Before I knew it the Team Challenge season winded down and race weekend was upon me. I was excited and extremely anxious and nervous. I mentioned before how I was not athletic and not a runner. Even though I had trained and prepared for months, I was still freaking out internally about crossing the finish line.
Let me recap my first event weekend by taking you back to Summer 2012. Carley Ray Jespen’s Call Me Maybe was on the radio non stop and everyone was talking about the upcoming Summer Olympics in 2012. Now that I was with my team and gearing up for a half-marathon I felt like I could totally relate to the Olympic athletes. I may have also been a little delusional. It was a good time to be alive.
Our South Florida Team Challenge group met up at the airport and flew together to San Francisco. We were all in our Team Challenge gear and super hyped up. It reminded me of trips I used to go on back in high school.
We had a bus chartered to take us to Santa Rosa from the San Francisco International Airport. The following morning we all got up for a 3 mile “fun run.” Fun and run, two words I never imagined using together. The weather was amazing. It was July and I was used to training in South Florida, and if you don’t know our summers are brutal and disgusting. Humid, hot, sticky, awful . . . just a few words to describe it. In the morning the weather was in the 60s, I felt like I could run for miles, which was good because the following day I would be running 13.1 miles.
The small town of Santa Rosa was overtaken by a sea of orange and blue (Team Challenge colors) as everyone was taking an opportunity for a quick run in the scenic area. In fact, as I was running I heard two women yell “Semicolon girl! Julie!” I looked up and I spotted some of my twitter friends, who I hadn’t yet met in person. We ran and hugged each other, it was such a cool rock star moment.
After exploring the town and enjoying a team lunch at a nearby restaurant we headed to the Pasta Party. There were buses shuttling us to a private winery for our very own Inspirational Pasta Party. There were some emotional moments and wonderful speakers who did a great job at reminding us all why we were there.
Once we returned to the hotel we had a team meeting where our coaches went over last minute tips and our Team Manager Rachel gave us our bibs and final instructions. We all got a chance to speak and again it got very emotional. Lots of tears.
I don’t remember what time we had to wake up, but it was VERY early. Maybe 3/4 a.m.? We gathered in the lobby in our gear, I had “Screw You Crohns” on my ass. Plenty of photos were taken and last minute questions were answered. We didn’t have much time until we were being shuttled to the start line.
There was a bag check, which was on a bus. The course route was not a loop, the finish line was in Sonoma, we were in Naples, 13.1 miles away. I packed in my bag flip flops and some other items I would need post race. I didn’t eat much in the morning because my stomach was always angry that early. You are told you have to eat before a half-marathon, so I munched on a very plain bagel, no cream cheese and prayed that my stomach wouldn’t freak out on me. It was like walking on ice.
It was overcast and a bit chilly, but I didn’t wear anything to keep me warm. I knew I would warm up during the run. Us Miami folks were freezing, while most people were fine in the high 50s. Some people wear a “toss-away shirt.” A toss-away shirt is an oversized t-shirt that you don’t care for. You wear it at the beginning of the race and take it off when you have warmed up and toss it to the side of the course. Volunteers come by after and pick up the shirts and donate them to a local charity.
After taking a few final pics and a stop at the port-a-potties, we all split up according to our corrals to head for the start line. I was in the last corral because I’m slow, super slow. The Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon has about 2,000 runners, which is a great crowd size. It’s not insane, you pretty much start at the same time as everyone. The larger mega half-marathons and marathons have at least 20,000 runners and it takes over an hour to get all the corrals through the start line. I experienced that in Vegas, which I will get to in another post.
I didn’t know anyone in my corral, but all the other Team Challenge runners grouped together. We are easy to spot in our orange race shirts. We chit chatted and tried to calm our nerves. I seriously could have used a Xanax, I was so worried about falling behind and not making it to the finish line. After everyone has crossed the finish line there are always “sweepers.” Sweepers pretty much walk behind the last person to make everyone is going to finish in time. If you fall behind the pace, usually is no more than a 16 minute mile you will be picked up by the bus that trails behind the sweepers. This terrified me. I didn’t want to fail and get picked up by the shame bus.
We didn’t have to wait long before they made a few announcements (I couldn’t hear I was all the way in the back) and officially begun the race. It was exciting, I was about to start something I had never done. I couldn’t wait to cross the finish line and also to find out if I could do this.
The story of my first 13.1 miles will be in my next Team Challenge post. Stay tuned.