(Fair warning, this is a long one!)
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that yesterday I finished my first Half Marathon!
I want to say first that I’m really proud of this accomplishment, regardless of my time or performance. Considering that Labor Day weekend last year I could barely run the intervals for the first week of Couch to 5k, it’s hard to believe that less than a year later I’d be running 13.1 miles!
That being said, I have to say that my experience yesterday was a little rough, so say the least.
Let’s start with sleep. I had read that it’s best to wake up at least 3 hours before the gun time for 2 reasons: 1) your natural circadian rhythm means you won’t be at your peak performance levels until 3 hours after waking, and 2) nutrition is more important than sleep on race morning, and you should eat 3 hours before to allow time for proper digestion.
My alarm was set for 4:30am, but I woke up at 2:30 to pee (I was hydrating like crazy all day Saturday because of the hot temps predicted), and well, my mind wouldn’t turn off. I laid in bed for the next 2 hours, unable to fall back asleep, and finally got up around 4:15 because I realized it was a lost cause. I had slow digesting carbs for breakfast (Ezekiel Toast with PB), and got in 20 oz of water before getting dressed and heading out to the race.
I got to the race at about 7am, and the gun time wasn’t until 7:45, so I took the opportunity to get in one last pee stop before the start. I did wait in line for the porta potties about 20 minutes or so, but it wasn’t that bad. At this point, the weather was feeling really nice. Low 70s, cool breeze, and the air didn’t feel too heavy. That changed pretty quickly.
I felt really good for about the first 6 miles of the race…looking back, this 6 mile stretch was mostly in the shade, and I think that made the world of difference. At about mile 6, there was a small hill, so I took the opportunity to walk up that small stretch while taking my energy chews. I started running again at the top of the hill, and managed to keep running through mile 8. This course is a “modified figure 8” which essentially means that you run portions of the course multiple times. At mile 8, we actually ran past the finish line, which is where my husband, MIL, my Dad, and his fiancé were all standing, cheering me on. I actually got teary when I saw them because I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat at this point, and was questioning if I was going to make it. My amazing friend Beccah jumped in with me at this point to run the last 5 with me, and thank god she did because I’m not sure I would have finished without her. The last 5 miles of this course were in direct sun, by open stretches of field with absolutely no cloud cover or shade. At this point, it was in the 80s, and I was already so overheated that the direct sun made it almost unbearable. We ran until about mile 9, when I told her I need to stop for another walk break. She was super supportive, and offered to set her watch so we could run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. I took her up on this offer. My legs were feeling so heavy, my lungs felt like they couldn’t get enough air, and my heart felt like it was going to explode. I wore my HR monitor, and my heart was around 179 BPM for most of the race…my training runs had my BPM between 155-163! I couldn’t drink enough water to make my thirst go away, and every time we stopped to walk, I felt a little dizzy and light headed. Beccah was my personal cheerleader for the remainder of the race, encouraging me to keep going when I really wanted to stop. About 1.5 miles from the finish line, I got determined. I wanted to finish the race strong, and I told Beccah we wouldn’t be taking any more walk breaks. She cheered me on and told me I was doing awesome and how proud she was of me, and told me that I could do this, and I knew I could.
Then, about a mile from the finish line, course officials came out and told us we HAD to walk in the last mile. (WHAT!?!?) The heat was so bad, that people were passing out all over the course, and they ran out of ambulances and medical personal to treat to affected runners. They asked us to walk to minimize our chance of heat-related illness. I was really bummed…but I obliged….for about a 1/3 of a mile anyways, until the officials were out of sight. I had been doing walking intervals throughout the last 5 miles, I knew I could push myself safely to run the last leg of that race, and so I did. I ran the last leg into the finish line, and was so very thankful for my Dad who handed me a bottle of water right before I crossed the line.
My final time was 2:46:50, which I have to say I was a little disappointed in, because my training runs had me finishing in 2:30 or so. That being said, I’ve been training in 40 and 50 degree temperatures up until this point, so obviously I wasn’t prepared to run in that kind of heat. The race course was actually scary at times, there were people passed out all over the course, and the background was constantly filled with loud ambulance sirens or flashing emergency vehicles racing through to get to another fallen runner. This kind of heat isn’t normal around here during this time of year…in fact, the heat wave broke with some severe thunderstorms last night and the highs today and tomorrow will be in the low 70s…go figure.
The setting for this race was absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous historical houses, large stretching farm land and fields, cute neighborhoods. But unfortunately all that sprawling farm land meant that the majority of the race was in direct sunlight, which was not a good thing when the temps were in the 80s. They had volunteers with super soaker water guns every so often, that sprayed you as you ran by to help cool you off, and had water and Gatorade stations every 2 miles or so. There was a guy that sat out in his front yard the whole race with his garden hose to spray down runners who wanted to cool down…the course looped by his yard 3 times, and I took advantage every single time. At every water station, I took 2 cups…one to drink, one to pour down my neck. Unfortunately I got some water in my shoe pretty early on, and I developed a painful blister under my big toe on my right foot by about mile 5. My runkeeper app, which I had started when I crossed the start line, “skipped” and told me I was ½ mile further than I really was, for the WHOLE FREAKIN RACE. This is not the first time this has happened to me with runkeeper, and I was really frustrated because each update from the very beginning of the race was wrong. My mileage, my pace, EVERYTHING. I think it might be time to invest in a Garmin at this point, because that really threw me off. Another mistake I made was not wearing my hydration belt; I had been training with it, but figured there would be enough water stations that I wouldn’t need to carry my own. I could have used every bit of water I could get my hands on, and by mile 9 they were running out of cups so they were only giving runners 1 cup each and asking you to stop to refill once you finished the first cup (I didn’t want to “stand still” to do this, so this didn’t happen for me!)
All of this being said, I’m still going to do this again. I had actually already signed up for my 2nd half before even running my first, the Providence Rock N’ Roll half on my birthday, September 29th. My awesome pal Liz got me to sign up for this one, so hopefully the weather will be better and training through the summer will help get my lungs used to the higher temperatures just in case. I am not one of those people who loves running while I’m doing it. I’ve never gotten the runners high that people talk about. But I’m pretty damn proud of myself once is over, to tell people what I’ve accomplished. Call it what you will, but I think I like to run because I like the feeling of accomplishment when I’m done. I don’t love every second of it, but I feel like I’m proving something when I’ve done it, so I’ll keep on doing it. Today I’m sore and I’m walking like an old lady, but I survived, and now I guess I’ll have a time to beat for my next race!