... the half-marathon wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
I will be totally honest right now and tell you I was crazy nervous Saturday morning. It began Friday night as I got everything organized for the morning. Getting up at 5am and preparing (physically and mentally) for the race AND shooing three boys and the baby out the door demanded organization. And plenty of it. As I mentioned before, this was my first race after having Bobby. Prior to that, I'd run a few half-marathons and a number of 5Ks -- I had the pre-race routine down. Friday night? I found myself randomly remembering odd tidbits of how I used to prep. And I had to pack a diaper bag, too. I felt scattered at best. I made it to bed around 10:30, ensuring at least 6 hours of sleep. I like to have more, but beggars can't be choosers.
Luckily, as 5:30am rolled around, things pretty much went off without a hitch. Got Bobby and Sam dropped off at 6:15am (and I owe a HUGE thank you to close friend Vicki Frank and daughter Michelle, for getting up at such an insane hour on a Saturday to watch them) then Jack, Charlie and I trucked downtown. Those two boys were absolute troopers. They had a football game later that morning, and had to dress in their football uniforms and lug helmets and shoulder pads to my starting corral. We met friends there, and got ready to go. This was the first time the boys had ever been at the start of one of my races. Ever. And it meant the world to me. For years, I've stood waiting for races to begin, watching families chat and laugh with their race participant. Most times, I'd just put in my ear buds and stretch, pretending to mentally prepare, rather than feel very alone in a crowd of thousands. When I ran the Indianapolis 500 mini in 2008, Jeff was there with me, and that was great. I'd been running for three years, and that was the first time I ever had anyone watch me start and be there at the finish line. It even made me cry a little -- with happiness, of course. So, waiting for the gun and looking over at my two mop-topped football players telling me "Good luck, Mom!" and "I love you!" well... that was a little slice of heaven for me.
Jeff was running the half also, having arrived separately with three crewmates from his station. We'd hoped to meet up, but even as I scoured the crowd in our corral, I couldn't find him. I knew he'd finish way before me, and knowing I'd see him at the end of the race gave me such a wonderfully happy feeling.
We began the run, and I was fortunate enough to share most of the first mile with Lindy. Then a few runners wedged between us, and we got separated. I completely lost her when my tiny bladder demanded a trip to the porta-potty. In the first mile. Are you kidding me?!
The first four miles of the race took us directly south of the city. Then we hooked west over the river greenway, past one of our lovely parks and into a beautiful, historic neighborhood with grand homes. And hills. No one told me there'd be hills. OK. So they weren't, like, San Francisco hills -- they were more like inclines. But they still felt like hills... and I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to see a big ol' trolley go whistling past me. Mile 8 felt about six miles long. Soon, we began heading back toward downtown Fort Wayne. The race was to finish at the newly opened ball park and home of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps minor league baseball team. (Yes, that says "Tin Caps." Don't ask. It's a Johnny Appleseed thing.) At mile 10, I was very relieved to see double-digits and realized I only had three miles to go. On any given day, this would be a snap. For me at that point? My hip joints were having a screaming match with my knees. I. Hurt. Bad.
When I finally turned a corner and saw the field lights in the sky, I nearly cried. I'd made it back... not only from the race course, but from my pregnancy-induced hiatus. My training may have been half-baked, but, once again, I'd finished the whole 13.1 miles on my own two feet. Coming up to the stadium, I glanced up to the mezzanine area and saw my dear, wonderful husband watching for me. I could tell immediately he was freezing, having completley cooled down after finishing. I don't remember what he said (because, yes, I was so dazzled by seeing his smile I went a little loopy for a moment) but I remember yelling up to him that I expected a big hug at the finish line.
Two other runners and I ran down the street-level ramp and down onto the ball field. We were to run from the left field corner on the warning track, around to home plate. This is where people "kick it" and finish strong. I didn't immediately sprint -- I looked around, took in the scene of having a stadium full of people watch as we finished the race. Somewhere around first base, I heard another runner coming up on me, and I kicked into a sprint. At that moment, I wasn't lumbering toward the finish line... a 40-yr. old mom, still dealing with a bit of post-baby body issues. In my mind, I was in first place, headed for the finish line at Chicago. Or Boston. Or New York City. And I was the leader, stretching and straining to push hard, lean forward and break through the ribbon.
My official finish time was 2:51. Two hours and 51 minutes. My personal best thus far was something like 2:34 in Indy, when I missed my 2:30 goal by four measly minutes. But I was back, and 2:51 gives me something to work with and shave time from. My new goal is to run the Indy Mini in early May 2010. And I want to finish between 2:15 and 2:30. Or better.
And my dear, wonderful Jeffrey? He finished in 1:49 -- nearly a full hour before me. But that's OK. He waited for me and I got that hug at the finish line.