Friday, March 27, 2015

Georgia 2015 Publix Half Marathon Race Recap

So, Sunday was an amazing day.

It started early.  Real early.  With a 4:45 a.m. wake up time, I jumped out of bed (or maybe crawled...) and started to get ready for the race.  For big races, I like to shower beforehand, which may seem weird, but it helps me to get ready for the race and wake up a bit with the early mornings.  I feel fresh and ready and prepared, so I just keep doing it.  I showered, dried my hair, put on my clothes, debated what to wear, and then went out in the rain.  Yes, IT WAS RAINING.

Second time I've had downpouring rains for a half marathon!  However, it wasn't too bad, really.  But yeah, rain isn't always expected or fun and makes things a bit complicated.  What do I wear?  How do I stay dry and warm beforehand?  Will I get blisters?  Will my iPhone and things get wet?  To account for all of these things, the morning was a little more hectic than I would have liked, which is pretty much the story of my life.  I swear, any time I leave the house, I probably walk back and forth to my car 3 times trying to remember everything that I need. Anyways!  I ate a Quest bar for breakfast, packed a banana and some berries, food for afterwards, lots of dry clothes, music, etc. and head out for the race around 5:15 a.m.

The race didn't start until 7:00 a.m. but a few of my running groups were planning to meet up before hand (one at 6:15 and one at 6:30) and I was expecting there to be terrible traffic.  In my assumptions, I figured the normal 15 minute ride would probably take an hour.  However, I was way wrong about that.  So I arrived and parked in about 25ish minutes at the race, at about 5:45ish.  I sat in my car playing on my phone, listening to music, and sipping water for another 30 minutes until I jumped out to go meet one of my running groups at 6:15 a.m.

Now, when I say that Sunday was an amazing day, I don't just mean because of my run and my personal performance, but also just because of the camaraderie I felt with the running groups and people I have met in Atlanta.  For the first time I felt like I made real friends and was part of a real community.  Some of the Movers & Pacers runners were also running the Publix half marathon and some showed up at 6:00 a.m. in the pouring rain who were NOT running but just wanted to support the runners who were before the race!  Isn't that amazing?

After meeting up with some of the Movers & Pacers runners, I went over to the Running Nerds tent, who had a formal meeting point, which is where I stashed my rain coat and traded it for a sweet poncho.  I was debating back and forth if I should wear my tank top, a long sleeve top, or what for the race, but ended up going with just a tank, which was a smart choice.  I figured if I was cold I would just take my running buddy Jess's advice and keep warm by running faster.

The race started off without a hitch, in the dark, and I crossed the start line maybe 1:30 seconds after 7:00 a.m. when the first corral started.  I was in Corral E so I really was impressed with that and would have assumed I started more like 5:00 minutes past, but whatever!  The fast start wasn't a huge deal except that since I was bouncing back and forth between the two running groups who were meeting up, I couldn't end up finding the Running Nerds group at the start.  I was planning on running with them and running with the pace group and started to panic a bit when I couldn't find them.  I finally just had the "Screw it!" mentality and when I crossed the start line, just went for it, keeping my eyes scanning the crowd the whole time for people I knew!

I ran the first mile or so just tying to get comfortable, dart around people, and find my pace group.  The first people I saw were one of the guy coaches and a runner from the group that was doing the marathon.  I asked if they saw the rest of our crowd and they said that one of the guys was up ahead.  I ran to him and saw him and then saw another girl in our group.  Since everyone was ahead of me that I was seeing, I took it to mean that I had some ground to cover and just kept a steady pace.

In looking at the course map, there was quite a bit of elevation and quite a bit in the end of the race as well.  Our training group's plan was to run the start of the race a little faster and bank some times for when the hills hit at the end.  I knew the whole course was hilly, but remembered thinking that the hills REALLY started at mile 9.

I would see the big clocks at each mile marker telling me how far I had gone and what the time was.  I tried to block it out for the first few miles and just tell myself to run, but I also was calculating back in my mind to see if I was running a 9:00 min/mile which was what I felt I needed to be doing at the beginning of the race.  In fact, I thought I should be running a little faster than that and wasn't sure that I was so kept telling myself to keep going hard for as long as I could.  In my mind, I could keep a steady 9:00 pace for 6 miles.  That's what I was telling myself I could do.

When I got to 6 miles I ate a couple of my Shot Bloks, I told myself to just run another 5K if I could.  At every water stop since the very beginning of the race, I grabbed some water to sip on.  The aid stations has both Powerade and water.  I would shout to everyone passing out drinks, "Water?!?!" and be sure that I grabbed that before sipping some and hence spilling it all over myself.  Sometimes I grabbed more than one water, and surprisingly, I never had to slow down at all at the water stops and didn't have any problems tripping over people who did stop or anything like that.  I guess maybe at the pace I was going, most people run through the stops.

At 7 miles I saw the Running Nerds aid station but didn't notice anyone I knew and just kept going and told myself I was halfway through.  I hadn't crashed yet and told myself to just maintain my pace until I got to mile 9.  That the race didn't start until mile 9.  That this was just a warm up until mile 9.

Somewhere along mile 7ish I ran into another one of the running coaches I had been training with.  I She told me that I was doing amazing, making great time, and was doing awesome.  I said I knew I was going to crash at some point and told her my plan to just keep my pace until mile 9 and that I was scared I was going to crash.  She again told me I was doing awesome and she would stay with me until mile 9.  She ran ahead of me a bit and we dodged some wheelchair runners and kept moving forward.

When we got to mile 9, the running coach yelled out, "Only a 5K left!" and I was like, "Uhhh.... I think there is more..." which unfortunately, there was.  However, I told myself over and over -- THIS IS IT.  I knew that this is where the race would be made or not.  In 2013 when I did the Providence Rock N Roll half marathon I had a great pace for the majority of the race and crashed at the end.  I wanted to keep it going.  From mile 9 to 10 I told myself to just get there.  Just get to only having a 5K left.  My coach/friend asked me what time I had crossed the start line and if I knew how much time I ahead of pace I was/what my watch said.  I said I had no idea and I didn't want to look because I was just going to run as hard as I could.  I would either beat the time or not, but I wanted to leave everything out there.

Somewhere along this part of the course between 9 and 10 I lost my friend as she peeled ahead.  I just kept telling myself one foot in front of the other.  One foot forward is one foot closer to the finish.  Just keep going.  It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.  Your mind gives up faster than your legs.  Just keep moving.  Just keep going.  One foot in front of the other.  Do not stop.  Do not slow down.

I just told myself this over and over and over as it got harder and harder.  At mile 10 I noticed the Movers & Pacers crew cheering.  I saw the group logo on a sign but I was on the opposite side of the road and also completely starting to crash and panic because I felt there was still so much race left and I wasn't sure if I would make it.  I didn't have enough energy to cross the street to run closer but I waved my hand in the air at them and kept moving.

Throughout the last few miles so many thoughts went through my head that were not positive.  I cannot keep going at this pace.  I cannot make it a step further.  I don't know if I can even finish.  I am going to collapse.  I need to walk.  I should just drop out.  You made it far enough.  Keep training and maybe you can finish at this pace.  You were close, but not this time.  Just slow down.  Just stop.

But something else in my mind kept my legs moving.  Kept saying, "It won't be easy.  But it will be worth it.  Just try and make it one step further."  I told myself if you aren't going up a hill, if it is remotely flat or downhill or not steep, just SPRINT.  Get up the hills and SPRINT what you can.

I cried.  Not real tears, but breaking down in desperation.  I grunted in exertion like those weird and annoying people at the gym that make you think, "Hey, calm down, bro, get over yourself."

During the last mile, I didn't enjoy it like I usually do.  I usually love the last mile.  This last mile was so painful.  I kept looking over my shoulder for the 2:00 hour pace group which I was convinced was going to pass me at any minute.  Another one of the running coaches flew by me without even saying a word.  I figured that everyone else was about to pass me at any moment and I didn't think I had anything left to keep going and kick it up a notch to keep up with them if they did.  I started to cry some more, start to panic.  Where the hell is the finish? It has to be soon?  Why can't I see it yet?  Please don't tell me there are any more hills.  Am I going to make it?  Are my training mates behind me?  Are they all going to pass me at the last second?  How close am I?  WHERE THE HELL IS THAT DAMN FINISH LINE?!?!?!

I remember feeling that way about trying to spot the finish line in Paris as well.  And let me tell you when I crossed it and saw some of my training coaches there, I could barely think or comprehend.  I had pushed myself SO hard that I thought I was going to pass out.  I thought I was going to throw up.  I didn't feel like I was going to throw up but I felt like I should.  I thought I was going to collapse.  I thought I was going to overheat or over exert or just drop dead.  I am not exaggerating.  I pushed myself to my LIMIT I think.

I walked past my coaches who were all trying to congratulate me and just kept moving.  I couldn't comprehend people talking to me or words in general.  I grabbed a bottle of water and started drinking because I knew I needed to.  I was given a medal.  I saw those tinfoil blanket things and wanted one so bad.  But first, pics, right?

Can you tell how tired I am in that picture?  I feel like I could barely smile I was so tired.  Sometimes when I run in cold weather, when I come back inside, it takes me a while to be able to talk again because I need to thaw out, and after this, I felt like I just was too tired to move my face muscles.  Or yell at that guy for putting his finger in the middle of my finisher picture!!  Also, my hands were really cold at the end of the race, which I realized while I was running that they were numb, but I just kept going.  I saw that I'd had some texts and stuff on my phone but only could get my fingers working enough to get the pictures working (priorities, people...)

Anyways, after I got my medal, water, tinfoil, and my fingers shoved my phone away again, I wasn't sure what to do and decided to walk back in towards the finish line to see the rest of the team finish.  Everyone was congratulating me for breaking 2 when I saw them but I wasn't really ready to get my mind around it.  I was still so exhausted and just coming back to my senses mentally I think.  I was excited somewhere inside, but adrenaline was still pulsing, I asked where everyone else was, and waited until I saw some others finish.  We all grabbed some pics and then walked away.  I needed a bathroom and I needed to keep moving.

I took an "official" finish pictures, which I could care less about at this point and wandered around a bit.  My fingers thawed some more and I pulled out my phone to check my text messages.  One of them was the race alerts that I had signed up for and when I clicked it to open and scanned the message and saw my finish time of 1:57:52.... wow... well... I just started choking up and crying as I write this, so you can image how I reacted when I saw it for the first time!!! There were tears of disbelief that this was my ACTUAL finish time.  I didn't just break 2 - I crushed it!!!!

I immediately called my mom and told her and we both cried some more.  And then I got off the phone with her, wandered aimlessly a bit, found a bathroom, and realized I needed to eat something and get more water, so I went to the food tent and grabbed water, then made my way back to the Running Nerds tent for some more celebrations and pictures and putting on warmer clothing as I started to freeze my buns off as my both temperature dropped and I was still wet and in the cold.

My legs felt as tired as they did post marathons.  I was hobbling.  I threw my long sleeve on, which I was so glad I didn't wear for the race, and then my rain coat, which I had stashed at the race tent.  And then tied my tinfoil around my waist.  I was a hot mess - well, a cold hot mess - but you know what I mean.

I hobbled back and forth between the Running Nerds tent and the finish line, where my friends from Movers & Pacers were still watching runners finish and hanging out.  I was so touched that there was a group of people there celebrating the finishers and welcoming me into their crowd.  They were out in the pouring rain for no reason but to support their friends ALL MORNING.  I LOVE people like this.  I was so amazed and inspired by their encouragement of the rest of the group.

The finishers all took pictures together and it was great to spend time with them.

Finally I realized that I was too wet, cold, and in need of food to stick around any longer and that I needed to go home.   When I got in my car, I felt like my fingers really showed how dehydrated I was and what the raininess had done to my poor little fingers.

But once I warmed up a bit and got out of the rain in my car, the excitement started to hit me hard.  I DANCE PARTIED the whole way home solo in my car and it was glorious.  I hope all the other drivers saw me and smiled or something because I felt so happy and was totally loving rocking out and feeling overwhelmingly happy with how I had just run.  This is my happy face.

Believe it or not, this was the first longer race I have ever done and returned home afterwards to the place I actually lived.  Nashville I returned to a hotel.  Providence I returned my hotel room.  Paris I obviously returned to the AirBnB.  And Kansas City to the hotel.  Even the Saratoga Palio I was already out of my apartment so I returned to Heidi and Dave's house.  This was also the first time I didn't go out for a bit post run meal right away so I got home, warmed up in an amazing shower, and quickly made myself some food to refuel.  I had some eggs and mushrooms and cheese, a protein smoothie, apple, and lots of water, while I relaxed on the couch for a bit and caught up on messages and posts on Facebook and Instagram and whatnot.

I saw that Jess had been tracking my run and posting to Facebook.  I thought to myself, "Thank goodness I broke 2 or else that would have been embarrassing!" But I think Jess believed in me and knew I would hit that goal before I even started (sometimes it's amazing what others can see you are capable of when you cannot.)  I'm tearing up again thinking of all the support I was getting while I was running, most of which I didn't even know I was receiving!

As I was browsing online I started tearing up more seeing the pictures of the Movers and Pacers out cheering on all the runners from the group doing the race.  In the rain!  In the morning!  It was amazing to see and so inspiring to see all the comments and pictures and videos flying around.  I realized that the M+P supporters had been tracking the runners but I hadn't given them my bib.  Although someone waved to me at mile 10 from the group, they didn't realize it was me and missed me.  But I pretty much started crying when I was browsing Instagram and saw this.

It's hard to tell, but that's my name!  On a sign!  It still gets me, because I don't think I have ever had a sign made for me with my name on it before, and here I was in a new city, just meeting new people, and they were out in the rain with a sign with my name on it.  I know it is such a small thing but it meant SO much to me.  I regretted not taking the few steps over to the side of the road to get high fives from the group.  Just seeing them had given me a boost in energy but had I REALLY seen them, it might have been worth the energy it took to cross the road to get to them.

After relaxing, I spent the rest of the day actually going back out in the rain to the regular Movers + Pacers Sunday run to cheer them on as they finished.  I tell ya, this group is intense, spending the morning cheering and then running their own 3 miles.  The group always cheers everyone to the finish during the group runs, so I went out with one of the other girls who had done the half to cheer them on as they finished.

From there we all refueled with my first time trying a "grand slam" at the local fresh juice place... a shot of wheatgrass, a shot of ginger, a shot of lemon, and a shot of cranberry.  I felt like I should have super powers after that!

But possibly not, because from there I went to Mary Mac's Tea Room for dinner with some of the other runners and pretty much ate my face off.  It was delicious!!!  I originally was intending to start recounting Weight Watchers points on Saturday and use the half marathon as a way to get a lot of points and be on track this week. However, then this plate of food was put down in front of me.

And I'll admit, it doesn't LOOK the most delicious from that picture with all the suaces and grvies and marshmallow gooey-ness, but my god was it delicious.  I had baked chicken over "dressing" which I have learned is the southern word for stuffing.  And the sweet potato soufflee and broccolli souffle as my sides.  It also came with cranberry sauce, which I passed along to someone else and enjoyed the warm rolls (including cinnamon rolls, so random!) that they serve with the food.  Oh, and the meal started with a pot licker?  Which is some greens and broth and a little corn muffin.  It was all amazing and I left with a big box of leftovers!

Later in the evening I stopped by another Soul Food Cypher event and afterwards finally got my post-race beer.  It was an incredible day.  An amazing accomplishment.  A proud achievement.  And something I am still a bit in awe about.  Thank you for everyone who cheered me along, reached out to me, messaged me, read this blog, or has somehow inspired me and motivated me over the years.  Whether or not I called you out specifically, you all mean so much to me!!!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know you, I've never read your blog, and I'm not even really sure how I got here, but it is nice to see someone so excited about running! Congratulations on your sub 2 hour half marathon. Now that you know you can do it, start shooting for a new, faster goal. Good luck!