Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Space Coast Half Marathon

For several years, I had a group of girlfriends who loved to run half and full marathons. We planned birthdays and holidays around traveling to a destination, celebrating and running the race. When I started to train for Ironman, my ability to make those planned events disappeared and I truly missed traveling with my buddies. We rekindled that fun this weekend at the Space Coast Half Marathon.

Just an hour away from Orlando, my friends Beth, Sandi and Terri traveled over to the coast to enjoy the pre event pasta party and hearing Jeff Galloway speak!! The man is truly an inspiration and it was such an honor to shake his hand and get a picture with him. If you think about it, I probably would never have attempted a half marathon without hearing about the Galloway method. His theory of walking and running an endurance event made it seem very possible for me.

My friends and I grabbed a room at the Country Inn and Suites for the night so that we didn't have to get up at 300am to make the 600am start time of the race. We all spread out in the suite, setting our clothes and shoes and laughing about the race to come. It was like a slumber party of days past.

The 400am alarm went off way too early and I started my race routine as always. Coffee and oatmeal to start my day while the girls stumbled around at this pre dawn hour. We got on the road at 5am and found a parking spot near the finish line (much to my surprise.)

After one trip in the portapotty line, we headed to the start and met some other friends from Team in Training. Before I could even be nervous, the gun went off and we were on our way. Over 2500 people were signed up for the event unlike years past when we only had about 600.

Running in the soon as I got in my hit me. This is what I was suppose to be doing a few weeks ago...running in the dark. My parents were shocked at the Ironman that people ran in the dark and into the night. If they had seen me this early morning they might have been amazed. It was a perfect morning for a race: temps in the 50's, no wind and an absolutely beautiful sunrise as we ran along the river.

Hector and I had discussed this race a few days earlier. "Melissa...this is NOT your "A" race. I do NOT want you pushing yourself too hard. Run in a zone where you are comfortable. If you start to feel some serious pain...WALK."

Pain? Pain is just a state of mind right? At least that's what the back of my running shirt said this morning. Its the only shirt I own that has an Ironman logo on it and does designate 70.3. It is that mindset that I believe gets you through. Endurance racing is MENTAL. You gotta wrap your head and your body around the miles.

Mile 1 to 7 were beautiful. I reached the turn around in 1:29. Ok..I know..for you hardcore running folks, this is slow. For me, its a miracle. My P.R. in the half marathon is 3:09. I was ahead of my best and feeling great. Mile 7 to 10 were a bit more of a challenge but I was still feeling fantastic. I was eating on my normal schedule, drinking at every water stop and REALLY having fun!! Isn't that what this is about.

At mile 10.5, it suddenly hit my hamstrings that I had not really trained in 3 weeks. A few short runs here and a few swims there didn't really prepare me to run a PR. I toyed with the idea of pushing hard...and then I remembered what Hector said....this is not your A race. This is a fun race. As hard as it was not to push forward, I dropped to a walk.

The Space Coast race route is a beautiful one. Winding along the Indian River, I started to really appreciate the sites of this course. You could see the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Space Center and the homes along the course were already decorated with lights for Christmas. The water stops were all space themed and the volunteers were delightful. Sometimes we get so caught up in P.R.'s, cut off times and race strategy that we forget the fun that is in endurance racing.

I wear an Ipod when I do marathons and I have a playlist of songs that inspire. Everything from hard pounding rock to songs with words that motivate. At mile 12, the song "Bring It On Home" by Little Big Town rung in my ears. My husband talked about this song as the perfect song to describe him waiting at the finish line. It brought tears to my eyes. My world has been focused on the finish line for a year. This wasn't the line I was hoping for but, for now, it was a finish that I needed to boost me up a bit. My iphone buzzed at that moment. It was my husband, cheering me on as he made his way back to Orlando. What interesting timing.

I rounded the corner into the park and there are my Team in Training crew...waiting as always for me to make it in. They were screaming and their cheers brought a smile to my face. How blessed I am to be a part of a great group of people who run for more than the joy of exercise and accomplishment. We run to raise awareness, money and hope for those battling cancer. Today was a fun day but we dedicated the race to a Team in Training teammate who has relapsed and is once again battling for his life. Doug Oxedine has done several seasons with Team in Training and is a fighter...he was on my mind as I ran across that finish line and looked at my watch.

3:23. Ok...for the world...this looks like I stopped for lunch along the way. For me, its the second fastest half marathon I have ever done. I was so caught up in the course and the people, I stopped looking at my watch after mile 10.5. I am so blessed to be able to do these kind of races now...just for fun. Who would have ever thought that would be possible just 10 years ago.

So for those battling cancer, specifically Doug, this race was for you. My prayer is that we won't have to raise money and run in honor or memory of cancer patients. I pray that soon, we will have the cure.

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