As you all know, I had a nasty sinus infection that kept me from running on Wednesday or Thursday of last week. And then I followed the advice you gave me and took Friday off as well. Friday night, I headed down to Cleburne (about 80 miles away) to my inlaw's house.
A few of you advised me not to run the race Saturday... even more of you told me to just run it slowly and not race it... and a few of you just know me too well to know that just wouldn't happen. Sorry, I'm a bad kid. I don't always listen, even when it's for my own good. I did and do still have a sinus infection (ugh... go away, already)... but I have no fever and no other major symptoms other than the congestion. Anyhow...
I woke up Saturday morning at 6:30am (felt like I got to sleep in). I have never gotten out of bed only 90 minutes before a race, nevermind that I wasn't even registered yet. But this race was about 2 miles from my inlaws house, and it is very very small, so I knew there wouldn't be many worries, and I didn't want to sit outside in the cold with sinus issues. I arrived around 7:30am and had no problem registering. Handed my goodie bag and my pre-race water to my husband and got ready to go.
For some odd reason, no one would step up to the starting line. At 2 minutes before the start, the announcer asked us to line up, and everyone still stayed at least 50 ft back from the starting line. There were only about 50 half marathoners... many of them first timers. The gun went off and I headed out. It was around 45 degrees. It's been in the 70s here up until the last few days in the mornings, so I wasn't used to the cold yet, but it felt great. I was going way too fast for me (according to my watch), but didn't feel like I was going fast according to my effort. It hit me at mile 2 though, so I put on the brakes and settled back into my normal half-marathon pace (around 10:30-10:50 min/mile).
The course was 2 loops. There was a small part where you did a short out and back up a street to add the appropriate extra amount to make the loop mileage work out. I noticed a girl running past that part but then stop and turn around to look... I stopped to help. I told her there was a short out and back before finishing the loop. Fortunately, I had studied the race map... something I never do. I was worried that a smaller race wouldn't be marked well, so I had looked ahead. (For the record, though, the course WAS marked pretty well, but I understood how that part could be confusing for some who didn't know about the short out and back section.)
I stayed with the girl that I helped make the turn, and we talked. We were at about mile 4 and due to the small size of the race, it really felt like a long lonely training run. There weren't people cheering along the route (except when you looped through the start line). No one passed me, and I didn't pass anyone. Most people were pretty spread out. It was so welcome to have someone to talk to, even if only for a little while.
It was immediately evident, though, that she was faster than me. Running with her put me over my normal level of discomfort. But I was aching for some distraction, so I held on... numerous times I let her know that if she needed to push on to go right ahead. But since it was her first half, I think she welcomed the distraction too. I think we were almost at mile 10 before it even occured to me to ask her name!!! Melissa and I were thrilled to see that 10 mile marker. It was really starting to hurt at 11, pushing her pace. This is where I told her to definitely move on... but for some reason... I kept pushing still. Mile 12... oh my goodness. I was fighting the mental demons. At this point Melissa did push on. And though I never caught back up to her in that last mile, she was never more than 50 feet ahead of me until the final sprint. I pushed it in and was so happy to be done (and needed to pee so badly) that I forgot to stop my watch. When I finally stopped it, it was around 2:16. My previous PR (set earlier this year in May) was 2:19:14. My official time... 2:15:30!!!
I was over the moon excited about a 2:15. I am a slow runner. I mostly train at 11 minute miles. I do not know how I managed 13.1 miles of 10:20 when I never run more than 3 miles at that pace in training. Un-boo-lievable! Want to hear the best part? (Yes, I intend to brag a little because, well, it's my blog!) In just under a year, I have shaved 20 minutes off my half marathon time - that's more than 1:30 per mile. Just maybe a sub-2 hour marathon is in my future... maybe far off, but still achievable.
Race logistics - For a small race, it was really well done. The course markings were plentiful. There were water and gatorade stations at every mile. The charity was fantastic - the race benefited Community Opportunities, Inc. (COI). COI provides skills training, job placement, and social activities for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. And the amazing people that benefit from the fundraising this race does were manning every single water station. It was fantastic! And major kudos to the race organizers for putting kleenex at every water stop. I think me and my sinus infection made good use of that way more than you'd like to hear about. The medal was really nice. There was plenty of food at the finish (plus activities for the kiddos). The race shirt was a technical tee (I was admittedly surprised) that was quite decent. It was, however, unisex sized which means it's too big, but that's ok... it'll still be used.
All-in-all, a really nice experience. I will do this race again. And next year, I will convince all my Dallas runner friends that it's worth the drive down to enjoy a smaller race with a great cause (and who doesn't like more bling?).