What a year of running it has been for me...this time last year I sat down and wrote my blog about my first half marathon -the nerves before that race were overwhelming...the race was surreal....I could have never predicted the year that would follow....that running would be so ingrained in my life that I can't imagine not doing it.
This half marathon would be my third...but I've also run 2 full marathons and a dozen other races between my first half last year and the one this past Sunday! It's funny you think you get seasoned for these things...the nerves go away...but in reality racing is like football in the "any given Sunday" factor..."any given race...any given day...anything can happen". Since May I've been struggling in my personal life and my running one. Off the charts stress in my personal life had led to not tracking my food, which led to a backwards trend on the scale (10#'s) with searching for a job and fighting a knee and groin injury for running. I finally feel like I've got my personal life back under control...still job searching but passed a big certification and in classes to take more...these should make me more valuable in the job market...and at least I feel like I am doing something...feeling control there got me back to tracking my food...the control there is showing...the scale is still up and down and all over the place but I FEEL better and I know that I just need to stay consistent and the results will be there...however all this control only happened about 4 weeks before the race....
THAT made me nervous! Could I be ready? The knee injury (IT band inflammation w/swollen bursa sack) was my biggest concern but I ran a 12 mile training run 3 weeks before the race without pain...I did speed training and intervals with minimal pain and swelling...I had talked to a doc and he said I wasn't doing any structural damage if I ran on it...as long as I could handle the pain...could I? It had forced me to a walk in the last 20K and 10 miles races I did before xmas...and the groin pull kept me from beating my time in the marathon (luckily that seems to have healed now)....so what to expect from this race? I'm so tired of not feeling like I'm making progress in my races...but how much can I push my body?
I went to the expo Friday night...the overwhelming feeling I used to get at the expos is now gone and I just look forward to them for finding new/better equipment, great deals, and good running advice. We get my number, my shirt, The Stick (for muscles), some Dr. Hoys (kind of like icy/hot), and the coolest thing was that they were selling discounted shirts from previous rock and roll marathons...I picked up a San Diego one from the marathon I did in May...was kind of awesome to realize I had done previous races in the same series...made me feel like a seasoned runner for a second! After the expo I had dinner with my running group....most of them were running the full marathon...but I was running the half since I ran my full in November (Philly Marathon). My knee had been aching all day but by the time I got to the dinner it was all out sore...no pain for 3 weeks and 2 days before the race I get pain? Saturday wasn't much better...in fact I was almost at a limp...gulp could I really run this thing tomorrow? That night I met up with MARATHONMOM26.2 (who was in town to run the full), RUST.OR.RUN, LIL_BUCKET, GLOBALKEEWEE, CHELLELEIGH, and a few other friends for some carb loading...yummmm it was great to meet a couple new Sparkers friends and forget about the pain for a bit...but by the time I hit the sack I gotta admit I was all out worried...
It's funny for the few weeks before the race I wasn't even nervous about the race...I mean it was ONLY 13.1 miles...that's short compared to a marathon...ACK someone hit me in the head and knock sense into me...seriously - 13.1 miles is a LONG way and when you have pain it seems longer...I had used the foam roller and The Stick on my leg the night before and miraculously when I woke up Sunday morning (RACE DAY!) I was PAIN FREE - well ok a mild ache but compared to the day before it might as well been!!! However the carbs from the night before didn't sit well (or it was the pazoookie...that's it in the pic below yummmm) and my stomach was in knots waking me up a full hour before I needed to be up...hit the drugstore and loaded up on Immodium...I wasn't taking any chances...I usually have a bfast but chose to stick to just a protein shake to put as little strain on my tummy as possible...at this point I'm crossing fingers...13.1 miles is looking longer and longer!
I get to the starting line and find my running group to say hi and wish them luck before they head out to run the full marathon...then I find the group of us doing the half marathon and do warmups with them...then it's race time...I told myself NO EXPECTATIONS this race...I ran the last half marathon slower than my first...the injury, the added weight, I didn't want the pressure to have to do better than last year...I just wanted a good race...I gave myself the ok to run a solid race. Takes 30 minutes to get to the start line...it's more insane this year...35 minutes to get to the start line...44,000 runners total between the half, full, and ultra marathon...the majority being in the half. They move each group up one at a time and give us our own start...on your mark...get set....GO...and we're off and running...it's crowded...and the whole race it's never not crowded...I started last year off with a friend but we couldn't meet up before the race so this year was all me....I start out at solid...first mile is all about getting warmed up...second mile is working on getting my breathing, my music, and my run all in sync...I know my pace from last year 11:44 and I'm trying to stay below that...because the 2nd I start running all the "no expectations" I set for myself went out the window...I WANTED TO BEAT last year....
It was hard...I pushed myself harder than I ever have before...I never really felt I was in control of my heart rate...I had to force myself to walk at the water stops b/c my knee was sore, my calf was tight, and my foot was numb....all on the right leg...the short walk breaks eased that tension...I was holding between a 10:30 and an 11 min pace....it took til about mile 4 to settle in but then just as I was feeling comfortable I realized if I wanted to beat my time I would have to push harder...so no zoning out on this race...I wanted a time...I was using a paceband with a 2:30 goal (which would have beat my previous time by 3 min)...at the 6 mile mark I was 5 min under my old time....I was struggling...mad at myself for walking at the water stops...frustrated b/c I couldn't seem to zone and just enjoy the run...I felt like I was fighting myself the whole race...then we got to mile 9 which I remembered from the previous year as this HUGE hill...lol how much difference a year of training makes...it wasn't that big...it was tough and it slowed my pace down but it was manageable...however since that hill wasn't as big as I remembered...the downhill slope I was expecting on the other side wasn't as steep as I though either! That meant I didn't have the gravity factor to help me make up the pace I had lost...I'm now dead on for a 2:30 pace...very worried at mile 12 that I'm NOT going to beat last year...that made me MAD...I wasn't fighting myself this WHOLE race to not improve my time by at least 1 minute....1 measly minute...I felt like I needed that sense of accomplishment...Just past mile 12 my foot goes numb I have to walk for a second...I am so frustrated...but I force myself to stop looking at my garmin...that's it I have one mile to take it in and I'm not stopping no matter what pain I'm in....we go down the bridge around the side of the mountain...I realize I started sprinting in WAY too early....I can't see the finish or the mile 13 marker...my heart rate is well over 178 so I can't even think...I'm still pushing...weaving around the peeps who were slowing as they got to the finish....look up...there is the finish....just need to beat my time from last year by 1 minute but so worried I am going to fade before I even reach the finish...finally there is the 13 mile point....just a bit to go...I find my open lane and finish strong...I cross the finish and can't breathe...I walk around a little disoriented...I had managed to remember to hit the stop button on my timer when I crossed but hadn't looked...finally I look down...WHOA is that right? I BROKE the 2:30 mark with a 2:29 finish...that put me over 4 minutes ahead of last year's time!!! I felt that familiar tightening in my throat as the emotion of finishing a race strong and knowing I had just pushed myself to a new limit set in!
That feeling only lasted as moment as my friends met me at the finish to give me hugs and celebrate...it was awesome to have them there! There I was surrounded at the end of the race by 5 of my closest friends...none of them ran it...they had just come by to support me...and that was an amazing feeling - to know they were going to be at the finish pushed me to keep running when I thought I couldn't push myself any further...I had given them a time estimate of when I would cross - I couldn't not be there! They even brought me a Jimmy Johns (my FAVORITE!) sub (thanks CHELLELEIGH) and GLOBALKEEWEE made a sign for me!
(No one's ever made me a sign before!) I found LIL_BUCKET who ran it too and she beat her time from last year by almost 12 minutes!!!! (woohoo was so proud of her!)
This was my hardest race...I fought the whole way...no matter what I told myself I DID have expectations...I thought I could say I didn't but I need to improve...I need to push myself...I need to feel like I can reach new limits! 13.1 isn't easy...it's still hard...will probably always be hard b/c if it's easy I'm not pushing myself enough! I'm a little heavier than last year...still fighting to get back off the 10 extra pounds but I'm a stronger runner and I proved that to myself in this race. During my last long run before the race when I kept feeling like I couldn't run another step I came up with a saying that I keep in the back of my head and remind myself of when I'm pushing myself strong like in the last mile of this race..."My body will forgive me for pushing it to new limits. My mind and heart will not so easily forgive self defeat if I quit." There is no sitting by and allowing life to happen to me...that's the same as quitting...the same goes for my running and my weight goals...I must keep challenging myself and setting new goals. I'm a fighter and this race proved that despite obstacles of pain, stress, and life's uncontrollable circumstances I can, and will, fight for a strong finish!
Final Result was 2:29:02 (vs 2:33:36)
Pace 11:23 (vs 11:44 last year)
Improvement: 4 min 34 seconds!