Prerace-The Best Laid Plans
It wasn't in my Friday plans to take Luke to the doctor, but that's where we were at 9:10 a.m. His eyes and nose have been a mess all week, even after the antibiotics and pink eye drops. We thought it best to check him out before we left him with my mom for the night, so off to the doctor we went. Diagnosis: allergies. Zyrtec and a couple samples of Rx eye drops, and he's all set.
It also wasn't in my plans to leave 2 hours later than scheduled, but that's what happened. Client issues got in the way, and we didn't hit the road until 2 p.m. CST, which was 3 p.m. Indy time. We had hoped to get into Indy early enough to have a nice pasta dinner with my niece Kate's family, but leaving late meant we'd get left overs around 7 p.m.
It further wasn't in my plans to drive through crashing rain and thunderstorms, but that's what I did for 3 hours (the last hour was clear, hallelujah). It rained so hard I couldn't see a few times, but mostly it was just relentless rain and passing semi-trucks in the white-knuckle driving position.
Additionally, it wasn't in my plans to spend the night at a hotel. About 2 hours into the drive, I get a call from Kate that her son Matthew has the stomach flu, and while we were still welcome to stay at her house, she said, it was at our own risk. We thought it best to stay at a hotel and let Matthew recover without house guests and avoid the possibility of getting ourselves sick. Thankfully the Doubletree still had a room for us.
And, to top it all off, my sister-in-law (who is Kate's mom and was in Indy for Kate's daughter Julia's piano recital Saturday afternoon) who was staying at the Doubletree seriously sprained her foot in the hotel pool. When we got to the hotel, Nancy was laid up and in serious pain, contemplating a trip to the hospital. So we ate a carry out pasta dinner (which Kate brought over to the hotel around 8:30 p.m. and was actually super delicious) in her and her husband's room.
We wished everyone a good night and bemoaned our upsidedown day, and hoped for good sleep.
Of course, I barely slept. I woke up and looked at my watch every few hours, and when 4 a.m. finally arrived, I was relieved rather than upset it was so early.
Race Day--All is Right with the World
The rain the day before had hit Indy during the night, and we totally expected to be running in soggy shoes. But it turned out to be a glorious day--mid/high 50s, cloudy at the start, blue skies and sunshine and a cool breeze to finish.
I was showered and fueled and ready by 5 a.m. my time (6 a.m. Indy time), when Kate picked me up. We picked up her friend Mary, drove downtown and found a parking spot relatively easily, and by 7:05 we were walking to the start. Kate and Mary were in corral F, and because I had registered in August of 2007 and must have entered a really slow finish time, I ended up in corral U. I left Kate & Mary at their corral and walked blocks and blocks through crowds of people to get to U.
While making my way there, I got a call from Jennette, who was in corral S so I didn't get to run with her. I hung around in the corral and knew I was in the wrong starting corral when I heard a woman in front of me say "As long as we finish in 3:08, we'll be okay." But, hey, I figured I'd at least be doing the passing instead of being passed.
The race started at 7:33 and we all just stood there. Eventually we started moving, and I was panicked because I had to pee and didn't know when that was going to happen. I made my way over to the left side of the herd of people and started looking for portapotties. At corral R, there were a bank of them with no lines, so I jumped out, did my business, and got back in the herd. That was a huge lucky break, getting to go before I crossed the starting line.
Which I finally did about 25 minutes after the race began. The first 2 miles I spent dodging people. This is the biggest half marathon in the country--35,000 people registered. I think I passed at least 10,000 of them. Not really, but there were a lot of us runners who dodged walkers in the early part of the race. But I didn't mind. The weather was perfect and I spent a great deal of my time thanking God it wasn't raining on us.
Miles 3, 4 and 5 were really decent. I was in a zone, happy to be there, listening to Dave Matthews, and falling into a comfortable 10:45-11:00 pace. Around mile 5 I took an energy gel, and psyched myself up for the 500 racing track. I also used a portapotty quickly, since there was no line and I needed to go again.
When we made our way to the entrance of the track, the sun came out. I'd been running about an hour and still felt strong. I'd worn my sunglasses (I bought them at the running store a few weeks ago and they are excellent for running) and I was glad because the sun was bright and shiny in the 9 a.m. sky. I did have some groin pain around mile 6, which was weird because I'd never had pain there before, but thankfully it went away pretty quickly and wasn't an issue.
The entrance to the track was a steep downhill, then a steep (but short) uphill. By then a lot of people were walking, but I stayed strong and kept on running, even though I slowed a bit. The track is about 2.5 miles of the course, and they were some of the best miles of my life. The asphalt is smooth as glass, a road runner's dream surface. It was a big party out there, with people stopping to take pictures of each other in front of the finish line on the Indianapolis 500 Track. I got such a high out of this historic nature of the course I was running on, and I'm not even a NASCAR fan. And since these were miles 6.5 - 9, I had also hit my runner's high and felt pretty amazing.
When we left the track, I still felt good and knew I was on track to finish within 2 hours and 30 minutes, and thought I could even beat that time. I took another energy gel, and then hit a water station soon after. I had been stopping at the water stations about every other mile, and at all the Gatorade stations (there were 3 I think). With only 4.1 miles to go and with no aches, pains, or cramps, I still felt strong and dare I say it, fairly cocky about my ability to perhaps finish running in the 10:30s.
But, alas, of course I hit a wall around mile 11. My longest training run was 10 miles, so I was in uncharted territory. The water station at mile 11 just about did me in. When I slowed to walk and drink, it took a heck of a lot to start running again. I knew, though, that if I didn't pick it up again, I'd fight not to walk the last 2 miles, and that just wasn't going to happen.
And those last 2 miles were some of the toughest of my life. It was one of the prettiest parts of the course--with downtown Indy in the distance, and the White River on our left side. There was a wind off the river which helped cool the strong rays of the sun. But, it was also a gradual incline (not a hill, but a long incline nonetheless). And with the wind, it made those last miles tougher than they probably had to be.
That was where the run became all mental. I kept telling myself, if it was easy everyone would do it. It's not a Half "Marathon" for nothing. You are a runner, you are going to finish this race running. By the last mile, I basically separated my mind from my body. It's like when you play piano and your fingers do the playing from memory, and you don't have to think at all. Your fingers just play the piece for you. That's what my body did. It ran the race for me.
I took out my earphones for the last half mile so I could hear the cheers from the crowd. And I complained out loud "Who put this stinking hill at the finish?" because we hit yet another long incline.
But it was all good. I crossed the finish running, without pain, and with a big smile on my face and my arms in the air, fingers in a "V," the typical cliche. It was a cliche I was happy to be.
I actually ran a total of 13.37 miles because of all the weaving and zig zag running I had to do to pass people. And by my Garmin, I did 13.1 miles in 2:25. And I did 13.37 in 2:28 with an average pace of 11:04. My best mile was my first, 10:37. The slowest mile was mile 12, 11:45. But I finished strong, the last .37 miles were at a 10:37 pace.
Post Race--The Let Down
I ran with my cell phone, which I always do, and as soon as I got a decent distance from the finish line I called Mark, excited about finishing within my goal time and all in one piece. After he congratulated me, he broke the news that Sophie had had a terrible dizzy spell that morning, had thrown up twice, and was immobile in bed with the curtains drawn. My happy bubble burst, and all I could do was grab a banana, a bottle of water, my finishing medal, and head for the portapotties, while I talked with my daughter and ached to be with her. They had watched the race coverage on TV at the hotel, and she said she thought she had seen me on TV. Whether she did or not, it was a comfort to her, I think, to be a small part of my race. She had wanted to call me when she got sick, but thankfully Mark was smart enough not to spoil it for me, since there was nothing I could have done anyway.
I called my niece Kate, who finished in under 2 hours (SHE ROCKS! This super star ran an average 9:09 pace). She had just heard from her husband that Sophie was sick (the husbands were supposed to get the kids together and come downtown, but of course that didn't happen with all the sickness going on), and she and I figured out how to find each other. I also called Jennette and left her a voicemail that I was sorry I would have to miss the book release party. We had very little time after the race to mingle, so I also didn't have time to find Jennette in the melee of people. And all I could do was worry about Sophie anyway. I didn't even have my official photo taken afterwards.
(Jennette called me later while I was in the car on the way back to the hotel, and she was super gracious and understanding about me not being able to come to her party. It truly was one of the biggest disappointments ever that I didn't get to go. You all know how much I love the Pasta Queen, and I wanted to be part of her book release party so much. I'm getting all teary just thinking about it!)
We dropped off Kate's friend Mary, had Mary's husband take our picture, and then drove to the hotel. Sophie was miserable but such a sweetheart. I gave her my medal, and told her she could keep it because she was such a trooper and I dedicated the race to her.
We managed to get home (I've been long winded enough, I won't go into the gory details), and by late afternoon Sophie was a lot better. Saturday night I was just exhausted and slept like a rock.
The Day After
So here it is, the day after I ran the longest distance of my life, and I feel great. My quads and hams are achy, but not bad. My knees, hips, feet, and joints are all fine, and I am in awe of what my body did yesterday. I am already planning on running this race again next year, and Kate and I talked this morning to commiserate and are planning to stay downtown at the Westin and do this thing the relaxed way in 2009. It will be good prep for Kate, who's planning on running her first marathon in Chicago in 2009. And it will be a motivation for me to keep training and improving (and losing more weight) so I can run faster. At least I'll be seeded next year--she said if you break 2:30, you get to be seeded. No more U corral for me!
I'm still in my PJ's, still not unpacked, taking care of my little girl who's no longer dizzy but has a 101* fever and a sore throat (this is one of the few patterns we've found with her dizzy spells--a fever/sore throat either precedes or follows them). At least she's not dizzy and perhaps it's a short one. We'll know more in the following days.
And I'm eating whatever I want today (donuts, cinnamon rolls, and a bagel, oh my!), and tomorrow I'm going to begin another season of weight loss. I've got another half marathon in Evansville in October I want to run, and I want to be 10 pounds lighter and, dare I dream it, 10 minutes faster the next time I run 13.1 miles.
The next time I run 13.1 miles. That's got a beautiful ring to it.