After a relaxing afternoon in the room, we decided we need to carb load for dinner and headed out to Olive Garden. Man, there are so many yummy things on the menu, but I didn't want to chance messing with my stomach, so I went for the tried and true cheese raviolis. So good. Of course, I was too nervous to sleep well that night, and afraid alarms weren't going to go off, so I think in all I may have gotten a total of 5 hours of sleep.
Now onto the part that you've all been patiently waiting for - the race. There were scheduled times for buses, 4:30 am and 5:15 am, and there were signs all over saying that only the first bus was guaranteed to arrive in time for the race. I so wanted to be on the 4:30 bus, but my two running mates convinced me that the second bus would arrive in plenty of time. I was so worried, but it worked out and we had plenty of time to stretch and get ready for the start. This was my biggest race, a total of 3094 people ran. 908 for the marathon and 2186 for the 1/2 marathon. For me it was crazy crowded, and I am slightly claustrophobic - the race couldn't start quick enough for me. After what felt like forever, we got started. It took a full 6 mins for me to get to the starting line. After I crossed, the crowd thinned out quite a bit and I had room to run.
After my experience from my last 1/2 marathon, my only goal was to enjoy my race and have fun, but a little part of me hoped that possibly I might be able to PR this race. This race definitely met both expectations. The course was beautiful, the intercoastal on one side and gorgeous houses on the other, and wonderful people. Everyone running was awesome - very friendly, I talked to and was cheered on by so many other runners. We were all just extremely supportive of each other. And if the runners weren't good enough, we had tons of people all up and down the route rooting us on. I was amazed at the amount of homeowners on the race route at 6:30 am, just to wish us good luck. I kept, what I felt, was a semi easy pace, and did 3/1 intervals. As I started to really feel comfortable with my pace, I noticed that the pace group for a 2:30 time wasn't too far in front of me. Could I really finish around 2:30? For some, that might not be a great time, but since my last race was 2:43:51, to me it would be an awesome time.
I continued to run at a comfortable pace, and continued to stay pretty close to the 2:30 pace group. There were water stations and port-a-potties set up about every 1.5 miles, well supplied and manned, and the marathon runners were also given gels. I can't say enough about how great the planners and the volunteers of this race were. Everything went so smoothly. There were even a few characters along the route,even my favorite, Marvin the Martian, which I saw right about the turn around.
The race seemed to go by quick for me. I don't know if it was because I trained better for this race, or just was in a better mindset, or maybe both, but I just really enjoyed it. As we started getting down to the last few miles, we started passing some of the marathon runners. It felt great to be able to give them some encouragement. As I neared the end, I decided to step it up, and put my all into it. I hadn't seen the pace group since probably mile 10, so I had no idea how far behind I may have fallen, but I still was going to race my race. As I rounded the corner towards the finish line, I saw my time 2:36 something. Yay, I was going to PR, and that just made me run harder.
I crossed the finish line, received my medal and towel, and got my official time - 2:30:43, and full 11 minutes faster than my last 1/2.
Now the wait until my friends finished the marathon. I wasn't bored by any means. There was a lot of vendors giving out free stuff, and food. You had a choice of a breakfast or pizza, and since I am a breakfast person, that was an easy decision. As I ate I watched the crowd, listened to the awards ceremony for the 1/2, and people watched. Then I went to right before the finish line, and cheered on the marathon runners. What a rush that was. I was in awe by the determination of the runners that came through. It was truly humbling for me. Not much longer my first friend came towards the finish line. She finished in 4:57:45. What a rockstar she is!! Unfortunately my second friend finished 23 miles, and felt she just couldn't go any further. My heart ached for her, she had spent so long training, but I made sure she still received a finishers medal and a towel, because she achieved a great accomplishment going that far. She also rocks!!!
This would definitely be a race I would recommend. A beautiful course, awesome bling, and great organizers!!!