This past weekend, I celebrated my 30th birthday… by running my 6th half marathon. It was the first half I’ve run competitively since Germany four years ago, when I ran my best time of 1:57 (with little bitty Gabe in my belly). I was really hoping to keep up my streak of PR’s with this race, but life had other plans.
I put this quote because the race was disappointing, but I have not lost hope. I will get faster, stronger, better… it won’t happen overnight. But I believe in myself, and I think that’s 90% of the battle.
So let’s see… we drove to Raleigh on Saturday. First though, I ran an easy 2 miles. My speed workout Thursday had been a bit “lackluster”–I just couldn’t get to the top speed of 7:40/mile that I wanted. I ran a few 8:15/miles and just hoped I’d be able to hit my goal race pace of 8:35. A pace of 8:50/mile would get me to the PR, so I wasn’t too worried. Maybe I was overconfident, but I thought I had it in the bag, simply because I was feeling so good about beating my best mile, 5K, and 10K times thus far this year. Oh, but then there was that nasty stomach bug last weekend. So I probably should have known it wasn’t going to be a great race.
We left after lunch so Asher could sleep on the way. The race expo was open til 5, and it only took us 1.5 hours to get there. The Raleigh Convention Center buzzed with runners and their support teams. I was glad to have my family with me, even if it does make it harder to focus on the race! J waited outside with Asher and I went it with Gabe.
Got my bib number and shirt, then made our way through the crowds and fun (expensive) merchandise. I ran into some old friends from childhood & college, which was really cool!
We hung out for awhile, being silly and just soaking in the sun and the crowds.
I really wanted to drive the course, but it was very crowded all over the city, so we just drove to the hotel instead, about half a mile from the start (as close as I could get–didn’t get reservations in time). I feel like I ate well for my meals that day, but the really important one is dinner when you have an early morning race. We ended up eating on the top floor restaurant at the hotel–a pretty sweet view…of my babe and the city 😉
Thankfully there was a chicken & rice bowl on the menu. I asked for light sauce, and it was really tasty. I ate some of the veggies, which in hindsight might have been what messed up my belly the next day… but I had a second serving of rice, for some extra carbs. I had some yogurt and kefir before bed for dessert.
After getting Asher down to sleep (in the pack n play + mattress that we schlepped from home, because the hotel said they couldn’t provide one!), I prepped my race outfit: I attempted to go to sleep at 8:30, but the excitement kept me awake for awhile. I felt like I was going to oversleep, despite re-checking my alarm. I had weird dreams all night, and every time Gabe tossed and turned it woke me up (pretty much all night). Thankfully, Asher slept til about 4:30, so I fed him and then had my pre-race meal: a plain bagel from Panera with 2 T. strawberry jam, 8 oz of Gatorade, and half a banana.
Nearly the same meal I had before the Raleigh Marathon, minus the yogurt (I just don’t feel like dairy sits well before a run anymore). I emptied the bowels, so I felt pretty good about the GI tract prior to the race.
I told the boys good-bye, and I was out the door at 6 AM. It was a little chilly, but I had forgotten arm warmers. And forgot to brush my teeth. I met up with my friend TM and her sis MB, who happens to live across the street from our hotel! She hooked me up with a toothbrush, and a trash bag, so we were all set for race time!
We then met up with KK and her cousin R at the start. Very excited by this time!!
And one of just the ladies:K’s cousin gave me the lay of the course, which was pretty helpful, except that I couldn’t quite remember everything he said. Since I didn’t do a route recon, I was relying on the elevation profile from the website. There was a 0.7 mile huge hill at mile 9, so my strategy was simple: conserve until Mile 9, get up and over that &$*%! hill, and then give it all I got in the 3+ remaining miles, mostly downhill, to the finish. Easy enough. I also had a family member or friend that I dedicated each mile to, to keep my mind somewhat occupied.
I was in corral 7, so I started at roughly 7:14 AM. I felt a little sluggish, but thought that was normal for an early morning run. Give it a few miles, V. You’ll find your goal pace. I purposely held back, not wanting to go out too quickly. I told myself not to look at the watch. I had my new iPod going, so I listened to my tunes. The first miles passed easily… but then I started to feel like I had to pee. I knew I hadn’t drank that much, so I tried ignoring it. There weren’t many port-o-potties along the course, and the ones I did see all had lines. Just hold it! At the 5K mark, I couldn’t help myself, I checked my time… nearly 29 minutes. Ugh… so much for goal pace! I was way, way off. I knew then that the race was probably not going to go the way I wanted.
I got to mile 6 and I couldn’t think about anything else BUT peeing by this time. I finally gave in and pulled over by a single potty which had 4 people in line. There goes my time… I probably waited 3-4 minutes, which I hated to do but didn’t have much choice. I went… and didn’t feel any better. I knew at that point the rest of the race was going to be hard. The GI troubles are oftentimes a feeling of having to poop (sorry for the TMI), but sometimes it feels like I have to pee and I really don’t. I blame having kids… this never happened before that!
So, I continued on. There was a monster of a hill along Peace St. which really put a damper on my already fading spirits. I did a GU packet before the race, at 3.5 miles, and again at 7 miles. It helped a bit, but my stomach was going from bad to worse. After the huge hill came a few more rolling hills, and by the time I got to the split in the road at mile 8.5-ish, I just wanted to walk so bad. The course was now along Hillsborough St, by NC State University–the same route as the Raleigh Marathon’s finish. That took my mind off my pain for a bit, but it was really one foot in front of the other, at that point. This photo illustrates it perfectly:
Looking down, just trying to keep moving. It was rough. I wanted to give up and walk, but I hate to do that during a race. I hated it even more because my legs felt fine, my breathing was fine, it was just… the freaking GI thing again. I vowed to figure this out before my next big race, because I was pissed that it sabotaged my performance in this one.
Passed NC State’s belltower… faked a smile… just keep moving forward.
This was probably the worst part of the race, simply because I was dreading the big hill at mile 9. The one from 6-7 was a doozy, and this one–according to the elevation profile–was supposed to be far worse! I stopped at another port-o-potty, figuring my odds of running a decent time (under 2 hours) were shot. I didn’t have to pee/poop at all… just felt like I did. Damn you, GI distress. And the big hill? It never came. The elevation profile was wrong… or my perception got way skewed somehow. I think maybe it was from last year, but they changed the course for this year.
The next part of the race changed the whole thing for me… the Wear Blue Run to Remember / tribute to the troops at mile 11. I saw a row of flags, and a row of pictures of fallen service members, and I just lost it. The tears came streaming down my face. The lady next to me said “It’s really hard to run fast when you’re crying” and I said “I know.” The whole way down the hill, I ran past the faces of the fallen, the volunteers cheered me on, but all I could think of was the friends at West Point who aren’t with us anymore: Dan Hyde, John Runkle, Dimitri del Castillo (all from my company, E-4), Sarah Cullen, David Lodwick, and several others who I knew but didn’t have the pleasure of knowing better. At the bottom of the hill, I felt like I had let go of my own pain through all my tears, and I got strong again running for my fallen friends. I vowed to forget my stomach woes and finish as strong as I could.
I could barely stomach my 4th and final GU, but I tried to get half of it down near mile 12 so I wouldn’t bonk at the end. My boys were by Nash Square, right before mile 13, so I felt such joy seeing them. I am so blessed that they came out to support me. I gave them high 5’s, and picked up the pace for the last 0.35 miles to the finish. Since I had gone so slowly, I had plenty of juice left to finish strong.
After crossing the finish, my watch said 2:06:13 (official was 2:06:11). That felt like a big disappointment, but then I reminded myself that it was great to finish. Fast times will come. Not every race can be your best race. But my legs carried me, my lungs and heart were strong… and I made it, despite feeling crummy. I got chocolate milk, pretzels, Gatorade, and a banana and headed to meet the boys. My stomach informed me that I needed to get to a bathroom, stat. Thank you for holding off til the end of the race, ol’ intestines! Back at the hotel, I felt awful. Took a quick shower, laid down, and tried to eat and drink slowly. Loved how big & heavy the medal was! Missed seeing my friends at the finish, but I had to do what I had to do…
2 hours later, back at home, I still felt crappy but after Chipotle for lunch, I was pretty much back to normal. So weird how that happens… I’m looking forward to feeling good consistently for long runs again. I don’t know what this is about! And I really don’t want to try grain-free like my brave cousin. I just don’t think I could do it!
Anyways… it was fun, despite not feeling well. I’m already signed up for next year’s, which just so happens to be on my 31st birthday! Today is Thursday, and I ran 2 easy miles. Feeling good again! Hoping to add some speed in this next round of training. Til next time!