Yesterday was THE DAY!
The day all of 2010 had been building to... since PINKCOCONUT and I started the 2010 Half Marathoners group. The day I officially became a half marathoner!!!
Around 3pm the day before, I began to feel jittery and nervous about the race. I think I was just tired though. I decided to take a nap around 4pm and didn't wake up until 6:30pm, which is out of the ordinary for me because I'm not a nap person. Our plan was to drive up to my family's house in NH which is about a mile from the race start line, go have a good carb-up at an Italian restaurant and stay overnight, but at that point, it was late and I just wanted to stay close to home. I'd been hydrating (and peeing) all day and I cooked a big bowl of spaghetti with butter and cheese which I used to LOVE before I started watching portions and stopped buttering my pasta... It was nice to have an excuse to eat that big bowl of pasta! We watched some TV and I took a long hot shower and turned in around 10:30pm.
6am... the alarm goes off.
HALF MARATHON DAY!
I made myself my favorite pre-race breakfast: oatmeal with almond milk and agave nectar and ate it slowly at the kitchen table, waking up and soaking it all in. I had all my stuff laid out from the night before so I wasn't scrambling, thank goodness. We got in the car and started driving! And then I realized we need gas... so I pull into one station and the pump appears to be broken. Ugh. Then we drove a little up the road to the next station and it wasn't taking my credit card and the inside convenience store part wasn't open to take cash. We ended up gunning it to NH and just getting gas at the first station there just as the "low gas" icon started blinking! Whew!
Jon and I parked at the beach house, I ran to the bathroom for what I hoped would be the last time, and we walked to the race start to get a little warmup. It was COLD. The house was freezing (no heating system) and I was thankful we didn't stay the night after all. I loved the t-shirt I got. It's a nice technical shirt in powder blue with the Smuttynose Brewery seal (seal as in swimmy seal, not like corporate seal) on it! Of course, as soon as I got my number, I had to pee again, so I thought I'd walk to the real bathrooms instead of the portapotties with the huge lines, only to find all of Hampton beach was torn up as they're building all the public buildings brand new for next summer. So strange and sad to see all the landmarks of my childhood demolished!
Luck has it I found a portapotty without a line up there (funny that these people are getting ready to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles and can't be bothered to walk a little to another portapotty???). SCORE!
As for gear, I traveled light. No fuel belt. No Camelbak. I wore an armband for my iPod. I wore running pants with pockets and carried two Strawberry Clif Shot Bloks and a Chocolate Clif Shot Gel in them. I ate a banana about 15 minutes before race start. My plan was to grab two cups of water at each water stop and gulp them down while I slowly jogged as that would be about the same amount of water I got during my training runs.
As I waited at the start in the first morning in the 40s of the season, I wore a fleece jacket but I was going to hand it off to Jon before the race. The other option was to wear a "throwaway" shirt and then just ditch it before Mile 2 where it would be collected and donated to Goodwill. Great idea, huh?
The race started when I saw folks running up ahead and we were off... Jon got this one of me jogging to the start line.
I gotta say, I love these races with about 1500-2000 runners, which was about the same as my first 10K. It seems like the perfect field. I didn't have to go crazy dodging runners at the start and I never felt crowded during the race but I was never running by myself. There were no corrals that make you feel like cattle! Hehe...
As always, I struggled to keep it slow at the beginning. I wanted to run about a 12-minute mile for the first 5K but the cold forced me to keep moving, so I ended up at the 5K water stop at about 30 minutes, which surprised me. At about Mile 1.5, I felt a tap on my shoulder! It was SOMERUNNER, who I had chatted with before the race on SparkPeople. I had hoped to meet her before the race but because we didn't stay over, and the three gas station stops, I didn't make it to the meetup, but I told her I would be wearing my 13.1 Bondiband and she found me! We jogged together for about a mile and chatted before we split to run at our own paces.
After Mile 2, the scenery changed from seashore to suburban, as we ran through residential neighborhoods. Folks were on their lawns cheering us on and I high fived a few really cute kids. The leaves hadn't yet changed completely, but there were little peeks of red, orange and yellow in the trees. Sometimes you'd see a guitar player or a banjo strummer on a random corner, which was really cool motivation. There was one woman on a bike dressed up like a clown and wearing a Spongebob Squarepants costume yelling at people, which was kinda freaky... she seemed more mean than friendly... but maybe that's just my anti-clown bias. Oh and I saw at least three guys running out of the brush after obviously going in for a pee. Guys are so lucky they can do that, but still they weren't very discreet about it AT ALL as I spotted the yellow "stream" in the brush. Ick. I was very lucky that I didn't need to "go" during the race.
I gotta say, the first 6 miles felt like nothing. It was cool with a nice breeze and PERFECT running weather. I was grooving to my tunes and just in a really good rhythm. I got to the 10K split at a little over an hour. As much as I was trying to pace myself, it really wasn't working and I hoped I wouldn't pay for it later! Luckily, this was the "hilly" part of the course, so I was forced to slow down a little bit. I put "hilly" in quotation marks because this is billed as the flattest marathon course in New England so there really weren't that many hills. But after 6 miles of flat running, those 60 foot inclines do kinda throw you off a bit! One woman started screaming "FLAT COURSE MY ASS!" and walked up the hills, which made me chuckle. I saw another lady wearing the same 13.1 Bondiband only in a different color, so I called out "13.1!" to her and pointed to my head and she threw her hands up and said "We're halfway there!" which also helped with the hills.
One chick was wearing a shirt that said "WTF" on the front and "Where's the Finish?" on the back and I told her I loved the shirt! I figured it was a good sign from the Anti Blah girls and the WTF challenge! Also funny that the songs from my AB gals ("Shipping Up to Boston," "Thunderstruck") were playing at that moment!
At Mile 8, there were folks handing out Vanilla Gu. I had been fueling with Clif Shot Bloks but I grabbed one and figured I'd give it a try even though I know it's not the best idea to try new fuel during a race. Oh god, PINKCOCONUT wasn't kidding. The snotty consistency of that gel was ewwwwwwwww.... People started making faces and spitting it out and I followed suit. One person screamed "Sabotage!" as she yakked it up. I'm glad I tried it though because it was a good laugh and a good Gross Gu Bonding Moment for us 11-minute mile pace runners... LOL.
Mile 9 was the most awesome point in the race. We ran past farmland and gorgeous houses and before I knew it we turned a corner and there was the ocean again. It was my favorite point along the NH seacoast, where there is just this beautiful mix of wildflowers and rocky coast and curvy roads. The scenery was beautiful and it choked me up a bit! There was a race official with a camera there who took my photo, so I hope he got a good one because I will definitely buy it! So it was a mile and a half of running down this beautiful stretch of scenic coastline, feeling terrific and when I hit Mile 10, I was at about 1:50-55, so I was pretty confident that I was going to beat my time expectation. I told Jon to look for me at the finish around 2:30-2:45, but I told him there was a glimmer of a chance I'd be there around 2:20-2:30, so he should be there early just in case!
At Mile 10.5, I grabbed my last bit of water and Gatorade. As I slowed down to drink them, my body, which was in top shape for the whole race suddenly decided that the race was over. I hadn't stopped to walk at all during the race and the furthest training run of mine was just about at this mileage. I downed a Clif Shot gel and kept telling myself that I had less than 5K to go! I pushed for another mile and at about 11.5, my shoulders started aching, my shins started tightening, and I felt like I was going to puke up the gel I just downed. So I took a walk break of about 0.1 miles and started running again only to take another quick walk break shortly afterwards. I was pissed off at myself for starting to shut down when I was so close to KILLING my time expectation and running the half without a walk break. I had read in Runners World about breaking a 2:30 half marathon and how it was "still possible" but not probable with a 1:10 10K time (my official 10K race time from June), and while I didn't officially try to run this race in under 2:30 (the first HM will always be a PR and a time to be proud of!), it was always in the back of my mind as something I really wanted.
So after walk/running a half mile, I hit the Mile 12 route marker and "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen (Thank you, Therese!) started playing. I lengthened my stride and said I had just a mile to go and I was going to run strong, even if it wasn't my fastest or most elegant mile. My shoulders felt a little better and I was still just about running on empty (like the car a few hours ago!), but the music propelled me forward. I heard "I Can Do Anything" by 3OH!3 (NICOLE12-01, who was running her first half marathon at that same time, suggested it!) and "Imma Be" by The Blackeyed Peas (Kathi's pick!). Before I knew it, all of the half marathoners who had finished already were on the sidelines cheering us along and yelling "You're almost there! Keep going!" and clapping and that's when I felt the tears coming. I saw the race clock right ahead of me and it said 2:30:35 and I knew that I was about two minutes into the clock at the start, and I knew I had done it.
I RAN MY FIRST HALF MARATHON IN UNDER 2:30! Take that Runners World. The official time later posted was 2:29:07. I finished 1168/1311 and ran about an 11:24 minute mile. I burned 1647 calories running the race and another 220 walking around before and after.
I am a half marathoner. This gal who had run her first race only one year before. Me. The woman who only two years ago weighed about 280 lbs and laughed at people who ran long distances, calling it "torture." Me. The 29-year-old who still is larger than a traditional runner, with a lot more jiggle. I just ran 13.1 miles.
I grabbed my medal and a water bottle, walked to the railing by the beach and held on, eyes still moist. I didn't know if Jon had seen me and I was swaying all over the place. Soon he ran up to me and I hugged him and cried, trying to gain my balance. We got in the ice cream line (I guess we had just missed the first wave of pizza, though they said more was coming) and I got a big bowl of strawberry ice cream with bananas and sat on a cinder block outside the fried dough joint, watched the marathon winner cross the finish line, and ate and cried. "Are you hurt?" Jon asked, seriously worried.
"No, I just can't believe I did it," I spluttered between spoonfuls.
"Of course you did it! You've been working so hard to train for it!" he exclaimed.
I knew that. I did. But I guess there is a difference between knowing it and actually doing it, experiencing it. I knew I would finish the half marathon, even if it was ugly, even if it took me over 3 hours, even if I walked for a good part of it. But I never expected to feel like I was flying. At points of that race, I felt like nothing could stop me, like there was no struggle. Only me and the road. And when the struggle did come and threw me a bit, when I wavered, I still perservered.
So there were tears and ice cream. And then we wandered over to the tent to grab freebies and the free Smuttynose beer. OMG, let me tell you, everything after a half marathon is the best thing ever...
That bowl of ice cream. Creamy and delicious.
That was the coldest most delicious beer I ever tasted. It gulped it down and it was just amazing!
But I was chilled from the sweat and the wind and the ice cold treats and it was time to head back... The trend continued. The hot shower I took back at the beach house was the best shower I've ever taken. I felt like waves of warmth were cascading over my body. It felt so good. That old couch was the most comfortable seat I've ever had. I changed into my new t-shirt and medal (of course I was wearing that thing all day long!) and we went and got brunch.
Poached eggs and pesto sauce over black bean cakes with sweet potato hash and andouille sausage. YUM. And a bright blue margarita! Tequila and salt are awesome for recovery (Source: Dr. Karvy... no MD, just a JD).
You might think I'm crazy, but we did walk around and do regular stuff after the race. I wanted to make sure I stretched out. We went to the grocery store and bought wine and chocolate for home. Jon needed a new backpack so we went into another store to get one. Then I started yawning uncontrollably by late afternoon. We drove home and I zonked out on the couch, ate a chicken sandwich and some of the chocolate, and was in bed by 9:30pm. I started feeling a little pain in my knees and shins at this point (notably and luckily, I haven't never been plagued by knee pain or shin splints like many other runners) but I just went to bed. Unfortunately I was up at 3am and they were throbbing, but I took some ibuprofen and felt better in the morning. I'm thinking it'll take me a couple days to fully recover, but I'll be OK. Lots of good protein and rest!
Whew, so that missive was the tale of my first half marathon! If you made it this far, you've got a great attention span!
Thanks to all of you who wished me luck, congratulated afterwards, suggested music for me, and convinced me that I wasn't crazy for attempting 13.1 miles! I know for a fact that I wouldn't have even dreamed of this if it weren't for all of you who ran before me, defied expectations, and told me that I could do it too.
If this girl can, you can.
Anything and everything is possible.