The 2021 Monumental Half Marathon

Whew, I did it! I finished the Monumental Half in under two hours. 1:57:46 It’s the fastest “official” 13.1 I’ve run since having kids (2017). The weather was absolutely perfect and it felt normal – like a pre-COVID race.

If you read my recap of the Fort Ben Indy Half or if you’ve been following me for a bit, you know that I have my running coach, Rachel Sinders, to thank for my strong results. I still need to write a post about my experience working with a coach – but I wanted to wait until after the Monumental – so stay tuned.

Like I did for the Indy Half, I volunteered at the expo for the Monumental on Friday. My shift was 10:30-2:30, and I was slated to work the welcome table. Once I got there, I was reassigned to help stuff packets in the back. I was slightly bummed to miss the action, but I learned to be a packet packing MACHINE. I probably packed 500 of them… felt like a million. Thankfully, I set up my station so I could do it sitting down, but my back still hurt on Saturday. 🤦🏻‍♀️ I also brought my obnoxious gallon water bottle to hydrate. It was so much fun to meet other people from the team (i.e. Carlton, the race’s founder) and people from the racing community (i.e. Greg from Grandma’s Marathon in MN). I also got to see my running coach and meet my Instagram friend, Tara @adailydoseoffit. As a participant of many races, I must admit that it never really crossed my mind how much it takes to make a race happen. If you’re reading this and you’ve never volunteered, I highly recommend it!

My dad was supposed to run the half too, but he ended up going out of town (to somewhere much warmer). We had plans to stay at his friends’ place downtown for the race and THANK GOODNESS they are the greatest and let me stay by myself – BY. MYSELF. – for the night. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the highlight of the race for me. I haven’t stayed by myself somewhere for over a year. Wild to think about.

So, after I was done volunteering, I made my way to my home for the night to get settled in. I packed a cooler with two Sun King Pachangas 🍻, yogurt, fruit, granola, walnuts, and Halloween candy. I even brought one of my bouquets (which I used the Gu, bandaids, and Vaseline from for the race). One of the first things I did was head up to the roof for one of my pre-race beers. Their view is unlike anything I’ve seen downtown.

For dinner, I had my heart set on “fancy” pizza and salad (specifically arugula). If you’re like me, you’re picky about what you want before, during and after a race. I DoorDashed Napolese and it was exactly what I wanted. I’ll be dreaming about this burrata arugula salad for a while… Pro tip: It made for the BEST pizza topping ever.

The best pre-race meal ever

(Side story: I forgot to change the address in DoorDash, so my husband ordered HotBox pizza to me too 😂)

While devouring my pizza, I caught up on the Bachelorette (guilty pleasure – loving Michelle). I drank my other beer and a few pieces of candy and then got ready for bed. The night before a race, I lay out all of my gear (and then take a photo of course) and make sure everything is charged. I triple checked that my alarm was set for the right time – 5:50am, race starts at 8am and the start is less than a 10 min walk.

All of my race stuff (clearly not an elite athlete)

The only reason I wake up early for race day is to make sure I can poop. Seriously, if you’re a runner you know this – it’s A THING. If you don’t go before the race it can hit you when you don’t want it to – and no one wants to stop during a race to go. Somewhere I read that you’re not a “real runner” unless you’ve pooped your pants…

To make the coffee, I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to not break the fancy machine that needed more water after my first cup. I had two cups of coffee and made my yogurt parfait. Then, I watched more TV and paced around nervously. It took what felt like FOREVER and I finally took care of business about 5 minutes before I headed out the door. Whew! ☕️💩🏃🏻‍♀️

I had also been going back and forth about what to wear for days… The weather forecast was perfect but chilly and I haven’t had many chilly runs yet. No rain, no wind and 30-35 degrees and sunny. I trusted my gut and wore my thin tights and a thermal Nike long sleeve top. I also wore a winter hat, gloves and sunglasses. You’re not supposed to do anything new on race day but I decided to take a risk and wear my new Koala Clip to hold my phone. I’ve worn it on shorter runs so I wasn’t too worried. Loved it – highly recommend supporting this women-owned small business.

OK, so now I head out the door to the start. I was attempting to time it so I didn’t have to wait outside much at all, but I always end up getting worried about being late. The walk was short and seeing other runners heading to the start always turns on my adrenaline. I made it a point to walk slow and take deep breaths to take it all in. I made it to the start line when the national anthem started. I stopped to listen. Goosebumps.

My corral was C, so I made my way past the start line and found the sign for my wave. People were so excited. The energy of the crowd was infectious. I’m glad I had to wait for a few minutes before starting because it wasn’t as cold as I expected (this actually made me worry that I’d overdressed) and it was SO FUN to be in a real race environment again. Fort Ben was great, but not nearly as large of a field. I started my playlist and continued the deep breaths and people watching.

As we moved to the start line, I saw a fellow board member volunteering and we chatted for a minute. She’s working on running a half marathon in all 50 states. Just the extra inspiration I needed before starting. Really if there’s any race advice every single one of us needs it’s: DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST! This is my mantra for the first few miles. My watch was a little jacked up running close to downtown, and this got in my head. I felt like my pace was pretty sporadic at first. Had to remind myself to settle in and not to worry about pace so much.

Between miles 3 and 4 I got to see my friend Jenni. Jenni is also new to the mom of 2 life and trekked out of the house to cheer. She had some fuel ready just in case, but I waved it off and told her all I wanted was a high five. Maybe she’s reading this and if you are, Jenni, you’re such a badass mother runner and inspiration to me. You’ll be back to kicking my ass on the Peloton tread in no time!

Shortly after this I saw what ended up being my favorite race sign. “Fear the Turtle” This took over as my mantra and had the same effect – don’t give it all at the beginning – you want to be passing people at the end not the other way around. I took my first Gu – salted watermelon – at mile 4. And you’re not going to believe this – I saw Forrest Gump again (from the Indy Half). Although this time he was harder to recognize because he had the hair, hat and shoes but not the rest of the getup. When I ran up next to him I put my hand on his shoulder and asked why he wasn’t dressed up this time. He smiled and said it was too chilly for the shorts.

There was a group of three runners I ran by for a while that was comfortably chatting. I don’t mind this distraction and tend to eavesdrop more than I partake in conversation. It was two guys and this girl all running the full marathon. My favorite part was realizing they didn’t know the girl – they were new marathon friends. So, a lot of their chat was getting to know each other and talking about how good they felt so far. I love this. Runners are something else. One of the only places where you can meet someone and pour out your life story only to never see or talk to each other ever again. I hope they had a good race.

A guy asked me when the half and the marathon split from each other. I told him I was pretty sure it was about halfway (for the half). This part of the race is kind of cool because the half marathoners turn left and the full marathoners keep running straight. Some of us half marathoners joke about how we are happy to be in the left lane. Although part of me was jealous of the full marathoners. I scream some random words of encouragement as we part ways “GO GET IT, MARATHONERS!” “WE’LL BE WAITING FOR YOU!” “HAVE A GREAT RACE, MARATHONERS!”

Now the crowd is much thinner although it wasn’t bad to begin with. It’s time for my second Gu and I’m tired. My legs are ready to be done, my back hurts from packing packets. Stupid negative thoughts. I see “Fear the Turtle” guy again somewhere. And then the BEST thing ever happens – I spot a familiar green sweatshirt and wagon – I’m in shock. It’s my husband and our two girls. “ZACH!” I shout. “Hey baby!” I can’t believe they came out in the cold to cheer me on. Zach has been sick with a cold all week. It means so much. I kiss our older daughter, Sydney, on the head and say, “Momma loves you.” and run off. Really I wanted to stop and kiss and hug all of them and then climb into the wagon… but I still had around 5 miles to go.

The encounter with my family gave me extra fuel. I also see some guys dressed up as Star Wars characters and cheering people on. They were legit. I saw my friend Ashley and her son Jax out cheering on my friend, Jon. The last 5 miles were a jumbled blur. So close but yet so far. Every time my watch buzzed I’d glance down to make sure I was still on pace for two hours. At some point there was a guy with a table full of all kinds of stuff – water bottles, Gatorades – not sure what else. I grabbed a tiny water bottle and asked the guy, “What, no tequila?” He laughed and said, “No, tequila.” I really could have used a shot of tequila.

Lucky for me there was a guy with a PBR table. PBR reminds me of one of my Chicago marathons when I grabbed a can of PBR from someone around mile 26 and dumped it all down my face and neck. It was glorious. So, I grab a shot cup full of PBR and take it like a champ. It tastes good. Even though it’s like a sip of beer, it gives me a slight buzz of warmth. And speaking of warmth, I wore the right clothes. The sun was never really out until towards the end and even then it wasn’t all sun. So, I was feeling ok, but slowed a bit.

As the miles go by, I will do runner math like – 4 miles to go – that’s only 4 minutes ten times – and not even since I’m doing 9 minute miles. And so on… somehow I completely miss the 9 mile marker and it freaks me out because I feel like I’m running the longest mile ever. Who knows how this happens that I don’t know what mile I’m on (and I could just look at my watch but I also don’t want to know) The 10th mile marker was a sight for sore legs.

And then we make the turn onto Meridian. I used to hate this part because you’re still so much further away than it looks but you can see downtown. During this race it was a welcome sight and I was happy to be done turning and twisting and just wanted to run straight. And so run straight I did. And then up ahead I see a poster that says my name. It’s not Zach and I’m not expecting to see anyone else so maybe it’s not for me. But then I can tell the blonde recognizes me because she starts pointing me out to her kids. I get close enough to realize it’s my friends, Alyssa and Austin. I’m so excited. I tell their daughter, Abby, that I need a high five as I get closer and she smiles big and gives me one. Not sure what else I said but I’m sure it was a ramble of something like, “THANK YOU SO MUCH I LOVE YOU SO MUCH”.

(Side story: Alyssa and I met through our golden doodles because they’re from the same breeder. We met on their Facebook page and then in real life and we’re now great friends. And our kids and husbands like each other too so that’s a huge bonus. LOVE YOU, ALYSSA!)

Now it’s really the home stretch. More running math – it’s less time than a Peloton tread class… every two minutes you’re 10% closer… etc. I’m pushing. “Just keep f**cking running.” Seeing mile 12 come through as 9:07 was hard because I felt like I was going so much faster and that was my slowest mile yet. My running coach’s advice for the last 1.1 “give it everything you can!!!” And so I did. I thought the 13th mile was going to be my fastest. It was certainly the mile where I gave the most effort. Seeing the full marathon 26 mile marker made me feel grateful that I didn’t have another 13 to go. The finish line is within sight and I just have to turn the corner and I’ll be there. Then, I hear my name over the loudspeaker, “ALLLYYYYY BRETTNACHERRRRR!! WAY TO GO! WAIT, YOU STILL HAVEN’T FINISHED. GO ALLY!” (something close to this) It was my amazing friend, Jennifer Magley, who was the emcee of the marathon cheering for me on my way in. That gave me the extra boost I needed and I was DONE. Stopped my watch as I crossed the timing mats and glanced down to make sure my time started with a 1. I’d come in under two hours!

You know you finished a race with all you have when the medical person looks at you and asks if you’re ok. I told the first guy that it would be nice if he’d walk with me for a second to make sure I didn’t fall over. When I’ve finished races hard in the past I’ve had trouble catching my breath. It felt like it might happen but I found those deep breaths again and made it through. The first guy passed me off to a second and I walked with him for a bit. Finally, I felt confident that I wasn’t going to pass out and I walked towards the medals and chocolate milk. Like I said, if you’re like me you have certain things you like before during and after a race and CHOCOLATE MILK is one of those post-race things for me. I told the volunteer that I’d run a long way for the chocolate milk and she said, “well then, honey, you get two!”. I chugged the first one and then found my way over to the grass to sit.

I got to meet up with Alyssa and Austin again. After taking a few photos we got celebratory beers. I told the Sun King girl that I was going to cry since they didn’t have Pachanga. I told her I’d been thinking about it for the last hour. Which is true. Or, at least since the PBR. The beer tasted good. I’m proud of my race and I’m proud to set an example for my girls and I proved to myself I can get faster even though I’m older and have more kids.

At this point, the next race I’m signed up for is the Indy Mini in May, but I’m itching for something else… we’ll see! And if you made it this far, thanks for reading and thank you for your support.

P.S. Thank you for everyone who has purchased Indy themed running gifts from my Etsy shop. All proceeds are going to support the Monumental Kids Movement. So far, I’ve raised $350+. Use code MONUMENTAL for 10% off.

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