I drove to Indianapolis on Friday night, dropping Megatron off with my in-laws for the night on the way. I was able to stay with friends that night and it worked out perfectly. They were able to pick up my bib for me and since they've been doing this race for years, they knew right where to go on race morning. We grabbed our ponchos and had gear check bags stuffed with dry clothes for after the race and headed for downtown Indianapolis.
For some reason, I had assumed this race was probably comparable to the Columbus Marathon in terms of size. I was wrong! This race is huge! There were just shy of 30,000 people registered for the 1/2 marathon (there was also a 5K). The corrals were labeled A though Z and there were 5 waves! The Disney races are the only other races that I've done that are this big. I will say though, it was so organized that it really didn't feel too big or overwhelming. They had plenty of port-a-potties that were easy to find from each of the corrals, a family reunion area with signs to make it easier to find people before and after the race, an easy gear check system, etc. Everything about it was running much more smoothly than Cap City seemed to the weekend before and it only had about 14,000 people.
It was really cold once we got out of our cars. Unseasonably cold. I had brought a throwaway jacket though and then we all put our ponchos on. It wasn't raining yet but the plastic helped keep us warm from the wind. We ended up sitting down near a government building to get out of the wind for awhile. That's when it started to sprinkle. I was already dreading another long run in the rain. Even more so because it was so much colder than last weekend. At least at Cap City it was pretty warm so the rain just felt cool, not freezing.
The race is so big that they send everyone off in waves, with a decent amount of time separating each wave. I think the 5K went off at 7 am, wheelchairs at 7:30 and then the first wave of the 1/2 a few minutes later. We were in the S corral and we didn't start until 8 am. It sprinkled off and on while we waited for our wave to go. Once we got going, I started to warm up so under my poncho, I slid out of my coat and tossed it on the side of the road. I kept my poncho on because I was still chilly and was still dreading running in a steady rain like last weekend. But by mile 2 or 3, I was warm and the poncho was driving me nuts so I pitched it and hoped I wouldn't regret that decision!
Less than a mile into the race, I know I mumbled something to my friend Ralph about how maybe this race wasn't going to be a PR after all. We were weaving all over the place trying to get through the crowd. Despite the wave start, the course was jammed. We were hopping over curbs and medians just trying to maintain a steady pace. My first mile was slow. Almost a full minute slower than my first miles last weekend. I tried to stay out of my head but having to bob and weave around people takes up energy. We just kept at it though and eventually, probably around mile 3 or so, we were able to start running in a mostly straight line. The turns would get crowded as everyone tried to stay to the inside, but I tried to keep looking ahead so I could position myself better once we got to the turns. Once I passed the marker for mile 4, it was like a flip was switched. I was finally warmed up and felt comfortable. I was in my happy place where it feels like I can keep running forever. Ralph and I played leap frog for the first 4 miles but when I found my groove, I picked up the pace and we didn't see each other again.
At mile 6, the course goes into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I've never been to a race track of any kind before so I was excited to check it out. There was a short, steep downhill as you went under the track and then an immediate short, steep up hill that takes you to the center of the track. An access road dumped us out onto the actual race track. It was huge! Much bigger than I expected. It got a little congested on all the turns because they are steep and everyone wants to run on the inside where it's flat. I had to pass quite a few people while on the track. The coolest, most random part of running on the track was almost literally running into Meb Keflezighi, one of the best American long distance runners in history. He was standing in the middle of the track, facing us as we ran towards him. All of the sudden a bunch of people in front of me stopped, and I hopped to the left to get out of the way and that's when I saw him and realized people were stopping to take pictures and give high fives. If I hadn't been chasing a PR, I definitely would have stopped for a picture!
I guess if you are a Indy car or any car racing fan, you may also enjoy "kissing the bricks." I am only familiar with the fact that the speedway has a section of bricks because The Pilot told me about it as it pertains to the regional airline based in Indy. They call it the Brickyard. Anyways, they had signs leading up to the bricks saying to stay right to kiss the bricks, stay left to keep running. I obviously stayed left but there were lots of people laying on the ground, kissing the bricks. There was also a TV crew there that was broadcasting live. My in laws watched some of it with Megatron but didn't see me.
While on the speedway was when I really started to notice the sun. The clouds had actually moved along and the sun was out! And no rain! I didn't bring sunglasses because of the forecast but I was wishing I had them while on the speedway. Luckily I did put sunscreen on my face/neck (I don't leave my house during daylight hours without sunscreen) and had a hat so I was fine. The track is 2.5 miles long and we did one full lap. I'm glad it wasn't much longer, that's for sure. It was fun and I enjoyed checking it out and they had music blasting, but 2.5 miles of the same thing can get old.
Once out of the speedway, we headed back towards downtown. We were running into the sun this time though so I briefly considered begging a spectator for their sunglasses. Have I mentioned how much I HATE having the sun in my eyes? My light blue eyes make me crazy sensitive to the sun. I was also getting hot. I had long sleeves on and really wanted to push them up but I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my arms (in my defense, the forecast made it seem like it was going to rain until at least noon and be cold all day). I didn't want to burn so I just tolerated being hot. I felt like I was wiping my face on my shirt every 1/4 mile though. I was dripping!
I felt great until mile 10. I didn't exactly hit the wall but man, mile 10 felt like it was 3 miles long. I had run non-stop up until that point so I was starting to ponder a walk break. I checked my Garmin and attempted some math. I knew that even if I took some walk breaks, I could PR. So I started to bargain with myself. I knew if I took a walk break while I was already feeling sluggish, it would be damn hard to get started again. So I told myself I could take a walk break when I got to mile 11. When I got to mile 11 though, I reevaluated. I felt fine other than being tired. There was no real physical reason I needed a walk break. So I told myself I could take a walk break at mile 12. I did the same thing again. I only mentally wanted a walk break. I didn't physically need it. I did more math and realized I could PR "big time" if I didn't walk. So I didn't.
I glanced at my watch around 12.75 and just about stopped. I'm not kidding. Out of no where, it felt like I couldn't move another step. Thank goodness the crowd support really picked up here because I needed it. There were lots of people on the sides of the road cheering. And then I could SEE the finish line. I looked at my watch again and realized that if I could hang on just a little longer, I might be able to take a full 10 minutes off my PR time (I set out for a 4 minute PR). So I went. The friends I stayed with had finished (much) faster than I had (plus they were in the first wave) were up in the bleachers and I heard them cheering for me as I made my way through the finish chute. That was so helpful and gave me an extra kick. I'm sure I was smiling ear to ear at that point because I knew I had crushed my PR. When I crossed the timing mat, I stopped my watch and couldn't believe my time. I wandered through the finish area before getting my phone out. There was already a congratulations text from The Pilot, who was sitting in an airport somewhere. He was the one who sent my official time to me. 2:23:19. AN ELEVEN MINUTE PR! Everything finally went right. The cool, dry weather, the incredibly flat course and my consistent training had paid off.
When we had arrived that morning, we walked past the "PR bell" and I was really hoping I would get to ring it. So as soon as I had grabbed my gear check bag (with the dry clothes that I didn't end up needing!), I found that bell again! I had to wait in a long line but I needed the photo op!
Obviously the PR made this a great race but the entire event was a blast. I loved the course. It was well organized. It's not cheap unless you register now for next year's race but the price is comparable to Cap City and honestly, it's worth the drive. I really don't care for the Cap City course. And there is nothing extra special about it that makes it worth the price tag. At least with the Indy Mini, you get the unique experience of running on the speedway. I'll definitely do it again! Maybe not next year since I'm already registered for the Athens 1/2 in April.