This was my first race chosen after I decided I was ready to make the leap to do a half in each state. One of my past high school running teammates, Tom, happens to live in Huntsville, Al and told me about this race. Aside from the fact that its a quick 1.5 hour drive and I have a place to stay for free, I was really excited that the course was extremely flat with a rolling hill or two!!
Packet pick up was on Friday till 7pm @ the Huntsville Fleet Feet, so I made arrangements to leave work earlier that day so I could get there with plenty of time to spare and potentially browse around their fleet feet. (LOVE the store) Although I have a Gps built into my phone, I constantly forget and rely on mapquest to get me to new places- big mistake. There is no easy way to Huntsville, but visiting once before I at least remembered that I had passed into AL from TN via the main highway (65) and then drove for a bit on the highway before reaching the exit I needed to take- not the case this time. Mapquest had me take some exit while still in TN that was a small, dark country 2 lane road for 30-45 minutes before reaching any type of substantial civilization... lovely. Finally get on track and getting closer to a connecting highway I need to take. Right when I was getting onto the final connecting highway I realized a few seconds too late that the sign said north and i needed south. Because it was rush hour traffic it took a few exits for me to get over and turn around so I could head in the right direction. After 30 min of driving aimlessly not finding any of the signs listed on my mapquest print out it finally 'clicks' in my head to type in Fleet Feet's address so I can GPS my way out of nowhereville. Turns out I was going the right direction the first time and the sign was just wrong (gee how am I supposed to that?) 35 min later I'm approaching the shopping center Fleet Feet is in and my car started over heating and is starting to slow down on its own- seriously?!!? How I managed to at least coast into a parking spot in enough time I guess is pure dumb luck, but I made it- 6:50pm (talk about stress) Got my packet, bought a few gus since they weren't offering any on the course, and finally purchased 'the stick' for my muscles.
After I'm done there I call Tom to meet up for dinner and then make my way to Cheddars- car was thankfully behaving again. Pre race dinner is a little embarrassing- chicken tenders (which were HUGE and they gave me 6 of them) with fries, side of loaded baked potato, side of garlic bread, AND a side of steamed broccoli. I definitely know how to eat when the time comes for it, only had to box up a few of the chicken tenders. Follow Tom back to his place and then watch a few episodes of The Office before heading to bed.
Woke up at 5:45, got dressed, and stretched. Weather was going to be high 60s / low 70s, so I opted for compression capris with a blue tank and a zip up to keep warm till race time. Do my pre race meal- Lara bar, cherry pie... just enough to keep me satisfied without weighing me down. Tom was nice enough to actually get up with me and take me to the church where the race start / finish was at, and even stick around through the entire race. When we get there I realize that there is indeed NO chip timing, and no clocks on the course. There were however going to be timers at certain mile markers shouting out times, but what good is that if your time isn't EXACTLY the gun time?!?! The icing on the cake was there were no headphones allowed- I need music to keep me going, motivate if you will, as well to keep the focus off my breathing. I was extremely upset because this was the first race where I had a specific goal finish time- under 2 hours, and a better idea of how to pace to get there. Tom let me borrow his Ironman watch so I would have at least that to keep me accountable for pace, and then I decided I would still have my mp3 player (my phone) on my armband and just listen to it as normal just without the headphones, so everyone else could hear my music.
|Warming up before the race|
This is a smaller race- just at 1,000 people. An elderly man was in charge on the megaphone gathering all the runners to the start line. Instead of having people line up based on pace they just kept telling people to scoot back so we can accommodate the 'stragglers' who are slowly making their way to the start line- really? I listened to directions and got to the start line in a timely fashion and you want me to move farther away from the start line when there is no chip timing? That makes one irritated Lisa. The pastor of the church that was the host of this race led us all in prayer before we were able to start. (a first experience for me before any type of race)
Gun went off and it took me 20 sec before I got to the start line and I could begin the watch. These Huntsville folk don't mess around- SUPER fast. It was extremely hard for me to remind myself not to get caught up with everyone else's pace and go out just as fast. The first mile was fast, but felt great at 8:45, 2nd one a little faster with 16 and change. First 2.5 miles was run throughout a neighborhood and then passed the start line again to begin our 'out and back'. Slowly the crowd was thinning out as everyone was finding their own pace- good news for me because I felt so awkward running next to people with Britney Spears or something equally as girly blasting from my arm as I approach other runners. 5k time was 26- still doing great. I feel like I'm going faster than ever before, but yet I'm not tired- the smart part of me would say to take it easy because I need to conserve my energy since I'm not even half way through the race- the 'Lisa Logic' in me said- screw it, this is a flat course so take advantage and just go for as long as my body is willing. Around 5 mile took my first gu, vanilla bean my absolute favorite, looked at watch and time was 43 and change. Literally right after I passed mile 6, 51 min, the first place runner was already making his way back- wow! 6th mile to a little before 10th mile was all run on the 'greenway' which is flat pavement trail through woods and fields- quite serene actually.
I think my fast pace mixed with the heat reaching 70 degrees was finally starting to slow me down- whew I was getting tired. Mile 7 had water and gatorade- drank both and decided to do my 2nd gu- espresso love. First time ever having the gu, but I wanted to try it out since it was double the caffeine. Word to the wise, make sure you have plenty of water when having this flavor. There wasn't enough water in my cup to flush out the taste, so unfortunately the taste stuck with me for 2 miles until I had double-backed to the same station. As I get further on the greenway, more people are making their way back- great sight to see because it means that I too am getting close to the turnaround point. Around mile 7.5, I see a little kid (after looking at results I found out he was 11) who was already heading his way back- wow thats incredible.
|after seeing this picture from the sports photographer it made me angry to know that I wasn't using my stride!|
About mile 8.5 is the turnaround- it always feels great when you start heading back and you know you are beating that many people. My body is starting to give way now and I have to walk. I tell myself 30 sec. tops, however once you start walking its like 'breaking the seal' and then your desire/ 'need' to walk more increases. I get a little pass mile 9 and hit the hydration station again, down a gatorade and water and feel rejuvenated for all but maybe 2 minutes and its back to walking again. This 60 year old women catches up to me and I decide to pace off her- I succeed for about 1/2 mile and then she leaves me in the dust. When I hit mile 10 I look at my watch and realize that if I want to reach my goal of under 2 hours I would have to run faster than a 25 min 5k- this was a longer course, 13.28, so technically I'd have to run even faster than that.
Tired, hot, feet completely numb, tight calves, and discouraged I mini gave up. I started walking for 30 sec every 2 min or so. I dont' know why I ALWAYS do this to myself- go out hard, die later. You would think the phrase "Its not where you start its where you finish" would be engrained in me by now, but it just doesn't stick. Mile 11 I pass the last hydration station and more and more people are walking due to the heat. I tell myself to suck it up and I slowly start to pick up the pace- that last for .5 mile and I walked again. One of the runners from the Fleet Feet store came up behind me and said 'you're body is going to hold up, you just have to put your mind in charge!' ~ simple but so true. That phrase stuck with me and actually did motivate me to pick up my pace. It worked- I hit mile 12 and I had about 8 min to run 1.28 miles- I was determined. I started passing people telling them "X number of min to run under 2 hours!" I was really excited that I might actually reach my goal after all.
Right when I started to get tired DMX "Up in here" came on my mp3 player- super old school but also apparently what I needed to keep up the speed. I hit mile 13. I reach the start line and Tom is standing at the corner screaming "You're gonna break 2hrs, just kick it in 200m!" I shook my head, but since it was guaranteed I was going to get under 2 hours, I couldn't bring my legs to kick much. Crossed the finish line with my watch time of 1:58:37- gun time 1:58:57- I did it, I did it!!! I actually accomplished my goal despite the longer course and all the walks. This was my 4th completed half marathon, and the first one where I actually felt proud of my performance; an amazing feeling :)
Got my medal, (kind of small) gatorade, and banana. They actually had GREAT after race food- bananas, grapes, bagels, muffins, and pizza- I'm never that hungry after I run so I kept it simple. Met up Tom who helped share my victory! I was so excited, that I called my parents immediately following- I feel like I'm back in high school again, giddy with joy.
|Showing off my medal|
|Lucky number 446!|
After I got cleaned up I said goodbye to Tom and hit the road back toward home. Decided once I reached my exit that I would reward myself with Waffle House- Bacon egg on wheat toast, double order of scattered and covered (onions) hashbrowns, AND a chocolate chip waffle... I devoured it all :)
I'm glad I chose this race, however, they definitely needed to add chip timingand more water stations for future years. I do like smaller races since they are less crowded, but then you have to account for it probably will have a few kinks that need to be worked out.