Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Yeah! I ran the 13.1 miles and it was harder than I thought, probably in part because of the pretty high temperatures for September (upper 80's/low 90's by noon). I finished in 1:54:20 to come in at 51 out of 141 (see results at which amazingly put me at the top of my age group.

Here's the blow-by-blow:

The half-M folks started the race with the 5K folks. As I watched a significant number of the 5K'ers slow or walk while I felt strong and unaffected, I must confess I thought I had this one in the bag. I felt pretty good for the first 6-7 miles. I tagged along behind a girl who seemed to be running at about my desired pace but I eventually discovered she was going perhaps more quickly than I was suited to and I hit the "wall"...something I had no experience with. And it brought with it negative mental head-games the likes of which I had not seen or dealt with. Meanwhile I'd been thinking for several miles that I really REALLY had to pee with no restrooms in sight. So I finally decided I had no choice and headed for the cover of trees to heed the call of nature. As I returned to the course, I hooked up with Mr. Police Officer from Richmond who had a pretty easy, relaxed pace and way of going. We struck up a conversation and my negative thoughts (like if I just sit down here and refuse to take another step, someone will eventually come and get me!!!) were soon squelched. He had some kind of cool GPS watch and he said he was shooting to come in sub-2 hours like I had hoped for. So I paced myself with Mr. Police Officer until mile marker 12 when I sent him on his way, cranked up the iPod again, and finished with what I had left. At that point I joined up with a girl in a running skirt (I have to try that) and we stayed together until the final stretch when she kicked on ahead of me. I was elated to finish below my goal time of 2:00, particularly given the hot and humid conditions. My legs were tired, but really the only big issue was that my stomach felt awful for hours -- probably because of the heat.

Although I have little to compare it to, this race seemed well-organized and well-done. I would definitely come back. It had great spirit and personality. At this point it's hard for me to imagine running one of those huge mega-races with thousands of people. I like these small and personable ones! Well done, Danville!

Robert and Spencer were there to cheer me on at the start, at the 3 mile marker, and at the end. Thanks guys! And of course, I owe a debt of gratitude to Jake, for the great training plan and preparation all the way around. My legs, arms and body never really got tired or crampy (just my brain!!). After I finished and I watched so many more people come through the finish area, I realized just how well he prepared me for this race in a pretty short span of time.

My goal for the next race (Roanoke on Nov 22) is simply to be mentally and physically stronger so it's not such a big deal and so I don't need others to help me turn my negative thoughts around. I want to be strong enough to do it on my own.

Now for the spiritual part of it. Call me a nut, but I really believe that on a daily basis, God puts people in our paths for deliberate reasons, just as he puts us in the path of others for important reasons. There are no accidents. I thank God for my well-timed pee break and for Mr. Police Officer and for Running Skirt Girl who I found in the final mile. Sounds weird, but they really helped get me to the finish. I hope and trust that I am in turn offering energy and encouragement to others in my own life. In the same way, I really believe He put Jake in my path on purpose too. I never would have dared to dream of running a half marathon on my own.

So tonight I am thankful and humbled, sore and tired, and at peace. I'm hoping to snooze past 3:30 am tonight and catch up on some much-needed sleep. After all, I'll be back at the gym at noon. No slacking for ME!!