Monday, January 27, 2014

Suncoast Half Marathon - Lakewood Ranch

Let me start out by saying that all your words of encouragement really helped to make this race amazing. Sometimes I just really love the blog community an almost unhealthy amount!

Okay, so this race was emotional for me from the get-go. I drove into town Saturday and started tearing up just thinking about how much was riding on it. I didn't feel nervous or upset (yet); I was choked up knowing my parents would be watching me and that this was finally the race I'd been working toward.
I packed for every condition I could imagine, which was good because the weather changed overnight!
I met Britt at the race expo to pick up our packets and we drove to the starting line to get a feel for where we wanted to park. Depending on how early she was ready, the plan was to have Britt pick me up in the morning, but in case that fell through, we wanted to park near each other.

The night before the race, I began to get nervous. Like, really nervous. Mom made spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner, served with fresh salad and an Udi's baguette, which was the perfect pre-race meal (second only to sushi). I stayed up to watch Captain Phillips with the family, and couldn't help noticing that the butterflies were beginning to emerge in my tummy.
Pre-race, carb-heavy dinner. Perfection!
I think I had so much riding on this race that fear was just unavoidable. I run most of my short races with confidence, but most long races I don't push myself too much. I had plans for the race today, and I think caring so much fed my anxiety.
Steph texted me "good luck" and when I answered immediately chastised me for being awake.
Still, I slept really well and woke up before dawn to have breakfast (which I barely touched) and get dressed. The day was supposed to start in the high 40s, but overnight the cold front let up a bit and I awoke to perfect race conditions: 62 and overcast with a 20% chance of rain.
We both look...awesome?
Somehow the app missed the incoming rain.
Britt picked me up and we got to the venue at 6:30. After getting prepped and taking a selfie while in line for the Port-o-Johns (where I was able to finally see one of my other running friends - Karen - after years of keeping in touch online), we stepped into the corral. There were just over 400 people running, and the corral wasn't too crowded. Without much ado, we began the race.
At the starting line!
Britt and I stuck together for the first quarter mile or so, but soon I had broken off on my own. I just kept thinking how good and confident I felt. Miles 1-4 flew by; I kept a slow-and-steady pace, pausing at mile 4 to eat two GU Chomps (one with caffeine). Around mile 5 I struck up a conversation with another young woman running just behind me, and we ran together until the water stop at 6.5, where I broke off ahead again.
 I tried to get photos of the route, but they all came out pretty shaky.
The first half of the race was a wonderful blur. I was amazed at how strong I felt. I wasn't clocking any miracle miles, but my pace was so consistent I thought my GPS had to be wrong.
The route boasted cloudy skies, lakes, pretty houses, palm trees. If this were a sunny race it'd be brutal - no shade!
At mile 7.5 I ate a non-caffeinated Chomp and spotted my parents and brother. Zach took photos as I waved and ran past. My dad caught sight of me pretty far back, so he was able to ask how I felt; my mom was pretty distracted and nearly missed me, so she barely had time to shout, "You look great! See you at the finish!"
Mom holding up her sign for me!
(FYI: We used the Find Friends app so my parents could track me and it worked like a charm.)

The emotional boost from having a cheering section helped me conquer the one big hill in the race. After that, I knew it was smooth-sailing. I had the advantage of being very familiar with this course because I run parts of it whenever I'm home, and by the time I got to mile 9, I knew exactly what to expect.

9 is usually my weak point, so I took my last caffeinated Chomp. This was when the rain started. Up to this point, there had been some tiny pin-pricks of rain here and there, but nothing steady. Now, the rain came down in a steady patter. I personally love running in the rain, so this was icing on the cake for me. I picked up my pace and broke the evil mile-9 curse!

In the second half, I passed tons of runners. Slow-and-steady pays off!

It wasn't really until mile 12 that I began to feel any kind of fatigue. I was able to push myself through the last mile and finish at a sprint, clocking in at 2:24:53 and beating my B-goal by 7 seconds. (I avoided walking at all the entire race - goal met!) In the finishing chute I heard my mom scream for me, and at the end when she found me and asked, "Are you happy with your race?" I could barely choke back tears enough to answer, "Yes."
Dad and mom met me at the end.
What she said next perfectly sums up why this was so important to me. She told me, "Before this, all your running has been theoretical to me. But now I see..." We runners talk non-runners' ears off sometimes, and they simply don't "get" it until they see it for themselves. Seeing both my parents so proud and beaming at the end was the cherry on top of this freakishly perfect race.

At that point, we wandered around until we found Brittany...who was in the medical tent. At mile 4 her foot, which she broke a couple years ago, popped; by mile 8 she couldn't go on. Obviously this truly sucked, but like most runners, she's only more determined to come back stronger as soon as she's able.
Such a trooper.
All in all, this was the race I was hoping for. I was healthy (I think my recent obsession with squats helped in that regard); the weather was perfect; it was my second fastest half; and I had my cheering section there to support me. What more could I ask for?
Half marathon #5...success!
I am incredibly stoked for my next adventure...Ragnar!

ABK

33 comments:

  1. CONGRATS on such an awesome race!!! Love that you broke the mile 9 curse to finish strong!

    My dad is coming to my race next month and I'm so excited. Neither of my parents have ever seen me run, so I am hoping to do myself justice that day and finish with a smile!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think knowing your dad is there will REALLY impact your race. I was focusing on seeing them so much I barely noticed the first 8 miles, and afterward I was so uplifted that the last 5 were a breeze! It made a huge difference!

      Delete
  2. Congratulations on a successful race!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love it when a race plan comes together! Congrats!!! It so great when you have your family there to cheer you on - it makes an incredible difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yes, having them there seriously helped so much!

      Delete
  4. AWESOME JOB!!! I knew you had it!!! My mom has only been to one of my 5k races...and it sucked...I would love for her to come to another one so she can see how I've improved!

    Way to grab the race and tackle it head on!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!!! The next time your mom watches you race, she's going to be blown away!!

      Delete
  5. Amazing job on your half! Huge congratulations <3

    ReplyDelete
  6. Race recaps make me cry and this totally did! I love when races ARE FOR YOU. Yes, you had goals but this was YOUR race. Congratulations Ali!!!! YOU ROCK :) :) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A good race offers just enough insight and reflection that tears are expected :) I'm glad this recap touched you!

      Delete
  7. Wow, Congrats on 1/2 #5!!! I was thinking of you on my long run yesterday morning and wondering if you were 'running/done/even started yet' (with the time difference, I really wasn't sure, lol). I am so glad you had a rockin' race! Take time to celebrate & recover :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, girl! I'm basking in my laziness today, but I'm already feeling up to a nice little workout tomorrow!

      Delete
  8. Congratulations Ali!! What a triumphant return! It's great when everything just gels perfectly...it truly is a gift! Sorry to hear your friend hurt her foot...I hope she recovers soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish every race had conditions that came together as perfectly as this!

      She's doing well...she's hoping to be able to walk on the foot by the end of the week!

      Delete
  9. Congratulations on such an amazing race! I am so glad you had such a fantastic time and your positive energy is astounding. You are so adorable!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I got teary-eyed reading that. I hope I have as much success as you in my 1/2 this weekend. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have been working hard! I know you'll have a great race!

      Delete
  11. I LOVED reading this recap! What an awesome raceday and SO neat that your parents came out and got to see you in your element. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I sure enjoyed writing it haha!

      Delete
    2. PS. I know you're blog is already popular, but I love reading it and have nominated you for the Liebster Award. If you're interested, head over to my blog to check it out: runyourmuttoff.com/2014/01/liebster-award/

      Delete
  12. What an amazing recap... congratulations! I know you were really looking forward to this one and I'm glad it went well! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I couldn't have asked for better!

      Delete
  13. Oh my gosh this makes me so happy!! You go girl! Aren't you glad you packed so many outfits?! So happy that you had a cheering squad out there for you! You looked so strong! Congrats on an amazing race time-you are super speedy and even bigger congrats on running the entire way with no walking!! Hope your friend heals fast and gets back out there but congrats on a great race! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I'm REALLY glad I packed so many choices!

      Delete
  14. Yay! You are awesome! Wicked cool that you broke through the mile 9 curse. I get the same way, 3/4 of the way into any long run/race, only thing to do is keep going - with style (somehow).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hee, thank you! I was definitely SO happy to break my usual curse!!

      Delete
  15. Ali...your picture of the running gear inspired me to count/organize my own...you should see my totals. LOL

    PS...I have nominated you for the sunshine award...you are always so positive....keep up the great blogging work. You can check out the post at http://indyroo.blogspot.ca/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been completely behind on blogs! I can't wait to see what you came up with.

      Thank you for the nomination!! I'm honored :o)

      Delete
  16. Way to go!!! I know I'm late,, but I'm behind on my blog reading! :)

    ReplyDelete