Despite my outward ho-hum attitude about acheiving a PR at the Mercer Island Half Marathon, I did really want to get it. In fact, I expected to get it. I felt there was no way I should not get it even though I continuously doubted myself — even during the final 5k of the race on Sunday.
Although I was carrying around this expectation, I wasn’t nervous before the race. For me, racing is really the fun payoff to training. I’m not trying to win anything, just hoping to prove to myself that I can do it. So, while I get nervous about parking and the logistics of the event, I’m not anxious about the running part (well, not anymore).
But I haven’t been feeling good. I didn’t sleep well two nights before the race — drenching night sweats, tossing and turning on the couch — or the night before — less extreme night sweating, but still had to change my jammies and try to fall back asleep.
The morning of the half, I popped out of bed, showered, then came downstairs to get dressed. I made a short list the night before of items I needed to remember and was glad I had it because I almost forgot a change of socks for Amanda’s birthday lunch post-race.
My stomach was uneasy, like it’s been off and on for about a week. Maybe I’m sharing too much here, but I was having…”girl” issues. But these “girl” issues were abnormal. In fact, I thought I might be pregnant (I am NOT).
Poor Zoë (Run, Zoë, Run) had to listen to me describe my “issues” just after 7 a.m. as we drove to the race in Mr. T’s black Malibu (aka The ‘Bu). In retrospect, that’s a little early for all that info, but she’s too nice to say anything.
We got on the island with absolutely no problems. No traffic back ups, no parking issues. We found a spot in the second-closest parking area (the first one was full), but this one was under cover and only a few blocks away from the community center where the race would begin and end. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. yet and the race wasn’t starting till 9. We took our time getting ready in the car.
Outside, it was about 50 degrees and looking like rain, so we debated what to wear, etc. I realized I forgot my fuel belt, which I hadn’t planned on wearing, but was going to bring with me just in case. I decided on my short-sleeve Walmart running shirt and my black running sleeves to match my black running capris. Zoë, of course, was in a tank top. Crazy girl!
“Well, if you’re in a tank top, then I’ll be perfect in short sleeves,” I told her from the driver seat. “I figure one step up from what you’re wearing, is just about right.”
We got to the start area around 8:00 (although, we sort of had to guess what time it was, since we kept looking at our Garmins, which don’t show the time and weren’t even on at that point). I immediately got in the Honey Bucket line, which was only about 6-people deep. Zoë shivered off to the side. When I met up with her again, it was decided I needed to go back to the car (read: “girl” issues). She was glad to because she wanted to sit in there and get warm for a bit before returning to the community center. “Great idea!”
On the way back, we passed a man walking the cutest brindle boxer puppy with floppy ears, and I couldn’t resist squealing “a boxer” then sticking my hand down for a lick. (Read about my boxer encounter at the Seattle Half. I’m 2/2 in boxer sightings at half marathons. I think AJ really is running with me!)
We chatted in The ‘Bu for a while. But then I started to get nervous at about 8:25 because I knew I had to get back in the Honey Bucket line and was worried the lines would be really long now. “At 8:30 we’ll go back up,” I said.
So we hustled back up to the community center at 8:30. It wasn’t too cold till the wind picked up. As I suspected, the lines for the potties were very long. I sent Zoë to get warm in the tent that was set up for post-race food and water, and I went to the farthest line, which I hoped would be the shortest. That’s when I ran into Mel (Tall Mom’s recap) and Jill (Running to Sanity), so I texted Zoë to come find us.
The line was slow. At 8:53, I still had four or five people in front of me! Mel and Jill left to get to the starting line. I told Zoë to go to, but she wouldn’t. She asked me more than a week ago if she could run with me since her foot has been bothering her and she needed to take it easy. She was going to run with me no matter what, she said. Even if we missed the start while I was in the potty! What a friend!
Finally, I got in and outta there, and we hustled to the starting area. Over the loud speaker we heard, “One minute!” We had to run down a steep hill of loose, soft beauty bark, then jump off a small cliff to get in line!
The crowd was thick and hot. Luckily, we were in there for only about a minute before it was time to run.
Once we crossed the blue mat, I hit start on AJ II and we were off. I felt good. My tummy issues went away. Zoë and I ran with our music plugged into our ears, but we pointed things out to each other along the way: cute dogs, a strange thin house that seemed to defy gravity on a hill, the Seattle skyline, beautiful Lake Washington, even the banana-carrying dude we gave a ride to during the Million Inch Run (who was wearing those gray tights again, by the way).
The first half of the race s
eemed to fly by on quiet rolling hills and curvy roads with a beautiful Northwest canopy. We were running at a great faster pace, and having a good time. I got a little out of control on one downhill, though, which scared me a little. I let gravity take over and I was a freight train with no brakes. “On your left! On your right!” I warned other runners.
We took GUs around Mile 6, I think, and I got water at all the stops except the first one. The water stops weren’t too chaotic, which I appreciated after the Seattle Half. The volunteers along this course were amazing. One man yelled, “God bless your day!” or something like that. And people came out of their million-dollar homes to cheer us on.
One of my favorite spectators was a girl, probably 6, standing in her feetie PJs behind the enormous picture window on the front of her house, which was perched on a hill above the road. She stood with her arms at her side just watching the runners pass by the end of her driveway. I pointed her out to Zoë and we waved up the hill. She continued to stand there in a morning daze.
Zoë was an amazing coach! She kept telling me the splits and then counting down the miles. She urged me on, she held me up emotionally. Just having a friend next to me was a spirit-lifter. At the half-way point she told me I was going to get an amazing PR. “Hope so,” I puffed.
We found Jill around Mile 10, I think, and we all three ran together for a while (until we lost each other at a water stop). I was struggling, though, so I didn’t say much. Zoë encouraged me. “It’s just 3 miles; you can push the BOB that far!”
I laughed. “True.”
The second half of the course was much more difficult than the first. Mile 11 had a hill that kept on going. Around every turn, I thought that would be the end of it, but no! It seemed we would never go downhill again. Zoë reminded me several time not to look up and to just get mad at it, but I ended up walking a little of it. “I think I can walk faster than I can run,” I whispered. Runners passed me in clumps. Then Zoë said, “Let’s run to that big bush up there,” and I did, and we kept on running after that.
I continued struggling after that hill till I realized that my music had stopped! No wonder. I had no beats to run to! I immediately felt better after I started up my Zune again.
Finally, we turned off the roads onto a sidewalk and I felt we were getting close. Less than a mile to go! My stomach growled. “I’m so hungry,” I squeaked.
“There’s food and water at the finish line,” Zoë said. I guess it was around then that some dude in a green shirt got all pushy with us because the route had narrowed. I didn’t remember being in his way, but Zoë told me about him. As we started up the final hill, she wanted to pay him back for his rude comments. I told her to go ahead and she took off. She’s so fast! You’ll have to check out her race recap later to see if she “chicked him” or not.
After that last uphill, the finish was on a downhill. A woman was hula-hooping next to me (what the heck?) and almost took me out, but I managed to skirt her and smile for the camera at the same time, even though I know he was aiming for her, trying to capture her weirdness.
I crossed the finish line with my arms raised in victory, which is what I wanted for my first half, but was so grumpy that I didn’t do it. This time I was truly happy. And I remembered to not push stop on my Garmin right away so that I would have a good (hopefully) finish picture.
AJ II read 2:14:07. About an 11-minute PR. I smiled.
Mel and Zoë found me immediately, and Mel (God bless her!) had stored a bunch of waters in her backpack so we wouldn’t have to stand around to get them. I recieved hugs and high-fives, of course, from my buddies. Then Jill was there, too. And we all swapped “war” stories. Jill’s mom and her friend found us and took our pictures. Can’t wait to see those pics. I bet I look awesome (I’m being sarcastic).
After stuffing my face with “the best apple I’ve ever had,” an orange slice and half a white bagel, we headed to the meeting spot (read: classy dumpster) to meet up with Amanda (5 Miles 2 Empty), who got a sub-2-hour PR on her birthday!) and lots of other friends and bloggy runners, including Sarah (Brunette on the Run) and her brother, who ran his first half marathon.
After our “photo session,” it began to pour and we were freezing, especially Zoë in her tank top and RunningSkirt. It was like being in a cold shower. We actually ran back to The ‘Bu.
I can’t believe we were running after finishing 13.1 miles!
Official Chip Time: 2:14:02
159/228 in my age group (30-34)
Paces per AJ II – 13.22 miles – 2:14:07
Average pace: 10:08
Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 10:04
Mile 3: 9:46
Mile 4: 10:02
Mile 5: 9:41 (pretty sure this was that long downhill)
Mile 6: 9:57
Mile 7: 9:57
Mile 8: 10:22
Mile 9: 10:07
Mile 10: 10:22
Mile 11: 9:58
Mile 12: 10:50 (I think this is actually the long uphill)
Mile 13: 10:34
.22: 2:19 (10:35 pace)
COMING UP: More race observations and a fun birthday lunch with the PR Princess (Amanda).
PS: Thank you to Amanda’s friend for the groups shots! Love them!