Last Saturday, I ran the Longview Half Marathon. I have a lot of thoughts to unpack on this race. It’s pretty overwhelming, to be honest.
First thought: amazing!
I woke up that morning and (no surprise) my first thought was on how much I really wanted to go back to bed. It wasn’t nerves – I really didn’t have nerves before this race. Just me questioning my sanity. But I did wake up, start dressing for the race, and texted a few people.
My mother drove me to the race. We left in plenty of time, but when we got to the location, the traffic was TERRIBLE. There was only one entrance to the race parking lot, and it was not too well managed. It took us 20 minutes to get parked. I slipped on my tutu and immediately went to the line for the porta potties, with 30 minutes before the race started.
The line at the porta potties was long and moved slowly. Probably not enough porta potties for this size of race. I listened as they counted the time on the nearby speakers – ten minutes to the start of the race, five minutes… At this point, I was thankful for chip timing. There was NO WAY I was going to start that race without going to the bathroom first.
I was sitting in the porta potty when I heard the air horn to start the race. Not ideal, for sure, but what was I gonna do? I finished up and hurried to the starting chute.
It was NOT an ideal way to start a race. Most of the runners had already started, and assorted people around me were yelling “hurry! hurry!” I was running through the chute while simultaneously pulling my armband onto my bicep, arranging my tutu/belts/shorts around my waist, and carrying my DIY sleeves. I had been planning to wear my wings, but in the rush I had no time to secure the wings (or take the very cool pre-race photo I was hoping to take!).
My tutu, by the way, was a HIT! I made it with a strip of elastic and three rolls of tulle, all purchased from Wal-mart for a little under $7. In addition to being adorable (I got lots of compliments!), it made it far easier for my spectators to see me coming!
The first couple of miles were kind of a disaster. My pace was a wreck. Between all the people who had been yelling at me to hurry and the rush through the starting chute, I knew I was going way too fast. I was arranging my tutu and two belts WHILE I ran, which is certainly not ideal. It took a full couple of miles to get everything fixed in a way that was comfortable.
I also had to pull on my sleeves – a pinterest win! Before the race I’d bought a pair of knee-high socks at Dollar Tree and cut out the toes and heels. I pulled the socks onto my arms, with my thumbs hanging out of the “heels” and my fingers hanging out the “toes”. I wound up leaving them on throughout the race. I was able to roll the socks up and down according to how warm or cool I was. They also served well when I needed to wipe sweat off my forehead or snot off my nose. For $1, I wasn’t worried about damaging or losing them (although I wound up bringing them home and I’ll be able to use them for another race). I really loved these!
During the earliest part of the race, I discovered that in my rush through the starting chute, I didn’t start my Nike+ app correctly. I was able to get it started, eventually, but as a result I was unable to log the first quarter-mile or so of the race.
My nose continued running like a faucet throughout the race. Every half-mile or so, I had to blow snot rockets. (Don’t worry, I always checked behind me before I blew!)
At every mile marker, I took out one of my applesauce packets and took a hit. This proved to be a perfect level of hydration and fueling for the race. I don’t ever remember being thirsty or eager to get to an aid station.
There was a mini “race within the race” after mile 2. We were timed going up a (pretty significant) hill, and the fastest runners were awarded “king/queen of the mountain” medals. Of course, I didn’t even try to be the fastest on the hill. I just focused on holding my pace and effort steady.
Thankfully that was the only real hill on the race. The rest of the course was pretty flat.
Around mile 4, that injury in my left foot began to flare up. Every time my foot hit the ground, I would feel a jolt of pain in the ball of my foot. I focused on landing on the outside of that foot, which helped significantly.
I was feeling strong. I can’t explain this well, but I my legs felt good. I had plenty of energy left. I felt so good that, around mile 5, I attempted to send a text message to my mother to tell her my pace and when she could expect me to cross the finish line. Between the bouncing motions of running and my phone being inside an armband, that never happened. I just could not get the words typed! Luckily it wasn’t too important.
Most of the run is a blur, especially from miles 5-11 or so. The effect of the long run was starting to wear my body down, and my mind became almost completely focused on running. I really can’t overstate the amount of mental energy that I devoted to keeping my mind in a good place for running. Most of my thoughts were some variation of “You’re doing great. Just keep running. Focus on this mile, on the here-and-now. You can do this.” and so forth. Whenever a thought crept into my mind of stopping – either just slowing to a walk or quitting the race entirely – I had to push it out. Mile after mile, I didn’t think about anything else.
In the latter portion of the race, my foot was really starting to throb. I couldn’t flex my foot inside my shoe without feeling a shot of pain. I had to be even more careful to land on the outside of my foot and not put pressure on the ball of my foot. My mind was completely empty of thoughts not directly related to running.
I found myself crying out periodically from the pain in my foot. If I forgot to run on the outside of my foot, or if I flexed my foot within my shoe, I got that awful jolt of pain – and it HURT! But it didn’t stop me.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, to discover that I wasn’t feeling a significant amount of pain in my hips or back. In past races, that was a problem, but this time I felt nothing more than a bit of soreness.
I could also feel a bit of chafing at this point, inside my thighs and on the bottom of my arms. Luckily it was not severe enough to change my stride.
Past mile 11, and especially past mile 12, I let go as much as possible. I knew this was my chance to throw out whatever energy I could find. I was running as hard as I could but, amusingly, felt like I wasn’t moving much faster.
Shortly before the 13 mile marker, I was surprised to see my mother. I’d expected her to be at the finish line, but due to the logistics of the race parking, she had decided to intercept me at that point. It was a good surprise, though, and I pushed hard through that last bit.
As I approached the finish line, I could see my best friend, Theresa, waiting beside the chute. I was so glad to see her! She hadn’t been sure if she would be able to make it, which I understood, but I was so encouraged to see her. It means a lot that she was able to make it.
With the finish line in sight, I was approached by a cute young park ranger, who asked me if I was his friend who’d had a cold. I was thoroughly confused (how does this stranger know I had a cold?) but I said yes, and Park Ranger told me he was going to run to the finish line with me. That proved to be especially helpful – with him running beside me, I was able to push even more, running as fast as I could to the finish.
(I found out later that Theresa had told him she was waiting for the girl in a tutu. Park Ranger had been drinking energy drinks all day, and told her he was going to cross the finish line with Tutu Girl.)
A volunteer cut the timing chip off my foot, another volunteer handed me a medal, and a third handed me a bottle of water. I was, and still am, overwhelmed. This was, by far, my strongest finish to race of this distance. I was tired, very tired, but I wasn’t completely spent. I didn’t throw up. I felt tired, but I felt good.
My final time was 3:29:47.2. Longer than I would have hoped, sure, but pretty doggone good considering the mess that was my training.
After the race, I knew I probably should text several friends who had been following my race and supporting my training, but I didn’t. I was tired, and too overwhelmed to deal with the emotions of contacting others. I’m still struggling to sort out how I feel.
When I napped after the race (or at least, attempted to nap!), my body HURT. It took at least two or three days for the soreness to disappear completely. I had no blisters, though, and other than some chafing in my thighs, arms, and around my sportsbra, I was injury free.
I know this race was exhausting, but as the amnesia of a successful race sets in, I’m starting to feel more and more ready to run a full marathon. I’d like to heal my foot, obviously, and I am unsure of how to handle fueling for distances longer than ~16 miles or so. The applesauce packets, while efficient, are slightly bulky, and I’d have to carry a lot with me to finish 26 miles. Maybe I need to switch to gels, although I still find the cost prohibitive.
The mental training proved to be at least as important as the physical training. I am amazed, and pleased, that I was able to hold my mind in a good place for over three hours.
I don’t know what my future holds in terms of training. The chafing on my legs is healing, so I’m sure I’ll be back to running soon. However, I probably need to incorporate more cross training or strength training. I don’t know what that will look like. Training for a full marathon will probably take quite a bit longer than training for a half, so I’ll need to organize my schedule better.
For now, though, I’m just focusing on how GOOD this feels. I’m ready for my next race now!