Yesterday, I ran 1/2 marathon as a part of the Hells Belles relay team in the Beach 2 Battleship 1/2 iron distance race. It was amazing beyond belief. Because there were so many facets to yesterday, it’s hard to even know where to start, so I’ll just start at the beginning.
First thing Friday morning, I had a nice 30 minute shake-out run while my swimmer, Randee, tried out her wetsuit and unexpected cold temps. While I was THRILLED at the colder air, she was facing swimming in an environment she wasn’t used to, which isn’t something you usually want to do on race day. Let’s say she wasn’t thrilled about the temps. The B2B expo was next. We picked up our packets, went to the mandatory meeting and walked around the expo. I ended up buying an outfit I can wear swimming and in triathlons. If I wasn’t already planning to do the B2B 1/2 next year, there’s no way I could come out of that expo NOT wanting to do one, that’s for sure. I was humbled by the people there and what they were preparing to put themselves through. Me, I was “just” running a 1/2 marathon!!
I ate the same sort of foods I would in preparation for a full marathon, just not as much. The issue was that my stomach was being a little grumpy. It’s not normal for me to feel like that before races, and I’ve done plenty of them, so I knew something else was going on and that I needed to be extra careful. I had dinner with my teammate, Wendy, and we were both tired but really excited for the events Saturday. After I got home from eating, I got all my race stuff together, set my alarm, said goodnight to my family, and went to sleep. Well, I did after the stupid song I had in my head all day left my brain. I was teasing my son by singing and acting along to the song “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips like the friends do in the movie Bridesmaids, so it circled for a while. Annoying.
I got up pretty early to the text, “Wakey wakey” from Randee. I silenced my phone and went back to sleep for another hour. When I did get up at 6:30, I knew I was in for it. My stomach was pissed. I’ve never had a GI problem during a race, and I certainly didn’t want to make this the first time, so I stayed home and just followed my eating plan. It’s a good thing I didn’t have an early morning race, that’s for sure. Why am I including this little “TMI” segment? Well, because this is a blog about running and runners talk about stuff like this.
I was pacing when the race started for Randee. I waited and waited and then tried to track her progress. Nothing. What happened? Where is she? WHAT IS GOING ON????? I found the live cam from the swim finish and watched and watched for her. Then it quit streaming. I waited a little longer and texted her husband to see if she was done. She was. Wendy, our biker, was on her way to me. I had three hours to get ready to run. Butterflies!!
We didn’t know exactly where we were going for the exchange point and we didn’t know what the traffic/parking situation would be like, so we headed to downtown Wilmington early. I’d much rather be there early than to be scrambling around and late. Thankfully, my stomach settled down, and I had a feeling I needed to eat more. I kept my coach’s words in my head, “Be sure to eat enough so you won’t want to eat other runners, but not enough that you’ll shit yourself”. Good advice, Kristen, good advice. My go-to pre-race meal emerged a few years ago before a marathon, so we stopped at Burger King and I picked up a double hamburger, of all things. But when you find something that works, you do it if it feels right. We got there in plenty of time, had no trouble parking right by transition 2, and found our way to the relay transition point. Randee showed up after showering up after her swim, and we saw some fellow teammates from our mutual training group, Without Limits. We cheered, we waited, and at the time that would have been Wendy’s best finish time, I got ready to go.
I waited in the transition area for about 30 minutes. Five minutes before that, I got butterflies. I got nerves. I thought, “Wow, I don’t feel like I’m going to run 13.1 miles in just a few minutes.” Maybe it was because my mind was ready. Maybe because I didn’t have a huge amount of pressure on me – my only goal was to finish in under 2 hours. I don’t know what it was, but when Wendy came into view, I was ready to go.
I gave Wendy a hug, got the timing chip around my ankle, started my watch, and took off. Boy, did I feel good. I didn’t look at my watch for a little bit, and when I did, I was shocked to find out that I was going at about a 7:30 minute mile. I knew I’d crash pretty quickly if I kept that pace up, so I slowed down. But I felt soooo goooood!!! My pace was even, my steps were quick, and my breathing was slow and steady. I slowed up to an 8:15 minute mile, which was 45 seconds a mile faster than my plan. I honestly tried to slow down. I really did. I knew that I could end up crashing. But I wanted to go for my best time, because I knew “that” feeling, that wonderful “this is awesome” feeling, and I was having it right then. I also didn’t want to derail at mile 6, so I had to be smart about it. I knew I would end up feeling uncomfortable, and I knew I was comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was time to act like a runner.
After being out of speed work, hill work, and tempo running for a full month because of my severe shin splints and calf tightness, I was expecting my leg to start hurting. Yes, I felt some discomfort, slight pain, and I shoved it aside. I was elated to be running to my potential without pain, the first time in a very long time. Finally!! In a race too!! The crowds along the first two or so miles were amazing. There was music, there were Without Limits people yelling at their teammates, there were strangers yelling, “You’re looking strong, keep it up!” and “Go Hells Belles!!!”. I was running my first big race without my iPod, so I didn’t know what to expect after the crowds thinned out and I was alone.
The course was out and back, so I was able to see runners as they were on their way back towards the finish. So inspiring!!! I kept passing runners and honestly, I felt bad since I knew they were the ones who had swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles already. I had an “R” on my calf, so at least I knew they could see that, know I was part of a relay team, and know why I had so much energy. My pace stayed steady between 8:10 and 8:20. At about mile 6, I noticed that my watch stopped beeping when I passed the mile marker. Hmmmm. I’ve run in races where my watch shows I’ve run less distance, but not a course with such tight corners and basically no margin of error. Did they measure the course wrong? The first time, my watch showed I was .10 miles off. Then it was .2 miles off at the next mile marker, then .3 miles. I thought that it would be pretty crappy to be a marathon runner and find out the course is measured incorrectly. But other than that, I was floored at how much I DIDN’T miss my iPod. Sure, it would’ve been nice, because the course was quiet. Besides the water stations and beginning/end, it was extremely quiet. But I didn’t care. I listened to my breathing, I listened to my steps, I heard the rustling leaves, I heard other runners. I was in my own world, my zone, my happy place, my happy pace.
The miles ticked down, and I got closer to the finish. My lips were dry. I was getting tired, breathing harder. My coach saw me along in there somewhere and yelled, “KELLI YOU’RE AWESOME!!!” I kept at it. I repeated to myself, “You are uncomfortable. Get over it.” I wanted my chapstick. Three miles to go, two miles to go…. crowds were starting to form again. I was close. I heard the music, the crowds thickened, the atmosphere….awesome.
I tried as hard as I could to finish strong. I saw the finish line. Wow. I know I hadn’t done the entire 1/2 iron distance, but really, any finish line is emotional. I found my two teammates, who joined me so we could finish together.
Once we crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch. Holy shit. 1:44:08. An unofficial PR by 7 seconds. Granted, my watch showed less than 13 miles, but I had to give that up to the Garmin gods. I did it. I had an absolutely amazing race. Randee swam it. Wendy biked it. I ran it. PR or not, official or unofficial, I ran my best race, it felt AWESOME, and I had fun. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
After the race, we collected our awesome medals, pajama pants, and food. My husband (Sherpa) and I sat down and had a beer while listening to the post-race music, then headed to our favorite hangout to watch runners go by and hang with the other Belles.
I’m intimidated by completing a 1/2 iron distance next year, which is exactly the reason that I plan to sign up and do it. Two huge boxes checked off a life goal list in 2014?? Boston Marathon in April, check. B2B in October, check. Heck yeah, why not??!!
How can I describe yesterday? Awesome? Amazing? Inspiring? Yes, yes, and yes. And as I watched the full iron distance runners continuing to run after being at it for over 10 hours at that point, I thought, “Well, maybe that’ll be me some day.” And today, as I think about it, I know it will be.