The St. Augustine Half Marathon, aka my second half ever, is complete. Woohoo…is what I wish I could be saying, but instead I am me and being Debbie Downer about the whole thing.
The good news is that it’s done. My feet covered 13.1 miles for the second time in my life, and I have the shiny medal to prove it. Which may have stayed on during lunch 100 miles away from the race site.
The tough-to-digest part is that this course was bananas, and I had no idea. It’s not like I had eight weeks to study the course map posted online or anything. Instead, I chose to show up and be all, “oh, there’s bridges?” And the course was all, “UM. FOUR OF THEM.”
The friend that I’d trained with and planned to run with ended up getting sick last week and decided race morning to not put herself in the hospital by attempting a half marathon feeling like death. I hated it for her, of course; I’m not a completely horrible person. She even came all the way to St. Augustine for two nights to not run. But, frankly, I hated it for me, too. Two weeks before my first half I begged and pleaded with Clayton to run it with me because I didn’t know if I could push through on my own. It was quite a stunner to plan for having a partner with me, and then realize that wouldn’t be the case an hour before the race. (Missed you, Kelly!)
I was way nervous in the morning and couldn’t finish my usual breakfast or coffee. Clayton, Addison and I left about 10 minutes later than we’d planned, but we were staying so close to the race that I didn’t think much about it. When he dropped me off and I realized the start line wasn’t where I thought (seriously, eight weeks of non-map studying), I started freaking out a little about missing the start. I jogged to the big mass of people, made a quick as lightning bathroom stop on the way, and just as I asked someone if this was the half marathon start, the gun went off.
And there I was, running. I had very little time–okay, zero time–to steady my head or stretch or get my bearings. The first five miles were lame city. We ran over the Bridge of Lions immediately, and then spent the rest of the time on a major highway passing strip malls and Sunday morning traffic. I really wanted to hold off on listening to music in case I needed a boost later, so it was just engines and feet out there. Luckily, there was a decently funny guy behind me that kept me entertained with sardonic commentary. We’re all idiots for doing this, let’s just embrace it.
My pace for those first five miles was exactly on target. I’d wanted to keep it somewhat conservative but not start too slow to the point where I couldn’t ever increase to my loftier goals. Turns out, that ol’ increase would never take place, so that became a moot point. It was a positive split parade after six miles. But at least for five miles I stuck to the plan.
Around mile 5 we hit the second bridge (the Bridge of Lions was the first), which was long and long. I felt pretty good going over it and saw my speedy friend coming back down the other bridge (numero tres, if you’re keeping count). She looked really strong and that was exciting. I saw Clayton twice around this point and his lanky torso hanging out of the car trying to snap pictures was too much cute to handle.
Once we descended bridge two, it was maybe 0.1 mile before we turned around and ran up the third bridge. And this was my coffin. I seemed to have lost all steam going up that beast. Trying desperately to be funny and encouraging, I made some comment to a girl that was walking. She passed me less than a half mile later, so I doubt I’ll be throwing out any more hilarious and obviously effective words of wisdom at any future races. I’ll probably invoice her for coaching fees.
I tried to remember my friend telling me that miles 3-8 were going to suck. Just get past that point, I thought. But mile 7 was it for me. It was the last time I felt any sustained strength. From that point on, I battled against quitting and walking my pissy butt back to the car. My initial strategy was to turn things up at mile 9. In real life, this was the point I vowed never to do a full marathon. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t stop at the mile 10 marker was because I knew how long it would take for me to walk back and there was no shortcut. I had no other motivation to keep running other than I’d finish slightly faster that way.
I had to walk a few seconds here and there but got so annoyed with myself I started back up pretty quickly. [Text to husband somewhere around this point: "Babe it's over". Dramatic much?]
There was actually a sad little pack of us who would run some and then stop to walk and then try to run again between miles 10 and 12. Clearly, this was not our day, and I felt bad for all of us. We never envisioned this would be our race. Womp womp.
I got a text from a friend when I was feeling especially womp-wompy that said “hope the run went well today!” After I got over the boiling rage of her thinking I’d be done when I still had two more miles, I realized there were a lot of people who knew about this race that were going to ask me about it. I could not imagine saying I gave up at mile 11, so I kept going out of sheer stubbornness. But I wasn’t happy about it.
We had to go back over the Bridge of Lions at the last mile. Four bridges would be an accurate summation. Luckily, that was the easiest of all of them and wasn’t too awful at that point. Life in general was looking rather dismal so a little incline wasn’t going to swing that vote too much. I was able to pick it up ever so mildly at the end when I saw my fast friend–2nd place in her age group and 9th woman overall, wha?!?!–and her fam. A little farther down towards the finish line I spotted Clayton and Addison’s huge grin, which was indescribable. But more than anything, I was glad that it was over. I was so hoping to finish feeling more than that.
I wasn’t impressed or anything after I finished, but having that six-mile mental battle so fresh in my mind, I was proud that I pounded it out. As the hours dragged on, and I looked over and over at my terrible splits, and the official times were posted, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
I don’t know if I had more in me during those hours, but I am bummed that this race was the culmination of a totally healthy, really strong, 12-week training cycle. I felt great after every long run and did speed work consistently every week. My long run paces were all better than what I ended up with at this race, and my long runs had always felt easy. That is so, so frustrating. I was hoping, planning and training to race this thing, and all I could do was finish.
But hey, I did finish.
Other positive notes: technically I did reach my very basic goal of beating the time from my first half marathon (by 6 minutes) and Miss Black Shirt was all about trying to pass me in the finish chute and did not, thank you very much. I didn’t even know anyone was near me until I looked through the pictures.
Plus, mom bonus: I ran a half after baby birthing. When I remember that first two-mile run a few months after having Addison, it’s hard to believe I conquered (okay, tolerated) 13.1 miles. Those first few weeks were u-g-l-y.
Oh, speaking of ugly.
So what now? Well, I am going to sulk and eat cookies for another day or two. I’m going to join my sister in law for a pedicure and wine date. And then I am going to put my big girl tempo shorts on and get ready for
I am certain I have a better race in me, and I am not wasting this training on that miserable half.
At least we know one person was glad I made the trip to St. Augustine. (Total accident, by the way.)
So, anyone feel like running a half in December???