Surprisingly enough, I didn't have any trouble sleeping the night before. I set everything out so that Saturday morning I'd just have to throw on my gear, grab my water out of the fridge, and throw my backpack into the car.
When my alarm went off at 5:45, I was ready to get at it. We had an hour drive to the race, and I wanted to get there an hour early, so our ETD was 6:30. Jay had just went to bed at 3 AM, so he was a little difficult to get out of bed, but around 6:35 we were on our way.
I got in line to register and asked Jay where the camera was. "In the car."
"But I want a picture of in here!"
He thought I was a dork, but went and got it for me. Things I didn't get a picture of before the race: the sign above the toilet saying "do not flush radioactive material down this drain", the sign that said "when lights are flashing live fire is in progress", and "no loaded fire arms inside the training room."
The weather was cool, but nice. Earlier in the week, the forecasts called for rain - thankfully that held off until Sunday. I was starting to get jittery, so I chatted with some fellow runners. One had completed the race before and gave me the heads up that the "standard deluxe" hill was nothing to sneeze at. In fact, he informed me, there is a curve half way up. His first time racing the course he thought he was to the top, only to round the corner and see that he had more to go.
I positioned myself towards the back, knowing I would be one of the slower runners. Jay insisted that I wouldn't be in last place, but after looking up the times from previous years on line, I couldn't be sure.
I was able to start out at my own pace, and didn't let the runners passing me or the race day excitement get the betst of me. But by mile 1, an old lady passed me and I was in last place. From the awards later, I found out she was in the 70-99 catagory. All I knew was that from mile 1-5 I was in last place...and running behind an hunched over old lady in a back brace.
The course started at the Oak Ridge Central Training Facility, went right for two miles, then doubled back toward the CTF. Passing the CFT we traveled on that road about 2 more miles, did about a hundred yards off roading, then we were on the path toward the standard deluxe hill.
I got a little freaked out when I passed a couple of train cars labeled "hydrochloric acid", but kept plugging along. Thankfully I passed the old lady around mile 6.5 or so and was no longer in last place. I still, however, had the run/walker to contend with. I was pretty much her pacer. She'd run for a while, then talk a walking break. When I'd catch up to her (jogging slowly the whole time), she took that as her cue to run again.
That's only slightly less annoying than the old lady in the back brace being in front of me.
I was confident, however, that there was no way I was crossing the finish line after someone who had to start walking at mile 2. If nothing else, I knew I'd lose her on the hill.
As I rounded the corner around mile 8, I caught my first glimpse of it. I couldn't help but mutter an explitive. I thought I was prepared for what it might look like, but it was far worse than I'd feared.
I didn't have a camera with me, so the best I can do to show you a small part of the hill is to rely on the race photos. I had prayed that my IPod shuffle would give me a couple of good songs - the hill was a 100 foot elevation change over a 0.3-0.4 mile area and I'd need every ounce of inspiration to get to the top with out stopping to walk.
My two songs were Third Day's "Come on Back to Me" and Alabama's "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" - both felt perfect. I passed the run/walker for the last time, as well as another racer. The turn around was at the top of the hill. Once I made it to the top I knew I was home free from there.
Sure I still had 4.6 miles to go, but if I could run up that hill I could do anything!
I don't even remember taking another energy gel after that. Just kept trotting past the 9 and 10 mile markers. Before I reached the 11 mile point, I passed my 4th racer. I noticed that he was run/walking it, but just assumed that he ran out of gas before the finish.
Turns out, he'd hurt his knee during the race and was doing his best to finish. He was really nice and said "great job girl" as I passed. Its nice when real runners are encouraging like that - it gives me validation or something.
I trotted passed the 11 mile mark, through the grass, and was on the final straight away. Mile 12 seemed to last forever, mostly because I felt like the race was already over, only it wasn't.
Before I got to the 13 mile marker, I noticed my fans lined up along the road. Jay, the princess, little man, and BIL were all there cheering me on. I was a little disappointed, because I wanted Jay there for the finish. Obviously I was mentally tired, because not only did Jay have fresh legs - he's also a sprinter. Of course he was easily able to make it to the finish line before I crossed.
In the picture above, from right to left its some lady, some dude, and me.
I had a little steam left, so I was able to make one last pass before the finish line. You'll notice my BIL and the little man (in his blue car) in the picture above.
My dad, video camera in hand, was stationed at the corner of the final 0.1 mile.
As I rounded the corner, I saw my mom and sister and heard my mom say "you've got 50 seconds till 45!" I had told her that I wanted to finish between 2:37 and 2:45. If I was going to make it, I had to kick it in high gear.
According to my sister, high gear is accompanied by a series of grunts. Never have I been so grateful that my parents' video camera isn't digital. To hear my sister tell it, the noises weren't pretty.
But I felt good crossing the finish line knowing that I gave it all I had.
I grabbed a post race hug, then I was off in search of snacks.
Okay not really. My joints got sore as the night progressed. And Sunday my quads were sore (I'm blaming that blasted hill). But I definitely want to do the same race again next year - this time with a goal of 2:37.