Warning: very long!
This was my last tune-up race before the marathon later this month. It was meant to give my confidence and motivation a boost, and be the peak of my training cycle before the taper. I trained pretty hard leading up to this race, and although I took it easy the week before, I don't know that I would call myself well-rested for the race.
The forecast was for rain and temps in the 70s, so I opted for shorts, sports bra, and hat.
Mark and I went to bed around 9 the night before. We set two alarms for 3:30 and then of course could not fall asleep. Finally I dozed off, but I think I had to get up two or three times to use the bathroom. Still, when the alarm went off a few hours later, I woke up quickly and even felt slightly hungry (a definite pre-race rarity). We finished packing and loaded the car. I could hear some people in the apartment above us talking--it sounded like they had just returned from the bars. Excellent. We left right on schedule at 4:05 and then stopped for gas (ouch!) and cash. We hit the road for Indy around 4:15, just as planned.
It was an eerie, foggy morning, but it cleared up by the time the hour-long drive was over. We pulled into town and made a detour around the road closings, coming back down towards the finish line to look for a good spot. Arriving two hours before the race was certainly worth it; we parked (for free) maybe 100 meters from the finish and probably a quarter mile from the start. In a race with 35,000 people, that's an achievement. After taking care of some business, I ran about two miles and then we got ready and went down to the park to meet up with some friends from the Runner's World forum. Our Indy Mini thread was one of the most active in the half marathon training forum. I got a group picture and then ran back to the car to drop off the camera. After another stop at the portajohns, I made my way to my corral.
The race started a few minutes after 7:30. I crossed the line about five minutes or so later. I hopped up onto the sidewalk as soon as I could, which was like an express lane. This allowed my first mile was one second below pace, something I hadn't expected.
Tried to settle into that groove. I ran comfortably, enjoying the bands along the course (most very good--I wish I could have stayed longer and listened to some of them more!). Miles 2 and 3 went by in similar fashion
At this point, I still felt good. I even felt like I could push a little more, but I wanted to save something for the end.
This is where I wanted to be, I figured. If I could just hold this, I would definitely PR. Maybe not hit that ambitious 1:50, but 1:51 was within reach. But somewhere in the middle of that sixth mile, I must have lost focus and slowed down without realizing it.
Eeek! What happened? I had taken Gatorade on that mile, but I hadn't stopped (fluid stops during the race were very smooth). No reason to panic, I figured. I'll just make up the time. Get a mile in around 8:30 again and go from there. However, it wasn't to be. We were on the speedway now and I swear the miles were longer there. It was actually a little unreal, because I was making a concerted effort to go a little faster and the next mile was even slower.
Crap. This is my marathon pace, and I feel like I'm working harder than that. Maybe I can still salvage a 1:54. I need to keep the miles under 9:00 for sure, I thought. Try to hit 8:45. For one sweet mile, I thought maybe I could do it.
But now I was starting to feel it. Legs felt heavy and just dead. The track was endless. I felt like I was an ant creeping around a tractor tire. Even after we left the track, I felt tired and could not quite regroup.
I made one more effort to at least run close to marathon pace. When I hit mile 10, I realized I was only about a minute slower than my 10-mile race a few weeks ago, and felt a little better. I only had a 5K to go.
It wasn't quite the renaissance mile I was hoping for, and I knew I couldn't keep it up. I slogged through two more miles, the slowest of the day.
Crossing the bridge as we headed down into the IUPUI campus afforded a very nice view of the thousands of runners in front of me. I'm only being a little bitter there--it was a truly inspiring sight. At this point there were markers for 3/4 mile to go, half, quarter. They felt like mile markers, and I simply couldn't go any faster.
Finally I crept within sight of the finish. I glanced at my watch and saw 1:56 something. Hoping to salvage at least a second-best half marathon time ever, I sprinted, but hit in 1:57:14, 11 seconds off my second-best time.
I was handed a water bottle, which I gave myself a blister on my finger trying to open (no blisters on feet--just on finger; yes I am a weird girl). Finally I got it open. Someone clipped my chip off my shoe and I was handed a medal. Someone then gave me a plastic bag. For vomiting? Oh wait, for food. What a brilliant idea! I amassed a collection of various goodies and then walked back to the car. I wondered how Mark was doing. I took off my hat and put sunglasses on (the weather guys were completely wrong about the weather--it had been cloudy early, but then the sun came out) and went off to finish my mileage for the day. I wanted to get in 18-20 to make my last long run. I settled for 18.
Then I waited by the car for a long, long time. I had the hatchback open and the seats down and I lay down inside with my feet sticking out and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep. I was actually starting to get really worried about Mark. It occurred to me that neither of us had remembered to fill out emergency information on the backs of our bib numbers. I was starting to think that maybe I should go and find an information tent or something and see if I could find anything out. But Mark finally came back. He had been sitting by the Indiana Running Company tent waiting for me. Even though we agreed to meet by the car, he somehow twisted that to mean that we were meeting by the InRunCo tent. Well...whatever. I didn't care, I was just relieved. And hungry. So we changed into dry clothes and headed over to eat some food and drink some beer. We went to the InRunCo tent first and socialized a bit and got some very good free food. Then we headed over the beer garden. They almost didn't let me into the beer garden because my age had sort of worn off my bib number. They kept scrutinizing it and giving me little glances while I'm staring and thinking, just give me some beer already, I just ran 13 miles, actually 18 miles. I should have worn a "Will run for beer" shirt. At last the woman said, okay, this is definitely a two and that's definitely not a zero. Thanks! I only ended up drinking my single free beer. It was very sunny and hot and I was ready to hit the road.
We got back on the road and discussed options for more eating. I try to discourage Mark from his occasional fast food cravings, but today all bets were off--he had run a 2:19, a PR by over 10 minutes. We stopped at Wendy's in Martinsville, and also McDonald's. I walked in (not really sore, but still walking kind of like a penguin) and ordered a large fry. Oh that salt was so good! Normally I can't stand fast food, but there is nothing better after a long race than McDonald's fries. Need to replenish some of the salt that was encrusted all over my body.
So that's the report. Note how it goes from being a serious report about pace and mileage into a rambling discourse. That's kind of how the day went. But I did have fun; it's always neat to be running the streets of a city with so many people.
The rest of the day was very good too. Mark and I went to a Derby party at Michelle's house. Mark's horse was 2nd, which was the highest finish out of the 10 people there, so we took home the winnings ($20). There was much good food, and it was a good race. The frontrunner hung on for an easy second place and the favorite won, so it was also a strange race. I also finally tried mint juleps. Not my favorite drink, but it was a nice one to sip throughout the evening.