Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ShamrockOn 2016

- 2:00:58 -

That was my time as I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock 1/2 Marathon this past Sunday.
Remember how I told you that I really, really, really wanted to finish this race in 2 hours?! A time, which by the way, has been like my life goal of 1/2 marathons finish times?! (Since my first 1/2 in 2009 that is.) And remember how I was super nervous about being so close to getting there but possibly coming up short?! You guys, I made it. I actually met the goal! And it was one of the toughest races that I have ever done.

(In the pre-dawn hours, about to throw on my poncho and get out of my car.)

The week leading up to the race was beautiful and in the 70's, even reaching the 80's one day and man was I praying that the forecast that showed chilly temperatures and rain for Sunday morning would change to be like the days that preceded it. Unfortunately, the forecasts just kept getting worse and worse. The night before the race we began to get the winds and rains of a Nor'Easter and temperatures that morning were in the low 40's. When I was getting ready to go at 4:30 in the morning I could hear the wind outside of my bathroom window and cringed at the thought of going out in that! I knew it would be worse at the Ocean Front. When I first got down there and parked there wasn't any rain, just wind, so I was hopefully optimistic that it wouldn't be that bad. That lasted all of 3 minutes. Soon a drizzle started that turned into a steady, constant rain, with winds of 20mph and gusts in the 30's! My running buddies and I threw on our ponchos and dragged ourselves out of our cars down to the starting line. Rain pelting us in the face the whole way. There were mixes of "yea let's do this!" and "why in the world are we out here?" being yelled out among all the runners and I totally felt it. On one hand, the difficult conditions made everything seem way more intense and go the adrenaline pumping a bit. On the other hand, it was freezing cold, I was in a tank top under my poncho, my shoes and socks were soaked before we even got started and the whole time all I could think was there's no way I'm finishing in 2 hours now. No way. Not with this wind.

I'm not sure what happened, but once we finally got started and I saw everyone else around me running and carrying on with determination, despite the conditions, I realized that I didn't have to give up on my goal just yet. Yes, it was going to be hard, but I had worked too hard in training to be defeated before I even tried. 

The first 5 miles were a killer. The wind was in our face and the rain just wouldn't let up. My hat flew off of my head around 4 or 5 times, thankfully the velcro was stuck to my hair somehow so I never actually lost it haha I was always able to gab it quickly and wrangle it back down. Another reminder to keep my head down and just keep moving. I also had a pesky muscle cramp behind my left knee that wouldn't let up, I wanted to stop and stretch but I knew I couldn't waste that time. I prayed it would loosen up after a while and just kept running. I've never run in a poncho before, but I kept that sucker on until the rain finally cleared at 5 miles. I knew running in a soaked tank wouldn't be fun. I was wearing a white cotton tank because it had a fun 4 leaf clover on it that fit the race day spirit, but probably wasn't the best choice for wet weather running. lol

Finally we turned into the military base and ran along the bay. No more rain, but now there was a cross wind and when it gusted it felt like it was going to knock you over. It was around this time that I really had to pee. I know I should be embarrassed to admit this but I'm actually weirdly proud (?) that I didn't stop to use the bathroom.......I didn't stop because I peed myself..........  .......  ....... 
.... I'll just let that soak in for a minute....
You guys. I'm not even kidding. I mean, why would I even joke about something like that? I knew I couldn't waste a second if I was going to make my time so stopping just wasn't an option. I thought it would be way worse than it was, but maybe since I was already super wet, it didn't make much of a difference? I don't know. It was definitely a first for me, though I know it's not an uncommon thing among runners in general during races.

We finally made it out of the base and headed back towards the boardwalk. This was my 4th time running this course, so I knew it well. I knew I only had a few miles left but I was getting tired. A friend caught up to me, we chatted for a couple minutes and then she started to pull away. I tried to keep up, but my legs were struggling. I checked my watch and just tried to keep my pace at 9:15". I got really bad dry mouth and grabbed waters at a few more water stations than I had planned. I never stopped, but did have to slow up a bit to grab the cup and swallow without choking. I started counting down the streets. 72nd street, 71st street, 70th street ..... on 40 blocks to go! 

At mile 11 another friend caught up to me, I cringed a little when I saw her because I knew it meant I had slowed down. She looked great and I may have hated her for like a split second haha. She asked how I was feeling and I admitted that I was losing steam. There wasn't much energy to spare for talking and soon I saw her blonde curls pull ahead of me and I couldn't keep up. Usually when I look back on those types of moments I regret that I didn't try harder, but I really feel like this race I was giving it all I had. Okay, so there was about a hot minute after she started getting lost in the crowd ahead of me that I felt defeated and slowed up a bit; I seriously wanted to just stop and walk. I knew I was so close to being done with less than 2 miles left, but I was sure that I wasn't going to reach my goal so I might as well just stop. Thankfully a little voice urged me on and reminded me that this was the best chance I had ever had at reaching my goal and if I didn't press on I would regret it big time. I couldn't bring myself to look at my watch, so I just tried to pick up my pace a bit until I got to the boardwalk.

Once I reached the boardwalk I had less than a mile to go. My legs were dead and my lungs were on fire but I could see the finish line up ahead. I knew from experience that the boardwalk is deceiving. It's a straight shot with a clear view of the finish, so it makes it seem much closer than it actually is. I tried to keep this in mind and not start sprinting to the end as soon as I turned the corner on to the familiar concrete. About a minute onto the boardwalk though I was finally brave enough to check my watch and see if I was going to make my goal. I remember seeing 1:57:48... I had just around 3 minutes to get to the finish line!!! You guys, I ran as hard as my dead, chunky, mama thighs could carry me. 
(I like to pretend that I look like an olympian when I run, but lets be real... I'm a size 8 with thighs that rub together when I walk and little bit of a muffin top. I'm not exactly Jackie Joyner Kersee sprinting to the finish line. But to me, this was my gold medal moment.)

When I crossed the line and saw 2:00:58 I was ecstatic!

Sure, I was 2 seconds away from finishing in 2:01, which would've meant that I didn't meet my goal, but it wasn't 2 hours and 1 minute, it was 2 hours!!! Sure, I would've loved 1:59 to say I ran a "sub 2" 1/2 marathon. And yes, I was briefly jealous that the girls that passed me finished in 1:59 and if I had just been able to keep up with them I could've finished with that time too... But you know what?

God is so good. There was so much about that day that wasn't ideal. It was literally the toughest running conditions I've ever raced in. We ran in a Nor'Easter at the ocean front! So to come away with not only a personal best but also reaching my all time goal of finishing a 1/2 marathon in 2 hours... Thats just something that I'm really thankful for and yea, a little super proud of accomplishing.

I definitely got a little teary eyed as I walked down the finisher's chute. Partly because I was so glad it was over. ; ) But mostly because I had done what I set out to do, and I just really love running.

I tried to capture how rough the ocean was and how strong the waves looked, but the pictures don't do it justice. The Atlantic Ocean was roaring that morning.

I met up with all my race girls near the finish line, as we all finished within a few minutes of each other and we took pictures, rung the PR bell, and huddled inside of a tent on the sand while eating warm Irish stew! 

I refused to put my jacket on after the race like most people, because I had bought these super cool argyle arm warmers at the expo specifically for this race and I wanted to make sure they made it into every picture! But as soon as I was done with the camera the jacket went on! Also, I look super dorky in a hat. So besides the obvious reasons to hate running in the rain, I also dislike it for that.

Feels. so. good.

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