It is hard to believe, but here it is – September 1st. That means I can now officially declare I am running a marathon next month. That is a little scary! Tomorrow marks the first day back to school, which is just as nerve-wracking for us teachers as it is for the kids. In the next 55 days I will meet my new class of 25 students, run a 5k race, run a half marathon, get married, and run Marine Corps. I suppose this is what they call crunch time.
This week marked the end of my summer of travel. Teacher went back to work on Monday to attend meetings and prepare our classrooms for the school year ahead. On Wednesday I went out for a particularly sweaty four mile tempo run through Burke. On Thursday my parents let my kids spend the night, and for the first time since I was in Costa Rica schedules worked out enough for me to go on a quick two mile run with the fiance. My week was also spent thinking about the half marathon I had schedule on August 31st, and struggling with a goal. Before this week I had run three half marathons in my running career. The first, which was my first ever race longer than a 10k, was the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach in March of 2011. I finished in 2:24, and was pretty sure I never wanted to do anything like that ever again. Flash forward to March of 2013 and the DC Half Marathon. I had not run a single mile since November of 2012. This is the wrong way to attempt a half marathon. I hit the ten mile mark right around two hours and then my body took a serious nosedive. My finish time was 2:55.
2014 has been my year to make my running comeback. I committed to a race every month, and really buckled down and set to training. I sat down with calendars and wrote in almost every run I should take for the entire year, which I realize sounds beyond insane, but was the kind of accountability I needed. I had plans and goals, and if I wanted to meet those goals, I had to stick to these plans (or at least, stay kind of close to them). In May I ran my third half marathon and beat my previous PR handsomely, even managing to break the two hour mark for the Frederick Half. Official finishing time – 1:56.
I earned that time, and it wasn’t easy. I finished that race feeling totally drained and ended up with some kind of silly cold that took me two weeks to shake. When thinking about the VA Beach Half this week, I just couldn’t settle on a goal. I knew I didn’t need to break two hours again. I kept reminding myself that this was not my race. Marine Corps is my race. That is what all of my energy and focus is headed towards, and everything else is just to help prepare me. I didn’t want to go all in on this race and then need multiple days to recover. I spent the day before the race enjoying the water with my kids, and trying to come up with some kind of strategy, but even on race morning, I didn’t really have a goal time.
We stepped out of our hotel room on Sunday morning and were hit immediately with the humidity. Even at 6:15am, it was already 76 degrees and sticky. Whenever I travel for races I try my best to get a hotel room that is about a mile away from the start line so I can take a nice walk/jog to help warm me up before the race. Today we ended up walking the entire time due to my running companion wanting to grab a coffee, and we ended up at the start line right as they were firing the gun to start. Not the BEST way to stumble into a race, but I was comforted again by knowing this wasn’t my race. For my fiance, however, it was his race. When we ran in Frederick it was his first half, so he didn’t go into it with a goal. He finished that race at 2:01. He ended up frustrated, as if he had known he could get that close, he was sure he could have gotten under two hours. VA Beach was going to be the race where he tried to get there. He went off in a corral ahead of me and I trotted off on my own.
By mile two I was drenched with sweat. At each water stop I’d grab one cup to drink, and one cup to pour on my head, just trying to keep myself as comfortable as possible. I have to applaud this race – the organization was wonderful and they had a ton of not just bands, but cheerleading and dance squads from the surrounding areas. The locals really pitched in too – more than one person came outside with their hose to offer some relief to runners, and along the way I hit many unofficial aid stops. Early in the race there was a beer table that we passed by twice (I only participated once). Also were two separate skittles stops, and multiple places where people were out in their yards handing out icee pops. Those icee pops appeared around mile 11.5, when it was already around 80 degrees, and were just about the best thing ever. Early in the race there were kids handing out mardi gras beads and later in the race there was a neighborhood handing out plastic leis. By the time I finished the race I had three strands of beads and three leis wrapped around my neck.
When all was said and done I crossed the finish line at 2:02. It was fast enough to put me in the top 11% of runners in my division, but wasn’t so strenuous where I felt like I was totally spent. Sean did indeed make his goal, finishing at 1:59. I am currently involved in a serious debate with myself to shell out the money for marathonfoto as there are actually some pretty great pictures from this particular race, and if I break down I will certainly share them next week.