It's official ladies and gentlemen.... I set a PR in the Lake Notama Four Bridges Half Marathon! I am just completely psyched! Coming through that finish line and looking at the clock and realizing that I had accomplished my goal of coming in under 2:10 was an amazing feat for me. And what a wonderful day! As runners, we could not have asked for a better day to run.
I got up at 6 am, showered, dressed (I had laid everything out the night before) and was in my car by 7 am heading for the start line. I parked about 1/4 mile away from the start line and walked up the hill to where all the other runners were congregating. I love that feeling of being out there early in the morning when all the runners are stretching,warming up, talking and get psyched up to run. It's an incredible feeling ... as the adrenaline slowly starts building and one breathes in the cool morning air. I had dressed in capris, a tank top and warm coolmax shirt but I soon realized that the cool max shirt was going to be much too warm. I realized I might not make it back to the start line in time if I decided to run to my car and drop it off so I decided to just tie it around my waist. It was a bit bulky and I also had my water pack around my waist so I was not that happy about having to lug that around for the next thirteen miles. But that's the way it is on race day. There are just some things one can't account for and so you just have to make the best of it. I decided that all I could do was suck it up and deal with it.
I was in wave 2 (thank God I got the right wave this time) and so we started 5 minutes after wave 1. As we took off, I realized that we were going to run right past where I had parked my car (I had parked on the street) and so I began untying my shirt as we ran down the hill towards where my car. I also got my key out and had both in hand as I approached my car. I unlocked it, threw the shirt inside, and locked it as I ran away from it. It took less than 3o seconds. Now I felt great...... light and ready to tackle this thing.
I wish I could adequately describe how I felt that morning. I felt light, limber and free. I felt good enough to do a full marathon that day. I had had a baked potato with a small salad the night before and I had been hydrating properly. When I got up that morning, I had had a full bottle of water and had used the infamous porta-potty right before the race. I also felt more rested than I had felt in weeks. My spirits were very high. Life was good and I was happy. Stress free.
With my Garmin strapped to my wrist I kept watch to make sure I was not going out too fast. The race starts out downhill and so it was quite easy to pick up the pace and run too fast. It was easy to do 7:30 and 8:00 min/miles. I held back but several times I noticed I was running sub 8's. The first two miles are down hill and I knew that if I held steady, didn't get too excited and allowed my body to warm up, I had a good chance of setting a personal record. We crossed the first bridge at just before mile 4 and so I knew it was one bridge down and three to go .... oh and 9 more miles ....
Bridges 2 and 3 are between miles 4 and 8 and the course is flat with some rolling hills in between. It is a beautiful course, mostly paved with amazing scenery. Since it is a bike path it is a little narrow in places but for the most part plenty wide enough for all of us. Miles 8 - 12 were uneventful. Almost completely flat and several downhill portions, just like the previous miles. I was getting a little tired by mile 10 but because of the flat course and the downhill portions I found myself at several points running sub 8's again. I knew better and slowed down but invariably I found myself running faster and better then I had in weeks. As I ran mile 11 I knew from studying the course map that the infamous killer hill was just about to start. I tried to prepare myself mentally for the challenge ahead. I knew what I was in for from hearing about it from other runners and from studying the map.
We crossed bridge # 4 just after mile 12 and we began to climb (see my picture with the older gentleman as we climbed it almost simultaneously) at a steady pace. Not only does this hill climb at a serious incline but in winds around and the turns were a bit difficult to navigate. I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I had slowed down to an 11 min/mile. Mentally I was telling myself I could do this. I already knew I wouldn't make it under 2 hours (yeah, at several points I actually thought I might make it) but felt confident I could make it in 2:05. I could now see the tall blue flags indicating I was close to the finish line. I gave it everything I had, but I could feel my calves were begging me to quit (I vowed I would do more hill training after this race). I kept pushing harder, and my breathing got more labored but I kept going, ignoring how I felt. I could now see the mat so I pushed harder and raised my arms, hands and fingers into my now traditional "peace sign." I crossed the finish line in 2:05:48. Yeah baby!!!! A personal record it is!!!!
I will definitely be at the start line next year for the Four Bridges race and I definitely plan to come in under 2 hours. This is one of those races that is meant to be repeated and who knows? I just might place myself in wave 1 next time.
Stay tuned fellow runners ...