The days of October 11 and 12 went far too quickly, and are a little bit of a blur if you want to know the truth. Now that my runner’s high has worn off, I’m a little down that the weekend is over. It feels like just yesterday that I convinced my friends to run the Iron Horse Half Marathon with me. When I received the flyer in my virtual bag from the Cleveland Half and saw one of the hundreds of amazing views printed, I immediately knew that I needed to run this race. I’m so happy my friends let me talk them into it. It was an experience of a lifetime.
Saturday morning I truly thought I was going to get a migraine. Remember last week when my kids both had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease? And the week before that when I bit it up the stairs? Stress was my first name by the time Friday rolled around. I tried packing as much as I could but I had to finish up on Saturday morning. I realized by checking the weather several times that I probably needed a throw-away sweatshirt of some sort, and that I had purged everything I owned to Goodwill at the beginning of summer. I took Boo with me on a wild goose chase to Target and thankfully found not one, but two inexpensive throw-aways. Phew.
Hauled butt home, had lunch with the fam, tossed my completely over-packed bag into the car, plus all of my food — you can never pack too much food when you’re a runner — and off I was to pick up my friend, Julie.
We had a pretty uneventful drive down. We stopped once to pee and splurged on junk food despite telling myself I wouldn’t eat road-trip garbage. (Do Nutter Butters count as garbage? I mean, they have protein, right?) We arrived in Lexington around 5:30 pm or so, and decided to head to Midway for dinner. We wanted to check out the town pre-race, and there were several seemingly amazing restaurants we had to try. We ended up at a place called Grey Goose. It was packed when we arrived. We weren’t even sure who was local to the small town, who was in for the race, and who was out on date night from Lexington.
|Apps and pre-race carbs…|
|Veggie Pizza. Yep, this happened.|
|Mmmm, chicken sandwich…|
|Julie and me|
Our server was great. And we had amazing pizza, and an equally amazing grilled chicken sandwich. The original goal was to find an Italian place (ya know, carb loading and all), but the pizza and chicken seemed to do. Also, the fries were to die for. We didn’t eat all of our pizza so we had it boxed and took it back to our hotel. As I was putting it in the refrigerator, I mentioned to Julie that we were going to forget it.
We were full and happy, and ready to just chill in bed and watch tv. Our hotel room got HBO! Sweet! Except there was nothing on. Literally. We ended up watching Property Brothers on HGTV, which wasn’t so bad because they’re not so harsh on the eyes, but the couple in the episode was delusional. Beside the point. We ended up turning off the tv around 10. I set my alarm for 5:30 am. As I lay in my bed, previously being totally exhausted and about to pass out while the show was on, I was wide awake. And I started thinking to myself that Julie mentioned she never sleeps well the night before a race. So of course that threw me into a “frenzy.” I messaged my husband at 10:20. “I’m not tired.” “My head hurts.” “This pillow sucks.” He told me to take some Advil, no pillow was better than a crappy pillow, and to go to bed. I followed all of his advice and tossed and turned a bit for a while, but was in a nice deep slumber for what was likely several hours.
I started kind of waking up and having to pee, but I rolled back over. The second time I was kind of woken up to pee I decided to check the time on my phone.
“JULIE! We have to get up!”
Julie: “What time is it?”
Me: “6:07!!!”[hops out of bed to pee, lights off]
Lights pop on while I’m peeing and as soon as I’m out, Julie’s up, dressed, and eating her pbj sandwich. (This girl runs fast, walks fast, and gets ready fast, too.)
Thankfully I used the facilities, had a few sips of coffee, changed my outfit once at the hotel, and we were finally on the road to Midway.
|In originally planned outfit, second outfit of the day. Two more outfit changes up ahead, folks!
(These are our game faces.)
We drove to Midway in the dark, arrived 15 minutes later, found parking that was very close by to the start, and hung out in the car for a while. It was so hard to tell what the weather was like. I ended up changing clothes in the car. Twice. I ended up wearing my original race-day outfit as planned, and brought my throw-away to the starting line. I also brought some additional clothing to change into after the race since we were meeting up with friends and having a celebratory brunch.
We met up with our friends, Kate and Pam, by the Porta-Potties where we all promptly congratulated each other on being able to use the facilities before our run. (This is really important, in case you weren’t aware. A full load can really ruin a good run!) After emptying bladders and whatnot, we headed over to the start line. We had about 10 minutes until go-time.
|Iron Horse Runners: Julie, me, Pam, and Kate!|
Julie had just met Kate, and both Julie and I had just met Pam. So we were talking and getting to know each other in person (much different than screen time and Facebook groups!), and it was really fun. Discussing our training (or lack thereof for one of us), races we had recently run (Pam just completed the Air Force Half two weeks ago!), and how awesome this race was going to be. I didn’t have my armband on yet, my music queued up, or my Garmin on. And the next thing I know, the crowd starts moving.
I hurriedly strapped on my armband, tossed my throw-away (bye $8 sweatshirt that I’ve never worn!), and by the time I got up to the starting line I plugged in my earphones. I went to start my Garmin and — shit!! I didn’t find satellites yet! Gah!!! Ugh… I pressed the button to find the satellites, and it never found them. I was so sad. I finally turned it off and then turned it back on to start over. Just after the one-mile marker it decided to find the satellites. Thank god.
On to the race:
The beginning of the race was very congested. The roads in Midway are tiny. Definitely not the normal sized two-lane roads most of us are used to. But it was beautiful. And once the crowd thinned up a bit, we turned a corner to this magnificent sight around mile 2:
|This. This right here is why I needed to run this race. This.|
I’m not normally one of those people that snap picture after picture on their runs. I normally just get it done and save the views for someone else to photograph. But this was different. So off my armband went, I pulled over to the side of the course, and took my first picture of the day.
The course was essentially two out-and-backs. For those of you non-runners, that means you run one way for a set amount of miles, then turn around and run back. The first out-and-back was simply breathtaking. It was insanely beautiful and perfectly picturesque. Words cannot describe how amazing it was in person. I won’t have a mile-by-mile breakdown here for you because honestly, I wasn’t even paying attention to the miles. I was so distracted by the beauty — of the horses, of the landscape, of the country roads — just truly amazing.
I noticed that my playlist seemed to be a bit off. I had worked on creating the ultimate playlist before we headed out of town, and I knew the second song was not supposed to be what it ended up being. But then I thought to myself that maybe I was wrong and switched things up at home. But after we turned and were heading back to start the second out-and-back, I heard the very last song on my playlist. I immediately knew the culprit — SHUFFLE! I took off my armband (again), and turned off shuffle and started in the middle of my playlist. Geesh.
After the playlist debacle, I was feeling good and running with a group of about 5 other runners. We stuck together for quite a while. Until I saw this:
Off my armband went again. And this time I was trying to touch them because they were literally right up at the fence. Just beautiful. I must have wasted a good minute or so. Once they started walking away I figured I should run again. And now my running group was gone so I was all by my lonesome.
Shortly after I took this picture, I really needed to talk to someone to share with how amazing this course was, so I called my husband. Yep. I did that. I had just sent him that photo in a text, and he answered and greeted me with, “you did not just call me while you’re racing.”
Yes, yes I did. I was bored! I needed someone to talk to and to tell how gorgeous Midway was! I quickly told him about it and then we hung up.
The second out-and-back was not nearly as awesome as the first one. The second out-and-back was much, much hillier than the first one. And not that I mind hills. But this was one giant hill. And it was looooooong. Just when you thought you were at the top and close to the turn around point, sike! Wrong. Keep running! It was tough. And you know it’s tough when you come up to this sign, courtesy of the course volunteers:
Oh, and my armband came off again for this shot, too. I figured I wasn’t going to PR with all of the horses to look at and hills to run, so might as well have some fun, right? Plus I wasn’t sure if Pam or Kate would be taking pictures, and Julie doesn’t run with her phone. I had to document!
|These are from Kate’s phone!|
|These are from Kate’s phone! The horses ran with her!|
On the way out, on the never-ending hill, for 5 or so miles, there was some pretty brisk headwind. My right hand was frozen, and I couldn’t figure out how to warm it up. My left hand was fine. It was a little nerve-racking. At one point it felt like we were just going to keep running to the middle of BFE, with no way back. I was so tired, and my quads were on fire.
The turn around was nice. And much needed. Every time we turned I would see Julie and we high-fived. That was super fun. And the second turn, I saw Kate and we yelled at each other. After the turn, I saw a few people walking up one of the hills so I figured, “why not?” I had just started to walk when I saw a telephoto lens in the middle of the course. I thought to myself, “oh hell no, I am NOT going to get my picture taken walking! Girl, you’d better start running!” So I hauled ass up the hill, with a smile on my face. And I didn’t walk after that either. Whoop!
On the way back, the headwind was gone and I was finally warmed up again. That helped a lot. I ended up turning off my music because I was so bored (how does that happen during a race?!) and I ended up chatting with two women apparently from the area. I mentioned how crazy the hills were and how the website should have mentioned something about hills (it totally did, I was being sarcastic), and they asked if I had done Bluegrass. “Nope, what is that?” “Oh, that course is worse than this one. Those hills are killer.” For reals? How can there be worse hills than this? Then they come to tell me that Iron Horse used to be the worst but Bluegrass took over that title. Geeze. The ladies were awesome. One sped up and I’m sure had a great race. The other one was run/walking, and boy was she fast. She would start walking and next thing I knew she was right up next to me again. Admittedly, it was nice to have some company even if it was a total stranger.
Finally the hills were in our favor, and we got to go down the two miles up. It was a beautiful thing. I saw mile marker 12, picked up my pace a bit, and once I started hearing race marshals telling us we were close to the finish, I picked it up a touch more. I finished strong, happy, and smiling. Just as I was rounding the corner to the finish line, a lady with a cowbell and a sign came out to the middle of the course and told me I looked great and strong. I gave her a big smile, said thank you, and hauled ass to the finish. I saw Julie on the side, high-fived for a third time, and crossed the finish line as happy as a clam.
|Post-race warm selfie!|
I originally wanted to PR. I knew it would be tough with the unknown course and the hills, but I trained with hills pretty hard this cycle. But after missing two long runs, falling up the stairs, and taking far too many pictures, I realized it was not gonna happen. And I’m completely okay with that, because I only finished three minutes slower than my first half which was on a relatively flat course.
It was a fun surprise crossing the finish line because one of our buddies, Jason, came to cheer us on. After we all finished, we headed to brunch at a place called 815 Prime, and had a delicious meal and relived how amazing of a race Iron Horse was. Unfortunately the service was less than stellar, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.
|Kate apparently getting angry at her plate of delicious food.|
|Breakfast of champions.|
After breakfast, we stopped a worker to take a group shot of us, and we said our goodbyes and tentatively made plans for Christmas Story 5K/10K, possibly the Air Force Full, and to return to KY for either the Bourbon Chase or Iron Horse (or both if we’re feeling lucky). Good times! I already miss them.
|Jason, Kate, Pam, me, and Julie!|
Julie and I hauled ass back to our hotel to quickly rinse off and hop in the car. Our awful service made us a bit later than we anticipated, and we had a 5 hour drive back home! But first, we got locked out of our hotel room. That was fun. Traipsing around the hotel after a hilly 13.1 miler. Good times. We finally got back into our room, showered and packed, and headed out.
About an hour into our trip all we were talking about was food. We got onto the topic of Grey Goose. Remember that pizza I told you about? Yep, we forgot it in the room. Damn. “I totally would have eaten that!”
The remainder of the ride was literally spent talking about food. We planned our meals for the week, talked about BPA, organic food, corn. You name it, the topic was covered. And we didn’t stop once.
We made it back to CLE in superb time, and I even got to see the kiddos before they went to bed. Today I’m sore and tired. And sore. And tired. But mostly sore. Come Wednesday I’ll be running a leg of the Timex ONE Relay. More on that on Thursday!
Overall, it was a great race, an amazing trip, and I can’t wait to do it again. See you in Midway in 2015.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I finished in 2:10:36.