Monday, October 21, 2013

Des Moines Half Marathon

Are you ready for the full version of my first half marathon race? Are you sure? A half marathon is 13.1 miles long...

My friend, Amber, has been joining me on my long runs for the past two and a half months. About every other Saturday we would wake up early (4:45-5:00) and hit the road for 12-14 miles. She wasn't training for anything. She was just going out to run with me to see if she could do it. What a rock star! 

I was using the training plan of Half Marathon: Own It from Train Like a Mother for my trail races this fall. Essentially, I wanted a plan that would toughen me up for trail running. It happened to get me over 13.1 miles three times and all the way to 15 miles, which is my race distance I'm going for currently (25k). 

The trail race I was hoping to run filled up sooner than I expected and I didn't get in. So I thought, well, why not jump in the Des Moines Half? Amber, the awesome, said she'd join me. And that's how we found ourselves Sunday morning lining up with the masses in downtown Des Moines. 

I have the most pictures of this race because Bill and the kids came to cheer us on. Audrey manned the camera and documented the morning.

Here they are... walking towards the race course and walking away from the parking ramp, of which the exact location was forgotten and took a while to locate post-race.    

This is towards the beginning of the race, maybe between mile 1 and 2. I didn't know where they would be and when I spied them, I was obviously thrilled. 

Hahaha! I meant to show you this picture to highlight that when you're running, you look for things to look at and you can tell that from the other runners looking over towards us. But, if you look carefully, it looks like a giant water bottle is running. See? It has red shoes, blue tights... Ahahaha!

And then I attacked everyone in my family with a hug and kiss. 

And then Amber and I ran away, not knowing when we would see them again.

Since there were approximately 10,000 athletes over the weekend running the full marathon, half, 5k, my family took to a coffee shop for warmer spectating.

Then they were off to find another spot to watch us. Notice the clothes strewn along the sidewalk. No, there weren't any naked people running. 
There were a couple of things I didn't know how to deal with for this race. One was the parking and, thankfully, we found a parking spot very quickly. The other was the wait among the tall buildings before the race started. It would be about 35-40 degrees during that time and I wasn't going to be warmed up yet from running. I asked on Run Like A Mother's Facebook page about what to do and the loud and clear answer was throw away clothes. Layer up with old clothes for before the race then ditch them as you need to. So I grabbed an old sweatshirt from my closet and a pair of old sweatpants from Audrey's closet and wore those to the start. I took them off about 10 minutes before the start and put them on the sidewalk. A shelter service comes around, bags them up, and takes care of them for their uses.

 Looks like they found a spot.

 Good thing, too, because here come Amber and I. This is about mile 11. 
Note the girl with the blue shirt and yellow lei around her neck. She became Amber's target (in a nice competitive way).

We're still waving, smiling, arms out happy, but we are so close to the finish that hugs and kisses are going to have to wait.
The guy in black in front of us said he was sad because the yelling and cheering was for him, not us. I assured him it was also for him because I think you should take all cheering and all signs made for someone else as positive energy for yourself as well. He was wearing a shirt that said something about Parkinson's Awareness. I don't know why but I do know that a lot of people run for different things and it is touching and powerful. I couldn't think about those kinds of things during the race because it would make me weepy and I knew I was probably going to cry at the end anyway. 

I'm probably telling Amber that right now. We talked the entire race up to the last mile or so. A running buddy makes the miles fly by. 

All throughout the race bands and musicians are set up and play while you pound out the miles. It's mostly entertaining although I would say I would have liked them all to keep their soul searching music to a minimum. Race day is the day to have a set list that will make your fingers bleed. This band was chanting "One more mile! One more mile!" That works, too.

I love this shot that Audrey took because it shows how colorful the race was. It did help that the race shirts were bright green but mostly that people were pulling out their bright clothes instead of all black. The more I run, the more colorful I like my running clothes. I think it makes me feel more powerful. 
I also love the masses of people. It was that way the whole race. There is something very meaningful to me when I see thousands of people who have gotten themselves this far. When I look at this I don't see fast or slow paces, sizes or shapes. I see people who for whatever reason have put one foot in front of another and step by step have done something. All the small things have added up and today celebrates that. (See, I told you I get weepy.)

If you go a race, you should try to bring a sign. You should come up with something clever and fun. You should hold it up all the time. If it says Go Courtney!, there may be more than one Courtney out there and I think all Courtney's would appreciate the sentiment. Also, if you make a Go Courtney sign, I'll turn it into Go Mindy or Go Amber. I'm happy for Courtney but my name's not Courtney... I think you get the point.

If anything, you should cheer. Always cheer.

Remember my friend Amanda? About eight weeks ago, while on a marathon training run, she had a little mishap with a car. I know! Nothing was broken, just a severe sprain that took her out for pretty much 6 weeks of running and sidelined her marathon plans. Bummer. BUT... she was able to run the half. We celebrate because she wasn't more hurt or killed and also that despite not running she still crushed 13.1 miles into tiny little bits.  

There aren't anymore pictures of us after we last passed Bill and the kids because we were flying at that point and they were far enough away to not see us finish but I will tell you how it went down...

We passed them and looked at our time. We knew we wouldn't break two hours: sort of the magical goal number for most runners. Amber pointed out that we could break 2:05 though. We were feeling great and what was the worst that would happen for the two of us who were just going out for a nice long run with 10,000 other runners and didn't really have a time goal to begin with? Exactly. We would still finish and it would be our best run yet! 
We had been getting progressively faster the farther into the race we got so turned up the speed even more just to see if we could do it. Amber is great motivation for me. She's strong in the parts where I'm weak. We had been consistently passing people for the last 4-5 miles except for one person: the blue shirt/yellow lei lady. I didn't notice at first but Amber said we would get close to her or side by side and she'd burst on the speed to stay in front. Whether we were her competition or her motivation, we don't know but Amber was slightly competitively annoyed while I found it humorous. I let her go. I was running my own race. I was focused on the time goal and was nearly going all out when we reached the bridge where the finish line was and there she was off to our left and we are in her blind spot. I hit the gas and pass her for Amber's sake. We cross the finish line, hug, and I get a little teary, only the teeniest bit. 

Then we sort of stand around in a daze. We can't believe we just did it! We can't believe we ran as fast as we did. We finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 31 seconds! We ran a negative split, meaning we ran the second half of the race faster than the first half!
We get our timing chips cut off our shoes (held on with zip ties), a medal is handed to us and then we stagger off. By now (around a minute later) our muscles are screaming at us. My hip flexors have flexed enough they say and my right calf wasn't as pumped about those last miles as I was. We will our bodies to walk but people are stopping us to take our picture. They say they need a picture of the two women in pink. Are we famous? Do you know you probably can't color fix our shirts to match in Photoshop? Is the bagel I've just taken a bite of showing in my teeth? 

Speaking of food, there was plenty for the athletes, however, we cut the food line, grabbing only chocolate milk, chips and orange slices and bagels. (Why was the fruit at the end of the line?) Jimmy John's is handing out small sandwiches and those look yummy for a little bit later on. We skip the BBQ sandwiches (I know! I love me a good BBQ sandwich but not right after 13 miles.), pizza slices, cheese and queso, and beer. There was a lot of great food but we just couldn't stomach it. 

We want our families, heat, a shower and maybe a nap.   

This poster may be Audrey's not so subtle suggestion that she needs to see this immediately. I agree. 

And this is the coffee shop where they hung out before. We made a return visit on the way to the car. Come to find out, the barista was hitting on our daughter and gave her a free shot of espresso with her drink. Bill beat him up and pulverized him in the coffee bean grinder and all is right with the world again. Actually, its all just funny. Don't be mad at that guy and visit them for a cup of coffee if you happen to be in the area. 

After getting in our car, I started checking text messages. I tried to while running but couldn't get my fingers to work long enough to read them! It was still fun to read them afterwards. (I have a very cute video of two nieces doing a cheer for me while one nephew picks his nose but I can't get it loaded on here!)

We were off to Ben's soccer game in another part of Des Moines. I wore my medal all day. When we stopped for lunch, a lady asked if she could see my medal and asked about my race. I asked her if she ran (which she wouldn't have asked to see my medal if she had but I didn't know how to respond) and she didn't but she came to cheer and said it was so inspiring and then she quickly walked away because she was starting to tear up. See? It's not just me! 

Thanks for reading about my first half marathon. Like I said, I never really intended to run a half and this is another part of my running goals, but it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it! I'm glad Amber joined me, too!

Note: If you are reading this for half marathon course information, here's my take on it. It is flat. There is only one slight incline and that is crossing the bridge around mile 10 and it's not very long nor steep. The course is well marked, water stations are well taken care of by lots of volunteers and the whole experience is well done. The atmosphere is friendly and cheerful. If you are looking for a good first race, this is a great choice. 


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