And it is oh, so long! So sit back and get comfy. 😉
The plan for yesterday was to take it easy the day before my half, and it started out pretty well: I woke up at 8am (my first Saturday sleeping past 6 or 6:30 in forever!), then drank my coffee while working on laundry and dishes. (These things have to be done, right?) Then I spent the rest of the morning surfing Pinterest and planning out the meals for the next two weeks. I haven’t had the time to search Pinterest for new recipes in a while, so it was relaxing to finally do it!
Then, it was down to Monroe to pick up my race packet. There was a lot of wind, and it was pretty concerning. The winds were in the 20s, gusting into the 30s. That is not good running weather!! I was worried because the forecast for Sunday was not looking much better.
But, onto the race packet. Normally, I blur out my bib number to retain some kind of anonymity. But the truth is, I’ve run enough races that publish results with name and city that a pretty smart person could probably figure it out anyway. There just aren’t that many Stephanies in the world, and even less that run, lol!
When I picked up my packet, I really, really wanted to display my bib number on my blog, because it’s pretty special, I think. So after some deliberation, I decided that I would show it off to all my readers. When I picked it up, I didn’t even look at it, but it was my son Daniel (who went with me) who immediately noticed what it was. Considering that this was my third half-marathon (both of the year and of my entire running career!), I thought that this bib number HAD to be good luck. 🙂
After that, we had to make some stops to drop off school fundraiser items, then we went to see my mom, who is recovering from surgery on her foot, and then went grocery shopping. That took a couple of hours, and once we got home, we had my “pre-half-marathon” meal.
It’s called Stuffed French Bread, and I plan to share that yummy new Pinterest find later this week.
Back to “The Real Hockey Moms of Southeastern Michigan”: We rushed through dinner because Jamie had a hockey game from 7pm to 8:20pm. Definitely not ideal for a pre-half-marathon evening. 😛 What really sucked is that Jamie’s team lost, after being up by two goals mid-way through the game. Argh!!
Once back at home, I stayed up too late doing more laundry and getting my stuff together for the race in the morning. I slept okay, but I did spend a more time than I would have liked tossing and turning. I could hear the wind outside much of the night, and I was pretty worried. When I woke up at 6:00am, I immediately checked the readings on my anemometer, and it wasn’t pretty: gusts to 25mph. I got ready, having a half a cup of cappuccino, half an English muffin, and half a banana (hey, another trifecta of halves!), then I headed out to the race. The nice thing about running a race close to home is that I could leave at 7:15 and still be there early for an 8am start. 😉
As I sat at a stop light, I checked the weather forecast and was dismayed to see this:
Oy. That’s not good. Especially the 38 mph gust in Monroe! (Side note: who is Harry Browne??) But still, the race was going on, wind or no wind, and by the time I arrived, I was feeling pretty pumped. Other than the wind, it was a beautiful morning.
Partly cloudy, temps in the low 40s…without the wind, that sounds pretty perfect! I did my stretches, and then met up with Katie at about 7:45, where her husband took a pre-race photo.
We’re kinda cold here, but you wouldn’t know it from our big smiles. 😉
We greeted our friends Renee, Jessica and Andrea, and then, before we knew it, we were on our way! Katie had surprised me last week with a text, asking if she could pace me for my 2:10 finish, and I readily agreed. I really loved having a pacer at my first half and at Jamie’s 10k in June, and I jumped at the chance to have a personal pacer to help me get to this 2:10 finish that had eluded me in September.
The Monroe race was small, relatively speaking (less than 600, I would estimate), but we still found ourselves starting with a group that we had to maneuver around. Within a few hundred yards, it started to thin out, and then we ran comfortably until we turned into the wind at about ¾ of a mile. We saw her mom and dad (as volunteers) at about the 1 mile mark, and that was cool. I love seeing people I know as spectators! We discussed the fact that we both want to volunteer at a race sometime, and agreed that we’d make sure to volunteer next year together.
After we saw her parents, things were a bit challenging for a while as we turned and ran almost due west—that wind was strong! Thankfully, Katie kept my mind off the run with all kinds of interesting topics. I don’t remember them all, but I remember that the first 6 miles seemed to go by so fast! I told Katie that I wanted to stay right around my 9:55 pace, without going too fast, because I felt that starting too fast was what hurt me in my last few races. She agreed that that was a good plan, and we actually stayed pretty close for the first several miles—9:44 to 9:53.
The race course was very different from what I was expecting! I guess they changed it some time ago, but they didn’t update the map on the website. In a way it was good, because it made it interesting for me, but in another way, it was disconcerting, because I’d studied the course for a while to get comfortable with it, and the unexpected twists and turns really threw me for a loop! We ran over two sets of train tracks at about mile 3, and I knew that the race organizers had been unable to arrange for the train schedules to be changed for the 4 hours of the race. I was so glad we didn’t get stopped by any trains! (I heard some other folks did, unfortunately. 🙁 )
At mile 4, we saw Katie’s husband Jerry and her sons. I think Jerry was born to be a race spectator. When he saw us, he danced and shouted, gave me a high five, and was just crazy-enthusiastic. It was awesome!! Jerry is definitely an extrovert I can relate to. 🙂
After that, we ran through town, and I will say that, whatever their reasons for changing the course, they did a good job with the final outcome. Although I don’t live in the city of Monroe (I live in farm country!), I do consider Monroe kind of my “home town,” since it’s the closest “town” to where I live, and I do spend a lot of time there. It’s truly an awesome city! History geek alert: It’s the third oldest city in Michigan, and it has some of the most beautiful historic architecture you’ll find in the Midwest! 🙂
I commented to Katie (who knows the race organizer) that they did a great job plotting the route from a “Chamber of Commerce” perspective. There was still plenty of beautiful fall foliage to enjoy, and we saw some gorgeous neighborhoods, with lovely homes from 1950s-60s, then the 20s-40s, and finally, as we got closer to the heart of town, some gorgeous late 19th century Victorian homes. And then of course there were the beautiful brick “blocks” in the business district downtown. I only wish I wouldn’t have been fighting the wind so much so I could have really enjoyed the view! I love my “adopted” town!
We looped around downtown a while, and that was pretty challenging, due to the wind. Those big buildings can create some pretty serious wind tunnels! I remember struggling at mile 7, but right after that, we turned east, and I felt a surge of energy. I’d been taking half a shot block about every two miles, and my third one kicked in just as the wind was at my back—woo hoo! By this time, we were heading toward the National Historic Park (history geek alert: Monroe is known for being the location of a significant battle in the War of 1812…Google “Battle of the River Raisin” for more info), and we had one more set of train tracks to go over, and—hooray! No trains! Right at that point, we saw Jerry again—once more, he was full of crazy enthusiasm, and seeing him just put a huge smile on my face.
Right before mile 9, we headed into the state park where we’d begun our race. Katie and I had been doing darn well at this point…I can’t stress enough how awesome it was to have someone to run with me and help me keep pace, especially someone who knew me and knew what I was capable of. Katie didn’t focus on our pace except to keep me from going too fast in the beginning. Mostly, she just kept my mind off the run. For the first 9 or so miles, we kept a pretty decent conversation going, and still managed to thank all the volunteers as we went past. This race supported the Monroe County Special Olympics, and nearly all volunteers thanked us in return, for supporting the cause that was obviously so important to them. It was a great feeling to know that we were helping support our community!
As we passed mile 9, we were maintaining a good pace at this point (sub 9:50!). I was feeling pretty good, especially since we had the wind at our backs for this long stretch. I even saw some old hockey friends that were watching the race, who cheered me on as I went by—that was pretty awesome. 🙂 We made our way through the park, a stretch I knew well, and then we ended up being followed by what I think was the most annoying guy in the universe. 😛 He stayed right behind us—I mean, like a foot behind me!—for probably a mile. He didn’t try to pass us, he didn’t pull up next to us, but he didn’t slow down, either. He just stayed right behind us. But he didn’t try to carry on a conversation with us, either. I honestly do think his intent was to let Katie and me block his wind for as long as possible. It was bizarre, and honestly, rather annoying. Am I the only one who thinks that someone running a foot behind you for a mile or more, without trying to pass you or run in stride with you to engage in conversation, is just weird? Eventually, he stopped at a water station and we kept going, so we were able to ditch him.
All was going well, and I was feeling pretty darn good, and then…I hit mile 10.
I don’t know if it was mental or what, since mile 10 was where I faltered in Chicago, but I began to really struggle at that point. That damn wind had been rough, and both my lungs and legs were starting to feel it. Then, right about mile 10.5, my knee (the one I hurt back in March) started to hurt. I started to slow, and I knew Katie could see it. She began to encourage me by giving me different ways to look at the amount of running that was left: only a 5k, only 30 minutes, just around the campground. I’ll be honest, I wanted so desperately to shout, “That all sounds really far! So stop talking about it!!” but I was afraid of expending energy by talking. 😉 Truly, no matter how rosy a picture she tried to paint, the remaining distance just seemed so long!
I remember very well when we had just passed mile 11, I was feeling exhausted and pretty darn miserable. With what little energy I had left (and there wasn’t much, let me tell you!), I muttered to Katie, “Whatever happens, just don’t let me give up.” She didn’t say anything, and I figured she must not have heard me, which was understandable, since I was using all my energy to maintain my current pace and could barely mumble it. But then, after a few seconds, she replied very calmly, “You would be really upset with yourself if you gave up now.” It was just what I needed to hear, because of course she was right. I was only 2 miles from finishing…and two miles isn’t that far!
Right after that, we came to what even Katie had to grudgingly admit was the one real hill in the whole park. 😛 She told me to focus on a point in the distance, like the factory towers to the south, and use that to get me through it. I did exactly that, and surprisingly, it helped! Somehow I managed to squeak out a 9:54 for that mile.
It seemed to take forever to hit the mile 12 marker (we think it wasn’t properly placed), but once we passed it, we were in for another fun surprise…a 90-degree right turn, directly into the wind again. Those winds were still gusting to 25 mph, and they were tough to run into, let me tell you! I really had to work to get to mile 13, but I did it. Katie was still giving me encouragement at this point, most of it centered around how “short” our remaining distance was (ha! Not to me!). By this time, I wasn’t talking at all. But I did listen, and I appreciated the encouragement. Well, for the most part, anyway. 😉
When we hit the 13-mile mark, Katie became a real trainer—and a bit of a drill sergeant. 😉 “Now’s the time,” she began in a serious voice, “if you have anything left in reserve, to pull it out and use it!”
I wanted to laugh, but I had no energy left. Reserve? What reserve?! 😛
And yet, somehow I did manage, in that last tenth of a mile, to dig a little bit deeper and power to the finish line with all I had. I could see the clock ahead, but most of the digits were obscured by all the people. As I neared the finish line, I thought I saw the clock just turn over from 2:09:59 to 2:10…but then I realized it was actually turning from 2:08:59 to 2:09! At that point, I knew my goal was in my grasp, so I pushed a little farther, and finally, I crossed! I knew I had my sub-2:10, but I was so damn tired, I didn’t even look at the clock. I just stopped dead in the exit chute, Katie right beside me, and said breathlessly, “Am I done now?” Surprisingly, she didn’t laugh, but just answered emphatically, “Yes! You’re done!” And then I hugged her (which allowed her to hold me up, lol!) and thanked her profusely. We made our way out to the end of the chute, where my dear friend Renee found me and allowed me to hold onto her for a few moments as she congratulated me.
After that, all I could think of was sitting down. I was so tired!!! I saw a raised curb by some trees and my sole focus in that moment was to go sit there. I stumbled past all my friends and sat down on the curb, but then, I started getting dizzy, and I fell backwards flat out on the grass. And that is where I spent the next 10 minutes, trying to catch my breath. 🙂 Eventually, Katie found me, and she stretched out beside me, where her husband Jerry snapped a photo of us, proudly showing off our medals while lying down. 😉
It took a long time for me to get up from that spot, but I can honestly say that while I was exhausted, it was a great feeling. 🙂 I was so happy to get my sub-2:10 finish! I didn’t know my exact time at that point, but I knew it was below 2:10, and that’s all I cared about. It had taken a lot of effort on my part, especially at the end (when it seemed like everything was hurting), but I did it!! What was amazing to me was that I had run the entire thing—I didn’t stop at a single water station along the way! I’d had my shot blocks every two miles on schedule, along with a little bit of water from my belt, and somehow, despite the horrific winds, I’d managed to keep to my race pace and meet my goal.
Eventually, I managed to get up from the ground, lol, and I meandered my way over to see my official time: 2:09:04!! I was so ecstatic. I got one more shot with all of my friends before leaving.
These are the three ladies that have been so instrumental in my running career—I honestly would not be a runner if not for them!
As I look back on the day, I’m so happy that I finally was able to achieve this accomplishment. I honestly never would have thought it possible even six months ago. For me to run 13 miles at a 9:51 pace is pretty amazing! I know I couldn’t have done it alone, and I’m so incredibly grateful to Katie for agreeing to pace me. I know that running a 2:10 half-marathon is slower than she’s used to, so for her to be willing to “slow down” and pace me at that speed was a true blessing. And it made all the difference in the world for me. If she hadn’t been there, I guarantee that I would have faltered in that last three miles. But I didn’t!! You can read her story of our half-marathon on her blog.
After the race, I went home, took a rushed shower, and then, because I am a hockey mom, I immediately headed out to the ice arena to watch Jamie’s team play. 😀 I even managed to take a few hundred pictures, although I ran back and forth a lot less than normal. 😉 After that, I stayed for Daniel’s hockey practice, then I came home and made a pretty damn fine dinner, if I do say so myself, as well as a delightful dessert, as my post-half-marathon treat. I’ll share both those recipes another day.
As for what’s next for me…please don’t ask, because I honestly don’t know. And at this point, I’m way too tired to care! For now, I’m just going to bask in the glow of having a sub 2:10 half-marathon finish. 🙂
Thank you so much for reading this very long race report, and thanks for reading my blog!