Kelly's Absolutely Treacherous Half Marathon Story!
Okay, it wasn't that bad. I mean, it FELT that bad for the first 36 hours after it happened, but I'm nearly done with the pity party now, so we can talk about it. For a little while. Until I tear up again, then I'll need a break.
I wanted to share my half marathon story here, because a) I've mentioned it on the blog several times and many readers have asked me about it, and b) this is my only written "outlet" on the interwebs these days, so I figured it was worth chronicling my journey here.
(If you're reading this and thinking, "Ummmm, I just want my books back," please tune in tomorrow, because it's Banned Books Week and I'm doing a giveaway. WOOT! Yay, books.)
This story is rather lengthy. You've been warned.
So, this half marathon. Specifically, the Rochester Half Marathon that occurred here in lovely Rochester, NY last Sunday.
This is the first half marathon I've ever attempted. The longest run I did before this was a 15K (9.3 miles) in 2008. Even though a half marathon is "only" 4 miles longer, I took the training much more seriously and really tried to work towards a time goal (my only goal for the 15K was to make it over the finish line not on a stretcher). I spent 12 weeks busting my butt, trying to eat right, waking up at 5am for runs, and not drinking wine on Friday nights before Saturday long runs (I KNOW) in order to get in top shape for this thing. I had the incredible support of my husband (who often handled bedtime routines and Saturday morning breakfasts solo so that I could run) and many friends along the way.
Come Sunday morning, I felt SO READY. I was going to KICK THIS RACE'S CANDY ASS.
I woke up at 4:45am and made my first mistake: I ate breakfast too early. I thought this would help me out, because it's recommended that runners eat breakfast 3-4 hours before a big race. However, in the end, this was a negative, probably because I never did that before any of my long runs during training (I was not going to wake up at 3am for a 6am training run). So my body was not used to getting the majority of its food so long before the run. More on this later.
I drove over to the race site and was at the start line by 6:45am (starting time was 7:45am). This gave me plenty of time to get rid of my drop bag, set up my running tunes, have a snack, use the porta potty, stretch, and warm up. I was feeling GOOD. Today was my DAY.
For those curious, my race goal was to finish in under 2 hours 15 minutes. I actually felt like this was my "high end" goal and that I could potentially come in closer to 2:08. My initial plan was to start off around a 9:50 pace per mile (which would mean about a 2:08 finish time), but join up with the 2:10 pacer if I started to slow down and hopefully follow them in to the finish. (For the non-runners...a pacer is a runner who volunteers to run the race at a specific pace, so that other runners can follow them at that consistent pace and finish at a specific goal time.) This was a great plan, because it had a built-in backup: if I really started to flag, I could join up with the 2:15 pacer instead, and still finish at or under my goal.
I took off with the 2000ish other runners at 7:45. I felt great! I was pacing myself well, I could feel it! I passed my friends Mandy and Emily at the half-mile mark and I was on top of the world!
Then I got to the one mile marker...in 9 minutes and 3 seconds. Uh oh. Way too fast. Every runner knows this is a big no-no in a long-distance run.
Second mile I still felt fantastic, and came in at a 9 minute 34 second pace. Okay, still too fast, but getting better. Third mile, pretty much the same.
The fourth mile, two things happened. One, we started hitting some hills...never a good time. The 2:10 pacer passed me at 4.5 miles, which was not encouraging. And two...I had to pee. Ugh, SERIOUSLY?? Never once in training did I have to stop to pee. And TODAY? TODAY WOULD BE THAT DAY?
Apparently, yes. At 5.5 miles I could take no more and I had to duck into the woods to pee. I know, glamorous. The whole thing took maybe 45 seconds, but by the time I made it back out on to the road, I was mentally kicking myself. With steel-toed boots. All I could think was that I was blowing it, I was wasting time with stupid things like bathroom breaks, the 2:10 pacer was long gone, and wow did I suck.
Things escalated quickly after that.
I started taking walk breaks just before mile 6: MAJORLY discouraging because I did NOT take walk breaks during even the longest of my training runs. During one of them, the 2:15 pacer came up on me. No! Not my high end goal!! I forced myself to start running again. I was able to follow her from about the 6 mile mark until just before the 7 mile mark. Then I had to stop and walk again. As the 2:15 pacer ran ahead, all I could think was "There it goes. I'm watching my dream die right now."
Here is where we see Kelly hit rock bottom.
Walk breaks continue. I feel like I have no fuel left, no matter how many energy gels I consume (remember that early breakfast?). Every hill makes me feel like my quads have simply disappeared from my legs. I very seriously consider having my husband come pick me up at the 8 mile mark.
Then, around 8.5 miles, it started to POUR. I cannot overemphasize the complete and total drenching that ensued. This may sound miserable, but honestly, it lifted my spirits a bit, because it was so outrageously wet that all I could do was laugh.
At 9.5 miles, I passed my friends Mandy and Emily again. They were like little course ninjas, popping up all over the place during my run! Later, Mandy told me that she could see the despair written all over my face at this point. She yelled out, "It's one day of pain, Kelly! ONE DAY! You can do this!" And that rang through my head for the next 3.5 miles. I NEEDED that push right then.
I hit the 10 mile mark and told myself there was only a 5K left. I could do a 5K in my sleep. I lessened the walk breaks, and though I was going pretty slow (11 minute miles now), I was going. I was going to get there. I was going to FINISH this frickin' thing. I was going to do it for me, and for my husband who did so much for me while I was training, and for my kids that were waiting to cheer on Mommy at the finish.
|Coming in for a landing. Almost at the finish line.|
I know, not exactly the most uplifting story of athletic achievement. And I'll be honest--I spent most of Monday in a pathetic, wallowy funk over the entire thing. The finishing time didn't necessarily bother me. I would take those extra 13 minutes if I felt like I had given it my all. But I was bothered that a simple 45-second pee break (plus maybe some mistakes in pre-race fueling) caused me to mentally check out so early on. I KNEW I could run 13.1 miles without stopping for walk breaks. I just knew it. And I was so mad at myself for not making it happen.
I swore off running, and half marathons, and everything athletically related for pretty much all time. I made grand plans to spend the rest of my life eating pumpkin pie donuts from DD and drinking too much wine.
But you know what? By today, I made a new decision.
I'm doing another half marathon.
REDEMPTION WILL BE MINE.
I don't know when exactly I'll do it, but sometime in the next year. I'm coming for that 2:15. I'm not going to let this one bad race be my only half marathon experience. And I can't ignore the fact that I DID complete 13.1 miles, something that a lot of people never do. I'm proud of it, proud of myself, and proud of the fact that I'm going to give myself the chance to do it again...maybe just a little bit better.
So get ready, running shoes. I'm not throwing you in the trash with the empty wine bottles just yet.