Thursday, April 14, 2011

Half Marathon and Half Way There

On Sunday I did the Platte River Half Marathon for the second time ever. With only three weeks left until the marathon, I hoped to get a good, confidence boosting race under my feet. My husband ran, too- his first half-marathon ever, and my third.

The week before the race, kept messing with me: rainy and 30 degrees one minute, sunny and 50 the next. Their trickery explains why, on race morning, I was incredibly indecisive: what should I wear? Is it going to rain? Snow? Should I carry hydration or just use the aid stations?

As the announcer gave the two-minute warning over the loud-speaker, I made a last minute decision to ditch the coat and gloves and made my way to the start line.

The race started in three random waves. Wave 1 was "those who think they can win" and wave 2 and 3 were determined by projected pace. I went off with about 1,000 other runners in wave #2, quickly weaving through downtown Littleton.

I saw Grandma and my three kiddos cheering as I passed. My two youngest were adorable in a green wagon with sun hats on, while my oldest daughter reached out her hand to high-five any willing runners as they passed.

I started strong, about an 8:15 mile, and settled in with a group of "running buddies" who likely did not even notice I was there. I, however, felt a comraderie with my like-pacers and even took to giving them nicknames. There were the "Two Doctors", very tall and skinny 50-something men who seemed to hold a 8:15 pace so consistently and assuredly. There was "Marathon Cankle" who earned the name from the Hawaii Marathon tech shirt she donned, and the giant size of her calf muscles that were, honestly, quite cankle-ish. And my last buddy, "Polka-dot" a late twenty-something female that was wearing a very cute turquoise polka-dot running skirt.

I held the pace quite easily for the first 7 or 8 miles. One Doctor and Marathon Cankles fell behind me around the 4 mile aid station when they chose the walk-while-I-drink-my-cup-of-water method, while I opted for the drink-half-spill-half-down-my-shirt-while-still-running-method. Around the half-way point, Doctor #2 lengthened his stride and ditched our group for a faster (but not cooler) sub 8 mile crew.

Around the 8 mile mark or so, I could feel the lactic acid adding pounds to my legs. I slowed considerably and wondered why I had started out so fast. Polka-dot slowed, too, so we plodded along together through the hardest miles of the half marathon.

The Kansas-like head-wind was starting to make me cranky around mile 10. I was making my way up a long, gradual hill with my head down when the guy next to me took his earphone out and signaled for me to do the same.

"Is this the 'Big Hill'?" he asked.

I laughed, "Nope. Not even close."

"Dang. I was really hoping this was it and my friends were just wimpy when they complained about the 'scary, big hill at the end."

"I wish," I said while putting my earbud back in. "It's not 'til after the mile 12 marker, and you seriously can't miss it."

The "big hill", is a long viaduct you have to run up, across, and down to the finish line on the other side. I knew to hit my goal of a 1:49 I'd have to hit mile 12 at 1:38, so when I hit it at 1:41, it was obvious my goal wasn't going to happen today. I was, however, 2 minutes ahead of my PR so I knew as long as I could maintain for this last mile, I'd still walk away with a new best.

I clicked to my money-song on my IPod, motored up the hill, and did everything I could to just keep my feet moving. Both legs were solid cement at this point, and at least 10 pounds heavier than they were 12.5 miles ago. When I started coming down the other side, I could see the finish-line. Hallelujah. I gave what I had left, and crossed at 1:52:20 (about a 8:35/mile pace)and over two minutes faster than my previous best. I put my foot up on the gate to get my chip clipped-off, downed two(yes,two)bottles of water, and turned to watch my friends and Hubby come in.

We drank some beer, ate some food, and shared our war-stories. I welcomed my Hubby to the half-marathon club and congratulated my friends on great finishes. I walked away with some confidence for the upcoming marathon, as well as a fearful thought: I would half to race TWICE as far as I did today...twice as far.....

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