Weather - was ab.so.lute.ly. per.fect. Honestly, if I had described the weather that I would like best for a race, I couldn't have done as awesome as what we got. Chilly enough before the start that we were walking around in our pants and super grateful to The Man for coming down before the starting gun so we could disrobe one layer and stash our cell phones. Then, the sun was out, but there were enough clouds in the sky that it wasn't a constant sunshine; the clouds mixed with the bends and turns of the rail trail along the river and the trees and hills on the other side made for a great mix of sun and shade. The breeze (while going in the wrong direction for the last 2 miles) was awesome! Cool and light for the most part. I think my favorite part was the gorgeous views of fall leaves on the hillsides and the leaves falling from the trees as I was running. I hope I never forget how awesome the weather was yesterday.
Route - Morgantown sits along the Monongahela River. There used to be railroad tracks right along the river and also heading toward the east from the river. Those railroad tracks are now what we call "rail trails" and are the only place you can find a flat place to run in this town. We started at the intersection of the two trails and headed north towards Star City, where we turned around and headed back past the starting line south just past Med Express (about 1.5 miles), where we turned around and headed back towards the starting line again. This time, we turned right and headed east until just past Marilla Park where we turned around and headed back the 2 miles to the finish line (same location as starting line). It was a nice mix of the 3 routes, while providing beautiful scenery. The one thing I will say is to date, all of my runs over 9 miles have included some hills. Initial thoughts were that was a good thing, but after running 13.1 flat miles, I have to say I'll have to add some distance training miles on the flat into my routine. As much as the uphills frustrate me, the downhills provide built in breaks and gravity to help keep one foot going in front of the other. On the flat, it was all under my power. I was really feeling it from about mile 10 on. The water stops were well spaced, though one more would've been nice at the 11.5/12 mile mark.
Awards & Swag - awesome! A long sleeved navy blue T-shirt with a giant gold leaf on the front and "Morgantown Half Marathon" with a WV on it (WVU sponsored the race). A cool teddy bear ice pack. A new reusable grocery bag. Hand sanitizer. And best of all, an awesome finishers medal hand made from pottery, see (thanks Sara, I totally
My Race - My goal was to finish in 2 1/2 hours. As we started I moved to the back of the pack, a bit nervous because there were only 200 racers and thinking it was possible I could actually be last. I gave myself a quick pep talk that first (ha!), last, or somewhere in the middle, my goal was to finish in less than 2:30 - that was it. I couldn't control how fast (or slow) anyone else was. As we started out, I had some issues with my iPod, I didn't wear it the way I usually do, and it was pulling off of my SPIBelt, so I had to adjust it and clip it to my sports bra. Once I got it situated, I was good to go. The first 6 miles, I felt really good and was super pleased with my pace, I also enjoyed counting the women that went past me (in the other direction as they had already turned) to let Sara know where she was in the rankings (she's been placing in lots of our races lately). As Sara and I passed we high fived and encouraged one another (it's what we do :)). As I neared mile 7 and passed the start line for the first time, I was giving myself a pep talk, because having to run past your finish line can mess with your brain. The next 3 miles I started to let myself realize that I was really running 13.1 miles and I had to keep myself focused and not think too far ahead. I approach most of my runs 1 mile at a time, watching my pace (I'm horrible at pacing myself by how I feel, my watch is crucial for this), and adjusting from there. I did get some slight pains in my left knee and right ankle, but nothing that concerned me physically, just messed with me mentally for a few yards. My mantra of "strong and powerful" comes in handy when the aches start up. As I approached miles 9 and 10 and my next pass by the start/finish line, I was starting to get excited and sore. I knew the last 3 miles very very well (many 5Ks in our town use that stretch of trail as the route), and I also knew there was a stretch that I hate. BUT, I was also heading past the place where my dad would have been watching me go by if he'd been there (quick side note: surgery went well, Dad is doing awesome, even got to go home earlier than we thought), but I knew he wouldn't be, so I decided that I was going to offer up this stretch of trail for my Dad. That when I wanted to walk, I would remind myself of his surgery and what he's facing and keep pushing through. I smiled as I went past where he would've been and cheered myself on (in his voice) in my head. Finally, I passed the last water stop and headed back for the final 2 miles. My legs were pretty much done and as I walked through the water stop (that's my personal race plan: run except through water stops, then walk so that I actually get a good drink of water and don't just spill it everywhere) I could feel them tightening up - it actually felt better to just keep running at this point. As I crossed mile 12, I crossed into new territory, I'd never run this far before. I knew exactly where I was on the trail and how much further I had to the end. Just past mile 12, I looked up and saw Sara running towards me - she'd already finished and headed back out to run in with me. She also had a bottle of water - at the exact spot I'd thought when I went by the first time "another water stop right here for the end would be nice". Mentally I was struggling, though completely determined to keep running as much as possible, at this point. Having Sara to chit chat with and some water to drink, helped keep me focused and I only walked a tiny bit of that last mile. As I turned the last corner, I could see the time clock, I already knew because of my watch that I was under my goal time, but something about seeing that clock made it real - not only was I going to finish, but I was going to be under 2:30. Sara turned off the trail as I headed the last 50 meters or so, and that is when the tears started. I was really going to do it, I was going to finish a half marathon. I'd chosen to live my life and I'd won! As I crossed the line the clock said 2:27:30. A full 2 1/2 minutes faster than my goal time. I almost started to actually sob, and quickly pulled myself together and straightened up. I got my finishers' medal, with pride and made a beeline for The Man and the bananas. I'd done it, and I'd enjoyed it.
After - When The Man and I got home, I asked him if he'd give my legs a good working over (he's a massage therapist) since I wanted to be able to walk today. Talk about pain (the good kind) and also the relief of pain - so good. My legs are still sore and stiff today, and I really think I need to invest in at least one pair of flat dress shoes, if only for after race days because panty hose AND heels were a bit challenging. I've been offering up all of this post-race pain for all of my IF sisters.
Sara - Yep, she gets her own recap category :). It is Sara I initially started doing the Couch to 5k with 3 years ago. Sara who started emailing me with races and introducing me to supplies to keep me from dying. Sara who came back out and finished a 10K with me last summer when I really was the last person. Who came and met me during the half with water and encouragement. Who lets me say "I can't do that" and then smiles when I decide I can. So much of IF is isolating and lonely amidst the beauty of life around you, much like much of this race was - I was alone for most of it. And yet, amidst IF there are friends who encourage us along the way and bring us just what we need when we most need it - just like Sara did with that water at mile 12. So much of this race and what it means is wrapped up in with IF, and so much of what made the race doable and enjoyable even at the toughest spot - having the sun on my face and a friend by my side, is what makes IF survivable. While Sara doesn't walk the road of IF with me, she does run with me and that has made all the difference. Someday I will find a way to thank her in person without completely losing it, for now I trust that she knows.
Sunday, October 14, 2012. 13.1 miles. 2 hours 27 minutes 30 seconds. I ran.