This year I finally had my chance! I was going to run with the cheetahs. Or to the cheetahs, since the race really runs to the Safari Park.
I somehow talked L&O into joining me for this one. She had mentioned that she was going to be running the 10k with a friend, I was working on getting her to upgrade to the half marathon, her friend dropped out, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As I mentioned last week. L&O did a bunch of our longer runs together. We were running pretty solidly around an 11 minute mile. Which would put us at a 2 hour, 24 minute half marathon. Funny enough, that's right around where both of our PRs are. L&O had been talking for weeks about how we were going to PR at this race. I wasn't as confident as her. Firstly because of my current minimal running training schedule. Secondly, because we weren't training at PR paces.
The morning of the race, I was up at 4:30 getting ready. At 5 we bundled Thatbaby into the car and were on our way. We got to the race start with plenty of time to park, and for Thatboy to grab a coffee before heading to the shuttles that would take the spectators into the park to watch us finish.
L&O and her boys met us there and we sent the men-folk on their way while L&O headed over to stretch, grab some water, and make our way to the starting line.
In our effort to PR, L&O convinced me to get into the 10 minute mile corral. We stayed toward the back. We took in the other runners in their various states of costume. Some, like us, were in boring running gear. Others were full on Safari-ed out, in animal prints with ears, tails, the works! The gun went off, and so did we.
The first mile felt good, there were little rolling hills, but we went down as frequently as we went up. We ran from the Shopping Center to the road that would take us to the park. After the first mile, we were just in front of the 2:20 pacers. I could tell because we heard her yell "If this is your first half marathon, you've just finished your first mile!" More on the pacers later, but really, she was fantastic. L&O checked her garmin and noted we had run the first mile in 10 minutes and 40 seconds. Not too shabby.
The second mile we headed past Orfila Winery. I had heard they would be handing out the gatorade in wine glasses here. They weren't. I guess the thought of gatorade in wine glasses sped up our feet though, because we did the next mile in 10 minutes, 20 seconds. We were getting faster! At this point, we were right behind the 2:15 pacers.
By the end of mile 3, we were ahead of the 2:15 pacers and ran the third mile in 10 minutes, 8 seconds. Yeah, we dropped about 20 seconds each mile. I started getting nervous. Maybe we should slow down? We decided to keep it up for as long as we could, knowing we would certainly be dropping in time around mile 6 and THE HILL.
Miles 4-6 took us toward the entrance of the park, past a dairy farm where they brought the cows out for pictures and moral. They also handed out California dairy buttons and chocolate milk straws. It was fairly flat so we managed to maintain our pace for the most part, just in front of the 2:15 pace group. Then we hit mile 6.
Mile 6 is a hill that takes you into the park. And hill is just the technical term. Because when you're running up it, you could swear it was Kilimanjaro. It's sandy, which slows you down anyway, and steep! At one point in time, L&O turned to me and told me I could run ahead. I told her I was running just about as fast as I could already. It took us 12 minutes to get up that hill. So yeah, we slowed down. And completely lost the 2:15 pacers.
Which was fine, because really, as long as we stayed in front of the 2:20 pacers, we'd still PR. Mile 7 we were in the park, running past zebras and giraffes. We were able to pick our pace up a bit, since it was mostly downhill. There was a person with a hose in the park in case you needed a little cool down. L&O took advantage of that - it was hot out! We headed out of the park and past a camel that was waiting for us just before mile 8.
Miles 8-11 were kind of hard in that they were boring. The scenery was lovely and bucolic, but it was hot out, and I was ready to be done. I was giving myself pep talks like "just a couple more miles to go!" Times like that I was glad to have L&O by my side.
I was especially glad to have her at my side at mile 11, another hill, back into the park. At this point we were both tired and feeling like whoever planned this course was some kind of sadist. And the 2:20 pacer was right in our ear. Throughout the race she'd been yelling encouragement like "pick it up!" "You got this!" Somewhere around the end of mile 11 she was right behind us cheering everyone on and I turned around and told her how fantastic she was. She asked us if this was our first half marathon - it was. She asked us if we were going to PR - we were as long we stayed in front of her. She gave us some tips and cheered us on, and L&O picked up our pace as we coasted downhill into the park.
We returned into the park at mile 12, right past the elephants! We were both tired and felt that last mile. Moreso than mile 7 after the mile 6 hill. As we rounded to the finish the pacer was on our heels, yelling to the crowd to cheer for us and our PRs. We crossed the finish line at 2:18! Beating our old PRs by 5 minutes!
Thatbaby woke up in a baaaaaaaaaaaad mood. A combination of a too early morning, a too short nap, and a too hot day. We took him to cool down in the splash park.
After the splash park, when he was cooler and full of pineapple I had brought with us, we went and sat to grab some lunch and check out the giraffe.
We headed out of the park, but not without a stop at the petting kraal and Nairobi Village, where Thatbaby harnessed his toddler energy to make running water.