And in 2013 the Race Fairy gave to me, 3 lost toenails, 1 respiratory virus, 10 teary finishes and most importantly Inifnite Support! It’s funny, I have been so ready to be finished racing for 2013 for a few weeks now. My body is just simply tired, tired of the stress of racing the clock, but do not be confused, not tired of running. I often think of just how I got through this epic season of racing with many distances under my belt, but my most proud moment of 2013 was finishing my 10th Half Marathon, something I never expected I would be able to sign up for, much less compete in for 10 races in a single year!
So here it is, my final race recap for the 2013 race season. I’ve enjoyed sharing these with you through the year, even though some not as spectacular as others, but each one has a special meaning and each race taught me something about not only myself, but the human spirit to never give up.
Saturday morning I was up early for a leisurely morning to get ready to hit the road for the 2 hour drive to Panama City Beach, FL from my home. I would be making my final road trip solo, as my husband and the boys (who were home for the holidays) opted for a boys weekend of hunting down at our family’s property. I was a bit apprehensive based on my mental breakdown race I previously had on my solo trip to Pensacola earlier this fall for the Pensacola Half, but I was going to stay positive and make the most of this last travel race weekend.
I arrived at packet pick-up at Edgewater Conference Center. I was excited to see that this packet pick-up was very well-organized and I had opted for the VIP package for this final race of the season, which made the check-in so much quicker and it also gave me prime parking for race morning. The Expo was small, which was really ok with me since I had been to so many larger expos through the year. I was excited to see so many past season winners there to give motivational talks to participants and so many listening and engaging with great “how did you do this . . . how did you do that . . . ” questions. After listening to the first speaker I opted to go ahead and head to my hotel to check-in, which for this OCD runner, also means laying out all of my race day gear and pre-race food, which I always make sure I stick with what has worked for me all season!
It was still pretty early when I finished all my prepping for race day, so I decided to hit the local beachside shopping area, Pier Park, and get a little walking in. There were so many cute boutique stores near the beachside area, mixed with a few chains and I was excited to see a jewelry boutique that offered Pandora, since my sweet husband surprised me with a bracelet on Christmas morning. I decided to check in and see if they had a few that I really wanted from my wish list and immediately decided on the turtle. A perfect gift to myself as an end of the season treat! When I left the boutique it had began to rain so I opted to go ahead and head to dinner for some pasta and after a quick bite I headed back to relax before my early wakeup call Sunday morning.
Race morning arrived and I was sleepy, but that was normal for me. Wanting to hit the snooze button and sleep in a bit, it was ok this race morning since we were on Central Time and I had an extra hour. I took my time getting ready, eating breakfast and all of my normal pre-race rituals. The hotel I chose was just 3 miles from the race start so I was a little apprehensive since I was not sure exactly how many participants we had walking/running that day so I opted to go ahead and head down to the race start about 45 minutes early, just in case.
When I arrived, I was directed to my VIP parking spot, which was just feet away from the start line and all the race day tents. I had several of our Tallahassee Chapter members from Moms RUN This Town who would be joining me for this final race and we were to meet around 7:40 for a pre-race photo opportunity! I was really excited that one of those ladies was my friend Laura, who was the first person to text me after I finished the 26.2 with Donna to Finish Breast Cancer, my very first half marathon EVER! Amber, another member that is new to our group and new to running, but already had 2 half marathons under her race belt, we had a little pre-race camera fun and then off to the start line.
We began the race with the 2:20 pace group and it seemed to be really difficult to make myself slow down. I knew I couldn’t maintain a really fast pace for 13 miles and I am generally really good about hovering around 10:40-11:20 throughout the race to stay comfortable. But I stuck with Laura for the first half of the race and we had some great conversation to catch up since we had not seen each other face-to-face in months. It really helped those first 6 miles fly by. As we approached the turnaround point, we were led to the one and only obstacle of the day, a bridge that crossed the bay. I knew it was going to be tough for me since I had chosen to run this final race without a hydration belt but later remembered, more importantly, my sport beans were in my hydration pack. (Insert PANIC runner reaction here! expletives welcome!) I have really strived all year to be prepared, but this race I had no fuel, which I always need by mile 6 and since this race was more focused on slow and steady, all I had for options from the race organizers was water and Gatorade. Needless to say, when I turned around to go back up that bridge, my fuel was gone and I was running out of steam. BUT I was NOT giving up! On my way down, I was excited that I got to see my friend Mindy from Road Runner Girl as she started her assent up the first bridge. That motivated me to just keep going!
I took this time to myself, as Laura reluctantly ran ahead and I kept seeing her looking back for me, which was really reassuring that she was rooting for me even though she was not by my side anymore. I reflected on my journey this year. How I pushed through pain, fear of failure, unexpected obstacles but most of all I pushed through my mental barrier of wanting to give up.
I began the walk/run approach to finish out the race. I don’t care what ANYONE tells you, there is no shame in walking when you need to during a race, the only thing that matters is finishing! As I walked I thought of this in my head, which I shared on my Facebook page last night –
Today as I ran my final half marathon for the year I started to think to myself how so many that walked/ran the race today were often too intimidated to even start to exercise much less sign up for a half marathon and then I remembered at one point I myself had been there. Afraid, afraid of judgment and afraid of failure, but most of all afraid I wouldn’t follow through with my hopes, dreams and goals. As I passed people on the course today with looks of defeat on their faces, I realized that was me. The old insecure me. So then I made a point to smile until they smiled and tell them to keep going. This year I’ve encouraged but most of all been inspired by so many. You never know what you can accomplish until you simply try . . .
Those words, though mine, resonate with me even this morning. There were so many struggling yesterday, but not struggling so much to walk/run the race, struggling to find themselves and put themselves on a path to making changes for them. I was beyond proud for them and thankful for sunglasses, as tears seemed to flow through those last 6 miles of that race.
As we rounded the corner to finish the race I felt exhausted. Just a half mile to go and to make matters worse, they last half mile took us right past the finish line for one last loop. My thought that instant, OH DAMN that’s just wrong! So I pushed myself through the loop and was so excited to see Laura waiting for me for the final stretch, she had already finished, but waited for me and ran until we reached the finish line shoot. I was simply thankful at that moment for a special friend to be there to encourage me to finish.
This race season I learned a lot about myself. I learned patience, I learned encouragement, I learned empowerment, I learned to inspire, but most of all I learned humility. We can do all things, the trick is, to know your limits, get up when you fall, own your blunders, but most of all NEVER EVER GIVE UP!
No I ask you, in 2014, how bad to you want to make changes for YOU!?!