Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas had been having one of the worst summers and early fall on record without rain. Wouldn't you know it that as soon as we set foot here that a monsoon must befall us! As soon as I finished the Oklahoma race, and started heading North on I-35, the rain came falling. Oh no, I thought, would I be running a cold, wet race Sunday morning? What do you think the answer is?
Prairie Fire Half Marathon
As far as half marathons go, this race will climb into my top 5 for best overall experiences. It wasn't my fastest race, nor my slowest race. But it was total enjoyment all the way through!
Greg dropped me off about an hour before the race while the sun was not yet sure it would make an appearance. The weather called for rain and thunderstorms and the 7:00am morning temp was already at 64 degrees. Time to channel some positive thoughts. I certainly needed positive thoughts because I had made a terrible decision to eat chili Saturday for lunch, and the chili had not left the building (if you know what I mean). So my thoughts were volleying between am I going to poop or is it going to rain (or will both happen)?
One of the things I've found I enjoy about all this race travel is that I love being a stranger and taking everything in new and fresh. I can roam around and just people watch, which really helps relieve those pre-race jitters. As a wandered, I came across a tent with free capuccinos and coffee for runners provided by Prairie Fire Roasters, a local Wichita roaster. Now that's one service this runner loves! I poured a half bold cup of joe, took in a little more water, stretched and stared (and nope, the bathroom fairy was not visiting-argh).
Then it was time to line up. There's so much energy at start lines. I love this part. Even though I have completed more than 60 races in Ohio and elsewhere, I still get to excited and pumped up at the start line and ask myself the same questions - have I trained enought to tackle this long of a race? Am I hydrated enough? Will all body parts function like they're supposed to or will my mind have to tell my body it's going to be ok? Am I going to need to poop and there's no port-a-potties? And will there be beer - good beer - not Michelob Ultra at the finish line?
And we're off!
Time to jockey for a spot. I finally settle into a rhythm. My goal for this race was to strive for 10:30-11:00 minute miles for as long as I could hold. I hadn't had a long run for 3 weeks, and it had been 4 weeks since I had done 12 miles. We traversed in and out of neat little neighborhoods. At the start, there was no rain. By mile 2, it was a steady drizzle. By mile 4, my shoes were squishy because the rain was strong and steady. In spite of this, people were all over the course cheering on runners. Many had made wonderful homemade signs. Families were handing out water cups from impromptu water stops, and kids were sitting in the back of SUVs screaming for runners. It was beautiful. Around mile 8, I think, the rain was briefly very heavy. This Cleveland girl didn't mind. The rain kept the humidity in check and, besides, what Clevelander hasn't endured his/her share of cold, wet training runs?!
I ran alongside some great people. One father/son team was especially neat. It was the kid's first half and he had just celebrated his 12th birthday this past week making him eligible to run this race. We ran off and on throughout several miles together and the father told me his son had run a few 5ks and felt it was time to tackle a half marathon. Awesome!
The neighborhoods were stunning and for a couple of miles, we ran on brick streets, reminding me of Athens. One thing I thought was clever is that we ran in the middle turn lane along one of the busier streets and it was fully coned and policed. This kept runners protected while allowing traffic to flow (just no turning).
Around mile 10, my quads were whining. A very nice runner in a bright yellow shirt came out of nowhere and said, "Hey pretty lady, we are blessed to have such a good day to run!" And she was right. So I kept on running. Around mile 11, the first wheelchair marathon athlete passed - so amazing. It was about this time that I ran alongside a girl who was completing her first half marathon. We chatted for a bit before I moved on. Do you remember how incredible you felt when you finished your first half marathon? She was going to have that feeling in just 2 more miles!
Right before mile 12, we crossed one of the most beautiful pedestrian bridges. I pulled to the side to snap a picture. I wasn't going to PR, so I might as well enjoy all this wonderful town had to offer us runners on race day.
As we got within the last half mile, the race organizers had lined the course with speakers about every 10 yards or so. We could hear the announcers saying each runner's name as he/she crossed the finish line. It's easy to forget about the finish around miles 11-12 when you're tired and ready to be done, so this was a nice touch. I managed to sprint to the finish because it was exciting to see all those spectators. I tried to get Bridget to cross the finish line with me, but she's not a fan of screaming people at the finish lines. That's ok, I am!
I gathered my medal (love it!), my space blanket (tossed it!), and a finisher's shirt (which I'll actually wear because I love the graphic and it's a great fit!). Found my family and walked back to that coffee tent. Even though I ran the Taco Bell half marathon course, there were no chalupas at the finish line (phew!), but there were yummy Krispie Kreme donuts, which tasted just perfect with my cup of coffee!
Stats: 2:28:35 (11:21 average)
59/90 in my division
36 states completed!