This day was so much fun and jam packed full of my favorite things – starting with my 3rd 1/2 marathon!
I absolutely love doing this race, but the 4am wake up call is pretty brutal. The gun doesn’t go off until 6am, parking is rough, and I live about 30 minutes away, so 4am it was. When my alarm went off, I had a million thoughts going through my head – “I’m 19!” “I’m going to be running in a couple hours!” “I better feel good today, because I need to crush last year’s time!”
I immediately started getting ready and by 4:45am, we were out the door. I took my breakfast in the car, so I could strategically eat it at 5am, about an hour prior to racing. I had 2 slices of cinnamon raisin toast, one with the tiniest shmear of Barney Butter.
Once we got there, parking wasn’t too bad because we found a vacant lot, but thank goodness for getting there early! They capped the race this year (most likely because it was getting to be too many people for the small area of Cocoa Village), but we still had to park a little ways away from the start line. No big deal, though.
I saw on the weather that it was supposed to be kind of warm (in the 70s), which I didn’t mind because I run best when it’s slightly warm. It was cool upon arrival, however, and I stayed bundled up in my jacket until it was time to line up in the corrals.
As soon as we parked, I headed to the porta-potty line. Last year, they had this giant LINE of them and I was actually able to go fairly quickly, but they had significantly less this year (maybe 1/2 as many!?). I know the marathoners were being held in a holding area while the 1/2 marathoners were started first, so maybe there were more porta-potties there. There were still plenty of marathoners in line around me, though… Another issue that I heard about throughout race morning was the lack of toilet paper. I used the last of the toilet paper when I used the porta-potty and that was 30 minutes before the race even started! My mom said she stole extra when she went for later because she knew they were going to run out.
Soon enough, it was time for me to get in line and I found a good spot between the 9 minute and 10 minute signs. Exactly where I wanted to be. Before we all knew it, it was minutes until start time and someone started singing the National Anthem. It started out really nicely and the person they got had a beautifully vibrant voice, however, the microphone started going in and out within seconds. There were whole gaps that we couldn’t hear anyone singing at all. And then, after about the 3rd gap, the crowd started filling in and singing. Eventually everyone just continually sang and it was so neat to hear everyone contribute so that our National Anthem could be finished. I saw people in tears by the end of the song and it was so touching.
After the singing of the National Anthem, we were started by a recording of a shuttle blast off and we were off!
The day before, I wrote the times that I should have a what mile markers because my HRM doesn’t give my pace. I didn’t know whether it would be annoying to have to pull the card in and out of my Flipbelt to look at it, but it really wasn’t that bad. I just started my HRM the second I crossed the start line and went by that time instead of the big race timers.
The first mile went by kind of slowly and it was tough to maneuver around all the people in the tiny space. Although, it probably went by slowly because I completely missed the mile 2 banner. I just kept thinking to myself that it had to be there somewhere. I started getting worried because the time to pass the marker was long gone and I thought I was just going slowly. Eventually I concluded that I must have just not seen it because too much time had passed. I was so relieved when I saw the mile 3 banner and I was right on time! By the time I was 1/2 way to the turn around point the crowd had thinned out and it was easier to just do my own thing.
After the first mile, the others just FLEW by. I couldn’t believe it when I was at the 1/2 way point! In all of my training runs, I started to feel the need for my mocha Cliff shot gel around mile 5-6, but during the race I had actually forgotten all about it until the turnaround at mile 6.5! I felt so powerful and just kept thinking “This is my race!” Despite feeling like I didn’t need it yet, I took a little bit of the gel at the turnaround because I knew it would probably help and prevent me from feeling crappy in the next few miles.
I ended up sticking to the times on my time card really well and was within seconds of goal pace every time. My goal for the race was 2:10 and based on every training run, I knew I could make it easy peasy. I just had to keep pushing and not fall into a slow mindless pace. I had actually done my pace card times for a time of 2:09 so that I would be sure to make it!
I had the best time reliving the race that taught me so much last year. Was it really just a year ago that I was stressed over my senior project? So much has changed since then and it seems so far away… The sunrise over the river was beautiful and we even saw dolphins around mile 4! What a blessing 🙂
The way back definitely flew by and before I knew it I was nearing the final mile. The only bad thing about the last mile or two is that there was a strong HEADWIND. I was trying to kick my pace up a notch and finish strong, but the wind made sure that, although I was working harder, I was not going any faster. I think I actually gave a big “Ugh!” because of the wind once or twice. lol
And then, just like that, it was upon me! The finish line!!! I honestly could not believe I was finished. It came so fast! I rounded the circular finish line giving it everything I had left. This race meant so much to me and I was finishing as strong as possible. I looked for my parents and sister, but I couldn’t find them in the crowd that was flashing by. (It turns out that they were very close to the start of the circular portion of the finish line.) As I passed runner after runner, I remembered all of the memories and thoughts going through my head from last year. I was so worn through, which was so opposite to how I felt then. I felt such a powerful feeling of strength and just wanted to bottle all of these thoughts and hold onto them. I crossed the finish line in 2:07:45! Way under goal 8)
Once I went through the tunnel-like finish line, I immediately went to find my mom, dad, and sister. I found them pretty quick and slathered them in hugs. (Funny story: there was a man at the finish line handing out cold wet towels to finishers and I happened to see my parents rights as he asked me if I wanted one. I responded, “No I want a hug first!” and went to hug my dad instead! Ha ha)
Then, after much discussion over how well I did and good I felt, we found a friend of ours in the crowd! My old tennis coaches’ son was their because his wife was running the race and came in right around when I did. We talked to him (and pet his adorable golden retriever) for a while before we all started getting hungry. I got a banana and some juice (they have Natalie’s juice at this race = the best). We had plans to go out to birthday/post-race celebratory breakfast afterwards, but before we left I wanted a look at the times boards to see the times of the people who placed. I went up not expecting to see anything but crazy-fast times…but…my name was on it! I saw MY name listed as 3rd place in my age group. I was totally floored. I immediately ran back to tell my family and we realized that if we wanted to stick around to get my award, we couldn’t go out to breakfast.
Luckily, my parents had gone to get coffee after the gun went off at the start of the race and found this cute little cafe that was open extra early for the racers and families. It was right around the corner and within walking distance, so we decided to just head there instead of skipping the ceremony. It wasn’t my first place of choice, but it ended up being really good! I got an iced coffee and a really yummy egg-cheese-spinach pastry thing. So good.
We finished just in time to head back to collect my award. I didn’t have to wait long until my shiny plaque was in my hands and I was posing for a picture with astronaut Mike McCulley and some guy in a space suit. It was awesome in every way.
We made our way back to the car and I said goodbye to the race until next year 😦 This race is definitely near and dear to me and I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Rest of the Day:
Once home, I showered and lounged for a good bit of the day. Next thing on the agenda: birthday lentil loaf for dinner and carrot cake for dessert. Mmmmm… Mom spent a lot of effort making me my favorite meal of lentil loaf and I certainly enjoyed every bite of it.
The carrot cake was a new recipe that we hadn’t tried before from my Cooking Light cookbook and we were slightly nervous that it wouldn’t come out really tasty. I wanted something semi-healthy but with the same great taste of the regular cake with cream cheese frosting. The cake turned out fabulous! It was literally some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever had. For the frosting we used a Truvia baking blend instead of sugar and I still thought it was wonderful. Mom didn’t like that the little crystals didn’t fully blend and left gritty bits in the frosting, but it didn’t bother me so much. Best birthday cake ever 🙂
It was one of the bets birthdays I could have asked for and I spent it doing what I love (exercising and eating). 8) Last year of being a teenager!