First Half Marathon: Complete

I’ve never experienced such an emotional feeling when crossing a finish line like I did in yesterday’s Mighty Niagara Half Marathon.  Talk about overwhelming, but absolutely amazing.  I can now officially buy one of those 13.1 stickers to plaster all over my car (I won’t).

The weather leading up to and during the race was pretty awful.  It was rainy and in the low 50’s, completely overcast and looked like there might be no end in sight.  I was so thankful that I bought the cooler gear at the Under Armour store when I grabbed my packet on Thursday because I ended up wearing it for the entire race.

I had a quick warm-up and stretch after realizing there was no way I’d finish eating my bagel.  Mostly, I sat in my car afterwards and ate some Chocolate Outrage Gu.  When it got to be about 8:45, I started to find the starting line, which was not marked whatsoever.  The race was set to start between 9-9:15, so there was a bit of panic for me if I didn’t make the start early enough.  As it turns out, the start is down the main road to get into the parking lot so they had to cut it off around 9:00 to set it up.  I managed to get settled right around the 1:50 and 1:55 pacers, thinking I’d just go run my race a little slower than both and see where it took me.  When the gun went off, I might have been the only crazy person smiling in the rain, so happy that after four months of training the day was finally here.

I cruised comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, despite having a cramp switching sides and places in my stomach from the moment I crossed the starting line.  I had another Gu around the 4 mile mark and my legs refused to slow down after that.  I was behind the 1:55 group when I had it, but by the time my energy ran out (and my cramp grew in size and pain), I had caught up to the group and then some.  I made sure to walk through every water station after mile 3 because I have a bad habit of choking down the water, plus it gave me a moment to recharge.  I had my last Gu around mile 8, hoping it’d give me the same feeling as the first but I was pretty dead.  Thankfully, there was a pretty big crowd through this point that gave me a little nudge to push through but it was rough.  After this point, every water station was much needed but at the same time, it made it so much more difficult to get started again.

In the end, my last 5K was certainly the hardest of the race. People were passing me left and right, but I thought I was keeping my pace up.  I kept looking for the 2:00 pacer, but I never saw him.  I was convinced I wouldn’t meet my 2:00 time goal.  As soon as the last mile came, I tried to reign it in but anytime my feet moved a little faster, I thought I was going to throw up.  I’ve only pushed myself to that point three times in my life (twice in high school); they’ve been my best races.  I know I couldn’t have run any harder, so even though it sucked to not push it harder, I felt I did my best.  When we got to the last .1, I heard the crowd cheering but couldn’t see the finish, it just kept weaving and twisting through the park.  Finally, I saw the big inflatable finish and got a boost I didn’t know I had (I always have that boost, even when I think I don’t — it’s my “thing”) and by-passed one man in my sprint.  I crossed the finish at 1:59 or so, clock time!

Relieved to be done, but not looking forward to walking up the hill to the car.

I had to try really hard to not completely lose it once I crossed because my last half mile I was convinced I was going to vomit and cry all at the same time.  I was still convinced when I finished that it would happen, but I held it together (you can be proud of me for this, trust me).  My boyfriend met me at the finish and took a ridiculous amount of pictures, I’m a little surprised that I don’t look completely disheveled!  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of me during the race, but I’m anxiously awaiting them to be posted from the photographers.  I might be suckered into buying a photo, given that they don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Overall, my chip time was 1:57:59.  Given that I was aiming for 2:00, I took a full two weeks off, and it was my first half-marathon?  I’m ecstatic.

I thought I might finish the half and feel like I could keep going, completely energized and then want to sign up for the Buffalo full marathon next May.  Definitely not yet.  My toes are recovering still (who needs toenails, anyways?) and though I’m not incredibly sore (thank you, ice baths), the thought of continuing another 13.1 miles is unbearable.  That race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life… but I’m definitely signing up for another one!


Plan of Attack

Today I’m preparing my plan of attack for tomorrow night and Saturday morning.  I’ve never put this much thought into how I was going to race, what I was going to eat, when I was going to leave, and what I was going to pack for somebody else to keep for me at the finish line.  I’ve also never been this nervous.

My digestive system does not like when I get nervous and I certainly don’t like my digestive system’s reactions to my nervousness.  The past few days my stomach and intestines have been giving me the warning signs that they were stressed out, but I didn’t think twice about it.  Now I realize I’ve been nervous all week… all week for something I’m voluntarily doing!

I haven’t wanted to eat, even if I’ve felt hungry.  It’s been like forcing myself to eat because I know I need to, I know I’m hungry, I just don’t want it.  I’ve probably farted more times in the past week than I have in the past six months — hey, girls fart too.  And I think we’ll just leave it there as far as what stress and nervousness does to my body.  But it’ll all be over in 38 hours…. That is, if I reach my goal time.  I know, you shouldn’t set goal times for distances you’ve never raced but I can’t help it.  I’m competitive, you know?  Why, I’m aiming for two hours, thanks for asking!

Back to those preparations.

I have my dinner idea ready of a light pasta dinner after I finish my very light 2-3 mile run tomorrow evening.  I’ll “relax” by doing my laundry and probably try to sleep by 10:00pm.  I have my bagels with light cream cheese ready, hopefully I can stomach the full thing.  I have an abundance of Gu in the fridge (chocolate tastes so much better cold) — two before the race, per the directions and I’ll carry another on me.  I have band-aids to put on the spots that have recently turned hot and decided to be huge pains in the ass within the past week.  I’m leaving my apartment by 7:00am in order to hopefully be parked by 7:45am.  With the race starting between 9:00am and 9:15am, this should be more than enough time to warm up and attempt to relax, or just enjoy the atmosphere.  I have a bag with extra car keys (not carrying mine), a change of clothes (it looks like rain), flip flops (my feet will hurt), Muscle Milk (I don’t trust Chocolate soy milk out of the fridge that long), a snack, Gatorade, more band-aids, and aspirin (just in case) to wait for me at the finish.

I can’t decide if I want Map My Run to tell me any splits or not.  I know it’s always off by a little, but I’m so used to hearing it I’m afraid it’ll throw me off if it’s not buzzing my ear.  Maybe I’ll just settle for an average pace announcement every 15 minutes.  I’m going to aim for the 2:05 pacers, and hope to kick it up as the race continues though.  Sticking with that plan, I can aim for my goal without needing the reminders in my ear.  If I feel good, I’ll run a little faster.  If I start to feel bad, I’ll slow it up.  My goal is to never get to the point of feeling awful.

It sounds like a great race plan in my head but I know when the gun goes off, I’m going to be battling an adrenaline rush the entire time.  I will not go out too fast.  I will not go out too fast.  I will not go out too fast.

I think I’m ready.

I can’t wait for the race, it’s going to be beautiful even if it’s a torrential downpour.  About 11 miles are right along the Niagara River, with much of the course being downhill.  I could do without the 10mph winds and the 40% chance of rain that is predicted, but the high 50’s for the temperature is just right.  Could my first half marathon appear to be any better?

Next time you hear from me I’ll be a half marathon finisher and hopefully I’ll have some awesome pictures to showcase for it.  Wish me luck!

Adventures of a “Born-Again” Runner

The sneakers that started it all, plus 200 miles.

After a six-year running hiatus, I’ve returned to the sport (yes — sport) I used to love.  Upon seeing friends train for a local half marathon, I remembered I set the same goal for myself sometime during my cross country career and had yet to even think about it.  With a rush of adrenaline, I ran to the local Dicks Sporting Goods store and picked up a fancy new pair of sneakers.  With a suggestion of the salesperson based on his experience, I bought my first pair of Brooks sneakers and settled with the Pure Flow.  Practically running home in them, I also signed up for the goal race — the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon.

That was four months ago.  That race is this Saturday.

It’s been a quick four months, despite this being the longest I’ve ever consistently trained.  Even in high school, the cross country and track seasons were just two and a half months tops, and because my school didn’t offer an indoor track season, I took the winter months off.

There have been many ups, a couple downs, and even two lost toenails… but finally the day has arrived.  One thing I realized during this entire journey, however, is the fact that finishing this race isn’t the end like I originally thought.  I’ve started again and I don’t think I can stop.