Are you dreading reading about another race? Feel free to skip if so!
Although this was technically my second half-marathon race, since my first one was - per my watch - about 1/2 mile short, this certified course felt like my "real" first one! It was the 1812 Challenge. Several battles in the war of 1812 were fought locally [incidentally, we know that our stone house was used to bake bread for the soldiers during this war], and this race ended on the battlefield in historic Sackets Harbor.
Unlike most races that begin and end in the same place, this race started in Watertown and ended in Sackets, so Marc had agreed to drive me in and drop me off for the race and then meet me at the end. He packed his bike in the Edge so he could ride around the area while I was running. So here we were, both up at 5:30 AM.
The night before I had posted on Fitocracy about my preparations, and someone had replied to "have fun!". You would think that this would be a "No DUH!" type of thing, but I get so caught up in competitiveness and self doubt that I sometimes forget that it SHOULD be about having fun! That echoed in my head and maybe for the first time I was excited and pumped about a race rather then thinking of it as a chore.
The race organizers were brilliant. They had arranged for everyone to pick up their timing chips and race swag the day before the race. So all we had to do was get there, line up and RUN. No laborious race day confusion and registration!! So we arrived just after 6:30 AM.
As we walked around Marc and I noted two things - first, that although runners come in all shapes and sizes, overall this was a large group of very fit and healthy looking people! It is unfortunately unusual to see a crowd this fit! Secondly, I noted all the knee straps, knee braces, kt tape, compression socks and various other ailment relievers that told me that I was not the only one dealing with an injury!
Speaking of this, my Achilles was achy but not too bad this morning. I felt confident that while I might have some pain, it was not going to play much of a role in today's race.
I felt prepared and excited heading into today's race!
My headband says "13.1 - Only half crazy!"
Race announcements started, we lined up and were ready to go! There were 323 racers in the half and 318 ran the 18.12. I still am in total denial about my speed compared to other runners and lined up about halfway back. I would soon find out that this was way too far back! The countdown began and BANG, we were off. Or...not. There were so many people and it was so crowded that we all were walking when we hit the start line!
This shows the crowded start line!
My first mile was painfully slow as I ran in the large crowd. I was frustrated in trying to weave my way around others. Mile 2 wasn't quite as bad, but was still crowded and people were jockeying for positions. At mile 2 we encountered the first water station and a guy in front of me made a beeline for the woods. Been there done that! I felt sorry for him. Luckily - or thanks to Immodium - I had no issues with that today!!
Soon we were on mile 3 and I ended up running almost side my side with a young blond guy who ran with his head cocked to the side. I ran with him from about then to about mile 9! His head was cocked that way the entire time - like a dog when they hear a loud pitched noise - I can't imagine how painful that would be!
I was really hitting my groove - this was a beautiful course - well marked and the roads were all blocked up so the racers could spread out over the whole road. The day was sunny and about 70 degrees with little wind - a runner's dream. By then I had a little more space to move and run my own stride. At mile 4.5, the 18.12 racers had to take a detour to get in their miles, so the field cleared even more.
From mile 4 on, each mile had a water station. They had challenged groups to sponsor and volunteer at each station, and to compete with the other stations for who could cheer on and entertain the racers the most. This was awesome! Because each mile you knew you would not only get a chance to drink if you wanted but it definitely broke up the run as I looked forward to seeing what each station would do!
Mile 5 was a cruise uphill and a little difficult. At mile 6, the course came together again and I was surprised to see an extremely tall and well built guy running the 18.12 join up with us - he cruised by me like I was standing still! (He ended up winning the 18.12 with a blistering time of 1:44:48!!) It was at the mile 6 marker that I picked up some PowerGel. I have never used this before and usually don't like anything in my stomach, but thought I might give this a try later in the race.
Soon after, I told myself that I was halfway done with the race. Mile 6-8 was very rural and somewhat boring and about mile 8 I began to BONK - or hit the wall as they say. I thought for the first time that I might not make it the full half. I was running a pace of under 8 minutes - pretty fast for a long course and wondered if I should slow down. I grabbed some Gatorade at the mile 8 station which was cold and refreshing and pushed on.
This reprieve didn't last and I had to fight to keep my mind right. I watched as some very fast 18.12'ers passed me and I envied their speed. I distracted myself by trying to get into the groove of the music and focused on others running in front of and around me and tried to get a second wind.
At mile 10, one of the volunteers had a sign that said "You've come this far - you might as well finish". This struck me as incredibly funny for some reason. And I realized I had 3 miles to go - that was nothing! I could do this!
Mile 11 came at a local Nice N' Easy store, so there were a ton of employees and spectators cheering, holding signs, and taking pictures. Since we had to cross a major road there, and I was sort of running several seconds both behind and in front of others, a very hot State Trooper stepped out and held traffic while I ran through. Hmmm... I could get used to this!! I think I should have a personal cop to stop traffic for me every time that I run!
It was then that I decided to try the PowerGel - OH SWEET NECTAR OF THE GODS! It was sweet and seemed to absorb almost instantly. I'm not sure if it was real or psychological, but DAYUM. I ran those last 2 miles like I had wings attached to my shoes!
A sign told me that we were entering the Village of Sackets, and I felt great. At mile 12 I spotted a girl in front of me and decided I had enough energy to chase her down. I put on some speed and flew by her. I then took a turn by a large crowd who told me I was on the home stretch. I ran down between 2 buildings and then saw a fence leading us into the large FINISH sign. There were dozens of people clapping and cheering and, like the DORK I am, I raised my arms up and yelled "WOO HOO!!" as I cruised towards the finish line. I was rewarded by the crowd echoing my cry and screaming loudly!!
I felt great crossing that line and paused in the chute to get the medal put around my neck and posed for a quick pic from the official photographer. I sucked down some water and then grabbed a banana and met Marc who had taken the pics of me as I came in.
I had absolutely no idea where I placed - my Garmin told me I had finished in 1:44:44. I entered the "recovery tent" where there was a vast array of goodies for us to eat. Then we waited as other racers came in and for the awards ceremony to start.
Other runners and I chatted - one told me I was a "beautiful" runner. I saw one of my Drug Court clients who had run the 18.12 and finished in an excellent time. He is a recovering heroin addict who is doing FANTASTIC and will be graduating soon. His mother also came over and thanked me for helping her son. It was a special moment to share with them.
Then they put the results up. In something that was new to me there was listed "gun time" and then "chip time". "Gun time" is apparently the "official" time - which seems wrong to me, as it took me some time to get to the start line after the gun went off. So my official time is 1:45:38 (chip time listed as 1:44:55).
For the half-marathon only:
- 41st place
- 10th place for females
- 1st in my age group
Getting my medal for 1st place age group.
I am a little disappointed - that's the competitive side of me! Marc tells me statistically I was in the top 12.69% overall and 4.83% of women - and that this is a good performance. And the most important thing is that I felt good, my Achilles held out AND - best of all - I enjoyed myself!