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.

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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.