Alternate Title 2: Good God, That Sucked. When Can I Do It Again?
Well, my first half marathon is done! I have to say that physically it met my expectations in that I managed to accurately predict the general time it would start sucking and becoming more painful and less fun. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the mental aspect of it, however. Preparing yourself for the physical pain/discomfort doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the brain melt that comes along for the ride. Things got pretty dicey around Mile 11, and I know I wouldn’t have survived had M not been there. Honest to God. But more about that below…
Our day began at 5:30am after a good night’s sleep and a hearty spaghetti dinner at home the night before. I showered, because I'm one of those weird people that HAVE to shower every morning or else I don't feel normal. M and I had a bit of breakfast and coffee and started getting dressed for the race. M had secured matching shirts for us to wear and they were awesome. Perfect color, fit, feel, size, everything! We double-checked our packs, grabbed our chilled water bottles and head out the door about 6:40 or so. Luckily, the event site is a mere 5 minute drive from my house--yay for in-town races--and we sat in traffic for only 5 minutes before we got in to park. It was a fairly chilly morning (upper 40s at that point) so we walked around a bit trying to stay warm, hit the potty and chatted with a couple of my other running buddies a bit until it got close to gun time. All morning we debated whether or not to take our jackets on the run. We knew we’d need to lose them eventually, but it was so chilly at the start we weren’t sure how quickly we’d get to the ditch point. Luckily, as the sun started peeking out over the trees, it started warming up pretty quickly and we knew we’d be fine without them. We ditched our jackets a few minutes before the start and headed toward the pack. There were supposedly about 1,100 people running--that's all three races combined (5k, 10k, half), with somewhere around 700 running the half. We situated ourselves a little behind the 2:30 pacer, since that was our unofficial goal time. They started the race right on time, I think, and that was it! We were on our way!!
The beginning of the race was full of the usual optimism, joviality, and silliness that you feel when your race adrenaline is pumping, nothing hurts and you have all the confidence in the world. We spent the first 3 miles entertaining ourselves with "Half Marathon Bingo," and listing all the different categories we’d put on our bingo cards (getting smoked by a pregnant lady, getting smoked by a little kid, getting smoked by an old dude, guy in super short shorts with a boner, over-zealous runner throwing water on himself at an aid station, barefoot runner, etc.). We kept a pretty steady pace for those first 3 miles or so, according to M’s Garmin, and kept the 2:30 pacer close. About mile 3 or so, I was feeling a little rubbing on my arches so I had to pull over to adjust my sock a bit. Hit the road again and felt alright (or at least managed to ignore any foot pain for the next 3-4 miles.
We finally hit the halfway point, which was simultaneously encouraging and DIScouraging, if that's even possible. On one hand, I was all "YAY! We're halfway done!" and the other hand I was "WTF? We're only halfway done???" The 2:30 pace group was way ahead of us at this point, so that was discouraging and my feet hurt royally so I was getting pretty bummed. But M was very encouraging and kept me going when I felt like I couldn't continue. I was getting pretty quiet and surly at this point—our bingo game had lost its appeal and I found it hard to think about anything other than simply putting one foot in front of the other—so there wasn't a lot of talking. We popped some energy chews around mile 8 and that helped a bit. When we FINALLY reached the 10 mile sign, I realized I was officially running longer than I ever had before! Hurrah! I tried not to focus on the fact that I STILL had to run a 5k before I was finished and instead take it one step at a time.
At this point my legs and feet were dying and resisting every step and I was mentally beaten to a pulp. It didn’t help that the last 3 miles of the course was a portion we'd already done (with a few decent inclines thrown in, of course) which made it even MORE tedious. Oh and the 2:30 pacers were LONG gone, so I knew we probably weren't going to come close to our goal time, and M had stopped giving me Garmin updates, so I thought that definitely was the case, which made me even MORE bummed. Anyway, my legs were tired so we did take a couple of walk breaks those last 3 miles. Just about the time I thought I couldn’t possibly run any more, we hit the last mile marker and I could hear the finish line, so that kept me going. There were a few times before that I was pretty close to bursting into tears because I just wanted it OVER WITH—it was definitely mind over matter at that point. We turned into the stadium and had only 3/4 of the track left to run before the finish line. I managed to get a burst of speed (adrenaline for the win!) and we finished strong, hand in hand, as they read our names over the loud speaker! YAY!!!! It's FINALLY OVER, and what a glorious feeling. My first half marathon complete!
M stopped her Garmin at 13.1 miles, which was before the official finish line (we probably cut some distance off the course by switching running the inside of the road vs the outside and running the tangents), and it gave us a 2:28 time, which shocked me. The official finish time was 2:31:58 (okay, essentially 2:32), so quite a difference. But I'm going with the Garmin and taking the 2:28 time, which means we hit our goal! (Or close enough, right?)
My other running buddies were waiting at the finish line for us so we chatted with them a bit, got our medals (hooray for race bling!), grabbed some snacks (cold milk FTW!), and I finally took off my shoes because my feet were killing me. Yeah, turns out I had 2.5 inch blisters on the arches of both feet, which would explain why those last 3 miles sucked so much. We hung out just a bit longer, got our official time print outs and headed (hobbled) home.
Overall, and not having any other half marathon experience to compare it to, I’d say the day was a success. Yes, it was not without pain and discomfort (serious discomfort), but there was not one single moment when I regretted running that race. Even that brutal last 5k, when the pain was the greatest and my mental fortitude was its lowest, I STILL knew I’d do it again someday. Over the roar of the pain receptors firing away and warning beeps sounding their alarms in my brain, I could still hear that little voice saying “Oh, come on. You know you’re going to do this again in a few months, right?” And I know for a fact I couldn’t have pushed through without M by my side. She was the perfect running partner—encouraging at the right times, tough at the right times, quiet at the right times. Without her there I would’ve walked longer and more often and I don’t know that I would’ve had the guts to pull myself through those last few miles. Even though she didn’t necessarily say anything that spurred me along, just having her here made me want to push MYSELF. I can’t thank her enough for being willing to fly down here and run with me!
So yeah, I might already be thinking about when my next half will be. I’d like to see if I can get to the point where I don’t hate those last three miles. I think I would’ve done okay THIS race had it not been for those blisters, so you’d better believe my next race investment will be better socks.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a 13.1 sticker I need to affix to my car.