The ride north to Albany was uneventful. No traffic and a few potty breaks brought us to Albany in less than 6 hours. The town is small and there are more walgreens and rite-aids than grocery stores. I picked up my race packet around 4:45pm but the process was kinda hectic. They had plenty of goodies (Snickers marathon bars and Kuodos bars, Mars company is stationed in Albany) and the t-shirt for the race is really nice. Before picking up Karel's race packet at a different hotel, we had to settled for Ruby Tuesdays last night due to lack of options (I couldn't find the outback!!) but I filled up on yummy salad bar selections, incluiding some bread and some of Karel's pasta. No big deal since I wasn't planning on "racing" the race and if you think about it, how often do we really "carbo load" before a "long" run. I think when we take a race seriously we should prepare nutritionally to the best of our ability. In this case, as long as my blood sugar doesn't drop (I carry my nuts with me at all times) the day before and I get in 3 good meals and plenty of snacks I would be ready to run 13.1 miles at a comfortable pace. The Days Inn was better than expected (seeing that our expectations were low :) hehe) and we were in bed by 8:45pm ready to fall asleep. Although I was not nervous for this race on a competition side, I was a bit anxious because I haven't ran 13.1 miles since Kona. Actually, since I got injured and stopped running on Sept 4th (a month before Kona without running) I only did the Ironman in Kona (yes, I said "only", I just realized that) and one long run of 10 miles last sun. Again, no expectations for this race but to try to stay healthy throughout the race and enjoy every footstrike. I actually hoped to finish under 2 hours and not walk so that I would actually have a goal in order to push when I felt weak. Although I wouldn't be upset if I walked or came in after 2 hours, I just wanted to feel like a runner, with goals and a little competitive side. I woke up every hour last night, just checking my watch to make sure I didn't miss the 3 alarms on my cell phone. I don't even laugh when I say that because that is so me to be anal like that...even when not racing. I still get nervous for local sprint triathlons....but I always have fun no matter what my finish time. So I finally got out of bed at 5:20am and prepared some istant coffee (no surprise, there is no starbucks in Alabyn GA!). After a few minutes of me getting myself ready in the bathroom, Karel was up just laying in bed. I didn't want a lot before this race so I prepared 1/2 packet of oatmeal w/ a little bit of a banana and a few raisins. The same pre race breakfast but just less in calories. I finished off a full 24 ounce water bottle of water/sports drink and I was ready to walk/jog to the race start. Karel was getting his breakfast ready so a quick kiss/good-luck and good-bye and I was out the door at 6:10. Burrr..45 degrees out and I had a long sleeve Zoot dry-fit shirt and shorts. Perfect for running but my Florida blood hasn't really had a chance to get use to cooler temps. Once I got to the race site (10 min. later) I stood in the Hilton for 20 min. to get warm. Then over to the race start by the civic center. I heard a familiar voice and it was Tom Ziebart announcing the race (he is the race director for Escape from Florida in Clermont and Florida 70.3). I was standing around and all of a sudden I hear a voice asking if he could get a pic of me....guess who??? Karel came down with one of his friends to wish me good luck prior to Karel's warm-up on the trainer in the hotel room. So, a quick pic of me for my "fan" and then it was time to line up for the race. The race was just perfect in size (around 1000) and the course was amazing. It was really homey and the scenary was beautiful. There were very few moments without fans and although the race was feautured as "flat", i think that term is very relative, especially for someone in "flat" florida. There were several rollers but I didn't mind the climbs and descents. At 7am we were off. I kept track on my watch to see if I could hold some type of pace and most importantly to my non-distance running legs, I didn't want to go out too fast, too soon. The first 4 miles went by slow. I was enjoying my time running but I wondered if I could make it 13.1 miles running. I self-talked my way into a few more miles and by mile 6 I was feeling GOOD. Apparently, it is kinda hard to run slow and my legs were remembering how to run semi fast. So now I was beginning to pass the people who were passing me and I was getting into a zone. Although I was keeping track of my pace, I was noticing that I was getting faster during the second half of the race. I never got excited during the race because the race wasn't over until I crossed the finish line. Now, with a leg that hasn't ran 13.1 miles in over 4 months, I needed to be sure to focus on my form, strides and foot strikes. All was good until aroun mile 12 when I began to hurt in my right leg. It wasn't pain but my leg was tightening up. Really tight! I was having trouble keeping a steady rhythm and I couldn't really lengthen my stride. Luckily, there was a 1/2 mile incline which couldn't have come at a better time. Right before mile 13 I had almost 4 min. to shorten my stride. At that point, I felt ok and I knew i would be able to finish this race. You could imagine my worries when at mile 12 I look at my watch, see a better than expected time and think that i might have to walk the rest of the race. Well I thought about my last couple of months of rehabing my leg back to running and I thought about what I could do to work this injury out. Throughout the entire race I just thought about all the good runs I had and I had several smiles when I was running just thinking about pushing hard, oh so many times. Without spoiling the finish for my blog readers, I kept checking my watch and by mile 9 I realized I was going to beat my expected time of 2 hours and in fact, I was going to go 2 hours or less. I guess I picked up the pace just in case I had to walk or slow down but when I rounded the corner at mile 13, I was so happy that I was able to get through this race. With a finishing time of 1:47, I finished 66 overall and 3rd in my age group. I am very happy with my performance and I am just moving a bit slow right now. Not in pain (thankfully) but the normal post-race, half marathon soreness which is expected. I really did push hard and to only be 8 min off my PR I am pleased. Off I go now to cheer on Karel for his crit. This morning's TT went well for Karel. He finished in around 4 minutes and 30 seconds after 12 turns, a crazy roundabout and mega inclines and declines for only 3.6K. Thanks for all the good luck wishes everyone!
Here are my splits: 8:20, 8:34, 7:53, 8:25, 8:19, 8:05, 8:01, 7:59, 7:56, 8:16, 8:12, 8:13, 7:28, 1:44 = 1:47.33