The wind was howling all night long, so I was imagining the worst for today's half-marathon. The sound of the wind was actually what woke me up at 4:50, so I just got out of bed and got ready for the race pretty early. The race didn't start until 8:00, but it was only a few miles from my house, so I didn't even leave until 7:25. I loved being able to use my own bathroom before a race instead of a porta potty!
My goal for this race was to pace "That Loud Redhead", Stephanie, to her goal of under 2:10. That's a 9:55/mi pace, which normally I would find pretty easy, but I was feeling a little worried under the pressure. The farthest I've run since the Chicago Marathon was 10 miles, and that was a couple of weeks ago. Also, I've been struggling a lot lately during my runs, even at what should be an "easy" pace. Anyway, I was confident I could do it, I just didn't know if I would feel good while doing it ;)
When I got to the starting line, I was surprised how many people showed up! For a very small town, and the first year of this race, there was a great turnout. It was cold and windy, but not horribly so. I wore Cold Gear tights, a long-sleeved tech shirt, a fleece pullover, a sparkle skirt (so it would be easy to spot me), ear warmer headband, and gloves. I was cold before the race, but I knew I dressed well for the weather.
While I was looking for Stephanie, someone came up to me and introduced herself as Elisa. She's a blog reader, and had e-mailed to let me know she'd be there. I chatted with her for a few minutes (she ran the Detroit Marathon as well, AND the Indy Marathon last weekend... and let's not forget a 5K AND a 10K yesterday!). I wish I'd thought to take a picture; I always forget about it until I'm writing my blog posts.
I found Stephanie, and walked with her toward the starting line. I also saw Renee, Jessica, and Andrea, who were running the half as well. I spotted Emma, a friend of mine who was running her FIRST half this morning. And finally, I saw Dean, from my Ragnar SoCal team, who I just met in person a couple of weeks ago. It was fun seeing so many familiar faces!
When the race started, we were on a fairly narrow path in the park. It was kind of crowded for a quarter mile or so, and at first, I felt like we were going way too slow; but the Garmin showed a pace in the 9:40's, which is actually faster than planned.
Let me preface this by saying I'm a terrible pacer! I *should* have run 9:50-9:55/mi, no matter what Stephanie was doing or how she was feeling. But she seemed to be doing so well that I just kind of let her set the pace for the first half of the race, and it ended up being in the 9:40's. I mentioned a couple of times we may want to slow down, but otherwise, I was basically just along for the ride.
After the first half, though, I could see that her pace had slowed a little, and I worried that the 9:40's were too fast in the beginning. Even though I could tell it wasn't "easy" for her, she was doing just fine in the low-9:50's. Jerry and the kids were at miles four and eight to cheer us on. Jerry was as loud and "annoying" as ever, which Stephanie and I both appreciated ;)
My parents were volunteering for the race by pointing runners in
the right direction about a mile in. My mom made a bunch of signs that
she passed out to spectators, and we saw those along the course.
I could tell when Stephanie was really starting to struggle, because she stopped saying "thank you" to all the volunteers. She had made it a point to say "thank you" to every single volunteer along the course, and once we got to the last four miles or so, she stopped talking altogether. I know that feeling well! When I first start a race, I feel great and say "thank you" and yell to people I know; but once I hit that point of ohmygodwhenwillthisbeover, it's all I can do to RUN, let alone talk.
I was worried! I kept thinking about what I would do if she insisted that she had to slow down. Should I slow down with her? Keep running for a 2:10 finish, no matter what? Push her and insist she can do it?
Thankfully, that never happened! Stephanie is a total trooper, because she stuck to her pace, even when she was super tired, and she had a super strong will to get that sub-2:10. The last couple of miles, I was trying to think of something--anything--to say in order to get her to the finish line while keeping pace. She wasn't saying a word in response, so I knew she was giving it everything she had (again, I've been there, and I know that feeling!).
We took a final turn and saw the clock had just turned over 2:09, so she'd done it! We crossed the finish line in 2:09:04.
I actually got a little choked up afterward. I knew how much it meant to her to hit that goal, and I was so proud and excited that she did it!
We talked to our other friends about how they did (it seems everyone had a great race!). Then I was on the lookout for Emma. She was hoping to finish in 2:40, and Jerry said he thought she looked like she was struggling a little on the course. I knew she was running alone, so I decided to run backwards along the course (not "run backwards", but run the course in the wrong direction...), to find Emma and then run with her to the finisher's chute.
Did I mentioned I felt FANTASTIC throughout the entire race, and afterward? Yep, I was thinking I'd have to run about a mile or two back to find Emma, and then run the rest of the way with her, and my legs were totally telling me to go for it. So off I went, running in the wrong direction.
Emma was doing great, and she was way ahead of her pace! I only went back about half a mile before I caught up to her. I ran with her until the finisher's chute, and then I stepped off the course to wait, so I didn't actually "finish" twice. She ended up finishing in 2:35, a full 5 minutes ahead of what she thought she'd do!
Today's race boosted my spirit SO much. It was awesome to be able to run with Stephanie to help her reach her goal. Also, I am absolutely amazed at how great my body feels. I honestly felt like I could have run the whole course a second time. (I'm sure that's the last thing Stephanie wants to read! haha). My heart rate was pretty low through the whole race, and my legs never got tired. I guess maybe my body took more of a beating than I thought in Chicago, and even though I took eight days off of running afterward, I must have needed more time to get back to normal. Today, I felt normal--better than normal, even--and it's an awesome feeling!
I really loved this race, and I hope that Stacie (the race director) decides to do it again next year. The course was awesome, and very pretty this time of year. It went through downtown Monroe, as well as the State Park. It's super flat, which is what I'm used to. The only issue was that the course went over railroad tracks. That didn't affect Stephanie and me, but Emma said that she just missed a train.
When I picked up my packet yesterday, I ran into Stacie, and we made plans to get together for coffee after the race today. I hadn't seen her in forever, so it was fun to catch up. We just went to Tim Hortons and chatted for a while. I wanted to hear all about how the race went from her side, and I'm still just so stunned at the amount of work that goes into directing a race.
There were a couple of big issues during the race (one of them was the train, the other was that about 10 people from the 5K made a wrong turn because a volunteer pointed them in the wrong direction). Three of the people from the 5K were extremely angry, and yelled at her, but she took it very well. Stuff happens! Overall, though, she got very positive feedback about the race, and she plans to do it again next year. I definitely want to volunteer next year, and possibly even be part of the planning committee. Stacie put in SO much work, and it's all on a volunteer basis. All of the profits from the race went to the Special Olympics, and she was happy with the amount of money that was earned.
Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! If you have a fitness/health accomplishment you'd like to share this week, you can send a picture and a short description to my e-mail: slimkatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com, and I may include it in tomorrow's post!