Athens Half Marathon
April 1, 2012
In spite of being on April Fool's Day, this turned out to be a great race for me.
We did the long drive down to DD's college (Ohio University) on Saturday (7-1/2 hours....) and DD and I picked up our shirts and bibs at the local elementary school. The kids were serving a pasta dinner as a fund-raiser, but we bypassed that in favor of going out to a pub with DH and DD's BF. One beer, and watched one of the final four basketball games. Early night.
Got up before 7:00 and got coffee at the breakfast buffet at our hotel... the only other people there were runners, so we chatted a bit - one really experienced guy and one running his first half. Was ready to leave at 8:00 to get DD, but DH decided he needed coffee and then lingered, making me hyper while I waited for him to get ready. Another snafu pre-race when we couldn't find each other after using the bathrooms, and I was hyper, angry and upset by the time the race started... Fortunately that seemed to convert into adrenaline for the first mile or so.
We did manage to snap a picture of the two of us in our special shirts. As a Christmas present we had dedicated this race to my brother-in-law, an ex-Marine going through some serious medical procedures this spring. Somehow I'd gotten my phone camera set to special effects - blue tint, so the picture looks a little funky.
Anyway, first mile mostly downhill, then a short uphill. I race without my Garmin, but I do admit to checking my pace at the mile markers against my watch and using the chronograph and lap counter on my watch to gauge how I'm doing. Mile 2 took 7:30 minutes... hmmm... it's on my life goals list to run a mile that fast! Not likely... Mile 2 was short about a 1/4 mile.
About mile 2.5 we hit the bike path - the race is an out and back on the bike path, so I was glad that we had the initial time on the streets to spread the crowd out a bit. I'd hit mile 1 and mile 3 at a 10:10 pace, and decided to try to hold that as long as I could. One woman wanted to chat, but I had to tell her I couldn't chat and run this pace. I know lots of people talk their way through races, but to me a race is a test of your training, and you should be pushing the pace. I race 1 to 1-1/2 minutes faster per mile than I train, so I don't talk. In the back of my mind I was remembering my PR run 4.5 years ago - I'd held at 10:00/mile for 8 miles, then dropped to 11:00. If I could hold this pace, I could PR.
A little after mile 4 the half marathon leaders were coming back on the path. #1 and #2 pretty close together, then #3 almost a minute behind, then a 3-4 minute gap for the rest of the pack. Those were some pretty ripped people going by! And running twice as fast as me (the #3 guy ended up winning).
So then I started watching for DD. I was almost at mile 5.5 before she showed up. She must have been chatting with the guy she was running with, and had told him about the shirts, because he suddenly shouted "And there she IS!" when he saw me. Got a laugh out of that, and was pleased with my progress (I'd expected to see her sooner, as she's much faster than I am)
Last water stop before the turnaround was at mile 6. Half a mile out to the turnaround and back - and wait - did I miss the mile marker for mile 7? No - about a half a mile past the waterstop was marker 7... 16:40 for a mile? Even with a 1 min walk break that was very improbable... aha! This was the make-up mile for the short mile 2! Of course, had no idea what my actual pace was right then.
So just keep chugging along. Starting to tire, and increased the walk break at the water stops from 30 second to 45-50. Pace seemed to be about 10:30 (assuming I could trust ANY of the mile markers). PR still possible, but it would be close.
The bike path got really quiet. It was very green, and I felt as though I was running alone. Reminded me of hikes I'd taken as a kid where I grew up in Oregon.
Passed a bunch of ROTC guys and girls hiking their way in fatigues and boots. When they got near I spun around and pointed to the "Semper Fi" on the back of my shirt and they gave me a big "HOOO RAH".
About mile 11 we passed the street where we had entered the bike path, and swung out to run along the Hocking River. Knew I was getting close to the finish and badly wanted to take an extra walk break. But just as I was about to, a man in a bright orange shirt and race medal was walking toward me and called out "tell your daughter the man from Buffalo says THANKS". I got such a laugh that I forgot about walking. Apparently after I saw her she ran with this man for about 5 miles and also told him about me and our race dedication.
About this time I realized that although I'd been pushing at my "race pace" I really was not hitting the mental wall as badly as usual. Sure, I wanted that extra walk break, but it wasn't a horrible defeated type of wanting. I'm convinced that having done at 16+ and 18 mile run before as part of my marathon training had a lot to do with making the 13.1 distance seem more manageable even at a faster pace.
Sooner than I expected there was a turn off the path, a soggy stretch of grass to run across, then the entry onto the track. As I came onto the track I heard them announce my name! Gave me a surge of energy, and I started the first lap of the track. Nearing the bleachers I heard DD yelling, and spotted her and DH in the stands waving. I waved an arm and then concentrated on just making it around the longest track lap ever... I never run on tracks, and it seemed as though the loop must be more than 400 yards. I'd seen the time clock as I passed by the finish and it was going to be very close to get my PR. I tried to speed up, but there were two women in front of me who made it hard to pass... Did speed up until I was right on their heels, then went around them in the backstretch and hustled through the finish chute. A PR? I didn't know right then - almost exactly 2:15 on the clock, and my PR was 2:14:41... would have to wait for the chip time to be posted before I'd know. Had it really taken more than 20 seconds to get to the start?
Walked around for a while, as I got light-headed every time I stood still. Was finally able to cross the track, get some food and connect with DD, BF, and DH. We collapsed against the fence for an exhausted after-picture (I finally got the camera back to color! - and right-side up!)
I checked the results website anxiously about every 20 minutes... it wasn't until after we'd all had a nap and were out to dinner that the results came up on-line... NEW PR by 15 seconds!!!!! Yes, I know that's only about ONE SECOND PER MILE, but still.... After 4 years of dealing with ankle and knee issues, I'm finally back and faster than before.