13.1 miles to the promised land

I had two goals for the half marathon.

1. Run all 13.1 miles. I’d run all my miles in training and wanted to stay consistent. The most I’d run during training was 11 miles. I hoped that I’d trained well and was prepared to run the entire course.

2. Finish in under 2:06 (about a 9:30 pace).

I didn’t doubt myself until two days before the race. I ran Friday morning. I was slow, tired and simply never found my stride. I tried telling myself that it was all mental and I was just nervous. My pep talk didn’t help. I cut my run short and went home feeling dejected. I hoped that I’d gotten my bad run out of the way just in time to have a good (or even great) run on Sunday morning.

And I did.

Whatever was ailing me Friday was gone by Sunday morning. I was a little nervous, but more excited. Dad drove us to Long Beach. All the pre-race logistics like traffic, parking, peeing (port-a-pottie lines can be long), and checking our bags went smooth. We warmed up and stretched.

Dad snapped some pre photos of us and then we lined up in wave 2 (for a 1:51-2:05 half marathon race time). I knew Lori, who runs faster than me was in the correct wave, but wasn’t sure I was in the right place. Still, I stuck with Lori, which was nice because waiting isn’t fun when you’re alone.

Soon after we crossed the starting line, we split up. Lori’s goal was to finish with a personal record or sub 1:55. She wouldn’t do that if she stuck with me. I didn’t mind. I’ve only run with Lori 3 times before, I was much more accustomed to running on my own. I knew I’d be fine.

And I was.

I had a great time along the course. The overcast 60 degree weather was perfect for a long distance run. The course itself was quite scenic (check out Toky’s great photo essay documenting the marathon experience) with plenty of spectators cheering along the way. I loved the silly signs for any runner like “your legs will forgive you, eventually” and “run like someone is chasing you” as well as those for a specific friend or family member. I stopped at the various water stations when I was thirsty and grabbed water or Powerade. I had a little trouble with slowing down enough to drink. Near the end, I got a boost from supporters handing out glazed donut holes (yummy!) and orange wedges.

As for running, I started a little faster than I should have thanks to adrenaline and faster runners surrounding me. I realized this quickly and slowed down to avoid burning out. At the 10K (6.2) mile point, I knew I was likely going to meet my time goal and started feeling a little emotional. I was gonna do this.

I kept my chillona tendencies in check and powered through the next few miles along the beach bike path, but it made a resurgence around mile 11 when Rilo Kiley’s With Arms Outstretched began playing. I didn’t have “16 miles to the promised land,” only 2.1. The lyrics resonated and I sang along. “I’m doing the best I can… So you better move fast.” My left foot and leg hurt a little, but I kept moving at my pace. I knew my goal was within reach.

As I neared the finish line, I looked for my dad. I found him and called out, “DAD!” He didn’t turn. I got closer, “CHARLIE!” A woman beside him nudged him, he waved. I waved back. He snapped a photo of my profile and I rushed to the finish line. I like the photo. It’s clear I’m smiling and happy rather than grimacing in pain.

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and took a look at the time: 2:03:34. I walked through the finish line area where a young man placed a medal around my neck. I easily found Lori in the finish area. We got mylar blankets and goodie bags with bananas, apples, protein bars and chocolate milk. Soon after, we found my dad.

We cooled down, stretched and got free massages. That was pretty awesome. And then we waited in long lines to cross a footbridge over the finish line area north to the baggage check and toward the parking garages. Standing around in line and climbing stairs was tough after all that running. I didn’t eat enough after finishing and soon felt faint and queasy. I took a seat and ate my banana after my stomach calmed down. That helped. After 20 minutes or so, we got through the foot bridge only to find ourselves in a second ridiculously long and slow moving line at the JetBlue baggage claim.

The young volunteers seemed flustered as they tried to find the bags of hundreds of tired, sweaty and grumpy runners. We would’ve waited longer if Lori hadn’t found her own bag by chance. She urged me to do the same. When I found my bag, the folks around me cheered. When another woman found her bag, she claimed, “this is better than finishing the half marathon.”

Without the post race logistical problems, my Sunday morning would’ve been perfect.

I was more than happy with my official time 2:03:33 and pace 9:26. Lori set a personal record at 1:56:48 despite feeling like she hadn’t run her best. Go Team Mosqueda!

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