Mike and I ran a 2 mile shake-out run on Saturday morning, brought Bernie to boarding, packed and then hit the road. Erie is about 2 and a half hours away from our house so we weren't in that much of a rush. We went to packet pickup first, it went smoothly and quickly, and then we checked into our hotel.
We were meeting up with some of our friends who were also in town for the race for dinner. Our friend, Jess, was running her first marathon and Amber and Greg were there as well. Amber was going to be running 20 miles with Jess, I just can't say enough how amazing Amber is! The 10 of us (including some littles and Jess' husband and parents) enjoyed our dinner together and we gave Jess some last minute advice: basically just keep moving no matter what!
Mike and I took showers when we got back to the hotel and then went to bed. We had set the alarm for 5am because it was recommended that people get to the entrance of the park by 5:45am (there is really only one road in and out of the park, it's a loop, so it was a bit crowded). We got to the park around 5:50am and got a parking spot pretty easily. We sat in the car for a few minutes, it was still pretty dark, and then we made our way over to the start/finish line area.
We found Amber, Greg and Greg's daughter as soon as we got over to the start. Jess had texted me letting me know she was there as well and Amber and I went to look for her. We didn't find her at first, but then we went back and eventually found her. She seemed calm and ready for the long day ahead of her!
Soon it was time for Jess and Amber to line up, the marathon started at 7am and the half started at 7:30am, and I got in line for the bathroom. It took FOREVER (though I could have saved time if I used the port-a-potties but if I have a choice I will use a real bathroom)! I finally got through the line and found Mike, Greg and Jess' husband, son and parents.
I listened to Amber and Greg who both told me I needed to do a warm-up before the race and I did approximately a .5 to .75 mile warm-up (I didn't turn my watch on). I felt good but immediately after I finished my calves tightened a little bit.
Mike and I said goodbye to everyone and we went to find our places at the start. All week Mike had been waffling back and forth on whether or not he was going to run with me or run his own race, and he decided to run his own race. He wasn't sure if he was going to PR or not but he would try and said he wouldn't be disappointed if he didn't do it.
After a few announcements, the countdown began and at 7:30am we were off! We crossed the start line with the song "Hit the Road Jack" playing and I just told myself not to dodge people (that song was stuck in my head for the first few miles of the race).
The race course is a loop, the half marathoners did one loop and the marathoners did two loops, in Presque Isle State Park and it is really pretty but everything looks the same. It is hard for me to remember exactly what happened during the race because there were so few landmarks to distinguish memories in my mind. I zoned out in the beginning, skipped the first water stop and started to take my energy chews at mile two (I took two honey stinger chews each time).
The first few miles came in at 8:29, 8:27 and 8:27. Keep in mind that I intended to run at 8:40 pace, but I kind of threw that out the window in the beginning and just told myself to go for it (within reason). I tried to pull back but at the turn around (mile 3) I got a high-five from a volunteer and another volunteer said it was a nice day for a run and this caused me to pick up the pace, mile 4 came in at 8:21 pace.
Mike looking strong in the middle of the race
I knew I had to reign it in, so I slowed a little bit. I had taken my second set of energy chews at mile 4 and things were working out nicely. There were water stops every mile and I took water at most of them. Miles 5 and 6 came in at 8:26 and 8:30. I think I took a third set of energy chews at mile 6 and then I got THE WORST stomach cramp I have ever experienced while running.
This has happened to me a few times and I know that they go away eventually but it was the first time I truly worried about my sub-2. I focused on deep breathing, and slowed down a bit, and told myself, "it is your day, no one can take it away from you including yourself". Mile 7 came in at 8:50 pace.
I skipped my next round of energy chews, while still taking water at the water stops, and the cramp did go away. I was able to pick up the pace a bit and mile 8 came in at 8:39 pace. I knew I had it in the bag then, I just didn't know what my finish time would be. I really hoped I could continue with sub-9 minute pace the entire race.
As we approached the back end of the park, I noticed that it was windier. The sun had come out so some breeze was welcome but it was a bit of a headwind. This is the one part of the race that looked a bit different from the rest because you could see more of the water. Presque Isle State Park is truly beautiful! I took more energy chews around mile 9 and that mile came in at 8:49 pace.
I should mention that at this point I saw the 15K marker and looked at my watch. I was at about 1 hour and 19 minutes, which is a SEVEN minute PR! I was running so fast that I PR'd every distance (5 mile, 10K, 15K, 10 mile) during the race (except the 5K distance) and I actually have a new official 10K PR. There was a timing mat at the 10K point and I crossed in 52:18, which is a 2 minute PR!
Around mile 10, I started to slow. I hit mile 10 still at sub-9 minute pace at 8:57 and knew I had it even if I slowed to 10 minute miles. There was a slight uphill at the back end of the park, which was welcome because I had to use different muscles, and I just kept pushing.
The last three miles are my biggest disappointments of the race. I wish I could have mentally pushed a little bit harder to keep my paces under 9 minutes, but I was starting to fatigue. As we got closer to mile 11, we apparently passed the lighthouse and I didn't notice. Though in my defense it is on the beach so it is harder to see from the road!
The lighthouse from the beach
Mile 11 came in at 9:06 pace and now I really knew I had it. I just kept pushing to the finish and one spectator yelled to another runner, "you've got this, sub-2!" The entire race I never wanted to prematurely celebrate and I still didn't at this point, you never know what could happen! I took my last energy chew (just one this time since I was so close to the finish) and pushed on.
Mile 12 came in at 9:11 pace and I told myself to pick it up. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and I high-fived a kid at the last water station (where I took water) and he told me he liked my shirt. I was wearing my "I <3 Sweat" shirt and it always gets recognized during races!
I skipped the last water stop, it was only .6-ish miles away from the finish and rounded the last corner. I was a little annoyed I couldn't see the finish line but I just kept pushing and looking for Mike on the sidelines. Mile 13 came in at 9:06 pace.
As I got closer, I could see it! I pushed and then I saw Mike! He cheered me on, and told me to get my butt in there, and then I saw Greg. He had a huge smile on his face and told me that he was going to go get my juice (Amber and Greg were nice and got all of us drinks for after our races). The last people I saw on the sidelines cheering me on were Jess' husband and son, they pointed to the finish line and I ran as hard as I could! (The last .13 miles were at 8:07 pace).
I had done it! I was FINALLY a sub-2 half marathoner! I had achieved my goal and I finished in 1:54:22 which is 8:44 pace! I was really close to running 8:40 average pace and I was thrilled!
I got my medal, some water and my photo taken and then I found Mike. We went back in and they let us take a finisher's photo together! Mike told me he had PR'd as well and he ran a great race (and helped another runner accomplish his goal)! He finished in 1:43:31, I am so proud of him and happy that he ran his own race instead of running with me!
Finally part of the sub-2 club!
We found the rest of our group and then went to cheer for Jess. Amber would be almost done running with Jess at this point. About 20 minutes after we got to the spot, we saw them! Jess looked great and still had a smile on her face. Amber kept running and then we saw her turn around, we thought she had decided to stop early but she came back and asked me, "how did you do!?" I told her my time and she gave me the biggest hug and then ran back to catch up with Jess.
Amber came back a little while later (she ran with Jess until mile 20 and then had to turn around to get back to us). We all went to the finish line and waited for Jess to finish her first 26.2. Eventually she came through and CRUSHED it!!! She did amazing and I am so proud of her!
This weekend was amazing and I am so happy that everyone achieved their goals in Erie.
I am, however, now dreaming of a sub-1:50 half marathon!