This was the big one — the race I’d been chasing most of the year.
After the nice races on Saturday, I tried to just relax in the hotel, awaiting time for the half on Sunday. I laid out “Flat Colin,” trying to make sure I had everything I could think of ready to go.
After a quick peanut butter and honey sandwich Sunday morning, I got dressed, and walked downstairs to the hotel lobby. The start line was only about two blocks from the hotel, although starting corral “D” — mine — was about four blocks away from there.
The weather didn’t feel nearly as cold as Saturday. While the temperature was a little colder, there wasn’t much wind, which helped make for a nicer morning. I walked up the street to my corral, and waited.
I’d made a sign — “My First Half Marathon” — for the back of my running jacket, and that ended up being the best thing I coulda done. It was a license for folks to pat me on the back, congratulate me on doing this race, and to remind me that I had this under control. Best mobile cheerleading section I coulda asked for!
Slowly but surely, my corral moved forward as the race officials spaced each group out. After fifteen minutes or so, we were up to the start line, and after a countdown, the confetti cannon went off, and we were on our way!
I jogged along for the first couple of kilometers, which was my plan. I wanted to get warmed up at a pace that was familiar, and cement a solid first five kilometers. And frankly, that was how I approached this race — four 5k races.
In that first quarter of the race, I started to see the neighborhood involvement in the race. There were folks with snacks like pretzels and bananas, and others with stronger things like beer and shots. About two miles in, I took a shot of vanilla rum from some friendly folks. Warmed me up from the inside! My first 5k went along at a pretty normal pace for me — about 51 minutes — which kept me at a conservative pace, knowing that I had three more 5k distances to go.
The second 5k wound through more neighborhoods, more block parties, and started to open up into a business district. The wide road had a good chunk of it blocked off for us, and the businesses were fully engaged — loud music, free beer and lots of cheerleading. This was probably the most enjoyable part of the course. My 2nd 5k took about 53 minutes, and with that, I had 10k in the books, and about seven minutes faster than my 10k at Hospital Hill in June.
My third 5k became more of a struggle. I was starting to lose my pace, and around the 10th mile, I could tell I’d hit a wall. I was exhausted — fortunately, I didn’t have any real pain — and was really just on autopilot by the time I finished this chunk of the course. My 3rd 5k was about 57 minutes.
The last 5k was brutal. It was a real mental struggle to get through this part of the race. I met some wonderful people along the way, who chatted with me as I walked, and helped keep my mind off what I was doing, and how much further there was to go. This is where I really found some goodness in habing my Garmin set to alert on half kilometers. With my arm buzzing every so often, I got a frequent reminder that I was making progress. This last 5k took 66 minutes.
And after that was done, there was only a little over a kilometer to go. I had grandiose plans about how I was gonna run through the finish line, maybe striking a pose or doing something silly. The honest truth was that I was tired, I just walked across, smiling to the photographers.
I had done it, tackling one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and also one of the coolest. It ranks right up there with driving my Jeep at Talladega, riding my bike at the Indy Speedway, and cycling a 75 mile course in Columbia MO. This was big.
I got my medal, had my finishing photo taken, and wandered through the finishing line. I gathered up a bowl of spaghetti, some water, and found a place to sit down and rest. Once I’d finished my grub, I gingerly got up, and wandered over to the Route 66 tent. They’d sent an email Saturday night that they had something special for the “doublers” — folks doing the 5k and one of the marathon courses. It was a very nice pint glass, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the race.
I had planned to ride the start line shuttles to get me back to the hotel. However, with all the roads closed for the marathon, the busses couldn’t navigate very well, and they’d stopped shuttling folks back. The person at the busses said the start line was “only” seven blocks “thataway”. For someone who’d just left their blood, sweat and tears on the course, this was awful to hear, especially in a town I didn’t know. As it ends up, it was about ten blocks to the hotel. I made it back, but I had to make several stops along the way to get a little rested.
So… what’d I learn? Well, I forgot my sunglasses, so that’s a thing. My gloves were not very warm at all, so I’ll need to replace those. I had one too many layers on under my coat, and was pretty hot by the time I got into the race. And lastly, having a big jar of dill pickles in the room fridge woulda been nice. The pickles and juice really help with recovery, and I think that would’ve been good. I also think that I shoulda been drinking Gatorade occassionally, instead of only drinking water. I’m not a Gatorade fan, but I did have some at the last rest stop, and it seemed to help. I was well hydrated, but it was just water, and no electrolytes.
The most frequent question I had was whether I’d do another half marathon. On Sunday, my answer would’ve been an emphatic “NO!” I had a bunch of folks on the course tell me I’d picked a tough course for my first half, which made me feel a little better about my misery. After some reflection, I think I’ll probably do another one. I’m already signed up for on in Chattanooga in March, and I learned last night that I’d won a free entry into the Mississippi River Marathon for February 2017.
I guess I’ll be doing another half. Or two. 🙂