Saturday, November 30, 2013

Half Marathon Completion

It’s finally slowed down around here for me to be able to update my blog about the half marathon I decided to run for a good cause on Nov. 17th! The post is long, fair warning. But when you’re describing an event/experience of a lifetime, it’s hard to short change the descriptions (and I still did!) Now that it’s over and I’m 2 weeks out, I can honestly say I’m glad I did it. I’ve been reading some blogs about running and it makes a wannabe “runner” like me feel more normal in my reactions at the race. Truth is, it’s mental for everyone. That might mean for 5 minutes during a practice run, it might mean the last 5 miles of a race, it might mean the mental battle of getting out the door… but no one can avoid the fact that running is major mind games.

(Pre-Race 5:30am, The donors who helped me reach my fundraising goal are on the green tape)

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Quick recap of the weekend: N and I were too tired to drive to our hotel on Friday night so we left Saturday morning. We went to my first race expo after we settled into our hotel. I wasn’t super impressed to be honest. I think I was even more let down because N was saying how he’s been to better (he grew up in a running family of sorts). While there, I did buy some Gu packs and my all time fave working out headbands, Sweaty Bands. I got the vanilla Gu and it tasted so much better last time I tried it (I ate it during the race the next day).

Saturday night we went to the Team In Training Inspiration Dinner. The dinner was informative about where the the funds that we raise through the organization are used and what they contribute to in the fight against blood cancers. It was astounding to hear the research that’s being completed as we speak. There have been some huge advancements in the medical approach towards blood cancers and it was neat to hear how Team In Training was directly related to those research endeavors and I somehow helped with that cause. The tear-jerker came when the main speaker took the stage. She was a mom of a small baby when he contracted a form of Leukemia. After hearing her story and thankfully hearing that he survived, she said one of the most impactful statements I’ve heard and it truly inspired me throughout my race. She said (in other words), “Tomorrow you’ll run a race that you chose  to run. When you get tired and exhausted and might even feel like you can’t go on, keep fighting. Keep fighting because those with cancer don’t get the choice to fight because they are fighting for their life.” It gives me goose bumps even now as I type because health is truly a gift that I feel blessed to have when so many don’t get that luxury.

The next morning was the race. I felt nervous as it all hit me….the distance I was going to run, how it was the longest race since a 10k I ran, how I didn’t train the best because of my insane work schedule, and the unknown of the mental battles that were to come in this distance that I stupidly googled the week before (btw, don’t do that).

Here’s my thought breakdown:
Miles 1-3: I LOVE running. I’m going to run a million half marathons in my life. I could run for.eve.r
Mile 4: Ok, there’s a some pain coming through the ol’ legs. Here it comes…
Mile 5- 6.75: Oh, there’s the ONE hill someone said was coming. Wait, that makes two hills. Um, why are there more than 3 hills right now! I hate __________! She said there was A dang hill, not FIVE. I hate Trinity University for torturing me with all these straight up/straight down hills. (But it sure is a pretty campus)
Mile 6.75- 7: Got my second wind. Let’s do this.
Mile 7.5- 10: My legs hurt the worst they’ve ever hurt   in   my    life.    My feet are cramping up terribly. How does that happen?! The back of my knees are hurting so so bad. Ok, just make it to 10 where N is meeting me! Just.keep.moving.
Mile 10: I see N!!! Hi hi hi. So good to see you. You’re not going to believe the amount of pain I’m in. Omg, you have water. Thank you thank you. So glad you’re walking this one out with me. Ok bye.
Mile 10-12: Why did they stop the water stations? That’s mean. I hate the race organizers right now. Just think…one 5k left. I can do this. I’ve done a million 5ks. People have cancer and are fighting, I can finish 3 miles. One foot in front of the other.  
Mile 13: There’s no shade. Gosh, it’s gotten so.freaking.hot. The marathoners have caught up to us and they look miserable. I could never run a marathon. Water. All I want is water.    water.   water.   water. This is the worst mile of my life. I see the finish line. I don’t care that there are race photogs everywhere, I’m not posing because I just need to finish.
Finish Line: THANK.YOU.JESUS. I.just.need.shade….and water.

With my finisher medals: one for the race, one for Team In Training

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Things I learned from my half marathon:
1. 30,000 runners is inspiring and claustrophobic at the start line. It can be a little unnerving when you think of Boston too. So don’t.  
2. If you’re running a race out of town, you’ll probably be a mile from your hotel to the starting line. A.k.a. that’s how much you’ll have to walk when you’re done with the race. For me, that was torture.
3. Some people are ignorant when it comes to choosing the appropriate clothes to run in. I saw a grandma’s butt cheeks and I saw a guy wearing a banana costume and he looked like he was going to pass out from the heat. Pick a clothes combo that’s comfortable and won’t be a nuisance. I’m so glad I didn’t have to worry about my clothes. (Besides TNT giving me the wrong sized dri-fit)… 
4. Running in a long-distance race is a symbol of humanity in society. The amount of volunteers cheering and supporting complete strangers is awe-inspiring. I will volunteer at a race in the near future because it made such a difference when I was being challenged. I smiled and was close to tears so many times throughout the race because of strangers' generosity overwhelming me. People connections get me every time.
5. People are creative with their encouraging signs. Some of my favorite poster messages: “Ryan Gosling is a the end of the race", “SEX: ok I just got your attention, now good luck”, “Worst Parade Ever”, “There are no losers, just winners who finish later”.
6. My germ freak nature was tested severely. Let’s see… you’ve got water people dipping their fingers in your drinking cups, I had a stranger (TNT Coach) offer me salt pills for my cramping and then proceed to get them out with his sweat soaked fingers-yum, and I was handed an ice cold rag that someone rung out with their hands and I wiped it on my face. Who am I?! Clearly, I was so grateful for all of these things that I chose to over look it. 13.1 miles will do that to even the best germ freak. Winking smile
7. I needed to wash my face better when we got back to the hotel. With the combination of sunscreen, sweat, and then aloe vera (from my face being burned) it was the perfect storm for my face to break out in this Rosacea nightmare for 4 days proceeding the race. Usually I’ll have a small amount, NEVER my whole face and it was embarrassing.
8. I could not move on Monday. Next time I run a half, I will take off the next day before I even go. The amount of lactic acid in my body was the worst ever, and that includes when I played college volleyball and survived multiple 2-a-days. Now, this for sure has to do with my shotty training the months proceeding the race (not the first 3 months of training because I rocked it then).
9. I ran alone the whole race and it was a struggle, but I surprised myself. I had positive self-talk the entire time I was in pain (which was 3/4 of the race). I teach this method to my athletes on a daily basis. I was glad that when it came down to it, I had to use the method to get through the race. I felt so strong mentally when I was done because I got myself through that painful 3+ hours of challenge by myself (in terms of not having a partner running next to me, this is not a discredit to my awesome/supportive husband and the strangers who truly made a difference). When I did run/walk with N, I noticed having him there was easier for me (duh) to verbalize my complaints. And when I said them out loud, it just made them heavier. I wonder if it’s easier for me to run these races by myself because then I can only rely on my mind to get through the tough times. Interesting perspective…
10. The moment I crossed the line I thought, “I will never run that again.” That thought-process sunk in until Tuesday. When Tuesday hit, it started sinking in that I ran a half. By Wednesday, when the only thing left was the issue on my face, I was ready to sign up for another one. I am not proud of my time by any means and the competitor in me (the one who looks like a crazy who gets too heated during innocent board games) wants to see what I’m capable with more free time to train harder. It’s been an interesting process to go through to say the least. Today, I’m still waiting it out to see if I want to commit to the training.
11. My husband is one of the most supportive people I know. I know some people don’t like to read mushy gushy comments about spouses (I guess I’m talking about myself here as I roll my eyes at annoying Facebook posts from people gushing about their significant others Winking smile), but I can’t not recognize his HUGE part in me crossing the finish line. He catered to my every negative/nervous thought leading up to the actual event. He was supportive by spending his first weekend open after a long and grueling football season coming out of town to see me race. And I could.not.have.done.this.race.without.him.there. Period. He sent me encouraging text messages (along with other friends and family, thanks guys!) the whole race, was so positive when I saw him twice on the course, and was at my beck and call when I was done. He even rubbed my sweaty feet when I crashed onto the bed when we finally got back to the hotel (and after my long training runs too). He made sure I stayed hydrated before and after the race. And my favorite moments post race was anytime he looked genuinely proud of me or stated it more than once. Best felling ever. Anyway, he needed a public shout out because I am blessed beyond measure to call him mine.

At the finish line and the inspiration dinner

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12. My honor patient, Ben (brother-in-law), was a great inspiration throughout the race. I thought of cancer survivors as a whole, but it was even more inspiring that I could tell myself, “If Ben could go through chemo, I can do this”. It was too easy to use him as inspiration and run in his honor.

Overall, it was a good experience. It’s funny how something so challenging and difficult can ever be described with the adjective good. But truth is, running long distances like that truly does get to your core of who you are and how strong you can be. I think anyone running a half for the 1st time can attest to the fact that you question if you really have it in you once it comes down to race day. A barrage of thoughts can be overwhelming when you start to really analyze what you’re about to do. And then once it’s over, and you’ve surprised yourself (and maybe others around you), you have a new level of invincibility that starts with the sentence, “If I can finish 13.1 miles, then I can do _________”.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11-13

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