Before I knew it, packet pick up day had arrived, followed by "prep" day. I spent most of Saturday afternoon mentally putting together my game plan for Sunday morning and making sure I had everything ready that I would need. I also got kind of worried because it seemed pretty easy and that's just never a good sign. Usually it means I've forgotten something really important. Like that time I tried to leave for my long run wearing flip flops.
Amazingly, I did manage to bring everything that I would need* and we got to the event and parked without significant problems (other than the previously mentioned absolute jackasses).
The race got started relatively smoothly. Within a few minutes, we'd all cleared to the starting line and were off and running. The first couple of miles of any long run, for me, are kind of painful, and this was no exception. By the time I hit the mile three marker, I couldn't believe I'd only run three miles and whose dumb ass idea was this, anyway? I hung on and was able to find my groove around mile four, when I started passing people.
I know, right?
The first person I passed was a woman who was run/walking and, apparently, using me as her marker. Whenever I caught up with her, she'd take off running. Trouble was she didn't really get very far before she had to start walking again. She annoyed the crap out of me, so I used the first chance I could to put more distance between us.
I'm so used to being slow that it always amazes me to realize that I have it in me to push past this runner, around that group, to power up that hill instead of just slogging along. Possibly the best thing races like this do for me is open my brain up to the possibility that I'm faster and stronger than I think I am, and that I'm capable of being faster and stronger, even, than that.
By mile six I was feeling strong and fast (you know.. for me). I was powering up hills** and still catching and passing people.
You want to know something amazing? When you're slow as fuck, hitting the next mile marker takes forever.
I got through the halfway point relay exchange, passing through all the folks who ran the first leg of the relay, wandering around with their finisher's medals. Jerks. Then a long stretch of levee road before dropping into Miller Park for a photo op, aid station and turn around.
I don't think I look it, yet, but by the mile ten marker I was pretty done. I had started tweeting each mile marker as I passed it, but skipped the nine mile marker because I was so mad it wasn't the ten mile marker. Like I said, it takes a long time to get to each marker when you're slow, and sometimes it seems like it's been so long maybe they didn't put that one out, or maybe you missed it in the throngs of people (not). But then it turns out you just haven't gotten there, yet, and, really? What the fuck?
The stretch of mile eleven, up Riverside Blvd. had blockades and volunteers cheering at each intersection. As you wind down mile eleven, you see William Land Park coming and know that the entire rest of the race is within that park, which isn't all that big if you really think about it.
It's big enough to have almost a full two and a half miles left of the race within the park without having to do laps.
I spent a lot of time walking after getting back inside the park. I was ok with that. I had estimated that I would come in around 3:45 and I was pretty confident that I would not come in after the four hour cut off. I did make an effort to run most of that last half mile because, you know, that's where you're passing through all the people.
I also made sure to keep running all the way over the finish line and past the photographers.
Honest, I'm running in this photo.
After I was handed my finisher's medal I got my "red carpet" finisher's photo:
Then I proceeded to fail at finding food, free beer or my wife before grabbing a bag of ice from the first aid station, climbing into the van and heading towards actual food and beer.
It's weird to me, that in my head I'm torn between two realities. One in which having completed a half marathon is no big deal, after all, didn't I run 16 miles the weekend before? The other where holy crap I completed a half marathon! I earned my first finisher's medal and finally have a half marathon shirt I can wear because I DID IT.
Like I said before, I was able to confirm with the organizers of the Four Bridges Half Marathon that, while they cannot guarantee aid stations will still be open after the cut off, the finish line operation (including timing and - hopefully - medal hand out) should still be going when I finally come through.
Now maybe we can chat about something other than running for five minutes.
*Next time, I think I'm going to pack extra fluid and something to snack on for after, as well as one of those instant ice packs. Just in case post-race amenities are lacking. Again.
**Being Sacramento, we don't have hills, we have "hills".