Independence Half Marathon recap: slow, steady, and a side of vomit

I’m fighting a bad case of the “shoulds” right now. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be celebrating my 6-year “runiversary”, and in my mind, I’m thinking: I should be faster by now. I should be able to run farther by now. I should not struggle as much as I do. I should’ve gotten a better time in the race. I should’ve held a bigger pace.

And, because a pity party is never complete without a double whammy: I shouldn’t feel bad that I don’t run as well as I want. I should just be thankful that I finished.

Nevermind that I hurt my knee and spent a third of the race vomiting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The morning of the Independence Half Marathon, I was remarkably calm. I am so accustomed to having nerves before a race, but I was really pleased that my nerves were under control. Not that I wasn’t nervous – I was! – but I didn’t have that awful pit-in-my-stomach feeling!

I had a light breakfast before the race, just a slice of toast. I was honestly unsure of how to eat before this race, since I haven’t really done morning runs in my training. I didn’t want to eat too much beforehand.

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My mom drove me, though luckily we did not have to go far to get to this race. It was only a five minute drive from my home. The race was a nice size – large enough to have good support, but small enough to still feel intimate.

At the start of the race, I purposely positioned myself in the back of the pack. I fell in with the 2:50 pace group… but, I’m sorry to say, this was my first mistake. Now don’t get me wrong – Bailey, the pacer, was very nice, and I enjoyed running alongside her. But I pushed myself for the first half of the race – I should’ve run with the 3:00 pace group and saved my strength for the last half of the race. I also changed my fueling strategy on the fly. Big big mistake!

I chatted with Bailey and the pace group, and I enjoyed that. It’s nice to get to know her, and honestly, Bailey, I think you and I could be friends. The pace group had a run/walk strategy. For most of my training, I’ve trained by running nonstop and only walking for aid stations, though. This had a huge mental effect on me.

I received several text messages in the first few miles of the race. Since my phone was in my armband, I didn’t stop to read the messages, but I knew they were from friends who were cheering me on. Even my sister, who is halfway around the world right now, sent me messages of support!

I held a great pace for the first 10k of the race – about 12:40/mile, with that pace group. But that was also pushing my limits. Halfway through the race, around mile 6.5, the increased pace plus the change in fueling/hydration really hit me. I began to struggle, and I fell behind the 2:50 pace group. SUPER frustrating.

indepHM4 indepHM5

That’s me, in the pink/purple jacket and shorts, center and left, running with Bailey the 2:50 pacer in the yellow shirt.

The funny thing is, as soon as I fell behind the pace group and began to focus only on my own pace (coming through my earbuds from my iphone), I also began to feel a little better. THIS was what I knew. This was how I had trained. Just me, focused on myself, cheering myself on. I wasn’t talking to anyone or getting distracted by other people or their paces.

I was very much aware that I had started too fast, and I was paying for it. I was angry with myself. I knew it was becoming more unlikely every second that I would reach my goal. I’d blown it, and that was totally on me.

At the same time, with the exhaustion setting in, I felt oddly accepting of my situation. I knew that I could only go as fast as my legs would move. If I couldn’t come in under 3:00, that was okay.

In fact, I wondered during this time if, maybe, I may just not be a sub-3:00 runner. I still wonder that. Maybe I’ll never finish a half in under 3:00. During the race, I could accept that.

I was taking water and gatorade from the aid stations. I’ve done this in my past half marathons without a problem. At mile 9, I walked through an aid station and drank a couple of glasses of water and gatorade, as I’d done at the other aid stations. Unfortunately, a few steps later, I realized that my body was not going to cooperate with this. I leaned over and threw up the water/gatorade, two or three times, until my stomach was empty. My first mid-run vomit – that’s gotta be some kind of milestone, right?

I kept moving. Of course, at this point, my pace was completely shot. My stomach was empty, but I was still periodically dry-heaving. I was dehydrated but I couldn’t keep anything down, including water. My total focus was on just moving forward, running when I could and walking when I couldn’t run.

Long runs like this bring out funny aches and pains. My left bicep felt sore, and my left butt-cheek was also feeling painful. My lower back was sore. My legs were exhausted. My feet hurt, but I wasn’t chafed.

About 13 miles into the race, with the finish line in sight, I saw my mother and my friend Theresa by the side of the road, cheering me on. That was a welcome sight and gave me enough push to keep running.

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I crossed the finish line, feeling much more exhausted than I’d hoped – but I crossed it! Mom and Theresa were waiting for me. I hugged them, but I saw a curb and sat myself down. My poor legs were begging for a break! Someone handed me a bottle of water, and I immediately took a couple of drinks to quench my dry mouth.

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After a few minutes, I decided that I felt good enough to stand again. However, once I stood, I immediately began to feel dizzy. I grabbed a nearby gate, to wait for the dizziness to pass. Unfortunately, I felt a telltale rumbling in my tummy, so I turned away from the gate… and threw up, again! Luckily I was too exhausted to feel embarrassed!!

I sat back down on the curb to wait for that feeling to pass. A really kind woman approached me and asked me if I would like her to go into Terra, the nearby health-food store, and get a bag of ice. I told her that yes, that would be nice, and she did. I don’t know who she is, but I hope she knows how much I appreciate her kindness!!

Mom and Theresa were watching me, and I was starting to feel well enough to feel a bit embarrassed. I was just sitting, and I felt bad that I wasn’t any more active for them! I really appreciated that they had come, but I didn’t feel good enough to express that!

After several minutes had passed, I tried standing again, and I felt MUCH better. My blood pressure had evened out a bit, so I wasn’t dizzy. I felt good enough to walk, albeit slowly, and to get a few more photos.

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We returned to the car, and Mom and I drove Theresa to her car. I insisted on getting out and giving Theresa a BIG hug before she left. I so appreciate that she came! She knows how important this race was to me, and it means a lot that she came out for it.

Mom brought me home, and I fell into a recliner. I was still quite dehydrated, and I hadn’t had any more to drink, for fear of throwing up again. At home, I sucked on some ice cubes, which seemed to rehydrate me at the right pace.

I was amazed by how tired my body was. There were several people I’d wanted to message, to tell the how I’d done in the race, but I was too tired to even lift my phone! I also was still waiting for my official race time.

I began shivering from the ice cubes, plus the chill of evaporating sweat. I took that as my cue to take a shower, followed by a nap. I didn’t eat much, just in case my stomach wasn’t ready for it.

I slept for several hours in the late morning/afternoon, and finally got my race time in the evening: 3:13:48.

I’m struggling to accept that time. It’s not what I hoped. I hurt my knee and I vomited/dry-heaved for an hour. There’s no way I could have performed at top capacity. But I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t feel good about that time. I wish I’d done better.

I don’t know yet what to do with this.

ready? Maybe…

T minus 3 days to my race.

I have been feeling oddly relaxed about it. It doesn’t even seem real. That’s a good thing, though – anything that decreases my anxiety is good. I suppose it helps that I’ve had oodles of work this week, and a big deadline. I haven’t had much space in my head to think about the race.


I ran on Tuesday, 3.7 miles, and had a really surprisingly strong pace. I planned to run on Wednesday, but a storm prevented that run. I decided maybe that’s a good thing, because I can focus on that strong 3.7 miles. I’m at a point where there’s absolutely nothing I can do to improve my race. My body is as strong as it will be, and it’s strong enough.

As long as I do not get injured again, I’m confident that I will finish the race, and I do not think that’s likely (knock on wood). My knee has plenty of range-of-motion to run. It still hurts if try to bend it beyond 45 degrees or so – an extreme bend, like if I was to sit on my heels – but I don’t plan to do that during the race, of course! I still have a funny feeling like I’ve got a knot in the top of my calf muscle, just below the knee, but I can’t get it out with the foam roller. In fact, my legs feel a bit tired when I’m resting. But that feeling goes away when I run.

Tonight, I drove my race route – something I have never before been able to do! I’ve trained on several parts of this race route before, so I’m familiar with these roads. It’s a beautiful area, very flat. It should be a fantastic race.

Now, as I am constantly reminding myself- I am ready. I am familiar with this race route. I know I am strong enough.

healing an injury and prepping for the race

Oh, my knee… the cause of so much frustration this week…

My knee is feeling a LOT better overall. It’s not totally healed – it still hurts (A LOT) when I bend it too far. In fact, I’m a little concerned about re-injuring it due to absent mindedness. I frequently forget about my inured knee and try to kneel or bend in some habitual way – I am quickly reminded of my injury! But I have sufficient range of motion for running, and I can mostly walk without a limp.

I ran twice last week… 

  
3.7 miles on Wednesday…
  
…and 5.1 miles on Saturday. 

I was cautious about running any more than that, though. Another injury would be catastrophic right now. Running was doable… but my knee/leg felt TIRED afterward. Thanks to my very generous friend Theresa, who took me to her gym, I was able to incorporate two or three sessions on a stationary bike – low impact, that felt good.

  
I ran 3.75 miles today, which went surprisingly well. The first mile or mile and a half was tough. My knee felt just a little bit achy, and I was frustrated. It was hard to get into the run. But the last couple miles were fantastic! At some point, my knee stopped aching, and I was able to just run. I slipped into that “zen zone”. Near the end of the run, it finally dawned on me that my knee had stopped aching.

Of course, after the run and shower, my knee felt a bit achy again. That’s okay, though, as long as my knee is okay with running. I finally feel like I’m getting better.

I’m pretty insanely nervous about my upcoming race, and not being able to run as much isn’t helping. When I’m not running as frequently, it feels like it’s more of a mental struggle to push myself to run. It’s one more challenge in the mental game. It’s strange, because I know that running twice a week is still a pretty good amount of running, and I should be feeling good about that.

Of course, with my injured knee, I’m running slower than I would like. That’s indirectly due to self preservation (I don’t want to push myself and gain another injury) and directly due to the injury (my knee feels good enough to run, but I can still feel a tiny bit of discomfort and just can’t push myself as much as I would like).

I know that, come race day, I will have to adjust my mental expectations. Pre-injury, I ran 8 or 10 miles at up to a 12:42 pace – that would be fast enough to do a half marathon in 2:46:29! Phenomenally mind blowing fast! But with my knee, I just do not expect that I will be able to do that. I’m focusing on 13:43, the benchmark I’ve held since I signed up for this race. 13:43 is the pace to finish in 3 hours. Under 3 hours is still an amazing pace, still a great PR, and, I’m afraid, still going to challenge me.

For now, I’m just focusing on this race. Ice my knee, rehab, and be ready for a great race… regardless of my pace or time.

injured but improving

The good news is, it’s better than it was.

The bad news is, it’s still not where I want it to be.

Saturday night was pretty rough. I was only comfortable with my right knee slightly bent. It hurt to fully extend my leg, and it REALLY hurt to bend my knee more than about 90 degrees. I could only rest when I was on my side, but even that wasn’t totally comfortable because I couldn’t easily move. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

I was exhausted on Sunday morning due to my lack of sleep. I could put weight on my leg, but I could only walk with a limp. It was difficult and frustrating to move.

On Sunday afternoon, I took an ibuprofen and went back to bed. Surprisingly, I slept hard and had a great 3-hour nap.

As I lay in bed that night, I was surprised to realize that I was laying on my back, comfortably, with my leg extended. That was my first clue that I was improving ever-so-slightly.

Today, I skipped my run. My knee feels better, but still not 100%. I can straighten my knee, and I can bend my knee farther, although there’s a point (around 45 degrees) where it still hurts quite a bit. I’ll take another day to rest, but on Wednesday I might consider a short run.

Truthfully, I am reasonably confident that I’ll be in good shape by the time my race rolls around. I’m just overwhelmed with race anxieties! :) Even though I know my body will be in good shape, and even though I’m confident that I can finish 13.1 miles, I want to improve on my previous times. I want to finish 13.1 miles in less than 3 hours. I want to feel strong the entire time. I’m not confident about that!

I keep trying to squeeze in a really good long (12 miles or so) run before my race, and I keep getting sidelined by one thing or another – weather, injuries, you name it. I’m (still) extremely tempted to run that long distance next weekend, but I’m also very much aware that I have a highly increased risk of (re-)injury, and a more severe injury could prevent me from running the race entirely. It’s a huge risk. I don’t like it, but I don’t know if I have a choice!

injuries

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Today, I planned to go for a 12-mile run, my last long run before my big race. Didn’t quite work out that way! After about 3.5 miles, I fell pretty hard, and managed to tweak my right knee.

I’m still not exactly sure what I did. I wasn’t surprised when my knee hurt a little bit after my run. I WAS surprised when it didn’t stop hurting. I was honestly expecting to bounce back up, dust myself off, and resume my run. Instead, I lay on the ground holding my knee and figuring out what I was going to do.

 

my sunglasses didn’t survive the fall. i would be upset, but i never pay more than $1 or $2 for sunglasses and i’ve had these for two years. time for a new pair!

About this time, I found myself surrounded by three individuals, one woman and two men. They were extremely concerned.  I figured out that they had been driving by, saw me laying on the ground, and stopped to see if I was okay. I never did get their names, but I definitely want to thank them for stopping. It’s nice to see a bit of kindness in the world.

The pain had let up significantly, and my knee wasn’t swelling. My knee was stiff, but it was bearable. I seriously, seriously considered resuming my run, or at least trying. 3.5 miles is such a short distance! And I’m feeling so unprepared for my upcoming race!

 

sitting in the grass, pondering the severity of my knee injury

Reluctantly, I decided to quit. If my knee was really injured, I needed to focus on getting it ready to run again before the race. I knew I needed an ice pack. So I called my mother and asked her to come get me.

 

icing my knee

Did I mention I was reluctant? The weather was great today. And I really, really want to prove to myself that I can run long before the race.

As far as injuries go, I do think I lucked out. My knee is now very stiff and tender, and it hurts to bend it, but overall I think it isn’t too bad. There’s almost no swelling or bruising. It probably won’t take long to heal, and truth be told, I feel bad complaining about it. I don’t think it’s wise to run on it right now, but at the same time I feel like it barely qualifies as an injury.

With the race only four weeks away, my anxiety is really starting to build. Why am I doing this again?!?!

when it feels good to be bad

I haven’t run in a few days. Since last Wednesday, to be precise.

I know that’s a little surprising, given that I have just over one month before I run the Independence Half Marathon, and in general my running was going really well. When I started my period last week (two weeks late!), though, I decided it was a good excuse to take a few days off. I was surprised by how mentally relieved I felt. Unintentionally, I’ve reminded myself that I need to take an occasional break mentally, as well as physically.

This break coincided nicely with a slight mileage taper. I ran a 10 miles on April 12 and 19, and about 25 miles each week. I was already planning to cut back on my April 26 long run. I had a couple of non-running events planned for that weekend. Perhaps more importantly, I figured that I want to run 12 miles on April 2 (this weekend). Rather than push myself longer every weekend (and risk injury!), I planned to cut back last weekend.

That 12-mile run will be my longest run before the race. For most of the month of April, I will be tapering up to the big race. I’ll continue running consistently, but I’ll be limiting my long runs to 6 or 8 miles.

And if this 12 mile run goes well… and if the race goes well… who knows? I may sign up for a full marathon soon.

Leprechaun Lane 5k, 10 mile runs

On March 5, I ran the Leprechaun Lane 5k with my best friend, Theresa.

  
It was a small race, but awesome. My legs were really working that day. I ran faster than Theresa in this race, which made me feel a little bad. Theresa has been running much longer than I, and she’s had a lot of coaching. She’s an amazing runner, and I never imagined I would ever run faster than her. But she assured me that she hasn’t been running much in her recent training (she’s spent more time on the bike lately), and she didn’t expect a great time for this race.
  
Since she was just a little bit behind me, Theresa watched my style as compared to other runners. It wasn’t a terribly hilly race, but there were a few decent inclines. Theresa later told me that she was really impressed with my consistency on the hills – I kept running, while many of the people around me slowed to a walk. Funny, since I don’t much like hills and I don’t consider myself a great hill runner!

  
My chip time was 34:22.8, which is all kinds of PR for me!! Not just a race PR, but an all-time PR.

Outside of the races, I’m still putting in the miles most days every week. I’ve been running 12-13 miles over the course of 3-5 runs during the week, and 10 miles on my weekend long runs. It’s been HARD, but incredibly rewarding.  

 
I stop at a QuikTrip for a drink of water during my run, which has worked out surprisingly well. Even if I’ve forgotten my water bottle, they still let me get a drink without charging me. Now, I don’t drink a ton of water during my runs, but it’s still a really kind thing that they don’t have to do. I try to give them lots of business when I’m not running (buying gas, fountain drinks, candy) because of that.

  
These are the Musselman’s Honey Cinnamon applesauce squeezeable pouches. They’re fantastic. I can buy 4 pouches for about $2. It also doesn’t require any chewing, which is pretty critical during my runs!

I’m amazed that I’ve managed to do 10 miles at a 12:42 pace, and I feel good enough at the end that I could keep going. It’s exciting and nervewracking. I have just over a month to my half-marathon, and 12:42 is a great pace right now.

I’ve been reminded in the past couple of weeks how much I need running – not for health reasons, but to keep my sanity. I’ve found that running is one of the few times in my life when I can have privacy. I live with my parents, an arrangement that we all find beneficial, but I’m virtually never home alone. Running has given me the space to figure out plenty of situations in my life.

I won’t lie, I’ve shed plenty of tears during my runs. I wear sunglasses, and if I need to cry, I do. My eyes are hidden, and any sobs are pretty well concealed by my heavy breathing, so I’m not concerned about my neighbors seeing anything.

I have a 5k in mid-April, then the half-marathon on May 1. Exciting!!!

Weekend Warriors and Wipeouts

When I began to really take running seriously, I swore to myself that I would never become a “weekend warrior” – an individual who runs very little during the week, then runs several miles on the weekend. I’d read that this training pattern predisposes you to injuries and doesn’t much help you build strength for distance running. For the most part, I’ve kept that promise, and I have never run significantly more on the weekend than I have during the week. I’ve worked hard to ensure that I always ran at least as many weekday miles as weekend miles.

Until now!

I barely ran at all this week. I had an opportunity to spend time with a friend all week, something we’d been wanting to do for awhile, and as a result I didn’t run. Absolutely no complaints – I had a blast with my friend, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

When I got home this morning, the weather was GORGEOUS. 70 degrees, sunny, light wind. It was the kind of day that was just begging for a run. I decided today deserved a long run – something like eight and a half miles.

  
And it was wonderful. The warm weather felt amazing. I pounded the miles and couldn’t have been happier.

Until about 3.5 miles into my run, when I added another alliterative W to my run… wipeout! I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but when I was crossing a small side street (with no traffic, luckily), I fell. I landed on the pavement HARD, and I skinned my knees, my palms, and my left elbow.

I stood up, got out of the road, and dusted myself off. I’d lost some skin, but nothing was bleeding severely. My elbow was a little tender, but not bad. My legs still felt okay. Nothing was broken or sprained. I was three and a half miles from home, so I did what I think was the most logical thing – I finished my run!

After I got home and showered, I discovered that what I’d thought was dirt was actually a few pretty gnarly bruises. My knees and elbow have turned technicolor black and blue. I’m a little surprised because I don’t normally bruise easily, but it WAS a pretty hard fall.

  
  
For the most part, the damage seems superficial. The bruises and scrapes will heal. I got up and kept running, which feels pretty hardcore. And in the meantime, if anyone asks about the giant bruises on my elbow or knees, I can brag about running a bit. :)

8.66 miles with a fantastic pace

I had a GREAT run today.

I mean, REALLY GREAT.

I ran 8.66 miles. The weather was lovely – 50 degrees, partly cloudy, light breeze. I had a new pair of earbuds to try – similar to these, but made by Sentry.

I used a different brand of fuel today. The grocery store has a sale on Musselman’s Squeezables. The Honey Cinnamon flavor, incidentally, has 17g of carbs per packet, versus 13g in my usual brand.

I started slow, purposely not trying to pace myself at all. Since I ran quite a bit this week, I didn’t want to overdo it. I was also feeling super cautious because my throat felt a tiny big sore, and I was a little concerned that I was getting sick.  

 I ate (drank?) about a half-pack of fruit every mile. By the two-mile mark, I was feeling surprisingly good. The pain in my throat had disappeared, and overall I just felt strong.

In the third mile, the breeze picked up a bit, and I was running into it. Not easy, but I pushed through it. I ran through a shopping district and passed several people during the fourth mile, as well as several cars.

  
At the halfway point, I stopped at QuikTrip to refill my water bottle and dump some trash. I like this photo – the sweat and messiness is a great metaphor for how I felt. 

  
I pushed back toward my house, through the fifth  and sixth mile. By this point I was feeling it in my legs, but I also knew that my pace was remarkably strong, so I decided to push it and see how well I could finish.

The last couple of miles were hard. I was pushing myself, but at the same time my legs seemed to be moving in slow motion. Yet I knew I was having some success – my pace was STRONG, around 13:00. I told myself that the squeezable fruit was superhero juice in my legs. :) Must have worked!

Edit: can’t believe I forgot to mention this! During the 7th mile, a man driving a black Dodge Charger made a very conspicuous effort to honk at me and wave. I’m always glad when people honk at me (it’s fun to be noticed), but I don’t have the slightest idea who it was!

By the last half-mile, I was running on fumes. Knowing that I only had a half-mile left, then a quarter-mile, I dug in as much as I could and threw myself into running.

And it worked. The squeezable fruit, the beautiful weather, everything worked. I ran 8.66 miles in 1:49:44, with a pace of 12:40. Along with my 4 other runs this week, that also brings me to 23.9 miles for the week. I can’t help but imagine myself at the beginning of my running journey, or even before it. I never imagined that I would be able to run so far at that pace.

I still have some anxieties over my upcoming race. I am still unsure about many things in my running world. (8.66 miles is good, but can I run 13.1 at that pace?) But right now, I just feel good.