Mid-July through mid-August was a pretty tough month for me, training-wise. A chronically sore Achilles tendon had me wondering if I’d actually make it to the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon. It was hard, really hard (but really had no choice in the matter at all!) to come to terms with my training just not going the way I’d hoped. I cut back miles. I iced and took my regular dose of Vitamin I. I followed the directions my Physical Therapist gave me to the letter…all in the hopes that I could make it through training and Twin Cities Marathon. After my highest-yet mileage week last week (Week 10) and a ridiculously fun half marathon (plus some bonus miles) this past weekend (Week 11), all I’ve got to say is: “I’m BA-ACK, BABY!!”
I didn’t feel well prepared for this half marathon. Endurance-wise, I was fine. I’m a little ashamed of myself how flippant I’ve become about the half marathon distance (marathon training really skews your perspective on a lot of things!). I didn’t think through pre-race nutrition, sleep, plan for the race…I wasn’t even sure where the starting line was until Saturday morning when we got in the car to drive there! I was certainly not poised to have a good race – I hadn’t eaten well (the day before the race I had Fruity Pebbles for breakfast with my 4 yr old, and popcorn – yes, with butter – and a blue raspberry Icee on my movie date with my 8 yr old). I hadn’t hydrated well (combine that with my last-ditch effort to carb up by consuming two beers before I went to bed!). I didn’t sleep well (two sick kids…including my oldest who ended up sleeping in my bed the night before the race…which meant I was on the couch downstairs). I couldn’t find my lucky running socks (imagine that, with 6 baskets of unfolded laundry sitting around). Far from ideal. Saturday morning I went into the race with my fingers crossed and my hopes up to just do the best I could. I did get a decent breakfast, coffee, and it appeared that my stomach was going to cooperate with me, so I was cautiously optimistic that it would all turn out all right. We had a LOT of Moms on the Run representatives, and it was the first half marathon for many of them. I knew I had to get in at least 15 miles, so I was hoping to finish ahead of some of our runners so that I could run back and then run towards the finish line with them. I certainly wasn’t shooting for a PR.
The weather was OK. Not too hot (yet), but definitely humid. And…the heat came once the sun came out, but fortunately there was quite a bit of shade along the course. A bunch of MOTR runners started together somewhere near the 10:00 pace flag – not far from the 2:10 pacers. I ran about the first half of the race with Steph (I think this was the first half we’d actually done together!) and Sarah (it was her FIRST half!). Our plan was to catch up with and pass the 2:10, the 2:05, and then the 2:00 pacers – and stay ahead of them. After we passed the 2:00 pacers – I told Sarah that we should catch the 1:55 pacers next, but she wasn’t so sure about that. 😉 After about mile 6, I knew I was feeling good and I was locked in at a pretty comfy pace between 8:30-8:40. Steph and Sarah didn’t want to go that fast, and I felt a little guilty for leaving them behind, but I was in a groove that I couldn’t back out of. I saw Shaun at mile 8 – she’s a BRF beyond compare and I sure wish I had been running WITH her, but she makes a ridiculously awesome spectator – cheering like a fool (it’s not everyone who can sustain injuries to their fingers by incessantly ringing a cowbell as runners go by!)! She captured what is my favorite race picture to date (and I learned that move from her, by the way), but it really captured how I was feeling at that point: FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!!
I made some new friends between mile 8 and the finish, including a biology grad student in her first year at the U of M. I was passing people left and right at this point, giving them some shouts of encouragement on my way by. I’m not really known for any sort of “finish strong” capability; I’m more of a “plod along” kind of girl in the final miles of a half marathon. However, when I got to mile 12 and I knew I still had some gas in the tank (and this is after completely missing the Gu stop at mile 8, so I hadn’t fueled at all during the race!)…I tried something I usually can’t do…I kicked it in to finish it strong. My mile splits had gotten progressively faster since mile 7 (with the exception of the water stop I walked through so I could drink, rather than wear, the water and Powerade). But I’m still giddy about my pace from mile 12 to the finish line – sub 8! All right, it was 7:59, but that’s still sub 8!! I had been chasing and trying the catch the 1:55 pacers for the majority of the race – but I never saw them. When I stopped my watch on the finish line timing mats, it said 13.16mi and a time of 1:53:35, but I was already preparing myself for a time greater than 1:55 (thinking that my watch isn’t always completely reliable and I hadn’t seen the 1:55 pacers). However, I’ll take my official finish time of 1:53:31. It’s not a PR (but I think I could have pushed to beat my PR if I’d thought about it and tried…would have helped to eat and sleep better too, probably), but I love the stats page for this race. It gives the overall place (I was in top 12%) and age group place (top 13%), as well as the age-graded pace (one of the few benefits of getting older!). But the best part is the graphic that shows how many people I passed (that would be 929 – pays to start farther back and work my way forward!), and how many people passed me (that would be 6 – one of them was that grad student who was finishing like Wonder Woman!).
Once I finished, I got some water and waited to see Steph and Sarah cross – I hopped the fence and ran them in across the finish line…then turned around and ran back until I found the next person in a nice purple and green MOTR shirt who I could run with towards the finish line. I did this several times…for people I knew (fantastic finishes for Katie, Janet, Kendra, Shelly, Stacee, Stacey, and Stacy!), and a few people I didn’t know (I think they were from the Maple Grove MOTR group – but they were in purple and green shirts too!). I’m kind of surprised I didn’t get in trouble for running back and running towards the finish line several times (2.7 miles worth!) – but I’m glad I didn’t! It was so much fun to celebrate those last few tenths of a mile with our runners – but it did get progressively harder to kick it in and “finish strong” several times after I’d already run 13, 14, then 15 miles! BUT – I was having fun the entire time, and I love cheering our runners on almost as much as I loved running across the finish line myself!
It was a GREAT race, and a FUN morning! So many people crushed goals, whether it was running their first 10K or half marathon…or meeting or beating time goals and setting PRs. I was hoping for the best, but not actually prepared to get it!!