It’s been two years since I ran the Prairie Fire fall half marathon course, and I’m more than a little sad that I have to wait another year to do it again.
Race Morning: The alarm went off at 4:50. I got up, let the dog out, and started the coffee. Then I went back to bed and snuggled back under the covers for 5 minutes while the coffee brewed. I got back up and started my new race morning staple in the toaster. Mini blueberry waffle PB sandwiches. DELICIOUS! I also made sure to drink 8 ounces of water.
We took the boys up to my dad and picked up my mom. More about her later. We drove to the race and immediately got in line at the port-a-potties. We found ALL THE FRIENDS and got hugs, high-fives, and passed around words of encouragement. We did a tiny quarter-mile warm-up and some dynamics and hit the potties one more time. We got into the corral and lined ourselves up smack between the 2:00 pacers and the 2:15 pacers. I had made a race day morning decision to go for 2:05. I knew I wasn’t ready for 2:00 yet. 2:05 was going to be uncomfortable enough.
The gun went off and we got moving. The 2:15 pacers were both good friends of ours, so they were chatting away and hanging right with us. About half a mile in, they realized they should probably slow down. Mr. Neon was in front of me and I yelled at him to get right behind me on my left hip. He was setting the pace without knowing what he should be doing! I switched my watch to lap distance/pace, so I’ll do a mile by mile breakdown.
The pace in parenthesis is what I was supposed to run according to the magical 2:05 pace band on my wrist.
Mile 1: 9:52. (9:52) I pumped my first in the air. No discomfort anywhere. First time in a half marathon I started at a sub-10 pace on purpose!
Mile 2: 9:33. (9:42) Oops. A tad fast. Still feeling good. HR was in Zone 3. Starting at mile 2.5 there was a half mile out and back, which was new for the course this year. I LOVE little out and backs like this, because it means you get to see all of your friends who are ahead and behind you. I told Mr. Neon that I was going to trip because I kept looking over the median at all our people.
Mile 3: 9:38. (9:42) Oops…again. I hit the water station at the beginning and end of the out and back. I perfected the pinch and drink from the paper cup without breaking stride. I also poured a cup of gatorade on the shoes of a volunteer. Oops! SORRY! She was hollering water, but was clearly holding gatorade.
Mile 4: 9:31. (9:32) Perfect. I ate half a Gu Stroopwafel at mile 3.5.
Mile 5: 9:31. (9:28) We “sucked some souls” up the Hillside hill and made the turn into the College Hill neighborhood.
Mile 6: 9:28. (9:28) Perfect pace again. I started to feel some discomfort in my left knee. I had KT taped it well that morning and was really hoping it wouldn’t give me trouble. I made some form corrections and relaxed my arms and shoulders as much as I could. We hit the water stop at 6.5.
Mile 7: 9:30 (9:31) Every mile beep was feeling good. I was getting good at this whole hitting pace thing, even though my knee was still feeling off. I ate the other half of my waffle at mile 7.
Mile 8: 9:30 (9:20) So…the wall came up and smacked me in the face. I got confused. I thought this was supposed to be another 9:28. Mr. Neon yelled at me. I said some choice words back. My knee was so tight. It felt like a rubber band stretched to the limit.
Mile 9: 9:15 (9:28) I told Mr. Neon I needed to run a 9:20. Apparently he thought this meant 9:15. I said more choice words.
Mile 10: 9:39 (9:28) My eat alarm went off at mile 10.5, and I could not stomach my Huma gel. My belly was full. I realized had taken in too much water on course. There was no discomfort…no feeling of bloat, no need to hit the bathroom…just fullness. I kept taking in BASE salt and just swishing water in my mouth and spitting it out.
Mile 11: 9:47 (9:28) All aboard the struggle bus. I told Mr. Neon just to keep me below 10:00. I think he realized 2:05 was slipping from my grasp, so he stopped yelling and just kept me moving.
Mile 12: 10:18 (9:28) I chased the IM tattoo’ed calf in front of me. Stupid IM tattoo will haunt my dreams now.
Mile 13: 10:55 (9:29) I started counting my steps. Every 100 I would start over. I gave an audible “ARGH” when my watch clicked over. My HR had taken a dive back to Zone 3. My cardio was there. My knee was not.
I took a deep breath, pushed my knee pain to the back of my mind, and ran across the bridge and across my favorite finish line. A 5:15 PR and my first half marathon in 18 months.
We grabbed our medals, handfuls of orange slices, and our finisher shirts. We were walking around looking for my dad who had Runner Boy and Tiny Boy when a lady motioned to us from the side of the finisher chute. She said, “I just want to make sure you guys are still going to be married tomorrow.” Mr. Neon and I both burst out laughing. He really is a fantastic pacer. He kept me going, kept me running, even when I wanted to punch him in the face. I love that guy.
We watched some friends cross the finish line, found my dad who was holding a box of donuts, and waited for my mama. She’s kind of a big deal. My mom was diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia during my senior year of high school. She and I were both overweight at the time. Her doctor told her the number one thing she could do to combat her diseases was to get more active. She definitely took that to heart and pulled my competitive butt along with her. She’s done more 5Ks than I can count, a couple of 10Ks, and two half marathons. She also rides her bike around 100 miles per week. She’s a BADASS. She PR’ed her half by 2 minutes. I’m a proud daughter. Isn’t she adorable?! 57 years young!
A PR should always be celebrated with donuts. Mr. Neon already ate his. He takes big bites.
Until next year, Prairie Fire. I’m coming for you and that elusive sub-2 hour!