I have to say a word here about the great friends that I have. I woke up the morning of the race feeling sick with anxiety. A bitter cold front had come through in the middle of the night, and the wind was expected to come from the north at about 20-25mph at the time of the race. Icy precipitation was expected at any time, and race time wasn't until 2PM. Oh, how I would have loved to have had that race over with early in the morning, instead of thinking about my strategy, the cold, and my potential failure all morning long--not to mention watching what I ate and drank so that I wouldn't get side stitches! It was impossible to stay down for too long though, with all of my friends texting their encouragement. That morning, I got pep talks from BJ, my sister Christa, and my friends Sommer and Angie, and I got texts of encouragement from four other friends who remembered that I had a big race that day! One of those friends PR'd in her own half-marathon that morning, which was very encouraging to me as well! So, with friends filling me to the brim, BJ and I left our boys with his parents and drove to the race, listening to music and pepping each other up the whole time. Just when I started getting butterflies again, BJ would muse something such as, "Do you suppose I could win the whole race if I drove half of it at highway speed?" Once we arrived, we got ready inside the van and didn't leave until just about the last possible moment. After we took our places up near the start line, I daresay my husband stood just to the left of me and used me as a windbreaker for the remaining two minutes before gun time.
After the gun fired, I took off and tried to not think about the cold anymore. Fortunately, it was easy not to because instead I became worried about my energy level, which seemed a little low. My mouth was very dry, despite chewing gum, and I became worried that I hadn't hydrated enough. I was quickly eating BJ's dust trail and I didn't see him again until we high-fived as he was coming back the opposite direction. Despite my concerns, I felt at ease when I clocked in my first mile at 9:11. I maintained that pace and turned to come back the other direction at the halfway point at 14:28. I knew at that point that I was looking pretty good and had some play time in case I needed to slow down. Still, I saw no reason to take anything for granted. No side stitches at that point yet, but I was actively engaging in my preemptive side-stitch removal technique to try to keep them from popping up at all.
The second half was more into the wind, but I don't think this really impacted me much. I didn't seem to notice the wind too much at all. At that point I began taking good notice of the runners around me. Ahead of me were a father and son, the boy looking to be about 8 years old. I immediately thought of Ben and made my best efforts to keep this boy in my line of sight as motivation. At one point he dropped his hat, and as he stopped to retrieve it I came up right beside him and we ran side-by-side for a little bit before he sprinted up ahead again to his dad, who was looking back for him. This little boy was kind of a visceral reminder on that race course for me, and I was pleased that he did cross the finish line in front of me. The other person I took special notice of was a gal about my age who was running quite a bit faster than me, although she kept stopping to take walking breaks. In doing so, we leapfrogged each other several times. Finally on about the fourth time I passed her, I lightly slapped her shoulder on my way by and said, "You got this, girl. Come on!" A second later she caught up with me and, without speaking about it, we compromised on speed. I sped up my pace, which had fallen a bit, in order to keep up with her, and she slowed down a little bit--probably to keep herself from having to walk again. She and I ran side by side without looking at each other for two or three minutes before we began talking intermittently. We each had earphones in so I'm not sure how much we heard each other, but I know that she mostly ranted about the weather ("I can't believe we're running a 5K in this FREAKING COLD!") and I mainly shared jubilation about upcoming downhill portions of the course ("Downhill is coming! I see it!"). We each stopped once to walk, for about five to ten seconds each time, and the other stopped and walked as well. I found that she was the one keeping me in it at that point. This isn't to say that I was going to stop the race or anything; it is merely to say that my on-target pace was continuing because I found the energy to run with her, and when she stopped to walk my resolve quickly began disappearing as well. After five seconds on our last walking break, I shouted, "Enough. It's time to go." We both began running again and didn't look back. As we neared the finish, she had the energy to sprint a little ahead; she finished in front of me by five or so seconds and then turned around to high-five me, and I felt I had made a new friend. I saw her a couple of minutes after the finish and I thanked her, but never got her name.
As I crossed the finish line, BJ (who had finished in 25:07!!) screamed my name and was taking video of the glorious finish. I remember checking my watch as I crossed, but didn't look beyond the first two numbers: 29. That was all I needed to see. Mission accomplished! I walked on a little bit, completely out of breath and nauseated, and stopped to look at the river and cry a minute for Ben, who saw me through this goal from the very start, when my finishing times exceeded 40 minutes.
Thank you, Ben.
|Olympic Gold may not have felt much better to me!|
|Megan, Kate, and Jack Sauer|
In what Sommer described as "true Jenny fashion," I have determined new goals and am ready to begin working toward them now. My next two goals will focus more on distance than speed. This year for the Memorial Marathon Relay in April I have volunteered to take the long, lakeside leg, which will be 12K (7.5ish miles) in length. I have never run that far before, but my long training runs are already about five miles in length, so it can be accomplished if I just begin recalibrating my distances. Of course, why stop there? I have long desired to run a half marathon, just to say that I have done it, and by the time I am able to run 7.5 miles I will be well over halfway there. I could begin downshifting my runs back to 5K distance after the relay, but if I'm willing to put a couple more months of hard work in, I could keep increasing distance and surprise myself by running a half marathon in June. This is what I have decided to try. Sommer ran a half marathon for Owen the month before he passed away, and I have to admit that I have wanted to dedicate the same effort for him. Today, then, I'll go ahead and just publicly put it out there--a half marathon for Owen in June. First thing's first though: Ben's baby sister Kate also needs a medal, so I better crank up my distances and fully earn one at the Memorial Marathon Relay in April. As always, my portion of the relay race will also be dedicated to a child who lost a life during the Oklahoma City Bombing. This year I have chosen six-month-old Lee Gottschall. One of my greatest honors all year is walking from the finish line to the memorial and tying my race bib to the chair of a little sweet angel.
There is ALWAYS someone to run for, so run I will.