Saturday, February 15, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Run the Reagan Half Marathon

I'm not really even sure where to begin! I have been wanting to run the half marathon at this race for several years, but it has always fallen too close to the Princess (or I have been injured). So this year, when I realized that I didn't want my birthday half marathon to also be my tenth, and my mileage was increasing enough to allow for a half marathon at this stage of training, I decided to go for it.

But then I didn't. The information was sketchy on the website (which had disappeared and then came back under a different address), and their Facebook page was practically silent. This was supposed to be the 20th anniversary running of the event, but this year it felt so different, so unorganized. I waited and waited to sign up until the last minute, hoping more information to be posted. The course had lost its certification for the half and 5K. It just felt off.

I was planning to register in early February, and then I got sick. Finally, I pulled the trigger, but still felt so uneasy. I had secretly (sort of) hoped to PR this race. I wanted to "prove" that I was "back". To whom? Myself? Yeah, I guess so... nobody else is really all that concerned about my pacing! LOL But sometimes this is how my brain works.

As the week went on, the bottom fell out of the weather. We got a snow/ice storm, and the forecasted high in the mid 50s on Saturday started to drop. At this point in my running career, I just expect it. I have some strange power over the weather when I run. Surprisingly enough, I didn't really freak out or get stressed out. The closer to Saturday (and the more the ice/snow melted), the calmer I became, and the more excited! (Even when a Wind Advisory was announced late last night! I mean, really, one of the things I said I would never run outside in? Yeah, I get the irony!)

I laid out my clothes - the shirt from my first half marathon that started it all (Princess 2010)! Paired it with my new Sparkle Tech skirt from Sparkle Skirts, and then threw on the jacket from last year's Princess (which was the last half I had run). It seemed quite fitting!

So loving this skirt from Sparkle Skirts - it's called "Orbits" and it matches everything!
I slept pretty well last night, and woke up before my alarm because it was actually set for later than I usually wake up! Gotta love a half marathon that is 15-20 minutes from my house! I left with plenty of time to reach the start in time for the group picture for my Moms Run This Town chapter. On the drive, I was overcome with emotion and found myself crying. I started running 5 years and 4 months ago. I did my first half marathon the first weekend of March 2010. Less than 4 years later, here I am going to the start line of my 10th half marathon. And this was with an injury that I was afraid would keep me out of running altogether! I hit rock bottom a couple of years ago, and have been slowly climbing back out of the rubble ever since. My family and my friends have stood by me and encouraged me every step of the way! And through everything, my relationship with God has grown deeper and He has helped me learn to trust and depend on Him - yes, through running (and swimming, and biking). It has been an amazing journey, and I am stronger than ever before - and I don't just mean physically!

I had to sit in the car for awhile and compose myself. It was so cold and windy, the tears would freeze to my face! LOL I hooked up with the MRTT crew and I hadn't seen them in SO long! I met some folks who I hadn't seen before, and then it was time to start the race!

The  wind was simply unreal. The course is an out-and-back and we started off with a brutal head wind. My lips were so cold that I couldn't even feel them. And the course is fairly hilly, and I wasn't well-trained for those hills. And the last 2-3 miles is basically an uphill, so I knew I needed to keep something in the tank for the end. But it was hard to conserve energy when I was constantly battling the wind just to keep moving forward. At one point, going up a hill, the wind was so strong that I could barely even move forward, running or walking!

At mile 3, I looked down and saw that my race bib had come undone from my fuel belt. I had never attached anything to the belt toggles before and I'm not sure why it ripped on one side, but it did, and my bib was flapping around like crazy. I was afraid it was going to fall off and fly away and I wouldn't get credit for my race at all! But then I remembered that I had a safety pin on the zipper pull of the fuel belt, put there by the previous owner (and MRTT chapter leader, Wendy, who happened to be running the half). I had never taken it off! So I was able to pin the broken side of the bib to my jacket and keep going! It worked brilliantly, and I think from now on I'll be carrying extra pins with me in my pockets!

For the record, I have never run with a fuel belt/water bottles in a race before. I wanted to try it this time to practice for the half ironman - when I will likely be on the course later than most folks and don't want to face empty water stations! It worked wonderfully (except for the toggle issue) and it was nice to be able to bypass the jam at the water stations (though that wasn't really an issue with this small race).

Got to the turn-around at last. I'm not sure how much longer I could have battled those head winds. I was concerned that I was going to be out of energy from battling the winds for more than 6.5 miles. But actually, I felt pretty good. I'm not sure time has ever passed so quickly during a half marathon as it did today!

Coming back with a tail wind behind me and the bright sun in front of me was lovely! I actually got warmed up so much that I had to take off my hat and mittens and put them through my fuel belt and unzip my jacket and tie it around my waist (since my fuel belt was wrapped around it LOL). I ended up losing my hat at some point, though, which is a bummer.

It was such a gorgeous day (when the wind was at my back LOL) and I marveled often at how blessed I was to be out there running a half marathon. I thanked God over and over for His blessings - the strength to run, the beautiful day, a husband who is supportive of my goals and dreams, children who don't mind Mom being gone in the mornings every Saturday, a mom who thinks I am the premiere runner in the US, a dad who is proud in his own quiet way, extended family constantly support me, running friends who talked me down through the hard times and support and encourage me through the good times, and non-running friends who may not always understand why I do what I do but still like me anyway! It's a lot to be thankful for!

Around mile 9, I knew that I was going to be able to finish. Around mile 11, I knew I was on track for a PR if I could maintain my pace through the next 2 nasty hills. Thankfully, I know this part of the course very well from doing the 5K and 10K in previous years. I knew exactly how many hills were left and that it would be fairly flat until the finish line that seems to get further and further down the road each year! I hit the crest of that last hill, took a final walk break, and ran the last 1.1 miles to the finish line. This was the only time where I felt I was really, really pushing myself. The rest of the course I had been working - especially against the wind - but now I felt my breathing move into another Zone and my brain kept telling me to go ahead and take a walk break and get a drink. But I was so close! Half a mile to go! I could get a drink at the finish!

I saw the finish line clock and confirmed that I could get that PR - and maybe even come in under 2:10, though I wouldn't be upset if I didn't. Apparently, the joy that I was feeling came shining through my face. Check out this picture that the newspaper folks took right before I crossed the finish line (they do this for everyone, not just for me LOL):

Such a giddy grin on my face! I love it! And can you believe everything I have around my waist?!
Sailed on through the finish line and got my beautiful medal!

Feeling strong!
Pretty medal! The only thing that could have been better is if they had put 20th Anniversary on it!

Race shirt picture - ONE ZERO!

I waited around for a little while and swapped stories with some friends from my MRTT chapter, but the wind was blowing and I was getting colder and colder. So I said goodbye and headed for my car to go home! Got a nice warm shower and put on my really cool race shirt. It's a bright yellow and it's a tech shirt, but it feels cottony! I searched all over for a bright yellow shirt last week and couldn't find one I liked! This one is perfect and is SO comfy! I love it!

So there you have it! The race report for my 10th half marathon! I could not have asked for a better experience. My official finish time was 2:10:07 which I am so thrilled about! It is 6:17 faster than my previous half marathon PR, and that was running straight through (today I did 4/1 intervals until the last mile) and though it was a hilly course, there was no wind that day. I am certainly proud of my effort today, and would have been without the PR. I just had a great time - and that's what it's all about!

Thanks for sharing this journey with me! And now it's on to my 20th half marathon! :D

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