First, all I really have to say is "HOLY CRAP."
Second, "HOLY CRAP I am so glad that I know a billion and ten awesome, incredible people, that would stand outside on a chilly day and cheer all of us across the finish line."
Third, I thought I'd started Couch to 5k around this weekend last year. Turns out it was 11/20/09. So less than a year and I'm running a freaking half marathon. HELLS YEAH. And the really really weird thing -- I think I was more freaked out about my first 5k in January.
I don't have too many words to sum this one up. I cried. I laughed. I smiled, a lot. I cursed. I talked to myself, channeling the Little Blue Engine That Could during the evil mile 12. I have a newfound respect for those who do TWO OF THESE IN A ROW.
My best at a breakdown:
RACE EVE: Thanks to Becky and Tony for “carbing” with me at Via Downer. Delicious. I also stayed up until 10:30 PM creating the “perfect” soundtrack for my big run.
RACE DAY: The day started off great with running into two very wonderful people on my way over to meet the caravan at Tony’s. Especially wonderful to see one of my fellow original Weight Watchers at Work participants driving my bus. What day isn’t awesome when it starts out with a hug from your bus driver?
I’m not going to lie and say there weren’t nerves. I had a very cathartic scream in my apartment before I left. I started freaking out that we were “behind schedule.” I was ancy. I also had to pee. A lot. Properly hydrating is a nuisance.
The car ride (thanks Craig for driving!) up was really fun. Craig, Brooke, Tony, Becky and I saw some craziness (including a lady driving in a leopard print snuggie who also had a leopard print seat cover, as well as a car with the license plate: TOPLES5).
Lake Mills was pretty nutzo when we pulled in at 11 for my 11:30 race. The crew dropped Brooke (who was 4.37ing) and I off to get our packets. I of course had to pee (again) and the line was really really long. Brooke prepped everything while I was in the loo queue and I was in the “corral” with just minutes to spare.
MILEAGE BREAKDOWN (my time above is the official chip time, but I’m using my runmeter splits below)
Mile 01 - Average 9:43 /mile
Started off way too fast. For my next one (ACK!) I need to really work on the consistent pace in training and not get swept up in the excitement and start like it’s a 5k. I do however highly recommend starting a soundtrack with Patti Smith’s “Horses.” Man that really got me into the mindset quickly. Patti Smith is one badass lady and I know am too!
Most of this mile was through the stately Victorian area in Lake Mills. I honestly didn’t pay too much attention though, as I was just focused on the fact that I was here! I do remember thinking when I hit the .5 mile mark: “Okay, 1/26 there!” I also got a ton of encouraging tweets during this first mile, motivating me to keep pushing ahead, people were counting on me!
Moon Duo’s “Motorcycle, I Love You” came on and I sped into Mile 2...
Mile 02 - Average 9:50 /mile
Still keeping that above average pace, I started noticing my surroundings. The lake came into view and I began to appreciate that it truly was a gorgeous autumn day. I began to “pace” with other runners, especially as we moved into the shoulder of the road. As I recall, the first water stop was during this mile, so I allowed myself to “reset” by walking there. The super extended (Patrick Cowley) remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” started during this one as well, so I began matching the beat in that to slow down a bit.
Mile 03 - Average 10:21 /mile
Donna carried me into mile three and I was glad to have a steady beat as some hills were added into the mix while we rounded one corner of the lake. I started to get nervous here as I hadn’t looked at the route map (novice mistake) and feared that we’d have to come back this way and we were running down hills nastier than we were heading up. This mile also included the worst hill on the route, just before mile 4. I hate that pit of your stomach feeling as you round a corner and there’s the behemoth staring at you. The good news was, this was the worst one! Yay! AND my song changed just at the base of it to “Rippin Kittin” (not exactly this mix) by Miss Kittin. Hooray for Berlin dance grooves pushing me up the hill.
Mile 04 - Average 10:42 /mile
A couple more inclines as Miss Kittin and the Scissor Sisters “Invisible Light” carried me through this hilly residential area. I believe it was along this stretch where I ran into my friend Rob too. It was cool to spot someone you haven’t seen in years and give them a shoutout and congrats while you’re both huffing and puffing along. I began to appreciate the beauty of the route and the lake along this stretch, getting a little philosophical as Underworld’s “Always Loved a Film” popped on and then laughing as I saw a resident placing our beer for the runners. I opted to pass since it was my first half, but some of my fellow athletes made the stop.
Mile 05 - Average 10:27 /mile
Appropriately Caribou’s “Sun” carried me onto the first “path” part of the route through an open field, bathed in autumn sunshine. I became really grateful that the temps were in the 40s and not the 60s at this point. As I approached the second water stop, I allowed myself to slow down and drink all my water and gatorade.
Mile 06 - Average 11:24 /mile
I started to drag on the country roads here, even with LCD Soundsystem’s “Beat Connection” giving me some push. I had a little heart attack thinking we were going to head up a massive hill, but luckily the route turned and we ended up on a tunnel underneath said hill and on a lovely stretch of bike path. I officially crossed the 10k marker with a 1:05:29. Unfortunately that pace wouldn’t keep up!
Mile 07 - Average 10:52 /mile
Picked up speed a bit here on the path. Shook things up with another psychedelic Moon Duo number, “In the Trees,” the funky jazz of “Unbroken, Unshaven” by The Budos Band and then getting back into the shoegazey dance “Pigeons” by Hundred in the Hands and "Fixed" by Stars. I had started to feel a little leaden before this mile, but was glad to push back on pace. The really cool part of mile 7 was that we ran across a little wooden bridge in the MIDDLE OF THE LAKE! It was breathtaking and cool, although really windy. Definitely a unique highlight of the race.
Mile 08 - Average 11:09 /mile
My slowdown here was not due to fatigue, but TRAFFIC. I was beginning to feel good again, and excited that I just had an easy 5 miles left. After a little warm up of Unkle’s “The Answer,” around 8.5 “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” by LCD Soundsystem came on and I charged past several runners, practically bouncing down the path, only to hit a traffic jam. I am not sure how long we were stopped, but I’d say about 90 seconds. On one hand, it could’ve been beneficial, as it let me recharge. However, I’m definitely wondering what would’ve happened had I kept pushing, especially since I was in “recharge” mode. I totally understand that they had to move traffic along the main street, but I wonder if there is a standard “stop time” for runners. There was probably a pack of 10-15 people held back.
Mile 09 - Average 10:33 /mile
The timing worked out okay for actual Daft Punk’s new song “Derezzed” (clever how I did that one!) to carry me into the start of mile 9 and keep up a fantastic pace and then Maserati’s “We Got the System to Fight the System” and another Budos Band song “The Rite of the Ancients” propelled me toward the last water stop and the last three miles. This worked out well because my shoe came untied right before the stop. I also took my first ever gel here. Raspberry Cream. It tasted like cough medicine.
Mile 10 - Average 10:35 /mile
I cannot tell you how excited I was to hit the Mile 10 marker. I was now at the FARTHEST DISTANCE EVER RUN BY MEGHAN ARNOLD. I wanted to scream and shout to the world. This was kind of a dead end street in an industrial area, but I imagined highfiving like a billion people at this point. Okay, maybe the gel caused hallucinations :). I also was smiling at my soundtrack decision here of Tom Tom Club’s “Wording Rappinghood.” For those unfamiliar with this classic proto-hip-hop jam, the repeat verbal beat is “don’t stop! don’t stop!” and that chorus did wonders for me mentally, especially as I kept up a great pace in this stretch. I felt great to conquer that last 5k. I laughed as “Hot Mess” by Chromeo came on, added after my friend Kara recommended putting that band on the list, and reminded me not to “poo myself.” I also think it was on this mile when I saw a road called “American Way” and laughed again.
Mile 11 - Average 10:56 /mile
Well unfortunately, the euphoria of crossing Mile 10 didn’t magically coast me through. Mile 11 started my descent into madness. The usually uplifting “Dust Devil” by School of Seven Bells failed to motivate, nor did a remix of Florence & The Machine’s “The Dog Days Are Over.” In fact, the last made me tear up a bit and wonder “is this damn race over?” Probably didn’t help that we were running through subdivisions and industrial parks at this point.
Mile 12 - Average 11:44 /mile
Mile 12 was an evil bitch. I hate Mile 12. Mile 12 can suck it and die. Florence gave way to Karen O. and a remix of “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I knew I was almost there, but I was crying and limping. My hip was killing. People around me were all walking. But I was determined to KEEP RUNNING. I started channeling The Little Engine That Could and out loud saying “I Think I Can, I Think I Can.” I kinda didn’t care if my fellow runners thought I was crazy or not. It worked. I kept running. I did it. I didn’t stop at all. And I was rewarded at mile 12.5. Lady Gaga and Beyonce pushed me forward with “Telephone.” And yes, after talking to myself already, I began to sing along. I also knew this was the section of my soundtrack that I’d purposely added cheesy pop music. I smiled, hope returned as Snoop said the magical words “Greetings loved ones, let’s take a journey.”
Mile 13 - Average 11:32 /mile
With Katy Perry’s horribly sugary and obnoxious “California Gurls” I rounded the corner toward the marker for mile 13. ALMOST THERE. And there they were! Becky, Tony, Craig and Brooke. And @sawaboof. All on the corner. They had a sign, AND IT HAD MY NAME ON IT!!!!!!!!! I felt so loved. My smile was HUGE. I was almost there and I had a posse. I was thrilled to see Brooke there too! She’d finished her 4.37 race already. Yay! She and Craig had both tweeted me in those later miles too. Brooke’s came through during evil mile 12 and said “Fuck yeah, Meghan! Can't wait to see you! So close!” I’d needed that push and now I got to see my friends. But still had that .1 to go! And it was a bit chaotic. People were milling about, so it wasn’t quite clear where to go, but I just moved forward. In a world of hurt, happiness, and bubblegum pop. And then I saw another group of people. Right by the finish line. Jumping up and down. “Oh, how nice!” I thought at the kind souls. Then I realized they were screaming MY NAME and yelling for ME. It was the #FitMKE / Daily Mile gang! Anne, Tracey, Amy, Sarah S., Rochelle, and Stacy S. I coasted across the finish line on a wave of love! So incredible.
(I also noted the irony that I’d started to Patti Smith and ended to Katy Perry.)
I got my food, water, solar blanket, and MEDAL. I hugged a lot of people. I cried. I got my photo taken. I cheered for Marty & Augie to finish. I sang “Don’t Stop Believing” with Brooke. I drank BEER. I ate tasty, meaty lasagna.
I tried to embed it all in my mind. I never want to forget it.