So the Friday before our race in Georgetown, Jennifer and I started our day with yummy hot drinks from Starbucks (Caramel salted mocha for her, Skinny White Hot Chocolate for me), and then hit the road to the Tanger outlets for some pre-race retail therapy. Jenny & Ryan picked up our race packets on their way down from Columbia, and after some grocery shopping for the weekend, we headed to Pastaria 811 to meet Lindsey & Jimmy for dinner. I got my usual favorite, the house salad and Penne Ziti a la Vodka. Next time you’re in Pawley’s Island and have a hankering for Italian, you need to visit this place! After dinner, I set about getting everything laid out for race morning. I pinned my bib to my shirt, hooked my race chip to my shoe, and laid out EVERYTHING (from toothpaste to socks and shoes, and my race fanny pack, complete with T.P. to help prevent any potty emergencies along the course). I woke up nearly every hour on the hour throughout the night. Not sure what my fear of sleeping in is, but I had a dream earlier during the week that I overslept and missed the start, so needless to say, I was awake before my alarm.
We ate our breakfast and plotted out where we should try to park, loaded up into the car around 6:40 and headed to Georgetown. We found parking easily about a ¼ mile from the starting line and decided to jog to the start so we’d be warmed up to stretch. Last year in Savannah, we laughed at all those doing any “warm up” jogging. We learned during our training this year that it helped a lot if we stopped to stretch after a little warm up jog. After that, we found the bathrooms first for a last potty break, took some pre-race pics, then it was time to line up! This was a totally different start line experience than Savannah, and I have to say, I’m in HUGE favor of the small race. No corrals and delayed start, just run up to the start line and GO! We were able to spread out fairly quickly and set our own pace. We passed Ryan and my dad right after the start line, and I figured we would see them again in a few miles. We passed the 1-mile clock at under 11 minutes, and I knew we were on track for a great race (my goal was a 2.5 hour half marathon, so that meant keeping an average pace of 11:27). My dad was on his bike and we saw him several times in the first 3 miles at unexpected points, so we nicknamed him “ninja dad”. Unfortunately, he got a flat tire early on, so that slowed his progress a bit. We hit the first of the bridges and it wasn’t NEARLY the challenge I thought it would be. We started to see the leaders coming back toward us about half way over the bridge, and started giving some superlatives. My favorite was “best hair club” which was three guys running together… one with just seriously great hair, one with a Mohawk, and the third had an awesome beard going on. I also got really excited when I saw the first few women leaders, because I think it is just so awesome that running is a sport in which women can really excel. We kept our stride up and over the hill, and when we reached the top and turned around, we high-fived and celebrated all the hill training we did over the last few months.
When we came off the bridge, we were at about mile 6, and we saw Dad and Ryan once again cheering us on. Yeah, Ninja dad! (and husband)! We were still keeping up an average pace of less than 11 min/mile according to my Nike+ app, even though the GPS must have picked up some extra distance at some point because it started giving me the mile updates about a quarter mile early. We raced through town and met a lady who was doing something she called the “Galileo” technique, where she walked ¼ of every mile. Apparently she shaved a lot of time off her running by doing this, but I don’t think it’s something I’d ever do while running a race. This was also the point in time when we started seeing LOTS of people who had run the 5K walking along the course and cheering for us. I decided that I wished they would’ve removed their race bibs and just cheered, because it seemed a little like they were taunting me with the fact that their race was already completed and I still had 6 miles to go!
We continued through town and there was a long straight-away leading up to the next bridge. Since I had driven over this bridge in August, I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it was pretty scary to watch it growing bigger and bigger before my eyes as we ran closer to it. I do remember my ankle started feeling a little funny at this point in the race and I was trying really hard to get on the least slanted part of the road. (Hard to do in a town that is probably prone to flooding and has a pretty steep slant on most roads for water runoff). The next thing I noticed was that the mile marker on our side of the bridge was mile 8, and the mile marker on the way back was mile 12. The leaders were coming back over at this point, and I was a little disappointed to see that the hair club had split up L. Apparently, I didn’t study the course map that closely, because I had no idea that we wouldn’t be running over the bridge, doing a quick turn around, and coming straight back. We chugged our way up the bridge, and I walked a little bit to catch my breath, and really picked up speed on the way down. There were about 3 miles of winding through an undeveloped neighborhood on the far side of the bridge. Every time I thought we were close to turning around, we’d make another turn and the sun and wind were in our faces the whole time! When we got way out by the water, I was excited to see my dad and Ryan again around mile 10. It was SO good to see our little cheerleading group in what was otherwise a deserted neighborhood with no crowd support. After seeing them, I picked up my pace a little and split off from Jenny and Jennifer to take a quick potty stop.
After mile 10, I kept telling myself only a 5K left! Then, at mile 11, only 2.1 miles left! Splitting up the end of the race in those little distances was the only way I could fathom finishing! About mile 11, I suddenly became concerned again about my goal to finish in less than 2.5 hours. Was I going to make it? I should’ve asked dad and Ryan how I was doing on time, but I totally forgot! When we got back to the bridge, I knew we had about 1.5-1.75 miles to go. I decided to pull out my phone and check the actual time to see if I thought we could make it. The race started at 7:30, so I needed to finish by 10am (or very close to it) in order to make my goal. When I pulled out my phone, I saw it was 9:38. Though the basic math was pretty hard at that point, I knew I had 22 minutes to run less than 2 miles, and that got me really really excited. Jennifer and I were pulling away from Jenny at this point on the bridge, and I started to worry if I should slow up for her to catch up or if I should continue on ahead. Jennifer and I quickly consulted and decided Jenny would want us to try and do our best, so we decided to go for it and then when we finished ahead, we would go back and run with Jenny until she finished.
I booked it for that last mile. There was a girl in a pink long sleeved shirt, and another girl in black that I was determined to pass before we took the last turn onto Front street. When we took the last turn, there was a guy in a Clemson shirt that was walking, and Jennifer said “Why would you walk NOW!?”, so of course, we weren’t gonna let anyone walking beat us, and we also passed him. We could see the finish line, and I’m pretty sure I started giving it my last push a little too early, but then I also saw my parents on the side of the road (iPhones in hand making videos), so then there was no stopping me! This time around, Ryan was cheering for us just before the finish line so he could see me cross (Savannah was WAY too crowded last year). We finished with a time of 2:26:17, 3 minutes to spare on my goal of 2.5 hours, and a new PR by 10 minutes and 12 seconds for me! Getting my medal and a drink, I quickly turned around and ran back up the block to catch Jenny’s last bit of her first half-marathon. (Yes, we were those obnoxious people in her finishing pictures running along with her and screaming like a bunch of crazies). We then snacked on some bagels and fruit, more water, and caught up with Lindsey, who finished WAY ahead of us, in just under 2 hours! There was live music, and some free massages. We took full advantage, stayed around for the awards presentation, snapped a few last pics and then headed back to the house.
Overall, this race was an awesome experience. It was so fun to train with my friends and then accomplish the goal of not only finishing, but getting a new personal record. Since this race was such a fun experience, it didn't take me long to start researching our next race and we settled on the Charleston Half Marathon.... say prayers for me this morning!!