And sometimes, that kick in the a$$ is needed.
After setting a PR (personal record) the week prior at the Rock the Parkway Half-Marathon, I’d been somewhat cocky…struttin’ around like Foghorn Leghorn in a barnyard of chickens…ready to take on the running elites, confident that I was ready for the Big Leagues of Marathon Racing.
A little setback, otherwise known as the Garmin Half-Marathon, happened, bringing me back to reality with a cold, hard “plunk”. A cold, wet splash in the face – literally - but very much needed.
Flying Monkeys…bah. I hate Flying Monkeys.
The Garmin Half-Marathon, which was set for Saturday, April 18th, was Part 2 of the Heartland 39.3 Series…three half-marathons within five weeks that will earn me a huge-a$$ medal, but also some pretty tired legs when it’s all said and done, which will be on Saturday, May 9th.
It's all about the bling...
All week, I’d been watching the forecast for last Saturday, and it was not looking good. As Race Day drew nearer, the weathermen were ominously predicting severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, and pretty much doom & gloom for Saturday morning. Gah. I can deal with gusty winds…I can deal with rain…but what I CAN’T deal with is lightning. Now, I get that MOST people can’t deal with lightning, but I pretty much have a phobia of it. A flash in the sky can pretty much send me into full-blown panic, and the thought of running over 2.5-hours while having a heart attack was not something I was looking forward to.
So, having to not only mentally deal with how to dress for potentially being soaked and freezing for 13.1-miles, as well as how to deal with lightning-induced panic attacks, pretty much consumed my thoughts for the 48 hours leading up to Saturday.
We’d set the alarm to ring at 4:45 a.m. on Race Day, because we’re kinda’ stupid about that, but anxiety, nerves and adrenaline had me wide awake at 3:45 a.m. You can imagine how thrilled I was about losing an hour of sleep on race day. However, looking out in the pre-dawn darkness, I was somewhat relieved to see that the rain had not moved in yet…perhaps I’d luck out and it would hold off until the race was over??
I quickly donned “Flat Me” – the outfit I’d carefully arranged the night before. The bright yellow vest was a new purchase – but I was hoping it would give me an extra layer of warmth in the wind and the rain…as well as giving me some visibility in case the skies stayed dark. The vest was advertised as “glow in the dark” – and as I looked at later photos of me during the race – it DEFINITELY glowed. That sucker was so darned bright that I’m pretty sure the astronauts at the International Space Station could see me.
My eyes! My eyes!
After a 30-minute or so drive, Hubby and I arrived at Garmin International, the site of the Start/Finish line for the race. We were directed to a parking space that was literally 100 yards from the port-a-potties, which was a blessing, as that’s normally my first stop. While heading over to take care of business, I pulled out my phone so I could text Kristin, my BRB (Best Running Buddy), to see where she was…and imagine my surprise when she was literally right in front of me. What were the odds of THAT?? Four thousand runners, and here she was…in my path trajectory!!
Kristin and I made our way over to the Finish Line, where we hooked up with some more friends, Paula and Bill. Introductions were made, and we chit-chatted…all while I was still nervously assessing the skies and any impending danger. Did I mention that I HATE, HATE, HATE thunderstorms??!!
Partners in crime…Paula and Bill...
Here is where I made Mistake #1.
I spent so much time jabbering, that I really didn’t mentally focus on what was ahead of me. I normally like to go over my “game plan” inside my head…where I’ll suck a GU Energy Gel, when I’ll need to slow down or speed up, etc…but that’s all done best when you’re by yourself. Not while standing in a social circle, socializing. While we made our way over to the Start Line, with about 10 minutes before the start of the race, I told myself I’d do a quick mental focus when I got lined up in my corral.
This is when I discovered Mistake #2.
Normally, about 15-20 minutes before the start of a race, I like to nibble on some Honey Stinger Energy Chews. As we walked over to the corrals, it occurred to me that I had left my Stingers IN THE CAR.
This freaked me out a bit. NO STINGERS??!!
Oh well. Too late now. Tough it up, Buttercup.
Jumping into the corrals, I observed that a lady next to me had on a shirt that I also own – and it’s one of my favorite running shirts. Well, I HAD to compliment her on her excellent taste in clothing, and soon we were quickly becoming BFF’s. Diana (see, already on a first-name basis!) had driven all the way to Kansas from Georgia to participate in this race. I looked at her like she was crazy, and she explained, “Well – I liked the medal.” I’m sorry, but that made it even CRAZIER to me!! I mean, Flying Monkeys. On a medal. Gah.
As we were talking, here comes yet another friend, Tracy, and again, introductions were made, photos were taken – and I STILL had not gone over my game plan.
Tracy, me and Diana…STILL not focusing here...
“It’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I can still do it during the National Anthem.”
There WAS no National Anthem!!!
Okay, that’s not correct. Apparently, they played it – but they didn’t play it over a public address system…so those of us in the back of the corrals NEVER, EVER heard it. Hubby said that even in the front, where he was, they could barely hear it.
So…as I was chatting with Tracy and Diana, we looked around and realized that runners around us were starting to run.
“Hey!!” Tracy exclaimed. “We’re MOVING!!!”
Well, crap again. No Stingers. No National Anthem. And no Mental Focus/Game Plan before the race.
It was time to run.
I’m not going to go into a mile-by-mile breakdown of this race…suffice to say that it was long. And it was hard. Because it seemed to go uphill…a LOT. More than last week’s race, actually. At race time, the humidity was at 97%, and my lungs felt like I was sucking water every time I took a breath, which, when running uphill, happens a lot. Lots of breaths. Lots of huffing and puffing.
When I finally caught enough breath to somewhat analyze this, around Mile 3, I realized I was running with the 2:20 Pace Group – which is about 20-25 minutes TOO FAST for me. I was so stunned at this bonehead move on my part that I almost literally slapped myself right there. This was a Rookie Mistake – starting out too fast – and I am NOT a Rookie, and should have known better. No wonder I was sucking air – I was running way too fast than what my body had trained for.
I immediately slowed things down – but the damage had been done. My legs were spent. And I had ten more miles to run. Mistake #3.
At Mile 4, my knee was starting to make its unhappiness known – what with the hills and the earlier speed drills – and I instinctively reached into my pocket for my emergency Ibuprofen that I carry.
And it wasn’t there.
I’d lost my little bag of medicine somewhere along the race course.
At this point along the race, I was somewhat regretting wearing that yellow vest. A fellow friend and runner, Kathi, had suggested that I might get too hot in it, and I was starting to believe she was right. I unzipped it as far as it would go, and doused myself in showers of water every time I hit the Water Station.
By Mile 6, the raindrops started…light, at first…but increasing with intensity. Far off in the distance, I heard the rumbles of thunder. Yikes. It was coming. The lightning was coming.
By Mile 8, I was soaked…what with the rain, and the previous showers I had taken at the Water Station with the Dixie Cups. The wind had kicked up, and any thoughts that I had overdressed with the yellow vest were gone. I was now officially freezing. I was also congratulating myself for perhaps doing the only smart thing of the day – wearing that vest – as it gave me a little bit of warmth.
Mile 8 is where the race course took an interesting diversion…we’d been running along asphalt-coated streets, but suddenly, we were now on a bike trail through a park. The scenery though this area was incredible – trees budding out in beautiful spring colors, a bubbling brook and bridges, etc – but the trail was incredibly muddy AND slippery from all the runners.
It was like running on an ice rink.
I’m not sure how long this trail lasted, but enough to slow me down even more. By this time, I’d pretty much resigned myself that my only goal was to finish, period. Don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about setting any PR’s. Just finish.
By now, I'd settled into a good rhythm. It went something like this:
Run, run, splash, splash, flash, flash, BOOM.
It was my slowest half-marathon to date, but I didn’t care at this point. I was just happy to finish, in the rain, in the lightning, and in one piece. I was wet. I was freezing. I was tired.
And I’d qualified for Half Fanatics, my Bucket List item which was now complete.
Shivering, Hubby and I had just made our way to the car when a HUGE crash of thunder roared in our ears – and the skies opened up to torrential showers. I couldn’t have timed my finish any better – missing most of the worst of it.
In a lot of ways, I’m glad things went wrong at this race. Mistakes we make are teachable moments, and this race was certainly that for me. Things I should know better than, and things I should/could plan better for in the future, will all help me in future races. I’m still relatively a “newbie” when it comes to running, and I hope that my mistakes will help someone else in the future, as well – those “Don’t do THIS” moments are helpful.
Things I Liked About This Race:
1. The incredible volunteers. They were out there, in the rain, and I KNOW they had to be even more cold than we were. Their enthusiasm never wavered – so major snaps to them.
2. The theme: being that we were in Kansas, the Land of Oz, the race was focused on the Wizard of Oz, complete with a Flying Monkey medal. There was some great signage along the route that incorporated themes from the movie, such as courage, heart, etc. The Finish Line had been decked out as a Yellow Brick Road, which was pretty cool. There were also several costumed runners, which made things interesting.
3. Not too many runners. This was a smaller race, and I enjoyed not being surrounded by swarms of people…and we always had plenty of room on the streets to run. No pinch points.
4. The food & beer at the after-party…although I can’t have the beer (due to the gluten), Hubby really enjoyed his. Whole Foods were giving out bags of food at the end, which was incredible. There were also free chicken sandwiches and burgers.
Things I Didn’t Like:
1. It’s advertised as “Wickedly Fast” – but that’s not the case. They need to be honest about the “rolling” hills that are part of this course. It’s not flat. Not at all.
2. The weather – but there’s nothing the Race Director can do about that. That’s just my own phobias, which I need to deal with.
3. The course…that trail was just…gah. WAY too slippery to run on with any decent speed. It slowed a lot of us down.
4. The medal. It has a Flying Monkey on it. The Flying Monkeys used to scare the BEEJEEBUS out of me when I was little, so I’m not overtly fond of this medal.
5. Packet Pick-Up: It was at a Hilton Garden Inn – in the LOBBY. Four thousand runners showing up to pick up shirts & bibs in a small LOBBY is not good. It was crowded and crammed and chaotic. Not very many vendors, either – which that may have been good for my wallet. ;)
Note the back of the shirt: “A Wicked Good Time.”
Ummmm…no. Just no.
*Image from HERE