Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Broke Man's Half Marathon

The race I've been training hard for all summer long was this past weekend.  It was called the Broke Man's Half Marathon and it's only the second year for it.  It's an interesting concept.  It's a bare bones race.  No bells and whistles.  No technical shirt, no shirt at all for that matter.  No chip timing.  Depending on when you registered, the price ranged from $10 to $25.  Considering that the other local half marathons are way overpriced at $80-125, I was all about paying $12.50 including service charge!  I will say that I'm glad this wasn't once of my first races because I think this kind of race is better for a more experienced walker/runner.  That's just my opinion.  There weren't any clocks or mile markers.  I think the lack of mile markers would have made a huge difference to me several years ago.  But now, I have my Garmin to tell me about where I am on the course and I'm not as reliant on the markers.  There were only 3 water stops and they were cup free.  They had water, but you had to have your own container.  I always wear a Fuel Belt so that wasn't even a concern of mine.  Though, if I didn't wear one and was trying for a fast time, having to stop to fill my bottle as opposed to just grabbing a cup and keep moving, would have been a bummer.  It was also a narrow course, though for the most part, that wasn't a problem because the field was so small.  The course wasn't closed either, so there were cyclists and other pedestrians out there.  Pedestrians weren't a problem but the cyclists are something I don't normally have to be on the lookout for while doing a race.  I think I went into the race with very low expectations for the race itself (not my performance obviously).  I knew it was going to be bare bones and unlike any race I've done before.  It was probably the smallest race I've ever done too (I think it was somewhere in the 250 people range).  There were a few hiccups that I'll mention later but ultimately, it was a good experience and I would do it again.

Finally after such a roller coaster of coming back after pregnancy, then all the time off when Megatron was sick and recovering, the weight loss, gain and then loss again and then falling apart at the Cap City half in May, everything seemed to fall into place.  Saturday was a wet, cold, dreary day but Sunday's forecast was dry and cool.  I fully expected it to be overcast and dreary again but it turned out to be the most beautiful racing weather.  I couldn't have asked for better half marathon weather!  Though the forecast confused me in terms of what to wear.  It always does.  You would have thought I'd never done this before because I was texting with friends the night before asking about what to wear.  Will I be too hot?  Too cold?  Do I wear a trash bag at the start?  Do I need a throw away shirt or gloves?  So many options!  I opted for short sleeves and took old tube socks to keep my arms warm, along with a trash bag to keep my core warm while waiting for the start.  Capris were really my only option for my legs because capris are the only bottoms I have that fit currently (downside to losing weight is I keep finding that my clothes are too big and I don't have time or money to keep going to shopping) and have been "tested" for long distance runs.

I didn't even bother to cut the toes off the socks...but realized the flaw in that was that I couldn't give the thumbs up with my sock on my arm.  First world problems.

Since I was wearing my Recycle Yourself shirt, I also wanted to take my Elias along for the ride.  I wore a ribbon for him as well as a ribbon for Cillian, a little boy who recently earned his angel wings while waiting for a liver.  These strong little boys would be my inspiration for when the race got tough.

I met up with my friends around 7:30 am.  We all ended up parking in the exact same place so we wandered over to the starting area to find the bathrooms. Here was the first hiccup.  There are two public restrooms in the park where the race was held.  The women's restroom had 4 stalls.  Four stalls for who knows how many women, all of whom need to use the restroom at least once before the race started.  Yeah.  Not enough.  If I would have noticed the men's restroom before we got in line, I would have suggested we just use the men's because there was no line.  It wouldn't be the first time I've done that before a race.  I think the number of bathrooms would probably need to be quadrupled (if the same number of people are expected) in the future.  We were early enough that it wasn't a problem.  We waited in line and made it out with a couple minutes to spare.  I think all of us are used to much larger races so we kind of stood around, unsure of where to go.  There weren't any corrals or signs indicating paces so we weren't sure where to line up to start.  We opted for the back half of the crowd.    Someone sang the national anthem and the race started right at the advertised time (which I point out because there is another racing company in town that always seems to start late).  Since there wasn't chip timing, I made sure to start my Garmin right as we passed by the flag indicating the start line (no giant, fancy and probably expensive inflatable arch like most races).  I had no idea how they were going to time the race since it wasn't chip timed so I knew I was going to be relying on my Garmin in case their timing plan didn't work or was significantly off what I had.
Pre-race selfie

There was the usual fanfare at the start, a DJ playing music and lots of cheering as we crossed the start line.  The person next to me got really excited and threw her arms in the air.  As she brought her arms back down though, her elbow came right down onto the top of my shoulder.  It had to have hurt her because it left a heck of a bruise and a sore spot on my shoulder.  She apologized, I shook it off any we headed out of the park.

My friend Kim was recruited to pace me for the race but ultimately, there 3 others who joined us just for fun.  Well, to totally call her out, my friend Meg came armed with a cow bell and the intent to just cheer/spectate but when we realized we had an extra bib, she put her cow bell in my car and just decided to run it with us.  I'll also add that she ran a full marathon last weekend.  Who does that?!  My friends.  Haha.  Anyways, Kim had instructions to keep me between 12:30 and 12:45 for the first two miles.  I didn't want to get swept up in the excitement and go out too fast.  Yeah... despite their best efforts, it didn't quite work.  I was the one setting the pace and I felt great.  They kept randomly yelling, "breaks!" and putting their hands up to get me to slow down.  Haha.  We finally settled into a comfortable (for me) pace though.  I knew I wanted to stay around the 12:30 pace in order to just beat my previous PR but knew I had it in me to go faster.  I was hoping to go slower in the beginning and gradually pick it up but that's mentally hard to do and I just haven't practiced that very much.
Lots of smiles less than a half mile in! :)
The first 5-7 miles were a blast!  The course went out and back so my friends were all clapping and cheering for the faster people who were coming back towards us.  I was just focused on running and not falling apart.  They all run faster (or in Kim's case, walk faster) than I do and were just along for the ride with me so they were able to yell and clap.  It was a lot of fun and worked out better than I expected.  I was nervous that it would be too narrow but since it was a small race, it worked out.  We did play leapfrog with two ladies doing a run/walk combo for several miles but we all had fun with it since we were all able to easily get around each other when needed.

We also saw some of my favorite spectators!  The Pilot and Megatron came out!  We saw them a couple times and it was so cute to see Megatron holding a tiny sign that said "go go go!"  Which when he says it, comes out like "doh doh doh." He says it a lot when he's running around the house or sitting in the run stroller, heckling me.  The second time we passed by, he ran right out onto the sidewalk but instead of going to me, he ran up to Meg.  I didn't have time to stop though so I kept running.  Then we realized he totally thought Meg was me.  Pale skin and dark hair, yup, must be my mama!  He didn't realize it wasn't me until Meg started to hug him.  Haha.  He hugged her anyways because he's sweet like that.  The pictures crack me up though because there's me, buzzing right past my own kid while Meg squats down to hug him.

There are a couple photos like this and everyone seems to be smiling at him.  :)  I have to say, he is pretty darn cute.
Who knows what I'm doing.  The lady in the white vest ran with us for the first half and I think she enjoyed the running commentary we had going on. 
See ya, kid. Mama's got a PR to chase down!
At least Auntie Meg loves you!
Mile seven was the first time I noticed my energy wane a bit.  I was also starting to feel some soreness creeping into my knees and ankles.  I knew at that point that I was going to feel this run on Monday.  I was torn between wanting to just gut it out and keep at that pace and being smart and doing what I knew I could run and still finish (a 12:30-12:45 pace).  I was nervous I would bonk at mile 10 if I stayed in the 11s.  I opted for smart and slowed down a little.  This is also when I started mumbling every time we had to go up and over or down and under highways/train tracks/etc.  It's no secret that Central Ohio is pretty darn flat.  But I swear to you we went up and down every single man made hill in Franklin County.  None were that long and only two that I recall were obnoxiously steep but it felt like it was one after another.  Running uphill sucks.  I've always hated hills.  Running downhill isn't much better.  Sure, you can get some momentum so you aren't necessarily working as hard but it's hard on the knees.  Which were already a little achy by that point.

I think if I had run this on my own, I wouldn't have run as fast.  Even though I was setting the pace, the girls kept my energy up and kept me from slowing down too much.  When I whined, they countered with singing, positive thoughts...or told me to shut up.  All of which I needed.  They even "threw me the rope" when I started cursing (loudly towards the end) when I would see a hill.  Taking advice from a dear friend Krista, our teammates frequently throw each other an imaginary rope that they can use to pull themselves forward so they keep moving.  Our entire team has a rope so you can grab on whenever you need it.  I was absolutely using Meg's rope to get up those last couple of hills.

Proof that Meg was trying to throw me a rope to pull me up that hill!

The last 3 miles were into the wind and while the breeze kept us cool now that the sun was getting high, it was definitely pushing into us.  I was starting to lose steam too.  My girls talked to me non-stop in that last mile.  I don't even know how far we had left but all of the sudden Kat told me I had 2 minutes to finish.  Two minutes?  What?!  Since I was pretty fried at that point, I thought she meant two minutes until my previous PR time (2:49:44....completely forgetting that before the race I finally admitted to them that I was aiming for 2:40).  All I could think was "oh hell no!  I didn't work this hard to miss my PR again!"  I found another gear.  But like a slap in the face, there were two more inclines.  One of which was right at the finish line and actually had two very sharp switchbacks to navigate.  I wheezed out a couple more obscenities as my girls all started screaming my name and telling me to go.  Right as I was cursing the last hill, I saw The Pilot and Megatron, along with my mom, my training buddy, Katy and several other of our amazing teammates who came to cheer me on.  Everyone was screaming.  All I remember is another runner saying, "I don't know who Amber is but she's got great friends."  If I didn't feel like I was about to pass out and vomit, I would have laughed and responded, "I have THE BEST friends."

Just my security detail and we came in toward the finish.
These lovely ladies were cheering at the finish.
The couple that cheers together stays together.  Haha...I think they were just happy to NOT be running considering they ran a half marathon last weekend. :)
I was absolutely zoned out and I felt like I was flying, but also wondered if I looked like Phoebe from Friends.  I actually told Meg that I thought I was going to be sick and she just responded, "no you aren't, keep running!"   So I did.  The next thing I knew I was at the top of the hill and the finish line was right there.  The Pilot jumped onto the road and was running alongside me, carrying Megatron, who was grinning from ear to ear because he was bouncing up and down.  I plowed ahead and grabbed my Garmin the second I was fully passed the small flag (the same one as the start) indicating the finish line.  How I didn't throw up right then and there was a miracle.  I walked a few more steps as the girls all came across the finish line, wheezing and out of breath just like me.  I don't think any of them expected me to find that gear at the finish!  I made them work!  Haha.  Sorry, ladies!  Love ya!  A gentleman at the finish asked me for my bib number and wrote it down on a piece of paper.  I assumed it was to record my time but I noticed he didn't seem to have a clock/watch/timer of any kind.  I quickly assumed that my Garmin time was going to be my official time.  I wasn't optimistic that I would have any kind of time published with the race.  Right behind him, a woman handed me my medal, which is actually a really cool wood cutout of the state of Ohio with the race logo printed on it. I took a few more steps and finally looked down at my watch.

Screaming me towards the finish line. :)
My finish time?  2:41:15.  It happened.  BIG TIME PR finally happened!  A more than 8 minute PR at that!  Just shy of that lofty 2:40 goal but I am damn proud of that one!  Honestly, I think I'm just as proud of this race as I am of my first half marathon.  It was such a stretch for me to do anything athletic when I finished my first half marathon 10.5 years ago and now, finishing my 12th half marathon nearly 45 minutes faster than that first, is huge for me.

Kim, thanks for pacing me.  Now I think I'm about to puke on your shoes.
But seriously, I have to give this girl a shout out.  She did a half marathon last weekend.  Offered to do this race with me as a training day, is attempting to place in the competitive race walk division of a half in 2 weeks and then will do a full marathon a week after that.  She's a machine. I'd like to say I taught her everything she knows but she's simply a natural.
It took a good 10 minutes after the finish before my tunnel vision went away.  There was lots of hugging, high fiving and picture taking and it was all a blur.  I wandered around, trying to keep my legs from cramping up and had a piece of corn bread.  That was a finish line first for me.  I didn't see any water anywhere but I still had some of my own in my Fuel Belt.  They also had chili but that was the last thing I wanted in that moment.  We took a few group photos and then went our own way, knowing we would all see each other that afternoon at a party with our running group that just happened to already be scheduled.  I lingered a little while longer to make sure my stomach was ok before walking to my car with The Pilot, Megatron and my mom.

Nothing like giving your mom a sweaty hug!  I was so happy to see her cheering me into the finish...and for holding me up after the finish! :)
Taking a load off while having a drink.  Spectating is hard work!
Seriously, some of the most supportive people I have ever met and I feel so lucky to call them my friends.

It was a perfect day!  I got to spend the morning running with friends, I ran a great race, BIG TIME PR happened and then I even got to enjoy the afternoon hanging out with even more running friends.  Needless to say, I was exhausted by that evening.  Surprisingly, I felt pretty good by the evening.  I had a head ache but the only things that hurt were my shoulder where I got elbowed and my face.  Yup, my face.  I think I was really gritting it out at the end and clenching my jaw for the last couple miles and it left my face sore.  Haha.  I don't think there is a way to train for that!  Even more surprising was the 2 days that followed the race.  I felt great!  Hardly any soreness in my legs, not even my knees which I was sure were going to hate me.  My abs were a little tight, I'm assuming from the fast last half mile (my Garmin data shows the pace at the end was 9:41.  Say what?!).  Everything else felt great though.  I really feel like I left everything out there so I take my lack of soreness as a sign that for once, I went into a race really really well trained.  I've never had a race where I wasn't sore afterwards.  I'm pretty proud of that feat also!

I'm really glad this guy came up with the "Big Time" PR goal and supported me until it happened.
 As for a official time through the race web site the next day?  I was correct in my assumption.  I don't have a finish time listed next to my name.  Oh well.  My Garmin's distance was spot on so it's official enough for me.  Again, it was $12.50.  Can't complain about that!

Naturally though I'm sort of wondering what kind of time I could pull off on a flat course.... ;)
Not exactly what I had in mind for my splits but I got it done so I'm not complaining!

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