I just have to say this: Best race ever!! Seriously, It was so much fun. It was incredibly well organized, the crowd support is amazing, it's a fun course, my pace group was awesome, etc. Seriously, if you have ever considered this race or consider it in the future, go for it!
The race is in Conway, Arkansas, which is about 5.5 or so hours away. My mother in law lives there so we made the trip. I got off work early on Friday and after a stop at WalMart for last minute stuff and a quick trip downtown Indy for some Neewollah food, we were on our way. I met a couple of friends in Conway for dinner and had a great time. If you know my husband, please ask him about his waitress from TGI Fridays. He and the boys sat at a table alone and his waitress seems to have taken a shine to them. Funny story!
Saturday I got up bright and early and got ready and got the boys up to get ready. My super awesome mother in law Marilyn made biscuits and gravy for breakfast! I've never had such a good pre-race breakfast. I think I need to more races in Conway. I knew parking was going to be difficult so we left pretty early. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. After driving around for a long time I finally got out and walked and Rick went to park the car. Marilyn, Ryan and my nephew Logan got out and walked with me. I felt bad for them because it was cold. I choose to do this, they didn't. Still, it was nice. Rick parked our car and Marilyn's husband John parked too. They both (along with Adam) met us right before it was time for me to go line up.
I got to the starting line and wow, lots of people. There wasn't enough room for everyone in the corrals so I just kind of squeezed in. As the race started people were still trying to get off the grass onto the road. When it was finally time for my group to go I realized my Garmin had entered sleep mode. Crap! I got it started about 10 seconds past the start line. Oops. Messing around with my garmin put me pretty far behind the pace group I wanted to run with so I had some catching up to do. I did get caught up and stayed with the group until the last mile when I went ahead.
I've never run with a pace group so I wasn't sure if I wanted to. I'm so glad I did though! First, my group was awesome. We had a lot of fun. Big shout out to Jesse, the leader. He did a great job! There were several times I felt like I could have gone faster, but thought it was best to just stay with them because I knew I'd get tired later. I was right!
The first three miles were uneventful and just easy running. Mile 4 was tough! There was a huge hill and if I had been running alone I most definitely would have walked. I was determined to stay with the group though and I did it! This race was such a boost to my confidence in regards to hills. I often walk hills but this race just had so many that if I had walked up every incline I'd have walked half of the race. Ok, maybe not, but there were very few flat sections. It was constant up and down. And guess what? I never walked!
After the top of the hill was a huge downhill. Yay! At the bottom of the hill you go up again just a little bit and then have some flat section to the next aid station and are back to the start. My family was there cheering and gave me a high five. I was having so much fun at that point. Again, the next few miles were uneventful. Up and down, up and down, and up and down some more. Lots of joking from the group. It was highly entertaining to just listen to everything people around me were saying. At mile 6 they had energy gel along with the water and gatorade. I'm not sure what brand it was but I plan to find out as it was really good. It just tasted like fruit without a lot of stuff added. I took two. One I consumed right away and I put the other one in my pocket for later. When I got to the end of the 8th mile I was pretty tired. This is when I was very grateful to be a part of the pace group. The next two miles were pretty rough. I was determined to keep going at the pace I wanted to go though and I did it! When I got to the end of mile 10 and knew I only had a 5K to go I started doing better. Then I really kind of perked up and started enjoying myself again.
I can't remember when it was, but we were running up a hill and someone had set a bowl of starburst out. Win!! But have you ever tried to open a starburst while running up a hill? I can't believe I didn't fall down. Also, they were really cold so it was hard to eat them. With around 2 miles to go (I think, math gets fuzzy) there was a gummy bear station. Woohoo! I got a little cup of gummy bears. Around the end of mile 11 (again, I think) there was someone handing out GU. At that point I didn't think consuming one would do me a lot of good but I took one anyway. I put it in my pocket and will use it in the future on a long run. After that was another really long hill. The same one from mile 4 actually, just coming up the other saide. That also meant the last mile would be mostly downhill. Rock on.
I was close to the top of the hill and realized everyone but the three leaders of the group was pulling away. My goal was always to pull away at the end of I had energy. It turns out I did! The last mile or so was great. I felt wonderful and happy.
My official time was 2:29:24. This is almost a 10 minute PR! The only other half marathon I've done is the Oklahoma Aquarium run. My time there was 2:38something. Almost 2:39 I think.
I have some questions about the chip timing. According to the 10K split time, I was faster than the pace leader at that point. The thing is, I wasn't. An aid station was right before and I had gotten the two gels. I slowed waaaay down while putting one in my pocket and had to really hurry to catch up. I hadn't caught up by the time we crossed the mat. I'd say I was a good 15 seconds behind. So that seems weird. Also, there was someone shouting times and she said 77 minutes and something when I crossed. I remember at the time thinking it was very odd as that was way slower than typical for me. According to the results I crossed 10K at 1:10something, which makes much more sense! Anyway, this weirdness is my only complaint about the race and it's not a big deal. Just in case you are dying of curiosity, the pace leader finished about a minute behinde me, just a little over 2:30. I'm so glad I pulled ahead. Finishing 30 seconds past my goal of 2:30 would have been really depressing.
I actually think maybe I could have finished a little faster, but I'm really happy with what I did. I ran a really smart race and I'm glad. I was never completely exhausted and never felt like I couldn't finish. I was just happy and relaxed. During the race I passed a lot of people and was happy that I hadn't started too fast and slowed down which is what I typically do. I also know I can go faster and have something to look forward to!
This week I start training for....something. I haven't decided for sure. I know what plan I'm going to follow and what I would like to do, I'm just not sure if it's going to happen. There are a lot of things that will affect my decision. Stay tuned!