So on Tuesday during my weekend recap, I shared with you all a few details about my half marathon from last Sunday. But I wanted to spend a little bit extra time giving it a full recap, because it really was a huge difference from any other race that I’ve run.
We went into this race with higher expectations than we had for any other race. Our goal for our last half marathon was literally “to finish standing up”. Which, considering neither of us had ever really run longer than 3.1 miles, 13.1 seemed like a crazy goal just to complete. Some of our 5Ks and 10Ks since then have more been with the goals of either “let’s finish” or “let’s try and beat our last time.”
This race was different though. My competitive spirit definitely came out, and we were determined to make a significant leap in PR time on this race from the get-go. We started running more often, and we found a plan that incorporated a lot more speed work. We were going to run this race faster.
However, as I’ve talked about before, at times I really struggled with the training. I had a hard time dealing with the heat and humidity. I especially had a hard time dealing with the mental aspect of running. I spent way too much of our training time in my own way.
But nevertheless, we were determined come race day. We even passed up beer while watching football the day before. That’s dedication people!
Morning of the Race
We had several alarms set for around 5:00, as I am always paranoid about oversleeping. Once we finally woke up around 5:15, we almost immediately ate some bread and peanut butter. We are used to toast and PB before a race, but because we were at a friend’s house, we didn’t really have that option. So squishy bread it was (although we both felt a little weird about that during the race. Maybe it really makes a difference?)
By about 6:10 we were dressed and out the door, so we could make sure to find parking and be at the starting area by 6:30.
It was flippin dark and COLD on that morning. We’re talking like in the 50s cold. It’s only mid-September! Despite our smiling faces in the picture, I was actually shivering like crazy!
Luckily I had bought a super cheapo sweatshirt from Walmart the night before, so I was looking super stylish. But hey, at least I was warmer! I ended up ditching my sweatshirt right before the race, because I was worried I was going to end up getting too hot (good call!)
Don’t you love my super stylish outfit?? I don’t know how many times I was called “pink leggings girl” during the race thanks to my hot pink zensahs!
Around 6:45 or so we headed over to find our place in the corral (it wasn’t a huge race, so we mostly just wanted to scope out a spot so we wouldn’t get caught in the back and spend the first 2 miles dodging people). We had plenty of time to stretch, so we did our best to both stretch and keep warm. That’s what I call dynamic stretching! haha.
7:04, we were off!
The first few miles went by super fast. I swear, I felt like I glanced up and we were already at mile 3! The beginning of the course had lots of rolling hills, so we were worried about wearing ourselves out to quickly, but they really weren’t all that bad.
However, every mile our GPS watch would beep and Chris would shake his head and laugh. We were consistently running at about :30-:45seconds faster than our usual long runs. We kept trying to pull back, but inevitably we’d find ourselves settling back at this pace. Since it felt fine to us, we decided to just keep with it until it started to feel hard, and then we’d back off.
Our original plan was to run at least the first 5 straight, and then evaluate for any kind of run-walk intervals that we needed based on the hills. However, mile 5 came and went, and we were still feeling great. So we kept on trucking. At mile 7 we decided to walk for a minute and refuel, and that was when my knee really started to lock up. Apparently 7 miles of hills put a little more pounding on it than it was used to, and stopping to walk (and changing the pattern of motion) meant that it totally stiffened up.
Miles 7-9 were really hard for me. Mentally. I’m not used to knee problems, so I didn’t really know what to do. Should I walk? Should I run? Should I stop and stretch it out. I was mentally all over the place, and kept having to give myself mental pep talks (and even asked Chris for a real one at one point), because I just totally lost my focus.
However, miles 10-12 were better. My knee was really starting to feel the constant up and down of the hills though, and there were a few instances where a big hill would come up and I would just have to walk. My poor knee wouldn’t take it.
We even rounded the corner at about 12.5 miles and could practically SEE the finish line, but a hill came up and I was nearly in tears. I had to stop and walk just to keep myself from crying my way to the finish line! My knee was feeling so swollen, and I was just ready for the race to be done! Thankfully the last .25 was a downhill, and I gathered any mental and physical strength I had left to sprint to the end, worried that my knee would give out at any step.
But, at 2:13:00 we crossed the finish line, still 13+ minutes better than our last half, even with my swollen knee!
We grabbed our metals and our swag (Hokie half finisher t-shirts! Pretty awesome free shirt!), and made a bee-line for the medical tent. However, inaugural race rookie mistake – they had EMTs, but no ice!! Definitely a note for next year!
So instead we hobbled over to the “recovery” area, where they had yoga mats, foam rollers, and those plastic sticks that you roll all over your body. I spent a good amount of time stretching out and just getting the pressure off of my knee. And downing a bottle of water.
We hung around the finish line for awhile, munching on blueberry bagels and bananas, and (obviously) updating social media. Clearly we are children of the 21st century. If it’s not all over facebook/twitter/instagram, it didn’t happen, right? We also ran into some old friends, and made some new friends while hanging around the food tent.
Even with a bum knee (still have no idea where it came from. I’ve never had knee issues before), it ended up being a really great race for us. We had a glorious first 7 miles, which were quite on the speedy side for us, and then pushed through the last 6, despite some pain on my part. But just like always, crossing that finished line wiped out ALL of the exhaustion and all of the pain, and reminded me why it is all worth it.
Dare I say I’m ready to sign up for my next one?
So tell me: What was your racing experience like?