I am a half-marathoner.
I did it. And I can honestly say it could not have gone any better.
The weather was absolutely perfect (overcast and rainy, around 60 degrees) for the Spinx Runfest Half Marathon in Greenville, SC. My clothes were perfect, nothing was rubbing or hurting or cutting or annoying. The new race number belt Chris bought me for motivation was wonderful – I didn’t even know it was there, and it held my 2 packs of Hammer energy gel perfectly.
My goals for the half-marathon were as follows: No or few walk breaks, no port-a-potty breaks, no injuries and I wanted to beat Ronnie. (Ronnie just ran his first half marathon with a time of 2:09:51.) No walk breaks, check. No port-a-potty breaks, check. No injuries, check. I didn’t beat Ronnie, but hey, that’s ok too (I’ll remind you now he’s in a different category than me, being male and all – he’s supposed to be faster.) My official time was 2:13:47 with a pace of 10:13. I came in 365th place out of 703 for women (they don’t seem to have an overall place; boo.)
Here’s the specifics, for those who want to know (sorry for the length, for those who don’t …):
10 p.m. Friday– closed my eyes to go to sleep
11 p.m. Friday– still awake
12 a.m. Saturday – still awake, but finally dozing off
2:36 a.m. Saturday – woke up, had to pee
3:24 a.m. Saturday – woke up, wished it was just time to get up already
5 a.m. Saturday – alarm goes off (of course, I was actually sleeping this time.)
5:10 a.m. Saturday – got out of bed. Chris was already awake and looking for coffee filters (we all stayed at my aunt Josie’s house.) He made me 3 Eggo Waffles, and I declined 2 of them. I had an Eggo with peanut butter on it, one egg cooked over easy, a glass of orange juice and 2 cups of coffee. Drank about 2 glasses of water but capped it at that – read: no pee breaks later. I had made a big point of drinking lots of water on Friday, so that was going to have to do.
6 a.m. Saturday – took a quick, hot shower to waken up the muscles. I’ve never done this before but Kevin does it a lot before his races so I thought it’d be a good idea. Got out of the shower, dressed in the following: Cropped pants, shirt (says “Does this shirt make my butt look fast?” on the front and back. I for one love things to read on the back of people’s shirts, so I wanted to do my part), Target brand sports bra, whatever panties I grabbed (nothing special there), Asics brand socks Jenny gave me, and my runner’s hat from TrySports (very breathable.) I also had my heart-rate monitor and Gamin watch, my iPod shuffle and headphones, my race number belt with small pocket, and my Mizuno Wave Inspires shoes, complete with race chip attached to the Yanks. As I was getting dressed I heard water hitting the window. “Maybe Uncle Pete has the sprinklers on,” I thought. It wasn’t supposed to rain until noon.
7 a.m. Saturday – Walked outside, and yep, it’s raining. Jeff, Chris and I piled in the car and drove to the race. We parked further away from the start line than I thought we had, and so the longer we walked the antsier I became. I needed to pee and I knew there would be lines at the bathroom. We finally made it to the bathroom at 7:45 and of course, there was a line. It moved quickly, though, and I was out in 5 minutes. Took a couple sips of water at the fountain and started walking to the start line. Mom and Dad and Jenny and Cai were thinking of being at the start line if it wasn’t raining, and since it was raining, I didn’t expect to see them there. I also didn’t expect to see them due to the thousands of people milling about (1,800 runners between the half-marathon and the 5K, and all the spectators). But suddenly, there they were! What a great surprise. I got last-minute hugs and a couple pictures and then I headed off to join the other runners.
7:55 a.m. Saturday – They didn’t have us organized by any pace, so I headed about halfway back and hoped for the best (typically I finish about halfway in a race.) I had a few moments to myself at that point and did feel a little nervous, but not too bad. I checked my heart rate, and it was high – about 100. I took some deep breaths and tried to relax and got it down to about 73. I enjoyed the costumes around me – my favorite was a group of people dressed as prisoners, and then one behind them dressed as a cop. He “chased” them the entire race. I saw a spectator standing there with a dog that looked kind of like my dog Breanna. I was wishing she was there with me.
8 a.m. Saturday – off we go! Of course, it’s a slow start with the crowd, and so I focused on just keeping it slow and steady at first. Saw Dad and Chris as I ran by and waved at them, and then just focused on getting through the running traffic jam that always occurs at the beginning of races. I tried not to pass too many people, as I read somewhere that it takes a lot of extra energy to do so. I watched runner after runner who had started off too fast drop back to a walk, some as quickly as .25 mile. (That was me not too long ago, so I’m not knocking it.)
The first few miles were uneventful. I looked up at mile 3.4 and saw Jeff standing on a bridge I was about to run under. Waved at him and kept going. Having people there to cheer me on is absolutely invaluable.
My average pace starting out was about 13 minute miles (due to the crowd), and so I felt like I was playing catch-up the entire race. I quickly got it down to an average of 12-minute miles, then 11, and then 10:30. Was nervous to push it too much because I knew some hills were coming up around mile 8 and I wanted to not burn out before then.
I didn’t bring my water belt with me, and I normally have that on long runs. I have never been able to do the whole “water stop” thing without walking, as I am clumsy and end up with water all over my face. However, there were water stops every 2 miles and remember, I did not want to take walk breaks, and certainly not 6 of them. So I decided, as this is really “practice” for the marathon in December, that I would at least attempt to get water and drink it without walking. The first stop was awful – ended up with way more water on my face than in my mouth, and I almost choked trying to drink it, and I barely even got a sip down my throat. So not worth it. By the last water stop, I was actually able to enjoy almost the entire cup of water! Here’s what I learned: bend the top of the cup so it almost makes a little pitcher to pour in my mouth. Tilt head up to pour water in mouth. Straighten head back to look forward, and then swallow. No choking, less spilling. Viola!
Around mile 6.5 I was starting to feel the “wow, I’m only halfway through” blues. Thought about breaking out the iPod (was waiting to push play until I actually felt like I needed it), but then this lady ran by me and said, “Oh I love your shirt! What does it say on the front?” I told her (said the same thing) and then she kept going. A couple of minutes she slowed down and I passed her.
“You can do it,” I said. “We’re halfway there!” We started chatting then, and I was surprised at how well I was able to hold a conversation and keep running. Funny thing was, the conversation quickly turned into extremely personal things, and here we are, two strangers on the race course, sharing all kinds of tidbits about our lives. And then we hit a hill, she powered up it more quickly than I did, and she was gone. Glanced at my watch and it was almost 9 miles. This conversation had gotten me through 2.5 miles – excellent!
Put the headphones in then and enjoyed the run. Enjoyed the beat, enjoyed the weather, enjoyed the fact that the course wasn’t nearly as hilly as I’d expected. I thought about Kevin running his 5K this morning and about running the bridge run with Jenny last year – I was wishing she was there with me. I met a creepy guy on the course that told me something about my butt not only looking fast but being fast (he was right; I ran fast then to get away from him!)
And then, it was mile 11. Two miles left. It was almost over. I was both happy and sad – happy, because at this point, I knew I would succeed – and with no walking. And sad, because it was almost over. And I didn’t want it to be over. I kept running and got super excited when I recognized the start line, sometime around mile 12.8. I was just here! And that meant we were almost done. I saw the guy with the dog that looked like Breanna. I realized I was different than the last time I saw him – I was not a half-marathoner then.
10:13 a.m. (ish) – The finish line was amazing – was at home plate at the baseball stadium. We entered to a stadium filled with seats of people cheering us on. What a rush! I kept my pace until mile 13, and then I looked ahead, saw all these people trotting in, and realized I could beat them! So I powered forward and sprinted to the finish. And then it was done! I got a finisher’s medal, something I didn’t expect and it felt great to get.
I kept walking until I saw Jeff and Chris, who were waiting for me with water and a recovery drink and a camera. I found out later that Mom and Dad were standing at third base cheering me in, and Dad kept talking all day about what a strong finish I had. It felt so good to hear that – I kept wanting to say, “Tell me again!” Jessica and Nikki and Nikki’s dog were there too and they had seen me come in as well.
All this writing – but I can honestly say I don’t have words to describe this. What an experience.
Looking back – I can’t say anything negative about the race. It was well organized. It wasn’t too hilly. The water stops were well done. It was easier than I expected. It was over with more quickly than I thought.
If I can run a half-marathon, I can run a marathon. If I can run a marathon, I can do anything.
This post is already super-long but I’ll end with saying that Jessica, Chris, Jeff, Mom and Dad and I had a celebration breakfast at Staxs after – and I wore my medal and my race number and my sweat with pride. Then I went back to Josie’s for a quick shower, headed up to Jeff’s mom’s cabin and put on my next race gear … then ran a 5K in Brevard. Went way better than I expected after a half-marathon morning! Did the 5K in 28:54, and I ran as a “Rebel Rainbow Brite” – a costume I had worn in Athens earlier that week and enjoyed. Converted the going-out clothes to workout clothes, and there we have it.
Followed that up with drinks and dinner with Jessica, Josh, Chris and Jeff. Crashed out early, slept in late, ate a big breakfast and then went for a day hike on Sunday. Cross training!
This weekend rocked. I think I will enjoy it a lot in my mind …