After the Chicago Marathon, I vowed to take an extended break from racing. My mind and body needed some precious time to heal. However, as you can see, my plans were quickly thwarted. I ran the BoMF 42K Relay the following weekend and was inspired by my speed (read: uh oh). Then I logged some other sporadic speedy weekday runs on my own, making my confidence soar and my mind reel. So a few weeks ago, I sat on the couch and debated on whether or not I should sign up for the Monumental Half. I mean, it was JUST a half, surely I could do it 😉 Tons of my Perfect Strangers were running. Plus I could go slow if I needed to. And it would at least keep me running. After much debate, I finally bit the bullet and registered. I’m such a push-over.
I ran 23 miles last week, with an a pace that ranged anywhere between 8:30-8:57 min/mi. It seems that since my marathon, I’ve refound my speed. I have no idea how, but the change has been feeling good. So when I found out that my friend Jaime wanted to race the Monumental, I told her I’d do it with her. Her goal was to PR below 1:59. And her super secret goal was a 1:55. An 8:46 min/mi pace. I was hesitant, but determined.
Friday after work, Allie and I carb-loaded with Pizza King and watched The Campaign with the hubs once he got home from work,,
Saturday morning I awoke to this, set with intention the night before,,
There was some debate the night before on what to wear. The temps were going to be in the 30’s at race start, similar to Chicago. I ended up deciding on capris over shorts/skirt, with my long socks, tank, arm sleeves, and a zip up. Surely I’d stay warm, esp once I got moving.
I made it downtown by about 645, where I met Amy, Karen, and Christi in the parking garage. As we walked into the Convention Center, we met up with the rest of the crew ~ Jaime, Kelly, Dana, Ashley & Kristi. We stretched, we made potty stops, we laughed and pseudo-strategized. Good ol’ fashioned pre-race fun.
We got our first blast of cold as we stepped outside. Brr! Hey November! After dropping our bags off at gear check, we made our way to the corrals. Holy congested. Maybe due to the influx of extra runners because of the NYC Marathon cancellation?? In any event, it was uber crowded, so we stood outside the gate until people started moving.
Just after 8a, we started running. It’s always so hard to pace yourself straight out of the gate. It’s cold, all you want to do is go fast, all while trying to dodge tons of people. At one point, Kelly said we were running a sub-8 min/mi so we pulled back slightly, making sure not to expend all our energy up front.
About a mile or two in, we found our girls running the full. Since us halfsies were maintaining a great pace, we scurried on past them after wishing them well. However, after seeing them, all four of us commented on how happy we were that we were just doing the half that day. Oh those 26.2 miles,, 😛
At mile 4, we approached Monument Circle where our cheerleader Meggie was supposed to be planted. And true to form, there she was! She spotted us, we gave air kisses, Jaime handed over her gloves, and we continued on to victory. Nothing better than seeing your bestie on the sidelines to give you extra motivation [PS, her hubby Josh went on to run an incredible PR of 2:56!]
Not long after our PS sightings, Jaime and I started pulling ahead of Kristi and Kelly. Their desire to do a sub-2 wasn’t on the top of their priority list, which they made clear from the get go. So on we ran without them, continually trying to find our stride.
Our fast pace made itself very clear to my body throughout the entire race. And for once, it wasn’t physical pain from muscles or joints. It was the pain of pushing hard. Running fast. Desperately trying to find your breath and forcing your body to accept the pace you had chosen. By mile 6, I still hadn’t gotten comfortable with the speed we were at, but continued to push with the help of the blonde by my side.
Of note, I was a sweaty beast a few miles in. All my layering had definitely kept me warm, a little warmer than I would’ve liked. Off went the headband and the gloves early on, never to return until post-race. I STILL haven’t mastered what to wear on race day, arg!
Jaime and I broke the race up into “chunks” ~ 3 x 4-mile blocks, a gel 30 min before start and every 45 minutes thereafter, with water/gatorade stops PRN (as needed). I love this method of racing. It helps the mental mind games and allows you to see what you’ve done as opposed to what you have left to do. Our first chunk absolutely FLEW by, as did the second. Before we knew it, J and I were deep into our third and final chunk. Our pace continued to be consistent, with our slowest miles just over a 9 min/mi. We vacillated between conversation and silence, neither of which once felt forced.
Around mile 10, I started to succumb to my pain. I said to J, “I just want to scream.” She looked at me perplexed, to which I said, “I won’t do it, but I really want to.” She continued to cheer me on, reminding me of how great we were doing. I kept moving and dodging people like it was my job. I had a job to do.
At mile 11, I told J that this was my most dreaded mile. I don’t know what it is, but it always seems like the mile from hell. So close to the finish, yet always so far away from being done. Combined with my desire to scream bloody murder, I was a hot mess. She kept moving, I saw the determination in her eyes, and on we ran despite my negativity. I switched my Garmin settings so I wouldn’t be tempted to check my pace or mile marker, and eventually I made it through the satanic 11.
From there, it was a blur. I remember trying to have tunnel vision. I didn’t want to know where we were at, I just wanted to know we were almost done. At one point Jaim said to me, “I won’t tell you how close we are to the finish, just know that we’re REALLY close.” I kept that in my pocket, and pushed harder than I can ever remember. I had no idea what our time was, but I knew we had done good. As soon as we made that final turn to see the finish line, I said to my girl, “Let’s go.” And we full on SPRINTED to the finish line. We collapsed into each other’s arms after crossing the finish, and completely out of breath I asked, “How did we do?” And then I looked down.
We had done it.
But we didn’t ‘just do it.’ Jaim KILLED her PR. And I ran my third fastest half marathon ever plus my first sub-2 of the entire year.
We hobbled through the finish chute, grabbing waters, bananas and chocolate milk. Then we grabbed our bags from gear check and started layering back up (it was STILL cold!). As soon as we started to head back to the finish line to catch Kelly and Kristi, Jaime got a text from Kel saying they had finished already! A 2-hour finish for the other half of our halfsies! SO proud of them.
We changed into dry clothes inside the Westin and came up with a game plan to see the rest of our full girls out on the course. We decided to hop in our cars and drive up to the 20 mile marker near the IMA where we would hopefully catch a glimpse and give them some last minute motivation. We arrived right near an official cheer station, which was perfect. What was not perfect, however, was the weather. The intermittent rain we had experienced during our race had now transitioned to full blown sleet. It was awful! But you would’ve never known based on the runner’s faces. Each and every one of them looked fantastically determined. Little ice chunks were not going to slow them down.
Before we knew it, there were our girls!! Amy, Christi and Karen were cruising down the street, looking amazing! We ran along side of them for a few minutes, they grabbed some waters, and before we knew it they were off to finish their final 6. We were so proud at that moment. They told us that Dana had fallen back a few miles earlier. So we decided to sit tight and wait for her. And within minutes, there she was. And the girl was obviously emotional. She said her hips were killing her and she looked to be within seconds of breakdown. We gave her a much needed hug and sent her on her way, after which we all looked at each other and cried. We have ALL been there and knew exactly how she felt.
Before we wrapped up our cheering, we saw our other friends Martha Ellen and Adam running towards us! ME was supposed to run the NYC Marathon and had flown out there Friday, only to receive word that it was cancelled, so she hopped a red-eye and joined the Monumental last minute. What a champ! It was SO good to see everyone out there and we were happy we got to play cheerleader for just a short while.
Our full girls finished fantastically. Amy got a 20 minute PR and finished with Karen and Christi with a time of 4:19. Dana pushed past her pain to get a 4:30. And Martha Ellen rocked out her impromptu 26.2 with a smile.
I drove home with a happy, happy heart and a renewed sense of accomplishment. For me, for us, for everyone. I love running and I love the way it makes me feel. Sure it’s extremely hard at times, which I was reminded of today. But the payoffs are well worth the pain. Sometimes you just have to go outside your comfort zone, remind yourself what’s really important, and get the job done. And today I couldn’t have got it done without Jaime. Love you girl. So proud of us!
This race was the perfect way to round off the 2012 racing season. But honestly, who even knows what lies ahead? Clearly I’m wishy washy when it comes to sticking to a plan 😉