June 4, 2013

Run for the Dream Half Marathon Recap

On June 2nd, I set out to conquer my eighth half marathon ever and fifth this year.  While I was really looking forward to this race, I was nervous.  I had two crummy runs the week of the race and the weather was looking challenging at best.  The forecast was calling for very warm conditions and all during the week leading up to the race, there were messages from the race team warning runners to stay hydrated and be safe during the race.

Saturday, I headed to the expo to pick up my race packet and check out the vendors.  The expo was very well organized and I was easily able to get my gear.  There were about a dozen vendors and no one that I was terribly interested in so I was in and out relatively quickly.

Sunday morning was an early wake-up call (4:20 to be exact) so I could drive to Williamsburg for the race.  I felt like I had gobs of time to get ready so I wasn't really moving quickly.  Then a bit later, realized I was actually running late - ACK!  I was a little stressed out that I was going to miss the shuttle (they had people park at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center and select a specific shuttle time)...not the type of morning you want to have when you have to drive 40 miles to a race!  But alas, I made it with a minute to spare and learned the shuttles were constant and they weren't checking wristbands for specific times.  Whew!  It was about a 15 minute ride to Merchant's Square where we were dropped off to make our way to William and Mary, where the starting line was located.

Once I got to the starting area, I dropped off my bag at bag check, which was very simple.  One interesting note was the requirement that everything be visible in the clear bags.  Like most runners, I had all of my things in our red string bag and had to pull everything out and stuff the plastic bag.  I'm assuming this was a safety precaution and it didn't bother me at all.  On the heels of Boston, there will be changes and this one wasn't terribly impactful to me.

I wandered around for a moment and then spotted my friend Maggie (she's fast becoming one of my buds at all the local races which is awesome!).  I was so happy to find her and have a buddy for pre-race chatter.  We both lamented the heat and shared our anxieties about the race (my lack of race plan and her lack of sleep from the night before and sneaker fiasco).

We hit the porta potties and then headed to the starting line, but not before I spotted an awesome reader (hi Saundra!!) and we chatted for a few minutes.  She was even wearing my favorite pink and green Saucony running outfit which I had contemplated wearing for this race.  I love seeing buddies at races as it always puts my mind at ease and makes it so much more fun!

A few moments later, we were anxiously fidgeting at the starting line.  I looked over to my left and saw this guy.  I immediately was tempted thinking about how fast I'd been running my training runs.  I told myself I would try to hang with the 2:00 pace group but would drop if it wasn't working for me.

I hung with them for about 2 and a half miles and then I had to call it a day.  They were running 8:30-8:40 pace which was just too fast for me.  As much as I was dreaming about a sub-2:00 half for those few miles, I knew it wasn't the right day.  I decided to ease up and run my own race and just settle in for some fun.  By this point in the race (mile 3-ish), I was already noticing the heat and was pretty sweaty.  A sign of things to come, for sure!

During the 3-4 mile stretch, there were some great signs on the road that were welcome distractions.  I loosened up a bit and was enjoying the scenery.

And then there was the moment I was dreading...the beginning of the hills that would dot most of the course from miles 5-11.  I wasn't prepared for them and my legs knew it.
Hill that led up to the mile 5 marker

Look ma, mile 5!
I had studied the course map in detail and knew there was a two mile out and back stretch that comprised four miles from 6-10.  This section was thankfully mostly shaded except for the bridges, but it was hilly.  Crossing the bridges was really awesome - simply beautiful views!
It really was a gorgeous day, even if I swore I was running on the surface of the sun!
It was here that I started to unravel a bit. Miles 7-10 were tough.  I was tired and hurting.  I was hot and struggling to keep my pace.  I took a few moments to compose myself at around mile 9.75....paused my music, focused on my fellow runners and gave myself a little pep talk to suck it up!
Tired runner! (approx. mile 7)
I found this slightly amusing...you better believe I'm
 going to pass mile 8!!
In this stretch, I started dumping water down my back at every water stop.  I was also grabbing multiple cups of water or Gatorade to stay hydrated.  Above all else, I wanted to avoid the medics.  I'm sure they're nice people and all, but I wasn't in the mood to make friends this morning.
Stunning! 
Once I hit the mile 10 marker, I got a huge mental boost.  It's only a 5k left, I told myself.  We also started heading back into Williamsburg where there were more spectators and TONS of service men and women standing in the streets cheering us on.  I high fived everyone I saw.  Before I knew it, I was passing the 11 mile marker, having lost complete track of my pace and expected finish time.  It was the first time in a race I had no earthly idea how I would finish and that was freeing.  With the misery induced by the heat, I was just focusing on feel and having fun as I kicked it into the finish.

Mile 12 seemed like it might last forever, but eventually the crowds increased and we were making our way into Zable Stadium, the William and Mary track and field venue.  We finished the race by running a lap on the track - SUPER COOL!


At last a real, bonafide smile.
You can see the finish arch in the background over my right shoulder. 
A glorious sight!
I crossed the finish line, thrilled to have completed my eighth half marathon on a tough course in brutal conditions!  They were handing out bottled water and  cold, wet washcloths immediately after you crossed the line, which was fantastic.  I chugged a bottle of water before I walked over to the volunteers handing out the medals.  While I love my medals, my body was telling me to focus on hydrating!
Gorgeous medal and love the light blue ribbon!
I snapped the obligatory post-race medal self-pic and made my way through the chute to wait for Maggie.  The chute paralleled the race course as it entered the stadium so I was able to cheer for her as she headed toward the finish.  Once she came back out with medal in hand, we headed to the finish line party in the sunken gardens.  
Happy half marathoners!
We grabbed some snacks and quickly decided we needed to find a shady spot to chill out.  After about 30 minutes or so, Maggie decided she was going to head back to the hotel to find her family and I needed to go snag my bag from gear check.  I changed into flip flops (the most amazing feeling EVER!) and made my way to the food area for some BBQ that Megan has been talking about. 
I snuck a bite of my sandwich while I was in the beer line!
I get it.  Some southern BBQ and a beer really is the perfect post-race food.  I housed that sandwich in about 90 seconds and leisurely enjoyed my beer (Shock Top).  A little while later, I decided I needed to go find the shuttle and head home.  I noticed a back-drop for post race photos (wish I'd noticed this when Maggie was still around!) and asked a lady to take a quick photo.  Well quick may not be the best description since I basically had to give her instructions on how to take a photo with my iphone...oh well!  She did take a pretty good photo!

It wasn't my fastest race.  It wasn't my slowest race.  It was my eighth and hardest half marathon.  I smiled.  I grimaced.  I wanted to give up.  I contemplated a PR attempt.  I was drenched with sweat.  And I crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles with my arms raised over my head and a smile in my heart.  This race taught me how to abandon time goals and have fun, no matter what the conditions.  

{Christine}

32 comments:

  1. Great job! Such an important lesson for us all, sometimes it doesn't work out during a race and we need to just have fun and be happy with the accomplishment of 13.1! I bet the race course was beautiful. William & Mary and the whole area is gorgeous. It was so darn hot this weekend, way to hang in there. You look happy in all the pics! :)

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    1. Thanks Karen! I tried to stay positive even when the heat was getting to me...mind over matter!

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  2. great job! Love the medal. I hate hot races, and sadly most of mine are that way. At least you didn't give up!

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    1. Thanks Heather! Yes, I'm loving the medal!

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  3. Great job!! Loved the scenic views!

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    1. Thanks Lauren! It was a beautiful course.

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  4. Great write up! I'm so glad to have seen you before the race. I really enjoyed hanging and can't wait to do it again soon. I found the photo backdrop on my way out and thought the same thing :-) Thanks so much for waiting on me and for hanging out. Good times :-)

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    1. Aw thanks Maggie. See you at another race (or run) soon :)

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  5. AWESOME race review!!!

    Looked like a fun race. The do not pass sign made me laugh a little.

    I am totally with you that the best feeling is putting on the flip flops post race. Glorious freedom for the feet!

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    1. Thanks Sarah. Yes, flip flops and a beer post-race are really great! :)

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  6. Great job Christine! I thought about you...and knew how hot it was here in Va....Beautiful area for sure....You looked great and hung tough....

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    1. Thanks Melissa! It was brutally hot...so glad it's behind me.

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  7. Great job! Way to keep with it all the way and push through.

    Thanks for the write up. I always love the Williamsburg area and I'm pinning this one to run next year after my first half marathon in Disney in January. Good to know about the hills for prep.

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    1. Thanks John. This was a great race - I would strongly recommend it. I didn't note this in the recap, but the Boston Marathon race director, Dave McGillivray directs this race as well. Very well done.

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  8. Congrats on your accomplishment! Just finishing is an accomplishment in itself! The "Do Not Pass Mile 8" sign is hilarious!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I had a good giggle...at that and the speed limit signs.

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  9. I must have been right behind you on Sunday -- in fact, I think I noticed you snapping the Ferguson signs. Great recap -- everything you wrote echoed what I was feeling that day. I was disappointed, because I got my half-marathon PR at this race last year, and finished 13 minutes slower this year. Sigh. But you're right, it's all about avoiding the medical personnel. Congrats on a hard-earned medal!

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    1. NO WAY! I wish I'd known...would have been nice to chat for a bit during the race. Hope to see you at a local race soon!

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  10. In my noncreepiest way, I remember seeing you at the race because I remember thinking wowza that Kt tape looks super intense. That course (especially miles 6-10) were so intense and I was dying in the heat. Luckily as you said the crowd support was awesome. What part of VA are you from? I am a local racer too (in Chesapeake!).

    Glad you still enjoyed the race though. It wasn't my fastest but in the heat and humidity plus the hills I was completely happy! You have inspired me to actually finish writing my race report but I'm waiting on photos!

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    1. Crazy! I wish we had caught up. I live in Chesapeake as well. What a tough race!!

      Can't wait to read your recap, Hollie :)

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  11. Congrats on your finish. Heat and hill..the ultimate challenge. Nice pictures too.

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    1. Thanks Debbie - yes the hills were brutal!

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  12. Congrats Christine! You did fabulous and were smart to listen to your body and the weather!

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Hard to bite the bullet and ignore time sometimes but I know it was the right thing to do.

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  13. It was great getting to meet you and Maggie at the race! I certainly agree- it was only my 3rd half marathon, but the toughest one for me ever! I was very happy to see the track and the finish line! :-) Great write up!

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    1. Yes, so nice to see you there, Saundra! Hope to see you at more races :)

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  14. Congrats!! Ugh - humidity and hills? Great job listening to your body and hydrating! I love the Mile 8 / Do Not Pass sign. And finishing on a track always makes me happy, I don't know why. Great job!!

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    1. Thanks, Emily! Yes, the track part was awesome...my pace was significantly faster once we got in the stadium...it was a great mental boost.

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  15. I was waiting for this post! Glad you enjoyed the race. You had an awesome time for that course and not to mention it was SO hot. I talked to many half runners who said it was a tough one. I ran the 8K the day before and it was miserably hot. My mom and I watched the Half from in front of the admissions office ( near the sign that said "Piano Sale". Do you remember that?) Was wondering if you may have saw us. I was watching for you and can't believe I missed you. I have a ton of pictures up on our blog. Let me know if you see yours on there. I guess I should get around to post about our 8K. Congrats again on a great run!
    ~Meranda

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  16. Way to rally at Mile 10! Sounds like a tough race, but you powered through. Congrats!

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