Friday, November 14, 2014

It was a P.R. kind of day...

It's hard to believe that the Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon was 5 days ago! I so wanted to run it last year, but it sold out in record time. So this year I was thrilled to have a chance to run the Half Marathon....I knew it was the perfect way to keep me moving after finishing Chicago.

I completed the Monster Dash Half 13 days after Chicago, and 15 days before the Naperville Half. It actually felt great to get out there running again, and I had a blast sharing it with my lovely friend Christine. She kept me on track until we hit mile 11.5, and ran smack into a Breast Cancer Walk that was joining the lakefront path with us. That bottleneck lasted about a mile, but we were still able to finish with my second-fastest half time, at 2:53 and change.

This awesome skyline never gets old!

So glad I got to share this beautiful day with so many friends!
I ran a couple of very short runs leading up to Naperville, but that was it. Now that it gets dark around 4:45 or so, it's a lot harder to get out after work for lots of miles. So my goal for this half was just to have a great time, enjoy the run, and celebrate finishing the last (finally!!) long run I would do in 2014. My friend Pat, who is incredible, is one of the race directors for Naperville, and I couldn't wait to share this with her. I also had several friends running the half distance, as well as a few running the full marathon.

We lucked out with some pretty decent weather on race day. It was going to be cool, in the upper 40s in the afternoon, but luckily there wasn't any rain and very little wind at the start.

Beautiful sunrise to start out the morning

Love these ladies!! And man....I am short :)
The energy was buzzing around the starting line. I got my bag (packed with some warm clothes) dropped off, made a couple of stops at the porta potties, and found a spot around the 2:30 half marathon pace group. I knew I couldn't stay with them the whole time, so I hung back from them a bit. The starting gun went off, and within just five or six minutes I was on my way. I settled into a very comfortable pace, just a bit under 12 minute miles. My plan was to keep running for almost all of the first 4 miles, then switch to my run/walk of 3 minutes run/1:30 walk. That went really well, and the only time I walked was through the first water station. I felt great, and kept plugging along.

The route went through several different neighborhoods in the city of Naperville. I was pleasantly shocked at the number of spectators. It was great to see so many people in front of their homes, cheering on the runners. I saw my friend Melinda and her son V going through one of the neighborhoods, and that put a big smile on my face. 

Around mile 4 I turned on my Gymboss, which keeps me on track for my run/walk. My pace did slow down a bit, but not too bad. I also took my first GU (LOVE the Salted Caramel!) around 4.5 miles in, so that dropped my pace back a bit, too. Luckily I actually started to speed back up a bit around mile 7, and kept that going for the next couple of miles.

Miles 9 and 10 were the roughest stretch for me. It was on a stretch of road that had very few homes (so very few spectators), and it was hilly. But I knew I was getting very close to just having a 5K to go, and with the pace I had going I also thought I *might* be able to beat my best time. I saw my friend Karen around the end of this part of the half, and that perked me up a ton, too. 

The spectators started to grow as we were getting closer to Naperville Central, where the race started and would finish. I picked up my pace a bit, and it really hit me that "Oh my gosh...I might actually PR today!!". That thought kept me moving as we got to the split, where the marathoners turned left and those of us running the half got to turn right. I could hear the finish line excitement, and everyone around me could feel the energy pulling us in. 

I saw my friend Denise about 0.3 miles from the finish. She cheered me on, and I yelled back "It's a PR for me!". I made the final turn, and could see the finish line looming in front of me. Once I got to the fences marking the finisher's chute, I took off and sprinted across the line, and finished with a time of 2:46:22 - about a minute faster than my best time! I had a HUGE smile on my face, and put on the jacket a volunteer handed me. We had these instead of the Mylar blankets, and I really liked it.

Right after getting my medal my dear friend Michelle found me and gave me a great big hug. She ran a great half! I know she was freezing (she had finished well before me, and was sweetheart to be out there for me), and luckily another running friend Diane gave Michelle her jacket to help her warm up.

Happy runners!
Another great perk of running the half is that I actually got a massage this time :)! And was amazing! My calves had been cramping up the last couple of miles, and this helped a ton. I also saw Pat and Craig as I was laying there, and got hugs from them. After that, I picked up my bag and headed into the gym at the high school to warm up a bit. Andrea finished just a bit after me (so awesome...she's been injured, so I know how tough it was!), and after some more time warming up we headed up to eat our way through the food tent.

Michelle, me, and Andrea post-race
The beef sandwiches from Buona Beef were just about the best.thing.ever., and yay!! - they had Nestle Quik chocolate milk as well!! It all tasted soooo good, and helped me warm up a bit, too. After eating I grabbed my bag from the Dick Pond Fast Track Team tent, and finally was able to get my nice, warm, down coat on. We headed over to the Two Brothers Beer Tent, and our friend Jitka met up with us there. I am SO proud of her - she rocked her marathon and finished right about 3:45 and change!!

This was just about the perfect way to round out my 2014 races. I do have one more, but it's just a 4 miler on Thanksgiving. I got to share it with so many friends, had a blast, and beat my best time from over 2 years ago when I was faster. And to top it off - I qualified for the Half Fanatics since I did two half marathons in 15 days! That wasn't my goal at the beginning of this year, but it felt pretty good to cross that off my list.
Happy finisher here
This year has definitely flown by, with the races and training keeping me busy. I'll be working more on cross-training this winter, and shedding the 20 lbs I've put on the last year or so. I'm ready to get back and track, and can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for me!