Loudoun County, Virginia, June 2, 2012
I hadn’t planned to race the VA Wine Country Half Marathon – I was going to relax a bit and just enjoy the spectacular scenery, not worrying about time or pushing too hard.
Yeah, right.  Sometime on Thursday, I changed my mind. 
Everything that could go wrong, did.  I’d had a suckish training run the previous weekend.  My head wasn’t on straight.  I had a major release going out at work.  I got no sleep the night before.  Traffic backed up the morning of the race, and I stressed the whole way there in a stop-and-go line of cars across the Northern Virginia countryside.  The weather called for full sun, heat, and lots of humidity.  Ugh.  I’d heard the course was very hilly, and I wasn’t feeling too confident at all, considering my last half was pretty tough.
They delayed the start to allow everyone time to get there and line up, so I had some breathing room.  I don’t think they played the National Anthem, which I found disappointing and irreverent. 
I optimistically lined up somewhere around the 2:10 pace mark, wondering if I would be dragging towards 2:30 an hour later.  And then we were off.  
Mile 1 was congested, and I was frustrated behind runners who had no business in my particular “corral.”  It wasn’t a speedy pace group, but those who wanted to start off walking probably should have found a spot further back in the line.  When I caught my breath around Mile 3, I did a self-check.  I was planning to keep the pace just under 10:00 for the first half, and then try to speed things up at Mile 7 a bit to (hopefully) barely beat my last time.  I was feeling pretty good.
My new music playlist included several rounds of Usher’s “Scream,” Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” and David Guetta’s “Titanium,” among other current favorites.  It was the right mix of pumping, grinding, sexy beats and performance-boosting lyrics.  
My mantra was simply, “u r a winner.”
I visualized myself breaking the finish-line tape and the victorious thrill that went along with that.  And I threw in some imaginative sexy scenes based on the lyrics of “Scream,” too – that didn’t seem to hurt.  
The hills weren’t steep at all, but they were fairly constant.  Rolling, curvy ups and downs.  I figured it was nothing compared to Hill Road back home.  I was surprising myself, and sometimes in the first half I worried I was going too fast and wouldn’t have anything left for the end.  But I felt good.  I felt perfect.  I felt like a winner.  I kept it up and I kept going, finishing this wonderful race with a brand-new PR by 8 minutes and happiness beyond my wildest dreams.
Back at the hotel, I grabbed a hot shower and stood there and cried – hard.  
No one had ever told me I was a winner before; I had no idea I could run that fast for that long.  
What other secrets have been kept from me in this life?

I placed 25th out of 175 women in my age group.  Cloud freakin’ nine.

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