After we arrived, The Husband and I staked out some space and began warming up. My legs and hips were really tight and my mind was so chaotic, so I opted for a couple of yoga vinyasas which worked wonders. By the time I finished, my tight muscles had relaxed and my racing thoughts finally shut up! We checked our gear and made our way to the starting corrals. It was time to say goodbye and good luck. The husband was in Corral A (predicted finish under 2 hours) and I was in Corral B (predicted finish of 2:01-2:30). As I've explained, I didn't expect to do very well today due to my lack of training over the last month, so I seeded myself just in front of the 2:15 pace group with the goal of keeping them behind me.
The gun went off and the race was on. I started off a little faster than I wanted to (10:00), but figured it wasn't a big deal since it was pretty cool out and my breathing was really even. By Mile 3, my pace has dropped into the 9:40's! I started to wonder how long I could hang on to that pace and made the decision to see how much of a cushion I could build up in the early miles since I know that that last 5k of this course is particularly tough for me (2 bridges and a very psychologically tough last mile). Before I knew it, the Mile 5 water station was coming into view. I ate my first GU of the race, washed it down with a couple gulps of water and kept moving. Over the next 5 miles, my pace varied between 9:26-9:53. I wasn't exactly sure where this burst of speed was coming from, but I was definitely not complaining! I only had a 5k left to run.
The last 3 miles of this course are, in my opinion, the toughest. It involves 2 bridges and then a run past the finishing area before looping back to the finish line. The first bridge was okay, but my pace started to suffer. Mile 11 was completed in 10:05. The second bridge, has been my nemesis for the last 4 times I've raced here and the 5th time was no exception. In addition to being a rather steep bridge almost 12 miles into the race, I got to contend with rotor wash from a helicopter landing at the hospital next to the bridge. All that wind kind of brought back memories of The Bridge From Hell at Mile 17 of the Green Bay Marathon. I cussed my way up that bridge, muttering 'Effing Bridge' under my breath. I made it to Mile 12 in 10:02. At this point I knew I had 1.1 miles standing between me and that finish line and I swear it was the longest mile of my life. My crazy speed burst between Miles 6-10 was starting to catch up with me. I was running out of gas...fast. I hit the 13 mile mark with a pace of 10:24 (my slowest mile of the day). At that point, I flipped over to the total time elapsed on my Garmin and knew that if I started my closing sprint at 13.05 miles that I would likely finish around 2:10 and beat my PR by almost a full minute. Then I had the crazy thought that maybe I could come in under 2:10. That's when the crazy took over. I dug way down deep and started my closing sprint a little early. I poured everything I had into that last tenth of a mile, while simultaneously praying that I wasn't about to throw up or pass out. My foot hit the timing mat and I reached down to hit the stop button on my Garmin. It showed a total elapsed time of 2:10:03. I wasn't sure what to think since it always take a couple of seconds to hit Stop, so I would have to wait for the official chip time to be available.
A race volunteer put a mylar wrap around my shoulders, another one handed me my race shirt and another hung my medal around my neck. I was kind of numb as I meandered through the food tent where I managed to snag a bottle of water, a chunk of blueberry bagel and a really crumbly cookie. Once I cleared that area, I located The Husband (who eclipsed his PR by a minute and two seconds - set the same day as my 2:21:49 back in 2008). I noticed that there were volunteers with laptops nearby that were able to check official finish times immediately. I didn't have to wait for them to published online. Score!
Nervously, I gave the woman my bib number and she asked if there was a number I was hoping to hear. I told her I'd be really happy with anything under 2:10:00. She smiled and told me that I had finished in 2:09:56! I had taken almost 2 minutes off the PR I set at Full Moon in August! I thanked her, turned to walk away, and damn near cried I was so happy!
So I guess this is the race where I get to say, "Oops...I Did It Again!"