Usually the night before a race, I am a wreck.
I am worried sick and over-analyzing every mile.
I panic over my pace…worried the struggle bus will pick me up!
But on Friday night, I was the complete opposite. I was relaxed (well as relaxed as I’m capable of feeling) and most importantly, I was excited. I even went Happy Hour for a few drinks right after work, which was a blast. The laughs were much needed after a long week.
When I got home, I quickly packed my bags for a sleepover with the girls. Carla made an incredible dinner: two kids of pasta, bruschetta, salad, and pumpkin cheesecake.
And unlike any other race before, I spent the night before drinking wine and laughing with my new and old friends.
|My sign: Success tastes salty, not sweet.|
|And Carla surprised all of the girls with hats, gloves, and socks!|
Carla and I stayed up late watching “Raising Helen” and talking about our boys, work, family, health, children, Joe Biden’s smile, friendship, knitting, and the race- not necessarily in that order. I also learned that Carla has done 14 half marathons, how awesome is she!?
Anyway, we decided our marathon relay was 100% about having fun and cheering on our girls. I said I wasn’t out for a personal best, even though I secretly wanted to hit my goal pace and finish around an hour. Our team name was ROY G BIV. And we all decided to dress like a color in the rainbow (obviously).
Despite having a “stress free night”, I woke up race morning anxious. I was in full blown “Ashley Stress Out” mode, which means:
- I couldn’t find my cell phone. Thankfully I wasn’t driving or I would have lost my keys too.
- I misplaced my safety pins for my bib number.
- I forgot to charge my iPod the night before.
- I realized I didn’t bring my comfortable running underwear (stay tuned for more info on that one).
Carla, knowing me better than I know myself sometimes, was perfect at calming me down. She helped me find my phone, get my safety pins, wait while I charged my iPod, and well- I left the underwear concern to myself.
|Before the race! ROY G BIV girls!|
Here We Go
The relay had four legs:
Leg 1: 5 miles (Me- purple)
Leg 2: 7.5 miles (Lindsay- pink)
Leg 3: 6.55 miles (Carla- green)
Leg 4: 7.15 miles (Jami- yellow / neon)
Walking to the start line, I was flooded with emotions. My running journey has been incredible, and this race is where it all started two years ago. I had two great friends by my side as I completed 13.1 miles for the first time in my life. And on Saturday, I had 3 more friends by my side as we tackled 26.2 miles together.
|Carla walking with me to my corral!|
Before I entered my corral, we all put our hands together and did a loud cheer together. Our chant was the perfect way to say goodbye before I kicked off the race. And then I was alone- stuck inside my own head.
When should I start my music? I asked myself.
Should I start it now? Well, what if I miss people cheering for me before I cross the start line and it looks like I am blowing people off.
Okay, I’ll start when I cross the start line. But what if I am too focused on trying to start my music and I trip over the rugs? Then I’ll get trampled all over and die.
Just start it now.
No, no- just wait until you are a quarter mile in!
Just then, I heard the girls yell my name. I turned back and waved to them. A few seconds later, I heard my name again.
Am I hearing voices inside my head?
No, sure enough I did hear my name again and my friend Kiersten came running up to me. She was running her first half marathon! She looked incredible! I heard she ended up killing her first half marathon and finished strong. I’m so proud of her…and honored that she said I was an inspiration to her during her first half marathon journey.
|“I saw someone dancing and I knew it was you.” – Kiersten, as she came running up to me|
We parted ways and I was alone again.
It was just me, the adorable old lady next to me, and my iPod- which I still didn’t know when I should start playing it. Despite my anxious mind, I took a few minutes to soak in my surroundings. I looked around at the beautiful leaves changing colors, happy faces, dancing old ladies, and families cheering on their loved ones in the race.
|Beautiful Fall morning.|
One minute into my run and I was miserable. Why?
Well, my shirt was riding up my stomach, so I had to keep adjusting it.
And remember how I forgot my comfortable running underwear? Well, the pair I had decide to ride down my butt and were slowly rolling into a thong. Honestly, I’ve never been so uncomfortable. Ever.
I was getting hot, so I wanted to ditch my gloves and hat immediately. As I was doing so, I ripped my earphones out and one of them broke.
You can’t be serious right now…
Just then, I ran into a friend from high school – Ashlee. We chatted for a few minutes and then I couldn’t handle my situation for another second.
“I’m so sorry, Ash,” I said. “But I have to pull off the course to get my life together.”
I hopped onto the sidewalk and then:
- Ripped off my hat and gloves.
- Pulled down my shirt and prayed it would stop riding up (or I would stop noticing it).
- Attemped to fix my earphones.
- And most importantly, adjusted my underwear.
Finally, I was ready to run again, so I jacked up my iPod…and my pace!
Running with music was awesome. I put my iPod on shuffle and tried my best not to watch the clock. And I purposely didn’t turn on my Run Keeper app.
Around mile two, I seriously considered going into the bathroom and just ripping off my underwear. Hulk Hogan style.
But, I didn’t want the clock against me so I kept running.
I maintained a pretty consistent pace, despite a few walking breaks and hills.
Around mile 4, I ran into Carla and her boyfriend, Alec. When Carla saw me, she started screaming loudly. Her loud cheers were the PERFECT pick me up. She started jumping up and down like she was at a Backstreet Boys concert and said, “You are doing AMAZING.”
She jumped in to run with me and said, “Look at how fast you’re going. And look at your little booty, you look incredible!”
She slapped my butt, wished me luck, and ran back to Alec.
I didn’t know how much longer I had, so I looked at my watch and decided I would take a 30 second walking break – just to stretch out my legs and fix my underwear (obviously).
Five seconds later, I ran into Jami (my other teammate).
“YEAHHHHH ASHLEY!” Jami yelled.
I ran over to her and gave her a high five.
“You’re so close, Ash! Just right up the road and you’re there- finish strong.”
So much for that walking break.
I laughed and then kicked it into high gear.
The mile 5 sign kept getting closer and closer…and I could see that I was minutes away from an hour! I was going to hit my secret goal!
The moment I saw Lindsay, I sprinted up to her. I was pleasantly surprised with the strength I still had inside me. I felt like I could have kept running- yet another good sign my upcoming half marathon will go well.
Lindsay and I switched the ankle tracker, exchanged encouraging words, and then she was off to tackle the longest leg of our course.
I finished around 1:05, which included the time it took to transfer the ankle tracker to Lindsay. Either way, the official race pace put me at 13 minute miles. My last half marathon pace was exactly 14:28 minute miles…needless to say, I was ecstatic!!!
Becoming a Cheerleader
The rest of the day, I was a cheerleader.
I cheered my teammates- who ROCKED their legs. I even got the chance to run with Lindsay during the final minutes of her leg. She was FLYING, so I was surprised I could keep up. I was so insanely proud with how all of the girls did. I think everyone walked away from their leg feeling accomplished and pleased with their pace.
I cheered for friends I spotted on the course (Cindy, Emily, Meghan, and Amy, to name a few).
And, I cheered for complete strangers.
A few times, I got so emotional just watching the expression on people’s face as they approached the finish line. And by “a few times,” I mean I cried at least 10 times.
I loved watching the expression on people’s face change when you told them something encouraging. You could tell when your shouts gave them that extra burst of confidence to finish strong.
Some people were happy.
Most people were in pain.
A handful of people were crying – probably both from happiness and pain.
The End To Be Continued
Jami had a strong ending for the ROY G BIV girls. I toyed with the idea of jumping in with her to cross the finish line together, but honestly she was FLYING and I didn’t know if I could keep up with her. My heel was hurting and my muscles were tight.
“Jami, you’re amazing!” I shouted. “Great finish!!!”
|Medals and smiles.|
Together, we completed the marathon in 5:02.
And we immediately started making plans for next year.
Thank you so much to everyone who cheered us on – your tweets, Facebook messages, text messages, and phone calls meant the world to me. And most importantly, I couldn’t have done this race without such amazing, strong, and inspiring women by my side.
Less than two weeks and I’ll tackle my fifth half marathon. Our marathon relay was a huge confidence boaster. And don’t worry- I’ll buy new headphones and wear my comfortable underwear. Some things you just learn the hard way…