Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race Report of Revelation: My first half marathon!!

A-Train hanging out before the race started.  He's way cuter than me.  I will let him title-photo this post.

Pre-race Prep
Friday night, I fell asleep really early while snuggling A-Train to bed.  I woke up completely without an alarm at 5:30AM and set about prepping for my race.  First on my list:  a trip to the grocery store for milk.  My training had included practicing nutrition before, during, and after runs and I was determined to keep this consistent.  I required coffee and cereal, and both required milk.

Along with my cell phone and some extra hair elastics (how much would it suck to break an elastic and be without during a long race?  So much.), I packed dried apricots and almonds into my sexy runner's waistpack...and realized we had no apricots.  I have been training with that as nutrition, alternating a high-carb apricot with a couple of high-protein almonds every mile starting 5 miles in.  This seems to ease the body rebellion I was previously experiencing at 7 miles, wherein it would feel like mind over matter to keep my legs turning over.

We got everyone into the car and stopped at the Co-op for dried apricots and a pit stop for me, as I hoped to avoid standing in line for porta-potties...

When I showed up at the starting line 45 minutes before my race, I was psyched.  I ran into a few friends who were nervous, but I was purely excited.  I knew I could finish this race - my psoas had been cooperative, and I had completed almost all my training plan's mileage for the previous three weeks.  Aside from the fact that I had just peed minutes before and would head to the porta-potties three more times before the start, I felt ready. 

It helped that all I had to do to set a personal record (PR) was finish.  My goal was not to walk - and particularly not to walk on or after the giant Winslow Hill (about 8.5 miles into the 13.1).  My goal for time?  A 10-minute mile, bringing me into the finish line at 2 hours and 11 minutes.  The Beast thought that was conservative, but I had barely made 10-minute miles on my 12-miler two weeks before.  13.1 felt doable.  I set the realistic goal of finishing without walking and what I felt was a safe-but-challenging time goal of finishing in 2:11:00 (10-minute miles).

And we're off!

I lined up alongside Bean's preschool teacher, with the understanding that I might run off pretty quickly.  I was pretty far back from the starting line, and felt like I was caged when the starting gun went off; I couldn't run without fearing I'd step on someone.  I was quickly on my own in the crown, having parted with Bean's teacher.

I couldn't help myself; I weaved in and out of the crowd and even up onto the sidewalk, trying not to be a jerk and trip anyone, but also trying to get out of the tight pack.  I checked my Garmin and was consistently running a 7:30 mile.  I chuckled as other runners' Garmins alerted them to too-fast paces.  We were all trying to get out of that pack!

As we passed the marker for mile 1, the crowd had thinned out a bit and two guys wearing tuxedo t-shirts were doing cartwheels and flips as they passed me.  I hoped they'd keep up the entertaining antics for awhile, since I didn't even have an iPod or a running buddy!

As we entered the campus of Indiana University, I was telling myself to slow the heck down!  A 7:30 mile was not sustainable for 13.1 miles!! 

As I passed the IU Memorial Union, I came upon a couple of friends who were running the race as unregistered bandits.  I know them to be experienced and fast runners, but they said they hadn't trained.  I said "maybe I should hang with you guys...I am going way way waaaaaay faster than I ought to be!"  One encouraged me to keep up the pace as long as I could.  To which I responded "and then walk?!?"  (As if that is the end of the world?  I don't know.)

We came out of IU's Arboretum (almost 3 miles into the race) and I saw my family.  It made me so ridiculously happy to see The Beast and my kids.  Bean ran toward me shouting "Mom!  Mom!!  Good job, Mom!"  I gave him an enthusiastic hello.  I had taken off my jacket and threw it his way.

I don't think The Beast was expecting me to be almost 3 miles in quite so soon, so he scrambled to take a picture as I ran away.

That's my teal butt and black shirt a bit in the distance to the left of the officer

In this first section of the race, I matched my 5K PR.  Perhaps this should have been clue #1 that I underestimate myself (and perhaps I should run another 5K and set a new PR?), but instead I was saying to myself "you'll never make it.  You'll never sustain this.  You have to slow down.  You must slow down."

After mile 4, there was chatter from those around me:  9 miles left.  Single digits. 

Right after mile 5, I realized I had to pee, but was also really thirsty and should probably drink up at the next aid station.  *sigh*  I had been debating and debating whether to take sports drinks or water, and I went with Powerade.  Never again.  Sports drink splashing all over your face as you run is much more bothersome than water.  And the dude whose leg ran right into my not-quite-empty cup when I aimed for the side of the road probably felt much the same way (sorry, fellow runner!). 

At this point, I also started in on my nutrition.  I knew that my body wouldn't be using the carbs for awhile, but it gave me a mental boost and I was once again running much faster than I felt I should be.  There were spectators holding a sign that said, "THE NEXT 2 MILES ARE DOWNHILL."  The runners chuckled and called them liars.  This course is notoriously hilly!  Having trained on most of the course, I knew they weren't too far off.  This was a good section of the course to relax into.  I tried to let the gravity of the downhills do the work for a little while - I was less than 4 miles from the dreaded Winslow Hill.  And I still had not seen my speed drop below 9:20/mile on my Garmin.

Shortly thereafter, I saw my family again.  They didn't see me at first, and I shouted "HELLO, YOU FELLOWS!"  (That's a reference to an old-school movie version of The Wind in the Willows that Bean and his Grandma D love.)  The Beast got a couple of great pictures as I shouted happily to Bean, who waved around a pom-pom and cheered me on.

"HELLO, YOU FELLOWS!"  (Can you see me there, next to the dude in the bright blue shirt, enjoying the blessed downhill?)
I love this picture.  I am grinning and laughing at Bean, and loving that he is cheering me on.
Shortly after this, we were on to one of my two favorite parts of the course.  It goes through old neighborhoods and feels more peaceful than other sections of the run because there is so much less traffic.  As we ran out of that section and through one with no trees (fine on this overcast day, but one I have hated on sunny Saturday long runs),  we ran by a speed-detecting sign in front of a school and  it displayed the pace of the runners since we were in the street and there was no traffic, thanks to the excellent police and volunteer work.  (We were clocked at 7 miles per hour, by the way.)

Shortly thereafter, as we went into my other favorite section - one with huge houses, rolling hills and (probably most importantly) loads of shade on a sunny day - I realized I was halfway done.  And if I kept up the same pace for the second half, I would finish in well under two hours.

I felt really good, but my self-talk went something like this:  "You haven't done Winslow Hill yet.  And you have never run Winslow Hill and then run 4 or 5 more miles.  You can't know where you stand until you finish Winslow Hill.  You are going too fast."
I don't have a clear recollection of the next 1.75 miles.  All I could think of was Winslow Hill.  I was psyching myself up and preparing the mantra I had used to run that formidable foe in my training runs: "The faster you run, the sooner you're over, the sooner you're done." 

I reminded myself that I had trained on the most difficult part of the hill - the pedestrian section was longer and steeper than the road, where I would run during the race.  And, to avoid clunking or screwing up my mental rhythm on the stair section of the sidewalk, I had trained running up the muddy hill next to them.  This would be easier than a training run. 

As we rounded a corner that brought us down a slight decline and brought Winslow Hill in sight, an older guy breezed by me.  "Are you kidding me?!?" he exclaimed, slowing down suddenly and dropping back behind me.  "This is the hardest part!" I shouted to him, chuckling.

And up we went.  With emphasis on each step, I repeated to myself "the faster you run, the sooner you're over, the sooner you're done."  Faster and louder in my head with every repetition:  "The faster you run, the sooner you're over, the sooner you're doneThe faster you run, the sooner you're over, the sooner you're done."  During my more difficult training runs (like the one where I ran that hill beyond 11 miles in), I had started chanting to myself out loud; I had grunted; I had shouted; I had growled.  I kept my head down and managed to only let a few grunts escape.  The focus was intense.

As we crested that first part, and could see that there was a second steep incline after a short downhill, the woman near me exclaimed "holy shit!"I checked my watch:  7:40 pace.  I had run up that hill at under an 8-minute mile.

Normally, cresting Winslow Hill signals the home stretch for me on my runs.  I was soon only about 1/4 mile from my house!  This was the most mentally-taxing portion of the run.  I was tired but, more so, I had never run this (boring) stretch of the course at the end of a run.  I had only run it fresh and full of restless thought.  Now I was so settled into some sort of laser focus, and I couldn't remember what lay ahead.

As I crossed an intersection I drive through almost every day, I did some quick calculations and realized I was 20 minutes ahead of my 10-minute mile goal.  And I had less than a 5K left.

Those last 3 miles were harsh.  There was no pack.  I kept passing and being passed by the same few people.  Some of them were walking when I'd catch up to them, and they'd always pass me right back.  I hadn't walked at all, so I found this discouraging.  I tried to change my self-talk:  "I haven't walked at all.  That was my goal.  Not speed.  I will run the entire race."

Finally, around 12 miles in, my self-talk bizarrely turned into a Devil-and-Angel fight.  The Devil said "this is the furthest you've ever run!  12 miles is your limit!  You can't do this!"  The Angel answered, "It's one more mile.  Today you ran a mile in 7-and-a-half minutes.  You can run one more mile!"And then I saw my family and the Devil and the Angel joined forces to give us this lovely face:
An even closer crop.  Hilarious.
Shouting about my Winslow Hill accomplishment to The Beast got me moving big time.  Half a block later, a group of guys was cheering on the runners and shouting "OH!  Someone's turned it on!  Finishing strong!"And I realized it was possible for me to finish in 1 hour and 50 minutes.  Are you kidding me?

This was an emotional realization.  18 months earlier I had given birth.  18 months earlier I had cried in pain every time I rolled over in bed.  The last time I was signed up and training for this race, I had become pregnant with Bean and so much pain, terror, change, growth, and accomplishment had followed.

And there I was...about to finish in a better time than I had dared aim for as a younger and childless woman.

When I saw the finish line, I promised myself I would get up the last hill and then give everything I had left

As I gritted my teeth and willed my legs to run faster, and faster, and faster still, the noise of the crowd picked up and people were cheering specifically for me as I charged through the chute.  I'm sure it was not a pretty face.  I could not possibly care less.

We have a picture of The Beast from his finish of this race, and he is making an intense, fierce face.  Let's hope I gave that much at the end. 

I don't yet have any pictures of me finishing this race because I blew my expected time so far out of the water that The Beast had not a chance to get to the finish to cheer me on and photograph my finish.

Post-Race Euphoria
I did it.  I ran a half marathon.  13.1 miles!  I have now completed one of my three goals for 2012!  And I did it in a very respectable 1 hour, 50 minutes, and 36 seconds (according to my Garmin).

To say I am satisfied is an understatement.

4.5 years ago (when this race was held in the fall), The Beast ran it.  4.5 years and two kids later, my time was less than 7 minutes over his  And this was as I told myself to slow down! 

Just how much have I underestimated myself all these years, since being the bullied kid who hyperventilated during the mile run in gym class?!?

There is a feeling I have had after giving birth to each of my babies (even after the scary experience with Bean) like I could do anything and nothing could stop me.  I grew a couple of people and did the hard labor of birthing them. 

I had that feeling about this half marathon, and I still feel that way, 24+ hours later.  Except this euphoria might be even better than birth because I don't have to try and nurse a newborn and I don't have a sense of foreboding over an expected shift in hormones or family dynamics. 

I am left wondering:  Just how tough am I?!  Now I can understand how athletes push themselves until they throw up or pass out.  Just where is my limit?

As for how my body feels about yesterday's race, my everything hurts.  I walked like a cowboy yesterday - my legs didn't seem to want to bend.  I went to bed, and woke up with sore shoulders, back, calves, and thighs.

My psoas is certainly rebelling.  Whatever, Pso-ass!  It was totally worth it!

Now I will be shifting my focus to meeting my goal of doing a pull-up.  I might try to run another half marathon in the fall, but only if I can figure out a way to fund it.  I have no idea what my goal should be for that, except to PR.  Apparently I sorely underestimate myself and what my pregnancy-hatingquirky-kidneyed body can do.
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