First of all, let me say that it was completely worthwhile to participate in the running group if only because over near the running store is where Pensacola keeps all of its hills. Possibly even all the hills in Florida. Great big hills. Hills that can really break a girl's spirit when she discovers that her half marathon involves all of them.
If I hadn't joined the training group, I would have done all of my running near my house, where it's pretty flat. And then, on Sunday, I would have died.
Or if we're not being melodramatic (When did THAT start?) I would have had to walk a whole lot of it. My first goal, as always, was to finish. Check. My second goal was to run the whole way, except to walk through water stops. This would be a first for me. And I did it! As long as you don't count three quick puke stops and the half-block walk afterward to clear up the remaining stomach cramps.
Yeah. We started out really well. For the first five miles, we averaged 10:15 miles. My goal was to run the whole thing at 10:45, so it may have been a mistake to start out so fast, but I was feeling good and reasoning that running faster meant being finished sooner. Most of this had been uphill and still I was ok. Then around mile six, the nausea hit.
This had been happening to me in training runs. I'd been doing a GU at our water stop around mile five, so I figured it was the problem, despite GU having been always been fine previously. Before the 12 mile run, I bought some Sheets Energy Strips. I had one of those around mile four and mile eight and felt fine. Problem solved! Except apparently not. By the time we got to THE HILL OF DOOM around mile seven, I was feeling pretty sick and overheated. But I'd been running up this hill every week on our Saturday run and it had been feeling less awful every time. I had this.
And I did! We ran all the way to the top and around the corner and then...well, let us not speak of that. From there, it was all downhill with regard to my speed. Sadly, the topographical downhill didn't begin until around mile twelve. In happier news, I began to see Raj here and there along the route, cheering for me and holding this sign:
Amy was kind enough to stay with me a little way past the 12 mile marker. I spent the last mile wondering whether I might really be able to walk faster than I was running by then. It became clear that 2:20 wasn't going to happen, then 2:25 waved goodbye as well. I ended up finishing in 2:27:36. I got my water and medal and then apparently looked disoriented enough to cause a nice volunteer to put her arm around my waist and lead me over to where I was meeting my group. I'd been seeing spots for the last couple of miles, so I was only too happy to be assisted. I sat down on the ground there for quite some time while everyone else found me and Raj brought me Gatorade until I could stand up.
We took some pictures, got some free food, and then...free massages! This was genius and should be a part of all race finisher areas. I heard the announcement of the first full marathon finisher crossing the line and was relieved that at least I made it in before him. We got back to the car right around the time it stopped raining and drove home past the poor marathoners still out running in it.
Raj, because he is The Best Ever stopped off at the store on the way home and made brunch for us while we showered.
Eggs and cheese for protein, melon for hydration, potatoes for potassium and, of course, bacon. Everyone knows you need to bacon up before a race and re-bacon after. To replenish your body's supply of salt and will to live.
Later that day, Amy and I went to the store for a movie, Cokes, and some chocolate cake. It was a specific craving. The next morning, we did some gentle yoga and then went for a long walk on the beach. We were plenty sore (we may have called the dog a showoff for running up the stairs in front of us) but the weird yet wonderful part is that my hip feels pretty good.
So was this my best half marathon ever? Well. It was my fastest. My best time before this had been 2:36:17, so this was a big improvement. I don't know about best race though. My first one felt amazing, even at fifteen minutes slower than this one, thanks to the sense of accomplishment and lack of fainty nausea. I felt good throughout and after the half in Arizona last January as well, which was nice. I don't know how to choose best, so I'll just say that I'm glad I pushed myself, trained so hard for this one, and had a faster time, even if it wasn't what I was hoping for.
Now I think distance running and I are due for a break. I've been pretty much constantly training for a half marathon or ten miler for a year and a half straight now and I think I'd like to do something else. I've decided to focus on increasing my speed for shorter distances and increasing my strength overall. I'm looking forward to the change. Michelle Obama arms, here I come.