All the fun started Friday night, when I had to go down to Indy to get my race packet. You know — the bib number, the chip, all the paper paraphenalia advertising socks and races and causes. And when I say fun, I mean frustrating, headachy misery.
Chef offered to drive me down there. He gallantly told me it’s because we like to be together, but I suspect it was really because he knows I don’t have a great sense of direction and I don’t like driving at night. As soon as I got home from work, loved on the dogs for a few minutes, and put on more comfortable clothes, we hopped into the car and started. Unfortunately, the Fort Harrison YMCA is not as easy to find as MapQuest might have one believe. Plus, there was a ridiculous amount of construction in that area of town, which for some reason caused all the street signs to be removed from the light poles. Even though I lived in that general area for a couple of years just out of college and Chef courted me when I lived there, everything looked totally different (Hello, Wal*Mart where there used to be an empty field), and — did I mention? — ALL THE STREET SIGNS WERE GONE. Good grief. We drove around and around, down several dead end streets, until finally we found the YMCA. Which was really good because we were both getting hungry and headachy and grouchy.
We followed the signs outside the Y and went into the designated entrance for packet pick-up. Instead of the easy in-and-out experience I and my hungry belly were hoping for, it was a maze of vendor booths trying to get everyone to sign up for whatever they were hawking. Races, charities, etc. We had to weave our way through the Expo just to find the room where the packets actually were waiting. And, of course, I had misplaced the postcard I had received telling me my race number, so I had to look up my name to find out which line to get into. And would you believe, there were two runners with my name. My last name isn’t terribly common, so this was unexpected. So then I had to find out which one was my number, then get the race packet, then make we made our way back through the maze of vendors (and somewhere in there Chef and I had a spat, which is bound to happen when we’re both hungry and frustrated, but fear not — after some food in our tummies we were back to marital bliss) and out to the car. We managed to find a Fazoli’s (and so did many other runners, I think), ate some pizza and lasagna and a delicious chocolate mousse, and got back in the car to drive home.
Saturday morning, I got up at about 5:15, got myself dressed and ready, pinned my race number on, attached the chip to my shoe, ate a little something, filled my bottle with Gatorate (oh, sorry, it’s G now. Whatever. It will always be Gatorade to me) and woke up Chef. We said goodbye to the pooches and drove to Fort Harrison where it was all supposed to start. We spent some time in the Sterrett Center (no idea what it’s usually for, but this day it was a place to pick up your packet if you hadn’ t the night before (um, yeah. Totally taking THAT option next time) and stay warm, since it was a pretty chilly morning. The race was to start at 8:30, so at about 7:50, we headed toward the start line, made the all-important stop at the porta-potties, and then lined up.
Finally, the crowd began to move and I left Chef behind to run the race. In my area of the pack (those running 10:00+ miles), it seemed everyone was running with a friend, and I was the only one running alone. (I missed you, Heather!) Still, that allowed me to focus on my running instead of getting distracted by small talk.
By the first mile marker, gloves and sweatshirts began to litter the sides of the path. (Someone behind me said, “Stuff’s comin’ off! People are gettin’ nekkid!” That made me laugh.) The route went through Fort Harrison State Park, and it was beautiful. The leaves were all yellow and falling gently as we ran through. It was breath-taking. Or, it would have been if I could have afforded to have my breath taken away, but I kind of needed to breathe just then.
By mile three, my left hip started hurting, just as I’d feared. It wasn’t terrible, but I’m starting to think this is just the way it’s going to be from now on. I’m not sure what to do to avoid it or prevent it. Aside from that, I felt pretty good and was managing the hills well. There was one really long uphill around mile four, and I thought I was going to have to walk it, but I pushed ahead and ran it.
Miles four and five were great. Well, they were great for me. I heard a couple of women behind me talking. One said, “Are you sure you’re okay?” The other replied, “Yeah. I just need to focus. So shut up.” I determined the two of them must be really good friends.
Then suddenly, I was at mile seven! I’m not sure how, but I totally missed mile six. I was following everyone else, so if I skipped it, so did they. I ate the first of my PowerBar Gel Blasts. They are kind of like giant jelly beans, only with a better taste and better texture. They’re pretty big — probably about the diameter of a quarter and a half inch thick — so I decided to take about one per mile. These things are much better than gels, in my opinion. Gels are too sticky and messy and often sickeningly sweet.
It was about this time that I encountered the best volunteer ever. She was super-loud, which isn’t always a good thing, but in this case she was a great cheerleader and you could hear her long before you saw her. “Good morning!” she shouted. “You look great! You’re doin’ a fantastic job! Keep it up!” I really appreciated her enthusiasm.
Around mile ten, I finally had to stop and walk, but in the last three miles, I walked only a total of three minutes (three walk breaks of one minute each.) I’m pretty proud of that — the other half marathons I’ve run involved quite a bit more walking than that. In the last mile, I tried to speed up a little bit. I was ahead of my goal time, and I wanted to keep it that way. With about a half to three-quarters of a mile to go, I could see the finish line, and I saw the marathon leader pass me. (Yeah, he ran a marathon in less time than I ran a half marathon. Amazing.) I heard everyone start cheering for him — and I admit, I pretended they were cheering for me. (Hey, it helped, and I’d do it again!) Finally, I could see the clock, and it was at 2:30something. I was hoping to finish between 2:40 and 2:50, and now it looked like I might finish in under 2:40! I sped up even more and crossed the finish line, and I thought the clock said about 2:39 — and I knew that I crossed the start at least three minutes after the clock started. Exciting! I couldn’t be sure of my official time, though, until they posted it online.
I grabbed some water, pretzels, a banana, and an Oreo (they had Oreos at the finish! Awesome!) and stopped to have my chip removed from my shoe (my leg was shaking the whole time). Then I found a place to sit and called Chef on my phone so he could come find me. He told me he had been waiting for me at mile thirteen but didn’t see me. I was so far ahead of my pace that he arrived too late! I rested and then went to find some food (bratwurst, pizza, and a cookie). We made our way back to the car and drove home.
What made me so fast this time? Well, first, I’m awesome. Second, because I carried my own Gatorade, I ran through all of the water stops without slowing down. And third, I used the downhills to speed up as much as I could, taking advantage of gravity as much as possible. And I still ran the uphills (except for one of my walk breaks which took place on an uphill.)
I really recommend this course. It was beautiful, and aside from the packet pick-up nightmare (which admittedly might have been better if Chef and I hadn’t been hungry and if there had been street signs for Pete’s sake!) it was so far the best half marathon experience I’ve had.
Oh, and by the way, neither the Indianapolis Marathon / Half-Marathon Committee nor PowerBar paid me to endorse their stuff. They probably should, though.
So, my current stats: Geist Half Marathon 05/07/08 2:56:02, Lake City Half Marathon 09/13/08 2:46:31, Indianapolis Half Marathon 10/17/09 2:34:39. (I just keep getting faster!)