The OC Half Marathon turned out to be anything but what I expected. Going into this race, I honestly didn't care what the outcome was. Coming off my first marathon just 7 days ago, I wasn't as excited as I usually am to run a race.
I signed up for this race a few months ago with my friend Tess (my BFF who came to see me in Big Sur). I was looking forward to the race to spend time with her and enjoy a beautiful course. Tess got some bad news about her knee about a month ago, and decided to opt out of the race to avoid the possibility of long-term damage and surgery. I was pretty bummed, but I didn't want to drop out.
Ricky and I went to the expo Saturday afternoon in a hurry. We were pretty tired from running errands earlier, so we grabbed my bib, took a few photos, did a quick walk through and then left. Ricky's friend was hosting a party for the Mayweather Pacquiao fight that night, and I decided to go even though I was exhausted. My low expectations for the race meant I went against all my normal pre race rituals. We stayed until 10 and I went to sleep with beer, Roscoe's chicken and waffles, and tons of Ruffles potato chips in my belly.
A 4 am wake up call was not very welcome the next morning, but I got up grabbed my apple and Honey Stinger chews and Ricky and I drove to the OC Fairgrounds. The bus was scheduled to leave for the start at 4:55 am. The start was only a 10 minute drive away. Luckily I made my way to the Marriott right near the starting line and found a couch to lay on for the next 45 minutes. Once my alarm went off at 5:55, it was time to hit the toilets before heading to the start.
My running buddy Eddie called me on my way to the start so we could meet up. I walked into the first corral which was pretty empty and ran into Megan! She's been such an inspiration to me throughout training and has offered tons of advice as an experienced marathoner. Eddie finally found me and we had a few minutes to catch up. We all talked about what we were hoping for in the race and we were all up in the air. Finally the start!
I went out a little cautiously because my legs still felt pretty tired, but the pace felt easy at the start going closing mile 1 at a 7:20 pace. The course takes you around Fashion Island, down PCH, towards Corona Del Mar. You spend miles 2 - 6 running through the beautiful homes down there.
Around mile 4, a younger guy ran up next to me and started to keep pace with me. I kind of ignored it at first, but then enjoyed the company. We never spoke to each other, but when there were turns or water stations and we would separate, he would always catch up or look back for me. I wasn't sure if he was looking for me or for whomever he came to the race with. We made our way into the back bay for mile 6 and then back onto the road and into the homes up above Newport's Back Bay for miles 7 - 10.
Finally coming out of the homes, my legs were shot. I could tell I was falling off my pace, but this kid stuck with me. Halfway through miles 10, you see the huge hill at mile 11 just ahead. I said some terrible words in my mind and just crept up the hill. I got through and made it to mile 12 with a 7:26 mile. Every time my Garmin went off, I thought I was going crazy with how fast it said I was going.
The 1:35 pacers made it to me and my pacing buddy at mile 12. I thought it was strange they were so close to me when my Garmin was at 1:25:37. It psyched me out for a second and then I realized how much I was going to PR. All of mile 13 I had to keep telling myself, "Just keep going. You're going to kill it." I couldn't get my legs to go any faster, and saw my running buddy slowly slip ahead of me. I was happy for him! I saw the clock above the finish line clicking at 1:34... I crossed, turned off my watch and bent over to catch whatever I left out there.
When I stood up, the young runner was right in front of me holding out his hand to shake mine saying "Thank you!" I grabbed him and hugged him so hard! I said, "No, thank you! You just got me a huge PR!" I found out this was his first half marathon and he was just 18. He was running in shoes that had holes in the tops (I wish I had a photo)! Insane. I had such a great time running with him! Such an amazing experience to share someone's first race with them and to share such a huge moment for me with him.
Overall, I'm amazed at what I was able to do out there. I came in 20th overall woman, 153rd overall finisher and 5th in my age group (25-29, which will change in about a week here... oh yah for my 30s!). Never underestimate yourself or limit what you can accomplish. I might not have set out to do what I did, but I felt good and pushed my limits to accomplish something I never dreamed would happen.