As I drove into the city towards Miller Park it was dark, raining and lightening. Ideal race day conditions, no? I saw Noah (from my Team Challenge Napa team) as soon as I got out of the car, which eased my nerves a bit. Once I got into the stadium I heard from Marty and went to find where he was sitting. I got to see a bunch of familiar faces (Hi Krista, Ro, & Rica!). Met some more people in real life that I've known via the Twitter for a while. And got to chat away the nerves while they announced the 30 minute delay to the start. I left my head phones in one place and my spi belt buckle in another. Fortunately while I scattered my race needs all over the stadium people picked up after me and kept me in one piece.
I was nervous as we headed to the starting line. Marty stayed with me right up until I took place in the corral, thankfully. (Also maybe because I had a look like, "I'll run the hell away from that race if I'm left out of anyone's sight. Maybe.) They counted down, the rain let up and we were off. It literally only rained for the first few steps of the race and then it was over. The clouds and wind stayed, but at least the rain was gone. (I was SUPER nervous about running in the rain.) I spent pretty much all of the first mile telling myself to slow down. (My second biggest fear was running too fast at the start and running out of gas.) I saw Marty at mile one and he asked for a pace, I reluctantly told him it was faster than planed and as I expected he told me to slow down. Before I knew it I was 3 miles into the race. I felt a little pinching in my toe for that first 5k and thought maybe I had cut myself, but just kept running. (Turns out I had a hang nail, it was cutting my toe next to it. Only discovered when I took off my shoes hours later and saw blood. Now I'm a real runner complete with bloody shoes.) Aside from the occasional wind - mostly when crossing bridges, the weather actually ended up cooperating quite well. I'd rather be on the cooler side rather than sweating and hardly breathing!
Around mile 6 I started to get a little tired. Had a little pep talk with myself - it was my mind getting tired, not my body and kept trucking along. I think I saw Marty around this part of the race and he shook his head and said, "What the fuck?!" obviously he had done some Marty Math and figured out I was ahead of our projected pace. Next question was "How do you feel?" I said I felt great (post-self-pep-talk) so I didn't even get scolded for running faster than planned. I cried just a little bit here. I was feeling good, made my coach proud and was able to feel good about the second half. Our pacing plan said I could slow back down at mile 10 so I kept with that pace for a few more miles. At mile 7 I told myself, just six more miles! (And then had a little giggle to myself about how this clearly means I've gone full blown runner crazy. ONLY six more miles.)
As I came around the corner, closing in on the Miller Valley I saw Amy on the street corner waving her sign full of smiles! I can't tell you how invigorating that was at that time. Aside from the police (who were absolutely wonderful about cheering for us) and Marty I hadn't seen a familiar face and was THRILLED to see her. And her sign reminding me there was beer to be had at the end! I stopped to give her a quick hug and was back on my way. Only 4 miles left!! I also cried a little bit here. There's something so damn awesome about the people you love coming to see you do something you love. (See Krista's post.)
There was a BIG HILL shortly after seeing Amy that was windy, on a bridge and straight up, around a corner then MORE straight up. I walked that one. (DUH) But was still quite happy I had only walked one other hill in the whole rest of the race! The last few miles had a nice little neighborhood to run through. There was a little old man (in old man slacks) outside the front of his house, encouraging and clapping all the while. As I passed he said, "look at how far you've already come!" (cue many more tears). Another guy had the music cranked up and the windows open outside cheering with his family. I LOVED running through this stretch of neighborhood and can't stress this enough. If you live on a race route - get outside and cheer for a while, it makes the runners feel like their famous and re-energizes like you wouldn't believe.
As we came down the hill for the last stretch of a couple miles I finally felt like it was a safe time to pick up the pace a little bit. I had 2 miles and I knew I could hold a solid pace for those last two miles if for no other reason than I'd be done after them! Marty had told me back at mile 7 I'd see him at mile 12. I checked out my average pace and got down right giddy. I was going to finish this half not just within my goal, but UNDER 3 hours. BIG DEAL FOR ME. As I came around the bend I could see him a while before I could talk to him. By the time I got close enough he looked at me, shook his head and said, "what did you DO!?" And then I almost DIED OF PROUD. I was so pleased I had done so well that both him and I were ecstatic about the results. Seriously, I almost burst into a billion pieces of confetti at that point. But I wasn't done yet! I had 1.1 miles to go! He quickly rushed trying to tell me I had 13:00 minutes to finish the race to sub three. Little did he know I had already done that kind of math. As I ran past I heard him yell, "Last Mile Fastest!" (and while I told him to fuck off, I actually did run my last mile the fastest!)
I booked it. Picked up the pace, passed the remaining water station and ran my ass off. I saw my dad and brother for the first time on the bridge as I headed into the stadium. (Cried a little bit.) I saw my twitter running friends again inside the stadium and heard Krista yell, "There's Angie!" I saw Amy and Joe back in the stadium (still waving her sign!) (Cried a little more.) I saw myself running through Miller Park on the jumbotron as I was finishing my second half marathon. (MUCH MORE CRYING.) As witnessed in the picture below I was elated to be finishing this race up and hearing the voices of my friends and family. GIDDY.
That last .1 miles was obnoxious. It was kind of uphill, then a little down, then around the stadium. The sun came out just as I was coming up to the finish line. No surprise here, Marty was there (how many miles did HE cover that day not racing?!) as soon as I crossed. And I crossed at an official time of 2:59:30. SUB THREE. (And that's not accounting for the quick bathroom stop around mile 10!) Now it was time for beer and food. And friends and family. And lots of wearing my medal around.