So I ran my first half marathon today. Overall, I actually enjoyed myself. By the time I got to the race, pinned my number, and checked my gear it was time to line up. I put myself in the 2:15 group and got ready. I was pleased to see my racing friend, James weaving his way through the crowd. We said hellos, compared goals, discussed nerves and wished each other luck. The gun went off and no one moved; that was fairly amusing. There were just so many people it took awhile to actually get a chance to start running. The pack finally thinned out and we were off, the first half mile or so was just getting out of the medical complex; we then turned left and there it was - a loooong, gradual hill. Okay..let's do this. I stayed focused on my music, by this time Blur was done and Eminem was in telling me I only had one shot, fair enough Em, thanks for the pep talk. Normally, my policy is to attack hills, however I worked this hill slowly and focused on my breathing. By mile 2 I was questioning my decision/ability to get this done. I was already tired, the shin splint was coming on, things were not going well. I shook my head to get out of there and chose a fixed point in the distance and kept moving forward. I also did the thing I always do - I thought of Brian and Dex, by the time I got to the halfway point they would be leaving to come see me. I told Brian he didn't have to come since it was an hour drive, but I know him, they would be there. Just then a breeze kicked up and I realized while I hadn't been paying attention two miles had passed, I was already at mile 4 and I felt strong, really strong.
I realized I was going to do this. At that point I had no doubts that I would be finishing this race. I tore open my first gel, chugged some water, and set in. I started thinking of myself as the "turtle" I think that's my running persona. I really just stay the course, keep the same speed, and focus. I was surrounded by a lot of fast run/then walk people; that style just doesn't work for me. I am a consistent and focused runner; I feel like it's just easier on my body. My mantra was attack the hills, turtle the flats, attack the hills, turtle the flats. It really worked well for me. By mile 6 we were still climbing hills and had lost about half the group to the 5K and 6 mile turnarounds. I was looking really hard for our turn around, I felt if I could go "round the horn" and start coming back it would give me a new wind. They had us turn down this side street for the loop around and that street felt 10 miles long, I was getting really frustrated, I was tired of hills, I was tired of being on the "outgoing side" and I was really starting to lose my perspective. I FINALLY reached the horn and I looked up and saw the giant clock and it read 1:07:54. That's when I realized I wasn't actually going as slow or terribly as it felt. As I had hoped, it completely energized me and I was ready to go.
The second piece of good news was that there were only a few minor hills on the way down, most of the ride would be downhill. I felt great and strong and was loving my music until about 8:30. I had it in my head that I just had to get to 11 and at that point it was a little 2 mile jog. Getting to that point was easier said than done, at 8:30 I felt the "shut down" creeping up. I hurried to the nearest water station, allowed myself a break to stop for just a minute, refilled my bottle, ate a gel, and gave myself a 30 second pep talk. I'd love to say I took off like a rocket, but I'd be lying. Miles 8 to 10 were rough. Really rough. But I kept going thanks to Lady Gaga, Foo Fighters, and Jay Z. Finally, I saw the magical number 11 looming in the distance at the top of a long downhill stretch no less. That's ALL I needed. I took a deep drink from my water bottle and I hit it. The last two miles were...well....easy? It was kind of crazy. I rolled over the finish line feeling really strong, relaxed, and happy. I realized that out of my 13 miles, there probably only about 3 or 4 mildly unpleasant ones. I was not expecting that. I felt awesome....and normal? Crazy.
After the race I saw James again, turns out he was pretty much right in front of me the whole time. HOW did I miss the barefoot runner with a mohawk? I think that speaks to the running tunnel more than anything. I honestly don't know if I could run races with a partner. I think I like being able to pick my own pace and do my own thing. My races are evidently very personal things for me; I think I prefer to keep them sort of individually sacred. Turns out, I'm a running misanthrope. James and I chatted for awhile then I went to retrieve my backpack. I was texting with Bri when I looked up and saw all my friends and Bri and the doodle. Dexie yelled "MOMMIE" and came running to me; best thing ever. Poor doodle did not enjoy his race as much as I did, he did strong on the second half but he was feeling pretty fussy and kind of yanked around. Bri and I decided to meet up for lunch on our side of town; Dexie perked up considerably on the drive and we had a nice chat.
After some lunch, I barely made it home and into the shower before passing out into a deep sleep with my little guy curled up under my chin. Naptime with the toddler is a sweet reward I don't often allow myself. I usually use that time to get "things" done; however along about mile 7 in the race, I made the firm decision that Dex and I were taking a nap together in mommy's bed. Yet another little mental reward to keep one foot in front of the other.
Now it's time to get off my very tired butt and go make some dinner. As I had hoped I am already thinking about the Hollywood half marathon in two weeks, and fully intend to research any other races I could squeeze in before it gets too hot. 13 miles is kind of the perfect distance; it's challenging, so you feel like you've accomplished something. However, it's not so challenging that you don't also enjoy yourself.
A girl could get used to this feeling......