On Saturday, I ran Half Marathon number five, the Red Ribbon Half Marathon in Lakeland, Florida. This half was special in so many ways. It is the first half that I trained with a group and the first J was able to attend.
My training group met the night before for dinner and a last minute pep-talk from our coach. This really helped with my nerves because I was starting to feel a little sick (similar to a sinus cold) and was freaking out. Spending months training and getting sick the day before a race is the worst. I was assured this sick feeling was normal and luckily, I woke up the next day and felt fine.
Saturday started off like most running Saturday’s. Coffee, toast with peanut butter and cats staring at me wondering why I am up at 4 AM. Lakeland is about a 30 minute drive from my house but I wanted to give myself enough time to park. I ended up getting turned around and ended up on the wrong side of Lake Mirror. Luckily, I stumbled upon a park-n-ride lot with plenty of empty spaces which just happened to be steps from the finish line.
As I discussed in my goal post, my ultimate goal for this race was a 2:15. The course being a challenge, my coach thought that running with the 2:20/2:25 pace group would be a good idea and trying to push at the end if I could. I planned on doing this but there was only a 2:30 pace group and I thought that pace would be to slow.
So I lined up at the start, shivering, with the 2:15 pace group. I decided that if the pace felt fast, I would leave the group and finish the race alone. This was my first time running with a pace group and I am so glad I did. Yes, Florida is pretty flat, but we do have some hills and it seems like they were all in this race.
Sticking with the pace group forced me to keep a steady pace and push through the hills.Of course all the the hill sprints, repeats, and hilly running routes, really prepared me to run this course. Not that the up and downs did not hurt, but I felt prepared for it.
Everything was going great until around mile 10. I got the worlds worst cramp and felt like death. I am pretty mad at myself for not just pushing through it (because what is three more miles after you just ran 10?) but I started to walk a bit. Hoping the cramp would go away and the 2:15 pace group passed me by.
So the last three miles were not my best but I was able to push through the last two hills. One, Johnson Ave., I ran quite a bit during my training. I hated it then and I hated it during the race. I will say that the cheering section near Florida Southern and all of the wonderful residents of Johnson Ave. did help keep me motivated up that terrible, terrible hill.
When the finish line was finally in my sights I was so relieved. Then I heard J screaming my name and it scared the crap out of me. I saw him snapping this picture.
I just kind of stared at him a minute and kept going.
After I crossed the finish line, I kept walking and ran into one of the girls from my training group. She did not mention it at the time, but she finished as the third female and second in her (and my) age group. I then remembered that J was there and I needed to find him because my phone was in my car. We walked over to the Runner’s Village to get my medal and some food.
The food was pretty good (provided by Publix.) They had muffins, granola, fruit, and chocolate milk. They were handing out those perfectly sized for the gym towels. I love those towels and think that every race should hand them out. J and I walked around a bit and watched the rest of my group finish. It was so amazing to watch people cross a finish line that I knew worked so hard.
I then made J take a picture of me with my medal. (I really need to learn how to stand getting my picture taken. I feel so silly posing, so I always just stand there.)
Official chip time is 2:19:06 which is a PR by four minutes. On this hilly course, I’ll take it.
I was more consistent with my pace but it was obviously because I stuck to the 2:15 pace group for the majority of the race.
The timing is a little off because I ran with a brand new watch and didn’t realize that starting it was a two step process. My watch was off by a few minutes the entire race which was super annoying but completely my own fault.
I loved every second of this race and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a challenging course. For an inaugural race, the execution was flawless. This is one I definitely plan on running again.