Well, I landed safely in Indianapolis at 7:30pm on Friday night. Drove straight to the YMCA to pick up my race packet for the next morning's half marathon. We stayed with my sister overnight, since she only lives about 15 mins from the race site. Had to wait for my husband to bring the kiddos to her house, though. I tell ya...after a full day of travel, I was ready for bed by 9pm. I would have gone too...except that I hadn't seen my kids in an entire week and I knew that me being in bed when they arrived was not going to fly. So...night before the race, I wasn't in bed until 11pm. Great prep.
Speaking of great prep...let's remember that I hardly worked up any mileage before this race because of pain in the a*s injury diagnosed as non-weight bearing in August...then osteoarthritis flare-up in my knee shortly thereafter. I am not exaggerating when I tell you my only training for this half marathon was swimming and a little bit of biking. The longest distance I've ever run is 7 miles. Add to all of this the fact that I was in Austin for business all week...and I was not in any way prepared for this race. No easy night in the hotel beforehand with clothes all perfectly laid out. No...finding all my race gear in my mess of a suitcase from Kuali Days was an adventure in itself. I was beginning to wonder what I was thinking in going through with this.
Race morning was super annoying. The race instructions said that all runners should be parked no later than 7:30am because roads would begin to close after that point. Race start was at 8:30am. Guess who wasn't even in the car at 7:30am? You could say I was frantic. Or use other words.
We got to the race site, I pretty much ditched the fam and headed off to my starting corral. Good thing, too, because I had to walk about a mile to get there. At least I got a warm-up! Haha. Realized at the start that I left my cell phone in the car. Had a minor panic attack because I'd told my family to stay in the car and stay warm for as long as possible...and realized they were going to miss the start of the race. Also, I had no clue how I would find anyone afterwards.
That's when I finally grabbed myself by my mental shirt collar and shook myself and said, "Leah. STOP. You've GOT to stop this! There's nothing you can do now about the phone or when the family arrives. Drop that stuff and focus. You have to pay attention to this race. Right NOW."
Well, that worked. I breathed a huge sigh and let my worries and annoyances from the night before and the unorganized morning fall to the ground and I turned my thoughts toward the task in front of me - 13.1 miles.
Before I was ready, the race was starting. They were releasing each corral 30 second apart to prevent overcrowding of the course. I was in the 7th corral. That was quite a bit of anticipation and inching forward to the starting line. Plenty of time to feel more nervous than I've ever felt in my life. But I thought, "This is special time just for me. It's a beautiful course and I am going to enjoy it!"
Oh man, you guys, the course was SO gorgeous!!!! I've never seen anything like it! I ran the first two miles easily (no pain at all) and felt WONDERFUL. First water station and I didn't feel like I needed to stop, but I told myself that it would probably be wisest to walk earlier than I thought I needed to and walk MORE OFTEN than I thought I needed to. Just 2 miles in is awful early to feel confident.
I walked a bit, but I just felt so good and the day was so beautiful and my tunes were so great...I fell back into running before I knew it.
You know...running for over 3 hours brings with it a LOT of time to think. And I had a pretty good time out there entertaining myself. There were many times I laughed out loud because of a song or some absurd thought I was having. I'm sure people thought I was nuts.
I played mental games with some of the songs I listened to. There is a Daft Punk song called "Teachers", with a pretty sweet beat and they list all the DJs that have influenced their music. I did this little thing where I would flash a picture of one of my running inspirations up in my mind whenever they listed the name of a DJ. It was a lot of fun and I thought of almost every single running buddy and friend I know. It was very motivating.
Around Mile 6, I thought I might hit the wall. But then I turned the corner and saw the sign that said "Mile 7". I realized that, as soon as I passed that sign, I'd be in personal record territory. It was just the boost I needed.
Shockingly, the best song of the day was by Miley Cyrus in Mile 6. Generally, Miley's music annoys the crap out of me when I'm running...but the words to this song were so perfect and I hadn't heard it before. It's called "Liberty Walk". You should check that one out. Perfect running song!
I met a lovely lady along the way and we walked and talked quite a bit in Mile 9. She was such a sweetie...but she left me in the dust when I started to cramp in my calves at Mile 10.
All I can say about Miles 10-12 is that they were...difficult. I've never experienced calf cramping before...and my quads were just worn out. Never experienced that either! The freakiest part about all of this is that my knees and ankles were JUST PEACHY. Freakin' OF COURSE! Haha.
At Mile 10, I remembered that my entire family and some very dear friends that I haven't seen in years were waiting for me at the end of the course. Allison, who I had dedicated this race to in the first place, would be there for me with her husband and her mom.
My best friend in college, Karen, who designed our shirts, would be there with her entire family. And my own family as well. At this point, I had no doubt I'd finish, but wasn't sure how much more running I could do. I found another buddy in Mile 11 and we were in the same boat physically. We encouraged each other along...and she actually got me to run the last 0.25 miles. When we got to the end, I suddenly remembered that we were about to get a medal! I don't get it, but this was what got me to run! haha. I also realized that this was the very last mile I'd run this season...that I would not run again (according to my training plan) until February...and, right then and there, I decided to override the pain and take in every moment of this final mile.
Then I saw my Mom, running along with me and shouting, "You can do all things!" I yelled out to her, "I want my Mommy!!!" Haha.
When I crossed the finish line, my kids were screaming into the microphone and shouting about how proud they were. I barely noticed my calf lock up. I saw Allison from the corner of my eye and I just ran to her. We hugged for a long time. I was sobbing all over her (poor girl) and I couldn't even tell you why. She looked so beautiful and I was hurting so badly. She really gave me the strength to get through it. Deep down, I realized...I might be in pain, but at least I can feel pain...what a gift from God.
There was quite a delay as I visited the medical tent and waited for what seemed like forever to get stretched out in the sports rehab tent, but when all was said and done, I finished in 3:11:18. My goal was less than 3.5 hours. I was thrilled with that!!!!
I will say this...swimming and biking WILL translate to running in the fact that they will give you the endurance you need to finish the half marathon distance. However, not building the proper mileage beforehand comes at a price. That price is: the comfort of every single muscle in your body for 3 days. I really can't even begin to describe to you the pain I was in just after the race and all day yesterday. Let's just say it was to the point where I questioned my future races.
I had a gentle recovery swim yesterday morning and a jacuzzi soak, which helped me a bit. Lots of ice and ibuprofen and some magic sleep and I am doing much better today.
I don't know how I feel about this experience. I've been trying to emotionally process it and I just can't. I feel like I'm still in some sort of shock or something. The past week was such a whirlwind with work and travel and race. I didn't have the time to take everything in the way I would have liked to. But I will tell you this...on that course, I had to go deep. And I drew from every beautiful and good thought I could think of to will myself to keep going.
I thought of every passion and love in my life...family, friends, church, job, spouse, and a few others. They were the only things that kept me putting one foot in front of another. It was so very long. It was so very hard.
But it was beautiful.