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Saturday, October 3, 2009

I didn't die and I didn't hurl

**Posted first on my family blog which is why it references to this site.**

Two things to be very thankful for after your first half-marathon experience.

October 3rd has been a big scary date on my calendar for a few months and I'm thankful for it to be over. I haven't written much on this blog about my running but if you haven't kept up you can read over the boring entries on this site. I haven't been running for most of the summer. Heat is a big reason but there have been other health related issues as well. But in late August I picked up the pace again and prepared to run 13.1 miles without dying or hurling.

Before I even get to the race you have to realize that the past two weeks have been a flurry of activity. Not the time of reflection and pleasant long runs that I originally envisioned as I prepared for this race. I was gone for 3 days this past week in San Antonio to present a research project at a national conference. So that was added stress. I got in late last night and felt very overwhelmed at the thought of my next "adventure." It did sound like an adventure when I signed up for it. The giddy thoughts of being able to tackle this huge beast. But on the eve of facing the beast I started to have second thoughts.

The alarm went off at 6 a.m. this morning. I hate waking up early and am not in the habit of running first thing in the mornings. But I got up, got ready, made some breakfast and coffee and then just happened to look at one of the handouts for the race and realized that the race did NOT start at 7:30 but at 7:00. It was 6:35.


Thankfully, my nice husband had already picked up all of my race materials (including my timing chip) so realistically all I had to do was make it to the line in 25 minutes. This was possible since I live less than 10 minutes away from the start line (with no traffic). So I shot out the door only later realizing that I should have grabbed the cell phone to tell my husband. He went back to bed and so I couldn't tell him before I left. Earlier we had made plans for him to bring the kids and meet me around the 1/2 way point. The rendezvous time would be changed drastically with a 30 minute difference. This worried me but was put in the back of my mind as I approached campus and realized they were already blocking off roads and the detours were pushing me further and further away. I did finally weave my way through back roads and sped through campus (praying for no bored campus cops) and made it to the parking lot with 10 minutes to spare. There was no stretching or warm up time but my adrenaline was already pumping so there was a bright spot to the whole ordeal.

The race had 2000 participants and the line up was arranged by anticipated finish times. I lined up between the 2 1/2 and 3 hour marks and waited to go while looking around me to find anyone with a cell phone I could beg to borrow.

I didn't have a watch to time myself. Previously I had bummed M's watch but his sport's watch had broken and I never bought one for myself. So I didn't know the exact start time and just had to judge my pace by the actual time.

For non-runners I'll explain that there are two times in a race: the gun time (the time from when the gun goes off to when you finish) and your chip time (the time from when you actually cross the start line to the finish line). This can make a big difference in big races since you can typically wait 2-15 minutes before the crowd gets to the start line. Actually in HUGE races it's sometimes much longer than that.

We started off and I immediately got stuck behind some SLOW people. Maybe they knew how to pace themselves well but it was driving me crazy. I finally managed to get around them and then was able to enjoy the experience rather than look for a path around them. What I liked most was the sound of hundreds of feet hitting the pavement, that low rumble of excitement. Everyone was still in a great mood at this point of the race and it was fun to see the spectators and listen to people's comments. I brought my iPod with me but didn't turn it on until around mile 2. I wanted to be able to hear everything while the crowd was still thick.

Miles 1-3 wound their way through residential neighborhoods that I've run in before but I really didn't pay as much attention to the neighborhood as I did to the runners around me. I saw the first porta-potty around 1.5 miles and wondered if I'd have to use it (felt the slight need even then). There was already a line for that porta-potty. I also probably soaked a volunteer with a cup full of water at the first water stop. I was trying to throw my cup in the trash and he was bending down right next to it to pick up all the cups where people had missed putting it in the trash. My cup happened to miss too. Oops.

Around mile 3 the course came to a point where you could see the front runners already coming back the other way (they were about to mile 6). And good grief they were booking it. Like between 5-6 minute miles. I can't imagine ever being able to go that fast for one mile let alone 5, 10, 15, 26+ miles. Those people are built much differently than me. :)

I finally realized that I would be passing a co-worker's house while on the course. She had mentioned earlier that she always watched the race so I kept my eye out for her and used the opportunity to ask to borrow her phone to call M and explain about the differences in the time. That worked out well and amused her greatly.

At the second water stop (just after mile 4) I decided to try some of the Snapple Water (agave flavored) and about hurled. It was not what my stomach wanted. But the feeling passed quickly. At that point the only breaks I had taken were to drink the water and to stop and use the cell phone for 30 seconds. I felt really good and not too tired. I had been asking random people what the time was so I knew I was doing about 11 minute miles at that point which was good though was risky if I wore myself out too much in the beginning.

We got to mile 5 and circled the courthouse. I stopped briefly again to call out to a friend's husband that happened to be there. I kept going and don't think I took another walking break until right before the 6 mile mark. I got to the 1/2 way mark and heard my little chip beep as we passed over the sensors. Here's my official results from that point:
Time/Minutes per mile - 1:09:36/11:03

As I approached the 7 mile marker I slowed down to a walk to make sure I was giving my husband enough time to meet me at the designated spot. I also knew that I was doing well on time and used the chance for a break. M and the kids were there and it was good to see them really quick. I took half of the power bar that I asked him to bring for me and continued to run and eat it. That about made me hurl too but eventually tasted good after my stomach woke up.

The next 5 miles aren't too exciting to write about. I was getting tired though I didn't feel too bad until mile 11. I saw a couple more people I knew and just kept focusing on points in front of me to get to until I was allowed another walking break. This stretch was mostly in full sun and I felt warmer though thankfully the weather was awesome and it was never hot. The best part of the this stretch was passing mile 9 and hearing a guy next to me call out, "hey mile 9! We kicked your ass!"

The group I was with were not in it for the glory or probably even for PR's (personal records). I think we were mostly there to prove that we could do it, to mark an item off a bucket list, or just because it sounded like an adventure at the time we signed up for it. The crowd REALLY thinned out after mile 9 and often there would be a several second gap between the person in front and behind me. Some people were able to pick up the pace for the last couple of miles but I was completely worn out. I kept going and didn't have another significant walking break. Mostly I knew that even walking was going to take too much effort so it was better just to finish. When I did think of slowing down or walking I just told myself that I couldn't give up. To let this be a good thing in life where I didn't give up, when in so many other areas I'm quick to give up when it becomes too much work.

And I finished. I crossed the line and saw that the gun time was just under 2:42. I fulfilled my goal which was to finish between 2:30 and 2:45. I knew I'd have some time taken off for my chip time but wasn't sure how long. It turned out to be not too long, my final results were:
Total time: 2:40:10, Total Minutes per Mile average: 12:14

So you can see that I slowed down quite a bit at the end to change my overall average. Part of it was the long walking break before meeting my husband and some was just going a lot slower. I knew I was jogging a 12 minute pace through the last 3 miles and was happy to just keep going. I also knew that I would not be signing up for another 1/2 in the immediate future. I think 10k's are better lengths but that being said - knowing that I can do it and with better prep it might be easier to do again. But don't ask me about running a full marathon (26.2 miles). That has been pushed WAY out of my mind. Not to say I'll never do it but I need to become a much better runner first.

I didn't take any pictures of the race but will post any decent ones of me that are available on the running blog. To finish all I'll say is that a year ago I would have never thought that I could or would run 13.1 miles (all at once). So don't be afraid to take on your own adventures. It probably won't kill you and hopefully you won't hurl.

1 comment:

  1. Well done!! There was a half on the same area where I ran my 5K yesterday, so I was thinking of you all day (after I got my days straightenend from thinkign Friday was Saturday LOL).

    I'm proud of you!!!!