My First Half-Marathon…

18 May

…was amazing!! Pace and time wise it did not go as well as I would have liked. I am very unhappy with my finishing time, but I rewarded myself for finishing this race by signing up for my second half-marathon on May 29th, the Alexandria Half-Marathon. I WILL hit my goal-time at the Alexandria half.

The Big Day

My alarm went off at 4 AM, but I was already awake. I probably slept less than three hours, but I felt wide awake. I had laid out everything the night before and double and triple checked, so I went through my routine, got dressed and ate a small bowl of oatmeal with banana and peanut butter.

Why don't you just take the kitchen sink with you?

We were on the road by 5 AM. My stomach was a knotted mess, but I was so excited to get to the race and start running. Despite the nerves I knew once I started running I would be fine.

Deer in the headlights

We parked in a commuter lot and took a shuttle bus to the start.

Ridin' in style

I’d like to give huge props to the race organizers here, everything about this race was very well coordinated. From the expo, to packet pick-up, to the starting  line. I had very few complaints about how the race was organized. No chinks in the chain with the Marines.

We had a short walk from the shuttle drop-off to the start that took us past a gas station. I stood in line for 20 mins waiting to pee, but it meant I did not have to use the porta-potties, so I will take it!

After spending half my life waiting to pee I just made it to the starting line before the gun went off.

Nervous much?

I got my warm-up by running to the start and jumping over the fence into the 2:30-3:00 corral. Thank you to the very nice Marine who let me hop the fence! The past two races I’ve run it’s taken quite some time for me to actually cross the starting line after the gun goes off. This time, I was crossing the starting line before I even had a chance to load up my Garmin. Before I knew it, I was on my way!

Mile 1-4

Miles 1-4 were awesome. I didn’t listen to music for the first 2 miles. I just wanted to run and enjoy the experience. It was a good decision, there was so much to see and hear and feel. We run under the Fredericksburg fire trucks with the American flag hoisted, everyone was pumped up and excited. The vibe was incredible and so motivating. Everyone was happy to be out running and experiencing life.

And the rocket's red glare....

I made sure to take it slowly at the start. Everyone recommended starting slower than I thought I should so I didn’t risk burning out later on in the race. I didn’t have too much trouble keeping to my pace, maybe a little faster than I planned, but nothing too crazy.

Around mile 2-3 I put my headphones in. The course started to clear out a bit as everyone found their groove. Especially this girl, running in her space boots:

Why yes, I am more hardcore than all of you sneaker-wearing runners

We ran through downtown Fredericksburg and into the more residential parts. One thing I loved about this race, was all the community support. Literally everyone was sitting outside their house with signs, cowbells etc. cheering on runners. Many had friends or family running, but some just come out to support all of us random runners. The kids along the course were the best, they were so enthusiastic cheering and high-fiving. A lot of them would run a little ways with us, which provided a nice relief.

Mile 5-8

Around mile 4 or 5 I passed a group of kids handing out Twizzlers. I grabbed one and stuffed it down while running. I was carrying my own water bottle with a mix of water and Gatorade, but the Twizzler was great.

Mile 5 I started to feel a little tight. I took a couple walk breaks through water stations and that seemed to help. Surprisingly, my calves and shins weren’t bothering me at all. I’ve had almost constant issues with them since March, but they didn’t bother me until the end of the half.

Miles 6 and 7 were pretty uneventful. I celebrated passing the halfway mark but taking an awesome photo of myself.

Do I look like I'm dying yet?

I was feeling fine and sipping from water/Gatorade mix. I also alternated drinking Gatorade and water at every drink station to try to make sure I stayed probably hydrated.

It was pretty scenic as we were running through historic Fredericksburg.

Miles 8-11

Around mile 8 things started to go badly. My muscles started to tighten up and I could feel I needed to pull off and stretch. I was feeling tired and sluggish and needed to get some extra calories. I had packed Clif Shot Bloks in my race bag and then promptly forgotten them in the car, so I was out of luck until the food station at mile 9(ish). My knee also started to kill. I pulled off and stretched for a minute and took a walk break. I tried to start up running again and it hurt. Quite a lot. So I walked some more. This was not part of my planned race strategy, and part of the reason I ended up so frustrated with this race. I had planned to walk through the water stations and towards the end of the race take a short walk break at the end of every mile. That strategy worked fine until mile 8.

I ended up walking a lot of miles 8-10. Like most of miles 8-10. At this point I was feeling frustrated, tired and annoyed. We hit the food station and I grabbed two packs of Sports Beans. I took a whole pack straight away and washed it down with Gatorade. I stuffed the other in my water bottle pouch for later on. Around mile 10 the Sports Beans seemed to kick in. I also hit my personal distance record at this point and that seemed to help boost my spirits. I knew that every step I took after that point was farther than I had ever run. I started running again and even though my knee was hurting I was holding a decent pace for how I was feeling.

Everybody smile and say "Half-Marathon!"

Then came Hospital Hill. It was big. It was horrible. It was killer. Everyone was walking up the hill. At mile 11 it was just too much. I’d been running for 2 hours and 30 minutes and my body did not want to keep going. Rather annoyingly, I also hit the wall at this point. I had only trained up to 10 miles and I found myself wishing I had trained up to 12 or 13 miles.

How about a Marine just carry me to the top? Deal?

When I hit the wall, I hit it hard (probably because it was the first time I ever really hit the wall) and I was desperately trying to get up that stupid hill. All of a sudden it felt like I couldn’t take another step. My feet felt like bricks and my legs like lead. I had no idea how I was going to run another 2 miles and that little doubting voice that had been hassling me all week suddenly became a chorus of “There’s no way you can do this” “You’ll never finish” “You’re not strong enough.” I felt horrible. I wanted to quit and sit down, but all I could think was “I’ve come this far, I can’t quit now.” So I tried to plow up the hill. My knee was screaming so running up the hill was out but I power walked as fast as I could and got up and over that hideous hill.

Miles 12-13.1

I don’t remember much of the last mile-and-a-half. I remember thinking I was crazy to sign up for this and that I was never going to do another one. I remember feeling like I was sprinting when the finish line came into view but when I looked at my Garmin it said I was running an 11 minute mile (hello snail’s pace). I remember my determination to smile for the finish line camera (success!)

The end is nigh!

We were running back through downtown Fredericksburg and there were plenty of spectators, but beyond that I don’t remember much. I was tired, very, very tired.

Finish

I crossed the finish line and thought about throwing up for a second.

Can someone make sure I still have a pulse?

I chugged the remainder of my water bottle and switched my Garmin off. Then I crawled strutted over to the Marine to have my medal placed around my neck. Honestly, not to be all emotional and cliche, but having that medal put around my neck was the most awesome feeling. After months of training,  injuries, sweat, tears, and a little blood, I had achieved something no one could ever take away from me. I know plenty of people have finished a half-marathon, and it’s no longer a huge deal, but to me it is. I pushed through mental and physical fatigue and got to that finish line. Plus, I got a super-cool medal.

Keep yo hands off my bling!

With running, you will get out of it whatever you put into it. If you commit and train and work hard, you can achieve so much. Even though, I didn’t hit my goal time and it wasn’t a pretty race for me, I am so proud that I crossed that finish line, that I proved to myself  I could do it.

Plus I got to spend 13 miles ogling at some very handsome looking men.

Thank you boys, for serving as my literal support system

30 seconds after crossing the finish line, I thought I was never going to run again. 20 minutes later, I was already pulling up races on my phone trying to figure out how soon I could run my next half. Alexandria Half-Marathon, prepare to be owned!

Oh, and just in case there were any doubters, I made sure to properly refuel post race, with this…

Coffee + alcohol = WIN

And this…

Get in mah belly!

Oh and these…

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2 Responses to “My First Half-Marathon…”

  1. Dawn May 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    I know the race didn’t go how you had hoped, but you did AWESOMELY for your first race! You stuck to it and kept chugging along and got to the end. You earned that medal at the finish, and you should try to remember how it felt, because nothing ever feels like that first one.

    Congratulations, half-marathoner!

    • feetoffancy May 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks so much! It feels great to finally join the half-marathoner club. Fingers crossed that the next race goes a bit better.

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