Couch to ... Half Marathon? Yep! (LONG and Pic Heavy)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If you take a look at my two previous blogs, you'll see that one is from October 2, 2010 and the other is from January 1, 2011. The blog from October 2 is entitled Week 1, Day 1 of C25K. That was the first day I had ever done any sort of run/walk intervals. I was determined to complete the program on time, and I did so on December 4, 2010.

Unfortunately, I could not run the race that was scheduled for that day, so I just continued running 1-3 times a week on the treadmill. I found out about the New Year, New Hope 5K three days prior to the event and my second blog depicts pictures and a summary of my first 5K race. I ran it in 27:27, two minutes better than my outside 5K time.

After the January 1 race, I didn't run another until March 12. This race was a fundraiser for a little boy's cancer treatment, and a lot of the education professionals and students from the area ran this race. Lucky for me, one of the teachers that ran was my girls' kindergarten teacher and I knew she was a faster runner than I. I kept her in my sights the whole time and finished the race in 26:35, nearly a full minute faster than my first 5K. I missed getting third by 30 or so seconds!

Perhaps most notable about that race is that as I was waiting for the awards presentation, I found myself sitting next to a fellow runner who was there by herself. We got to chatting and exchanged cell phone numbers so we could coordinate racing together so we wouldn't have to wait alone. A week or two after that race, I received a text from her inviting me to train for a half marathon to be held in June. I panicked at the thought of adding 10 miles to my "normal" run distance, especially since I had never run a step, save chasing a child or two, before October 2, 2010 -- not even a year prior to her invitation. I talked it over with my husband who agreed that I'd "be fine" -- basically meaning I could do it if I put my mind to it.

I committed to training for the race, and we followed Hal Higdon's novice half marathon training program. We did the mid-week runs by ourselves and met either at the YMCA or at her house to do our long weekend runs. We switched the weeks around as we needed to for prior commitments and Easter.

We skipped Week 1 since Weeks 1 and 2 are the same and skipping one would put us on target to run the half at the end of Week 12 as suggested. The first week of training I ran a 5K on Saturday (my birthday). It was a trail course with hills (albeit small) and sticks and sandy soil. Also, it was a run to benefit the SPCA and dogs were invited. We were running among leashed dogs who sometimes made it difficult to pass. I had been ill that week and the weather was absolutely lousy. I had pre-registered so I felt I had to go. My goal was to run it in 30 minutes or less. Since I had been feeling so poorly and it was a different type of course, I figured that was a reasonable goal.

Well, I ended up running it in 27:54 (worst race time ever), so I definitely beat the 30-minute time goal. Even better was that I placed third for my age group!

Back to the training. The program calls for you to run a 5K race and a 10K race; however there aren't many 10Ks to be found around here, so I opted to run a 5K race the weekend of May 21 while my training partner and new friend ran a muddy fun run on May 22. By this time, my longest run was 8.5 miles. I started the race in the front of the pack and had a bit more gusto than I would've liked to have had in the beginning. I did manage to keep a decent pace going and finished with a new personal best of 26:24 and got third for my age group!

Coincidentally, a local town was holding its annual events the weekend of May 28, which included a 5K and a 10-mile race. Since it was our 10-mile training week, we opted to train in race format. I talked to my friend the week after our individual events to make arrangements for our 10-mile race only to find out that she had re-injured herself at the fun run. She wasn't going to run the 10-mile race with me! I almost opted to run around my house somewhere, but decided to go for the race, especially because my friend wanted to come support me. I got up at 6:15 to pick her up and head to the town of the race, about 45 minutes away.

It was a very hot and humid day, but I took advantage of the water stations that were available (never stopping to walk once) and finished the race in 1:36:57, under my 1:40:00 goal. I ran the second half of the race (or a bit more) in step with another runner. It was kind of neat as he'd let me go ahead of him at the water stations and then we'd meet up and get back to the same pace. At one station, he was ahead of me and turned around to, I presume, see where I was. We finished the race side by side, both of us having skipped the last water station that was less than a mile from the finish.

My friend came and took some pictures. Here we are:

As the guy and I got closer to the finish line, we started to sprint. I told him as we finished, "You're not gonna beat me now!" We laughed at that and congratulated each other and that was the end of that. Upon checking the results, I did beat him by a few seconds (based on official chip timing). Go me!

I must admit I felt pretty darn good having completed that race in a decent-to-me time. I felt like I could've kept running when I finished. I got really excited for the half marathon, which was a week and a day away.

I didn't follow the final week's training scheduled to the letter. I committed to doing a Zumbathon fundraiser on Friday, June 3, for a dear friend of mine who lost her son to Spinal Muscular Atrophy. My daughters and I did Zumba for 2.5 hours or thereabouts on Friday, June 3, and I pretty much laid around on Saturday, trying to rest for the big day. I was sore from working muscles I had given a break to in the previous weeks!

Race day arrives. I get up and put on the new outfit I bought myself the day before. My friend was still having a lot of back trouble, so she came to cheer me on, but I was running it alone. The positive in this is that she let me borrow her Garmin Forerunner so I was maniacally checking my pace and time throughout the race!

Anyway, things started off well. The day was overcast and cool and the course was flat. My shirt was sleeveless so I was in no danger of being too hot from the elements. It's sort of funny to see everyone armed and ready to start their GPS units! I'm in the middle of the picture wearing the neon green/blue shirt.

I ran the first half pretty well. I was at 1:01:XX at the halfway mark and was super stoked about that. I felt like I hit a brick wall of some sort right after I made the turn at the halfway point. I got sluggish and really had to push myself to run faster to meet or exceed my time goal. At some points during the race, I was talking to myself out loud to "get with it" and "get it in gear". I was sort of glad no one was around me (and if they were, I didn't know it!).

Somewhere around the 10-mile mark, I started to get hip pain on my right side. I ran through that and toe pain. I've since found out that my toe was bleeding, probably from a toenail that was a bit too long. Thank God it wasn't anything else. My hip pain was completely new to me.

As I neared the finish line, I got a bit disoriented as to where I was. I knew it was an out-and-back course and I remembered where we began, but I had forgotten exactly how many turns we took at the start of the race. Runners ahead of me were turning right when I thought they should've been going left and the spectators at the fence also had me confused a bit. That was okay, though, because my friend was there to take pictures and right beside her were my husband and four kids to cheer me across the finish line.

Here I am making the aforementioned right turn. No, I am not in dead last, even though no one is around me!

I ended up crossing the finish line in 2:05:54, which was about 4 minutes UNDER my time goal of 2:10:00. I ran the whole thing, even the water stations. Of course, I slowed down for those, but I never stopped or slowed to a walk. I met both of my goals, so I was quite proud!

You can't see the whole clock, but the gist of it is here as I near the finish.

My friend captioned this photo as "Thank you, God! I'm finished!" That about sums it up!

And one final picture of my biggest supporters.

What's next? I'm restarting C25K with my second daughter, the one with the white t-shirt with the bear on it and the Zumba wristband in the above picture. Oh, and I might try to do the Hershey Half in my home state of PA. Of course, that course will include hills. I'm not sure I'm ready for those yet!

Edited to add: Sorry the photos seem small. The files were too big to post so the downside is you can't really see me. I'm there though!
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