We said goodbye to Miles, who would be "walking" the event (his first race!) with Nana and Poppa.
We wandered through the crowd, making a pit stop at the honey buckets for one last "shake out" of nerves.
And then we found ourselves just 10 feet from the starting line, in Corral A.
I've never been in Corral A, and I'm not quite sure I belonged there. I saw some of the race regulars - the girls who run faster than me, the ones who are most accomplished - and took a deep breath. If I was going to put my heart out on the course, this is where I needed to be.
The deep breaths continued as the mayor counted down from 10 to 3 and then the cannon went boom. It was time to move.
As Mark would tell it, I went out like a bat out of hell. I rounded the corner onto a stretch of road that I like to run when I go solo and was ready for the first hill. Not that I remember much of it. I had seen one of the regulars within a few feet after the first quarter mile and I thought, naively for a brief few minutes, that I could hold onto her. I paid attention to her, what she was doing and how she was adjusting her arm warmers. The same arm warmers from the HUFF that were sitting in my drawer at home. They were a reminder that I knew how to run in difficult conditions. I could dig deep.
The first mile marker came up quickly and for good reason. I hit it at 7:35. To the best of my knowledge, that is the fastest mile I have ever ran - besting a mile repeat clocked at 7:37 in 2010.
I was starting to realize at this point that I couldn't hold on like I wanted to and made an effort to find a sustainable pace. Or a pace that didn't make me want to cut Mark. My husband, bless his heart, was doing his best to keep me engaged and check in on me. I wanted him to shut up and stop pointing at people juggling plungers along the course. I also wanted to lie down in my in-laws front yard, which we passed. I did not. I kept running.
Mile 2: 7:54.
"We're half way there, babe," Mark said as we passed the mile 2 marker. Some people might have felt relief, I did not. I was acutely aware that it was going to hurt like hell to do that for 2 more miles. And so I didn't. I walked through a water stop and pulled back under the guise that I would kick it with one mile to go. Thankfully, this difficult stretch was made easier by going through my favorite part of the course, a neighborhood that goes all out for the race. The association draws chalk murals on the street, and residents line and cheer, blare music and offer support. It's awesome, and that quarter-mile makes the race. Every. Single. Year.
Mile 3: 8:29.
As we rounded toward the end, I knew that I wouldn't be satisfied giving in to the fatigue. I needed to fight. I needed to meet my goal of leaving it on the course. I pushed. I cursed. I spit on myself. I ran.
Mile 4: 7:56.
Coming into Parkview Field and finishing on the baseball field is one of the most amazing things you could experience. As I headed for home - literally - I knew I was close to my goal. I tried to lock down the hammer. I couldn't. But a final push came from another runner who repeated "You can be tired when your done."
The last little bit (according to the MOTOACTV) was 38 seconds, which need to fit in there somewhere though I'm not sure where. We'll say mile 3.
I finished in 32:31, seventh in my age group, 106 overall and 31 seconds over my goal. While I was initially disappointed (when are we ever good enough?), I am proud.