Whew! Where do I begin? My big race was this weekend, and after trying to mentally and physically prepare for it these past few months, it feels weird that it’s over! Race-mode officially started Friday morning, when the boys and I headed down to the expo to pick out my packet and check out all the local race excitement. It was super crowded and loud, and Graham’s diaper leaked all over me the minute we walked through the door, so we were in and out quickly!
Casey traveled for work the second half of the week, and made it back just in time for bedtime on Friday night. I was so glad he was able to get back in time to come cheer! I tried to go to bed early in order to feel as rested as possible going into race morning. Graham was up twice during the night, and before I knew it my alarm was going off!
I snuck downstairs and ate a pb&j and had a large cup of coffee. I also dug out my old dinosaur Garmin that I haven’t run with in years. It still worked!
I waited until the last possible minute to sneak upstairs and feed Graham before leaving, and then I headed downtown. I texted back and forth with Meghann a bit so that we could meet up and say hi before the race. There were almost 18,000 runners on Saturday – a giant sea of people milling around getting ready to run!
With about five minutes to go before the start, I finally found Meghann, Anne, and Janae in the starting corrals. They offered to run with me, but I knew that they were doing more of a casual fun run, and this race was serious business for me! I thought I’d do best if I just turned up my music, focused on myself, and took it mile by mile.
And just like that – we were off! I didn’t do any of my training with a Garmin (I used the Map My Run app instead, which proved to be pretty inaccurate!), and I wasn’t sure if it would end up being a good or a bad idea to bust it out on race day. I settled into a comfortable starting pace, which looked to be around 8:45/minute miles.
I spent the first few miles trying to loosen up, looking into the crowds for a few familiar faces I was trying to spot, and generally feeling really good. Having run this race two years ago, I knew the course, and I knew that the first half of the course was relatively easy compared to what was coming in the back half.
The miles ticked by and my pace was hovering anywhere from 8:30 to 8:50, and I worked hard to just think about individual miles and to not think too far ahead. Right around mile six, the course made a U-turn where runners passed each other. As I approached the turn, I saw that Meghann and Anne were only about 100 feet in front of me. We all waved and cheered, and I continued on – feeling comfortable and confident as I neared the halfway point.
At one of the next few water stops, I saw the girls ahead stopping to take a picture, and I ended up catching up to them. They were a breath of fresh air – very motivating and encouraging. I felt like I was running well, but I also knew that deep down I was trying to bank some cushion. I knew that some major hills were up ahead, and I also know that hills in those later miles tend to be my downfall.
We turned into Seward Park and I surged ahead, still feeling really strong and full of energy. I forced myself to run the hills, and I ended up ahead of the other girls for a bit. I wasn’t trying to pull away from them, but rather I knew that they would eventually catch up to me. I figured that at that point, I’d probably be starting to slow down (or even walk, which I swore I wouldn’t do!), and from there on I’d run with them in order to try to keep up my pace.
Somewhere around mile eight, I slowed down to eat a Shot Blok, and I saw two familiar shadows come jogging up to me on either side. Meghann and Anne grabbed me a pulled me along and got me moving again. They assured me that they were going to finish under 2:00 hours (my goal!), so I decided to just try to stick with them. They chatted and marveled at Seattle’s gorgeous scenery, and I did my best to point out local landmarks and be a tour guide, and huff and puff along with my headphones still blasting.
I warned them that I knew the course was going to get really hilly and hard toward the end. Mentally, I was starting to struggle. And it was no surprise, because that’s how most of my training runs went. I did really well up until around seven or eight miles, and then I’d hear the nonstop chatter of that little voice in my head who was willing me to walk.
And then just as I remembered, the hills rolled in.
I tried so hard to dig deep and I willed myself to hold my pace, but I just couldn’t find the energy to get it done. We went through a sickly hot and humid tunnel (that felt like it would never end), and my Garmin signal dropped. From that point forward, my average pace and total running time were way off, so I’d also lost sight of where I was in relation to my goal. It turned out that I really liked running with the Garmin again afterall, so this was sort of a blow. I hated not knowing my pace and overall time anymore!
At mile 10, I felt a bit of a surge – knowing it was the farthest I’d run in my training. I also knew that Casey and the boys were going to be somewhere up ahead along the course. I spent the next two miles willing my feet to keep moving, and desperately trying to ignore the itch to take walking breaks.
A handful of times, I felt myself slowing down to a walk, and every time Anne would grab my arm and encourage me to keep going. She had all sorts of motivating energy, and I was so grateful that she and Meghann stuck with me even though I knew they could have been running faster.
With somewhere around a mile to go, I finally saw a few familiar faces up ahead…
This is the face of a crazed running mama who has just spotted the three loves of her life.
I veered off the course and over to the sidelines for some quick kisses and smiles. It was totally energizing, and I was so happy they were there!
And then the three of us made our way to the finish!
The last mile was horrible. Would you believe that I stopped and walked that close to the finish line? It was such a mental struggle, and I just couldn’t seem to break through it. We turned the corner toward the finish line and I saw yet another big hill, and I was just…done. At that point I knew I was probably not going to make the two-hour mark, and my confidence just sort of crumbled.
Of course, days later sitting on my couch, it’s easy to say that I should have dug deeper and fought harder to push through. But at the time, I really felt like I was leaving it all out there. I crossed the finish line in 2:01:15 – one minute behind my goal, but eighteen minutes faster than I ran the same race after Cullen was born. Certainly still something to smile about!
I crossed the finish line and stumbled my way to the family reunion area. Casey gave me a huge hug and told me he was proud of me. Cullen immediately asked for a snack. And Graham was clearly ready for his next meal too.
A million thank you’s to Meghann and Anne for slowing down and dragging me into the finish line. I know that without their encouragement I would have ended up slowing down and walking much more. And many thanks to Casey for getting up at the crack of down, managing two kids who were both awake before 6am, and for hauling everyone downtown to come cheer for me.
Despite the ugly hills in the second half, Rock N Roll is such a fun race, and it’s one I hope to continue to work into my race calendar in the years to come. It was the perfect day to run through some of Seattle’s most beautiful spots, and I felt proud to show off my gorgeous home city!
I left the race feeling really good about my overall effort and pace, but I’ll admit that missing my goal by one pesky minute was a bit of a blow. I still feel really proud that I gave it my best effort, and while it wasn’t my fastest half-marathon ever, it was my fastest 13.1 since becoming a mom. And that is definitely something to celebrate!
Even though my legs and hips are still a bit sore and achy here three days later, I’m already thinking about my next trip to the starting line. I’m actually registered for another half-marathon just three weeks from now! It’s one I had planned to do much more casually, but looking at the nearly-flat course, I’m somewhat tempted to give my goal a second-go. We’ll see how the next few weeks of running go in between!
It’s fun to be getting back into racing, and I’m excited to see what the rest of this season holds!