I know the burning question right now is did I really embark on the half marathon I waffled so much about and if so, did I finish?
The answers are yes and...
...Yes! I finished! It was rough, but I did it. I am happy with myself for sticking it out and finishing what I started months ago when Eva was still a sleepy 2 month old and I was anxious to set my sights on a race to train for.
Kyle's parents came into town on Friday night, so the plan was for them to watch Eva while we ran our respective races bright and early on Saturday morning. Kyle was registered for the 10K and had picked up both of our race packets that day on his lunch hour. I got a tech tee for participating in the Half, and it is pretty cool: black and fitted for a female body as opposed to those big, square tees that are supposed to be unisex, but really just fit men well.
I set out everything I planned to wear the next day and got Gary the Garmin and Shufalufagus on their chargers. Then I went to bed around 9. My race was set to begin at 7:30am and Kyle's race would start 15 minutes later at 7:45. We live about 30-45 minutes away from the starting line, so the plan was to get up whenever Eva woke me for her early morning feeding aroudn 5ish. Just in case she decided to sleep through the night and not wake me up to nurse, Kyle set his alarm for 5:45am as a back-up.
Just as expected, Eva woke me up around 5:10am for her feeding and Kyle and I got up and started to get ready. I had hoped that Eva would stay asleep for a while, since she normally doesn't wake until 6:30 at the earliest, but since she was in our room with us, it was inevitable that she stirred and woke around 5:30am instead. After breakfast of oatmeal, oj, a banana, and a cup of coffee, we headed out to the race.
By the time we found a parking spot, took last minute potty breaks, and hiked over to the starting line, I only had to wait about 8 minutes until the start of my race. Perfect.
The half organizers secured volunteers from a local running group to be pacers for the race, so I figured I'd line up with the 2:45 pace group to start and see how I felt after a few miles in. I still planned on getting a drink at each aid station and walking through each one to help me reserve energy to finish strong at the end of the race, but I thought I might keep myself from pushing too hard if I hung with the pace group for a while to start off.
The 2:45 pace group was towards the back of the pack. I am pretty sure the slowest pace group at the very back was the 3 hour group. I was nervous, but I felt comfortable with where I had positioned myself among pace groups. I knew I wouldn't be breaking any speed records but I didn't feel like I would need 3 hours to complete the distance either. Although the weather was beautiful and expected to warm to about 70 degrees later in the day, at 7:30am it was about 39 and my hands were FREEZING!
I didn't really hear the start of the race, but I could see up ahead that the pack was moving forward. It only took me about 3 1/2 minutes to get to the start and I was off! The pace group strategy was to start with about a 13 min/mile pace for the first 3 miles or so. I had no trouble staying with the pace group and to my delight, the crowd thinned out quickly as everyone settled into their own paces. This is very unlike any of the other, shorter races I had done previously, as those tended to take a mile just to get past the walkers who lined up in the wrong place and chose to walk side by side down the middle of the street.
The race route took us through some really beautiful, older neighborhoods with giant houses, so the run was very scenic. After a mile or so, I really felt like my slow pace was faster than 13 min/miles. I was hestitant to give in to my desire to speed up because I knew I had another 12.1 miles to go, but I felt comfortable cruising up just in front of the 2:45 group and within sight of the 2:40 group up ahead. This is where I hung out for most of the next 5 miles of the race. The first water station was just shy of the 2 mile mark and I already had to hit the porta potty thanks to the coffee I had earlier. I am a super-fast pottier though, thanks to all the practice I got while pregnant with Eva, so I was in and out of there quickly. I walked for about a minute as I drank my water from the aid station. I felt good and my hands were no longer cold as the day warmed up quickly. I got a little annoyed when the faster 10K race runners passed in miles 2 and 3, as their pace made me unconsciously speed up for about a mile or so.
I stopped to potty at the 2nd aid station as well, and again I walked for about a minute while I drank my water. Gatorade was available too, but I have never drank Gatorade while on a run before, I didn't want to risk tearing up my stomach like I did with the granola bar on my 10 mile training run a week ago.
It was around mile 6 when I started a chain of negative thinking that made the next 3.5 miles grueling and slow. I remember thinking that if I had run the 10K instead, I'd be done by now. Then followed the realization that I wasn't even halfway done yet. Then I started to feel really tired and slow. I had passed the 3rd set of porta potties without stopping and so then I started to regret that decision. Then I got passed by a guy running with a double jogging stroller. I fell behind the 2:45 pace group and the 2:50 pace group. Then I got passed by a guy running with a dog. When I stopped to walk around mile 7, I got passed by a speed walker. That's right, there was a lady speed walking the half marathon. She had on all the technical running gear and with her hair pulled back into a tight braid, she diligently checked her sports watch every now and then to make sure she was on pace.
It was during this 3.5 mile stretch that I did a lot of walking alternating with running. So basically I would run past the speed walker and five minutes later she would speed walk past me. Then when I was ready to run, I would jog past her and lo and behold, a few minutes later she would pass me again. All ideas I had about finishing times went out the window at this point. I just wanted to get to a porta potty and make it to the finish line before they closed the course. Finally, around mile 8, there was another set of porta potties and I was relieved, literally and figuratively.
That relief didn't last long. And this is probably getting to be TMI, so feel free to skip if you want. But when I drink coffee, and I am sure many of you are the same way, I require some extra bathroom time a little later on. I didn't get that time before the race for no other reason than my body wasn't ready for it. Well, at mile 8.5 it was ready. And I didn't see a porta potty coming up soon. Running only made it worse, but I knew walking would only make it take longer to get to the next set of porta potties.
Soon, thoughts of "I really don't want to have to do this in a porta potty" became "I've gotta do this in a porta potty!" I persevered, and made it to the last set of porta potties around mile 9.75. Without anything to read, I was in and out of there fairly quickly with a renewed sense of hope. I saw the 10 mile marker up ahead and someone had made a sign that said "Just think of a half marathon as a 5K race with a 10 mile warmup." This made me laugh and I realized that I only had 3.1 miles left, and hey, I know how to run a 5K!
So I ramped it up and found the energy I thought I had lost forever back at mile 6. I passed the guy with the dog and the guy with the double jogging stroller (who was now walking). I passed the 2:50 pace group. Around mile 12, I passed the 2:45 pace group. I never saw the speed walker again. I pushed and I pushed and I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:43:02.2.
As they handed me my finishers medal and Kyle found me wandering around, I was both excited and relieved to be done. I also need to sit down because man, I just spent nearly 3 hours on my feet.
Of course, my stomach twisted up and caused me distress for the next hour or so after the race and my legs and feet started aching so much I couldn't really get comfortable until I took one of the super-duper ibuprofens the hospital gave me when I gave birth to Eva. But I finished and I did finish strong, just as I had wanted to.
Now what lessons have I learned from this valuable life experience? I know they say this about the full marathon, but I think it applies to the half as well: respect the distance. That means that, while I will likely do other half marathons in the future, I will not sign up for another until I feel like I have the time to dedicate to the necessary training. And I have absolutely no interest in doing a full marathon. Ever.
I also learned that I have a lot more potential to accomplish things physically and mentally than sometimes I give myself credit for. This race was not all about physical endurance. It had a lot to do with how I approached it mentally, and I can pinpoint exactly when my mental state took a nosedive and started dictating how my body would perform.
And finally, I have discovered that being pregnant and birthing a baby has completely rearranged my insides.
If you have made it to the end of this long post, congrats to you. I will post my splits later on when I have a chance to upload my Garmin info to a computer.