I have no photos to share with you. Only words.
I didn’t break 2. 1:59 or Bust? I busted. 2:00:59. 60 tiny little seconds.
This was the calmest I have ever been before a race. Confidence was high. I was ready. We went through the motions of coffee and breakfast. We headed downtown and said hi to all our running family. Porta potty…done. Pre-race warm-up…done. 1/2 honey stinger waffle…done.
My friend, Jim, was in town running his 50th marathon. He’s an accomplished vocalist and is not only working on running a marathon in every state but singing the national anthem before a marathon in every state. His voice gave me chills and further confidence that I was going to break 2 with him here in town with us.
Mr. Neon and I lined up close to the front with the 2-hour pace group. They told us that they would be running even splits. Sounded good to me. The gun went off and we took off. I tried not to look at my watch, but our pace felt really fast. And when I finally looked down, it was. We ticked the first mile off at an 8:56. Woah pony. It didn’t feel too fast, so I just relaxed into it. Mr. Neon and I carried small 8oz water bottles, so we could take our BASE salt with a sip of water and not worry about the first couple of aid stations. They were disposable, so we could toss them when they were done.
Mile 2 was an 8:53. Umm…ok. My breathing was good, my cadence was good, but I was still a little worried about this being too fast. Could I hold this for 11 more miles? We had to zigzag through some road construction. I made a conscious effort to stay to the inside of the course. I knew running the tangents would be important.
We hit the out and back on Grove and I looked across the median from friends. I waved, whooped, but not as loud as normal. I needed to conserve all the energy I had for the coming miles. We passed the 2:00 pacers when they stopped to walk the aid station. I felt better with them at my back. Mile 3 was another 8:56.
Mile 4 and 5 include the only real hill on the course. I could feel my pace slowing slightly, but I didn’t worry because I already had some seconds in the bag. Mile 4 ticked off at 9:03 and mile 5 at 9:12. I had switched my eat alarm from every 3.5 miles to every 30 minutes. I sucked down a Huma raspberry gel.
We entered the College Hill neighborhood. I was mentally ticking off the miles in my head. I was hardly looking at my Garmin at all, especially with the pacers behind me. I didn’t need to worry about chasing anyone. Just maintaining forward progress. My legs felt like they were in treadmill mode. It felt a bit out of body. I was moving faster than I ever had before. Was I going to blow up at some point? I felt fine, but the “what if?” doubts started to enter my brain. I pushed them away.
Mile 6 was a 9:02. We passed the Edgemoor Fire Station and crossed the 10K timing mat. I had officially PR’ed my 10K and surpassed the longest race pace run of my training. From here on out, I was in new territory. I was coming to the downhill part of the course and looking forward to the run back on 2nd street. The marathoners left us. Good luck, friends. Better you, than me.
I struggled to get half of a Honey Stinger waffle in me. I used the last of my water bottle to swallow it. My mouth felt dry, but the rest of me felt good. Mile 7 was a 9:12. I dropped my salt tube and had to run back to get it. Mr. Neon kept an even pace and I was able to catch back up to him without trouble. Mile 8 was a 9:18. I grabbed two cups at the water station. I took two big sips and then dumped the rest of it on my back and front.
Somewhere between mile 8 and 9, my brain lost the ability to do math. I thought for sure I was coming up on the mile 10 flag and would only have a 5K to go. I have still not looked at my Garmin much. I knew the pace group was still at my back. But it wasn’t the mile 10 flag. It was the mile 9 flag and I still had 4 more to go. Mile 9 was a 9:01.
The struggle started. The wind shifted and the sun came out. It wasn’t hot, but it wasn’t cool anymore. At the mile 10 aid station, I deviated from the plan. I walked. I took a whole cup of water and dumped it down my front, another whole cup and dumped it down my back, and drank as much of a third one as I could. I took two licks of salt and started moving. The 2:00 pacers were still behind me but not for long. Mile 10 was a 9:29. Mile 11 was a 9:14. Mr. Neon waved me ahead and told me to keep going. He was struggling.
The 2:00 pacers (Karlee and Jerry) came up behind me. I heard them yell “Go!” Karlee fell in beside me and asked how I was. I was ok, but I was slowing. She told me to relax my shoulders. I tried to keep up with her, but she had to go on. But I had a savior. Lacy Lacy Lacy was there. She stayed in front of me. I had my Aftershokz turned up too loud to hear everything she was telling me. She kept me moving. I had nothing left. I had run out of juice. I grunted at her, mumbled yep. I kept moving forward, but I knew the 1:59 was slipping away.
Mile 12 was a 9:25. I thought about my mom waiting for me at the finish line. This wasn’t chemo. Work harder. Her tumor was under my shoe. I had to finish this for her. I had to push through the lactic acid that was pulling me back. I turned onto the Seneca St bridge and knew the road of pain was ahead of it. The wind blew into my face. I welcomed it. It was cooling and the sun was hot.
Mile 13. 9:42. I didn’t even look at the beep. I could hear the finish line. Friends lined the way. They yelled my name, and I burst into tears. The Lewis St bridge always sucks. Up and over. I turned on what tiny little kick I had left. The announcer said Mr. Neon’s name and I was thankful he was still behind me. I hit my Garmin and looked down. 2:01:01. No.
Lacy gave me a hug. She encouraged me to check my time. Maybe I had started far enough back, but I knew I hadn’t. I grabbed a bottle of water and a medal. I looked for my mom and the boys. They had run the 5K and were waiting somewhere. I saw my Daddy first. I walked over to them and cried, “I didn’t do it.” My mom hugged me and told me to stop it. She was proud of me. Tiny Boy offered me the sweetest little kiss.
I couldn’t find Mr. Neon. I finally found him, sitting in the shade. He was having vasovagal trouble. I switched into wife nurse mode and got him water and gatorade. Once he was feeling better, we got him some food and checked our times.
2:00:59. 60 seconds. 4.5 seconds per mile off. It’s hard to be disappointed when it’s still a 7 minute and 21 second PR, which is huge when you consider this was my 6th half marathon. My little boys surrounded me when I pushed saved on my Garmin. I PR’ed my 10K and my half marathon.
Next time, Prairie Fire. I’ll get you next time. And it won’t be a question of if I can break 2 hours, but instead, by how much.