I think it's fitting that my 20th half marathon, and last race of 2017, was "monumental."
There are a few reasons why this race had been on my radar for a while:
1. It's a flat course. Come on, who DOESN'T want to race a flat course and attempt a PR?
2. It's close to friends. Our dear friends live 20 minutes from the starting line, and it gave a great excuse to visit them for a weekend.
3. The medal. Each year, I had seen the Monumental medals and knew that they were some quality bling. What runner doesn't want some nice bling, right?
While it had been on my list, the biggest deterrent from running Monumental was that it is four hours from home, and another race, Marshall University Marathon/Half Marathon, is only 20 minutes away from my house, and run on the same weekend each year. So, local won. But, after four years of running Marshall, and continually missing my sub-2 goal there (even though it is also a flat course), I was ready for a change.
(Side note: The first weekend in November reminds me of two things, which cause me to wear purple at my race: My Daddy's birthday is November 1st, and November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, so I go purple for Dad.)
I signed up for this race, knowing that my goal for Fall 2017 was the Chicago Marathon, and not a half marathon personal record. Indy was going to be my "fun race." I told myself I was just going to run for me, and not train for any particular time. It's very difficult to train for a half and full in the same training season, simply because your pace is very different. To train for Chicago, I was looking to hold a 10-minute pace for 26.2 miles. To sub-2 a half, you must hold 9:09 or under for 13.1. So, for this training, I chose distance over speed, and planned to just enjoy a new course at Monumental.
Since our family was all going on this trip, we waited until the boys were just about out of school on Friday, and made the 4-hour trip to Indianapolis. We headed straight to the convention center downtown for the expo, and then on to our friends' house for the night.
My son, Camden, was my sidekick as we quickly went through to get my bib and then back to the car where the others were waiting. I honestly don't LOVE expos. I think it's the introvert in me. Crowds unnerve me and it's really difficult to be in those kinds of settings for too long. The Monumental expo was about half the size of Pittsburgh or Chicago, but still had plenty of vendors and a nice set up. It was a bit confusing to know where to go (and again, crowds make me nervous), so I would have appreciated some large signs or someone to tell you that the packet pick-up was in the back. Thankfully, the shirts were given with the packet, rather than going to another station, like other big races do. Camden was thrilled to get a couple free posters and small candy canes for his brother and sister, and then we headed back to the car. All in all, the expo was fine, just a little confined for my liking, and definitely not a family-friendly event like Pittsburgh's.
Race day was set to be PERFECT weather...and it was! Part of the reason I had a tough time at my other two races this fall (Air Force Half and Chicago), was the heat. The prediction for Indy was 40s and cloudy. Basically, a runner's dream.
I left the house at about 6:20 a.m. and parked in a reserved lot about .40 miles from the start. I hadn't looked at the map of the start/finish, so I just found other runners and walked over with them. We eventually found the corrals, but it did take a while. I was nervous about getting to the porta potties BEFORE the race (since I ran out of time before Chicago), so as soon as I found some near my corral, I hopped in line.
The starting area was right beside the capitol building, and even in the darkness of the morning, it was BEAUTIFUL! Everyone I spoke to before the race was so kind, and I really enjoyed making small talk with several strangers. I also had the opportunity to meet up with one of my challengers, Bill. We have been in running groups online, and now we work together in an accountability group, so it was really cool to meet in person and wish each other well before the race.
As I mentioned, weather was PERFECT. I don't prefer to gear check, so while the morning was cold, and I wore a long-sleeve hoodie and gloves before the start, as it got closer to the gun, I started questioning my attire choice. The great thing is that my skirts that I wear have tons of pockets, so I just slid my gloves in one of those. Unfortunately, the elites were already starting just one wave before us, and my bib was pinned to the long-sleeve shirt. With the crowd pressed around me, I was getting warmer and knew I had to get that layer off and move my bib to my tank top, so as we walked to the starting line, I was a hot mess!!! I was trying to get my bib moved, tie my shirt around me (because it's one of my favs and I didn't want to toss it), AND my satellites hadn't loaded yet because of all the tall buildings! Regardless, that starting line got closer, and it was time to go. With my watch still loading, we crossed the line and I just prayed it would catch up! My guess is about 0.10 or so, it finally started!
The first few miles are always crowded with a race this big, and especially so when the half and full marathoners start at the same time. I was expecting Mile 1 to be slower, but it was 8:37. Good. That's a little fast, but I'll take it. Something happened, and Mile 2 clicked at 9:34. Enter freak out. Way off. I told myself that the satellites were still off from the buildings and that couldn't be right, but I bumped up my pace just in case I really was moving that speed. (See, in my head, I really DID want redemption from Air Force and Chicago. I really DID want to set a new personal record for the half. And I knew I had to stay at 8:58 or under to make that happen). Well, that must have scared me straight, because I never hit over 9:00 again after that! Mile 3 was 8:20 and it fluctuated, usually hitting in the 8:40s and 8:50s.
Since I was running solo, I didn't have to worry about talking or smiling or anything at all but running. I felt really good, and I knew if I stayed focused and in the zone, I could pull this out. I just couldn't QUIT that pace I was doing. And that meant water stops, too. I have had many races where I walk through the water stops and allow myself those few seconds of slowing down. I also remember how my stomach felt when I chugged tons of water at my other (very hot) races this fall. Not good. I decided that I would not stop, which would also only allow me to take a small sip, not chug. (Plus, with the cooler weather, I honestly didn't need much water). My strategy was to go to the end of the water tables, by-passing those walking through at the front of the tables, and grab a cup, take 1-2 sips without slowing, and toss the rest. And so I did. And it worked.
The course itself is flat, as advertised, and the crowd support was probably comparable to Marshall or Air Force, or something like that. Not very many people cheering, but that was okay by me. I was laser-focused. Mile 8 had some gels, and I took one from the volunteer, but since I didn't really need it, I just shoved it in my skirt pocket. Otherwise, the course offered water and gatorade at about every mile or mile and a half. The stations seemed to come at the perfect times for me, and I only skipped one or two.
There were clocks at each mile, and by Mile 6 and the halfway timing mat, I knew I was on pace to PR. The question was... could I hold it? I am historically slower in my second half of any race. I have tried to build up a buffer in most races to account for this, even though that is not a recommended race strategy. So, after Mile 6, 7, 8, I just kept worrying that I would fall behind my pace, so that fear drove me to stay steady. With every 8-something mile click, my confidence boosted a bit--enough to keep pushing.
I knew from the last time I PRed a half marathon (December 2016 at Country Music Highway Half), I needed to make sure I hit Mile 10 at or under 1:30:00. That became my focus. And I hit it at 1:28--something. Perfect! I knew that even if something happened and my last 3 miles slowed to 10 minutes, I would STILL be under a 2-hour half, but a 9:00 pace would get me in at 1:56-1:57ish. My PR stood at 1:57:54.
One thing I noticed during this race, and especially on the back half, was how many people I had passed. This is not the norm for me. Usually, I get defeated by how many people are passing me, or how I try to keep up with someone who catches my eye, but they drift out of view. This time, I happened to have entered my starting corral at the back of it, by the 2:00 pacer. I just wanted to keep in front of her, but I never saw her after the start, since I was ahead. It was a strange, but really good feeling. There was one girl I kept leapfrogging, who looked strong and I was guessing might go for a sub-2. I kept her in sights for a while. Then, the last 5-6 miles, I saw a guy and a girl running together, and it looked like he was coaching her. I was just behind them for a really long time, and they finished only a few steps ahead of me. I don't normally find motivation in "chasing people," but it was comforting to see that I was passing some and staying consistent with my pacing this time around. (I caught up to the strong-looking girl at the finish area and I told her that she kept me going. She ended up finishing after me, but this was her first race post-baby, so it was so cool to encourage her and see her do well!)
The last 3 miles of the half are always the hardest. And then it's the last two. Well, at 1.5 miles till the end, my stomach started tightening up. It felt like a really bad cramp across my mid-section, right underneath my ribcage. I told myself it was nothing. I was NOT going to let that get the best of me. I only had a mile and a half to go. PUSH THROUGH. So, I did. I kept seeing a PR in my head, visualizing crossing that finish line. I wondered if I could even make a 1:55, like my running partner, Cassie, had done a year ago at Marshall. Just keep going.
I saw photographers closer to the end of the course, and I knew I had on my game face. I didn't even care. Half of the race I wasn't even looking around. I was at work. Maybe that doesn't sound "fun" to most people, but MAN, hitting a goal takes work, and I'm not afraid of that. When I saw I had a really great opportunity, with awesome conditions surrounding me, I had to GO FOR IT. And that meant, getting down to business. So... my pictures definitely reflect some of that!
I don't usually study course maps, I just kinda go for the surprise. But, I DID remember that the finish came after a few short turns. The last three miles were long and straight back into the downtown area, and when we turned a few times, I knew the finish was close. And that is exactly what happened. When I saw the finish line, I gave it all I had, and I knew it should be a PR, but I wasn't sure if I would break 1:57:00.
I clicked off my Garmin at the timing mat and it said,
1:56:20 total time
I did it. (Unofficial time, but I knew I had set a PR).
Crossing the finish line solo is an experience. I have run with friends and I have done races by myself, with people cheering me on. I've done some solo, with no one to greet me at the finish. This race was the latter. No one was there to congratulate me when I crossed that line, but, I was strangely okay with that. Remember that introverted thing? Well, running a race without the support of family or friends at the finish, is like dining alone. Not everyone is okay with that, but it was okay for me. I had time to compose myself, walk through the shoot and get my water and medal, and decompress a bit.
After asking a stranger to take my pic, I headed over to the Results tent to see the official time. I was told it wasn't ready yet, and the Massage tent caught my eye. Perfect! I will get a massage and get the results after that. My stomach was a bit upset, as usual, so I only drank my bottle of water and held onto the other things offered as snacks. I talked with another nice runner in line for the massages, and it was TOTALLY worth the wait. I don't know if I've gotten a massage after a race before or not (usually the lines are way too long), but it was free and I would highly recommend!
Back to the Results tent and I was pleased to see that I definitely got in the 1:56s!
New official personal record!
AND... my last half of the race was faster than the first! I don't think that has ever happened!
GOD IS GOOD!
As soon as I gathered myself together, I realized that I was finally cold again, so I put on my long-sleeve shirt, new beanie, and space blanket and contacted my friend, Margaret, who had run the 5K. She met me in the pizza tent (and man, I was so happy for Papa John's). It was great to catch up for a few minutes before heading back to our friends' house. It's such a cool experience to meet running friends in person, after getting to know them through Facebook groups!
So, Indy Monumental... You were very good to me.
I would definitely recommend this race. The only complaint that comes to mind is that the t-shirt is not my fave, but that's ok, the beanie is cute! If you are looking for a good fall race in the mid-west, Monumental lives up to its reputation.
#20 in the books!
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.