So 3:45 a.m. arrived and my eyes popped WIDE OPEN! O_O It was awful! I could not go back to sleep! The more I told my brain to shut off and go to sleep, the more thoughts popped into my head. Thoughts that had to do with running, not running, the house, upcoming travel, smells from the incense, EVERYTHING!!! And when I finally did empty my head, my body just laid there...tense. Then I couldn't figure out if I had a phantom pain in my foot or if my foot was actually hurting. It was awful.
And like clockwork, I kinda drifted off to sleep at 5 a.m. only to be awaken at 5:20 a.m. by my alarm clock. AWESOME. So I went through my morning pre-race ritual of grabbing my laptop, heading to the kitchen to make my oatmeal and hot tea and then tweeting with all of the other pre-race morning people as I ate. Most of the other RnR folks in the Baltimore area were heading out the door by the time I sat down for breakfast. That didn't make me nervous or anything. Everyone is different. I personally HATE waiting for a race to start. I get so anxious, nervous, excited, that I end up working up a hunger then I get sleepy, then my body plays the "should we get in the port-a-potty line?" game. No thank you. I'd rather walk up to my corral 10 minutes before start time.
I took care of the animals...
...got dressed and headed out of the door with Isajeep in tow at 6:30 a.m.
We arrived at the race site and I was surrounded by giddy, excited, nervous runners.
I felt like I was just going through the motions. I couldn't figure out how to make myself comfortable. The weather was kind of warm, but not really, and it was a little humid. Before I left home, the weather website said that it was 94% humidity out there! So I decided to wear my jacket, I could always tie it around my waist later. I also decided to take my pink Nathan's belt to help me to keep up with my camera. I brought my iPod but didn't really expect to use it given that there were so many bands along the course. But I brought it with me just in case I found myself just wishing the race was over. A good podcast would offer the perfect distraction to pass the time away.
I stood there, still feeling a little sorry for myself and even ventured to say, "I hope the volunteers don't get confused and try to hand me a full marathon medal. I would need to earn that. I'm just not there yet." I also said "This sucks. It's like reliving the news from the doc all over again. How silly will I look in the half marathon corral with a full marathon bib :-/"
Well I think Isajeep had just about enough of being the only other guest at my pity party and told me to just go out there and have fun and no one is worried about you and your marathon bib.
So I said my goodbyes...
I just stopped thinking and just followed my instincts. I saw a line of people walking to get around the corrals so I just followed them. Then I saw a corral that looked kind of empty and the "awkward-what is she doing here" stare-quotient promised to be low so I just let myself in. It was the 3:00 hr pace corral.
Before I could really get into surveying my surroundings from my "holding pen" (that's how I really see corrals and I guess in a way that's what they are), I spotted a gentleman in a bright yellow t-shirt just chit chatting with a young girl. I looked at the girl and thought "hmmm...she looks like someone I know...maybe from another race...maybe from Baltimore - Baltimore - HIGH SCHOOL? - College?!..." then I just blurted it out..."I'm sorry...I know you! What's your name??" And the girl looked a little taken aback...perhaps because I so rudely broke into her conversation lol (Sorry about that!). She told me and I instantly made the connection. She was someone I went to high school with! YES!! And it was someone I actually LIKED! (High school was kind of like a 4 year stint in Walmart for me...well with more intelligent people given its high educational standards but I didn't always care for all of the people)
It was like God came down and sprinkled a little sugar on my day. lol That's probably the best way to describe it. The guy she was talking to had a huge smile on his face and offered to take our picture!
After I apologized profusely for interrupting her conversation, she explained that the gentleman was one of the pace group leaders and she was just introducing herself to him. We talked and caught up and even met another girl in our pace group who has done a couple of triathlons. The three of us talked about races, biking, swimming. It was awesome. More than what I could ask for. Here I thought I would be standing there awkwardly in silence for 45 minutes waiting for our holding pen to be led across the start line but it was quite the opposite. We talked and talked and laughed with our pace leaders and just had a great time all the way up to the start. Once it was time to go, I mentally checked in to my body and said just relax, listen to your body, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY - HAVE FUN!
And yes...FUN was the theme of the day.
I took off with a trot. I didn't plan to run. I told everyone I would walk this one. Walking was the goal! A nice swift concentrated WALK! But there I was...RUNNING! It wasn't a fast run by any stretch of the imagination but it was comfortable. I think we maintained a 13 min/mi pace for most of the race and the plan was to walk through mile markers and water stops. High School Friend and I ran along one another and talked the entire time. She was struggling with some minor IT band issues so it was like an unspoken understanding that we would help each other through this race. Stopping to let the other stretch or taking walk breaks when necessary kind of kept us both in check with our minor injuries. A blessing in disguise.
As promised, I took lots and lots of photos of the city.
And I even got a little preview of the cherry blossoms for my upcoming race, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler!
The pace leader took lots and lots of photos of us and had us cheering and laughing the entire way. He was from Baltimore so OF COURSE he had a very easy going way about him. :)
I got a chance to run with the other one for a bit and he told me that he has ran seven Walt Disney World races including the Goofy challenge. He has also ran the Marine Corps Marathon three times. He and the other gentleman (I suck for not getting their names) pace the Baltimore Marathon 5:15 group every year as well. They made a great team. :)
The weather was beautiful. Later on, I found that some people had some trouble with the weather, but since I wasn't running for speed or time, I don't think I ran into some of the complications they had with the unexpected air quality. It was sunny, not a cloud in the sky, with a light breeze, and yes some humidity. But everyone around me seemed to be enjoying it!
The crowd support was pretty amazing too, especially as we went through the residential part of some of the college areas!
I read some great signs and had to stop to take of picture of these two. The 40 just made me laugh. It was my kind of humor.
I even stopped for a beer! Just stopped by a group of people with a little table set up handing out beer and I took one! Why not? It was free, it was around mile 9, I think I was due for one. I didn't snag a pic but just know I enjoyed it. It definitely helped with a some recovery to pull me through to the end. But more importantly, another stranger gave me candy...and not just any candy, the mother of all candy...
I shared with High School Friend of course. :) And then we saw some more BANDS! WOO!
At mile 9...this kid right here?
OMG! He... was...KILLING IT! I definitely would've stopped to record if I could but we were on a roll. It was awesome. I'm talkin, Black Sabbath - awesome. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. I had to remind myself to look forward and running while looking the other way is not the way to do it. I tried to look him up but I'm not sure if that's Izzy or someone different. If you know, please tell me.
We continued to run towards mile 10 and I saw that the police were allowing parts of traffic to open up going the opposite way which was okay. I like a little audience when running. I'm used to it anyway since I'm a city-runner. It just made me feel more comfortable. Then we went through the underpass where this guy was dressed like The Incredibles and blasting music from a radio on his bike. Amazing. I love these people. lol
We came out of the tunnel, walked the hill (I really loved our pacers lol) and then partied to the DJ rockin it on the other side!
We just continued to cruise on around the other side of the Capitol and ended up on this road where you can tell the Marathoners just finished having their way with it.
There were cups EVERYWHERE and banana peels and everything else. Volunteers were working hard to start the clean up.
At this point, I think we had 2 or 3 miles to go so I just focused on finishing. My legs felt pretty good but my quads were feeling a little tight and jumpy. My foot felt awesome. Lefty (as it has been so aptly named) was hangin' in there! Woot!
I could tell High School Friend was beginning to fight with the IT band so I let her work it out on her own. From experience, I knew that it was best for me to just keep running. Stopping a mile or two outside of the finish to walk would allow the soreness to start setting in and I wasn't in the mood to deal with that just yet. So I just trudged along and cheered whenever my pace leader yelled out "GO BAWLMORE! GO! LOOK AT OUR BAWLMORE GIRLS!" lol
And I'm thinkin just like anything else, there are trends in the race-course world. The trend for the past few years has been to put a "WTF?! HILL" at the end of every race and of course this race had one of those. I just ignore them, dig in, lower my eyes and trudge along. Once I got into a comfortable pace, I decided to actually distract myself further with the thought of "I wasn't supposed to make it here but I did...and I did it with all of these people..." and I wanted them to be apart of it... so here you go.
With the support of you all, I did it. I finished. I finished in less than 3 hours and I felt GREAT afterward. That's all I could ask for. I finished with the confidence needed to know I can keep going (with the list of races I still have laid out ahead of me), and I can keep taking on new challenges (swimming, I'm looking at you). I have a renewed spirit in running and my God, I just love our community! The encouragement and energy I received were something I will NEVER forget!