My race bib and finisher's medal
Finally, after a 9-year hiatus from running, I've completed my first race, a 1/2 marathon which I ran intending it to be a training run for the upcoming Gettysburg North-South Marathon on May 1. Talk about nervous! It was like I was running my first marathon all over again! I'd been watching the extended forecast for April 9 in New Holland, Pennsylvania, and for days all that was forecast was rain, rain, rain. And cold. And thunderstorms. New Holland is about a 2 hour drive from where I live, so I opted to travel down that way the day before and stay with my son, who lives about 40 minutes from New Holland. I packed enough clothes to last me a week, I think....I just wasn't sure what to expect, weather-wise, and I wanted to be prepared. Thankfully the morning of the race dawned overcast and cool (40-ish degrees F), but NO RAIN! Woot! Perfect for a long run.
Race morning I ate a banana, about 1/2 cup of rice (white...didn't want to add too much fiber at this point!), and a small piece of vegetarian quiche that my future daughter-in-law made (and was extremely delicious, by the way!). I'd been hydrating heavily the day before, so didn't drink coffee or too much water the morning of the race. I HATE needing to stop at the port-a-pots along the race course. For supper the night before I stopped at a McDonalds, something I haven't done in years (!!), and got a fish sandwich, sans tarter sauce. I now eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat fish/seafood so I'm technically a pescatarian. I've also eliminated most grains from my diet, along with all sugars and anything that will drastically raise my blood sugar in an attempt to combat the follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that I struggle with. However, I NEED carbs in my diet when running long distances. In my former marathon life I always stopped and got an Arby's roast beef sandwich the night before the marathon, soooooo, the fish sandwich sort of took the place of that. Also for supper Marlenah, my future daughter-in-law, served up some delicious roasted asparagus, baked sweet potatoes, and a to-die-for quinoa/feta/spinach salad. And to top it all off, I had a small glass (or 2) of their homemade Concord wine. Bliss.
Mad rush to use the port-a-pots at the start of the race......
So, back to race day morning. I arrived at the start of the race, Garden Spot Village (a beautiful place, by the way!), nearly an hour before the race started. This gave me time to wander around, use the port-a-pot, stretch, warm-up, check out the competition (yeah, right!) and in general just make myself more nervous than I already was! I dressed in black tights, gloves, long-sleeved t-shirt and a black Livestrong short-sleeved t-shirt over that, and wore my running jacket over that. I opted to NOT wear my fanny pack since there are pockets in my jacket to stash my cell phone (so I could take pix!), Kleenex, and little plastic bag of M&M's. I figured with a water/Gatorade stop every 2 miles I wouldn't need to carry extra H2O. It was bliss not running with a fanny pack smacking me all along the way, though the pockets in my jacket were full, so that was nearly as bad.
I lined up about 3/4 of the way to the back of the pack. In retrospect I should have gone a little closer to the front of the pack since they didn't use chips for this race. I could have shaved a good 20 seconds (maybe 30) off my overall time if I'd been closer to the front. With around 1,000 people in the race, it takes a while for the pack to cross the start line.
The pack started moving, and honestly, I couldn't tell when the race started until I heard people cheering and they began surging forward! How'd I miss that?! Either I'm getting deaf, or they just didn't use any kind of loud noise to start things off. And I nearly forgot to turn on my Garmin Forerunner 305 until about a minute before the race started....with the day as overcast as it was, I'm lucky the Garmin was able to acquire the satellites in time!
Thankfully the pack moved kind of slow at first....made for a nice warm-up. I honestly felt rather yucky at the start of the race; kind of like my blood sugar was out of whack, and was afraid I'd be doing lots of walking. But, I kept trudging on and kept popping M&M's every half mile or so to make sure I had enough energy. I drank either water or Gatorade at every water station. And that first set of port-a-pots....I really, really needed to visit, but saw people hop into them just as I was getting there, and hoped I could last until the second set. A wise old experienced marathoner once told me that if you can make it past that first set of port-a-pots, DO, because they're always the busiest. Glad I heeded that advice, because the second set was un-occupied and I was in and out in under a minute I think.
And I must say that, even though I live and train in Central Pennsylvania and hills are everywhere you go, this was indeed a hilly course! The hills weren't outrageously huge or steep, but they were there, and for anyone not used to hills, well, I feel sorry for them trying to compete in this particular race! I positively HATE running up hills, but I LOVE running down them! I tend to walk up steep or very long hills just to conserve energy, then I barrel down the other side. Works well for me. Gravity is my friend on the downhills. At the end of this race, a fellow that I constantly passed (on the downhills), then got passed by (on the uphills), came up to me and said, "I have to ask...when you were training for this race, did you have someone drive you to the top of a mountain and drop you off so you could run down it?!" Made me laugh because, yeah, I do tear down the hills pretty quickly :-) The hilliest marathon I ever ran has to be the Stowe Marathon (Vermont). Monster hills!
I kept checking my Garmin and could see that I was keeping a pretty decent pace. When I started the race I was HOPING I could finish in 2 hours, but realized that in all likelihood it would be closer to 2:10 or 2:15. My legs felt great and I didn't get too out of breath, but towards the halfway point I started feeling tired....so I popped more M&Ms :-) A couple miles from the turnaround point, the eventual winner came streaking towards me and passed by in a blur....whoa! That dude is FAST!
One thing I enjoyed about this course is the fact that it was mostly all rural. Lots of Amish families sitting along the roadside cheering us on. One family in particular was overly enthusiastic, and a small child was blasting a trumpet every few seconds as we passed. Made me smile and I was thankful that they took time out of their busy schedules to cheer us on.
The closer I got to the end of the race, the more I realized that if I kept the pace I was going, I might actually finish in under 2 hours! Talk about motivation! I picked up the pace just a tad, and could feel the effects from that, but trudged on....about 1/2 mile from the end I spied an "older" woman ahead of me and thought perhaps I could beat her and maybe actually place in my age group, me being an "older" woman and all....so I picked it up even more and zipped past her about 1/4 mile from the end.
I crossed the finish line in 1:59:41....19 seconds to spare! I was actually quite overwhelmed that I finished in under 2 hours and came very close to getting teary-eyed at the thought!
The finisher's medal was placed around my neck, I was handed a bottle of delicious water, and was given a Mylar "blanket" to keep warm. At the time I didn't need the blanket, but it sure felt good later as I started cooling down and my sweat-dampened clothes started sucking the heat out of me.
I wandered over to the recovery tent, grabbed some granola, orange juice, several recovery bars, coffee....mmmm. I looked for several people I've "met" on DailyMile, but didn't see anyone that looked familiar, though since I'd never actually met them I really didn't know what they might look like other than the few photos I've seen.
I stuck around for the awards ceremony on the off chance that maybe I'd actually placed in my age group. Apparently, according to the official results posted on-line, I got first in my age group (50-54), however, the awards that were handed out were for "grandmasters", which I believe were the over 50 crowd. I missed placing in that by 2 minutes. I'm not sure how the placing worked for this race....maybe the top 3 were given grandmaster awards, then the next ones that placed were placed according to their age group (if that makes sense), because the top 3 grandmasters were all in the 50-54 age group. Go figure! So it's almost like I got 4th???? Don't know.
So, I'm stoked. I'm now thinking that if I train a little harder, maybe I can become a bit more competitive. One good thing about being an older runner is, there's not quite as much competition. Interestingly, if I had been younger with the time I had, I would have gotten a first place trophy in the 19 and under category. This old lady kicked young girl butt!
The 2 hour drive home was uneventful, though I got very, very tired. Looking ahead to future races...I've got a 5K trail run coming up on April 23, then the Gettysburg Marathon on May 1 and the Rivertowns 1/2 Marathon on May 7.
And I must say....I love going to races for many reasons. One thing I love is to look around at all the runners and see so many people that are in shape! Most places, (malls, etc.) you go all you see is fat, obese, out of shape people tottering around. At races, it's wonderful!
NOTE: Several days after the race I received a small but heavy package in the mail containing the following award. Guess I left too early!!
The award I didn't know I'd won!