...And that's why running the best Half I've ever run felt that much sweeter.
Here's how it all unfolded:
I took Leopold with me to this race because 1) he wanted to go, and 2) Saturday School sucks. Any excuse to get him out of that was welcome. We left the house at about 4:20 a.m., with Leopold asleep in the back seat in his pj's with his favorite blanket and his stuffed dog, Rex. The trip was boring, but easy. We arrive at Wachovia Atrium at 6:30 as planned. First sign of good things to come: FREE parking that was literally at the start of the race.
Race #1: Global Ass, My Warming 6.66
Second sign of good things to come: PERFECT weather for the Global
AssWarming, My Ass Virtual Race. Which makes perfect sense, given the weather and race gods' quirky senses of humor. As we lined up, it was clear, cold and sunny, with a slight breeze. As the National Anthem began to play, the Olympics popped into my head, and I began imagining what it would feel like to be Apolo Ohno (or anyone) on the podium, winning gold (or any medal). Suddenly, my eyes began to fill with tears....OMG! I caught myself. Cry after the race. Not before. Rules to live by.
That's how they started it. Kind of lame, but whatever. So, we're off. Third sign of good things to come: iPod malfunction. I had planned to only use music on the hills, if I needed it. However, my new ear buds immediately began to pop out of my ears repeatedly, forcing me to wad them up and shove them down my bra. At mile 4 the wires were hanging down at my knees - a total shocker because I didn't think anything was capable of getting out of that barricade. I couldn't really see carrying the earbuds the entire way, so I ditched them.
The first (and only) annoying race experience came right at the beginning, with a guy who set his Garmin to beep (read: shriek) if he wasn't running in his pace zone. About every 10-15 seconds a loud shrill BEEEEEEP cut through the air. 15 minutes of that had me ready to shake him by his lapels (if he had had lapels) and scream, "Will you either SPEED UP or SLOW DOWN so we don't have to be subjected to that incessant SCREECHING?" I would never do that. I'm just sayin'.
After getting away from said guy, I tuned in to how I was feeling. At mile 3 I remember thinking I felt... fine. The hills were rolling, and I just kept telling myself, even effort. Even effort. Don't look at your watch, just run an even effort. In the early miles, I had a definite sense of going downhill -overall, and via rolling hills.
Mile 1 - 8:56
Mile 2 - 8:36
Mile 3 - 8:56
5K - 27:15
Mile 4 was all downhill and it felt good. I was tempted to speed up, but decided to wait until mile 6 or 7 before making any decisions. Mile 5 happened to be mile 18 of the Thunder Road Marathon- a steep climb that drops down to crowds cheering you on. It was the point in the marathon where I slowed the most, and knew the rest of the race was going to be about hanging on. I remember seeing Phil and Leopold here, Leopold with his adorable sign, and wishing I was running better than I was. Not today. Today, Charlotte, I own this hill. In fact, I'm making it my personal mission to own every hill in this race today.
Mile 4 - 8:16
Mile 5 - 9:19
Mile 6 - 8:55
10K - 53:49
6.66 - 57:02
I never talk to people during races, but I struck up a conversation with a guy in a black tracksuit. He first got my attention because I glanced over at him and I thought he seemed over-dressed. I also thought his coloring seemed bad- like someone about t have a heart attack. We had virtually been running side by side for 3 miles, so it just seemed rude not to say something. I also realized had I been wearing the iPod, I would've missed this opportunity altogether- something I thought more about later on. Tracksuit guy had driven down from Winston-Salem to run the race, and was commenting on how hilly it was. Without thinking, I mentioned the largest hill came at mile 12. Catching myself, I said (lamely) "But you'll be ready for it- you're doing great." Jeez. Then he asked me what time I thought I'd finish in. I said, "I don't know. Somewhere between 1:54 - 1:58. I hope." He was like, "Wow! My best Half was a couple of years ago, and I ran it in 2:03." Rut Raggy? Now this time I keep my mouth shut, but I was thinking, "Dude- why are you running a hilly course at a pace 6 minutes better than your best?"
An hour in, and I had the Global Warming, My Ass Virtual Race under my belt. Nice. Now, to finish this mutha. At mile 7, I still felt good, but I realized that I also felt good at 7 during my last two HM's, and I blew up at Mile 10 in both of those. I decided to be conservative, and stay put with my pace. If I was this good at mile 10, I'd start kicking it home.
Mile 7 - 8:42
Mile 8 - 8:42
Mile 9 - 8:41
Mile 10 - 9:00
Going in to mile 11, I decided to speed up if I could, realizing that just to maintain the current pace would feel harder. I started setting my sights on any female that looked like she might be in my age group. I was passing people, and working hard. I was having a good race, and it felt really good to be having a good race. It's the most unusual feeling- misery and happiness all rolled together. As I reeled in a girl I'd had my sights on, I heard her tell her friend, "I'm not totally miserable yet, but I'm really feeling it." You and me both, sistah. Race. On.
Mile 11 - 8:55
Now It's A Party
Mile 12. It was finally here. If I was going to blow up, it was going to happen on the biggest hill. I kept my eyes down to avoid the sight of the long, long hill that was mile 12. Dig deep, do not walk, just get this done. What I remember most about mile 12 was that it had these over-sized speed bumps interspersed throughout. Like the hill itself wasn't bad enough, they had to throw in mini-hills, too. People, please.
As I crested the hill at 12.6 miles, I was about done. At mile 13, there's a slight downhill grade, then you make the turn onto College Street to finish. As I turned on to College, I saw the finish line waaaaay down there- I couldn't even read the clock- and started to give it all I had left. Suddenly... I am peeing myself. OMG. I am peeing and I can't stop it. It's running down my leg! I look around to see who might be looking at me, and I think: I am never going to see these people again. Go for it. I finished strong, thinking Best. Race. Ever. It can't be one for the books until you've lost control of your bladder.
Mile 12 - 9:23
Mile 13 - 9:11
.10 - 1:31
Garmin Time for 13.1 - 1:56:28
Clock Time for 13.32 - 1:58:03
4:00: Get up
4:02: Sleep in back of car until 6:00
6:00: Play game while mom gets race number
6:12-8:00:Wait in atrium until race starts
8:00: Watch race start and go to atrium to wait for mom to finish
8:14: Get brilliant idea to go up and down escalators.
9:24: Get idea to go wrong way on escalators and stay in place
9:25: Try to execute idea but get too scared
9:37: Try idea and have lots of fun
10:00: Meet mom at finish
11:15: Watch awards
11:35: Go home