I was in rare form race morning. Even with dragging my husband and our dog along we managed to get to the free parking before it was a) full and b) closed because of the imminent start of the race. I even had a chance to sit and doze in the car for a little bit. Bonus: No line at the porta potties for me!
The morning was a little bit chilly, with a nice breeze and a beautiful sun rising. My dog, “Dante the Dog”, was a huge hit at the mainly women-centric half marathon. We started claiming the dog was good luck for anyone who pet him. (Fact. Someone found his fan page and noted that she ran a PR after a good luck pat on Dante’s head).
I saw a few running group friends before the call to start, but was mostly alone as I stood toward the center of my assigned start corral before the gun went off. I like experiencing races and towns, so for pretty much all my races, I go without headphones and try to chat with people as I go. It’s a little bit…uh… good and bad. Some people really love it. I’ve had people come up to me “out of the blue” at the finish line to hug me and thank me for unknowingly being their motivation to keep a certain pace – mostly because my stories were funny and entertaining. I’ve had other people get a little bit cross with me when I made a comment toward them and they had their earbuds in. I don’t mean to bother. I just… I do better with a conversation than without. And, as my running group knows, I just can’t shut up. The good news is, that once in a conversation with someone who has a similar interest in talking and running, we both tend to run better and faster. The bad news is I tend to kind of suffer when I hit a stretch by myself, or don’t have any one around.
The Queen Bee course, which I looked at the night before, seemed to encompass the two hardest sections of the Flying Pig Marathon: The hill to Eden Park and beyond, and the dulldrum-like flat lands of Riverside Parkway. I was only concerned about the flat portion. I know from my three full Pigs that this is where I start to loose my umph and drive…it also is the portion with the least crowd support and views, making it hard to distract from the effort to keep going. Flying Pig management, which also hosts the Queen Bee Half, do an excellent job of filling this distance with volunteers and cheer squads, by the way. They’ve really improved this section of race course over the years. But it’s still the later miles of a race, so there’s only so much that can be done.
The gun for the Queen Bee went off on time and a crowd thousands deep of women in bright colors surged forward. I swear, I never get tired, nor do I ever fail to be just awed, at the sight of a river of bodies flowing in a rhythm forward. If you ever have the chance to crest a small hillside during the start of a big race, look up. Look up and just take it in.
You will not be disappointed.
We hit the hill immediately. The start line sits on a small uphill grade, and you go almost immediately to Gilbert Ave, which is the beginning of the climb to the overlooks. I fell into step with one of the pace teams (The ones dressed as bees….like, full body costume bees) and realized that I’ve run with one of the girls a few times as she trained for her 100 mile race. The hill was so, so much easier this time around. Likely because it wasn’t even 1 mile in when we started up it, and normally, for the Pig races, you’re starting the climb here at mile 6 of the races. During training even, our group would hit Eden Park climb around mile 2 or 3 on a “comfortable” run day. Soon after mile 1 I annoyed another runner enough that she was kind enough to unplug her earbuds and chat with me as we went. I say annoy. She was very kind and actually was completely into having someone to chat with as we went along. She and I ticked off the miles up the hills and down into Hyde Park pretty easily. Together doing better than we both planned on doing. We were easily hitting times below 8 minute miles until mile 7 to 8, where my guts rebelled against me and I needed an emergency stop. I ran my fastest mile there, looking for a porta potty.
All runners will understand that shit happens. Literally.
If I had to criticize one thing about the race it would be that there was waaaaay too much distance between porta potties. But, to be fair, I wasn’t paying attention to them until it was too late and I was desperate. And when things get desperate, everything is too far away.
I was completely bummed about the pit stop. Before that moment, I was on par to get a new PR! I had a couple of people to chat with, and we were heading into the Riverside “flat lands”, which I dreaded doing alone. I was having a blast right up until that moment.
Once I dealt with that issue I was out on the course and running fast to try and gain back some time, but I think the back of my mind called it a lost cause.
I hit Riverside alone and inside my head. I sent a message to my husband that I was at about mile 8 and likely not going to survive what was happening when I made the pit stop. He gave some encouragement and, I think almost without realizing how wonderful he was being, checked in on me every 10 minutes while I ran the last 5 miles. I don’t actually have an opinion about people who pull out their phones during races. As long as they aren’t randomly stopping and causing other people issues, I don’t see any thing wrong. Take your photos. Enjoy your self. Brag about your accomplishments. Share the experience! I’m good with that. Hell. I use my phone to reach out for some encouragement when things get tough. Sometimes you need that outside nudge.
I saw a couple of great friends from a military veterans fitness group I run for and one of them came out onto the course and hugged me and told me how great I was doing. It meant a lot! It really helped. He told me I was only about two minutes behind the 1:50 group, and I needed to hear that. I thought for sure that my pit stop – which really did take a lot of time – put me into the 2 hours area of the race. Encouraged and happier, I ran on.
Around that mile there’s this older guy who stands outside of his home for each race and plays chariots of fire. He smiles huge and waves and calls for the runners how well they’re doing. He’s practically an icon in the running community, Mr Chariots of Fire.
About 11.5 miles away from the finish I saw this woman that seemed familiar to me, but I wasn’t sure. So I used a simple tactic and complemented the complicated-looking braid she had her hair in. BEHOLD! I found Kelsie, a fellow blogger here on wordpress, and a strong running lady! We cheesed up for a selfie together and then ran as we got to actually meet each other in person finally. I think I helped pull her through the final little hill of the course, and she forced me to “kick it in” at the finish line for a strong finish. I was so glad I ran into her when I did. It really helped to have someone to run beside and chat with in that last couple of miles.
The medals they handed out were massive, and you could get them engraved with your time. They also gave out fleece blankets and flowers. The overall finish and finish area just really pressed the feeling of importance and accomplishment. I dunno. Maybe it was just the end of race endorphins. Maybe it was just my constant expectation that things were going wrong with my run and the reveal that everything was working out making me feel good. Whatever it was, I really, really felt great about this race.
I didn’t stick around afterward. I needed to collect the husband and the overly-popular pup and go home so I could nap for an hour before work. Really. So I could ride this happiness a little longer before I had to crash back into reality.
If you’re into half marathons and you don’t mind a rolling course, I recommend this race for you. Even if it would be a first time half for you. I really think this would make a good one for first timers. Sure, hills can be intimidating, but I guarantee that you’ll have tons of support here: from the race, from the spectators, and from all the other runners. And. Really. If you train for it, you can do it. That feeling of accomplishment shouldn’t have had such an impact on me, I think. After all, I’m a seasoned long-distance runner, right? I think that feeling would be brilliant to a first-time half marathoner, especially considering how great it made me feel.
Cheers, everyone! Thanks for reading.
Her upcoming races:
Bourbon Chase Relay
Marine Corps Marathon
Topo Trail Marathon
Pistol Ultra Marathon 50k
Rocks and Roots 50k
Kentucky Derby Marathon
Eagle Creek Trail Marathon