As this weekend came and went and my excitement leading up to this half marathon quickly diminished over the two days that I traveled, I found that I need to work on many things still in my running journey. I also found that I really do not enjoy traveling to a race alone as much as I tried to resolve in my head that it really wouldn’t be a big deal. Yeah, WRONG!
Here’s my lengthy, emotional race recap
Saturday morning I leisurely woke up and finished packing my gear and overnight clothes for the 3 hour trip west to Pensacola from Tallahassee. I thought much about how I would have loved to have my running partner there with me and all my other running buddies that where either running another race or had other obligations that prevented them from running this race with me. But, I pushed forward, in true I’m independent fashion and tried to keep a positive outlook on this solo running adventure.
I arrived in Pensacola around 11 am CST, which is an hour earlier than Tallahassee and found my hotel which would also serve as the events Host Hotel. I was able to check-in early and go upstairs and get settled in as I awaited the Expo and packet pickup to open at noon. A nice hotel, full of history and located near the still functioning train tracts, there were many things that I liked and disliked about the hotel, but I was also thankful that it was just a few blocks walking distance to the start line on Sunday morning. One of the reasons that I chose to book my room there.
After going down and grabbing my packet and checking out the very small expo, I went out and grabbed my pre-race breakfast items since I failed to make the time to do it before leaving Tallahassee, which I am happy I did because the hotel had no breakfast options available for race morning. I mapped out a course on my GPS to take me to the nearest Publix, which I knew would carry all my normal morning items that I always have before heading to the race start. My breakfast bread with peanut butter, a banana, water and occasionally some coffee. Since I was on my own I just decided to return to the hotel and have a leisurely afternoon of rest in my room before grabbing some dinner.
After spending most of my afternoon in my room and laying out my race Flat Mama, I was less than enthusiastic about getting dressed and heading to dinner on my own, so I opted to order room service instead. Yeah, I should have made the effort and gone out for dinner as I normally do the night before a race. My meal was ‘eh and I quickly felt really mad at myself for not getting out of the hotel. It also did not help matters that I really wasn’t feeling so great that afternoon, low energy and an aching hip from my bursitis, I opted for ice and college football on the boob tube. My down attitude was less than improving at this point, so I grabbed my iPhone and set my morning alarm and attempted to get some sleep (even though the ladies in the next room were obviously rooting for Alabama’s football team until late into the night). Before hitting the pillow though, I was able to get some great encouragement from my running partner and buddies via text which really helped me attempt to be optimistic about Sunday morning. I had also arranged, at the last-minute, to meet one of our Moms RUN This Town Mamas from the Newnan, GA chapter, Lindsey that would be running the Marathon, to walk over to the start line together at 5:30 am. Things were looking up a bit, it seemed.
Race morning arrived and before my alarm could go off, I was awakened by the passing train (multiple whistle blows and all) at 4:15 am. Thankful, yeah NO! I opted to go ahead and get up and moving around so I could have some leisure time to eat and get dressed before meeting Lindsey in the lobby. Normal routines followed – breakfast, body-glide EVERYTHING, hydrate, pee as many times as possible and make sure you have everything you need/want for the race and post race. I sighed and headed out to meet Lindsey, because it seemed I would be as ready as I every would to run this race.
We walked over to the race start/staging area and met Lindsey’s mom, Keisha would be running the half marathon and Lindsey’s cousin, Courtney who would be running her first half marathon. It was exciting and there was great energy and enthusiasm in the air at the race area. Typical pre-race photo opportunities and conversations about how to approach the course and race where there as usual, I was beginning to feel a little more excited about being there. I loved Keisha’s take on the fact that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can do or run anything you set your mind to. She referred to herself and her fellow running buddies as Grandma’s RUN This Town and I thought that was awesome!
The normal pre-race activities and announcements began and the race was started by the singing of the National Anthem and the firing of a loud cannon and we were off. All the marathoners and half marathoners beginning at the same time. I was excited for two of my Tallahassee Chapter Mamas that were running the full marathon. I even was able to slip in a pre-race photo with them before they found their pace group for the start. I loved feeling like the short one in this photo, these ladies were awesome!
When we started out, I knew that a lot of the course would be flat and they race organizers touted it as flat and fast and for the first few miles I totally got that. My excitement for fast quickly diminished though as I reached the first of quite a few hills. There were a lot of spectators out cheering us on, which if you are not a distance runner, the next best thing to running is cheering! One cheerleader seemed to find herself around the course to cheer, hoop and holler with excitement every 3 or 4 miles. I thought to myself, dang, this woman gets around and it was awesome!
As I reached the 10K mark my time was really still pretty good at that point. I was keeping my normal race pace that I was comfortable at maintaining and no issues with my hip at that point. There was a lot of emotion on the course was we were joined by Veterans and Active Service Military and that made it more special to be running along side those men and women. As we rounded the corner to one of several bridges we had to conquer, I saw ahead a runner that had a prosthetic limb below the knee. He was running with a female and had a biker that was there for support. I saw a moment of frustration in his stride and quickly saw that he had dropped the earpiece from his earphones and quickly grabbed it up before it got lost in the crowd and ran up to give it back to him. As I leaned down to pick it up, I remembered that was one thing maybe we all take for granted and he maybe couldn’t just stop and do. As I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he still wanted it, he gave a huge smile and replied, Wow, thank you so much, you didn’t have to do that. I simply replied, you’re welcome and neither did you, thank you. Patted him on the shoulder and ran on.
As we approached mile 8 I was beginning to have a lot of pain in my hip. Much of it I think was also mental and it was beginning to wear me down. I also thought back to the fact that I had not taken the time to eat as much as I needed to the day before and vowed that I wouldn’t make that mistake again in coming race weekends. I decided to start the walk/run interval approach to make sure I stayed healthy and could finish the race. I quickly saw what I wanted to be my finish time bounce away with the passing minutes.
Defeated and beaten up mentally, only by my own self-inflicted negativity, I got to mile 12 and thought, YOU ARE FINISHING THIS DAMN RACE RUNNING. I didn’t care how much it would take or how bad it would hurt, I was going to do it. I was going to prove to myself that I could finish. I heard the cheering crowd and the announcers calling names of runners as they finished and used that to get me to the finish line. As I approached the gathered crowd of spectators, I was happy to hear my friend Mindy, of Road Runner Girl yell my name and cheer me on. I put on a smile and posed for a shot that she got of me in the final gated approach to the finish and then saw the time on the clock and hung my head with disappointment.
As I crossed the finish line I was filled with emotion and pain, but I was also filled with anger. Anger at myself for not allowing the fact that I finished the race to be enough. An avid believer in the fact that time shouldn’t be a factor, but the fact that you just finished something that so many never have the ability to even start should be enough to fill your heart with joy. I made my way over to where Mindy was so that I could say hello and we were able to snap some post race photos and catch up on how each other were on our running injuries. She is also recovering from some injuries due to running and had to sit out Saturday’s distance in order to run a race she has coming up in a few weeks. I was thankful for the conversation to get my mind off the negativity I was battling internally. My final finish time for the Pensacola Half Marathon was 2:40:29.
I finally began to make my way back to the hotel, at that point a long and painful 3 block walk back and thankful for sunglasses to cover my eyes. The day was filled with a lot of tears and I opted for a stop off on my way home in Destin for some retail therapy. When I finally pulled myself together this was my post on my Facebook status update, which I think really speaks for itself:
Today I am thankful for finishing the race set before me. We lose sight that crossing the finish line is our ultimate goal. I never run for time these days but disappointment does fog my head when I miss my projected finish. I am thankful for legs to carry me in my journey and heart to get out there next week and try again.
Monday was Veterans Day and there was a 5K that I signed up to initially walk because running the day after a half marathon, not so good in the grand scheme of things! But I picked up my running partner and we headed to Tallahassee’s VetFest 5K. There were tears on Monday, but no tears of self-pity. I ran a very tough 5K course and finished 3rd in my age group. I ran with no intention of time being a factor for me, but just running for those that cannot and I refilled my runner heart with joy of running. Saturday will begin a new race weekend in St. Augustine, FL, but for now I will continue to mentally conquer my demons that my running is about so much more than the damn clock above that finish line . . .