Saturday night, I obsessively laid out everything I'd need. I forgot my Garmin the very first race I ever participated in, so from that point on, I have always obsessed. :)
I went to bed around 8:30 pm, but of course, my nerves didn't allow me to fall asleep until around 9:30. That still gave me a good night's rest though.
I got up at 4:20 on Sunday morning, which turned out to be earlier than necessary, but I didn't mind because it gave me time to wake up (and get even more nervous) and didn't force me to feel rushed. I got all my stuff together, ate a waffle with peanut butter and syrup and a glass of OJ, then had time to watch an episode of I Love Lucy while waiting on the other girls to pick me up.
We got to the race around 6:30, for a start time of 7. It was very chilly - around 38 degrees. It was not fun to just stand in, but I think it was perfect all morning long for running. We stood in a ridiculously long line for the porta-johns, then headed over to the start line. After a few announcements and thank you's, we were off!
Being that there were over 6,000 runners, it took us around 3 minutes to get where we were standing (with the 10:00 m/m pacers) to the actual timing mats. Once we got there, we started running. Maureen and Jenny took off ahead of me, which was fine. I was bound and determined NOT to overdo it and burn out 1/2 way through. I was using my iPhone for music, and was unsure of how long the battery would last with music playing, so decided not to use music for the first 5 miles or so.
I settled in at a 10:15 pace for the first few miles, and it felt good. I LOVE the sound of hundred of feet hitting the ground around you. I've never done drugs, but it's gotta be better than that! I just listened to the footfalls around me, and people's conversations. I wish I could have stopped and hugged every spectator out there, shouting encouraging words. People like me, with only about 50% confidence NEED that encouragement, and I ate up every ounce of it! I was smiling at people, thanking people, and really enjoying myself.
I made sure to get water at every stop, whether I felt like I needed it or not. I enjoyed the people who were also trying to keep the atmosphere light and fun. The guy at the aid station at mile 3 was shouting, "Hydrate or die!" That made me laugh out loud. :) I saw a police officer at mile 3.5 who looked eerily like a mix of my sophomore economics teacher, and my junior high health/PE teacher. I giggled about that for a good mile.
As I was approaching mile 5, I was feeling remarkably strong. I struggled with whether or not I should stick to my walking plan, or push ahead since I was feeling so good, and risk burning out at mile 8 or 9. I decided to go ahead and keep running. I ran to 6.6 miles, and then walked to 7.1. During that walk, I ate my Gu gel. I chose vanilla bean flavor. The flavor wasn't bad, but the texture made me gag a bit. I managed to get it down.
I ran again from 7.1 to 8 miles, where I stopped quickly for a potty break, then got right back going. This part of the race took us through Wildwood Metropark, then back towards University of Toledo on the University Parks bike trail. I ran from 8 to 9.5. I was starting to get tired at this point, but still happy. I walked from 9.5 to 10, and ate 3 Clif Shot Bloks. This is my new favorite energy supplement. They tasted awesome, like berry flavored fruit snacks, and they didn't leave my mouth with a dry, gummed up feeling like the Gu gel did. While I was walking this 1/2 mile stretch, I could feel my upper quad tightening up. I tried to stretch it as I walked, and just worked hard on staying positive.
At 10 miles, I amped myself up, and took off running again. This was the home stretch. I.could.do.this! My body was hurting now, and that darn upper quad was pretty tight, but I tried my best to ignore it and just push. Again, LOVED the support from spectators. I got to mile 12, and slowed down to eat the rest of the shot bloks (still running), and a gentleman was smiling, telling me "you only have about a mile left, stay strong, you've got this." A perfect stranger! I almost cried! Despite the pain I was feeling, I felt awesome mentally at this point. I smiled, gave him a sincere thanks, and kept going.
This last mile brought us off the University Parks bike trail, and back through campus. I rounded the last big curve and could see the football stadium. The end was in sight! That last 1/2 mile or so seriously felt like about 4 miles, I swear! I really don't know how I did it, but I just kept pushing. We wound through campus and came up on the Glass Bowl (UT's football stadium). I was passing people who had already finished. They were wearing their medals, covered up in their "space blankets," and holding their finisher mugs. Ok, encouragement. The last 0.1 miles was inside the stadium, and the change from asphalt to astro-turf threw me a bit. It was actually more difficult for me to run on the softer ground. But, I was a matter of yards from that finish line. People were cheering, finishers were all around me. Gosh darnit, I was THERE. I crossed the line and looked up, said thank you to the Lord, and felt AMAZING!!!
I was given my medal and space blanket. I found Maureen and Jenny, high-fived them, and we took a few pictures. Then, we headed to the party tent, got our mugs, and were going to get a beer, but the line was ridiculous, so we passed on the beer, got some pizza (which did NOT hit the spot for me) and apples, and chatted about our experiences for a few minutes.
I had forgotten to stop my Garmin when I crossed the finish line, so wasn't sure about my exact time. I logged onto Facebook from my phone, where my splits had been posted, and saw my GCM Official time was 2:17:03. I was in utter disbelief. The longest run I had ever been on at this point was 9 miles, and that was a good 2 months ago. I had blown my "safe" plan out of the water and just pushed. I was worried that I wouldn't finish under 3 hours, and here I was with a finish time of 2:17:03. WOW!!!
I'm still kind of in disbelief, but feel so darn proud. No joke, other than the birth of my beautiful boys, this was one of the proudest moments of my life. I feel like I can accomplish anything, and look forward to what the future holds.
Here are a few pictures I took after the race. ***WARNING*** There are a few really gross pics of my feet. If you have a weak stomach, you may wanna scroll really fast, or get out of this post now. HA!
Me, all sweaty and make-up-less, right before my post race shower.
My "sleeve." Maureen had the great idea to wear tube socks instead of long sleeves so that they'd be easier to ditch when you got hot. What a useful concept! This will be my new cool-weather race tactic!
The less-nasty blisters on my left foot. You can actually barely seen them in this picture.
The mother of all blisters. This was painful before it popped. After was worse.
What running does to your toenails. I wish this thing would just fall off already, but it's barely hanging on, and looks like it's going to hang on for a while. Awkward.
Left foot blisters, after popped. YOUCH.
Right foot blisters after popped. Bigger YOUCH.
As awesome as this race went, it felt VERY good to cross it off the calendar!
What's next? While walking back to the car, Maureen asked me if I was going to sign up for Columbus, which her and Jenny are running in October. Uh....no! There's no doubt in my mind, I definitely want to run another 1/2 someday. But not now. Matt and I have been talking about this summer for about the last two years, and how much fun we're going to have. The last three summers haven't been un-fun, but not as good as this one is going to be. In 2009, I was pregnant. in 2010, Hendrix was 6-9 months old, and in 2011, Jameson was a colicky newborn. This year, Hendrix is 2 and 1/2, Jameson will be 1, and we can just do things and have fun. And that's exactly what I plan on doing with my 2012 summer.
I don't want to spend my Saturdays and Sundays getting up at the butt crack of dawn to go on my long runs. I don't want to obsess over how many miles I did or didn't run in a particular week. I want to run because it feels good, and concentrate on doing more cross training. I don't want to go on a 3, 4, or 5 mile run, and feel like it's inadequate. I will most definitely continue to eat right and exercise. But for the next few months, I can be found in and around northwest Ohio, enjoying my family, and enjoying life. :o)