Let me warn you now that this post will be too long, too gushy and too happy. Because as you know….it was fabulous!!!
But let me rewind a little to Saturday when we left home about midday and drove up to Healdsburg in the Russian River area, the northern stretches of wine country, to the Expo to get my number. The Expo was a delight from start to finish. It was held at the Kendall-Jackson Winery, which was an immediate win. Any expo at a winery is a triumph of organisation in my book. This one was a lovely little expo, a collection of stands in a field at the back of the winery. Smiley teenagers handed me my bib plus a ticket for free wine-tasting. Smiley vendors let my son try on sunglasses. Smiley volunteers gave us free Luna bars. Smiley wine-makers poured me wines to sample. It was just a joy in the sunshine!
From there we made a pit-stop in Healdsburg to get a very late lunch and to check out the start-line and then hot-footed it to our hotel in Santa Rosa, before going out for a very early dinner. We ate with Angela, a Bay Area blogger and a very speedy runner, who gamely volunteered to have dinner with two random strangers off the internet and their random child who immediately (accidentally) tipped so much water over the table that the waiters had to change the tablecloth and she didn’t even flinch. We filled our faces with pasta, talked running and had a good meal before heading back to our respective hotels at a ridiculously early hour! It was so nice to meet Angela – she and this post that she wrote were pretty big motivations to start this blog.
So Sunday dawned…or didn’t ‘dawn’ exactly. It was still pitch black when I woke my sleeping boys (such sweet revenge to wake the Dude after three years of him waking me) and piling them into the car. It was also unexpectedly foggy, deep deep fog. I was so very excited and ready to run. I kept thinking that this was what I’d come here for, this was what I’d trained for. It was time to do it, and I was ready. We drove to Healdsburg, made an emergency pit-stop in McDonald’s and easily found parking a few blocks from the start line. I left my boys assembling the Husband’s bike so they could cycle the course and headed to the start-line, a mass of activity in the damp, foggy darkness. Everyone at this race looked the business…it was a proper runner’s race!
It was at the 9 min mile marker that Jen found me, another Bay Area blogger, celebrating her birthday, and then Angela found us both as well. One of the best things about this race was meeting Jen and Angela – it was such a treat to start the race with friends. We all shuffled down to the start-line, the guy gave us the countdown and we were off. Angela took off like a bat out of hell, Jen and I started a little more slowly. But we were off.
We lost each other quickly. Despite my good intentions, I started waaay too fast. The adrenaline was rushing and I just followed the crowd. The music was loud in my ears and I just ran and ran. (Did you know that in ‘Hung Up’, Madonna sings ‘Those who run seem to have all the fun’? I had no idea. Yes Madge, they do.) My Nike data is inaccurate (more on that later) but I ran the first mile in about 8.30. I knew that was a bad move but just thought ‘whatever’ and ran on.
The course was fantastic the whole way. It was very accurately described as ‘rolling’. Little ups and little downs. I knew that those little ups would take their toll on my legs sooner or later so tried to be careful but also took advantage of the downhills. I know I can run downhill well so I let a little loose on the downhills and tried to make up some time. Mile two seemed to be very downhill and I just let myself fly. I had a pace-band on my wrist to get me home at 1.59 and by the end of mile two I was two minutes ahead of my goal, so I thought that if I could hold a steady pace for the rest of the race, I should be able to do it.
It was at mile 4 that the Husband and the Dude found me, cycling slowly past. I yelled, they turned and saw me. It was such a lovely moment…the Dude shouted ‘Go faster, Mummy’ and everyone around us laughed. From then on, they leap-frogged me. They would go ahead, stop and cheer till I passed them and then cycle ahead. I knew that was their plan and secretly wondered if it would become annoying but it honestly wasn’t. They ended up stopping at each mile marker and it was so exciting to see them.
The course itself was beautiful, if hopelessly foggy, on quiet lanes through vineyards. The full marathon split from the half at mile 8 which felt like a significant moment. I was still two minutes ahead of plan but knew I had a long way to go. I kept repeating ‘Be strong, be brave, this is what you came here for’ and I knew that if I was on track at mile 10 then I might be able to start thinking I had it.
Mile 10 came at a corner, followed by a delicious downhill. I turned the corner and ran faster. The Husband cycled past me and shouted ‘You’re KILLING IT’ which was the most enormous boost!! I looked at him and said, for the first time ‘I think I’ve got it’. I kept thinking of the Dude’s favourite book, The Little Engine That Could and at one point, as they cycled along, I told them ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can’ which seemed hilarious and clever at the time.
At mile 11, I was over-taken by a child. Honestly a child. He must have been ten or eleven and he was wearing the SF Half-Marathon shirt and he was kicking my arse! It was hilarious. The Husband cycled up to me and told me that I could now do 10 minute miles and still go sub-two which was unbelievable. I knew I was doing well but not THAT WELL. So I kept running and kept pushing.
It was at mile 12 that I knew I had it and then I got a bit emotional and started crying a bit. But when I start crying, I stop being able to breathe properly and so I had to fight the weepiness!! I got it under control and started hurtling (relatively speaking) down the hill towards the finish line. But as I got closer and heard the crowd, I got all emotional again. There was a line of teenage cheerleaders just before the finishing chute. For a Brit, cheerleaders are always desperately exciting so they got me all keyed up, but then I saw the finish line and knew I had it and I started crying. I was making these really ugly sounding noises, like pigs mating, and my face was contorting in all kinds of ugly shapes. I am dying to see those photos…they will be hilarious!! But all of a sudden the finish line was there in front, my boys were cheering me on and before I knew it, I’d crossed the line and had stopped my watch at 1.55.
1.55 is beyond my wildest dreams. I thought I could do 1.59. I thought I might get 1.58. Nicola Johnson, friend to the stars, predicted 1.57. But 1.55 is CRAZY FAST for me.
8.49 min miles, didn’t you know?
After the finish line it was a blur of hugging and grinning. Jen found me – she got a birthday PR of 2.00.37 (AAAAGH for the 37). I got my medal which is STONKING. I got my wine-glass which is beautiful and (at time of writing) still unbroken. My Dude was shivering from the cold (awful parenting) so we hugged him a lot to warm him up. Then Angela found us, with a shiny new PR of 1.38 which is ridiculously fast! She came SECOND in her age group!!!! We all got PRs today – SUCH a great morning!!!
And to cap it off I got coffee from the coffee stall and the guy making it honestly looked like Kahl Drogo from Game of Thrones. Seriously the spitting image. My tired knees nearly melted into a simpering heap.
From Healdsburg, we headed back to our hotel where we’d arranged a late check-out so we got to shower, make coffee and change clothes, and then we had a very late breakfast before heading home!
Nike Plus was a big fail on this race….by the end of the race, it was about half a mile ahead of the mile-markers and told me I was running some ridiculously fast mile-splits, which was encouraging but outright lies. According to Nike Plus I ran 13.6 miles today which I know I didn’t do. However when I pressed the ‘End Run’ button in the car on the way home, none other than Paula Radcliffe congratulated me on my fastest ever half-marathon and that seriously made my day. Why yes, Paula, I did run my fastest ever half-marathon. Thank you for noticing.
The race was fantastic, I can only speak highly of it. Well organised, friendly, great course…and fantastic loot!!
I also want to publicly thank my boys for getting up at some ungodly hour and cycling for two hours (well, just under two) in the dark, cold fog to cheer me on. I have wonderful boys and I love them lots.
So that’s it. Job done. Girl happy. SO happy. So satisfied by the work I put in and the result I took out. So FLIPPING happy. Thank you for all your amazing comments both before and after the race. They have all made me so happy.
But yawn…I’m so tired!!! And so hungry. And so achey.