My first half marathon…Ft. Steilacoom, October 20th, 2013. So many miles logged. So much anticipation (or as I generally call it…anxiety). It was on a Sunday and I made sure to hydrate, eat well, and do basically nothing else the day before. I was careful not have a repeat of the sore ass debacle that was my 10K.
We had about a 2 hour drive to Lakewood from our house that morning, so I made sure to put out everything I would need the night before. Pants, shoes, socks, backup socks, blister treatment, sports bra, long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, rain jacket (let’s be real. PNW in October?), drink bottle, regular clothes for afterwards, GU. All the things. Called it good and I’m fairly certain I was asleep by 9 PM.
We left the house super early, since we didn’t really know where the hell we were going. About 60 miles from the event, the gas light came on. Because we were cutting the time short as it was, we had a Kramer moment of “Where’s the needle!? Oh, it broke off, baby!”. Finally, 9 minutes to our destination, Jesse couldn’t take it anymore and had to stop to fill up. Typical of him to not risk it! Note to self: use the bathroom whenever you can. The lines at the porta-potties are just not worth it.
Arriving at the park (which was a bizarre place in and of itself, but I digress…), we picked up our packets, attached our bibs, downed some GU, and took a quick ‘before’ photo.
The temperature was actually perfect for running that day. It was cloudy, a little misty, and about 45 degrees. So it was cold at the starting line, but just perfect once we got going. It was a diverse event with 50K, marathon, half marathon, 10K, and 5K options, but each had a small enough group of runners that I wasn’t feeling too intimidated. The race began and there was a camera guy first thing. Go figure. Can you find us!?
Keeping up with the pack, Jesse reminded me to stick with my own pace and to not get dragged along with everyone else. It’s easy to run with them for a while but it might not be sustainable for the long-term. So I was careful to find the pace that felt familiar.
The course was a nice mixture of grassy meadows, gravel roads, pavement, single track, etc. It had pretty much everything, as well as some good climbs and equally good descents. The half marathon course did a 5K loop, a 7-ish mile loop, and the 5K loop again to finish. The 5K loop had a fun single-track bit, which I’ve decided was my favorite part of the course. I guess it was just familiar and jumping over logs and dodging roots added a little flavor.
Here we are around mile 2.5 – and me hamming it up for the camera!
The 7 mile part is where things got interesting. This is where I had to really trust myself that I could finish. I wouldn’t try anything more than a couple MnMs and sip of water at the aid stations and I was feeling thirsty, which was new for me on a run. I had never taken water on any of my training runs (aside from Jesse’s Camelbak on our mountain bike/run adventure). I’d never responded well to anything in my stomach while running, so I was torn about my decision to feel thirsty or to feel nauseous. Luckily, keeping it really basic with small sips worked and I didn’t have any major issues.
Somewhere in the 7-mile loop part, a guy was behind me and I started feeling crowed (and self-conscious) so I stepped aside to let him pass “Oh no,” he said “I need someone to pace me”. I pointed to Jesse and responded “Then you should follow him!” He replied “Nah, I need someone slow.”
WTH, dude!? I had to laugh it off because he didn’t mean it the way he said it, and he ended up being pretty cool, but still! Burn!
In other news, much to my surprise and delight, my calf was not bothering me at all! I’ve conceded that it was just my body telling me to slow the training down and to trust that I was prepared enough and that I shouldn’t push things so much. My blister situation was non-existent as well, so I was feeling pret-ty good.
Until, as I mentioned in my last post, mile 11. The home stretch. Only 2 miles left. I could run two miles, easy. But my hips were not on board with this plan…..
My only issue before mile 11 was on a fairly grueling climb where I ended up gulping some air and getting a massive side ache. Slowing down the pace at the bottom quickly eased it and I was back in the swing of things. But at mile 11, things were different. This was my muscles on strike and getting pissed. I was careful not to cry (not from the pain, but from feeling like a failure at this point) and Jesse’s sweet offer to walk for a minute was met with a stern “No”. But my new habit was checking my watch every few minutes (er, seconds) until I could see the final stretch. I didn’t beg my body to finish, but rather, begged Jesse to distract me. To sing, to tell stories, anything to pass the time. At this point, 2 miles was going to take about 25 minutes so I needed anything to divert my thoughts from the agony. I’ll keep it to myself as to why, but I ended up laughing a whole bunch and being so grateful for him (the whole way, but mostly these last few miles).
Somehow, in the final stretch, I was able to pull off a sprint (well…”sprint”) finish and felt really good about the race in general…
My legs were D-E-A-D though, and I couldn’t stop to hug Jesse properly, as I strangely felt the need to keep moving (such a bizarre sensation). I managed not to collapse, walked a few minutes on wobbly legs, and then commenced the painful stretching routine. After and adequate amount of sitting, we ate some pizza (well, Jesse did. I wasn’t going to risk it), solicited a spectator for a quick ‘after’ shot…
…and headed home. Again, I think I spent the rest of the afternoon asleep. It was a really great first half marathon for me and I am proud to say I ran the whole.damn.thing.
Here’s our sweet (and/or crazy) map:
One thing I loved so much during all of this was being able to see real runners just doing their thing. And being one as well. 5K fun runs are great, but casual. Being at Jesse’s events is so inspirational, watching everyone take off together and come in one by one in varying states. But this time I was out there, feeling it for myself and seeing everyone else in action at different stages on the course. I knew I wouldn’t be competitive and that isn’t typically what these “races” are about. You’re really only trying to be your best. Whether your strategy is to be a consistent runner the whole way (my goal), or to be fast on the flat and walk the hills (the woman in front of us), or to just finish in general (which I experienced just this past Saturday), it’s really all about running your own race the best way you can and comparing yourself to others is absolutely, 100% minute.