Last Sunday was the Georgia Marathon and half marathon. I ran the half. It is my one event I am doing thsi year that is not on my official taining calendar while training for Ironman Arizona. I ran this one because it is a local event and I had a lot of friends running it as well. I trained right through this race. This race was not about a PR. This race was about being with friends and having a fun day.
It came on the last day of our rest week. Perfect timing.
The day before, my team went to the Silver Comet trail for a flat 30 -35 mile bike ride. It was a gorgeous day. I rode almost 35, getting a terrific pace for stretches at a time. Our coach recommended that, if we were running the half the next day, to skip the brick run after, and just chill. I listened. About 12-15 of us from IronTeam were running the half the next day. That's a pretty good group from one team.
Race day came. I woke up and thought "I wanna sleep in. What am I doing?". But, I met my friend Andy and we went to MARTA to ride the train down to the start.
We get to the TNT tent and I see friends start to arrive. All of a sudden I was very glad I was there. So many hugs, so many hellos: IronTeam friends, marathon team friends...it seemed like they were all there. Friends I had trained with for marathons, and friends whom I have just met by being a part of a group.
Soon we were off to the starting line. I went between a couple of groups, and ended up starting the race with Matt Winn and Kimberly Williams. Last time I started a half with Kimberly I PR'ed. She stayed with me until about mile 8 at Kiawah in 2009, and then she took off.
Soon we were off. I had a pain in the side of my back (left). It was focused. A week ago I had had a cramp there, so I wasn't worried. But, it made for an uncomfortable run. I had no limited range of movment, no pain when I tried to move around. Eventually it loosened up, to tighten up again about mile 10. I knew it wasn't anything but a literal pain in the side. Besides that I was having a fantastic time, and focused on the fun side.
About mile 3 I started to feel the previous days 35 mile ride. My legs felt a little like jell-o. My thoughts "Crap - it's too early to feel like this. It feels like bonking. This will be a long race." Matt, Kimberly and I got in to a comfortable stride and went. I had my Garmin on, but didn't listen to it and didn't try to pace myself. I was there for fun. We had a good time and a great run.
About mile 8 they picked up the pace a little and I dropped off a little, so we separated. De ja vu, right? I kept going along: cheering and smiling at people as I went along and having fun.
At about mile 10 I looked at my watch, did some fast math and realized I was on a possible PR pace. Wow? My side was sore and my legs like jell-o. I kept thinking "I have no idea what race day will bring, this is good to learn to push through what surprises my body may bring." So I kept pushing.
At the last water stop at Tech I was thinking my friend Pepe may be there as she has done that water stop in the past. Lo and behold she was one of the first people I saw holding out cups. I hollered her name and waved. She held out water. Then she realized who I was and the smile and look on her face! That was just what I needed to finish the race out. I kept going.
Soon Ryan Watton passed me. He was hauling (compared to me)...and was close to a PR. I told him to go for it and cheered him on.
As I rounded the corner I started my short but intense sprint. I truly did come across the finish line in a full out sprint. That felt terrific: stabbing in my side, legs of bonked led, but I pulled it out.
I came in at less than two hours. I wasn't sure if I had PR'ed but I felt good. I wasn't going to race this event, and to know I had the strength to finish strong when my legs were not feeling it made me realize how far I have come. I did not feel as good or as strong as the race over a year and few months ago in Kiawah when I PR'ed, but I did about as well. It was a good measure for me to know how far I have come.
I walked back to the TNT tent and saw friends - some were there, others wandered in. My friend Tricia came in and she was beaming and crying. She had just PR'ed. She never ran until two years ago when we were on Marine Corps team together. She has been 6 years cancer free, and an inspiration every step of the way. We hugged and I told her congratulations with the understanding and excitement of a runner to another runner.
I got home and looked, and I had PR'ed. By about a minute and a half. It surprised me. It humbled me. I am slowly learning what I can do when I try. That I am the one who sets the boundaries, and I am the one who can work to push them. I am having a terrific time realizing how lucky I am to be able to run at any pace, and having fun learning the thrills of learning to push my boundaries be it distance, speed, or going through interval drills. It's all fun right now.
This race wasn't supposed to mean much. But it did. I realized how much I love running, how lucky I am to have so many people I call friends and that we share a love, and I realized that I am strong. I know that I am strong, but this was a measure for me: a tangible measure. My previous PR was on a flat course. GA is hilly and a challenge. My previous PR came when I was on a decent rest. This one I trained straight through - although I had a rest week the previous week. However, I had just biked 35 miles the day before, and I felt those bike miles the next day. I was proud.
It also showed me that not running as much means It took me a little while to recover from my efforts - my legs were sore. This was new. I have never been sore after a half. As a coach and friend on the course said as Kimberly, Matt and I ran by - we eat those for breakfast! Oh well - I am training for three disciplines now. I was embarrassed at this really. I hate to admit it even here. The good news is it didn't take long to feel normal again.
The picture is Kimberly and me before the race.