Sunday, March 29, 2009
3/30/09 Update: Official time 2:24:53
The title says it all—I’m still on a half marathon high. It will be awhile before I come back down.
Prelude to a Race
About 10 days before the race I began checking weather.com to see what was in store. It started out in the low 40s with a 30% chance of rain and some wind. As the week progressed, the forecast kept getting a little better. Then, just two days before the race, it looked like we were going to have 13 mph winds & an increased chance of rain. Bummer!! I was really concerned about the wind. Bring on the hills—they have a downside, but wind can just be relentless and suck the energy right out of you. Every hour for two days I checked the weather forecast. Finally, a friend gave me a good kick in the pants and told me to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control. So Friday, I held off checking the weather until just before I left for Clarion—and guess what, the report stated 61 degrees, partly sunny, 20% chance of rain and drum roll, please, 4 mph winds. Yippee!!!!
My DH, the dog, and I arrived at the hotel about 9 p.m. To my delight, there was a huge whirlpool tub in the room. So I filled it with hot water, sank in, and turned on the jets. By the time I got out, I hadn’t a care in the world and felt limp as a wet noodle. I slept peacefully and without any pre-race anxiety.
We got to Cook Forest about 9:45 and I registered—chip No. 100. This is the first race I’ve been in that was chip timed. The race was held under optimal conditions—high 50s, partly sunny to mostly cloudy, and calm winds.
Brian36 and I met up—it was nice knowing someone else in the race. We planned to start out together, but we would each run our own race and catch up with one another afterward, though we thought we might be running at roughly the same pace.
There was quite a line for walk-in registrations. They may have had a larger number than anticipated due to the perfect weather conditions. The start of the race was delayed by 30 minutes, which was really frustrating. Finally, the gun went off.
I started out very slowly, as planned. There was a short, gradual uphill climb, then a nice downhill and within minutes the route was following the Clarion River. I used a PaceTat (12:01 pace) to time my splits. I highly recommend them. At the first mile, I was just about a minute ahead of pace. At this point, I was treating the race as just one of my regular weekly runs and kept it nice and easy. I felt loose and was enjoying the beautiful scenery—the river on the right and a forest of hemlocks on the left. I carried Shot Blocks and began eating them at the first water station. Just past the first water station, I took a detour into the restroom. It was worth the short delay.
As I ran, I occasionally took inventory of how I was feeling. My right ankle had been hurting a bit during training, but it was doing just fine. Every once in awhile, I’d get a huge surge of adrenaline or emotion and it was hard to keep it in check; I felt like I was going to burst into tears. I was feeling great, enjoying the scenery, ever so slowly passing some runners. At every mile, my splits were getting a little faster.
The route was a runners dream—gentle, rolling hills on a winding road. I don’t think there was ever a point where there was a long straightaway that made you realize how much farther there was to go. I watched the river hoping to see a bald eagle, osprey or heron, but had no luck.
Miles 1-6 glided by effortlessly. I was in my own little world through most of the race. At mile 7, I began feeling some tightness in my ankle. I’d been gaining time at every mile marker, so I knew I had some “banked” time that I could use and still make a goal of 2:37:30. I slowed my pace just a bit. When it felt better, I speeded back up. Several times I kicked up the speed for short distances to see how it felt. I was blown away that I was still feeling really good at mile 9 and still gaining in time.
A friend who has a lot of experience running half & full marathons had warned me that after mile 10, it would become mind over matter. So I was a little apprehensive to see marker 10 near. But it came and went, and I didn’t feel much different. I was still passing people as the miles went by—that was such a great feeling.
Mile 12 was the only significant hill in the entire race. It begins with a short steep climb to the main road—I walked about half of it. The there’s a right turn and the steady uphill climb begins. A couple of times I walked a few yards. Then I came beside Brian36 and we jogged up the hill together. At one point, there were four women running abreast up the hill saying, I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Know I Can, I Know I Can, Come on—We Can Do This!! Chug, chug, chug!!! And we did!!
Then we poured it on running downhill to the finish line! That’s when I felt the beginning of a cramp—in my toes & calf. There was no way I was going to let a cramp stop me; somehow I managed to keep it under control. I was so filled with emotion that I forgot to hit the stop button on my watch and my brain did not record the time flashing on the electronic timer. When I finally turned off my watch, my time was 2:26:15.
I had to keep walking to keep the cramps at bay—my legs were really hurting and I felt like an 80 year old with severe arthritis (my runner friend warned me to expect this). After downing 2 bottles of water and 24 oz. of Gatorade, the cramps began to subside. I said my good-byes to Brian36 (who finished just ahead of me) and we headed home. It was about a 2-hr. drive home, and I could barely unfold myself from the car—everything had stiffened.
Today, I feel the same as when I do a hard training run—sore and stiff. But mentally, I feel great. I’m still getting emotional when I look back on yesterday.
Many friends gave me good advice that made this such a positive experience. There are a few tips (in no particular order) that I’d like to pass on that I hope will help someone else:
1. Be sure to drink enough water starting a week before the race.
2. Get lots of rest (thanks SORGIN!!) the week of the race
3. Practice visualizing a successful race
4. Don’t worry about things you cannot control
5. Start out slow.
6. Use a PaceTat to check your splits.
7. Take water with you—get a water belt or a Camelback waist pack—or stash some along the route beforehand. (I would have like some water btwn the water stations.)
8. Take along some ShotBlocks or EnergyBeans (try these during your training so you’re sure they won’t upset your stomach.)
9. Don’t overdress. Better to be a little cool at the beginning than to be overheated during the race & wrapping a jacket around your waist.
10. Wear the clothes that you’re planning to wear for the race on one of your long training runs. (I bought new shorts just before the race and they caused some chafing.)
11. Use “Glide” anywhere you think clothes may chafe.
12. Don’t take pain relievers prior to the race; save them for afterward. You need to know when you’re starting to hurt so you can adapt and stave off serious injury.
13. Plan on having fun!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Tomorrow is the BIG day--my first half marathon. It's been a long 4 months and now that it's here I have so many mixed emotions it's hard to keep them all in check. If you had asked me a year ago (when I ran my first 5K in 20+ years) if I would ever run 13.1 miles I would have looked at you like you were crazy--why would anyone in their right mind want to do such a thing.
But my endurance improved and I got caught up in all the excitement of Spark Friends & People as they posted about their races and training. And then one day in late November I heard myself say to a friend, "I'm going to run the Cook Forest Half Marathon in March 2009." I remember thinking -- OMG, I just spoke aloud and now I'm committed, or was that "I should be committed"?
Training has had its ups and downs. A pulled muscle set me back a couple of weeks in February. I'm not sure I got enough training in, but that's probably a common concern. I'm focusing on the positive and trying hard not to let any negative self-talk creep in. I firmly believe that what we think affects the outcome.
So, tonight I will go to bed with high expectations and anticipation. I will run strong, walk when I need a break, give support to anyone that might be struggling, accept support from anyone who offers it, and enjoy the experience.
Thanks to everyone who has shared their experience and given advice, and who has cheered me on.
This race will always be special--not because it's my first half marathon, but because I'm finally going to meet Brian36, who is also racing. We are going to cross that finish line at last!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
My goal in 2009 is to drop 10 lbs. And I've done it!! The problem is, it's been the same one to two pounds lost 5 times (maybe even more--I've lost count)!! What fun!
I swear my fat cells have GPS embedded in them--they always know how to get back home.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Those Sparkpoints—they're great motivators! It may seem silly that a virtual reward has the power to influence our behavior. After all, we can't pay our bills with them, buy a new outfit, or spend them on a dream vacation.
So why do they work and how can we benefit even more from them? The points may not be real, but the people earning them are. The points represent the collective goodwill of a community larger than ourselves. They represent the efforts of millions of people trying to improve their lives through better habits. They represent the caring and support that SparkPeople give to one another. Every time we blog, share a recipe, or participate in a team forum, we have the potential to boost someone’s morale, make someone laugh, form a new friendship, educate someone, or motivate someone.
Okay, so now we have a gazillion points, and they have been motivating us to participate in the community, exercise more, eat more healthfully, and to continue learning about how to live a good life. 'Cause isn’t that what we are all ultimately trying to do?
The points sitting in our accounts have done a good job of motivating us, but they haven't been used to their full potential until they're spent. Unlike real cash, they’re not earning any interest (and real cash isn't earning much these days). And the coolest thing about SparkPoints is that when you spend them on a Goodie, they are not subtracted from your balance (try getting your bank to use this model).
So buck today's economic bad news and be a spendthrift with your points. Send your friends a SparkGoodie and let them know they are important to you. If you've read a good blog, gotten some good advice or support, or tried a new recipe, etc., send a Goodie to thank them for sharing or for inspiring you. If you receive a SparkGoodie, pay it forward and give a Goodie to someone else. I guarantee that SparkPoints will become even more valuable if you do.
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