May the Course Be With You – Spring Prairie Fire Half Race Report

pfm54_05In true nerdy Wichita form, we turned a half marathon into a Star Wars event, complete with light saber wielding pace teams and Storm Troopers handing out medals.

I had been nervous all week, but I woke up at 4:30 unable to sleep any longer. No…my bowels didn’t awake me like they normally do on a race morning. I woke up from sheer excitement. I was going to run 13.1 miles with about 1500 of my nearest and dearest crazy runner friends.

I ate my usual toast with peanut butter and drank my usual coffee. I snuggled and wrestled with the dog. I slowly got my race gear on. Undies, bra, BAMR tank, shorts. HOT PINK NEON Bondi Band. Socks, shoes. Garmin 220, Garmin Vivofit, Fitbit Zip, iPod Shuffle. 2:15 pace band, Road ID. Spibelt, phone, Stinger chews. Race bib. I was ready.

We live about 30 minutes from downtown Wichita, and the car ride is always the worst part for me. My mom, who was running the 5K, was our chauffeur for the morning. She and Noel laughed and joked, and I just kept myself from puking in the backseat.

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The runners three. That badass lady on the right is MY MOM. She has lupus and PR’ed a 5K in 34:33!! What’s YOUR excuse?!

We arrived about an hour before the race started. It was a cool 60 degrees with a big Kansas breeze, so we milled around the athlete’s village to stay warm. We ran into a couple of friends. We hit the porta potties. The current Prairie Fire half marathon record holder was in line behind me. I wished him luck. We found my old high school friend, Jim(bo), who was in town from NY for a reunion concert at our alma mater. He figured he might as well run a half marathon while he was in town. What a freak!

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Jim(bo) and Hannah…in a lot better shape than we were in high school!

We thought about making a second porta potty stop, but then realized it was about five minutes before the gun would go off. Noel and I lined up in the chute, just behind the pace groups. I was anxious, but excited. I knew that I was ready. I had spent 286 miles training for this race.

And then we were off. I always find the first mile of a race exciting. You see a lot of people, some will finish way ahead of you and some will finish way after you. Noel and I use Jeff Galloway’s run walk run method and utilize a 4:1 ratio…4 minutes running, 1 minute walking. Yeah, I just used utilize in a race report…deal with it. We did a lot of leap frogging with people until the runners spaced out.

The first two miles were fantastic. The course looped us through Friends University and past Kellogg, the major highway in the city. I opted not to wear my hydration belt, so I downed a cup of water at the 2 mile station. It threw off my ratio to walk through the station, but I can’t run and chug a big cup of water. I knew water was going to be important since the temperature was only going up as the day wore on.

About mile 3, I ate half a pack of my Stinger chews. Cherry cola…yum! We hit the water station at mile 4 and I downed another big cup of water. We looped around Exploration Place and the art museum. I was feeling good, and we kept the 2:15 pace group in our sight. We averaged a 10:20 pace for the first six miles. Then we crossed the half way timing pads and my near perfect half marathon started to unravel just a bit.

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A stolen proof from the official race photog. In perfect sync…me and my guy. This was around mile 4 or 5, before either of us were feeling any pain.

At mile 6, I got a cramp in my abs…not to be confused with my stomach. No digestive issues so far for me. Yeah, I just knocked on wood twice, because I consider myself lucky there. The top of my six pack simply seized up. Not like a side cramp…just like a muscle cramp across my entire mid-section. I figured it was just because I didn’t wear my hydration belt and I needed something to drink.

At the mile 6+ station, I grabbed a cup of gatorade and a cup of water. I don’t usually do electrolyte drinks, but I figured since it was rapidly getting hot…about 75 by now…it might be worth a try. And all I have to say is YUCK! Lukewarm gatorade is not my thing. I downed the entire cup of water though and plowed on, forcing myself to eat the other half of my bag of chews. We took extra time on the walk breaks trying to use my yoga breathing to loosen up my abs.

We made our way around Botanica and I sucked down more water at the mile 8 station. Noel lagged behind me for a bit. I slowed down for him and discovered that he had a cramp in his right calf. I told him I wasn’t willing to go on without him, so we took it easy for a bit, walking a little bit extra here and there. We caught up to Jim(bo) at that point too. He was suffering in the heat and with the extra 1000 feet of elevation. Oh those New Yorkers and their sea level running!

Somewhere between mile 9 and mile 10, my left foot cramped up, right in the arch. I was able to relax my toes and get the cramp to go away. And then my right foot immediately cramped up and there was nothing I could do to get it to go away. It progressively started hurting more as we plowed on through to mile markers 11 and 12.

This whole section of the race is a blur of foot pain and ab cramps. I know I drank water at the mile 10 station and at some point, I ate another half bag of chews. I remember running past Exploration Place again and running along the river. The cheering crowds started getting heavier as we passed a few of the downtown churches. My bib had my name on it and people kept yelling out to me. Thank you, perfect strangers…thank you!

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My mommy found us around mile 12. I’m smiling through the pain…big time. I do like the way that quad looks though. Running has taught me to LOVE my legs.

Around mile 12.5, Noel started talking. I don’t remember exactly what he said. He just told me to go…that I was almost there…that I was going to do it…that he was proud of me. He was running his first half marathon too, but he never let me forget that this was my race…these were my training miles doing their job.

The course has you running across a bridge at mile 13. Once we hit the marker and could see the race clock was still well under my original goal of 2:30, Noel told me to go…to give every ounce of energy and strength I had left into the finish. So I did. I don’t know how I did it, but I sprinted to the end. I had no idea at the time, but Noel matched my steps and we crossed the finish line at exactly the same time 2:24:01.

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I made a beeline for the nearest volunteer who held out a medal and headed…er, limped…straight for the water bottles and the oranges. I sucked the juice out of at least half a dozen of wedges. I was so sticky, but I didn’t care. I’d finished. It wasn’t the picture perfect race I had envisioned earlier in the week, but I was done.

We milled around for a bit, ran into a few more people, ate some more oranges and some pizza, and then limped to the car.

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One VERY HAPPY, VERY BADASS MOTHER RUNNER!

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And I thought push presents were good. Noel presented me with this in the car on the way home. He said he’d carried it in pocket the whole race. It ran 13.1 with me…I just didn’t know it until after! Yeah, I know…he’s the best husband and pacing partner a girl could ask for!

More on my race recovery and other tidbits about the race later this week!

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