Coming off a mentally torturing half marathon in Pensacola, I was reluctantly optimistic that this weekend’s half marathon in St. Augustine would be less mentally taxing and more about enjoying the run, at least that was what I was going to focus on for the trip. I was also excited to be dedicating another race to Carly and adorned my race outfit with my vinyl that read Moms RUN for Autism.
We started out our Saturday morning by sleeping in a bit, which we NEVER seem to be able to do on the weekend, be it due to events or other obligations, so this weekend’s 8 am wake-up was well received in the Means house. I had taken the time Friday night to make sure that my running gear bag was packed and I would plan to just throw some stuff into my overnight normal clothes bag when I got up Saturday, which I did once we got up and moving around. My ever-jokingly hubby looked down at my bags and said, “we’re going for how long!?” I smiled and said, ” just one night” and turned around to finish getting ready to hit the road. I love him and he’s always got jokes! It’s what makes our life so enjoyable, if he is serious something has gone TERRIBLY WRONG in the world! So after about an hour of getting organized and the truck packed, we were ready to hit the road. I was thankful that he made the time to join me for this weekend’s race and I was looking forward to having him at the finish line waiting for me on race day along with several other Moms RUN This Town Mamas that were making the trip over.
We arrived in St. Augustine about Midday on Saturday and it was already looking like some rainy weather would be in our race weekend future. We headed immediately over to the packet pickup Expo tent at the finish line area for Sunday’s race. As my running partner’s husband would say, we’ve gotten very spoiled as runners, as we walked up to the packet pickup tent and there were about 4 tables of vendors, we came away with the ehhh feeling from the Expo, but we had our bibs and packet in hand, nonetheless. We were going to attempt to walk around in some of the historic area of St. Augustine, but impending showers had us head towards our hotel to get checked in and to get out and find a place to watch our college football game, which we ended up just relaxing and watching in our room until we met my running Partner and her family for dinner for our pre-race carb feast.
Tammy P., her hubby and little 4-year-old G met us at Carraba’s to grab some dinner before we headed back to the hotel to get settled and rest for the early wake up call on Sunday morning. A great dinner that we enjoyed a lot of laughter and conversation and a new pre-race dinner tradition that we have created, some awesome Creme Brulee (yes, we each get our own!). We got some post-dinner pictures including this one with little G at his request. Just before the picture was taken he reached around and grabbed tight with his hand on my face, he’s such a little sweetie, I love getting to spend time with him.
I didn’t get very restful sleep the night before this race for whatever reason. Maybe still feeling a little uptight after last weekends race debacle or just normal race nerves that I never paid much attention to before. It was hot in our hotel room, I kept waking up thinking I had overslept, blah blah blah. And then, as normal, just when I fell off to some restful sleep my alarm went off at 4:30 am. I got up earlier than normal so that I could go and pickup Tammy, who was staying farther away from the race start and to get back in time to meet some of our fellow running buddies in the hotel lobby before walking the 4 blocks to the race start.
We arrived at the race starting area and as normal, we stood in line to make that one last potty stop before the race start, which we were told would be at 7:05 am. The line was long, but we would much rather be safe than sorry on having to use the bathroom during the entire 13.1 mile race. We were excited, we made it to the front of the line and still had 5 minutes to spare, so we THOUGHT! We waited for each other outside the restrooms to walk up to the start line together and then as we looked around, the large wave of runners were already heading over the first bridge! YUP, we totally missed the start of the half because we were IN THE PORTA POTTY! Holy smokes! Tammy and I laughed, because what else are you gonna do in that moment, and then got situated and crossed the mat to start the half. It was the funniest thing, to date, that had happened to me at a half marathon. I mean, really, “no, I didn’t hear the start, I was in the potty!” We just pushed on and enjoyed some conversation together for the first few miles.
We caught up to a lot of the runners and were enjoying the course, but on some slippery pavement due to the rain that had come through the day/night before. We passed the Mile 2 marker and Tammy began to run ahead in order to get her race stride as I had already found my comfortable and management pace for the race. I watched her for the next mile, just about a half a minute ahead and then lost her in the sea of runners that we began to catch up to. I put in my other earphone and settled in. I generally try to find a few people to be my rabbit during the race, and I was still searching for that person, but it was early.
We approached our first turn in the course which would take us ultimately to the half-way point of the race and the first of back-to-back bridges. I was struggling on the road out to the impending course elevation, to find some flat and unslanted part of the road that would allow me to think less about the run and more about other things to keep the negative out. Finally, I got as far left as I could and some flat road took me to the first bridge. I had already began to see the first of the half marathoners that were heading back and it was a great boost to push on. Cheering and clapping by all of us that were still headed in the direction they were coming from helped keep the positive mood flowing. As we approached the first bridge I saw a lot of people beginning to walk. I told myself, you’re gonna run this whole bridge no matter how much you want to stop, right past the walkers, YOU WILL NOT STOP! Luckily for me, a sea of other runners were beginning to make their way down the second bridge so I was able to divert my attention to looking for my running buddies instead of thinking about the steep bridge I was on. I began to see several people I knew including one of our Chapter members, Christine, who saw me way before I saw her and began to wave her hands. It was such a boost to my efforts and I waved my hands back and we checked on each other as we passed. I knew that Tammy couldn’t be far behind her and before I knew it, there she was, always smiling and asking how I was doing. She yelled out, “you’re right in the 11 minute pace group and doing awesome!” I was so happy to see them!
I headed down the first bridge and saw that we were to make a circle and go right back up the other side. I knew this would be hard as I wouldn’t have my girls to look for on this upward course. But I decided to focus on the runners on the other side of the bridge. Low and behold, right in front of me, I finally found my rabbit for the next part of the race. She was taking a walk/run approach to the steep bridges and I knew she was my girl to keep in my sights.
We came down the bridge and began what would be the remaining flat course return to the finish line. I was sweaty, it was HOT and it was HUMID, but I would not allow that to stop me. I kept reflecting back to last weekend’s race and how awful I felt the entire day after finishing that race, and continued to tell myself, that no matter how much I wanted to quit or stop that I would push through, but also that ultimately finishing this race would be enough and I would not allow anything to mentally defeat me this week. It was a great race and I would make sure it continued to be a great race, NO MATTER WHAT!
The next portion of the race, to the finish, was all flat except for the bridge that would take us back across and past the Castillo de San Marcos and ultimately to the finish line. Around mile 11, my water was gone and I had to make the stop at the last water station. I stopped running and grabbed a cup of sports drink, because I knew that I had lost a lot of electrolytes, then immediately grabbed a water to help dilute it in my stomach. Pouring sweat and my shirt and clothes were soaking wet, much more than normal. I pushed on and at that point noticed that I had lost my rabbit that kept with me until about mile 10 of the race. I saw another runner struggling to find his mojo to finish the race and he kept hanging his head when he would stop, so as I ran next to him I caught his attention and yelled, “c’mon, just one more mile, YOU GOT THIS!” Maybe to help him or maybe to hold myself accountable to not walk any of this last portion myself, it was about helping others as I needed last weekend to get me over that finish line. He caught back up to me about mile 12 and said, “hey, THANK YOU, I needed that boost!” I smiled and replied, “we’ve got this!”
As we crossed back over the final bridge I knew that the finish line was just a half mile away. Lordy, that was the longest half-mile E-V-E-R it seemed. But I knew that my hubby would be there waiting for me, which made me so excited and teary. Funny how you can be in so much pain from running miles and something like a loved one at the finish line is what makes you cry! Go figure! As we rounded the parking garage and approached the finish area, I spotted Tammy’s hubby and G at the corner. He yelled out, “RUN GIRL!” in true TD fashion! Then Tammy spotted me and started waving and screaming that Harley would be on the left as I crossed through the finish and that he was with a huge smile and the camera out and snapping photos!
I crossed the finish line, grabbed a water and was given my medal and then anxiously went to find Harley and my friends. A huge hug from his sweaty wife, my hubby immediately said, “I’m so proud of you honey, you did AWESOME!” It was one of the best finishes thus far on my half marathon journey! Who knew, no start line jitters because you were in the Porta Potty would make for an awesome race! We then found our other running buddies and huddled together for a group photo and talked about how incredibly humid the run was and congratulated each other on another great race day! I looked around and found the guy that I encouraged on the last mile and walked over to shake his hand and congratulate him on finishing, to which he gave me another big thank you. It was awesome, and ultimately and awesome feeling to help someone else run their race and to finish.
Anxious to get a shower and change out of my soaking wet clothes, but more to get some food, we made our way back to the hotel for a shower and some quick ice on my hip which has been injured for the past few weeks. I was thankful that it didn’t give me much trouble during my race until the last mile. It’s something I try to stay conscious of and stretch and ice when I need to. My hubby was so awesome, he took me to the BEST FISH TACO food truck for my post race lunch and enjoyed lunch together before heading back home.
As we headed home, I reflected to myself and some out loud, about the race and how I felt about it. Overall, I was very happy and thankful for all the encouragement and my performance at the race. I loved seeing people race their first half marathon, and seasoned runners finishing with PR’s (personal records) but most of all, I really enjoyed the continued positive energy of what we all call our running community. We may participate in an individual sport, but in my mind and my heart, running is all about your team, and my team is pretty FREANKIN’ AMAZING!
My official finish for the St. Augustine Half Marathon was 2:29:19 and I loved every second of it. It was hard mentally and physically, but I did it. Coming up this weekend, I head down to St. Petersburg, FL for the Women’s Running Series Half and I am so excited to put my feet on the pavement and open my heart to the next 13.1 miles ahead. 13.1 ain’t easy, but it’s worth every single achy muscle!