I'm not sure how exactly I should write this entry because there's a lot to tell. But I'll do my best! My first half marathon went a little something like this:
THE DAY BEFORE
My wonderful running buddies and I have been raising money for Kosair Children's Hospital in an effort to aid in the expansion and continued improvements to the facilities to help those precious patients. We were lucky enough to be able to schedule a tour of the hospital and learn a lot of information about the hospital and what they can provide for our community's children. The tour was a little bit sobering for me but interesting and very well worth our time. Perhaps my favorite part of the experience was the poster that a couple of the children made us to show their thanks for our fundraising efforts. It touched my heart to think that there were some little hands making something to help motivate US. Here's a picture of it and thanks to Tom for posting it on the site!
After the tour and a couple of stops, we headed for the runner's Expo and packet pick up at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center. It was actually a lot more fun at the Expo than I expected and there were a few vendors with cool stuff. We ran into another one of our running buddies there and hung out watching everything and thinking about the morning ahead. Then we got some lunch and Joe and Tom were lucky enough to get to go down to the Waterfront Chow Wagon while I had some errands to run that I had been putting off for too long. Luckily, I got everything done, they had fun (and some beer, apparently) and then we all met up for an early dinner at BD's Mongolian Grill. It was just an excellent day with good friends and a relaxed vibe--which we needed the day before the race!
I woke up at 4:30am, which was a little later than I intended to but I didn't actually get in bed early enough to feel good about waking up any earlier than that. I got up and did my pre-race routine and headed out the door to meet the team. Thanks again to Joe and his parents for a wonderful parking spot! After we were all organized and ready to roll, we took off on a trip down memory lane for Joe and headed for the start, which wasn't anymore than a mile or so away. It was a nice, cool and relaxing walk with friends. One of my favorite parts of the morning--everything was just sorta falling into place. Bathrooms were pretty easy to come by considering that there were an expected 12,000 participants, so that was another plus.
Before we knew it, we were done with a short warm-up and were lining up at the start. Everybody seemed pretty energized and ready to go. I started getting anxious--realizing MY FIRST HALF MARATHON WAS HERE--and there was no turning back. It was warm and that concerned me. I'm a happy runner in 50 degrees. As it gets beyond 60 degrees, I become less and less happy. LOL At the start, it was 71 degrees and I knew it wasn't going to top out there. We were expecting 80 degree temps before the course closed.
The start was smooth and quick--an unbelievable feat, I'm sure. Looking back, I'm a little stunned at how punctual and smooth the start actually was. I didn't have to elbow anyone and nobody elbowed me--it opened up just enough to get through. Joe took off pretty much immediately and Tom was a little ahead of me--I think he was taking it all in as much as I was. I wasn't as concerned with running at that moment. I had goose bumps and I was just enjoying those first few moments of excitement and anticipation, watching all of our wishes and hopes of the last few months unfold right in front of us. In no time, I saw my mom on the side, armed with her air horn! A great send off to be sure!!
This portion was crowded but not at all deadlocked like at most other races with far FEWER participants. Thumbs up to that! I felt strong and able and intended to keep my pace conservative early on. I even took water at the first water stop, which is something I rarely do. But I knew that it was going to be the hottest day of the year so far and I wanted to make sure that I hydrated early and often. Just before entering hilly Iroquois Park, I saw mom again. She sounded the air horn and someone a few feet in front of her turned around--I thought she was in trouble! LOL
This was pretty much the entire park's main loop, which is tree covered and shady. I didn't notice being too terribly hot through here, but the hills were bothering me more than they do on training runs. And whatever had happened to my leg the night before (something weird, I dunno what it was but I'm going to self-diagnose it as a hamstring tear until further notice) was starting to become less manageable and more noticeable. There were a lot of spectators all through the park and that truly helped me make it a little stronger through there. But I was noticing a decline in my stamina through there--to the point where I was constantly thinking "where's the next water stop" and "I need fuel!" At the ascent on the last, and most brutal hill of the park, I heard lots of cheers and applause ahead of me. I had stopped to walk (as SO MANY OTHERS HAD DONE) at the bottom of this hill but when I heard the cheeful noise ahead, I decided to give it my all and take off running. I noticed many other people did the same thing. But when I got a little further up the hill, I realized that the yells of motivation weren't for us wimpy walkers coming up the hill, they were for a lone wheelchair racer who was struggling terribly to get up the hill, literally inch by inch. I kept thinking about how he had a great downhill journey ahead of him if he could just make it to the top--and I kept pushing myself with the same thoughts.
The descent of that final hill was also us nearing the exit of the park and heading to mile 6. Near the exit, I saw Joey for the first time on the left. And then from the right, I heard my name--it was mom again! Number 3 for her! WAY TO GO! I did some weird little run/dance for them and didn't know which way to look for a picture, since they both had their cameras up! Here's a picture that Joey took. Mom's head is straight back in front of the tree!
My plan was to take in my PowerBar Gel at the next water stop after mile 6, which appeared after mile 7. By this time, I was hot, and tired and my right leg was starting to be in a lot of pain. I kept pushing through and trying to tell myself that it wasn't bothering me. I stopped to walk it off just after the water stop and I looked over across the field to my right. There was a woman about my age who had stopped running to walk with a bad limp. I saw her struggle to fight past the pain of whatever was bothering her but she couldn't. I decided to jog over to her and make sure that she was okay. I ended up walking with her for about a mile. We compared injuries, and just talked for a bit. At this point, because my leg was hurting and I knew I wasn't going to break any records with my times--I decided to just walk with her and support her, and she seemed appreciative that I stopped for her.
I was relieved when we entered Churchill Downs and I sped up the two main hills that were there. I stopped to walk a few times inside as well because a lot of the people were stopping and taking in the scenery and it was difficult to run around them. I offered to take pictures for people that were trying to get pics of the Twin Spires--so they could prove they were in there! I enjoyed seeing some of the horses in there training. Just a fun little detour!
At the exit of Churchill Downs, I decided I wanted to pick it up a little bit if I could and I saw Joey waiting for me! Such a joy to see familiar faces sporadically throughout the race, I don't know if anybody knows how much it means to me!
Here's a picture he got when I was rolling up 4th street, right at the corner of Winkler and the one that follows is one with me just beginning to give a thumbs down...LOL--
I questioned even writing about this horrid, piece of crap mile because it was the most SUCKY ASS MILE. I felt pure misery during this mile. When we first got to mile 10, I tried to be positive and tell myself how it was only a 5K left and I could speed it up and finish strong and fast and blah blah blah. Yeah frickin' right. It sucked. There was nothing good about mile 10. Wall, here I am, stand in front of me and don't let me pass.
The pain in my leg was unbearable. I had to stretch and walk more than I could run. HIDEOUS performance. I never want to feel that way again. I guess it was good that it was only THAT bad for that mile.
I was VERY MUCH AWARE that there were only 2.1 miles left once I got to the 11 mile marker. Mile 10 sucked so bad and it got me mentally and I was really trying to turn that around. So I vowed to run the best 2.1 miles of my life. I saw Joey again and he told me that his parents were waiting for me at the finish, watching from a parking garage and I was hoping I'd get to see them. I tried to push through the pain of my leg and the pain of the race in general but it was so difficult. I was running on fumes and just wanting to get through it by this point--wanting it to be over.
I did, however, bust out some dance moves and performed a little bit of the Soulja Boy. What? The dude was asking for it...
0.10 and the Finish
Pretty long damn 0.10 mile. LOL When I turned the corner at 7th and Market St., I looked ahead and saw FINISH! Oh. My. GAWD! THERE IT IS! It was an open path and I forgot everything else and just kept up my pace.
My finish picture--looking focused, right?
I was SO HAPPY! And then I got within 200-300 feet of the finish and I looked around at all the celebration, heard the people cheering and I went from thinking--
THANK GOD IT'S OVER
OH MY GOSH, I JUST DID IT!
Which was mixed with--
OH NO, IT'S OVER. IT'S ALL OVER...
I was so overcome with emotion. I started to tear up because everything I have been working for since September and even before had led me right to that moment. And it was nearing it's end. I felt like I should have done more because I was never going to get THIS back. I was sad. But I was proud.
So as I crossed the finish and stopped my Garmin, I was starting to tear up. But I learned something--it's very very difficult to give it a good cry when you've just run 13.1 miles and you're trying to catch your breath at the end of it. I was gasping for air and couldn't breathe. Stupid emotions. LOL I kept telling myself to calm down, don't cry and make sure I don't suffocate myself.
I got my medal, I loaded up on water, a bagel, Powerade, Sun Chips, granola bars, a banana...everything. I started eating while walking and looking for anybody familiar. The first person I saw was my fiance's father and I was SO happy to see him! Soon enough, we were all together again--mostly discussing what a horrible performance we all had and complaing about how our legs or our stomachs or our whatever's hurt us. LOL
After going to pick up a beer, we went back to the finish to try to catch Joe Malone but we didn't have any luck. The announcer called his name by mistake so we thought we had just missed him--turns out somehow they got it mixed up. During our wait though, I saw some very touching finishes by some racers with BIG heart and major guts. I teared up watching some of these people finish, thinking about how wonderful it was that they had the strength to push through--I knew how hard it must have been for them.
And I watched the marathoners roll in--and I was astonished. I wondered how on earth they could do what I had just done, but doubled. And in my amazement and pride at THEIR accomplishments, I revelled in my own. There was a time not too long ago that I would never have believed that I would have been capable of completing a half marathon. But I had done just that. And I realized that if I ever choose to do a marathon, I'll be able to do that too. It's not impossible. I've learned a thing or two about discipline and hard work and having a support system and if I ever decide to do the 26.2, I WILL BE ABLE TO. And that amazed me!
Oh and for you nosy people, my HOT AS HELL HALF MARATHON TIME was 2:37:21, more than 13 minutes more than my goal time. But for some reason, I'm not upset about it. This is the first race that I've done that I did worse than I anticipated. So it was time for it to happen that way--and this wasn't just ANY race. And I had a blast--more fun than I've ever had at a race. And that makes me happy.
Something to improve upon, isn't it?
Here are a few more pics from immediately after the finish:
Me and Tom:
Jenny, Vincent, Me and Joey:
Me and Joey:
Me and Mom:
Picked up my car, stopped at DQ for a grilled chicken sandwich which was the best *BLEEPING* sandwich I have ever had in my life, ate it in the car. Went home and took an ice bath, showered, stretched, rolled, ate again. Fell asleep for an hour. Got up, stretched, rolled, and did nothing but sit around and watch Lost and eat. Talk about recovery.
THINGS I NOTICED ABOUT THIS RACE
I didn't even LOOK at the clocks at the majority of the splits. I maybe checked 3 during the whole race. I honestly didn't care. That was the first race that I wasn't really really concerned with my time.
It was really well organized and the spectators were FANTASTIC and super-motivating.
There was plenty of water and Powerade for everyone and most of the volunteers were 100% prepared. Most.
The participants were overwhelmingly friendly, excited and in good spirits. People passing a football, wearing costumes, dancing, and all sorts of other fun things were going on and it really made it a fun experience.
The medals are VERY attractive and I'm really happy about that--I was worried my first medal would be corny or something. But not this. It's dope.
The finish was spectacular--there was a plethora of food and drink and partying to participate in. It was PERFECT.
Thanks for staying with me through this long entry, if you could. And stay tuned for my next entry--I need to say a couple more things.