Monday, September 5, 2011

Rockin and Rollin in Virginia Beach!

just past 12 miles

Hey, hey, hey everyone!  Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend.  I know I had a blast!
This weekend was the Rock n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, and my family went down to spend some time at the beach and for me to race.   This blog title make more sense now doesn’t it. :-p  This was my second half marathon and I was looking forward to having a flat one to run, because in Charlotte there is very little flat spaces to race on.
Anyway, when we arrived at our hotel in Virginia Beach on Friday, Dad and I went out on the boardwalk for a shake-out 30 minute run to get the kinks out after a 6 hour car ride.  During the run we were able to see where the finish line would be and I started feeling really excited!  After the run we went and had dinner at Planet Pizza, which unfortunately was nothing like Pizza Planet on Toy Story (the movie), and that kind of bummed me out.   On Saturday, Dad and I walked down to the expo (it was the first one I have ever been to) and I was in awe.  It was amazing!  There was a red carpet you walked down to get your race number, and as you continued down you got your shirt and swag bag, then it opened up to the expo.  The thing was ginormous with tables, and games and shops everywhere!  As we wandered around I stopped and looked at the shirts with saying on front and read them.  Somewhere “13.1 miles because I’m only half crazy” (ha ha love it!) and there was one that said “This sounded better 3 months ago” (loved that one too).  But my favorite one read “I run like a girl, try and keep up”; how awesome is that one!  Another part of the expo was a video tour of the course, which I enjoyed because I could look for different landmarks to know where I was on the course and what came next.
After the expo, my excitement level went up another notch!  If it went up much higher I might explode!  I just tried to relax the rest of the day and spent a lot of time outside on the balcony watching the ocean, it was very relaxing and I started getting my mind prepared for racing the next day, trying to contain my excitement.  That night my family walked down to church and at the end of mass the priest gave a special blessing to all the people at the mass who were running in the half marathon the next morning.  That just totally made my day, as I walked back I just felt happy, excited and ready for the race.   I had a feeling of confidence around me and was totally ready to race.
Man, I’m telling you 4:15 am comes really early the morning of a race, but with a 7:00 am start that’s when I gotta get up, being a teenager it takes me a while to wake up.  I did a nice shake out jog and started getting everything ready for the race.  Around 6:15 my Dad and I jogged the 1.5 miles down to the starting line as my warm-up.  I started to get ready for my race, mentally and physically and was pumped.  After the wheelchairs and strollers went off I got into my corral got my place in the pack.  As the elite athletes were announced Ryan Hall went down the line giving high-fives.  Part of me wanted to run up and get a high-five, well because it was Ryan Hall!  But I didn’t, I couldn’t afford to get distracted right before the start, I needed to get focused for the long race ahead of me.
Then the elite athletes lined up and we joined them.  The horn went off and the race had started.  I went out and tried to settle in to my pace.  At the first mile, I was feeling great and was in a pack of 5 people.  We were all comfortable and kept motoring right along through mile 2, where I saw Dad there cheering us on.  We continued on our way to mile 3 which was right in front of our hotel, where my Mom, sister, brother, great aunt, and great uncle were there cheering for us.  Right after the 3 mile point was a water stop, so I grabbed a cup of water but never got a sip as all of it splashed out before I could drink. Oh well.  After the water stop we went up the first of only 2 hills on the course.  I charged up the hill and felt great going down, at this point we lost 1 pack member and our pack of 5 became a pack of 4, but we went back into our rhythm and continued down the road.  Before long we passed miles 4 and 5 and I felt really good, which made me happy and confident.  After 5 miles, the other pack members started to pull away to pass a group of 3 runners just ahead of us.  Since I was feeling great I decided to go with them.  As we got closer to the group in front of us and passed the 6 mile point, the two guys in the group took off and passed the group and quickly gapped us.  That left me and the other women, Lyubov Denisova, running next to each other.  The group in front of us also broke apart and the female in the group started dropping back.  I took at moment to take off and try and pass her.  As I took off I passed Lyubov, but I could hear her right behind me.  Around mile 7 I passed the other female and another guy who was just in front of her, and kept on pushing.  I was surprised at how good I felt and just kept watching the guy in front of me and his bright green socks!
As we went down roads, everywhere you looked there was either cheerleaders or bands, it was awesome.  It kept me thinking positively and I not once thought about how tired I felt.  Pretty soon we went into a naval base and ran down the roads there for a while.  Before I knew it mile 8 had passed and I could see mile 9 up ahead.  At that point I was starting to feel tired, but at 9 miles into a half marathon, who wouldn’t.   As we passed the mile point and rounded the corner Lyubov came up beside me and pushed going faster and passing me.  But I didn’t go with her at first, and decided I wanted to keep my pace since I was getting tired, however when she motioned for me to go with her, so I did.  We ran side by side as we passed mile ten, I am glad she had me go with her because I had slowed down 4 seconds that mile without knowing it, our slowest mile of the race, so she saved me from slowing down even more and I thank her for that.  We ran side by side down the road and as we approached the 11 mile point we were heading back and I still felt strong, though  while I was concentrating on not slowing down, in the back of my head I was going crazy with excitement of my race going so well.  After we passed mile 11, I could see the bridge in the horizon that signified the last hill and getting closer to the finish line.  Before I knew it we were at the hill, so I thought to myself “this the last hill and what do I have to lose’ so I took off up the hill.  When I got to the top I was by myself, then the guy in front of me raised his hands up in the air.  I was SO confused until I saw the race photographer , and so as I passed the photographer I was like what the heck, this race is awesome, so I held up a peace sign and smiled for the picture.  As I ran down the street and turned the corner I saw the 12 mile mark and my family.  As I passed the 12 mile point I saw my time was 1:10:something.  I finally dawned on me that I was gonna run in the 1:17’s.  I smiled big and took off as I rounded another corner until I finally saw the boardwalk, that meant .75 miles to go.  Now that I think about it, it sucked having the lasy three-quarters of a mile be one long straightaway.  The whole time I could see the finish line, there mocking me, as if saying come and get me but never seeming to get any closer.  Finally I passed the 13 mile point, I hit the button on my watch to take the split but didn’t look at it, I was totally focused on the finish line.  As I was across the finish line I looked up and saw 1:17:14 on the clock.  I broke out into a huge smile.  I just couldn’t believe I had gotten into the 1:17’s, it was all so surreal, but I loved it.  I had finally showed the world who Alana Hadley is!
Splits: 5:47,5:43,5:50,5:54,5:52,5:49,5:51,5:57,5:58,6:02,6:02,5:58,5:49,:37
11th place overall, first American, pending world and national single age record.
The rest of the day I relaxed, went to the beach, sat outside, had an ice bath, and had milk shake; you know all the things you do after a half marathon.  Around 7:30 Dad and I walked down to the concert stage and listened to the band Tonic, while waiting for the awards.  During the awards they brought me on stage and announced my time and that I had set 15 & under female national record!  I got a bouquet of flowers and autographed picture of Bret Michaels.  Though the best part was shaking hands with Jim Ryun and Frank Shorter, how amazing is that!  Afterwards we listed to Bret and his band sing then headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.
Well after a race like that I definitely am excited to race again.  I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend.
I would like to thank everyone who helped put on the race and made it so awesome.  I really enjoyed by experience in Virginia Beach.  Thanks so much!