So I put my brain into neutral and just went about doing the things that had to be done. Pack, drive to Noosa, eat, window shop, eat more, rest, eat more, sleep. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, fail.
|Yes, I ate all of that. And it tasted amazing!
Up before dawn and ready to be out the door at 5:30am for the short walk to the start. The plan was to go to the toilet one last time for luck and luck was really on my side because there was no loo queue. All I had to do was find the GaleForce tent and relax.
No nerves. No anxiety. No crazy lady. Objective achieved.
It's not an enormous race. Just under 900 competitors. That means that you can actually see the start when you line up. I had a pretty good position. Not too close to the start but not too far back so I'd have to be dodging and weaving. I decided that my game plan was going to be exactly the same as the one I'd used for the Gold Coast Bulletin half. Just run to how I was feeling and to believe in myself. I had a brief moment of panic when my Garmin didn't find the satellites for a while but it came good with a couple of minutes to spare and then we were off.
Noosa half is a double out and back route on a pretty flat course. My last half had been a double out and back route on a hilly course so I was quietly hopeful that I'd be able to match that time. And the first k split was exactly the same but this time I didn't get all freaked out about running too fast I just went with the flow. I hadn't warmed up (my bad) so it did feel like I was working but I felt strong and in control. 4:49. 4:42, 4:40.
By the third kilometre the 1:40 pacer had caught me and I found myself being hooked into his group. Not what I'd planned. I've only ever tried running with a pacer once and it was a disaster because he was all over the shop. But this guy seemed to be a lot more even with his running and he was letting the group know their pace at every kilometre. He also let us know that we had to stay just under 4:45 to hit the magic 1:40:00. That was way beyond anything that I'd planned to run so when I dropped off the pace (or he sped up) at around 7 or 8 k I wasn't too unhappy. At this stage I was just hoping to keep all my splits under 5:00 mins. And so far so good. 4:46, 4:42, 4:43, 4:42, 4:43.
So much can happen in your head in a half marathon. I'd chosen to run without music again because it had been fine at the Gold Coast half - except for Taylor Swift's voice in my head for most of those 21+k telling me to Shake It Off. This time it was Michael Buble telling me that The Best Is Yet To Come. Not quite as peppy as Miss Swift but the lyrics were positive. All I had to do was believe that Mike knew what he was singing about. He brought me into the turnaround still feeling strong. Past the tent where Iven tried to get an action shot of me and failed because I was there way earlier than he'd expected. I ran over the halfway mat in 49:14 with kilometres 9, 10 and 11 at 4:47, 4:44 and 4:40.
I was over halfway there and trying not to count down the kilometres in my head. Honestly I was getting a bit tired but I had some pretty big motivators pushing me along. Number one was beating my Gold Coast time so I could reward myself with an ice cream (probably would have had the ice cream regardless but it wouldn't have tasted quite so good as a consolation ice cream). Number two was the slight chance of regaining the family crown for the fastest half marathon (currently worn by Sam). The n there were the messages from squad mates wishing me luck and especially the message from a friend telling me to channel my Sasha Fierce (it's a Beyonce thing). And the voice of another friend in my ear telling me that I was running well enough to get a PB - but no pressure. And finally there were thoughts of what a totally shitty year I'd had last year and that the pain my body was feeling was nothing compared to what I'd survived. 4:52, 4:51, 4:42, 4:47, 4:52.
I went around the far turnaround for the second time and I knew there was only five kilometres to go. I also knew that my squad mate Emma was just on my tail. I'd seen her at every turnaround and she seemed to be getting closer. She's a good runner and had finished in front of me at the Gold Coast run so for the last five k I was expecting her to pass me. A few times I heard footsteps coming up next to me and each time it wasn't her. It wouldn't have mattered either way but that little competitive piece of me kind of wanted to reverse the roles this time and it helped keep me pushing through those hard last kilometres where you're so close to the finish but you've still got quite a long way to go and your body's yelling at you to stop but your head's pushing you relentlessly onwards.4:47, 4:48, 4:51, 4:56.
|Emma and I after the race. She also ended up with a PB. I ended up with hideous hair but a smile that you couldn't wipe off my face.
Just one k to go but it was getting ugly. And then I heard someone yelling my name. A friend's daughter (who'd finished in 1:26 because she's incredibly fast and has impeccable running genes). It was the spur I needed to finish strong. Another cheer when I passed our tent. And then I could see the finish arch and the race clock - 1:40. The 21st kilometre clicked over at 4:45 and I must have found another gear because I legged in the last 100m in 4:12 pace.
I got pretty emotional coming up to the finish. I've had some horrible running years since 2009 with overtraining syndrome, medical issues and some torrid family stuff. And then there's my age. I was never expecting to PB again. Ever! And I had accepted it (not graciously but reluctant acceptance is better than no acceptance at all). It felt like a very special gift for enduring and never throwing in the towel.
But the gifts didn't stop there. I placed first in my age group. Of course I didn't hang around for the presentation because I've never placed in a half marathon before. I'm expecting a parcel to arrive in the mail in the near future. I might have to have my own presentation ceremony. And I might have to get Sam (who'll be up for a little holiday) to do the presentation because I'd really like to rub it in that I am again the Donaldson Champion Half Marathoner.
And I did get my ice cream. A double scoop with a side-order of lactase.
Back to regular training this week. I may have just run a two and a half minute PB but there are bigger fish to fry. Less than 6 weeks till the Gold Coast marathon!