While meeting up with old friends at the expo was a good time, there was still the matter of running 13.1 miles the next morning.
And figuring out what to wear? Not easy. The weatherman told me it was going to be in the low 40s when the race started, overcast and the temperatures would warm up to the lower 60s by mid-day. Considering the summer we just had - high humidity, lots of days in the 90s - I wasn't used to this. The last time it was 40? Probably back in April. Not kidding. No wonder I was having a clothing crisis.
I ended up getting two outfits ready: The shorts and tank I wore for the Green Bay Half Marathon in May and a pair of knee length capris and a green short sleeve shirt (appropriate considering I'd be leaving the park right around kick off for the Packer game). I also pulled out a long-sleeve tech shirt that I planned on wearing at the beginning of the run and would take off and tie around my waist when I was warm enough.
At 5 a.m. my alarm started blaring. Since I had the window open in the bedroom I knew it was chilly. Clothing crisis solved. I was going with the capris and shirt. I took a quick shower to wake up a bit, had some breakfast and ready to head out the door by 6 a.m.
When Mom and I got to the starting line area, I met up with Jennifer and Heidi. A port-a-potty visit was made (but for the life of me I could not go!), some pictures were taken and next thing we knew the national anthem was playing and the starting gun was going off.
Fox Cities Half Marathon, here I come.
Since my training was less than stellar, I planned to just run this for fun. That meant the water stops would be walked through and walk breaks would be taken. And of course I'd remember that I was supposed to be having a good time.
Miles 1 -5
I tried to keep the first miles slow. I didn't want to start out by killing myself. The first mile was pretty congested, so it wasn't too hard to follow this plan. The first 2.5 miles were run along the same course as the marathon (no marathon runners though since they started an hour after the half marathon) and we split off onto a half marathon loop right before the 3 mile mark. Still feeling pretty good. This chunk of the course was through a residential neighborhood. What stands out? The woman standing at the end of her driveway hula hooping. I wonder if she ever stopped or if every runner saw her? Made me smile.
Just before hitting the Mile 5 flag, I had to run through two roundabouts. Shortly after the water stop in this mile I decided it was time to ditch the long sleeves. I think this mile time including pulling over to the side of the road and taking my shirt off. Also up until this point I had been really good about just walking through the water stations. Those water station walk breaks started getting a bit longer at this point.
Miles 6 - 9
This is where it started to get tough. Not only physically, but mentally. I had that voice inside my head, "Tell me again, why did I decide to do this?" I wanted to just stop at some points, but I knew my Mom was waiting for me around Mile 6.75. So I kept running. When I got to her I was struggling. I stopped for about a minute. She was a bit worried. Asked me I was going to be able to finish. But even though there was doubt in my mind, there was no question about it. I was going to finish this. I took my mint chocolate Gu and I started running again.
There was a huge walk break around Mile 7.5. But even after seeing my Mom, I was still struggling. While I was walking (at a somewhat decent pace), I was thinking. You hear about The Wall in a marathon happening around Mile 20. I think I've determined my half marathon wall? It comes right around the 8 mile marker. Looking back at all three half marathons, that's the point where I've struggled the most. And looking back at this run, maybe this break could have been shorter. But maybe it's a good thing I walked as far as I did.
You hit the Mile 9 marker just as you enter Jefferson Park in Menasha. I mustered up enough energy to run into the park, but once I got to the water station, I slowed to a walk. And it was kind of scary. I felt a little light headed. My vision was a bit wonky. I took my time. Drank some water. Grabbed a Fig Newton. By the time I got to the end of the park pathway, my vision wasn't so wonky and I was feeling a bit better. So I started to run again.
Miles 10 - 12
After seeing me struggling around Mile 7, Mom must have thought I needed a bit of encouragement. I hit 10 miles at the top of the Racine Street Bridge in Menasha. I was kind of in my own little world as I was coming down the bridge, and all of a sudden I heard my name. There was Mom standing at the end of the bridge. I got a little bit of a pick me up. Waved as I ran past with a smile on my face. Only 3 more miles to go. More residential neighborhoods, kept alternating walking and running.
Neenah lined with gorgeous houses. The Mile 12 marker? Right next to the harbor. The course is a bit evil, since you run literally a quarter mile past the finish line, but you've really got about a mile to go.
Mile 13 - 13.1
The last mile is run all along the lake. I took a short walk break to gather up the strength to finish strong. Was planning on walking just a tiny bit farther, but I passed a cheering section. And one guy? He was holding a sign that simply said RUN. I decided I should obey. So I started to run.
There's a lighthouse on the point and as you round the final curve and hit the last straightaway, some of the Wisconsin Marching Band was playing. A little "If You Want to Be A Badger" as I approached them. And then they just stopped. What? Didn't they know it was me, Badgergirl, running past? Sigh. I ran. And once they were behind me they broke out in "On Wisconsin." Sigh.
But it was OK. Because I could see the finish banner. It's far though. Seems to take forever. So I planned one last brief walk break so I could run down that finish chute strong. The next thing I knew a guy wearing his military fatigues with a big ole backpack on his back passed me. No way. I'm not getting beat by him.
So I ran.
He still finished a few seconds before me, but I finished strong. Was happy with my finishing time considering the lackluster training and the mental and physical struggles during the mid-point of the race.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 43 minutes and 58 seconds. Not the 2 hours, 30 minutes I initially hoped for back in May. But given my summer training? I'll take it. And of course I can't be too upset considering it was still a new PR! Yes, it's only 1 minute, 9 seconds faster than Green Bay, but it's 1 minute, 9 seconds that I earned. I'll take it!
And yes, even though it was hard I still had a good time.