Here goes more details than any person (other than me) could possibly want to read.
The race was a couple hours from tiny town, and since it was my first big race, and first half marathon, I really wanted to have Ben and the kids along with me. So Ben found someone to fill pulpit, we took the dog to the kennel, and we headed out of town on Saturday.
On the way there, all crammed into our mini van, we tried to explain that this weekend was "all.about.mom." It's a foreign concept. We talked about all their sports practices I drive them to, and wait at, and pick them up from. All the games, events, and stuff that is all about them. So for two days, this was about mom and her race. Their blank stares should probably have given us fair warning, but let's just say that Ben and I spent most of Saturday wondering why on earth we thought it was a good idea to haul along our four kids to this thing. Seriously.
When we got into the city we filed through two different restaurants that were either too busy or too weird for us to eat at. By the third one we were starving and crabby...but it turns out Outback Steakhouse can make everything better. I tried to eat light, so that nothing would bother my stomach for the next day. The kids were anxious to get to the hotel, because truthfully the trip was all about the pool for them. So we did one of the things we do best: Have the same conversation 5 million times.
"When are we going to the hotel?"
"This weekend is about Mom, not the hotel."
"When are we going to the hotel?"
"We still have to go to the expo."
"What's an expo?"
*insert explaining an expo 500 times*
"What's an expo?"
I'm not even kidding.
After Outback we headed to Starbucks for a does of sanity and then back to the downtown area to the expo where there would be different vendors and where I needed to pick up my packet of information.
The expo was really fun. For me. I bought a new bondi band (I love those things) and a bigger/stretchier fanny pack (for fuel and phone.) The director of the race was giving a presentation, and so we all sat and listened to him talk about the course and they also had time for questions. I love that sort of thing. And the kids endured well. I think the expo helped the kids start to see that this race thing, really was sort of a big deal.
I remember the girl at the bondi band station asking me what I was running and how I felt. I remember telling her it was my first half and "I'm ready!" and she smiled and said, "That's a good sign, you'll do great!" It was reassuring.
We headed to our hotel, which is one we love, and then headed to the pool where I mostly just sat in the hot tub. Don't worry, I made sure not to get any water in my mouth because *nasty* and I could NOT have anything messing with my intestines. For real.
For my last long run a couple weeks prior, I had ate pizza for supper the night before, and the run went well. So pizza was the plan. We found the name of a cute little pizza place in the hotel menu thing, and then proceeded to get kind of lost finding it. In the mean time, Lucy took a good 30 minute nap in the van...it was a much needed break, but we paid for it later when she didn't want to go to bed. The pizza ended up being amazing. The kids behavior: Not so much.
As we tried to tuck everyone into bed that night, two kids on the floor, the other two in a full size bed complaining about touching one another, I just thought to myself...tomorrow will be worth it. I hope.
The race start time was 8 AM. My alarm went off at 5:50, but I was already awake. We got dressed and shuffled everyone along, snagging some breakfast-to-go from the hotel lobby. I nibbled on a pumpkin bagel from Panera, and a little coffee. I had stayed very hydrated the days before, and I didn't want to over-hydrate in the morning because it was only in the thirty's for temperature and I was trying to avoid porta potty's. *nasty*
My brother has an apartment down in the area of the race. My parents had stayed over-night with him, so the plan was to drop the kids off with them while Ben went with me to get settled in before the start of the race. I'm so thankful he was there. We kept laughing about how neither of us really had a clue what we were doing, where we should park, or where we were going. There was an open YMCA located just beside of the start line, and many of the runners were hanging out in there to stay warm. We found a corner, and sort of people watched. I decided that maybe I needed to use the bathroom (if I could find it.) The line was forever long, so I told Ben I would be fine on my own and he could head back to get the kids and my parents and brother. I also handed off my phone, which meant I was officially on my own.
I kept watching the clock. It was about 20 minutes to race time, and I was still pretty far back in line. I listened in to other people's conversations...it was a little weird being by myself...but good at the same time. As I got into the locker room, I found out there were two flushing toilets and one non-flushing. The hard-core people were going to the short line with the non-flusher. There was not a chance I was doing that. I am not hard core. I ended up getting to the start line with a good 7 minutes to spare. I had overcome the first hurdle.
There are pace markers that you can line up with, and my plan was to run the first several miles well below my goal time. Starting slow is key for me. It's how I trained. Negative splits. I lined up with the 10:30 per mile pace and waited. The race had over 10,000 athletes, and it was a sea of brightly colored people everywhere. There was a nervous excitement in the air. They played the national anthem and I got a little choked up. All the training, all the lonely runs, mile after mile were all for these coming moments.
We all started inching forward, kind of starting and stopping again until getting to the start line. I was in the middle of the road, and kept checking my pace on my watch. It felt like I was running slow, because people on both sides were passing me by, but my watch said 9:00 and that was way too fast. I kept slowing and slowing and s-l-o-w-i-n-g. In my head I was silently telling all of them "I'll pass you later." That adrenaline is powerful. But running is as much or more about your brain than your body. I needed to stick to my plan.
The first few miles were all down-town and it went quickly. Lot's of people had signs and were cheering. I had my headphones on but it was still awesome to watch them. At mile 2.5 a man held a sign that said "Smile if you've peed yourself." It made me smile, because if you've peed yourself at mile 2.5 then it's gonna be a long race.
I knew my family would be waiting around mile 4 somewhere. And as we got closer to mile 4 the Elite half-marathoners were starting to come back from the loop and we got to see them, and others runners cheered them on. It choked me up again. I love runners.
|Lucy and her cow bell|
|Waiting. My brother wants me to wear a cape next time so I'm easier to spot. My mom is the one taking pictures with her ipad. Thanks Mom :)|
I saw my family and their signs, and it was awesome. I knew I would see them again in the same spot around mile 8. I ran conservatively until about mile 6 and I knew I was feeling really good (from going out slow) so I started picking up the pace slightly. I drank a few sips of water at about every station, just because. It helped, and I ended up using less fuel (honey stingers) than I had in practice, simply because I had more access to fluids, I think. There were bands and people playing guitars throughout the race. I tried to pause my ipod to take a quick listen every now and then.
5 miles left to go, and I knew I wouldn't see my family again until the finish. I felt great, and continued to increase my pace. Weaving in and around people was a good distraction. Passing people felt pretty good too. At mile 10ish, my family surprised me by being in the crowd and once again, tears. Seeing their faces and signs was such an encouragement.
The last couple of miles seemed long to my brain. My body felt good, and I didn't check my current pace, but I knew my average pace was getting faster. I only train with my average pace and not current pace and I didn't want to mess with my head by doing anything differently. It wasn't until I got home to hook my watch to the computer that I would be able to see my splits. As the finished line approached, I kept thinking "Just keep running, just keep running..."
I finished strong. I felt great. I found my family and chatted about the race. They knew from my smiles when I saw them during the race that I must have felt pretty good. After we took some pictures and I got in line for the free food. I was able to shower and get ready at my brother's and then we headed to the mall. Because shopping. We also ate at Champps. Obviously.
I learned some important things that I can only learn from experience racing. Things I want to remember for the next one. One, is that I could have kicked it in gear a little faster a little earlier. My first few miles were in the 10:40 range, they progressively got faster with my 13th mile being a 9:17 pace. I'm already setting goals for the next one, but I seriously could not have asked for a better first race!
I told my friend and running mentor, Heather, that the week after the race sort of felt like "the day after Christmas." All that planning and then *poof* over. But the running continues. I could barely move the day after the race, I was so sore. After a couple days I was fine, and Thursday morning I hit the road again. The cold, dark, lonely road, and couldn't help but feel like a warrior still. For months, the race was the motivating factor for getting out there. But Thursday morning, that was just for running. And this morning, when I did 5, and it felt great, and kinda like a warm-up...well that felt pretty great too.
And it turns out, it was totally worth hauling the kids along. A mom of boys will tell you, that boys seem to automatically look-up to and respect their daddy. And while I know they love me dearly, I never quite posses that hero-status that Dad does. But I think I surprised them this race. I think they realized their mom is a whole lot stronger and tougher than they might have given her credit for...and managing to impress my boys hearts like that is pretty sweet. The medal helps too.
Towards the end of the race, someone had a sign that read, "The person that starts the race, is not the same person that finishes the race." And I love that. So very true.