I stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Muncie Fieldhouse and watched the rain come down in sheets as I talked to Mark.
The rain, it made me nervous. In a pre-race meeting, the race director gave us an overview of the course and warned that some of it could be underwater. More of it would be wet. He advised that we don't look at our watches and just have fun.
Fun, running 13.1 miles in the rain – and I mean rain. R-A-I-N. Interesting.
Silas, he made me nervous, too. I had fed him as much as I could that morning, and I had pumped what I could. A whopping 3.5 ounces. It would tie him over but that would be it.
"Don't worry about us," Mark said. "Run your half marathon."
I handed the phone back to the volunteer from whom I had borrowed it. I couldn't decide if I was relieved or disappointed with his response.
It was 9:20 when the race director finally coerced us out to the start line. The rain had slowed from the monsoon-like storm but it was still steady. It was cool enough, perfect on any other day, that I didn't want to just stand there. I didn't want to begin visualizing what awaited me. I wanted to go. And from the conversations I heard around me, I don't think I was the only one.
But, soon enough, we were off.
My goal for this early section of the was not to get caught up in the excitement of the race; to avoid letting those running a shorter distance push me (there was also a 5K and 10K); and walk 1 minute at each water stop.
I had told Mark that I anticipated that I would finish between 2:05 and 2:10 but thought I'd be closer to 2:10, with an average pace around 10 minutes. A good day would mean a pace of 9:59 or faster.
And so it was with a bit of anxiety that I saw the first mile beep in at 9:40. Too fast, too soon.
I tried to rein it in the second mile, a task made easier by the terrain in the wetland. It was indeed wet but there wasn't much standing water. The trail, though, was a mix of wood bridges (slick) and a crushed limestone or sand, which offered additional resistance. I also walked 30 seconds through the first water stop.
But still I clocked a 9:49 mile.
If you had asked me just an hour earlier, I would have emphatically told you that I would be miserable running a half marathon in these conditions – especially as I wasn't 100 percent confident I was well-trained for the event and I am 5 months post-partum.
Yet, I wasn't hating running. I was actually kind of loving it.
I felt strong. I felt smooth. And I was passing people in an almost strategic fashion. Before I went ahead, I would mentally note if it was me being competitive or whether I was running my race. I wanted to do the half my way. I also took my walk breaks as I promised myself and drank two cups of water at each aid station.
Miles 3-6: 9:34, 9:56 (walked one minute at aid station), 9:37, 9:49
From there, the course took runners on a long out and back on the White River Greenway. It's a section that might have been quite tedious but there were some small hills to keep things interesting. They weren't anything to make you curse but enough to slow you down. I was happy, though, to feel steady as I climbed. It made me feel like the hill work I have been doing is paying off.
My one real frustration was that the course was coming up short on my watch. It was a consistent 0.2 for a while and then three-tenths. I felt like I was doing great work and yet, in a way, it wasn't going to "count." I wanted it to count. I needed it to count.
Miles 7-10: 9:30, 9:43, 9:33, 9:24
But ... yeah. I hadn't done that. I could feel my legs grow tired, and I was getting antsy. I wanted to be done. I wanted to see my boys (and see how they had done). I wanted to go to the children's museum.
I bargained with myself that I would stay steady and make the last mile fastest. I could do that. I know how to finish strong.
And that's just what I did.
I wish I had a photo from the finish because I was kicking. K-I-C-K-I-N-G. My Strava stats report that I was down to a 7:23 pace in the final stretch and had been in the 7's for at least two-tenths of a mile.
Let me tell you – it felt good. It felt good to finish strong. It felt good to cross a finish line when I had been so ready to quit a couple hours earlier.
It felt good to surprise myself.
My final splits, according to my Soleus, were 9:38, 9:48, 8:48 with a total mileage of 12.8. My time is different from the watch and official clock by more than a minute so I'm taking the race clock (longer) and giving myself credit for 13.1.
The time – 2:04:27. Average pace – 9:30.
A couple of notes:
• The start delay really messed with my eating. I could feel my stomach grumble as the National Anthem was sung, and I knew it wasn't a good sign. Thankfully, I had brought an extra gel and took it 15 minutes before the start.
• There were fewer water stops than the initial race notes had indicated. I didn't notice it on the follow-up email and was a bit disappointed at mile 5. As wet as it was, I was rather dry. I needed some water ... and I needed a gel. I ended up waiting until mile 6.
• I had a popsicle. I did, I did. I rejected the first offering around mile 7 but at mile 10, it sound amazing. I ate about a quarter with my second gel before going on my way.
• I was off my predicted finish time enough that the boys missed me coming through the chute. I guess I wasn't the only one surprised by my time!