Saturday, April 7, 2012

Run the Bluegrass: My Official Half-Marathon

In deciding which half marathon to run, I gave consideration to one thing over anything else. Weather. I don't feel well in the heat, and I'd much rather run in 30 degree temperatures than 60 degrees. We have friends that live in TN, and Knoxville's half-marathon was the same weekend. But it's farther south, and that concerned me as far as the temperatures go. The second consideration for me is the time it takes to travel to the race. I swell horribly when I ride in the car for any length of time. Verne thought the Athens race sounded great. It's fast(flat), and smaller than most other big events. It's also 5 hours away. Both Knoxville and Athens offered a half-marathon along with a full marathon, which would have been perfect for us. And then Verne pulled his hamstring, and couldn't run. I settled on Run the Bluegrass. It's only a half-marathon, so we didn't consider it at first, but once we knew that Verne couldn't run, I thought it sounded like fun, despite what people said about the course. "Hills, hills, hills... Challenging... Don't expect to set a PR(personal record)... Expect your times to be at least a minute slower than normal..."

Last Friday evening Verne and I drove north to pick up my race packet. We enjoyed a nice dinner out, and spent the night in a hotel not too far from the race course. It was a fun evening, and being a late night person, I didn't try to go to bed until close to one. Verne fell right asleep, but I couldn't. And then, shortly before two, my stomach started hurting. I mean really hurting. I couldn't lay down, I was so uncomfortable. I took a hot bath, and tried crawling back into bed. I still had the pain. I read the Bible and prayed. I still had the pain. I was trying to be as quiet as possible, as I didn't want to wake Verne, but I just couldn't get comfortable. Finally, at about 5:30 a.m., I woke Verne and asked him if he had a rice bag with him. (He sleeps with heat on his shoulder since his accident.) He did have one with him, and was very sympathetic to the fact that I was feeling so poorly. He heated it for me, and about twenty minutes later I crawled into the bed where I slept fitfully until about 6:30.

I crawled out of bed, and wanted to cry. In fact, I think I did. 30 minutes of sleep the night before running 13.1 miles is not ideal. Had we been at home, I wouldn't have even gone, no matter the fact that I'd already paid. I felt horrible.

Verne reassured me that too little sleep didn't mean a thing before race day. In fact when I told him all the longer I'd slept he cheerfully responded, "Good! You'll run great then!"

Yes, I am married to a crazy man.

The temperature was 58 F, and not nearly as cool as I'd hoped. We arrived at the race almost 30 minutes later than we intended to due to my need for "just a little nap". Verne was a race volunteer, and this put him behind schedule, but it all worked out okay. To say the line for the bathrooms was long would be an understatement. Ugh. I was less than enthused at the starting line, but I resolved that I'd finish, even if I had to walk.

The race was chip-timed, meaning that your time doesn't start until you actually cross the start line and it registers your computer chip. This is a bonus when you're lined up with 2100 other runners as it could take 5 minutes to reach the starting line if you start in the back. I hung around until just about everyone had gone, and then I jumped in the crowd.

It was difficult to run at first, with so many people crowded together on a narrow lane. I was glad I'm small and could zing back and forth between people without too much problem. (There are a few advantages to being short!) I kept expecting the masses of people to disperse more than they did, but it was still crowded for miles into the run. As I ran up the hills, I passed people in the grass on the side of the road. There was no other option with that many people crowded together.

I always run with my phone. Always. And because I'm a wife and a mother, I often take phone calls and answer text messages while I'm running. (Yes, this is very annoying!) Just before the race started, I told Verne NOT to text me as I would not be taking my phone from the spibelt around my waist. "I wouldn't text you during a race..."

I was running along, and had a good pace going, despite the lack of sleep. I heard updates from my Runkeeper app every 5 minutes. Shortly after mile six, I heard my text message noise. I was furious! and then it went off again. And then I got worried. Autumn was picking Sam up at the airport later that morning, and was dropping Collin and Abigail off at the race. What if they were in an accident? My mind started racing, and so I unzipped the spibelt, and retrieved my phone to discover a text from Mac.

"Keep it up, you're half-way there!"

and then two seconds later, "Love you!"

I got teary, shoved my iPhone back into my belt, and ran harder.

God is good. Despite the stomachache, I was having my best run ever. Despite telling Verne not to text me because I would not look at it, I received a message full of encouragement. I had been praying anyway, but now the tears came. Thankfulness. An overwhelming sense of being loved. I'm unworthy, and yet He just gives and gives.

At each water station I grabbed water from the hand of a volunteer, and kept running, never slowing down to take a sip. Instead, I dumped the water down my back to cool me down before tossing the cup to the side of the road.

Just as I saw the finish line and started sprinting, my text message noise sounded again. I didn't look at it this time. I was very close to the end, and knew it could wait. As I crossed the finish line, my husband placed my medal around my neck and gave me a very emotional hug and kiss. I'm sorry his hamstring was pulled and he couldn't run, but I was so happy that he was there for me. And then I checked my text message. It was from Mac again.

"Finish strong."

How could he have known exactly where I was?


Finish strong, I did. Collin had been calculating times all week. Because of the course reviews, I guessed (or hoped) that I could finish in 2 hours and 15 minutes. My fastest time at home for this distance was 2:04:08. I knew a race should be faster, but this was a challenging course. Everyone said to expect a minute slower than normal, per mile.

My time? 1:54:24. One hour, fifty-four minutes, twenty-four seconds. I finished 14th out of the 111 women in my age group.

To God be the Glory!



7 comments:

Danielle said...

What a great post Tracy! Thanks for sharing all the details:-) Your family is such a gift... all the love you invested for so many years is now being payed back to you!

BTW, I love your header!

Mrs.Rabe said...

That is such an awesome story! I love how encouraged you were in the midst of the race, and not feeling well!

Love you guys....

Deanna

Michelle, a heart at home said...

Congratulations! That has to have been a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. :-)

Becky K. said...

Wow~ I LOVE it.
This definitely brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful family you have and your dedication to the race is amazing.

Terri said...

Congratulations, Tracy! That was a wonderful story and awesome time!!!!

Boo said...

Congratulations! I will be running my first half marathon in October. Reading your posts about your journey has been such an encouragement. Keep it up and God Bless!

UL Cards Fan said...

I LOVED reading your post. My husband Ernie Peel ran his first marathon when he turned 50 and ran his 22nd one last Oct. on his 60th birthday. He leads a group of runners here in Lexington called John's Strider's if you are ever back this way and want to run with a group. This was the first race I volunteered for and really enjoyed it. Praise God that He was with you every step of the way. Love, Linda Peel

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