I will start with the fact that I went in to this race with it being a “C” race – no real taper for it, no focused prep for it. My goal was to go and have fun with friends. It was also meant to be a full marathon, but upon the advice of many (since, unlike my ultra and pure running friends, I am not running nearly as many miles per week as they are and they can handle it with ease or relative ease) I downgraded to the half since I ran a full marathon two weeks before with an eye on the bigger picture for me which is focusing on my triathlons. Everyone is at a different place in training, with a different focus and that leads to different limits at specific times. If I had been running more it would have been a different story.
So – no real taper, no real focus. I rode 55 miles the day before at a leisurely pace. It was still kind of hilly and I did still go for a ride. I recall that last year I rode the Silver Comet before the Georgia Half, and boy did I feel the ride the last 5 miles last year. During the ride I had decided that I was going to try and shoot for a sub 2 – hour half – not a PR – just sub 2 hour. Still aggressive (in my mind) for the reasons listed above.
I didn’t feel nervous the night before. I ate well, prepared my race day stuff and went to bed. I had a nutrition plan in place. I woke up and ate my breakfast. I was wondering why I was doing this. I could go do a training run with no expectations – just relax and run as I feel. I started to feel kind of sour, but, was looking forward to seeing friends. I was still feeling a little disappointed at swapping down and running a race with zero expectations.
I saw friends – so many friends. All of a sudden I felt the simple happiness of hugs, jokes , greetings and catching up (briefly) with friends I haven’t seen in too long. I heard expectations (or lack thereof). Part of me was envious of those with high expectations of themselves. Part of me was envious of friends with no expectations and who were ready to just walk it. Part of me wanted to hang back with people just having fun and forget the pressure. And part of me felt a knowledge and expectation that I wouldn’t hang back. I felt that last one from others, but I have a nasty habit of placing emotions on others that are reflecting my own fears/expectations which was true here. And then I handled my fear with the grace of a four year old – declaring that I am not as fast as people were telling me. I became annoyed with missing the 4 hour goal at Napa – and not doing better.
We started heading to the start corrals. I walked with Kathryn and Joanna. I said I wasn’t sure how I was going to run: test the waters and see what I had or just take it easy. Joanna made the simple remark of “Why don’t you just run as you feel?” I responded somehow….can’t really remember. I hope good naturedly, or at least with a nervous, pensive smile.
After we stopped moving for the singing of the National Anthem I lost Kathryn and Joanna and I was on my own way to my corral. The walk was agonizingly slow in the sidewalks so I jumped through the fences up in to Corral C and made my way easily to Corral D. I had no doubt I would have made it staying on the sidewalk, but I was not in the mood for a walking traffic jam!
I looked around and saw no friendly faces – first time since starting with Team that I haven’t started this race with a group of friends. I felt a little lonely and kept looking around. I thought how each half marathon PR I had I had run with Kimberly. Maybe this was a blessing – no one around – I could hide and do what I wanted. Hmmmm….Hiding isn’t good, but doing what I want? That sounded good.
Someone commented that another person was an IronMan finisher (the person indicated was wearing an IM Coeur d’Alene shirt) so I turned around and started chatting with the people who made the comment – first to find out why that was of interest to them (he was playing around with the idea, but the commitment worried him and he was going for his first 70.3), and then to share a little of my experience (IronTeam and best year of my life). Yes – I did mention IronTeam in 2013 to the gentleman. I felt a little better – calmer: Memories of last year I guess.
We started moving forward, and then stopped. Eventually the slow jog/walk started as we neared the start line. And then a little freedom to start hitting my stride. I hit my Garmin as soon as I was at the start line. My legs felt tired, but not heavy. Perfect reason to not meet my time goal. Nope. Time to see what I can do! I guess I made my decision on how to run.
– I decided I had something to prove to myself after missing a sub 4 hour marathon at Napa.
– I decided to see what I could do – test the boundaries for a 10k run on tired legs. Test the boundaries for a 70.3 on tired legs.
– I thought about excuses to not do well, and focused on how it would feel to succeed for all the same reasons. I had the mental forte to see it through.
I ran at a comfortable pace for my body – one that I felt I could hold for at least 10k easy. I already know what that pace is from my training, but I didn’t think about it. I looked at the time on each mile marker but made no calculations except to know I was doing OK. Each water stop I hit I walked and took in a sip or two of Gatorade and another sip or two of water. And then I started up again.
At the 10k point I thought “OK – point proved. You can slow down any time.” But I knew I had it in me. Time to see it through. “Whatcha got left?” Run until your body says “No more!”
Along the way I saw many faces – Kristin (Ricky Bobby’s girlfriend), Sasha, Alison. I smiled and waved at each person I knew. As I came up to the Team in Training water stop I saw Javi and gave him a BIG wave and smile…glad to see friends. I grabbed water (or Gatorade?) from Brian.
At mile 10 I saw Monika. We had been teammates in the past. I know her, but we have never really spoken. I said Hi to her. We started chatting – she is training for IM Canada right now with Susan. Seeing Monika gave me the encouragement to keep pushing once I realized that I pretty much had my goal (sub 2 hours) in hand. In short – it was icing on the cake to a good run. She would get ahead, I would catch up. We chatted. For the last 5k we did this – a distance that many of my friends take as a warm up!
At almost mile 11 I saw Laura, Bonnie and Bruce and gave a big wave and smile to them as well – feeling pretty good at getting to see so many friends, and still feeling good.
At the Georgia Tech water stop I saw my friend Pepe volunteering there and called out to her and reveled in her smile and greeting as she raked up cups left behind by runners.
And then for the last 1.1 miles something happened – I sped up. And so did Monika. We ran the last mile thirty seconds faster. We were kicking it in to the finish!
We crossed the finish line and my Garmin read 1:53:35 – which is my official finishing time as well! Not only a sub 2 hour run, but a PR by 4 minutes! And for all those reasons – why I could have taken it easy – I felt very proud and excited. If I did this for all those reasons I thought of before, and on a hilly course, then surely a 1:45 half is in me, and not far off. And a sub 2 hour in a 70.3 tri is within reach. And I confirmed what I believed too late but know – a sub 4 hour marathon is within my reach.
Monika and I wandered and saw people we knew and broke off. I saw Kimberly and told her about my anxiety at not starting with her and success after all, and saw Jen who got her PR as well. I saw Kruger, Kevin, John and so many more. A group of us got together for a post-race picture. Dave found me and we wandered off to our designated meeting spot to meet Ann and Alyse. Carlos – our chauffer for post race and my uber-supportive husband – joined us there too.
I finished the run as I had started – amongst smiling friends sharing laughter, stories, and hugs and added congratulations. I felt pretty content.