Columbus Half 2013 – The Race that Almost Wasn’t

Columbus Marathon Weekend!

Sat, Oct 19 – EXPO DAY!!
It started on Saturday shopping at the Expo with Angie and getting caught up at lunch. We made plans to meet at 6:30 am at the church downtown and run together. We had never run a race together and we were excited to do this! We talked about our goals and since Angie was not totally feeling at her best racing self we decided we would pursue my PR and run together. I had run a 2:31:12 at my first half in Cleveland in 2011 and then a 2:31:14 in Pittsburgh in 2012 (yes, I’m consistent!!!). So my goal was to just beat that time, but my dream was really to get like 2:20 or 2:25. Angie and I had both traveled to Columbus on our own – she staying with friends south of the city and me staying with my sister and her family north of the city. With a chilly, but non-rain forecast for Sunday we were set!

After a great pasta dinner with my sis and fam I went to bed at 10pm ready for the restless sleep that always comes with the night before the race for me. The night before is the one that counts and that one was a good night!!

Sun, Oct 20 – RACE DAY!!
I was up at 5am for a 5:30am departure downtown. Bagel and coffee consumed, but I didn’t have to go to the bathroom before I left. This might be TMI, but these things are important on race day!!!

Have to take an early race day pic!!

I had been a little nervous about driving and parking by myself (I usually have my “roadies” with me to drop me off, but they were busy at home with church stuff and lacrosse stuff this weekend), so I had planned ahead and bought a parking pass online for a parking garage in the arena area right by the start. Smart, right? Right. I flew downtown quickly, but ran into stopped traffic right at the exit. My GPS said I had 2 minutes to get to the garage, but somehow I doubted that given that I was stuck in major traffic! At about 6:10am Angie texted me saying she was already there and looking for a bathroom. Almost right on cue I realized, yes, I had to go to the bathroom, like now!! Sitting in traffic that was out of my control, I tried to think positively. “Hey, at least I’m not outside freezing yet!”. It was about 32 degrees that morning – yikes! Soon it was past 6:30am and I was still in line to park. I was feeling a bit panicked, but realized I just had to park, check my gear and meet Ang. It will be fine. Positive self talk – check. I finally turned the corner and saw a sign that said passes only this lane.

“Yes!!”, I thought. “I made it! I’m so glad I bought this pass – I have my own lane and everything – I totally got this!!”

I came up to a traffic worker just to confirm that this was the lane for the McConnell garage. He told me no. I had just passed my garage. I had to go down and around and back the other way, etc. Oh shit!!!!! Are you kidding me!!!!! I did not have time to reroute myself to find this elusive garage. At this point I was so frustrated and upset that I threw the parking pass to the passenger side of the car and for about 10 seconds considered turning my car back around and going back to my sisters house. After a few expletives I decided to give it one more try before giving up. I turned down some random road only to see a parking $10 sign with an attendant at the entrance.

“Yes!!! I’ll just park there instead!!”, feeling some light at the end of the tunnel.

I pulled up to the attendant and opened my wallet to find 4 dollar bills…only. Are you freaking kidding me right now?!!” I quickly explained my situation to the attendant, but he was not interested in just looking the other way and letting me in. Instead he explained that there was an ATM machine down the street and around the corner. Oh, I am so screwed. , I thought to myself. I pulled in a parking spot, grabbed my ATM card and the rest of my stuff and as I was weighing out the pros and cons of just leaving my car there without paying for a ticket a car pulled in right next to me. Realizing that this route would probably mean my car would be towed, I decided to pursue another option.

“Does anyone have any money I could borrow?”, I holler out to the air. I notice the couple in the car next to me, both marathoners, were looking at me now. I basically begged (panhandled as my husband called it) them to borrow some money. I quickly explained my situation to them and they just asked me how much I needed. In the next instant they were handing me the $6 I needed. I tried to get their names, but they just wished me luck. I figured that a) they just needed to get to the start and were running out of time too or b) they just wanted to make the crazy lady go away. It was probably a little bit of both. I thanked them profusely. God Bless them – I will probably never know who they were. Crisis finally averted, I thought. Right.

I booked up to the start line area and texted Angie to meet me at the gear check. I checked my gear and made the last minute decision to keep my sweatshirt on. I had never sacrificed a piece of apparel in a race, but it was SO chilly (about 35 degrees) and I was so stressed that it seemed the easiest and most logical thing to do at this point. It was my gray Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center hoodie, but I remembered I had at least one other one at home. After only one VERY successful trip to the bathroom (remember I usually make three trips on race morning), I texted Ang and said I was all set. She called me and said that she was stuck in the corral and could not get out to find me. I headed down to find her, but the crowd was too big. We stayed on the phone for like 5 minutes (it was now like 7:25 with a start time of 7:30) trying to describe landmarks so we could find each other, but it was no use. We didn’t know what to do!!! We then decided our last ditch effort to meet up would be a the starting line. Okay, good plan. So I moved up to the starting line with group B and stopped at the start, facing the crowd. The race officials looked at me suspiciously and asked me if I had a bib on. I remembered I was wearing my sweatshirt over my bib so I quickly showed them the bib and told them I was meeting a friend so they knew I wasn’t a shady character (stupid Boston bombers). I started waving my hands back and forth hoping Angie would see me. Soon all of corral B had started the race with no Angie in sight. Then I heard my phone go off and I looked at my text message tracking thing alerting me that Angie had started the race. My heart sunk. I missed her and she started. I was on my own. Epic fail number 568 of this morning.

I was disappointed, but I hadn’t gone through all this training and this crazy stressful morning to just throw in the towel now. So I reminded myself of one of my favorite mantras…”if it’s to be, it’s up to me” and I started the race.

Before starting I managed to take one pic of the crowd and sunrise.

My goal was to keep my pace between about 10:30 and 11 min. I was glad I had kept my sweatshirt on.

Me with my sacrificial hoodie!!

I ended up ditching it around mile 3 and the gloves around mile 5. It is always amazing how much clothing is littered along the race route in the early miles. It made me feel better to remind myself that all the discarded clothing gets donated. I felt good and got warmed up by mile 3. At around mile 5 I had this epiphany. The hardest part of this day is over, I realized. The stress of getting ready, being on time, parking, traffic, finding where to go, etc was done. Now all I had to do was run!! This was extremely freeing and motivating for me!! So run I did!

It was a pretty uneventful race at the beginning. I felt good and grabbed Gatorade or water at all but the first fuel stop. I didn’t walk at all this time, though. I just grabbed it sipped and ran through. The crowd was awesome, the entertainment and music was really cool and motivating. I saw some really funny signs too. My favorite was “You are running better than our government!!” Love it!!!

By the 9 miles I was feeling pretty good and wondering how my time was looking. According to my watch at 10 miles I was still before 2 hours – maybe like 1:53 or so!! This is good, I thought – I think I have a decent chance to PR! I only had 3 miles left and had to get it done in quicker than 30 minutes. At one point I knew I could run the last 2 miles at an 11 minute pace and still PR. I was tired, but I asked myself if I really wanted this and my immediate answer was, “yes, I do!!” I just felt great the whole race. No injuries, no concerns, just felt strong. So I pumped it up a bit more and came screaming into the finish feeling like I crushed my PR and I was right!! My time was 2:19:56!!! I found out later that I cut my time by almost 12 minutes!! Angie met me at the finish and we hugged, took some pics and did all the finish stuff together, including massage time!!

So glad Ang met me at the finish!!


Waiting for massages!!

My awesome congrats greeting from my sissy and nephews!!

What a great day. My body is very tired as I write this, but I feel so good, happy and accomplished. Here are my stats based on the other half finishers:

My chip time: 2:19:56
10:41 per mile (view kilometer pace)
Age Graded Percentage: 50 percent
Overall Place 6303 out of 10108 (62%)
Sex Place 3560 out of 6451 Females (55%)
Division Place 348 out of 721 Females in the F4044 Age Group (48%)

I also drilled down a bit further to see where I placed among the 44 year-old females (yes, I’m crazy). I was number 42 out of 97 44 year-old women so I was in the top half!! Yahoo!!! Yes, this race was kind of a big deal.

Natural Runner

So I used to be a skeptic when it came to anyone being a “natural” anything. I cringed at the phrase natural mother (well, I still don’t like that one), and I resisted the urge to believe that anyone was a natural anything. I mean it was always my belief that if you worked hard enough you could achieve any goal you set out for yourself. Call me a naive optimist, but in spite of possessing areas of strength or special abilities I always believed that generally people could strive to learn or do whatever they put their minds to. Well, today I am finally a believer in the concept of someone being a “natural” something – all thanks to my dear runner friend.

It happened during our normal pre-lunch run locker room chat. My friend mentioned that she ran for an 1 hour and 1/2 over the weekend.

I said, “What? You are kidding me!”.

Now, let me explain. This friend is not training for anything right now. She typically runs about 3 times a week or so at 3 miles a run, usually.

She said, “Yeah, it was such a beautiful day and I was looking for this one trail head…”

Um, yeah – that is why I usually run for 1 hour and 1/2. NOT! If I ever run for 90 minutes (or 9ish miles) you better believe it is part of a training program!! I don’t think my body would react well to going from my typical 3 milers to all of a sudden a big nine-er!! This is why they developed training programs that build miles on slowly – to help the body get used to the distance and to prevent injury, etc. But not my girl!! No, she just gets the idea to run long and runs long…like that!! No injuries, no probs. She is the bomb. And she is also a little crazy. She is the one who had a full phone conversation with a friend while running an entire 6 miles!! And I bet she did most of the talking to boot based on her chattiness on our runs (thank God!)!!! Told you she was crazy and I’m so glad!!

So I said, “You know, you are seriously a natural runner, girl – to be able to pull that off.”

She agreed, but then said, “Yeah, but Lisa, you are the better athlete because you work so hard.”

Not sure about that, but it made me feel really good and I was somehow finally okay that I was not a “natural runner”. I didn’t have to be a “natural” or fast or anything else to be a runner. I just had to run. I thought of the typical situation in school where there is the one kid who seems to never have to study and excels at school and then the other who has to work hard for good grades. I realized then that it does not really matter which is which because the result is the same. As we say in yoga, “we are all the same.” The same thing goes for running. What matters is that we put on our shoes, hit the pavement, sweat, laugh, talk, …and run. And why do we keep showing up? Well, its only natural.