Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My First 13.1

It began a year ago.  I came upon a friend's Facebook post that she had just finished the 2012 William's Route 66 Half Marathon.  When she announced that she signed up for next year's Half, it was only $40, and who wanted to run it with her, I thought about it for a second and immediately signed up too.  From that moment on my journey began. 

I began running 2 years ago and up until now had never ran more than 4 miles.  I was a little hesitant but remembered hearing from another friend that if I could run a 5K distance I could train to run a Half.  She had also told me about a local running group that met in the summer to train for the Louisiana marathon in January.  I contacted them, was assured that I could train with them and be ready for my Half in November, and signed up.  Training began in August so I had about 4 months to get ready.

On November 22, 2013 my husband, two boys, and I packed our bags and drove the 6 hours from Bossier City, LA to Tulsa, OK for the 2013 William's Route 66 Marathon.  This was my first race that the entire family would get to experience, and I was excited that everyone wanted to be apart of my experience.

It was a cold, rainy evening when we finally left town.  We arrived in Tulsa around 2 a.m., and it was freezing cold!  Good thing I packed everything from shorts to tights and jackets.  No need to wonder what I was going to wear anymore because it was 32 degrees and not expected to get any warmer that weekend.

I woke up Saturday morning to the most amazing view from the 9th floor of our hotel.  The first thing I noticed was a running trail next to the hotel. I wanted to run that trail so bad, but since we got in late I had slept late, and now it was time to get ready to meet up with my friend who I hadn't seen in 10 years.  The rain had stopped and the forecast called for cold, cloudy, and windy for the next 2 days.

We spent that day picking up our race packets, walking around the expo exhibit, and then driving the course so I would know what to expect.  She told me that the course had changed and there were lots of hills.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  With plans for her to come by and pick me up at 6:30 a.m., I arrived back at the hotel that evening, laid out all of my racing gear, set my alarm for 4:30 a.m., and we all went to bed early.

At 4:15 a.m. my 13 year old son, who always sleeps late, wakes me up.  I look at my clock and tell him I still have 15 more minutes and why is he up?   After hitting my alarm clock a couple of times and my son telling me to get up, I decide it's finally time to get up around 4:45.  Normally I have this time to myself as I get ready, but I was actually glad he was awake.  We talked as I got dressed and ate my half sandwich with peanut butter, half of a banana, drank my coffee, and water. I think he really helped to calm my nerves.

My husband began waking up around 6:00.  I spent a few minutes going over some details of where they would be standing and how to get around street closures.  At 6:30 my friend arrived at the hotel and we were off.

The race began and ended in downtown Tulsa.  Her timing was perfect as we were able to get downtown before all of the street closures.  We found a parking spot in between the start and finish line.  Since we arrived in plenty of time before the race started we did a quick warm up jog to the Fleet Feet Sports store that was nearby.  It was 22 degrees with a 12 degree windchill.  We joined the hundreds of other runners trying to keep warm before the race.  No one had expected it to be this cold, and I kept hearing how this was unusual.  I assured my friend that I did not bring the cold weather with me.  The store took a group photo of all of us then we headed out into the cold.  We headed to a nearby hotel to find a restroom, checked our bags in, and headed to the start line.

Once we got to the start line we had to separate.  She was in corral A and I was in C.  I knew we wouldn't be running together and was ok with that.  We wished each other good luck, and I told her I would see her at the finish line.  I heard the national anthem being sung as I headed to my corral.  I quickly walked up to my wave group as it ended and found a spot in the middle of the group.  As I waited for my wave to begin running I chatted with a woman next to me while trying to keep my feet moving.  It was so cold I could not feel my toes.  Our wave was finally given the go. We quickly moved up, the horn went off, and away we went as I pressed my start button on my Garmin watch.  There was plenty of entertainment to be seen amongst us runners.  You never know what you will see in a race.

 We headed down Main Street, turned the corner, and immediately had to run downhill.  Thank goodness I was prepared since my friend and I had drove the course the day before.  She warned me to not go out too fast because this is just the first mile and there will be more hills.  Yes, I listened!  I got down to the bottom of the hill and was greeted with the first band.  I was all smiles.  Just as soon as I came down that hill it was time to head up the next one.  Yes, this is still mile 1!  I turned the corner at mile 1 and the first thing I saw were clothes everywhere.  People were shedding shirts, pants, gloves, and even trash bags.  Not me! I was not shedding anything, and I still couldn't feel my toes!

As we ran past mile 2 the course led us through Cascia Hall Preparatory School.  I could have stopped right here and gazed at this building for awhile.  The architecture was absolutely beautiful.  This is one of the great things about running.  You get to see things you never knew existed.

Around mile 3 I could finally start to feel my toes again. We ran past mile 4 and 5, which had more hills, then I pulled out my first GU energy gel.  At the 10K point, I began looking for my family.  I was surprised at how many spectators had came out to support us all along the course, especially in such freezing temperatures.  I don't know if they realize how much their cheers and support means to the runners, but it was amazing!  Every time I passed a spectator cheering us on I would thank them.  At the half way point I spotted my family.  They were holding their signs for me and saying your half way there.  I laughed as I passed Caleb and his sign, "Just Keep Swimming!"

I ran through mile 7 and as I reached mile 8 I heard my son calling my name.  I looked over and saw my husband driving and following me along Peoria Ave.  I smiled and waved back at my family as they drove on ahead.  They drove as far down as they could until we had to turn after mile 8.  I looked over one more time and saw my son waving his "Just Keep Swimming" sign.  I laughed, gave him a thumbs up, and kept on going.

We turned on to Riverside Dr. and at mile 9 I pulled out another GU.  Thankfully, this was a flat stretch of three miles along the Arkansas River.  At mile 10 I heard someone shout, "That was a 10 mile warm-up, now just a 5K left!"  At this point I was starting to slow down.  I started to feel a little annoying pain on the outside of my left knee.  I had been doing my run 3 min/ walk 2 min pace, but now began to do a little longer walk break than 2 min.  I made my way through mile 11 and then turned onto Southwest Blvd to mile 12 and passed under a bridge with a Route 66 sign.

At mile 12, I was ready to get to the finish line.  With only a 1/2 mile or so to go I was barely shuffling along.  I looked up and saw the one thing I did not want to see, another hill.  Ugh! This one I had to walk up as my knee was hurting again.  About that time I saw my friend, who had already finished, run up next to me encouraging me on. We made it up the hill and I took off running again.  A little ways down I thought my right calf was going to cramp up on me so I slowed down.  It didn't.  I turned the last corner and spotted the finish line.  I ran through the finish line, with hands in the air, and a big smile on  my face.  I had just finished my first half marathon!  I finished in 3 hours, 20 seconds.

I walked through the row of volunteers handing out race blankets and medals.  Once I got my medal, I spotted the photographers taking pictures.  I put down my things and posed for my finishing picture.  At this point I could feel every muscle in my legs.  It hurt to even bend down to pick up my water.  I walked through a tent where more volunteers were serving small cups of spaghetti with a roll and handing out water and Gatorade.  As I walked on through the tent grabbing my food and drinks, I  saw my friend.  We made our way to the bag check area congratulating each other.  If it wasn't so cold I would have loved to walk around some.  I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband.  He said they were back at the hotel so I asked my friend if she could drop me back off at the hotel.  Wearing our medals, we began our walk to the car.  After running 13.1 miles, walking to the car was not fun.  She told me that walking was what I needed to do and that it would help me.

After making plans to meet back up for dinner, I went back to the hotel to clean up and pack for the trip back home.  We met back up one last time to visit, take pictures, and eat.  We even made plans to do another one again someday together.

 A big THANK YOU goes out to my long time best friend, Amy, for making this journey a reality and an experience I will never forget.