A second PR in 1 week= Disbelief and an incredible runner’s high

This morning was the Drake Half Marathon.  I was NERVOUS going into it.  I had to remind myself over and over that this was nothing more than a training pace run.  My friend Andrea J. and I had set the goal to run 8 minute miles for the race.  I knew if I could run that, I have a pretty good chance of meeting my goal pace in Green Bay in 3 weeks.  That alone intimidated me.  What if I couldn’t do it?  Then, would I absolutely fail my attempt in Green Bay?  I have a tendency to over think well, EVERYTHING so the thoughts and questions running through my mind were endless…

I read an article from Runner’s World on how to properly carb load for maximum performance- http://www.runnersworld.com/article/1,7120,s6-242-301–14076-0,00.html?cm_mmc=NL-Nutrition-_-883656-_-04192012-_-Carbo-Load-Correctly– so, I dutifully followed it and between Thursday and Friday took in the extra 1,000 calories it said I needed.

This morning I woke up early at 5am so that I could eat a little and let my tummy settle before the race.  I took 8 immodium this time and I was still nervous that wouldn’t hold me till the finish… I drank a glass and a half of water to “hydrate” a little from the overnight… and slowly got ready.  I tried out Body Glide for the first time- I had been using Desatin Gel to prevent chafing, etc and wondered what the hype was all about for Body Glide.  I was just hoping the hype would be right.

Michael K. picked me up at 6:45 and we headed to the race. It was FREEZING outside.  We waited inside the Drake stadium for as long as we could until my friends arrived at our meeting place.  We were all convulsing in the frigid temperatures anxiously waiting for the gun to go off.

I peed twice after we got to the race and as they started singing the National Anthem, I felt like I had to pee again.  GREAT!  Andrea assured me it was just the cold weather and it would go away once we started running.  I didn’t have a choice, the crowd started moving.  Andrea and I yelled good-bye to Michael and our friends and… we were off!

The first part of the race felt great.  Adrenaline was pumping, the crowd was moving, and we were actually ahead of our pace.  Andrea was checking her watch and had us slow down twice because we were running at a 7:30 min/mile pace.  The feeling like I had to pee did not subside, I told myself mind over matter… if I had to stop, the extra minutes would be hard to make up and I really wanted this PR.  I had to prove it to myself.

The first half of the race, the miles just flew by.  On Waterbury Circle our colleague had a sign posted in her yard and was waiting to cheer Andrea and I on as we passed.  Then, just around the corner another girl from our running group was in her yard banging a cow bell and cheering us on.  The course was littered with spectators who were cheerful and loud- MUCH appreciated!  This is such a great race!  Minus the hills.  It is a very hilly course.  I would say from mile 4 to mile 11.5 we were going through rolling hills, with some steeper hills added in for a “nice touch.” 🙂 (note the sarcasm…)

About mile 6, I was still feeling great.  I took a gel and then took in my first water.  I had skipped the water stops until then because I still had the sense that I had to pee.  By mile 6 though, I knew I needed water and the potty urgency was fading…

The hills kept rolling… mile 8 and a half was a bigger one… Andrea and I were trying to remember the course… was this the “killer” hill?  Was this the last hill?  Nope.  More to come.  All I have to say is that Andrea kicks butt running hills.  My mantra quickly became “just keep up!”  “don’t lose her!”  “keep your eye on the prize!”  and “you feel great- you’ve got this!”  It worked.  Although I was slower going up the hills, I kept Andrea in sight and was able to catch her once we were on flatter roads again.  Actually, I was surprised how good I felt once we were back on flat ground.

I kept scanning the crowds looking for my mom who was coming out to cheer us on.  It became a game and really helped keep my mind occupied trying to spot her along the route.  Finally around 9 and a half miles, I saw the red coat and neon yellow sign- that had to be her.  And it was!  I don’t know what it is, but seeing  friendly face on the route just gives me renewed energy.  I smiled and waved for her to take a picture and yelled out “thank you!” as she yelled back that she’d see us at the finish!  The finish!  We were close!  We rounded a corner and hit another hill… this one was a teaser, it was 3 little ones right after another… at least we had the reprieve of a flat area in between each one.

Turning another corner, we saw it.  The “killer” hill at mile 10.  There was a water stop at the bottom and volunteers were great about encouraging us and telling us it was just a couple blocks up.  I grabbed some water and again started my mantra as Andrea went a little ahead of me “just keep up!”  “don’t lose her!”  It helped.  I kept Andrea in sight and at the top, I was able to catch her again.  At this point, I was sucking air.  I’m sure she heard me coming up behind before she saw me.  I felt like I was breathing loud.  And those runners annoy me when they come up behind me, so I was actually annoying myself at this point.  And then… another hill.  Again, Andrea pulled ahead and I did my best to keep up.  That hill at mile 10 really kicked my butt.  I was feeling it.  But we were so close I just kept telling myself “you’ve got this!”  “keep up!”  “don’t lose her!”  After the hill, I could still Andrea, but I could not catch her.  I looked at my Garmin and I was running a 7:30 pace so I can’t imagine what she was running!  At this point, I started thinking to myself I’m still going to set a PR even if I don’t catch her… then, I got my head back in the game and told myself that’s not good enough!  I needed to catch up to her to finish in my goal time.  I  started running faster and when I was closer, called out to let her know I was coming up.  A guy running next to me yelled back that she’s been looking for me :).  I caught up and told her I needed to back down to an 8 min/mile pace as we had planned.  She said she would follow my pace for a while since she kicked up through the hills.  We were so close to the finish at this point.

I remember passing the 20k mark and thinking “if we were running Dam to Dam, we’d be finished!”  It was shortly after this, I threw up a little bit in my mouth.  Well, I had told myself going into this, if I felt like puking at the end, I’d know I had run it hard!  That actually gave me the motivation to keep going and not to give up.  We past the 12 mile mark and Andrea was yelling that I was going to be ok, we were close.  I cannot believe how strong she was finishing. I knew I would finish in our goal pace by this time, but I was still sucking air…

I felt like I was already sprinting and Andrea was pulling ahead.  I looked at my Garmin again and I was at a 7:47 min/mile pace.  I thought that was a great way to finish.  Andrea is extremely competitive and I did not want to slow her down.  I kept my own pace while keeping her in sight.  She yelled back at me that we only had 3 more blocks until we turned on the street with the finish line.  That was reassuring.  I started counting down the blocks and before I knew it, I turned and saw the finish line.  Sucking air, I decided I could not scan the crowd for my mom or Michael.  Hopefully, if they saw me, they’d yell out.  I did see my friend Lindsey M., who had run the 8k race, along the side of the road and called out hi to her… to my amazement and pure joy, she ran into the street next me and told me she was going to run me in.  I picked up my speed.  I could do this.  Without even thinking, I blurted out “I love you so much right now!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!”  She replied, “oh my god you’re fast!”  I slowed a bit and she just kept reassuring me how close I am.  I could not talk at this point and just nodded affirmation… not like I think she could actually see me nod in response, but it was the best I could do.

Finally, I reached the finish line.  For the first time ever, the announcer called out my name as I came in “and here comes Nicole from West Des Moines!” Lindsey let out a woot woot!  and so did I!  AND… I actually felt great!!!  I clicked stop on my Garmin and high-fived Andrea who had crossed just before me.  I was smiling ear to ear.  I did not feel like puking and surprising it did not take me any time at all to catch my breath.

To my disbelief, I did it!  I actually did it!  I ran this race in my goal time!  Ok… according to my Garmin I ran it in an 8:01 min/mile pace, but hey, that counts in my book 🙂  That’s still faster than what I’m hoping to run Green Bay in and I held it through the hills- Green Bay will not have those hills to overcome 🙂

I found my mom and Michael and gave my mom a huge hug.  Her response “ewwww!  You’re all yucky!” 🙂  haha!  I had forgotten about that!  Michael reached out for a hug next, he had just run the 8k so he was gross and sweaty too so I didn’t worry about getting him all “yucky.”

I have to say, it’s now 3 hours after I crossed the finish line and I am still on the runner’s high.  And I am still in disbelief.  All I can do is thank God for giving me the endurance and the strength to tackle this run and to succeed.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…”

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