Just a few weeks ago, the plan for the 2016 26.2 with DONNA Weekend was simple – hubs, Abby and I would drive up to Jacksonville, wear something fun for the Family 5K, attend the Fundraiser Dinner, hang out with the Ambassador Team, and then cheer on race day. Sitting out of the marathon was a hard thing for me to fathom, as I had enjoyed it so much the past two years, but I know my limits, and after all, since having Abby, I’ve not logged much mileage, or even run further than 3 miles.
Of course, my plans changed after I wrote this post, when I threw around the possibility of participating in the half marathon. See, the course limit for the race is 7 hours, which is more than accommodating for walking 13.1 miles, and hey, anything I can do to help raise more funds = a pretty darn good idea, right? Well, the call was answered alright, and before I knew it, I was locked and loaded, in for the half!
Just a few days before the weekend, I was chatting with my friend Bari about the race, and soon enough, we made plans to tackle the mileage together! Our loose goal would be 2:35-2:4o, and we’d be sticking to running half a mile, walking 45 seconds, and Garmin-less. As I always suggest when running with friends, we both agreed we’d be cool with splitting up at any time if need be, and had the same attitude about the day: have fun, soak up the Donna energy, and enjoy the run!
As my 21st (!!) half marathon, I felt confident and excited pre-race. Since my time goal was loose, and my race strategy flexible, there was only one thing stressing me out…wait, scratch that, TWO things.
Yup, my boobs.
I had to chuckle a little, since, you know, I was thankful that I have two healthy ones, at a race dedicated to ending cancer of them – so therefore, my issues really were not issues, in the grand scheme of things. Still, until that point, I had never been away from Abby for more than 4 hours since she was born and I was rather concerned about a potential milk explosion mid-race.
So, I had to prepare – and with no prior experience in the matter, I kinda “winged it” – and thankfully, it worked out. Here’s a little how I prepped:
Saturday night, starting around 5 PM: drank LOTS of water.
Sat, 10 PM – Abby’s bedtime. Relax for a bit, watch TV.
Sat, 10:45 PM – wake Abby, breastfeed about 1o min.
Sat, 11 PM – put Abby back to sleep. Set a series of alarms. Pass out.
Sunday, 2:26 AM – wake Abby, breastfeed 20 minutes.
Sunday 3:15 AM – Pump. Go back to sleep.
Sunday, 5 AM – Pump, then get dressed with a nursing-mama friendly top setup, including: Skirt Sports Kelly bra with straps crossed in the back, ultra absorbent Lansinoh nursing pads, and a thorough application of Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter. I’m telling ya, this trifecta of preparation is what I believe got me through this race!
So anyway, after those prep steps, hubs drove me to the start line and I headed to the Fundraiser Experience tent and I met up with some of my fellow ambassadors, and my gal Bari.
We hung out in the tent a bit, dropped off bags at the gear check, hit the portapotties, then before we knew it, it was time to line up. The start is self-seeded, so we migrated toward the pace group area of 2:40. I stayed in my obnoxiously ridiculous pink fuzzy bathrobe (see middle picture) until the last possible moment, but as soon as I threw it to the side, and the crowd was moving toward the start line, excitement was literally warming me up, despite the chill in the air (it was in the 40s at that point).
Within the first half mile or so, the crowd was manageable, which was a pleasant surprise, given our relative middle of the pack placement. Bari called out the walk breaks, and it was easy to move to the side of the road and keep with the traffic flow.
The first few miles of the race FLEW by – probably because my mouth was running faster than my legs (note to anyone who ever runs with me: I talk a lot – Bari discovered this quickly, haha). I had a significantly moving moment when we passed mile 3 with ease, as I had not crossed that threshold in quite a long time — and I felt great! We kept to our interval plan with ease through Mile 6, where we took a quick break (Bari hit the portapottie for a wardrobe adjustment, and I scarfed down a bag of mini oreos, hahah) and traversed on!
Side note: To be honest, running without a Garmin is such a blessing and a curse. It was great to truly be “freestyling” the race, but with my mommy brain, I cannot remember much about what happened in each mile either. I DO know, however, that after the race split half and full, I was overjoyed to spot my friend Jenn who was not only spectating with adorable pups and funny signs, but with DELICIOUS brownies. YUM!!
Back to the race.
As the miles went on, I was beginning to feel a weird kind of dejavu, after running the full in 2014 and 2015. You see, the end of both distances joins back up in the last few miles, so I had run that before, but obviously, much later in the day. It almost felt like I had unlocked a wormhole or something, and it felt pretty amazing.
Just before we hit Mile 10, I asked Bari if it would be okay if I pulled ahead. I was feeling a surge of energy and was ready to hit the last 5K – up toward and over the bridge – and she told me to go for it! We exchanged hugs, and I was on my way.
If you have never run this race before, it’s hard to describe the feeling you have at the end of this race, but it’s seriously almost like an out-of-body experience. The stretch ahead looks long, and then the bridge looks daunting, but as you run closer, you realize that you can do it, and that nothing great ever comes easy. Your body feels the miles, but your feet somehow feel light. You know that the finish is just on the other side of the hill, and when you hit that last stretch off the highway, and down toward the Mayo Clinic, you’ve completed your journey.
The Mayo Clinic finish is not only symbolic of the course finish, but, of THE finish itself.
The moment I crossed the finish line (chip time – 2:32:02), I was already thinking about next year. I loved the half marathon experience, and am glad I did it this year, but the 10th anniversary of this 26.2 has my name on it in 2017.
My boobs did not explode. In fact, we nursed as soon as we got back to the hotel (she was sleeping at the finisher village and didn’t want to bother her, since daddy had been feeding her all the pumped milk all morning) and everything was fine, though the milk may have been a little salty that first feeding 😉
So, are you in for 2017? Reg opens this spring! ❤