The short version: I had a pretty amazing race. Ready for the long version?
(Apologies in advance for this picture heavy post. I wouldn’t be so inclined to spam y’all if I didn’t have such awesome race photographers.
All photos with a We Run Huntsville watermark were taken by Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville, photos without a watermark were taken by my little sister, Roo)
We started the day off as per usual for a Saturday– early to rise, breakfast of cheerios and a banana, and precautionary stretching and foam rolling. I was anxious. As soon as I stepped out of the bed I could tell my hip felt off. I couldn’t pin point a particular issue, it just felt… off. We made it to the race venue an hour before it was scheduled to start. We said hello to some running friends, debated on our clothing choices (gloves? no gloves? hat? is it warm enough to lose this pull over?), and discussed our goals. If any of you have been reading for a while, you might remember that this was my first half marathon last year– and I kind of bombed it. Remembering that, and with the fear of my hip feeling not quite right, my goal was just to finish with a smile on my face.
Soon enough it was time to line up at the start. I stood beside mom and one of our running friends from our marathon training group, Andrea. We all chatted briefly about time goals and decided to stick together as much as possible, since we would probably end up running at similar paces. After the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and a few words of gratitude for our veterans– we were off!
Miles 1 through 3 took us through a small loop through a neighborhood next to the church that the race begins at. As we ran through the streets I was struck by the fact that there were almost NO spectators or people cheering. The only people I saw cheering were these two ladies that ended up being in several places along the course, with different signs every time. They were great, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the lack of crowd support. I was feeling good, however, and just enjoyed the company of my mom, Andrea, and some other running friends that were around me. As the first few miles went by, I kept looking down at my watch and thinking, “I need to slow down!” but never could seem to break my speed, and continued to hold steady at ~10:40 minutes per mile.
A little past mile 3, we finished the neighborhood loop and headed back towards the church. I am lucky enough to be friends with the awesome guy who takes a lot of the race photos in my area. I believe my weird face in this one is because I was saying a hearty hello to him and his wife, who were sitting in the grass, ha. The upcoming section was probably the hardest part of the whole race course wise, a couple of rolling hills that just get bigger and bigger. I slowed a little on the climbs, but overall they didn’t bother me. I passed a lot of people who stopped to walk, and made a mental note to thank our speed work marathon coach for making us run hill repeats.
At mile 4 I saw our family for the first time. Roo, Alvin, and Scott’s mom, Becky, were lined up on the street yelling our names. This was the first race of ours that Scott’s mom had come to and I was so excited to see her. I handed off my pull over and gloves, did some goofy waving, and continued on my way. At this point mom and Andrea were steadily behind me by a few paces, but never so much that I couldn’t look over my shoulder and find them. I opened my pack of Honey Stinger chews and slowly ate half of the pack. Scott was obviously way ahead of me at this point, still going strong.
Miles 4 through 6 were mostly uneventful. We snaked through another neighborhood, and down a long, flat, BORING straightaway road that is INFAMOUS for being a miserable wind-tunnel. It’s not so bad on the half marathon course, because it’s only about 2 miles, but on the marathon course you continue on it for 5-6 miles… can’t wait for that.
At the beginning of mile 6, we turned onto a green way for an out and back. It was at this point last year that I lost my stride. Looking back I think it was a combination of bad fueling and mental weakness. This year I definitely brought more mental toughness to the table, as well as a better understanding of how to fuel, and just in general more experience as a runner. My hip and back felt miraculously fine– not even a twinge. I passed by my cheering family coming at mile 7 and going at mile 9, and I started to feel blissfully happy. I still had half of my chews to go, but decided to have a gel instead; I stopped to fill up my water bottle at an aid station, and continued to run strong.
Because we were on an out and back, the faster runners were passing by on my left. I enjoyed cheering for and being cheered on by my friends. I almost missed seeing Scott pass me, because I was IN THE ZONE, but luckily I noticed him just in time to give a loud “WHOOP!” and call his name. Before I knew it, I was done with the green way, back on the road, and beginning mile 10. “Huh…” I thought, “I could have done that in my sleep!” Yep– it’s for sure now, my mental muscle has definitely gotten tougher in the last year.
Miles 10 through 13 were through the same neighborhood that miles 3 through 5 were in, and over the same hills. I glanced down at my watch and it suddenly occurred to me that I was on perfect pace to finish at my goal time that I missed HARD CORE last year. My legs were tired, but I attempted to pick up the pace and finish strong. I was passing a lot of people that were walking, and it was at this point that I pulled farther ahead of Andrea and mom and couldn’t see them when I looked back anymore. At the beginning of mile 11, I was suddenly hit with a horrible side cramp. I slowed to a walk, tried my best to shake it off, and began running again about 30 seconds later. I was so close to the goal! No way was I going to let a side cramp and tired legs stop me!
Ahead of me, Scott was struggling to the finish. He felt awful in the last few miles, and really had to push through the end. You can definitely tell he was tired, but look at those leg muscles! Ha 🙂
At the top of mile 12, I was clearly tired too– look at that ugly knee dip! My form was suffering, but as you can see from the smile on my face, my mental state was at an all time high. I ran strong through the last mile. When I came around the corner for the final .1, I was elated to see that Scott’s dad, John, had shown up as well. He was standing on the sidelines with Scott, who had finished ahead of me, and they were both cheering loudly.
I ran through the finish line, and straight into the arms of David, one of our marathon coaches that has been really supportive to mom and I in particular. “Did you PR?” He asked, holding me tightly and patting my back. “Yes! And I DIDN’T HURT. MY HIP WAS FINE.” I replied, my eyes welling up with tears. He laughed happily, gave me a final squeeze, and released me to receive my medal, finishers shirt, and cap. I turned around and saw Scott walking towards me, and I burst into happy tears. I honestly can’t describe how happy I was to you guys– the feeling of finishing a challenging race with absolutely no pain, when I have been dealing with this issue for almost a year now… I was just so full of joy and gratitude. Top that with the fact that I beat last year’s time by 11 minutes, and I was downright blissful. Scott hugged me, wiped my tears away, and told me how happy and proud he was, and we made our way back to the sidelines with his parents to cheer in Andrea and mom.
My final time was 2:22:50 (almost a full minute ahead gun time, thank goodness for timing chips!). Beating my previous PR of 2:27:51 (that I earned only two weeks ago!) by 5 minutes. YEAH! 😀
Scott, who had a very tough race and did not feel well at all, finished with a final time of 2:02:30. He wasn’t happy with his time, but I’m still proud of him as ever.
Needless to say, I’m happy. I’m proud of myself. Thanks to God and Becky the physical therapist– I finally raced without pain. 🙂