When I signed up for this race over two months ago I had not even factored in that the weather could be less than beautiful. I mean, it’s the Outer Banks. Isn’t it always warm and sunny there?!
Well, apparently it even rains at the beach sometimes too. We got the forecast last week that there was a 70-100% chance of rain today. I went into full on freak out mode trying to figure out how to plan to run in conditions that I had not trained in. I got some great tips from friends and an online community (wear a hat or visor, use body lubricant, wrap your iPhone in plastic), picked up a cheap poncho at Target and I was ready to go.
We had actually camped out with my girls’ American Heritage Girls troop on Friday night so we didn’t arrive to the Outer Banks until Saturday afternoon. We got to the expo and picked up my race packet (including a sweet t-shirt).
We met up with my friend Melissa and her husband Jason while at the Expo. Melissa and I have been friends since college. She has lost over 100 pounds and this was going to be her 13th half marathon! Crazy, right? She’s given me a lot of advice and encouragement over the years. She decided to sign up for the race too and traveled over 7 hours to be there for my first half! After hanging out at the Expo for a bit (I picked up a new wicking visor that was much more comfortable than the one I had brought along) we met up with another friend of ours, Julie. I’ve known Julie since I was a little girl and her daddy preached at my church. Melissa knows her too from college. Julie has lost 170 pounds and also does half marathons! Do have some awesome friends for inspiration, or what?
Aaron and the girls and I went back to our hotel after supper and met up with my parents who came to show me their support. When I decided to do this race I had my mama in mind and I was so happy that she could be there! After swimming a bit in the hotel pool, we all headed to our rooms for baths and I took time to lay out all my stuff for the race and made plans with Melissa for her to pick me up at 5:15 in the morning.
I was up and at ’em at 4:25. As soon as I woke up I realized that I had horrible indigestion. The kind that I usually get from eating something I shouldn’t (like those fried hushpuppies and Madalyn’s leftover chicken tenders) and that always ends in diarrhea and nausea (sorry for TMI!). Great. I thought. Just great! I didn’t feel like eating anything other than a granola bar. I drank a lot of water and said a prayer that my stomach issues would clear up before the race started.
We headed to the shuttle area at the finish line and hopped on the first bus. It was already steadily drizzling with no signs that it was going to let up. Someone got on the bus and told us that in the event of lightning they would have buses to pick runners up at mile 6. In his words, “We’re hoping that won’t happen but it’s not looking too good at the moment.” We arrived at the start line by 5:50 and hit up the porta johns (explain to me how they already stunk and we were some of the first to use them?!). Luckily my stomach had already calmed down somewhat because I couldn’t handle too much time in one of those porta johns! We found cover and waited until the corral line up started around 6:40.
I was placed in corral E because when I signed up I thought it would take me four hours to finish. After training for awhile I realized that I could probably move to corral D so when we lined up we hopped into D. I had planned to run a mile then walk half a mile but all plans went out the window when the gun went off. For one, the rain and cloudiness affected my GPS and it was about half a mile ahead for the whole race. Secondly, I was at the mercy of the trail as far as when I could walk/run. There were times that I felt like running but because of the mud I couldn’t for fear that I would fall.
It rained and rained and rained. I felt like that scene from Forrest Gump–when he talks about it raining from every which way. At one point I realized that water had pooled up in my shoes and water was splashing out with every step I took! It never let up the entire time!
I saw my friend and trainer, Joanna directing runners around mile 7.5 it was really nice to hear some encouragemet from her. I was totally DONE with the stupid rain by that point. About the time we ran around the Wright Brothers Memorial I was ready to just quit. It was pouring by that point. I was miserable. I kept thinking how stupid it was that we were all out running in the rain. Just pure stupidity!
But I kept going. One sloshy, muddy footstep at a time.
When we got to around mile 9 we headed into the woods on a trail. Melissa said she hated this part but I loved it! There were hills and there were puddles to jump over which made the time go faster to me. You really had to watch your step though because it was slippery in some parts. Finally I got to the final water station at mile 11. Even though my GPS was off I suspected that the time was correct and I knew to make it by 3 hours I was going to have to hurry. I ran fast down every hill and tried to run up the hills as much as possible.
We made one last big turn off the trail and into the woods. It was interesting running through the woods–I felt like I was in the Hunger Games! LOL! I don’t know where the energy came from but I managed to run up most of those last few hills. One hill was so steep I felt like I was climbing up it instead of running up it. It seemed like the last tenth of a mile took forever! Finally I saw the clearing and the big hill that headed down to the finish. I carefully maneuvered down the hill and then ran the rest of the way in.
I was wet. Cold. Hungry. And I had to pee like a racehorse but I was oh so happy to be done!!! I picked up my awesome medal and headed to grab some water and a banana. I figured my hubby had decided not to come with my girls since it was raining so hard but I looked up and there he was with my two youngest daughters. They were soaked to the bone but said they didn’t want to miss seeing me finish. Am I blessed or what? My mom and dad were nearby with my oldest daughter but it was just too wet for my mom to get out (wheelchairs don’t roll well in the mud!). I was happy they were there even if they couldn’t see me finish.
I sent my hubby back to the hotel with the girls and waited at the finish with Melissa’s husband. I found out after the race that she was dealing with some wicked blisters that really slowed her down. But in typical Melissa fashion, she kept on going and finished the race running!
A trip back to the hotel, a warm shower, and some Mexican food and I was ready to call this race weekend complete! My six year old made my year when she said, “Mama I am proud of you!”. Oh I do love those girls of mine.
Despite the rain and mud and definitely less than ideal race conditions, I had a great time. My only injury was a minor blister to my left heel. I have a few aches today but they aren’t too bad. My ankles are a little sore and my thighs are tight but otherwise I feel pretty good! This definitely won’t be my last half marathon. It was such a feeling I accomplishment to get across that finish line.
I checked my time about an hour after the race and I am happy to say that I me my goal. I finished in 2 hours 54 minutes!