Sorry for leaving everyone on pins & needles from that last post….I couldn’t leave out everything from Friday. I mean, Really?….who goes into a big race after an episode of traveling with the Griswold’s? Me. That’s who.
And before we begin.....go get yourself a snack and something to drink....
So, where I left off was arriving at the community center in an anxiety meltdown. It’s important to remember at this point that I’m in Murphy, NC. Think Mayberry. And only 100 people signed up for the 1/2 marathon.
Mark and I get out of the truck to incredibly loud 80’s rock music. Seriously. I'm talking "Loud enough to wake the dead" people….or at least the ENTIRE town of Murphy at 6:30 a.m. Nice.
Megan and I find each other before the race….as if that were a hard task, considering… It was incredible to see an old friend again. We chatted and got caught up a little before the race. We were both nervous. Me for obvious reasons, her for not having a consistent training program prior to this. We talked a bit about goal times. I was going for 2:50. I would be thrilled with 2:40. I really didn’t think my foot would stand for anything more than that.
Megan on the other hand has completed a couple of 1/2 marathons in less than 2:20 or something like that. I forget exactly how fast she said because I was horse laughing on the inside knowing I could never run that fast even without injuries!! Regardless of how fast/slow I went, I wanted Megan to do her best and not be slowed down by me.
|Megan looks warm. I look like I'm going for a swim?|
At 7:15 everyone starts heading outside. We follow because we have no idea where the start line is…except across the road....somewhere.
Did I mention it is still DARK! And it’s still incredibly FOGGY!!
We (about 75 of us) are standing at the start line trying not to freeze our butts off while the race director goes into a diatribe about inaugural race, sponsors, safety, sponsors, blah, blah, blah. Enough already. I’m doing some butt-kicks and high knees to get warm and stretch out some more. Blah, Blah. Bounce up and down a little…..
OH SHIT! What was that? What was that sudden sharp pain in my left foot?
Stop bouncing. Assess. Don’t think about it….STOP thinking about it…
BAM!! And we’re off.
Did I mention it’s DARK and FOGGY? Which made the first 2 miles scary because you couldn’t see your foot placement. I probably went a little slower than I’d hoped because I was afraid I’d twist an ankle, but I have no idea how fast I’m going because it’s DARK!!! About 1.5 miles in, Megan pulled out. I tried to keep her in sight for several more miles….which was hard because it was FOGGY!!
How foggy was it? It was so foggy that dew occasionally appeared on my eyelashes. So foggy that my outer shirt (thank goodness I went with two) got wet first, BEFORE I sweated in my undershirt. So foggy that you couldn’t see the end of the freaking hills….which probably wasn't a bad thing after all.
Let’s take a break and discuss those hills for a moment….
Here’s the elevation chart if you’re interested.
Had they posted this chart on their website, I would have NEVER signed up for this. This makes the Knoxville Hilly Half seem ridiculously easy. Let’s see, that’s about 10 significant hills. And it’s not just the UPHILLS that kill a runner, check out the downhills!!
If you’re interested in grades, let me break that down for you….
UP: 2.4% for .2 miles
DOWN: - 9% for .26 miles
UP: 9% for .16 miles
DOWN: - 4.4% for .3 miles
UP: 3.2% for .54 miles
DOWN: - 6.3% for .21 miles
UP: 3.1% for .66 miles
DOWN: - 2.4% for .74 miles
UP: 4.4% for .41 miles
DOWN: - 4.3% for .41 miles
UP: 5.8% for .23 miles
DOWN: - 4% for .2 miles
UP: 3.4% for .48 miles
DOWN: - 7.6% for .37 miles
UP: 6.2% for .27 miles
UP AGAIN: 4.9% for .13 miles
DOWN: 2.5% for .77 miles
UP: 6.8% for .15 miles
UP SOME MORE: 9.5% for .11 miles
DOWN: 5.1% for .27 miles
That didn’t include all of the inclines, but you get the point!
With each hill, I simply put my head down and kept running. I couldn't see the top through the fog anyway. I ran by feel mostly….which scared me because most times when I do this…I slow to a crawl. But I figured out early in this race that ‘hilly’ was the word for the day.
About Mile 5, I could no longer see Megan. I hoped she was having a stellar day (and secretly hoping she was cussing these hills as much as I was).
I’m so glad Mark was there to catch Megan’s finish as well as mine! She did fantastic! And she’s secretly cussing me right now for posting this picture I’m sure. But seeing she’s running a little cocked makes me feel a little better about how hard it was for me!
I was afraid to look at my watch and know my pace. I felt like I was going fairly slow. Like a typical "Long, Slow Run Speed", not "Race Speed". Having visual confirmation of that would make me feel like I was failing.
So, I decided to run based on how I was feeling. I’ve never done this before. I’m a running-tech-junkie. I have to know how fast/slow I’m going and make a decision to speed up/slow down and if I’m not running as fast as I should, then I let myself down.
But today, I decided that was okay…given this course and my injury issues….I changed my goal….
Simply finish. That’s what I wanted today. Cross the finish line. Anything more than that is icing on the cake.
I picked out a lady in front of me wearing bright purple shorts running a good pace. I made the decision to keep up with her. Surely if she pulled out I’d see those shorts! I didn’t look at my watch again for a LONG time. I had no idea how fast or slow we were going, but I was going to keep up.
I caught up with her at a water station at 6 miles. I introduced myself and thanked her for pacing me. We ran together for 5 miles. We were the only two in sight. I’m so thankful for my new running mate Nicki from Cleveland, TN. She was a life saver. Literally!
This open road course (with moving traffic) went through the rural communities (small, narrow, winding roads) of Murphy, NC….If that’s not giving you a good enough picture of how rural of an area we were in….just. one. word….
Seriously. We would run, sometimes up to 2 miles, without seeing ANYONE!! Maybe pass a house or two. But no cars, no race volunteers en route except at hydration stations and ONLY at intersections that require you to turn off the road you are currently traveling. I can't tell you how many times I wondered if we were on the right road. And did I mention it was FOGGY??!! It was like running through a horror movie at times.
At one point, a white truck passed us. Then, it went back the other way. Then, 4 minutes later, it passed us again and pulled off to the side of the road ahead of us at what looked to be an abandoned building. We both instantly got nervous. Nicki says “I’m so glad you are here because if I were by myself, I just might turn around and run the other way.” My response, “This does look a little bit like Deliverance country and this fog isn’t helping much.” We both laugh nervously and continue running…..a bit faster.
Nicki and I also learned that in rural communities, people do not believe in fencing or leashing their HUGE dogs. We met several along this course, and all I had to offer up were Jelly Beans….
....hmmm, or my new running mate?
Some were just friendly old dogs checking out the
fresh meat new comers.
But others, not so much. I even sent a state trooper back on the course to go
check on these two young boys (11 years old…yes you read that right…11 YEARS
OLD) running the race.
After 10 miles, Nicki started fading a bit. I kept looking back to check on her and yell some encouraging words. I struggled with slowing up to let her catch me but thought….I’m feeling GREAT to be this far in. I can’t slow down now.
Let’s assess…my foot really isn’t hurting. Seriously. I’ve always felt it about 8 miles out. I’ve been crippled at 6 miles with it. But to feel….nothing? I typically think I could beat a turtle in a race, but at this point I’m thinking the turtle has crossed the finish line and has made it to Myrtle Beach. Oh well….just keep running this race like you have. I’ve been snacking on my Jelly Beans, drinking nothing but Gatorade at each of the hydration stations, walking through the hydration stations, but no other walking. I’m tackling these uphills and not letting them defeat me. I was using the downhills to pull some speed. So, I’m good. Win, lose or draw….I’m glad I’m here.
At this point, I’m also getting COLD. Until now, my two shirt strategy paid off. The outer shirt had kept the heavy-foggy-dew off of me. But at this point, I’ve sweated through both shirts. The dew on my eyelashes has turned to frost. I can’t feel my finger tips, but if I put my gloves back on they’ll get all sweaty again. (I cannot stand to have clammy hands trapped inside of gloves.) My hat is soaked and now my ears can feel the cold-sweat-covered-hat.
At 12 miles, I was starting to feel it. My quads were burning thanks to those downhills, my hams were tight and tired. But that little voice inside of me kept saying “You’ve got this. Just finish it! Just 1 more mile to go.”
And one really bad hill according to some pre-race reports. Last hydration station and up the hill.
I’m thinking “Okay, this hill is bad, but no worse than the rest of the course. Sucks that it’s at the end. But what were those guys flipping about.” I even yelled back at Nicki “Come on Nicki! This is it! This isn’t so bad! We’ve got this conquered!” Then I realized how wrong I was.
I saw it.
And. It. Saw. Me.
It laughed at me.
And I said, Holy Shit.
That’s the only hill I walked on this course. I could have just as easily taken a Mountain Climber stance and gotten up that hill in as much time. “Who designed this course!? Are they masochists? I hope they’re having a blast!”
The only good thing about that hill….was the downhill!! I started flying!! At one point, I was going so fast I thought I’d trip or my quads would completely break. There were speed bumps on that hill!! So I slowed a bit coming down. Nothing like rolling across the finish line to make a statement!
At the bottom of the hill, I saw the sign ahead that said 13 miles. I looked at my watch….2:26….WHAT THE HELL??? NO WAY????
Look again…2:26….HOLY MONKEYBALLS!!! COULD I ACTUALLY BREAK 2:30????
That’s when something divine kicked in.
I say divine because I don’t know where it came from, but I started sprinting. SPRINTING!! At one point according to my Garmin, I was running a 6:26 pace!!! Until now, the only way I could run a 6:26 pace, even for a short distance, was if my ass were literally on fire! And after 13 miles?? I'm simply not capable of that!?
I never saw Mark. I heard Megan yelling something. I just kept running….rather Sprinting!! My foot was not liking this level of acceleration. That’s the first time it really reared its ugly head. I’m certain there were daggers driving into my quads at this point. My hamstrings and calves were tight. I knew if I could just make it around that corner….I’d be done!
I forgot there’s about another 25 yards after the corner. My knees nearly buckled. But this little voice in my head said
“RUN!! DAMN IT, RUN!!”
|I realize now that my extra head band and snot rag make me look like I have a tail!|
And there it is....official chip time...
That’s 45 minutes faster than my last 1/2 marathon! And it’s 22 minutes faster than my goal time!!!
I still can’t believe it!! Not in my wildest dreams!! Not on a course like that!!
|Sorry Mark cut you off Megan!|
Megan says she didn’t have the best half of her life….
|Official Chip Time: 2:22:54.1|
But you know, for someone that had a haphazard training schedule just after moving across country with two boys and getting a whole new life started….I think she did AWESOME!!! I never would have run a half without training like I did. I’m so impressed with her!! I’d love to see what she’d do with a training schedule….leave me in her dust I’m sure!!
Afterward some water, muffins and bananas...
We were treated to a full body, fully free, and incredibly cold…massage.
I was soaking wet with sweat! I even impressed Megan with my sweating skills! We were shivering. Poor Megan didn’t get a blanket! But it was worth every second. I’m certain the lack of significant pain in my foot is due to this young lady working on my left leg diligently!
That’s not a smile on my face.
Megan and I enjoyed a soak in the hotel hot tub (which I hope they put extra chlorine in after we left….Eeewwww). Then a quick shower. Then a wonderful lunch where we got to catch up.
Before I end…I must mention my wonderful husband who not only has put up with my training. He drove my tired butt to NC in the dark, along winding mountain roads. Got up before dawn and showed an incredible amount of support. Took pictures. Kept my jacket inside of his jacket to keep it warm. Put my shoes inside his jacket while I was getting a massage to keep them warm. Took pictures. Let me and Megan catch up and took us out to a wonderful lunch. Then, drove my tired butt home. I can never say “Thank You” enough for all that he does for me! I love you Mark!! You are simply incredible!!
Wow! I still can’t believe it. I gave more than I ever thought was in me. No tears this time. Just smiles. And mentally jumping up and down like a school girl….but not literally. My. Legs. Are. Dead. And I love it!
Gotta run….just kidding…