What. A. Day! I knew it would take me a couple of days to have the time to sit in front of a computer to write up a recap, so since I'm so wicked smart (rofl!!) I wrote everything out in a notebook the other day so I wouldn't forget anything.
Let's start with Friday night. It's no secret that I was a freakin' basketcase all week. One of the things that kept me going was the fact that it was Holy Week and I spent a lot of time going to church functions. Good Friday night is always the Tenebrae service, which is my absolute favorite service of the entire year. I used the opportunity to do some serious prayer and reflection. After church, my family had some errands to run. As much as I wanted to make it an extremely early bedtime, there was no way that was happening. Not like it would have mattered for as much as I slept...
After the kids were tucked into bed, I settled in with some TV and a piece of Red Velvet Cake. I always eat dessert food the night before a race. Always. I also drank some Tension Tea. lol. I definitely needed that.
I finally got into bed around 11 something. I certainly didn't sleep for quite a while. My mind was racing. My jagoff neighbors (skinny jeans wearing 20 somethings who get plastered every Pens game) were also loud and obnoxious, so that didn't help. Somewhere around 1 am I started praying the Rosary in my head. I found peace and was able to get some rest.
5:45 AM - alarm went off as planned. I rolled right out of bed and shut it off and headed to the kitchen to fix up my breakfast. I felt pretty good considering the night I had. I really milled over what to eat before the race all week before finally assuring myself that if I ate what I usually ate before my long runs that worked well, I'd be fine for the race. So, I stuck with it - CoCo Wheats, chia seeds, wheat germ, 1/4 cup almond milk and 1 packet of Truvia. Washed it down with a cup of coffee with creamer. I drank water, too , of course.
I had made out a list in the days before of everything that I needed or even might need for race day to make packing less of a cluster. I highly recommend this. I would have forgotten so much stuff (including my race bib which was the last thing I grabbed before headed out!).
Everyone talked all week about how the weather on Saturday was going to be in the 50s and sunny. While that was true later in the day, it was NOT true at 6-8 AM. It was downright chilly. Before I left my house, I had on a running skirt, and short sleeved shirt with arm sleeves. When I got to the park, I changed into capris and added a light jacket and gloves (thank you list for telling me to bring other clothes just in case!). Then I pinned my bib on and laced the chip into my Adrenalines. I also threw on my Oakleys because it was only getting brighter outside.
We did leave our house at the perfect time. We were able to park around 3/4 mile away from the starting line. Around 30 minutes before the gun went off, we started walking over. I grumbled about it at first due to how cold it was, but it was honestly a good warmup to walk/shuffle/jog with the kids on the way there. I wonder if that made a difference in my performance or not?
Near the return point where the 5K line splits to the finish and the rest of us head out to start the lake loops, my family was standing and cheering. Nick got a great pic of me here. You can see that I was feeling fantastic and was smiling like crazy. At this point, my group was still pretty populated, but this didn't last long. I took my gloves off sometime around this point and stashed them in my jacket pocket.
As for my fuel - I took an Espresso Love GU at the 5 mile point. I didn't feel like I needed it but I didn't want to deviate from my plan and training. I was alternating water and gatorade and stopped at most, but not all of the aid stations when Lou called them out. I didn't drink full cups of anything, and realistically a lot ended up all over me and up my nose, but I'd take a swig or two and then be on my way. I'd say by the end of the race I might have drank 1-1/2 cups total.
By a third of the way through the first lake loop the field was very spread out. Most of our pace group was gone. We just had a small, tight little group hanging on, but we were chatting and joking. This really helped the miles fly by! I still wasn't using my iPod! I felt amazing. Seriously. I hardly felt like I was racing at all, but enjoying a nice day outside with some cool people. Lou commented that it looked like I was really running easy and looked great. I think that boosted my confidence 1000%.
When we turned toward the tennis courts once again and moved into the "Additional Loops" lane, Lou warned us to not get crazy when people start speeding ahead. The 8.1 mile race was the largest and they were finishing here. We still had to go around the lake again. I appreciated this advice, because usually if I see a large group of people flying by me, I get all nervous that my pace is tanking and tend to want to keep up. I stayed with the group, but not for much longer. We were down to 3 - a young guy who said he was a grad student and training for the full Pittsburgh Marathon and a girl who was doing the 30K and was some kind of coach at CMU.
As we began the small hill at the beginning of the second lake loop I stayed just in front of the group. When I hit the top of the hill, I allowed myself to let the downhill carry me and pulled away from them. Just past the spillway I realized how frustratingly quiet it was without my "friends"... I was down to the sounds of shuffling feet, heavy breathing, coughing and spitting around me. I turned my iPod on.
Somewhere around 9 miles and change, I had caught up to the 1:55 pace group. Their numbers were few as well. The pacer didn't seem to be able to keep a steady pace, either. He was always in a state of speeding up or slowing down. It was kind of annoying to be honest, but I stuck around, honestly shocked that I was now in this group and had a chance of finishing in 1:55!! I still felt really good, but was coming to a point where I did feel like I was running a race, and not just taking a lazy stroll like I did on the first loop. A lady from the group asked me how far we'd ran so far. I looked at my watch (one of the few times I did during the whole race!) and told her we were almost at the 10 mile point.
Then.... sometime totally divine happened. Renegade came on my shuffle. Frickin' Renegade. At 10 miles, I took my last gel - an Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gel. One thing that I learned during this race is that the front pockets of the jacket I was wearing suck. I had brought 3 gels with me. I could fit 2 in the zip pocket of my capris, but the last one I put in the front pocket of my jacket. It fell out at some point. Boo. Glad I didn't actually need it. Lesson learned. Anyway, between the apple pie tasting gel and Styx and then Eye of the Tiger which came on 1-2 songs later, I said "you know what, I've got more in me than this!" and forged ahead of the 1:55 group. I told myself there was less than a 5K to go, I've got this, I just had to give it all I've got.
I looked at my watch at exactly 11.66 miles when I thought "oof. maybe I really don't got this". My legs were starting to feel a little tired. We were on a slight incline, which of course never helps that feeling. That thought lasted maybe 10 seconds when I shook myself out of it with the realization of the fact that I only had a mile and a half to go. One mile and change stood between me and my first half marathon. And not just finishing... no. I achieved my goal that I've worked so hard on. I checked my form and pushed ahead. Some time around this point the young grad school kid from my 2 hour group caught up to me and went just ahead. As much as I wanted to kick it up a notch, I knew I still had a little way to go and needed to save that kick for the end.
I turned and headed toward the tennis courts for the final time. I had this. I pushed a little more. People moved into their respective lanes "Finish" or "additional Loops". God love those people who did the 30K. Someday I'll get there, but huge respect to those who can do that now. I was not in any kind of pain or discomfort at this point (remember that hip thing I was dying from all week? nonexistent), just feeling... like well, I just ran around 13 miles! I heard someone ask "How far have we gone now?". I glanced at my watch: 12.91 miles. Holy crap... I was SO close! I had almost caught up to a lady with short hair. She looked really tired. I know I felt like that. Then, Stush (remember the shirtless guy from the Frigid Five? That's him!) came flying down the lane giving out high fives and yelling "the finish is right over there!!! Go get it!!". I squinted and saw the clock in the distance: it read 1:52:50something. Again, I was able to find some extra gas in the tank, a spare gear, or whatever, and I made a beeline past the lady I'd caught up to and kept flying to and across the finish line. I pumped my arms and said "yes!" and immediately thought "Fuck sub 2!" (rofl!!!). I stopped my watch and then deliriously took a medal from one of the awesome volunteers there. Seriously... all the volunteers for this race deserve a medal too. Top notch. I grabbed a cup of water and slammed it back. It could have been anything, I didn't care.
I got out of the finishing chute and headed for the food area. I got a bottle of water, a banana, and a smiley cookie (purple smile). I think I inhaled the cookie in about three bites. I don't even remember it, really. It was at this point that I realized that I had not even looked at the medal around my neck... lol. I picked it up in my hand and laughed. It was every bit as awesome as I imagined it being. Love the graphic on it.
One thing I made sure to do was KEEP MOVING. Any time I would stop for more than a few moments I could feel my legs start to cramp. So if I wasn't walking, I was doing knee lifts, or stretching, or doing some sort of movement. I honestly felt pretty good considering I'd just ran a half marathon.
I finally found my family after several more minutes. My husband said he tried looking for me with the 2 hour pace group. I laughed at him and told him I was done way before that. Oh well, at least there will be a finish video posted soon he can watch.
It is now Monday, 2 days post race. I'm feeling good! I was able to do a WOW plus a plank. My calves are still a little tight, but they're not hard as rocks like they were yesterday. I've been doing a lot of stretching and foam rolling and that helps a lot. I'm planning on heading out for 3-4 miles tomorrow. I feel like I could run today, but I'm not pushing it. Sticking with the plan has worked so far!