Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blue Skies

Do you ever have those days that go perfectly even if the details aren't perfect?

When I signed up for the Air Force Half, I had no idea how much I was going to look forward to running it nor did I know how much I would enjoy it. This wasn't my first time at the Air Force Half. I ran it two years ago. Mostly I remember the beginning, a huge crowd of people along the course through the first 4 or so miles, the hill at mile 8, and the end. I also remember breaking 2 hours for the first time ever on the half marathon. I liked to tell people that the only good things about the Air Force Half were the beginning and the end. The beginning includes a fly over of some awesome plane and the end has you running through an airplane lineup and receiving a medal from a high ranking air force officer. Last Saturday, I ate those words. I am very happy about that.

I had not run an event in a couple of months as I was building my way back to being healthy after figuring out my body was running way too low on iron. I was a little nervous because my last two half marathons were terrible. I had no energy and running hurt. I was afraid of a three-peat despite the fact that my training runs had been getting faster, and my endurance had been getting back to my before anemia levels. I really had no idea of what the day would bring, and I was excited and little nervous to find out.

I decided to enter the base from Harshman Road this year rather than Colonel Glenn. The traffic was decidedly better, and I highly recommend doing it this way if you plan to travel to Dayton for the event. I got out of my car and looked up. There was the B2 flying overhead. That was amazing! It glided through the skies like no plane I had ever seen. Two years ago, a jet flew over before the start and the pilot hit the afterburners. Awesome :-) That was the beginning I had spoken of.

I checked the verse of the day before heading to the start:
2 Timothy 4:7 "I  have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The weather prediction was a start in the lower 50s and the low 60s by the time I finished. Perfect. The skies were blue, and the grass and trees were a beautiful green.  The Air Force museum looked as lovely as it always does. I headed over to the start to put myself near the 2 hour pace group. I wasn't planning on a half PR, but I was hoping to break 2 hours if everything felt okay. I saw my friend Carolyn over by the pace group. Her plan was to run her first sub-2. Carolyn and I began the race together.

Miles 1-4
The first 4 miles flew by quickly. Running felt easy and good, and I was very happy that the beginning did not resemble the beginning of my last two events. Around mile 4, there was a glitch. The group we were behind took a wrong turn. A minute or so later, people ran by us and yelled that we were all going the wrong way and that we needed to turn around. This gave us a bonus of about a quarter of a mile. I was little surprised as my past experience with the Air Force event was that everything went like clockwork. Apparently this happened to other groups too. (After the event, I heard that some people went as far as 4 miles out and some even had two wrong turns.) This certainly wasn't my first event with bonus mileage. Since I wasn't shooting for a PR and only went a little off course, this didn't really bother me. It did, however, put a little fire in my belly to move a bit faster. I didn't feel annoyed; I felt energized. Really, I was just happy to be running at a decent clip while still feeling good.

Miles 5-7
At the mile 5 mark, Carolyn looked at her Garmin which showed we had traveled about a quarter of a mile more with the misdirection. Around mile 6, Carolyn and I lost track of each other at a water station. I was thankful to have the first 6 miles go by very quickly with good company, and she was keeping the pace right on target. I turned on my music, but I must have been doing a lot of thinking. I barely remember hearing any of the songs except for David Crowder Band's Open Skies. At mile 7, I took my peanut butter Gu which gave a nice energy boost. It was good timing.

Mile 8 brought the first hill of note during the half. It is an overpass, and it slows down many a runner. I remembered this incline from last time. I also remembered the nice downhill that comes after. On the way down the other side, a fellow runner who looked to be a retired military officer of the army or marine variety said something. I'm not exactly sure what started the conversation, but we chatted for a minute or so. He disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. I'm not sure if he wound up behind me or in front of me, but it was nice to have a brief conversation with someone who was smiling and obviously enjoying the run.

Miles 9-11
What I didn't remember from last time were the next hills that followed. I was starting to feel tired, but my lungs felt strong and my legs felt bouncy. I'm not exactly sure what was feeling tired, but something was. The temp was rising and this portion of the course had more ups and downs than the first 7 miles. It could have been my own doing. I had no idea what my pace was, but I am pretty sure I had sped up. By mile 11, I was confident I would break the 2 hour mark so I made the decision to slow down a little when I reached the final stretch. I wanted to enjoy running between the airplanes rather than gasping for air.

Miles 12-13
Flat. Almost there.

The last .1 and the Finish
I did enjoy the jaunt through the planes. :-) As I was crossing the finish, the clock showed 1 hour 59 minute and some change. The announcer was cheering everyone on to push to break the 2 hour mark. A 2 star Air Force General put my medal around my neck. As I was walking through the finish area, there was a woman with a very serious expression who was trying to keep us moving forward. I said to her that I was trying as I made a running movement with my arms and gave her a cheesy grin. "This is about as fast as I can go!" She lit up with a huge smile and told me how great it was to see someone smiling.  This year the end was even better than last time.

I grabbed something to eat and drink and then sat for a few. As I headed out of the race area, I looked down at my medal. The Air Force provides really nice bling. I thought about how I would take that medal home and throw it in a drawer never to see daylight again. That didn't sound like the best use for this beauty. As I walked, I asked for help in finding a good home for my prize. A few steps later, I saw a young boy who looked like he could use a smile. I got the go ahead from the adults accompanying him and placed it around his neck. I know it made my day even better. I hope it did the same for him.

Final Time: 1:57:14

Looking back, I bettered my course time by over a minute even with an extra quarter mile. Based on pace, I would have run around 1:55 without the bonus mileage. It was a beautiful day. Running felt good again. The best part about this race was the entire experience.


  1. wow! Great post about the race! So sweet you gave your medal to that little boy, I'm positive you made his day! I finished only a minute ahead of you!

  2. Cool, clear blue skies and the Air Force bringing out a B2 & a General -- what a day! Great to hear you topped it off with nice run.

  3. COngratulations of getting the Anemia mastered.

    Do you know abotu Medals for Mettle? Its a great thing for those of us who know our real reward isn't in objects!

    I'm going to try to break 2 hours in my spring half, and am very worried about it! You have inspired me!