My first half was not quite what I expected it to be. Maybe I was a bit too confident that I would be "okay" doing it...that it would hurt but I would get through it. Well, before we go too far, let me just say that I finished. Yes, I FINISHED MY FIRST HALF MARATHON!
The morning started very early. I was up by 4:30 and preparing. I wanted to get up about 4:45 but I was awake already so I got up. Let the dogs out and ate my prerace meal of chicken and sweet potato so it would have a chance to be digested before the half started. Tim (yes, Tim was now able to come!) and I got on the road at 5:30 and pick up my good friend Kristin on the way. I had all my supplies for during the race (ultima replenisher and stinger fruit gels) and my postrace meal of squash soup and chicken. I was prepared for colder weather but that turned out not to be necessary as it was in the 60's by the time the race started.
We drove the hour plus to the reservoir that the race was at and waited. We got there just as the marathon was starting so I had about an hour to wait. We walked around a bit. I removed my sweats and got my water bottle and such ready. At the start line, we waited. The race actually started about 15 or 20 minutes late but soon enough we were off. The start was a little dicey as it was through a patch of grass that they had attempted to cover with gravel but it still had a lot of ruts. The crowds of people started and stopped a few times but we eventually reached the road.
I started out pretty well. There were some hills in the first few miles but they actually did not bother me. I stuck to my 0.9 mile run and 0.1 mile walk. I felt good. I was slow but I felt good and I ran when I needed to do so.
We continued down this dirt road for about three miles or so. Then we hit the asphalt for a bit over a mile. The asphalt didn't bother me. I just kept to my 0.9 mile run and 0.1 mile walk. I hydrated. I used the stingers. For the first four plus miles, I felt really good. About the five mile mark, I started to think that I wasn't going to make it. My mind started to tell me that I couldn't do it. People continued to pass me. It was about this time that the fastest finishers were making their way back. Maybe it had a bit to do with my mood but I kept moving. I knew that I could make it to the turnaround. I knew I had to make it to the turnaround. After the asphalt, we were back to the dirt roads. As I continued towards the turnaround, I started to meet the middle of the pack coming back...but I really wasn't that far behind. I really felt like I was going to make, maybe even surpass, the 3:30 finishing time I had hoped for. I know it is slow but it was my target.
I made it to the turnaround and refilled my water bottle. I kept running. There were plenty of walkers and walk/run participants that I passed as they approached the halfway mark. I kept running. It was about eight miles that my calves started to scream. I stopped and stretched for a bit. It helped. At the aid station at mile 9, I put another pack of ultima replenisher in my bottle and topped off the water. There was a small hill after mile 9. It was fine. Nothing I couldn't handle...or so I thought. At about mile 9.5, I hit a wall. I wish I could say it was a literal wall because that is how I felt. My inner thighs started to cramp, which is something I never experienced in training. I so wanted to finish but felt like I couldn't go another foot much less over 3 more miles. I stopped in my tracks. So many runners (by this time the marathoners were coming in on the same course) offered support, asked if I was okay, asked if I needed help, told me that it was okay to walk, etc. I felt so much support but all I could do was stay there bent over, crying. I couldn't even to an upright stance. I tried to walk but couldn't.
A support van stopped and asked if I was okay. I just burst into more tears and said I just wanted to finish. They suggested that I eat a banana and gave me some Gu. They made sure I still had water. I said I just wanted to keep moving and I was able to do so. I kept moving...but I was in pain for sure. I texted Tim and Kristin. They both were so supportive. They knew how much I wanted to finish, how hard I had trained. I started to think that even if I did finish, I wouldn't deserve the bling. I wouldn't have accomplished what I wanted...needed...to accomplish. I had trained so hard but it was unraveling.
I moved through the section on the asphalt, running a bit, walking a lot more than I thought I would. I made the turn on the road that led back to the reservoir and made it to the last aid station at about mile 11. I even ran a bit before as there was a race photographer there. He even made me smile a bit. After that aid station, I hit that wall again. My inner thighs were in so much pain. Some spectators asked if I was okay. One offered to walk with me for awhile. All I could do was cry. We walked for a bit. Finally I felt like I could make it. After all, it was less than 2 miles. I tried to run but it just caused my toes to curl up and my legs to scream. I walked. I walked. I walked.
At about one mile left, the lady on the bike came by again and was very encouraging. It caused me to slow down, which in turn caused my inner thighs to tighten and was so painful. I didn't know how I was going to make it another mile....but I did. I used her bike to get me in an upright position. I started to walk again. I texted Tim and Kristin when I past the 12 mile mark. I warned them that I was walking so they knew it could still be awhile.
I hit the grass as the final stretch to the finish line I tried to run but it wasn't going to happen. I saw Tim and another friend, Heather, up ahead. I waved. They waved. I burst into tears when I was close enough to them to tell them how much I hurt. Tim walked with me a bit and said Kristin was ahead at the finish to take my photo. I decided I had to at least run across the finish, which I did. They announced my name on the PA. I got my bling. I hugged lots of people (yes, even sweaty, I hugged people...strangers even that had helped me on the route). I had finished. I had struggled but I had finished...and I deserved my bling. Photos were taken. I had some orange slices and more water. I stretched.
I finally had time to send photos and text other friends when we got into the car. One of my friends, who lives too far away, replied to my text where I indicated that I had struggled with the following words:
"I know the feeling well. I had the SAME thing happen during the marathon. For a long time, I felt kind of defeated about how much it hurt even though I had trained hard. But then I realized that it's an even greater accomplishment to truly struggle and STILL finish, then it is to just sail through it...."
While I have a great amount of respect for anyone that does sail through these events (and I know my friend does as well), these words just meant so much to me. I did struggle. I did have a hard time. BUT I FINISHED. I am so grateful for all the support I received today in so many ways. I appreciate everyone that:
- has commented on my blog
- has commented or like a FaceBook update
- gave me a high five on the race course
- encouraged me with a "you're doing great" as we passed on the race course
- offered aid (four women in particular on the course and I never got their names) as I struggled to keep moving
- emailed me encouragement
- let me vent about how stupid/silly I was to think I could do this
- reviewed my nutrition/fitness plans with me
- came to the race to see me run and finish
- gave me hugs at the end even though I was sweaty and salty
- AND so many other things that I am not thinking about right now.
I don't know what my official final time was. It was less than four hours but it was close to four hours. By the way, after extrapolating my Garmin information and allowing for some slow down, I do think I could have finished in just about 3 hours and 15 minutes, even better than I was estimating. Also, Tim is thinking that the inner thigh issue may have had a lot to do with the uneven and the off camber terrain of the back roads. It is true that most of my training has been a bike path, although a bit of it was done on dirt roads, but he is probably right about the issue. I am going to work on that the next time I train.
My bling that I worked so hard for: