RACE WEEKEND FINALLY ARRIVED!
Saturday was a beautiful, breezy fall day. Mom and I traveled down to Mercer County Park to get our race packets for her first-ever race expo! To this point, she has only ever run 5ks and a 5 miler, so this was a new experience for her: something more than just picking up your bib and t-shirt on race morning. She walked the booths and got herself a little 10 minute massage from a vendor, and we picked up our goods. The shirts for this race were awesome! Lightweight long sleeves, with thumb holes and hoods, AND even better? No advertisements all over the back, just a fun little inspirational saying. It was easy to see why so many ladies showed up wearing them to race in the next morning. I will definitely be sporting mine to run in and to relax in.
I was surprised that my mom didn’t seem super jittery. She told me she just really wanted to get it over with. We both struggle with stomach issues from time to time, and of course stress/excitement tend to make them worse. Much to my surprise, she was feeling really good and ready to go. CGI had a fun picture booth set up so of course we took advantage, and then got a shot of ourselves under the start/finish as well.
I’ll be honest: at this point I was super jealous that Saturday was so nice. It would have been the perfect racing weather, and of course Weather.com was telling me rain for Sunday morning! We parted ways, with me urging mom to keep on hydrating and make sure she gets some good, safe foods in during the day. I went home to try to get some things done around the house and continue to create sooooo many race day clothing piles. I had layers upon layers ready: throwaway clothes if it was cold at the start, rain jacket, extra clothes for the ride home in case we were wet at the finish, everything possible! When I finally got myself to bed around 8 or 9PM, I was unfortunately in some stomach distress. I ate good breakfast and lunch, but by dinner I couldn’t stomach anything else: not my usual pre-race dinner of pancakes, not even some cheerios I tried to choke down. Just some water and a little Gatorade and that was it. I went to bed in pain, took some more Imodium and just crossed my fingers that I didn’t have to pick up my mom in the morning and say, “I’m going to cheer on the sidelines by the Porto Potties, I know you can do this, but I feel terrible.”
Thankfully, this was not the case. I will be honest, I woke up still feeling a little bit iffy. But this wasn’t about me. It was about my mom – and I wasn’t going to mention any of this to her.
The morning brought with it clouds and rain, as my alarm clock went off at 3:45AM. Sometimes drizzly, sometimes heavier, but rain none the less. I told Mom I’d be at her house by 5:15AM, since I am a chronic worrier and ALWAYS want to be super early to races. It is my nightmare to be stuck in traffic with no time to hit the PortoPotty before the start. I am wayyyyy too TypeA for that crap. So we hit the road and were some of the first cars in the lot: roads closed at 7:15AM, we were in the lot an hour prior. Parking was an absolute snap: huge lots exist within a few minute walk to the start/finish line. No problems at all there, and even though we were early, volunteers were already out working the roads!
We met up with a friend, Krystyn, before the race. It was still drizzly so I played it safe and went with the rain coat, knowing that I wouldn’t mind if I had to wrap it around my waist. Once we were in the corrals, I took off my jacket and showed my mom the shirt I had bedazzled! Some iron-on letters and puffy paint later, there it was, a work of (elementary school style) art. None the less, Mom is a cryer, so she teared up.
AND WE WERE OFF!
My mom didn’t wear a watch for the race. I was glad. Her garmin tells her the average pace at each mile, and I didn’t want her to slow herself down if she saw a 12 on that at the beginning. I knew that course was flat and since our training had been pretty hilly, that some quicker miles would not hurt her. However, I didn’t want the numbers to get into her head. Off we went, into Mercer County park and its surrounding roads.
This race isn’t super spectator-heavy. It is in a park, the county college, and then back into the park, so there are small areas where spectators are but mostly quiet, flat areas. There were a few places where there was music, but it was mostly us racers cheering each other on. Not the most exciting, but still a good, flat course that was very well-supported in terms of water, etc. My shirt got my mom LOTS of cheers as people passed us – which was exactly the goal! You turn into Mercer County College for miles 4-6, and weave in and out, passing those up ahead of you a few times. When we came into the park before mile 4, we saw some of the fast ladies trucking along toward mile 6, which was quite inspirational. I kept checking in with mom to see how she was feeling, and all was well. We started taking some water at mile 4. Another bonus to this race? Lots of water stops and PortoPotties – every 1.5 miles-ish. We were never worried about being dehydrated.
This was the only mistake I made. I didn’t insist that she take some of her Jelly Beans a little bit earlier. We kept chugging along toward mile 5ish (about 1 hour), I had some of my beans. I asked mom if she wanted any, but she still felt strong. I should have been smart and pushed her to have some (or even thought about it a little earlier myself), because once we hit the 5th mile, she started to take more walking breaks than between 1-4. She kept saying she didn’t need anything, but I pushed a little harder and between 5-6 got her to eat a little. I think she was worried she’d have to use the potty, but I had a feeling she needed some sugar. This was definitely her lull, but she managed to keep up her pace in a place where we could recover.
She asked how we were doing around mile 6.5ish. I did at that point tell her we were starting to lose some steam, timing-wise, knowing that we were still a little bit ahead of training time, but were creeping up on it. Well, this gave her the motivation that she needed to fight through the lull and get a second wind. Mile 7 was a little bit tough, but she walked a little less, ran a little more, and by mile 8, it was like she had new legs.
The end of this race is interesting (and was interesting the first year I ran it, even though the course was totally different) – it weaves and bobs. You pass the start at mile 8, then take an out and back to 8.5, come up to the last “real turn” at about 9, then another out and back where you pass folks where they enter the finish gates. So you know exactly when and where you are – BUT you can also cheer for the people both heading to the finish AND when you are on your way to the finish to motivate them to get through that next 0.5 miles. Mom kicked it up that last mile – when I looked down, she was even pacing 11:46 at one point. Kickin’ butt with the end in sight!
For the last stretch, I asked her if she wanted to finish together or if she wanted me to run ahead and take her picture finishing. She chose the latter, so I went for it and here she is!A total success! She crossed the line at 2 hours and 4 minutes, 12:26/mi pace. At least 30 seconds per mile faster than her fastest training long run. She kicked the crap out of this race!
ALL OF THE SMILES AND HUGS!
I am so proud of my mom! She did an absolutely awesome job sticking with her training, even when it was hard, and had a great race day. She was absolutely glowing the whole day. After the finish, we stumbled over to the food tent and got our baggies, complete with cookies, pretzels, and a little pasta salad. Yum! Once again, well-organized. No chaos anywhere. We reconvened with Krystyn, who had also demolished her goal time (1:44!!!).
On top of the heartwarming, motivating, all-the-feels experience and all of that jazz? Look at that SHINY GLITTERY BLUE MEDAL (top right)!Then these two things happened: ……….24 Hours later, I get this text:
So I suppose I’ll have more “Coach Meesh” opportunities in my future…. Someone’s got the feva! It is safe to say that the fear is gone. Maybe I’ll get her to pop her Half Marathon cherry in Long Branch in the Spring… Hmmmm 🙂
Even today, Mom is still glowing – that invincible, conquer-the-world-before-breakfast type of thing. I get it. I totally get it!!