I'm no longer a half marathon virgin. Today, I ran my first and last L&C half marathon--last only bc next year it'll be the Rock n Roll St. Louis marathon/half marathon. I'm sure that I'll run more of this distance. Marathon, on the other hand, I don't know. During the race, I never had the thought of "what was I THINKING??", but I was awfully glad to see the HM finish line.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the beginning.
I went to sleep around 9 last night, and though I'd heard I wouldn't sleep well, I did. I remember hearing Jeff come to bed around 1, and then I was out til 4:15. With all that sleep, getting up was no problem. I was downstairs and taking care of some last-minute details. Is my number in the bag? Short sleeves or tank? Are you SURE your number is in the bag? Running belt or not? Clothes for after? GU Chomps? Check? Is my number in the bag? Money and ID?
Note 2: I broke down and bought a fuel belt at Fleet Feet on Thursday when I picked up my packet. Amphipod, I think. Probably not the best buy because it didn't have water bottle holders, but I didn't want to mess with those on a race that would have numerous water stops. Plus, I always carry a bottle of water anyway. I went back and forth about whether or not to use it (Pro: not having to stuff everything in my shirt; Con: it makes me look fat). Can you guess my decision? Vanity wins. I think I may have set a new record for junk stuffed into my top: GU chomps (in a baggie), money and id (in another baggie), phone, gloves, and my headband. Yes, you can find my picture under "class" in the dictionary. :D
Even with my obsessive checking, I still managed to have some of my (delicious, of course) homemade bans bread and be ready when my ride showed up a few minutes early. We stopped at QT for coffee--a necessity with this morning's 43 degree temperature--and headed to St. Charles. I didn't really know either of the guys with whom I was riding (I know Tom from Daily Mile, though I also went to high school with his brother, and I had never met Mike, who, it turns out, works with my sister-in-law), so it was nice to get to know them.
Parking was at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, and we were very glad to have left as early as we did. We had taken the Earth City Expressway, and were relieved not to be stuck in the line of traffic coming off of I-70. Even so, it took us about 30 minutes to get from the ECE/I-70 merge to the parking lot.
The first thing you noticed coming into the parking lot was all the porta-potties.
The first thing you noticed getting out of the car was how freaking cold it was. I was very glad to have my throwaway sweatshirt and a mismatched pair of my kids' gloves (ahhh, yes...this is why we never throw anything away). Mike was a well prepared host, with extra throwaway gloves, ghetto arm warmers (tube socks with the toes cut off), and GU. He must've been a Boy Scout. :)
We stopped by the bathrooms and dropped our stuff at the bag drop. I don't know if other long races have a bag drop, but I was glad to be able to send warm, dry clothes ahead to the finish. Water was available, too, but I had my coffee and a bottle of water.
There was a serpentine corral set up at the finish. We lined up at the 9 min/mile gate and settled in to wait. It was conveniently next to the 8 min/mile sign, where I was hoping to get a chance to say hi to Dan, an old college friend who is actually the one who suggested this race to me. I never did see him, but we had a nice meet up with some friends from Daily Mile. It was nice to meet in person some of the people who I've been cheering for and who've been motivating me.
Patrick (who wasn't even running but was there to take pictures of his group), Doug, Christopher, and Tom
Finally it was time to take off. With the crush of people, we had to walk most of the way to the starting line. On the way, I decided to go ahead and ditch my sweatshirt before I started running. This was a good decision. It was an older hoodie and a tight fit around my head; I'm glad I didn't have to pull it off while running. I did briefly wish I had a pair of Mike's arm warmers, but I wasn't chilly for long.
Heading for the starting line
On most of my runs, it seems like it takes me a while to hit my groove (such as it is), but I felt good from the beginning. The first mile flew by; I checked my time and it was 8:46...a bit too fast for me, but I was feeling good. Coming into mile 3, we could see the leaders and started cheering for them. Miles 3-5 were along a long hairpin road. As I approached the loop around, I saw Dan and was able to yell hi to him. I think the picture below was taken along that stretch of road.
There's nothing super interesting about most of the run. I tried to stay steady and run my race rather than get sucked into trying to keep up with anyone. Also, I consciously left my phone put away so I wasn't constantly checking and stressing over my time. Crowd support was great. There were lots of people out there cheering, and that was definitely motivating. I did a lot of waving and smiling.
I checked my time at the 7-mile mark and was at 1:03 and change. I was pleased with that, but I also was feeling like I was fading some. We had a couple of hills (overpasses), and I was very thankful for the downhill portions. Coming up to the bridge, a guy in a shirt with "coach" on the back was near me. Another guy asked him if he was pacing anyone. He said they were running 8:45 miles after starting at 9:15 miles. I felt pretty good about being near that pace until he passed me by.
Miles 8-10 were a little tough, I was definitely wearing down. Coming into mile 10, I checked my time again and it was 1:30. That was the first point at which I thought I had a realistic chance at a sub-2:00 finish. It gave me a real boost into mile 11. From mile 11-12, though, I had a much harder time. It seemed like it took forever, but I kept pushing. At the 12 mile marker, my time was 1:48. I knew I had it. That definitely put a spring in my step, but I didn't start really grinning like an idiot til I saw the finish line in the distance.
this year's Katy Trail ride.
It was so fun to come down the finish chute. People were crowded on both sides cheering for the runners, and I smiled and waved and ran. Crossing the finish line knowing I had met my "A" goal, the one I knew was only a distant possibility, was such a great feeling. Finishing in Frontier Park was really special to me, too. That's where my first Katy Trail ride and first century ended. When I found out L&C ended there, it felt like a sign.
The one bad thing about the day is that my stomach appears not to care for running 13.1 miles. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
All in all, though, it was a great experience. The cold start gave way to perfect running weather. The race was well organized and well-supported. My knee was a little achy during the last half, but I felt good for the whole run. I finished my first half marathon. I met my goal. And, for the rest of the day, I can eat anything I want. :)
My time (according to my phone): 1:58:45.9
Chip time: 1:58:37
Overall finish: 1483/5935 (top 25%)
Age group finish: 85/632 (top 13%)
And hats off to Couch to 5K and the Runner's World's Smart Coach app. That's where my training plan came from, and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I went from doing Couch to 5K faithfully in preparation for my first 5K in April (hmmm...no report on that? I guess because the next day I fell bike riding and my next several weeks were consumed with that little drama), to doing Bridge to 10K intermittently in preparation for my first 10K in June, to using Smart Coach to prepare for the half marathon. Non-runner to sub-2:00 half marathon in about 8 months....wonder what the next year holds...