It all started immediately after our last half marathon in Cape Cod. Our friend Amber wrote on my Facebook asking me about our December race schedule, I was intrigued. At the time we only had a 5K planned (for next weekend) and she asked if I would be interested in running a half marathon on December 2nd.
I was. I asked if she wanted to pace me to sub-2, sort of joking, and then she said that she would. Our friend Laura, who just qualified for Boston after running a 3:21 marathon, was also going to run the race with us.
Unfortunately, Amber has been dealing with an injury for awhile so she wasn't sure if she was going to run the entire race. She did say that she would run at least part of it with me. I still agreed to run it even after I read the course description and had a minor freak out about the "soul crushing climb to the finish". Yes, the course description actually says that.
Yep, I still agreed to run it even after seeing this
Mike wasn't interested in running, he has been dealing with his post-marathon hip issues slightly so he has been taking it easy.
On Saturday we traveled to Pennsylvania with Laura, Amber and her boyfriend Greg, who was also running the half, were in their car. Just that morning I had realized where the half marathon was taking place: that Penn State. I knew that the race was in Pennsylvania and it was in State College, but I had no idea where it took place. Prepared, I know.
From the menu at dinner, I was the only one who didn't have beer
We went out to dinner on Saturday and then just relaxed the rest of the night. Amber entertained us with more facts about the race and how people describe the course, and I went into it knowing that I might in fact "see God" during the "final excruciating climb". Yes, it is actually described like that.
The race didn't start until 10am on Sunday and our hotel was about 2 minutes away from campus so we were able to sleep in a little bit. I was the only one who had pre-registered so we got there with enough time for everyone else to register. Amber had decided the night before that she was going to run the entire race.
This was a "low frills" race. There were no bibs, no finisher's medals, three water stops and a non-technical shirt. There was chip timing, we had shoe chips, though.
After using the port-a-potties and stretching it was time to head to the start. Mike was planning on driving around the course so that he could see us a few times.
Me, Laura and Greg before the start
A little after 10am, we were off! The course started out with two of the same loops around the campus. Laura held me back and we were right around 9:30 pace for the first mile. We picked it up the second mile at a little under 9:20 pace.
Amber was still with us at this point, but right around 3 miles she took off. I'm glad she had a great race especially since she has been dealing with an injury!
Mike was waiting for us at 3 miles, right after we came in around 9:00 pace, and Laura told him that I was right on pace for sub-2.
There we are! (Laura is in the purple)
Still running at this point
We continued on and I just started to not really feel it. I was mentally struggling, and to be honest I hadn't been digging the race the entire time. I wanted to stop and I think I saw my pace go above 10 minutes and I just stopped. I stopped running and I stopped my watch. I told Laura that I wanted to be done and I gave her every excuse under the sun: my feet hurt, my feet were numb, my calves were tight, I didn't want to do it anymore, etc.
She could have slapped me, Mike gave her permission prior to the race to do so if I complained, but she didn't. She encouraged me and told me that even if I didn't hit my goal that I was still getting in some miles and running another half marathon (my 7th and her 11th).
I stopped complaining and continued on. Unbeknownst to me at this time, Mike had gotten my car stuck on a trail. It was on the course map and it was marked like a road, but it wasn't. He had Facebook messaged Laura and told her what was going on and that he probably wouldn't see us at the finish and to not tell me (I guess he thought of Wineglass and how that affected me). She told him I wasn't going to sub-2 and that we were just going slow and steady.
Laura and I continued on and went through the first water stop. There were some rolling hills at this point and we were running near the airport. Laura pretended that she was an air traffic controller and we watched the planes land and take off. She really was trying to take my mind off of the fact that I did not want to be running.
Around 8 miles, we started to make our way down some hills and then it just grew steeper and steeper. Greg had told us to "swim" our way down hill (really he meant have your arms tread water), so Laura and I pretended we were swimming.
We kept on going, walking when I needed to and running for as long as I could. We saw some guys peeing in the woods, Laura talked about Musselman (which we are both racing), asked me about my favorite Christmas cookies and anything else she could to keep my mind preoccupied.
Around 12 miles we were running along the bike path and then made a turn onto the final hill: 1.24 miles long. We passed this runner named Trisha and she asked us how much more we had and when we said a little over a mile, she mentioned that this was her first half marathon and that it was the longest she had run over 9.3 miles. Laura took her under her wing as well and told her to run with us.
Trisha mentioned two specific female runners that she saw up ahead that she wanted to beat, so we started to pick up the pace as best as we could to do so. The hill was long, and it just kept going.
Finally, we turned back onto campus and we saw Amber and Greg on the sidelines cheering us on. We made the final turn and all three of us crossed the finish line together. (We did beat the women that Trisha had wanted to pass).
I didn't come close to my sub-2 goal, my finishing time was around 2:13 still waiting for the official results, but I am so glad that Laura pushed me to finish the race.
Thanks again, Laura!
I really need to work on my mental game and I know that this is my biggest weakness. I am sad that I won't accomplish my sub-2 goal this year, but I know it will happen for me.
I just need the perfect race.
Oh and if you were wondering, Mike wasn't at the finish when we finished the race. Laura told me what had happened and then we waited for him for about 5-10 minutes. Luckily, my car wasn't damaged!