I spent Sunday making good on one of my New Years resolutions – my first (and last?) half marathon is in the bag! And sweet Jesus, I’m glad that run is behind me…
I signed up for the Mercer Island Half at the beginning of the year and promptly started training with lots of guidance from Shane, who has run this race several times. He loaded up my calendar with gradually-increasing distance targets and mapped out a number of courses that included plenty of elevation change to prep me for Mercer’s hills. And I slogged away at those miles, strapping Jules into the stroller on Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons for jogs up around (and around, and around) Jefferson Park. Saturday or Sunday mornings were devoted to long runs, where I would do portions of the race course or head down to Lake Washington for loops through Leschi or Seward Park. I missed a few days when I came down with that cold (and then that hacking cough, and then that stomach bug), but generally managed to stay on track. As race day drew near, I would vacillate between confidence and outright dread. I’d do a solid 8-miler and think, “I got this!” And then my knee would start to ache or I’d be put out of commission with another cold and I’d wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?” I freaked out a couple of times last week, imagining myself barely hobbling to the finish with a side ache or a bum leg, crushed with the disappointment of missing my 2-hour time target. I fretted and whined and threatened to bail. I went to my coach for a pep talk, and his advice to me was, “Just have fun!” Thanks a heap, sweetheart. I was having a tough time finding the promise of fun amidst visions of pants-wetting and excruciating pain.
And then it was race day. We made it to Mercer Island with plenty of time for me to hit the porta potty (twice), stretch a bit, make sure I had my bib number pinned on straight, my Shot Bloks tucked in my pocket, and my shoelaces tied tight. My eyes actually filled with tears as Shane kissed me on the cheek and told me it was time for me to head off to the start line – you’d think I was heading into battle, the way I cried as I stroked Juliette’s hair, looked into Shane’s eyes and said a choked-up good-bye. My nerves were on overdrive and threatening to get the best of me, so I took a few deep breaths, headed into the sea of spandex-clad runners, and said a prayer for strength and endurance as I waited for the starting horn. Finally, after months of preparation, logging mile after mile in my trusty old Brooks, HOOOOONNNNNNK! It was go time!
And I felt…great. My legs were strong, my breathing was steady, I didn’t feel the urge to pee or vomit as feared. The weather was perfect and the course was beautiful, with tree-lined switchbacks and views of the water around each bend. I had my phone strapped to my arm and was thrilled to hear RunKeeper tell me that I was hitting each mile mark ahead of my target 9:10 pace. Mile 2, average pace, 8:55 per mile…Mile 5, average pace, 8:56 per mile…Mile 8, average pace, 8:55 per mile. Shane had carefully mapped out his cheering route and he and Juliette popped up at miles 3, 5, and 7 to give me high-fives. I waved to them and yelled to Juliette that mama would see at the finish reeeeeal soon. I was flyin’!
Then mile 10 happened. My legs got a little rubbery and I felt myself slowing down. I pressed on, counting my strides and telling myself that once I counted to 100 six times, I should be at the next mile marker. I saw the sign for mile 11 and perked up a little – the end felt so close! And yet, it was still so, so far away. The course’s biggest hill cruelly falls at mile 11, and dang, it hurt. It was like I was running in ten inches of mud. My legs screamed at me and threatened to unattach themselves from my body. “What the hell, lady? We’re not cut out for this!” I popped my last Shot Blok, I huffed and I puffed. Mile 12, average pace, 9:05 per mile. I was slipping! I started counting my strides again, struggled to find a rhythm. At last, in the distance, I heard the cheers and cow bells of the finish line. I saw Shane and Jules and Jack and La Verne waving from the sidelines, threw back my shoulders, turned on my turbo-boosters, and finished with all I had.
Thanks, Jack, for the action shots!
I took a minute to catch my breath and wolf down an orange and then made my way to my peeps, posing for a runner’s pic with Jack, who had finished his 10k earlier in morning.
And…final time? 1:59:43! I squeaked in just under my goal and lived to tell about it, in all it’s overly-dramatic glory.
Mucho, mucho thanks to my insanely supportive husband, who told me over and over and over that I could do this, and to my insanely heavy daughter, who made me feel like superwoman each time I managed to push her stroller up that mondo hill on our Thursday runs. I’m so glad you made me do this. And I’m so glad I never have to do it again.