So here’s the long version, Part 1.
The expo was really, really well handled. It could have been a cluster, but I got my packet, shirt, and goodie bag within 15 mins. Finding my way OUT of the expo? That was harder but I managed.
Then, we did a whirlwind check in to the hotel and then drove up to an Italian restaurant to meet up with Tricia, and some other new friends (Dawn, Crystal, and Adam, who I am looking forward to checking out their blogs). Pic stolen from Tricia.
The food was pretty good, and most importantly COMPLETELY non-offensive to my tummy, and the company was good. I mean, I felt sorta outclassed at first (being that I was the ONLY half-marathoner in a group of marathon mamas), but I got a nice boost when we started talking about the game I work on and we are asked for pictures by their kids? Yeah, felt better, hehe. It was really great meeting everyone! By the time we left, there was a HUGE line. I never would have thought about making reservations, and also about eating so early, but it worked out SO WELL. Thanks again to Tricia for getting us all together! After, we went back to the hotel and set out everything for tomorrow, watched TV, drank my “go to sleep” mellow drink thing, and settled in…
…for the WORST NIGHT OF SLEEP EVER. Seriously. The bed wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great, the hotel walls were paper thin and we faced the street so we heard EVERY CAR passing, and all the people outside partying. Bleh. I slept MAYBE 4 hours total.
Considering I wasn’t really asleep, 5:30am wasn’t that big of a deal. I ate my protein bar and tried to get everything outta me that didn’t need to be there, but my intestines were not having it. I got dressed, ended up being warm enough just to don the light jacket, and not need the gloves, headband, or fleece I brought, nommed a bit of cereal from the continental breakfast, and headed over.
It was GREAT staying about 1 mile from the start line. The walk was a great warm up and it was refreshing not to have to deal with the driving/parking/shuttle situation which sounded craaaaazy. We got to the corral 30 mins before race start and I thought about trying to use the bathroom (my tummy was even a little grumbly), but the HUGE LONG LINES made me just suck it up and get ready for the race instead. I downed my half a redbull shot and then started to dance and jump around with nervous/excited energy.
The race start was actually really well done – lots of good peppy music, and the wave start made it so not everyone was running at the start all at once. I even started to feel a little emotional – not sure why. Maybe it was so many people around being all excited to race, maybe it was the whole reality of getting to race day healthy, injury free, rested, and with an actual chance to PR this time, maybe it was just close to TOM – but I just felt so… good. And ready. And freaking PUMPED (just in time, right?).
It’s all sort of a jumble from here. My mind sort of shut off and got into a rhythm. I obsessively garmin-watched the first half mile just to make sure my pace was right on, but then I resolved to only look a few times each mile. While the other long runs, I was having trouble keeping my pace faster than 10 min miles – for this one I occasionally caught myself in the 8s and forced myself to slow down. This was even fighting some major traffic as I was going way faster than my pace group.
The course had some up and downs but nothing major, and the miles flew by. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… I know I passed the alamo somewhere but I don’t remember it. At 5 miles I grabbed my caffeine beans and ate them over the next miles on downhill stretches. Around mile 6 I realize how WELL I was doing (I think I was at about a 56 minute 10k) and how well I was FEELING and got very excited, but knew that the toughest part of the race for me was ahead. But I didn’t hit any snags. 7 and 8 were just as easy. I was right around a 9:10 pace – which is what I needed to run a sub-2 hour half. Sure, I had a few aches and pains here and there, but nothing was really registering.
Somewhere in mile 8 I realized that if I ran the 5 miler of my life, I could have a really good shot at coming close to that sub-2 hour race. I figured I took the first half a little *too* easy to actually 1:59 anything, but 2:02 or 2:03 wasn’t looking out of the question. So I dug in, turned my focus from the cheering crowd to a spot about 3 feet in front of me to really get in the zone and try to stick around 8:30-9 min miles, and it worked. For a while.
It was just a little too fast for me, so after about a mile of that I slipped back to 9-9:30. Then we had a hill around mile 10 and it was closer to 9:30-10 in patches, but who’s to complain – that’s still WAY ahead of my goal pace. I had ran the 10 miler of my LIFE, at an average of around 9:30 miles. I just couldn’t keep it up the last 5k. Then mile 11 hit.
I just couldn’t keep it up. Mile 11 sucked. I haven’t analyzed the garmin results yet, but I’m thinking 10:30 pace, best case. I never stopped running, but it was not the mile 11 I wanted. I lost a little bit of the jovial attitude and that mile was definitely the longest one of the race. In my head, I just wanted it to be mile 12. Mile 12 would be better. Mile 12 was the last full mile. It would all be alright if the GORRAM FUCKING GARMIN would just tick over to 12.
And finally it did. I decided to play the music game. I was going to run as freaking hard as I could, screw the pace, and check my garmin ONLY after each song. Basically, the treadmill game for intervals and tempos. It worked, I would be surprised if I was much over 10 min pace for that mile, if not still under. Then, the first BIG HILL of the race. At about mile 12.8, right to the finish. Yeah, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry either.
I knew the finish was around the corner so I powered up it, and sprinted as fast as I could across the finish line, and had another one of those “shuffle shuffle shuffle” finishes (though it was much less of a cluster than the Austin one – only took a few minutes). I got my medal, then got a recovery drink, and then grabbed some random food and found the family meetup area – and no Zliten yet. Sat down, stretched out, and waited a bit. The exhaustion and owie started to fade and I started to get really jazzed about my time.
He finally found me, apparently he hadn’t been able to catch me ONCE besides the start and it took him 20 mins to get through to the reunion center. One downside to big races – much different than us even being able to chat through each transition on the last tri with 300 people. I ate some fruit, and got up and we pushed our way back through the cluster which was the exit. We walked the mile or so back to the hotel, which was awesome to have to do because it’s really bad to just STOP after a race, but it is ALL YOU WANT TO DO WITH EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING.
We showered, packed up, ate a post race meal of Fuddruckers (what can I say, it was what I was craving) and then came home to drink champagne! And apparently got really tipsy and spend 300 bucks on flying lessons, but that’s another post for another day.
All in all – THRILLED. Great race. PR by more than 8 minutes on 3 weeks of training post tri/pre taper? I’ll take it!
Part 2 will include an early festivus airing of my race grievances, and I’ll post my “what’s next” thoughts. Coming soon.