I've known that I was running this half since December and had been training towards my goal of a sub-2 hour half marathon since January or February of this year. Even though I knew that it was Memorial Day weekend, I dawdled and neglected to reserve a room until about 2 weeks before the race. Lucky for me, there was still an option to stay in the Northwestern Michigan College dorms at $35 per person per night. Many of my runner friends were also staying there so this was a great option for me.
When I arrived, I couldn't have been happier. We got out of the car and the marathon start line was just on the other side of a large expanse of grass on a nearby high school track. Others were arriving and the excitement in the air was palpable. We walked over to see the set-up, tents, and start/finish lines. Upon entering the building, I ran into my running friend, Trevor, sitting in the dorm lobby watching the news and greeted him with race weekend excitement. He was running the full (had done it once before) and was teasing me about how early I had to get up the next day because all he had to do was walk 100 yards to the marathon start line while I had load a bus and be transported to the half marathon start line.
The course for the marathon is an out and back while the half marathon course starts 13.1 miles out and you run back. Busses would begin loading the 2700 half marathoners out to Bowers Harbor Park at about 5:15 am on Saturday morning and I didn't want to be rushing to get on one of the last busses.
We headed up to the room (typical dorm with two rooms connected by a bathroom) and dropped our things off before catching a relatively late dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. I was getting nervous about the run at this point because something in the air was causing me to sneeze and my eyes to water.
As you can see in the picture, my eyes were a little red and, by the end of dinner, they were puffy and I appeared very tired. I sneezed no less than 30 times throughout dinner and was praying that this would pass by morning. When we got back to the hotel a host of running friends, including my Running Coach, Lori, were sitting in the lounge chatting and trying to squash any pre-race gitters. We didn't hang around long due to the allergies and the fact I had to be up so early to catch a bus to the start. Up to the room we went but, admittedly, I didn't sleep well because I was nervous about what I was attempting to do the following morning. My fastest half time was 2:06:30. I'd been training at a 9:20 pace which would bring me in at around 2:02. But I REALLY wanted to come in in under 2 hours. Nervous? Ummm, yeah...
As we got closer to the starting point, we began looking for this large hill that had been added to the start of the half marathon this year. I never did see it from the bus which is probably good because I would have FREAKED! The start line of the half looked much like that of any other race. Runners were waiting around for the run to begin, many were in line for the port-a-potties, and some were checking their bags on the gear check trucks. I caught up with my friends Kirsten and Scott who were prepping to walk their first half and Scott's first race ever.
Right at the start was THE HILL! It was one hell of a climb, but at the time was a breath-taking view of the bay that, somehow, made it all worth it. I was moving along quite well for the first 3-4 miles going slowly up the inclines and using the downhills to make up some time. I was shocked to see some of my mile splits coming in at around 9:00 min mile pace because that was 20 secs faster than my training pace. This made me feel good. The allergies were not causing me any problems, we'd finally reached the bay side (and a breeze). Life was good!
At around mile 5 we began to see the marathoners. Looking for my friends on the other side of the road and preparing to give them High Fives and Shout-outs kept me occupied for about the next 4 miles. By this time all of the major hills were over and there was just some rolling hills to contend with...nothing major. There were spectators cheering us on and some even set up make-shift "aid" stations with signs reading "THIS IS NOT WATER" for those runners who prefer to drink their carbs (beer).
At around 10 miles in, there was a mere trickle of marathoners. All my friends had passed and it was time for me to focus. I looked down at my watch and was still averaging about a 9:07 pace. I was gonna do it! I was gonna get my sub-2 hour half marathon time. Then it hit me....the coffee, the 20 ounces of gatorade, the fueling at ever LEGIT aid station. My bladder was full which made for a very interesting 3.1 miles.
I kept running and kept watching my pace slip (nearing a 9:09 average). The last 1.5 miles were torturous! I was just ready to see that damn finish line. No wait. I was ready to see the port-a-potty just beyond the finish line. As I neared the end just about 1/4 of a mile out, my running coach and friends were there cheering like crazy. Lori (my coach) jumped in along side me yelling "Pass those three people"! I had nothing left in the tank, figuratively, because my tank was literally full. I pushed as hard as I could to pass them and cross the finish line.
2:00:12.....13 secs shy of my sub-2 hour finish. Just ONE SECOND per mile faster would have gotten me there. This is seeing the glass half empty. Now let's look at it another way. That was a 6 minute 18 sec PR! I collected myself and my medal and began looking for my honey. He's almost always at the finish line of my races with a hug smile and congratulatory hug.