Behind the scenes of the WHM

November 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Yesterday was an amazing and overwhelming day for me. My quick recap of the Women’s Half Marathon in pictures was just a small fraction of the photos and memories that I have of the day. I definitely want to record all those memories (and photos) here, so bear with me while I get it out of my system. It may take a couple more posts.

I want to dedicate this “behind the scenes” post to the amazing organizers and volunteers of the Women’s Half Marathon.

Like the soldiers who handed out the medals at the finish line and made everyone feel so honored. They were also there in support of the Paws for Patriots team…what a great cause. I stole this photo off of a Paws for Patriots Facebook post.
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Like my fellow IRunMommies member Cheryl who handed out water, unwrapped medals, who knows what-all-else, and cheered us all on…
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and my other IRunMommies fellow member Patty who took a ton of great photographs like the one of Cheryl above.

Like the people who manned all the water stations and handed out Gatorade, water and Gu.
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And like all the spectators who yelled our names, slapped our hands and held up signs. Especially my very own special spectators.
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I wish I had more than just this one photo of Chad. He was amazing. He got up at 5:15 a.m. on a Sunday to accompany me to the race and braved the insane parking logjam at Baywalk. He herded the boys to four different locations along the route to cheer me and all the other IRunMommies on. He also took a ton of great photos for all of us. Thank you Chad! I would never have been able to do this half marathon without you and you made the experience a million times better for me. All day long he told the boys that this was “Mommy’s Day” and it surely was.

The following oversharing of my “behind the scenes at the WHM” experience is for you guys! I hope you know how much the runners appreciated you all. Just like yesterday’s post, this is a mixture of photos taken by Chad and by me, but the observations are all mine.

I was supposed to meet the IRunMommies team at the dock in front of the St. Pete Yacht Club at 6:30 a.m. We thought that leaving the house by 5:45 a.m. and getting downtown by 6 a.m. would be plenty early, but trying to get into the parking deck at Baywalk proved to be challenging. We sat through many, many light cycles starting several blocks away, while only about one or two cars per light cycle were getting into the parking deck (it turns out cars were coming from three directions to get into that parking deck). Finally I couldn’t stand it because I was so anxious about the race that I got out of the car and walked by myself down towards the Yacht Club. Chad and boys parked the car finally.

Beautiful pre-dawn downtown St. Pete waterfront…
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from the Baywalk parking deck.
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A hoard of green and pink on the St. Pete Yacht Club’s dock as Chad and the boys caught up with us there.
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Awesome having a yacht club member on our team!
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The best part was having real bathrooms before the race!
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Not that the WHM’s staging area at Al Lang Stadium (Progress Energy Park) didn’t have plenty of port-a-potties.
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Knowing that I am a turtle, not a hare, I was in the last corral.
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While waiting the last few minutes before the start I chatted with Deana and Jennifer, two ladies I had just met who were also running their first half-marathons. Instant friends.
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I passed Jennifer at one point again somewhere after mile 6 and we were like, “Hey girl! So far so good!” Little things like that really keep you going during a race.

Chad had walked on up with the boys to the other side of the start line. He got a great shot of the speed demons who were first across the line.
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He also took shots of any IRunMommies he could see. Our uniforms are AWESOME for their high visibility during races. Thank you Skirt Sports for designing our great uniforms.
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I unconsciously made this gesture every time I saw a camera, I think. I’m excited and scared to see the official race photographs because I struck a ridiculous pose every time I noticed a yellow-jacketed photographer.
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After the start Chad had some time to kill before he was going to catch me around mile 7 in front of the Vinoy. He captured these shots in the meantime.
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The music on the course was great!
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While Chad and the boys were tooling around downtown buying chocolate croissants and lugging signs and backpacks, I was running.

The Snell Isle/Coffee Pot Bayou bridge past mile two:
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Ahhh, running down the bridge towards the Vinoy Country Club.
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To me, the most boring part of the race was after the Vinoy Country Club when we ran through the back roads of Snell Isle and came back out on First Street. There were very few spectators there and it just felt hot and boring. The water stop around mile five was extremely welcome.
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I hung right around my IRunMommies teammate Nikki and her running partner Stephanie for the entire race. Having someone in my uniform close to me throughout was really motivating.
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After mile six, running back towards downtown St. Pete felt really good. I felt like I was back in the heart of things and on very familiar territory. Running this race through our regular training routes was a big bonus.
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Also, I was getting excited because I knew that I would see my family somewhere near the Vinoy hotel which was coming up. They saw many IRunMommies before me…here is my friend Kimi who loves to be on the blog, looking very strong.
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And here is my excited reaction to seeing the fam.
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Some Christmas-y photos Chad took in Straub Park in front of the Vinoy:
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While Chad and the boys made their way to their next spectating spot near Mirror Lake, I kept running.

Next up for me was The Pier, which I have run a hundred, thousand, million times…or at least that’s what it feels like. I’ve never run it with 3,000 other women, though. Completely different experience.
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After The Pier, around mile 9, my friend Callie jumped in and ran with me for a few minutes. She had just finished the 5K, where she got a PR (that’s personal record, Mom). She said encouraging things to me, like, “Can you believe you are doing this? You’re doing it!” I told her about this woman I had seen on the course who also ran near me for the whole race. She is above in the photo where we were running down the Snell Isle bridge, but here she is singled out:
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Her name is Carol and the sign on her skirt says, “Lose 131 pounds. Run 13.1 miles. I can & I did.” Later, while we were running, I tapped her on the shoulder and shouted (over our ear buds), “I’m a 100 pound loser also!” She shouted something like, “Way to go!” Carol, you inspired me to keep going! And Callie, you gave me a huge boost near mile 9.

I also told Callie that I just kept thinking about all the people in my social network who had given me support leading up to the race. As Callie peeled off to let me keep going on my own, those thoughts almost kept me distracted from the fact that running up First Avenue South away from the waterfront is a slight uphill incline.
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It was just after this point that our IRunMommies St. Petersburg leader, the speedy Christie, passed me. I stuck out my hand for her to high-five me and yelled, “Go Christie Go!” She slapped my hand and snarled something at me, and at that point I realized that she was only about half a mile from the finish and was giving it her all. I felt bad for making her lift her hand and expend that energy! She did awesome and led our team in at 2:01:58.

Once we turned off of First Avenue South towards Mirror Lake, I knew I would be seeing my family again soon. We took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.
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Look at the woman in the white shirt behind me smiling in the photo below. When you see spectators cheering on a loved one, it gives all the other runners around them a boost. It’s just uplifting to everyone.
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Nearing Mile 10, which was Maggie’s mile.
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I thought about you the whole mile girl, and tried to keep it nothing but awesome!

However, mile 10 led in to mile 11 which led into Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
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Being in the Trop was neat, and getting to run around the baseball field was quite an experience.
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However, running on astro-turf is HARD. It is squishy and feels like you are running in sand. Also, it just felt stuffy in there. I ended up walking quite a bit in the Trop.
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Also, while it may not look like it, the path exiting Tropicana Field through the parking lot was a long, hot uphill climb (yes, we are hill wimps in Florida). I also walked quite a bit of this.
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However, once we were back on Central Avenue, passing the 12-mile marker, there was a gentle slope back down towards the waterfront. Knowing I only had one more mile to go and seeing the spectator crowds grow larger, I was able to keep running until I crossed the finish line.

This last photo is completely self-indulgent overkill, but I’m not apologizing.
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Thanks Chad for taking eighteen photos of me crossing the finish line! I was determined to get a finish-line photo with my arms up, so I think I ran about the last tenth of a mile holding up my arms. I was so happy!

From my Garmin:
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Look Maggie! I sped up in mile ten a little just for you! Also, special thanks to my friend Loretta who told me on Facebook to kick this bitch in the face. That was definitely one of my favorite bits of encouragement. That patch after the mile eleven marker and into the twelfth mile was Tropicana Field and a bunch of walking. Then the last mile, lap 13, I was able to pick it back up.

Whew. Okay, there is still the after-party and the official race photos to go, then I will mostly have this race fully blogged. Oh, there is also a celebration party tomorrow night. I am happy to drag out this euphoria for a while longer.