Well... I did it! I actually ran a half marathon- 13.1 miles- yesterday, November 24, 2013. My friend Amy and I trained over the last 6 weeks pretty hard for this, and we both did great. My results were actually a little better than I had hope for and I surpassed all of my goals, her results were outstanding (she placed 5th in our age group!), but I will get to that a little later in the post. Here is a picture of Amy and I before the race, enjoying the brisk 14 degree start temperature. It was the coldest morning in KC since 2005, according to the 10 pm news last night. The cold did not detour us, although we did have to go on a quick shopping trip for warmer clothes the day before, we had just trained too hard NOT to run. Honestly, not doing it never even crossed my mind.
And we're off! I'm the red blob in the front of the picture.
Amy is in the bright pink in the front of the picture, I'm number 941 behind her.
I'm not going to lie. It was really hard. Really, really hard. Looking back today at it, I am incredibly proud of myself. I'll give you a little recap of the event from my perspective.
The race started 15 minutes later than scheduled, which meant standing out in the cold 15 minutes longer than we had planned. Originally we sat in the warm van, with heated seats until about 7:50, then got in line out in the cold for the 8:00 race start time. At 8:00 it was announced that the race would not begin until 8:15 and by the time it started, our fingers and toes were freezing and really hurting.
When it finally came the start of the race went well. A few weeks ago Amy and I ran 10 miles together, where we quickly realized that we would not be running "together" during the race. Although I have increased my pace a lot since I started running 9 months ago, Amy is still much faster than I am. I kept up with her for the first 3 miles of our "practice race" but was exhausted and almost couldn't run the full 10 miles that day. Anyway, we knew that if we both wanted to reach our goals at the half marathon that we would not be running together. I lost Amy pretty quickly at the start of the race, but that was fine.
My main focus was to pace myself. When I race, I typically get an adrenaline rush right away and start to worry about people passing me, so I tried really hard just to focus on me and not other people. I had only run 10 miles in one setting going into this so I knew that I was going to have to work really hard to finish the full 13.1 miles. After a few miles into the race I was running miles at about a 8:30 to 8:45 pace. This is actually slightly faster than I had planned, so I worked really hard on my breathing so that I could try hard to keep this pace since it seemed like this was how fast my body wanted to run. The first 6 miles were really good. I think I was around the 8:40s when I hit the 10 K (6.3 mile) split.
Immediately after the 10 K split things got hard. Not only was the cold starting to get to me, but miles 6-8 were literally up a long, gradual hill. Not a small little droop and then a quick run back up like we encountered many times on the trails, but it was an actual road that had been closed for us. And it was a gradual up hill battle for almost a mile and a half. I fought with myself really really hard to not walk. I ended up having a 10 minute mile at this point. Disappointing, but hey, I got through it without walking, so I was actually okay with that.
Once I hit the top of "The Mountain" (I am lovingly calling that portion of the race) something incredible happened. I had the most powerful runners high I have ever had. I have experienced a "runners high" before, where I hit mile 6 or 7 and am like, "I could totally run another mile, this is easy." What I am talking about goes way beyond that. It was like somebody spiked my Gatorade. What I felt was like I was the fastest runner in the race, could pass anyone (and did!) and was as high as a kite on what I would imagine speed or meth or some other drug that absolutely has to be illegal would feel like. It was crazy! I passed every one in front of me: men, women, children, I was Super Woman. I actually ran my mile nine in 7 minutes and 11 seconds! This totally made up for my 10 minute mile from earlier. I was unstoppable... until the high wore off.
Things were starting to feel normal around 10-11, I was back on earth and running my normal pace. Then I hit mile 11. I knew I had never run this far before and I also started to think about how I only had a few miles to go. When I start to think about the end of any run, I start to check out mentally. It doesn't matter if I run 3 miles or 8 miles, the last mile is almost always that hardest because my mind knows I am getting close to the end. And my mind tells my body that it's almost done working and then all my body wants to do is stop. So for the last 2 miles I had a constant argument with myself convincing myself not to walk. I wouldn't even let myself stop at the last re hydration stop because I didn't want to walk to drink the water, afraid I wouldn't get going again. I thought about what I was going to order for breakfast, I thought about Christmas presents for the kids... I tried to occupy my mind as much as I could to get through the final mile without walking.
Well, as you know I made it across the finish line. I knew I didn't look good, strangers were cheering me on saying, "You're almost there!" and "Don't give up!". I could barely breathe, I was
cold frozen, and I could feel a series of small "snot cicles" that had formed on my nose. My lip was cracked and bleeding, my face was so frozen stiff that I literally- and I mean literally- could not get my face and mouth to form the sentences my brain told them to form until a good 2 minutes after the race when I had defrosted some. I immediately ran to my friend Amy, who had finished 15 minutes ahead of me (she is incredible!) who led me to water. The first cup of water I grabbed and tried to drink was frozen solid. I squeezed the cup and the water shattered. So I set it down and grabbed another one that was a slushy mix, much better under the circumstances.
The race was cold, I was hurting, but I did it!
Crossing the finish line!
With our medals. I ended up getting 22nd female in my age group (of 84 female finishers aged 30-34 ). I was overall the 141st female of 517 females in the race (all age groups) in the half marathon (there was a 5K and full marathon too that day but those participants aren't included in any of our race numbers). Of the 830 half marathon runners (both men and women) that finished the race, I placed 309th. My average pace was 9:01 and I finished in exactly 1 hour and 58 minutes.
Breakdown of the goals I had set for myself:
1. Don't Walk- and I didn't!
2. I wanted to finish in 2 hours, but had realistically thought it might be closer to 2:10-2:15. I actually finished in less than two hours by a full 2 minutes.
3. Run with an overall pace of 9:30-10:00 minutes per mile. My pace ended up being 9:01 per mile, so I blew that out of the water (ice actually!).
It really was a beautiful race. Other than "The Mountain" road the race was mostly on Sante Fe Trail which runs through the woods and city parks so it was nice.
So what's next? Not sure yet. It will include warmer weather. It will not be a full marathon, but other than that, I am open to whatever, and am definitely doing another race this spring.