So, home from Country Music Marathon and I was feeling pretty good and with nothing planned for the weekend, my mind started wandering. Good things rarely come from this. Thanks to the wonders of facebook updates, I was reminded that the Frederick 1/2 Marathon was that weekend, and was still open for sign ups. I loved this race last year, setting a personal best in pretty miserable weather even. And, the weather forecast looked amazing for race morning. Oh, what to do, what to do.
I was trying to be smart about my race plans this year and knew deep down that I shouldn't sign up for it. I mentioned it to Katie, in hopes she would help talk me out of it. She did, in a way.... She reminded me about the relay and the fact she had been interested in doing it but it just never came to fruition. Doing the relay never even occurred to me, mostly due to the fact that the relay has traditionally been a 4 person team covering the distance of a full marathon. This year organizers did away with the full marathon, and therefore the relay was now a 2 person team covering the half marathon distance - the first runner doing 8 miles and the second the remaining 5.1.
It was Wednesday afternoon and online race registration was already closed, but teams could sign up at local packet pick up locations, and the one that night happened to be at Katie's local running shop. It was a sign! She headed over there after work and Team Last Minute Decision was ready to roll! We were laughing at ourselves for jumping into something so spontaneously (we both normally plan things like this soooo far in advance) and also for not having thought of this sooner.
I spent the night before the race at my parents' house to help cut down on some of the driving race morning. Katie met me there very very early on Saturday morning, and we headed west to Frederick. We both like getting to places early rather than get there stressed, and we certainly over estimated how long it would take us to get there and park. The plus side though was an amazing parking spot and ample time to make more than one visit to the bathroom.
As race time approached, Katie and I bid our farewells. She had to take a bus to the transition area while I headed to the starting line. She had been feeling a bit under the weather, so I agreed to run the longer of the 2 legs. I was looking forward to running through the historic downtown and by the beautiful city parks again. The race started at 7:30, and I told her that I had hoped to keep a good 12 minute average pace, so she should see me about 1:36 into the race.
Standing around in the corrals I ran into a childhood friend who was doing the half, her second ever. I also ran into a couple of fellow Half Fanatics. The announcer said that there were some elites running the race who were Olympic qualifiers as well. There was a great energy in the air and the weather was pretty good as well, definitely nowhere near the high temps and humidity of the year before.
The race start itself was pretty uneventful. It quickly became apparent though that there were hills in those early miles that I had no recollection of. I pushed ahead without trying to overdue it, reminding myself I had just done a half the weekend before, regardless of how much I may have walked of it. The course went through the historic downtown and I had memories of places we had visited while in town for race weekend the year before. We went along the big city park and into the neighborhoods. Some of the houses got into it, sitting outside and cheering, sprinklers set up, and offering snacks.
A couple of miles before the transition at mile 8, my stomach started to let me know it was unhappy. Despite the stomach cramps, I kept pushing along, determined to get to the transition area. I knew from the course map that there was a water stop at the transition, which meant a bathroom, too. I took a couple of extra walk breaks here and there in an effort to get a couple of deep breaths in hopes of calming my tummy down, counting down the miles and portions thereof until I'd get to mile 8. I did get a good laugh at mile 7.5 when I passed a group of guys handing out bacon. That was definitely something new to see on a course! And, with only a half mile to go, I probably would have taken a piece had my stomach been much more agreeable.
I reached the transition area and expected to have someone yelling out bib #'s or something, but no luck. The advantage of being the back of the pack though is that there really wasn't much of a crowd left waiting for their runners, so Katie and I easily spotted one another. She put her foot up on the curb and I reached down and took the timing tag off my ankle and put it on hers. We exchanged hugs, too, and she was on her way. My time, despite the hills and stomach cramps, 1:35 and change. Right on time.
After taking advantage of bathrooms right next to the transition (and fortunately the first I had seen on the whole course without a line), I was on a bus on my way back to the start/finish area. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the parking lot at the "relay tent". Volunteers there gave us our medal (runner #2 would get theirs upon crossing the finish line) and we walked up to the finish festival area. I went in search of food and water. It quickly became apparent that this would be a problem - the water was directly after the finish line and was fenced off. Um, yeah. I did manage to hop a fence to get into the food line. Luckily, my car was only a few feet away, and had a small cooler in it. Rather than try and figure out how to break into the finish line, I decided to pick my battles and get a cold bottle out of my car.
Snacks in hand, I headed to the race track infield where I could watch for Katie to come in, and enjoy a beer in the process. ;) It was weird to watch people finish who I recognized from being near on the course and knowing I had been done for about an hour already. I cheered Katie as she crossed the line, finished my beer, and headed off in search of her. We hopped in line to pick up our race shirts (a disaster from an otherwise well organized day), and then headed on our way back down the road, stopping at Cracker Barrel for celebratory pancakes on the way.
The relay was definitely a neat experience - all of the race amenities (and even a medal!) without having to do the full distance. The Loopers now have 4 teams (16 runners!!!) for the Baltimore Marathon relay in October. I'll be doing the first leg, as I really want to see what the first part of the course is like. The second half of the course is essentially the 1/2 marathon course I ran last year. This way I will be familiar with a majority of the marathon course, an advantage since Baltimore might be my fall 2012 marathon. ;)