Moments from the Finish Line!

I’ve been looking forward to this race for a few months! I have run in five 5K races. Yet, ironically, while I celebrated how quickly I was able to reach the finish line only 3.1 miles from the starting line, I lamented how brief the race was. 5K races are finished almost as quickly as they start. While they have their own special niche in a runner’s repertoire (I’ll certainly continue to run them), I wanted something a little more substantial. I wanted to enter a race that would take longer to run than it took me to drive to the event.

Toward the end of last year, I was toying around with the idea of running a marathon. I’m so glad that a couple of my dailymile friends encouraged me to give the half marathon a try first. I’m glad I did! I finished this race in a respectable 2:04:18 for an average pace of 9:30/mile. I came in 171st place out of 445 half marathoners (official results here). In my gender/age group (40-44), I came in 16th place out of 26 (official results here). I’ll take it, especially since I plan to set a PR in my second half marathon!

But back to my first sentence. I had been looking forward to this race for a few months. It was a strange feeling but I just didn’t have that passion this morning at the start of the race. The race was enjoyable once it got going but I lacked that deep down desire to conquer the course like I’ve had in previous races. Here’s how it played out:

I couldn’t go to sleep last night as I mentally ran the race course in my mind. I was imagining myself starting at a slow and steady pace and making my way around the race course. Yet, I was also battling with a little anxiety. On training runs, I’ve run as far as 13.1 miles a couple of times (a few months ago). Yet, there have been times when I set out to have a long run and discovered that I didn’t have it in me. I would abandon the training run after 4-5 miles and no one knew the difference. This race was different. Everyone who crossed the Start Line would either cross the Finish Line 13.1 miles away or they would get a DNF beside their name (“Did Not Finish!”). Who wants THAT beside their name?! Because of serious pain in my left Achilles tendon about a month ago, I had to drastically reduce my mileage. I questioned my fitness/endurance as I approached this race.

I finally dozed off just before midnight. My eyes opened around 3:15am and I drifted in and out of sleep until I finally got up at 4am. Great! Only 4 hours sleep before a 13.1 mile race!

After taking the hour drive to Clermont, Florida, I got out of the warm, dry car and stepped into cool temps (low 60s) and a drizzly rain. A lot of folks were getting a chill. The restroom lines were long!

I lined up with 444 other half marathon runners about 15 minutes before the 7am start time. However, due to the rain, the race officials didn’t want to risk messing up their computers and other electronic gadgetry that would monitor our start and finish times.

The race finally got started at 7:30. We had been standing in the cool, drizzly rain for all that time . I wasn’t surprised when the horn blew and the race started to see a lot of runners dart to the porta-potties about  a quarter mile into the race. I joined them. I lost about 2-3 minutes in that first mile. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last and everyone was able to focus and settle into their race pace.

The first couple of miles were in a residential area and it was neat to be a part of a group that was 445 strong running a race down the streets. Neighbors were in their front yards or on the side streets watching and some applauded as we passed. I think that the tragedy in Boston this past week played into some of their sentiments.

After the first 2 miles, the route became fairly scenic. Part of it was on a wide, paved bike trail through the woods and the other was along the streets lining Lake Minneola. But, let me tell you that the beauty of that lake wasn’t really capturing my attention in the race. The few times I glanced at the lake, I couldn’t help but realize how far across it was … and I was going to have to run around the thing! I quickly refocused upon the road ahead of me.

I had a game plan regarding two specific areas. First, I kept my watch on “heartrate.” I had a chest monitor that enabled me to keep tabs on how hard my heart was working. I was concerned that if I let my heart rate get too high, I’d crash and burn before the end of the race. In 5Ks, I allow my heart rate to max out at around 189 and I simply hang on for 3.1 miles. However, I tried to keep my heart rate around 175-180 for this race. After the race, I noticed that my average was 176bpm.

Secondly, I planned on how I would navigate the water stops that were placed about every mile and a half along the route. I never drink water during a 5K race. But, because I was sweating like a pig in this race, I knew that  I had to fight against dehydration as this 2 hour race played out. So, as planned, I stopped to walk at ever water stop. I suspect I didn’t lose too much time doing that. I only walked for about 15-20 seconds each time. That way, I could give my legs a break and keep from splashing the water all over my face. (Have you ever tried to drink while you’re running?)

In the last 3-4 miles, I had to stop to walk more than I wanted. I was out of gas. But as I observed my heart rate on my watch, I made it a point to take off when it got down to 170bpm. On my next half marathon, I hope to be in better shape so I can run the whole thing.

The last 1/4 mile was rewarding. All of those who had finished the 5K and 12K races as well as those who had finished the half marathon were at the Finish Line to applaud everyone who crossed the line. It felt pretty cool. 

As I crossed the finish line, I had two conscious thoughts: 1) Mission accomplished! and 2) I’m headed to bed!