The week before the race was not a good week for me. My running went severely downhill, and I could barely run a mile without stopping to walk. I was burnt out, tired, and zapped of all my self-confidence. I felt more like I was being led to my death than a race. I actually found myself wondering if I had really experienced any growth at all over the last few months, because I felt as if I was right back to the scared, self loathing person that I was in April.
On Saturday morning my sister-in-law came up from Florida to babysit the kids for the weekend, and Jeremy, our friend John, and I took off for Augusta. We got an earlier start than we had planned, so we got to the race expo as soon as it started. It was teensy tiny at that point, and no vendors were even there yet, so I picked up my packet (Jeremy literally had to push me into the packet pick-up tent because I saw all of the "real" runners coming out and was so intimidated I was frozen in place), and we decided to drive the race route. Well, before we got back in the car, Jeremy and John insisted on taking a picture with the James Brown statue in downtown Augusta.
Anyway, so after they paid their respects to the Godfather of Soul, we drove the race route twice. It didn't look too bad, and the hill that I had been fearing was long, but not awfully steep. I knew I had run on worse. It was while driving on the route that I finally started to feel better and I knew that I had this. After we finished with that, we checked into the hotel and then they dropped me off at my high school best friend's house while they went off to do whatever it is they do. ( I actually lived in Augusta from when I was 11 until I was 17) So I got to hang out with Erin for a long time, and she took me out for my pre-race dinner. I had bread (lots of bread), rice, and some grilled shrimp and veggies. Good stuff.
It was after 10 when she dropped me back off at our hotel. I didn't even try to go to bed early...I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. Instead, I got my race outfit together and pinned my number to my shirt, and made sure I had everything ready for in the morning. (This is totally unlike me...I am the most disorganized person you could ever hope to meet)
|My race number was 123! How cool is that? I took it as a good omen...|
After that I settled down to read John Bingham's The Courage to Start. Let me just say that I don't think that there is a better pre-race book for calming nerves and getting you excited to be alive. Anyway, long story short, we tried to sleep, but nobody succeeded with that. Everyone was wound up! This ended up being a good thing for two reasons: #1 I was up and ready to go early and didn't have to worry about rushing #2 While flipping through the channels at 4 am, we came upon The Joy of Painting on PBS!! Hello, show from my childhood!! Hello Mr. Happy Afro Guy and your happy little trees and streams and mountains! It was awesome...nuff said.
OK. We arrive at the race. Wow. I can't even describe the atmosphere. It was charged...there was just energy buzzing from everything. It was still dark outside and the air was perfect- cool and crisp. The man on the loudspeaker kept announcing how many more minutes until the race, runners were racing back and forth across the park doing their warm up runs, people kept shouting to each other, hugging each other, making PR predictions. It was a crazy feeling to be standing there among so many other people who had trained so hard to do the exact same thing that I was there to do, and I knew that it meant as much to all of them as it did to me. I guess that was my first real feeling of camaraderie with other runners. I just kept wandering around and soaking up everything. I almost burst into tears a lot before the race.
|Right before the race. Look to the guy on the left in jean shorts. He ran the entire race in that outfit, and came in at 1:50!! In DENIM. He is a bad ass.|
So its finally time to line up at the starting line. I get as far in the back as possible so I can let all the faster runners not have to deal with going around me. Then its time to sing the national anthem, and there I go again with the tears! But then I look over to my left and see a woman standing a few yards away holding a very large cat who is wearing a race number. That was an odd enough sight to stop my waterworks.
The gun goes off. I thought that I was in the back when I lined up, but I underestimated that, judging from all the runners who were flying past me. I almost got caught up in the excitement, but I knew that pacing myself from the beginning was going to be the most important factor of my success. So I just stuck with my easy 13 minute per mile pace and let them go. I felt strong, and that gave me confidence.
The first aid station was at mile 1, and from thereafter they would be at every other mile. The volunteers were awesome and enthusiastic and didn't laugh at me just because I was in the back of the pack. Who woulda thunk it?? I took my water and kept on running. By this time, runners who had rushed past me when the gun went off were stopping to take walk breaks. I passed them one by one, drawing immense satisfaction from the fact that I was still running.
After the mile 3 water station, I started climbing "The Hill". That's what all the locals were calling it..it was a 2 mile, gradual uphill climb. I took a few planned walk breaks during this time in order to conserve my energy. I managed to maintain 13 minute miles and had a great conversation with an old man and a young couple who were dressed like Batman and Robin. Towards the end of the hill, there were a bunch of locals cheering for us and assuring us that we were almost at the top.
Miles 5-8 were FUN. That was when it really occurred to me what a fantastic time I was having. During this time I was coming DOWN the hill, and I felt like I was flying. I didn't stop to walk at all except for at the mile 5 and mile 7 aid stations. Which was amazing, because my last few training runs were just crappy. I guess you really should trust your training, because mine certainly paid off. I passed several more runners and finally became confident that I wasn't going to come in last!
At Mile 9, we turned onto Calhoun Expressway for the last leg of the course. I made it there by 9 o'clock on the dot, and it was then that I knew I was going to make my 3 hour goal. It actually hadn't been worrying me very much--I was having a great time and decided that no matter what my time ended up being, I wasn't going to ruin this accomplishment for myself. No matter the clock said, I had already decided that I was a bad ass.
|Right after I cross the finish line|
It all ended up with a big party at Red Lobster, where I promptly ordered the largest cocktail on the menu and guzzled it down. FYI...alcohol dulls post race aches and pain. Try it!!
I don't think I could have had a better experience for my first half. But this is just the beginning. There are definitely more halfs and a full marathon on the horizon. I also have a bunch of weight to lose. But now, I know that I am capable of pushing my boundaries and doing something hard. So I kind of feel like the world is my oyster.
Thank you to EVERYONE for reading this blog and sticking with me, encouraging me, and lifting me up when I needed it. You will never know how much that meant to me. I hope that you guys will stick around for my next big adventure, whatever that may be.
Oh, and Happy Halloween!!