But, my running partner assured me everything would be fine. She would be by my side during the race. She might run ahead of me toward the end of the race, but she too was feeling nervous about the hilly course and humid weather.
|Thumbs up for rest and recovery.|
|My bib number.|
I spent most of Friday night icing my foot, laying on the couch and tweeting. The amount of love from my Twitter family and fellow runners blew me away. I went to bed smiling - re-reading all of the kind words from the beautiful #PerfectStrangers, fellow runners (Paul), my amazing coworkers Chad and JD, and lovely friends Britt, Ann and Heather. It doesn't matter if it's your first or 30th race, reading good luck messages and inspiration never gets old!
The Big Day
I woke up late on Saturday morning. I felt frantic as I rushed to get ready, eat breakfast and stretch.
|Check out Bandit photo bombing the picture in the corner.|
At least he is cheering us on!
He proudly told everyone he had completed the Indy Mini Marathon just two weeks before. He said his daughter emailed me him article saying if you run two half marathons in two weeks or less, then you could become part of a group called "Half-Fantatics" - Yup, I adored everything about him and wasted no time getting to know more about him.
"So, are you meeting anyone here?" I asked him,
"Yeah, the finish line!" he said back.
"I like your attitude," I said.
We chatted about his goals and expectations for the race and then we parted ways. I was hoping I would meet him with later or see him during the race, but our paths never crossed again. My only hope is that he is proudly a member of his new group.
Before the race started, I ran into my first half marathon running buddy.
|Britt looking amazing before her third half marathon.|
Spoiler alert: She got a PR by nearly 40 minutes.
|And we're off!|
The race started and I was feeling great. It was really humid and hot, but I decided not to focus on the weather.
Sabrina was running at a quicker pace than me right from the beginning.
She yelled back to me, "Come on, Ash!"
But she was running too quickly for me. And I knew I'd burn out early on if I tried to run too fast.
"That's not my pace, Bean!" I yelled up to her.
I was feeling good and confident with my pace. My foot started hurting early on, but it would eventually become numb. And it did.
Sabrina stayed ahead of me for about 10 more minutes and before I knew it, she was gone. With one walking interval, she was out of sight.
Barely a mile into the race, and I was faced with an uneasy realization:
I'm running this race alone.
After realizing I'd be alone for 12 more miles, I started repeating all of the positive and inspirational tweets and messages from the night before.
"Be amazing."- Meggie
"Rock those 13.1 miles!" - Amy
"Go on for it." - Christi
"Just wanted to tell you how incredibly proud I am of you! Your accomplishment list for 2012 is just ridiculous, and the year isn't even half over. No matter what your time is tomorrow it's going to be a kick ass job. Have fun, run smart/safe, & show your 4th mini who is boss! :)" - Heather
"Your mind is strong, your body is strong. You are an athlete and you will perform like one tomorrow." - Chad
I fought my way up the first two hills. I decided to only walk up hills that resembled roller coasters.
And I'm glad I made that decision. It felt amazing to battle up those hills without giving up. I felt like a super hero.
After reaching the top of the second hill, we crossed a bridge. The view was beautiful!
Even though I was running, I reached for my pocket to grab my phone and take a picture. A few moments later, my keys fell out of my pocket. Can't leave those behind!
As I turned around to see where they landed, I rolled my ankle (on my bad foot- of course) and my body came crashing down to the ground. Conveniently, I was close to the guard rail so I hit my head on that (not too hard -I didn't black out or anything mom, don't worry!). My ankle hurt, my butt hurt and more importantly - my pride hurt.
|The picture I snapped right before my fall.|
Guard rails and me don't mix very well together.
"Are you okay?" he quickly asked me.
I was laughing off my embarrassment and said, "Oh yes, thank you for stopping!"
I picked myself up and heard Justin inside my head, "That's what you get for trying to tweet and run."
Within a few minutes, I was crossed the 5K point at 12:30 pace.
I felt amazing. I was doing so much better than I expected.
Miles 4-6 were a breeze. I felt really good. I kept myself on track and motivated by thanking every single volunteer that I saw.
Everyone holding a sign.
Every water station volunteer.
The old grandma sitting in a lawn car and rocking the cow bell.
The aid station workers.
The Blue Mile crew cheering us along.
The little kids playing music and dancing in their driveways.
I even thanked a guy holding four coffees on the side of the road. He was probably waiting to cross the street, but I still thanked him for being there to cheer us on.
Miles 7-8 included a large hill in a neighborhood.
Holy cow. That thing was a monster. I definitely walked up that bad boy.
"Oh man, my butt is going to be so chaffed after this hill," a fellow runner said passing by me.
Once I conquered the death hill, I was excited to see a man standing next to a Mile 8 sign.
|"It's all down hill from here!" he said.|
At mile 9 I realized how badly I needed someone there to perk me up. I needed someone to help me fight through my intervals.
My back was bothering me.
My thighs were tightening up.
My bummed foot started tingling.
And I was struggling to stay in my "happy place."
I told myself I would walk through mile 9 to give myself a break.
But mile 9 turned into mile 10. And mile 10 turned into mile 11. I was still struggling and I ended up walking more than running during those last few miles.
Around mile 11.5, I heard a two woman run up behind me. I was power walking at the time.
One of the woman started crying as they took a quick walking break.
"Don't cry," her friend said. "You're doing amazing. You didn't give up. I am so proud of you!"
The crying woman could barely get out a sentence.
"Are you hurting right now?" the non-crier asked.
The woman crying nodded her head.
I couldn't help myself. I had to chime in.
"Keep your head up!" I said. "You're doing amazing, and I know you'll finish strong."
The woman was still crying when her friend said, "Listen - you could have stopped back there, but you didn't. You could have given up, but you didn't....you kept going. You kept fighting."
Just then tears filled my eyes.
I wished someone was there to motivate me...but instead of feeling sorry for myself, I pretended that message was being delivered to me as well.
I ran down a few hills and repeated those words in my head the whole way down:
You could have given up, but you didn't.
Before I knew it, I only had a mile left.
When I got to the mile 12 marker, I took advantage of the water, ice chips and a grape that one of the volunteers offered me.
I took off running with with a refreshed outlook and ice chips in my mouth. I've never been happier to eat a piece of ice.
Team Struggle Bus
Pretty soon, I caught up with Scott. I didn't know that was his name at the time, but we'd been neck and neck for the last 3 miles. I noticed he was limping when I got closer.
"We're almost done!" I said as I came up next to him.
"Yeah, I'm just happy the struggle bus hasn't picked me up yet," he said.
I laughed and told him I felt the same way. He told me he got into a bike accident the night before. He was really upset that he was walking, but he was simply in too much pain. He told me he was an avid runner. In fact, he finished the Indy Mini Marathon in 1:56 two weeks earlier.
With just a half mile left in the race, I told him we'd finish together. Team Struggle Bus. He said he didn't think he could run, even if it was only for a minute or two.
"I'll bet you can," I said trying to inspire him. "We can go as slow as you want!"
I knew a PR was out of the question- I'd done way too much walking between miles 9-12, so I was in no rush.
We made plans to do a jumping high five right before crossing the finish line and that was all it took to get us running again.
We saw the mile 13 sign and I must tell you, that was the longest .10 mile of my life.
"Where the hell is this finish line?" Scott asked.
"I have no clue, but this is a huge teaser!" I said back.
Pretty soon, I heard Sabrina, Toni and Justin yelling for me.
"13.1 FOUR TIMES!! WHOOOAAA!" Justin yelled.
A few seconds later, I saw my other friends (who also completed the race) Taren and Matt DeBolt.
"You have a lot of friends cheering you on," Scott said.
"Yes, I do," I said. "I'm pretty lucky!"
And just like a movie, it was the time to do the jumping high five across the finish line.
"Are you ready?" I asked him.
We jumped up in the air together -probably not high at all because we were both injured- and slapped our hands together.
I hope our picture is featured on a postcard next year.
I'll probably never see Scott again, but it was a true blessing to finish the race with him by my side.
My official finishing time was 3:08. Not my best, but not my worst.
I'll take it. I didn't earned a personal best, but as my friend Bri reminded me..not every race is about getting a PR. I dug deep within myself to find the strength to fight through hard miles alone. That is something no record could ever give me...
|Toni proudly pointing to my medal. So happy she came to cheer me on.|
|Sweaty hugs for my biggest fan.|
Surprisingly, I wasn't worried about my time at all. I felt so accomplished just for finishing with an injury and little training. Not to mention the tough course and weather conditions...
And to top off my amazing morning? Stepping on the scale and seeing this number:
|37 lbs down!!!!!!!|
Thank you to EVERYONE who cheered me on Saturday morning.
I'd be lost without your support and love.
And yes, I've learned my lesson about making time to train for a race. I'll wake up early and run- even if that means sleeping in my gym clothes and getting ready for work in a YMCA locker room.