles I’ll never know, but… I carried on. I apparently used too much energy between mile 8.6 and 10.5 and ended up walking up the first hill, along with everyone around me. My thoughts at this exact moment were this: “As I look around me, everyone is walking. We are the people who are determined to finish this race, but are also the people thinking to ourselves how much we just want to give up right about now. Yet, we are looking at all the others and know they are in the same boat and so we keep going. Grab your fishing lines, reel past those struggling more than others, and JUST KEEP GOING.” Unfortunately, there was a lady being tended to by the medical staff about mile 11.5, and I can only imagine it was dehydration. But it still breaks my heart every time I see runners on the side of the road and I always send up a little prayer for them!
Approx 12:45 PM
Mile 12. This is when I would normally tell myself ONLY ONE MORE MILE. But my body had already given up and I ended up walking the first quarter of the 12th mile. Then, we rounded a corner, and you couldn’t see the finish line just yet, but more and more people were lining the streets and the energy and support picked up. Queue the internal motivation. I began running again, trying to convince my head to tell my legs they were OK and we were so close to being done! My power song chose that moment to come onto my phone (see, I told you they were perfectly placed!) and I got into my rhythm again–”Rocky Top, you’ll always be, home sweet home to me. Good ‘ole Rocky Top. (fist pump!) Rocky Top Tennessee.”
Then, with four tenths of a mile left, the finish line came into sight. I didn’t even have to tell my head at this point because my heart took over. RUN LIKE THE WIND! I could hear Alison cheering for me and I powered across the finish line!
Approx 12:58 PM
I stopped my watch at 2:36:07, but my official race time was 2:37:57 (the difference likely that I stopped my watch to tie my shoe at mile 6!). My heart was still pumping, but I all-around felt great! To my surprise, my legs weren’t jello and I wasn’t actually sore–big shock to me given my state of affairs after my first half marathon! Alison came running over and gave me a great big hug–despite my being completely soaked from head to toe in sweat. I cannot tell you how much having someone there to support me meant to me, but I’m confident it had every little bit to do with coming so close to my goal time, despite a whole week of illness and a serious lack of sleep the night before the race! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Second half marathon in the books! And what a difference a year has made. After my first half, I could barely walk and hurt something awful for a solid week. I even ended up in physical therapy for a foot injury. After my second half, I only have a small amount of soreness in my thighs, but was out on a 2 mile recovery run just yesterday. I think this might be my “defining” moment as a runner: I AM A RUNNER. And though I might be cutting back on distance runs for a bit, to work on strength training to avoid a knee injury, I’ve already set my next goal: a full marathon. 2014 will be the year!
Thank you to all my friends and family for your support over the last 12 weeks as I trained for this race! Your words of encouragement carried me for those 13.1 miles. XOXO – K