Monday, August 22, 2016

Area 13.1 Half Marathon - #8

Two Saturdays ago, Jason and I headed to Roswell, GA for # 8 in our half-marathon streak, the Area 13.1 half marathon. This one would be different from all the others in that it had a start time of 7pm. I had no idea what to expect from a night time race, but I was looking forward to the experience all the same.

We arrived at our hotel in Roswell at 5pm, 2 hours before the race, and I realized to my horror I had forgotten to pack my running shoes. Yep. Kind of a game changer for the whole running thing. So we checked in and changed into our race clothes quickly, as I pulled up the closest running shoe store I could find. Road Runner Sports for the win, only 4 miles from our hotel. We drove there, found a pair of Asics Gel Cumulus (the only shoe I wear), and high tailed it out of there to the race...where the traffic was crazy and parking spots were scarce.

It was 6pm. Jason drove around hunting a parking spot, and I got in line to get our packets and numbers. It was all hurried and crazy, but by 6:30 we had a parking spot and our race numbers, and we were ready to run. We looked at each other and laughed as I said, "what's another half marathon without a little drama?" We warmed up a little and went to the start line where I got my 3 kisses before we finally started our race at 7pm. Whew!

We started off down a shady, hard-packed trail that winded around in the woods surrounding Riverside Park. We stayed on this trail for about 2 miles before looping back and heading the other direction on the road for the rest of the race. I liked this little trail section. I kept my pace even and relaxed. It was HOT (about 88 degrees) and I wasn't expecting it to cool down much. I remained conservative through the first half of the race. The heat made me a little nervous about pushing it. There wasn't a hint of a breeze and the air was thick and heavy. I was really thirsty, but only sipped at each water stop, pouring the rest over my shoulders. I had Gatorade at some spots, water at others. I never took an offered Gu because the thought of eating anything was unpleasant.

I saw Jason heading back around mile 7. I was running up a hill and he was zipping down. Our hands grazed each other in an attempted high five, but I forgot to shout out my usual, "Go Babe!" He was in second place with a pretty sizeable gap in front of him and behind him. Finally I began to see more people returning, so I kept a female count. I wanted to know where I stood. I wasn't hoping to win - I usually don't in these bigger races - but it gave me something to do and took my mind off the heat.

As I counted, I studied each woman as we passed each other. I wondered what she did in her training, what she ate, if she lifted weights or did some sort of strength training. I wondered if I had what it took to be up there where she was. I wondered if I put in the work, if I too could be a front runner. I kept counting and around #25 I reached the turn around, which meant I was number 26 or 27 (there was a water stop and I could have missed some there).

When I turned I decided I wasn't going to suffer any more in the heat if I picked up my pace. I knew it certainly wasn't going to get any hotter. The sun was hidden behind the trees all around us, casting a blue-ish light on the road as it sunk lower.

So I went for it. I decided to catch every female I could see. I decided there was no way to ever know if I could be up there unless I went for it. I knew it wasn't going to happen in this race, but this race sort of lit a fire in me, one that is still burning as I continue my training. I had about 4-5 miles left, and I meant to make them count. I passed a lot of people, both male and female. I alternated between water and Gatorade at each stop, but I didn't linger. Those running toward me who had not yet turned around looked beaten down by the heat, and two looked like they needed medical care (a policeman was seeing to them).

Three separate times I saw a very small child running with his/her parents (I'm assuming), and it made me sick. I looked them up in the results that night, and their ages were 9, 7, and 5, and all of them were out there over 2 hours. When I saw the last one approaching, she was so tiny and looked no older than my Eloise, and I wanted to say to her mother, "SERIOUSLY?!" But one look at her mom's face showed me she was having a tough time of it, and while I cannot for the LIFE of me figure out why parents think it is okay for such tiny, growing bodies to run that far (not to mention the heat or the late hour), I tried to let it go. I ached for those little ones, though. It made me sad and angry. I shook my head and ran on, lifting up a prayer that they would be okay.

For a while I thought I'd finish before it got dark, but the dark came on quickly, almost suddenly. I clicked on my head lamp, and it was extremely helpful in the darkest areas. The race had bright work lights along the course, and those were great, but it was still really dark, especially when we returned to the greenway path. I passed several other females at this point and had to work hard to hold my pace. It was late, and I was tired, soaked and really hot.

I was surprised to see Jason waiting for me about a half mile from the finish (although I didn't know the distance at the time - I'd given up looking at my watch in the dark). I thought it was way too hot for him to run extra, but there he was, my hero. I think I greeted him, but when he responded I told him we'd talk at the finish. It was all I could do not to slow down, but I could hear the music and crowds at the finish line, and I desperately wanted to be there. It was pitch dark on the path. I couldn't see my feet or Jason, and in my head I started singing "we were running with the night... playing in the shadows... just you and I, girl it was so riiiiiight." (I love Lional). It was definitely strange running in such darkness and I was praying I didn't trip.

Almost finished and thrilled!

Jason dropped off as I saw lights in the distance and he yelled, "GO JANE!" At that moment it only vaguely crossed my mind that he didn't usually cheer me on like that, but a split second later I discovered why. A girl shot passed me out of nowhere. She was flying, and if I'd had a bit more distance until the finish, I think I could have matched her pace, but there was no time. We were crossing the finish and it was done. In that moment I was so thrilled to be finished, I patted her on the arm and said, "Great run!" or something like that, and she smiled and said the same. But after I caught my breath and drank some water, it stung a little. I was RIGHT THERE! And then...what stung even more... she was in my age group! OUCH! 

My gun time says I finished in 1:54:00, but my chip time says 1:53:54. The girl who passed me has a gun time of 1:53:57, and a chip time of 1:53:55. So you can do with that what you will. It doesn't really matter because we were 4th and 5th in our age group, so neither of us won. None of that took away my enjoyment of this race experience, however. It was unique, new and fun. It was really well done and supported a great charity. Jason and I got a massage after the race because few were in line, and I joked that it was our couples massage. I'd never gotten a massage at a race before and it was lovely. Jason and I had a wonderful time together, as always. He finished second overall (first Masters) in 1:24:29.

The alien likes me.

So #8 in our series is complete. I'm hoping to start improving on my time, now that the summer races are over. Our next one isn't until the end of September, so I think I have time to put in some good training and time for some cooler weather to move in. I'm excited and hopeful about the possibilities. I'm hanging on to that fire, that desire to get faster, to stop being a middle-of-the-packer, to push my limits. I'm ready to work. So here we go.

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