I did it. I completed my first Half-Marathon. I’m also not dead and proud to say that I met every goal that I set for myself along the way. And honestly, I’m pretty shocked that I did meet every goal, but so grateful that I did.
This was not an easy route for me since I began this as a “non runner” or a “bad runner” or “slow runner” – part of me deep down thought that I had no business trying to hang with the runners. Training for this race was as much of a mental exercise as it was a physical one. I’ve learned that my mind really does hold me back, and it was no small thing to keep getting out there and doing what I needed to do to finish my training plan and make it to race day. The last month of training was especially hard for some reason (notice there were no blog posts in April). The combination of ramping up the time needed to complete the heavy volume weeks with both my job and Hubby’s job getting insanely busy wasn’t good. There were plenty of times over the last month where time was short and mom-guilt took over because long work ours + long training hours means less time with Ari and Cassi. I skipped and shortened more workouts than I want to admit as a result.
The week before the race, I began to get really nervous. Both my 9 and 10 mile long runs were not as good as I wanted them to be and if I maintained the pace of my 10 mile run I would definitely NOT meet my 2:30:00 goal for the half. The 9 mile run was also super boarder line. So I was feeling pretty down and discouraged. But at the same time, there were so many victories over the last week! The 10 mile run that I did was along the same loop that I use for bike training rides. Let that sink in – I RAN, with my FEET, the same route that used to be difficult for me to do on a BIKE. The other huge victory came during taper week: I ran a 5k. It was a 5k at a very easy pace and I even walked for 6 minutes because Hubby called me while I was out (yeah, I answered my cellphone while running…) The victory is that this last 5k “easy run” was FASTER than my previous race pace. It was a 6 – 10 minute improvement overall, and I wasn’t even pushing hard! Realizing that I already achieved the main goal of half-marathon training (get much better at 5k distances to support sprint triathlon goals) carried me through the rest of the week on a mostly night note.
Race day arrived and I was so nervous I couldn’t even finish my breakfast. The weather was throwing me for a loop because it was 39F when I left the house, but would be warming up to about 50F by 9am. I spent most of the morning agonizing over if I would be too cold in this or too hot in that. Finally I decided to wear clothes for 50F and add my gloves and ear warmers since they are easy to take off and keep in my FlipBelt (I’m not a disposable clothes kind of girl). I got to the race and went to check my watch as I was approaching the start line to realize I FORGOT MY GARMIN in the car. So a sprint back to the car and then back to the race was my warmup.
The race started and I stood in the coral by the 2:30:00 pacer. We chatted and I just tried to stop thinking about needed splits and all that. Once we were off, I was able to go at a much slower pace than usual for the first 0.75 miles. Since I was in such a large group, you sort of didn’t have much of a choice about your speed OR about stopping to walk. That ended up being a great thing for me since I usually get psyched-out about it being “hard” and start my walk breaks right away. By the time we got to mile 1, I was running with the 2:20:00 pacer! How did that happen?
By mile 3, I was feeling great! There was a large hill and I let gravity do it’s thing so I ran a sub 10 minute mile. Mile 4 was uphill then, but I still kept it under 11 minutes (my goal for the race). By this time, I was in front of the 2:20 pacer! This ended up working really well for me for the rest of the race, since he was running with a very large group of women and they were all chatting. I would stay in front and have room to complete my run/walk intervals, but I could still hear the chatting and know when they were catching up. My plan had me fueling at mile 5 and 10, so I took my first Huma Gel at 5 and was feeling good. Mile 7 was another hill and another sub 10 minute mile! I was feeling really good at this point and like maybe I would actually finish in less than 2:30:00.
At mile 9, I began to feel my energy dip but I forced myself to wait until mile 10 to take my last Gel. That was a mistake. I let my energy drop too low and didn’t recover for a mile and a half. All of my miles were under 11 minutes to this point, but mile 11 and 12 were closer to 11:15/mile. At the 10.5 mile point, the 2:20 pacer and his crowd passed me. I stuck with them for another mile before one of the biggest uphill sections made me lose them completely. Still, my goal was 2:30:00 and I knew that I was on track for that.
When I finally got in sight of the finish line, I had all the feels. I even began crying while still running (OMG that makes it impossible to breathe – not recommended). When I crossed the finish line, the race clock said 2:25 so I knew I made my goal! It felt impossible to do last week, but it was done! Hubby, Ari, and Casssi were all there waiting for me and it turned into a perfect moment.
So now, the important things: the best and worst cheering signs for the race. My favorite sign that day said “You are a badass.” Simple but it really lifted my spirits at the time. The worst said “Run like Trump pooped a jelly bean” WTF DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Overall the crowd was great and the people who got out to cheer for us really did a lot for my spirit when things felt tough. I have a whole new appreciation for race cheerleaders now.
If you’ve been thinking about a huge and scary goal for a while (like I had been), do yourself a favor and GO FOR IT. I don’t know if serious running will ever be in my future, but what I have learned about myself along this journey made every step worth it.