Wow, how to sum up meeting a goal I set for myself a year ago? After I ran the 5K at this race last year, I was determined to come back this year and do the half marathon. Although, even then, I thought, “Can I really, really do that?”
Um, guess what? I totally can! Here’s how it all went down:
We got to Ludington Friday night in time to pick up my race packet, after having dinner in Pentwater with my Uncle Randy, Aunt Linda, and cousins Will, Michal Ann, and Will’s wife Rachel. This area of Michigan is my dad’s bari, the Bengali word for family home, so it’s one of the places in the US I can look to for some roots. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’ve latched onto the Lakestride.
I woke up at 5:45 without an alarm – just wide awake. For breakfast, I had two bananas and about 2 tbsp peanut butter, plus water. We left the hotel around 7:20, and drove to the park by the beach where the race was starting from. Fortunately, we found a spot to park pretty quickly, but it was pretty busy already. A lot of people were getting their packets that morning. By 7:45, I was in position by the 11-minute milers, and chatted with a few of my fellow slowpokes. Two of the people around me were doing a half for the first time. I was glad I’d done one a month ago – I think I would have been far more nervous if it had been my first. After a few announcements and the national anthem, we were off just after 8:00. My iPhone was in my pocket, leaving my hands free.
The first 3-4 miles was straight north, on paved roads through the town and down a curvy tree-lined road that led into the state park. I felt great. Every time I came to an aid station – about every mile or so – I grabbed a cup of water from one of the many volunteers, even if I didn’t feel thirsty. (I had decided not to wear a water belt.) I had a baggie of gummy bears tucked inside my shirt, and tossed down a couple of those every time I came to an aid station. It was in the 70s, partly cloudy, but I knew I could quickly get dehydrated so I took advantage of the water.
Speaking of aid stations, my favorite one was when I said to the 14-year-old kid who handed me my cup, “Thanks, you rock!” He looked me in the eyes and said seriously, “No man, YOU rock!” And as I ran away, he called after me, “YOU ROCK!” Loved that moment.
Also, there was a runner dressed in a Wonder Woman costume. Who I passed at mile 2.
At mile 4, we started down a narrow hiking path in the state park. I believe we were in the woods about two miles, up and down hills, hopping around tree roots, slogging through loose sandy sections. At this point, I stopped paying attention to where my phone said I was in the distance. The GPS was half a mile behind, and it got to over a mile by the time I was most of the way done. So, the iPhone was just for music. I took deep breaths of the still forest air and thanked God for being able to run. And tried to not get intimidated by the “thud-thud-thud” of feet around me.
The highlight of the trail section was a sand dune that you run down, zip across a footbridge over the dam, and back to paved roads that wind around the park. The dune was probably my favorite part of the whole run! Made me feel like a little kid. I passed several people who had stopped to empty their shoes of sand, but mine felt fine so I just kept truckin’.
The course turned southwards, and I was running on a road along the beach. Between the sand dunes, I could see glimpses of blue, blue Lake Michigan. Seagulls dipped and swooped in the waves. The wind that I was nervous about was nothing more than a gentle breeze…that tossed sand in my eyes a few times.
At every mile marker, a volunteer called out the time passed since the start time. I realized pretty early on that I was doing OK timewise. I was roughly maintaining my 11-mile pace. And more importantly, I was FEELING OK. No cramps, no side stitches, the wind wasn’t an issue…As usual, I got tired around mile 9, and had to play a few mental games with myself to keep from walking right then and there: “No, no walking until the end of this song. Okay, now try to make it to the next mile marker. Now you might as well keep going until the next aid station…”
At mile 11, there was a long hill. And um, who has energy after they’ve been running for 11 miles? But there was a friendly dude halfway up who kept encouraging us, “It’s okay, just half a mile and the hill is done!”
I came to the top and realized it was essentially flat to the end and that I was going to finish AND that I’d be under my old time. I wish I’d had a bit more juice to kick it into higher gear at this point, but I was mostly done physically. I rounded the turn into the park, and started to sprint to the finish. Scanned the crowd for Steve. I finally found him and managed to give a fabulous cheer before I zipped across the finish line.
Final time: 2:24:36, almost five minutes faster than the anti-mini!
We took some pictures, ate some fruit, and stretched in the shade. Back to the hotel for a shower, lunch at a fun Italian place in Ludville, then we drove across the state to Midland to spend the rest of the weekend with our friends Dave and Tara.
Wow. I still can’t believe I have run TWO half marathons in five weeks. That’s just nuts. Nuts, nuts, nuts. Like I said to Steve before the race, “Only crazy people do this! There are 1,500 crazy people here! And their crazy families for letting them do this!”
Maybe I’m OK with being crazy after all. 🙂