So, it’s been almost three weeks since I ran my first half marathon and it’s time to reflect. Most importantly I have successfully avoided contracting Ebola after flying through Cleveland during the same time period as America’s most recent Ebola patient was traveling through. Also, I survived the half marathon. The night before the half I was pretty sure that I was going to die during the half because of an undetected heart problem I’ve had my entire life and didn’t know about until I tried to run 13.1 miles and that 13th mile was the trigger for a total heart failure. Luckily, that did not happen.
So back to the half wrap-up…I flew from Colorado to Chicago to Cleveland to Jamestown, NY to run the Lucy Town Half Marathon on October 12th with my mother-in-law. I had been training all summer and still felt completely unprepared. In early summer I had scoured the internet looking for half marathon training programs and found one where you ran three times a week gradually working up so my longest run was 10 miles the week before the half. I had absolutely no idea if I was capable of running 13.1 miles at one time but I decided to give it a try anyways (and the race registration and plane tickets were already purchased so there was really no going back). Training was tough. Especially when the weekly runs got longer and longer and it was tough to balance running with the rest of life and the days were starting to get shorter as I transitioned in to my longer runs so I wasn’t able to get up early and run before work so I found myself putting in long runs after a full day of work which never felt especially great. Along the way I also started have pretty severe pain in my right foot and started seeing a podiatrist. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and told not to run for several weeks so the inflammation and swelling could go down. That is not realistic when you are on a tight training schedule so I learned how to deal with the pain through ice, foam rollers, and pain relievers and to tell you the truth my foot felt best when I was running – it was after the run I limped around for a little while.
The Lucy Town Finisher Medal I was running for.
Back to the half wrap-up again…the morning of the half was FREEZING!! I had looked at the weather when I was packing for Pennsylvania and thought I had packed appropriately. One thing I had forgotten about the East Coast is how cold it can get on fall mornings. When I woke up I think it was right around 32 degrees and all I had in my suitcase was a short sleeve shirt and a running skirt. I knew once I started running I would be fine but waiting for the run to start was a bit chilly. Sometimes I forget how spoiled I am with my Colorado weather and this morning was a definite reminder of this. The run started promptly at 9:00 a.m. and within the first half mile we were running up a giant hill. I was feeling strong but was really worried about pacing myself so I didn’t get tired or sore later in the race. Throughout my training I had been doing a 4:1 run/walk plan. I would run for four minutes and do a quick one-minute recovery. It really helped my legs feel fresh on my longer runs and I had ever intention of doing this plan through the whole half. The problem is when you start and are running in a big pack of people you don’t want to take a walk break after just four minutes of running because you feel like a loser and like you are losing momentum. Lesson #1 – don’t worry about everyone else or looking like a loser. I ended up running the first three miles continuously ignoring my 4:1 plan and I really think it is why the last three miles sucked so much. After mile three I started with my original run/walk plan and was feeling really strong. I was stopping at every water station and alternated between water and Gatorade and was feeling great. The race was absolutely beautiful and weaved through Jamestown, Busti, and Lakewood, New York right along the shores of Lake Chautauqua. I could stare out at the lake and just look at all the cute houses along the way (my favorite running past time is checking out houses for sale along my routes). For the first nine miles I was really enjoying the race experience and keep thinking I totally have this, no problem. I wasn’t the fastest runner but I wasn’t the slowest and I was just enjoying myself. Then I hit mile 10 and everything started to suck! I thought I was going to die. Everything hurt. Places that had never hurt on a run before hurt. I was having back pain, my knees were killing me, and my foot felt like it was on fire. I had to push really hard to run for the entire four minutes before my one minute walking break. Sometimes I couldn’t make it the entire four minutes so my walking breaks became longer and longer. I was starting to feel defeated but I did know I was going to be able to finish even if I had to walk to final miles. I kept pushing through telling myself to run a little longer each interval and also telling myself the more I run the faster I will be done. When my iPhone told me there was just a half-mile to go I was ELATED and then I saw the hill standing between me and the finish line. When we were running down the hill at the beginning of the race it seemed great – looking back up at it after you’ve already run 12.75 miles was a completely different story. It seemed huge and never-ending. But, I powered through with a little more walking then running and I was to the home stretch. I could actually see the finish line and knew that I was going to finish the race. What a great feeling, I was really going to accomplish this goal I had been working months on but the end of the race was surprisingly anti-climatic. When I finished my first 5k I almost broke down in tears and was expecting the same with the half but all I really felt as I passed the finish line was relief. I had actually made it and didn’t die of an undetected heart problem.
Coming across the finish line!
I guess it’s important to add what a whirlwind of a weekend this was. I flew in on a Friday at 3:30 p.m. and flew out on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. I was in town for exactly 48 hours before heading back to Colorado. In that time frame I had great family time, great food and even got to go to my high school’s homecoming football game. But, through my whole race I was nervous about missing my flight or not being able to shower before my flight so I was so consumed with all those details I think it took a little away from the entire race experience. It was still great and I wouldn’t have changed anything but I think that is one of the reasons for the feelings (or lack of feelings) at the end of the race.
I am beyond proud of myself for finishing my half. I didn’t finish in the goal time I had in my head, but I finished and I am proud of myself for that. I also learned I am not a particularly serious competitor because I stopped along the way to pet some dogs and talk to the people handing out drinks. As I was finishing up my training in Colorado before heading to New York for the half I had mentioned to my husband that training for this half was really the first time I had planned out a training plan and achieved the goal I set for myself and it made me pretty proud of myself. Finally finishing the actual race just reiterated those feelings of pride and helped me believe I could pretty much do anything I set my mind to.
So many people have said that as soon as your finish your first half you are already planning for your second, I’m not quite there yet. I want to race again but have been thinking about dropping back to the 5k or 10k for a little while. But, there is something in the back of my head that makes me think a 5k isn’t a real distance anymore. But, then there is something else in my head that is telling me to start training to improve my time in the 5k and 10k and then do another half marathon in 6-12 months. Only time will tell I suppose. I do know I need to get something on the books so I have a goal to be working towards. Without having a race or a goal that I am working towards my motivation is complete lost.
Quick update on my foot – after finally taking the doctors advice and not running since the half and my foot still hurts like hell, so today it was back to running – it’s going to hurt one way or another so I mine as well make myself happy. Plus, I feel like an unstable nutcase when I’m not running regularly. I had no idea what running had meant to me until I wasn’t doing it for a couple of weeks. Running centered my and made everything in life seem so manageable. No matter how hard the day or what was going on in my life I could put on my shoes, turn up the music and just escape for a little while. By the time I got home it was like I was a different person – calm, cool, and collected and ready to face the next challenge of life.
For the month of November I am challenging myself to run at least one mile a day. Some days will be quick mile runs on the treadmill, while other days will be longer runs outside but it will give me a goal to work towards until I set my next big running goal.