January 12, 2014: a clear, sunny day bringing us a short reprieve from the cold! Not *quite* sure what deal the First Light race directors made with the devil to guarantee such incredible weather for race day (considering Sunday was bookended by a cloudy, dreary Saturday and a stormy Monday), but whatever it was, it was worth it. Flat course, great conditions. Made for a fun day in Mobile, AL and a new half PR. Very exciting for me since I spend most of my work life in this city (I am based out of my firm's Mobile office). So, my "work hometown," if you will. :)
Prerace events: An expo/packet pickup and optional pre-race pasta dinner (free for runners; just had to claim it when you signed up) greeted everyone on Saturday afternoon/evening. I went to pick up my packet late afternoon; I saw lots of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics who had done the Mississippi Blues event earlier that day and made the trip down to the coast. The organizers from MS Blues and First Light work together to always have their events on back to back days, and marathoners/halfers who do both get special recognition (I think a shirt and a small gift?) and bragging rights!
The course and conditions: While the full course takes runners through a bit more of a "hilly" section (parts of Spring Hill), there's just not a lot of elevation change in the Mobile area. The half course shows you barely any of it, so if you are a flats-lover, this would be a course to check out. The 13.1 course also gives you a good glimpse of the cross-sections of Mobile life; you run through some industrial and other areas that aren't quite so scenic in the first few miles, but then hit the downtown neighborhoods with many beautiful old homes and big live oaks. I love seeing the big, stately trees as I run by by them, so you'll see that most of my pics from the course below showcase them.
A word of caution: if running on less than ideal pavement is one of your pet peeves, First Light may not be for you. Not because we have historic cobblestones, but it's just a fact of Mobile life that roads are cracked, potholes are aplenty and you've got to keep watch where you are running. I saw a girl hit a crack in the pavement and take a horrible, no good, very bad tumble. She had to pull out of the race; it was rough.
How it went down: Per the plan, I kept the pace the first 12 miles between 8:50 - 9:00, incrementally getting a little faster as I got closer to the end. While I didn't plan on First Light being a goal race this year, Coach Hadley told me he thought I was ready for a good one. I was a little nervous Saturday night and didn't want to disappoint either one of us., but once I got moving, I found that 8:50 - 9:00 pace exactly as he called it, and got comfortable.
I realized somewhere in mile ten that barring something totally blowing up on me, I'd be coming in under 2 hours. I got even more excited as I was finishing up mile 11 when I did a little math and saw that it might be a PR for me, besting my Savannah 13.1 time of 1:58:30. With that adrenaline giving me a boost, I tried to empty the tank. My last mile (8:19) was a pace that pushed it for me when I had 12 miles under my belt, so I will say with the risk of being TMI, I felt as if I was going to throw up pretty much the entire last mile. But I was happy that I held on. Some HRG mantras got me through it for sure: "we can do hard things" + "pump your arms; legs will follow" + "run the mile you're in."
Right when I was about to cross the finish line, I felt a "whoosh" beside me on my right side. Right when we finished, the "whoosh" turned out to be guy who looked at me with an apologetic grin -- he pointed to his buddy on my left, and said "Sorry...had to beat that guy."
Official finish time of 1:56:53. Loved the finish line set up on Dauphin Street and Bienville Square!
After we crossed the timing mat, Bienville Square was a great place for runners to grab a bite to eat (again, runners who had signed up for a post-race meal got one for free), and there were also bananas, oranges, other standard post-race fare. The perfect weather that day made it easy to enjoy hanging outside with fellow runners and stretching out, and the directors set up a stage and equipment and arranged for local musicians entertain everyone throughout the day.
My LOL for this race: I'm not really big on spending money on overpriced race photos, and certainly don't plan on buying this one, but I got the "here's your race pics" email a few days after the race, and there were precious few of them. Like 3, one being everyone at the start (the pic that everyone got in "their" race pics) and then 2 of me crossing the finish line. Except...you can't see me in either. I called the Hubs over to check it out. When he was done LOL'ing, he made a "skitch" of my race pic to demonstrate how I got trolled at the finish line (the blurring and "commentary" below are his. I loved it and told him it would be posted here for sure. :)
The tunes: Here is my soundcloud playlist for the race; I added some new(ish) tracks to the mix but kept a few of my favorite "race songs." For whatever reason, singing along (in my head) with my favorite "power" songs toward the end of a race seems to give me a little extra kick. That being said, they aren't *too* familiar; I try to save my songs that I like to listen at that point for race day only! As always (sorry), some of the tracks are NSFW/K (work or kids).
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