Well let me just say - I crushed my goals. Far beyond anything I imagined was possible and I am still elated. Let's start with this:
Yes, it's as enormous as it looks.
Okay, now let's go back to the beginning. We hit the expo on Friday after driving down. I have to say, I was excited! I expected it to be a thing! They made a big deal that they needed to rent a bigger room 'cuz it was so big! And .. there was really only one vendor. I did buy a bondiband (which btw, I am loving - I ran with it during the race and it was perfect, my head didn't feel sweaty, my hair wasn't doing its best imitation of an afro, and it wasn't at all uncomfortable). But it really was a bit disappointing.
That's okay though, because the next morning, the race started at 7:30. My husband and daughter and the baby dropped me off at about 7:15 and I hopped into the portapotty line...which was generally agreed to be the longest portapotty line, EVER! Or at least the slowest moving. It actually sparked conversations in line (including the woman in front of me wanting assurance the course was flat. I tried to break it to her gently that uh...no. It's not.) The race ended up a lot bigger than they anticipated (they weren't even able to guarantee medals or shirts to people who registered after a certain point, wow! they did say they have temp. medals for people who registered later and that a second batch would be ordered. I registered eons ago so this wasn't an issue for me, but wow! Little race got bigger!) so the portapotty situation was unfortunately inadequate, so let's just say when the 21 gun salute I was indisposed! I had actually intended to line up with the 2:30 pacer and figured I could drop back if I needed to, but I got out of the portapotty after it started, so was still waiting for my garmin to get going as people were starting to cross the start. This ended up being a good thing though.
I went running and got to slap Abe Lincoln a high-five...well, I had to jump for it, but I did it. For most of the first mile I was chasing the 2:20 pacer, of all things! Surprised me but I wasn't looking at my garmin, I was just running easy. I quickly realized what a mistake it was to have my running jacket on though, I was used to wind and there wasn't any! I couldn't bear to discard it so I tied it around my waist under my water bottle belt. The second mile had us running up a gentle incline, towards the capital building, which I knew was nothing compared to what was coming so I was just trying to keep it easy. The third mile was more of the same, after the capital building we were going through some residential areas. My 5K time came in at 31:33, which surprised the heck out of me! "Slow down, self! I don't want to burn out!" I was feeling good though so I just kept trying to keep it easy.
The real surprise is how well I can take pictures while running!
Mile 4 was mostly flat and uneventful. I was feeling tired though and scolding myself for going out too fast, but I had promised myself I'd run until we got to the first real hill and walk the hill and re-evaluate there, so I kept going. It may have crossed my mind that wanting to run 13.1 miles was stupid though.
Mile 1: 10:45 (Hey, that's not the 11:30 mile I planned. Slow down!)
Mile 2: 10:29 (Umm, that's not slowing down, self.)
Mile 3: 10:27 (Well...that's...steady..)
Mile 4: 10:15 (All right, I'm just going with this.
Pics or it didn't happen, right? That's the 2:20 pacer!
Coming up on mile 6 and the 10K point we ran beside this beautiful lake with beautiful bells tolling. Maybe they were church bells? I have no idea, but I forgot how beautiful they were and how lovely the lake and bridge we were running beside. I hit the 10K point about 1:04 which surprised the heck out of me, as my 10K PR is 1:13! Here I stopped and walked though, the big hill was coming but I needed to refuel. For some reason my brain had expected the big hill to hit at mile 6 so when it didn't I knew I needed to refuel then and that refueling later hadn't boded well for me in training runs.
I then planned to run until mile 8, but found the big hill - 7.75 miles in. And walked it, taking more of my sports beans and drinking as I walked up it. I saw people running up the hill, and I'll say this - I passed a lot of them later, for good. I think a lot of people burned themselves out here. This may not have been Heartbreak Hill but it was big and it was only the first, there was more to come.
Mile 5: 10:09 (Hey, that mile felt really good!)
Mile 6: 9:54 (Did I just run a sub-10mm in a half?!)
Mile 7: 11:13 (Hi, big hill.)
Mile 8: 11:32 (Still on the big hill. Yay.)
Unfortunately at that point when I started running again after the hill my calf soreness that had vaguely come and gone during my training cycle said OHAI, DON'T PLAN ON RUNNING ALL THE REST, KAY? It wasn't debilitating, but it hurt enough that I was worried about pushing on it, so I switched to a walk/run cycle, generally running 7 and walking 2, plus walking the steeper inclines. I felt a twinge of disappointment that I couldn't run everything, but I never forgot to smile, because I was still out there - and that in and of itself was amazing. I was 1:24 into the race with 5 miles to go - I knew unless something went horribly wrong my 2:30ish goal was totally attainable, and that even if I really slowed down and ran 13 minute miles, I was still in to meet many of my goals!
Mile 9 took us into the cemetery where Lincoln's tomb is. I forgot to get a picture while running, but I took one when we went to visit it the next day. The first half going into the cemetery is a really nice smooth downhill, the second half is the last big incline. It was really lovely to run through despite it being, you know, a grave site.
Oak Ridge Cemetery. Running through a place with dead bodies - not as creepy as it sounds!
Mile 10 was big for me; it was where last year I realized my body could not support any more running that day - so being able to run past that mark, even if I'd had to drop to a walk run, was a huge mental lift. Mile 11 I took the last of my sports beans and gulped down some water; I ran behind a cute couple where the guy was clearly pacing her through her first half because he told her, "You've run 11 miles girl, that's an accomplishment!" It was cute! We were running a smooth paved trail that I remembered having to walk last year and crying, so it was a timely reminder for me too. The tail end of mile 11 took us on the last uphill too - there would be more gentle inclines before it was over but no more steep inclines. WHEE! That incline made the 12 mile mark the only one to hit over a 12mm, and I was just fine with that.
And then I was on the last mile. The last mile! The last mile?? The 12 mile mark dinged at 2:12 and change...so I suddenly knew. I KNEW. My goal of 2:30 was blown out of the water and I could walk the last mile and still hit the low 2:30s! But I was NOT walking. Oh no - I was going in running! The last mile I ran 3 and walked 1 - my calf was bugging although still not severe, but I was in the last mile and wasn't going full out until mile 13 hit. I knew this course had measured long for me so I was ready; here an awesome volunteer told us to focus on the traffic lights - 2 more and we'd be in the finish chute! My husband and kids were waiting at mile 13 to cheer me on, which was incredible because I didn't know they were there. I was so confused because my watch read 13.1 at the 13 mile marker so they caught me pausing, but they got a vid of me running, too! (My garmin called the race 13.24. Not horrible, but I know I'm not the only one who had it measure long, either.)
Mile 9: 11:16
Mile 10: 11:26
Mile 11: 11:43
Mile 12: 12:19
Mile 13: 11:28
Mile 13.22: 2:02
And then the finish line was in sight. I ran faster than I ever have in my life, sprinting the last .1. My watch read 2:24:30 when I started in on the finish line so I knew a sub 2:25 was possible, which was absurd and crazy. I have never sprinted so fast and my garmin said I ran that last 30 seconds at a 9:00mm pace. That, for me, is crazy!
And then it was over. My garmin said 2:25:01. I burst into tears of disbelief and almost fell over. A few people reached out for me thinking I was passing out - I wasn't, I was just SO happy. Absurdly happy.
Stretching it after the race.
I met my husband and kids and cried as he took pictures. The mixture of elation and disbelief was so strong, I kept expecting to see I'd misread the clock. But no...my final chip time? 2:24:57. I hadn't just broken 2:30...I'd broken 2:25.