Tuesday, June 19, 2012
On Friday I picked up Karli around 5:45pm and we were on our way to Philly. My friend Renee graciously gave us keys to her apartment in King of Prussia for the night. Unfortunately she was in Jersey for business so I didn't get to see her, but she was sweet enough to still let us stay and her apartment was so homey and so much more comfortable than a boring hotel. She left snacks out for us and continually told us to make ourselves at home and help ourselves to anything.
We were hoping to get to Philly before 8pm so we could pick up our bibs, however, in typical form, traffic getting out of the city was horrendous. A little before 8pm we decided we were starving and there was an Olive Garden nearby so we decided to make our pit stop to carb load. Yes, Olive Garden. I have no shame, I love it. I had told myself I would only drink water, and then told myself I was allowed one Diet Coke, however, I went for a second. I cannot deny the deliciousness that is fountain soda. At one point I found myself holding the straw to my water but still leaning over to my DC to sip.
We were able to find a grocery store nearby to pick up some breakfast items, and then headed the rest of the way to Renee's. I was seriously floored that it was after 11pm when we got to her place. How had it taken over five hours?? Ugh. I was really annoyed it took us so long but there really wasn't anything we could have done aside from leaving work early, which wasn't an option for me last week. We quickly got ready and hopped into bed for about four hours of terrible (for me) sleep.
The alarm went off at 4:45am and we were out the door by 5:15am. We had to drive about 45 minutes to the bib pickup spot, and then took a shuttle bus to the race. It was a pretty small, relaxed race, it seemed. Only about 1000 participants. I'm not sure if that's normal or not, but all the races I've done/seen in New York are massive. The 10k I ran in May had 10,000 registered runners.
The laid back feel of the race helped with nerves. On Thursday night I ran the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge which was just a 3.5 mile loop in the park. Shouldn't have been a big deal but with all those runners and booths it creates anxiety for some reason. I ran that race at a much faster pace than I typically run, 8:52/mile, and it was mostly uphill, so I was very conscious of the fact that I needed to pace myself in the beginning of my half.
The waiting around was definitely the worst part of the whole day. It wasn't bad, but I was a little chilly (didn't think to even pack a jacket) and I was just antsy to get going. I was kicking myself because even though I had half an english muffin before leaving Renee's, I'd brought my banana along because there was a period over two hours between leaving Renee's and the race start, and I left my banana in the car. Womp womp. Luckily, Karli and I made a friend with a girl named Gretchen, who was also from the city, who gave me a power bar she wasn't going to eat.
Finally it was time to start. We were in the third wave and it wasn't packed at all. The path was pretty narrow, but I didn't feel crammed at all, like I have in other races. I was very focused on keeping my pace slow, but I was surprised when I saw the first mile marker and my pace was 9:47. It was that point I realized I could pick it up a bit. It wasn't until earlier it the week I realized I should pick a goal for my time. I honestly hadn't thought about it, because I just didn't care, only wanted to finish. I told myself if I kept an average pace under 10 min/mile, so 2:10, I'd be happy, but really just happy if I finished.
The race was relatively easy. There were a handful of very steep hills, much steeper than I'm used to, but they were short, and at every hill I repeated to myself, "Dig deep, this is what you trained for." I was proud to never have to walk up a hill. There was a point around mile two when I thought to myself, What the hell are you doing?? But other than that I remained pretty positive. The trail was a lollipop shape; out, loop, and back, so when I'd pass one mile marker I'd notice the return mile marker, which was a little cruel. I remember seeing nine and thinking it seemed so far away.
It always takes me until about mile three or four to get into my groove; usually those first few miles sort of suck and I feel overwhelmed thinking about all I have ahead of me. I planned to have a Gu at miles five and nine, and the water stations were about every 1 1/2 miles. I got some advice to walk through every water station and have a few sips. I took this advice and it was great. There is such a stigma about taking walking breaks, and I hate to do it myself, but I have realized when I do, it barely affects my overall time, and the more I talk to people who allow themselves walking breaks, the more it seems to help with endurance. I always took a few seconds to walk while I took a few sips. I honestly walked maybe five seconds at each station, and I'm happy to say I never walked because I had to, only at those fuel stations because I wanted to.
Around mile six or seven the path turned into a trail. We'd been warned about this. It was my least favorite part of the race, but ironically my body felt the best during these miles. It lasted probably two miles. It was basically like hiking through a forest. There were rocks, twigs, uneven paths, even horse poop. I couldn't believe how some people were flying through there. I lost balance slightly on one foot at one point and am so grateful I didn't twist my ankle. In hindsight I guess it wasn't the worst thing in the world because it took my focus from my body and running, to the trail...it was a distraction.
The rest of the trail was great and I feel like it was relatively easy due to being mostly flat and mostly shaded. The weather couldn't have been better, low 70s and I didn't notice any humidity. I sweat, but never once felt too hot.
Around mile nine or so I felt my legs starting to hurt a bit. When I slowed down at one of the last water stations I felt my legs tightening up and thought it wouldn't be a bad idea to stretch them out, but I was too stubborn, knowing I wasn't far from the end and wanted to keep pushing.
Surprisingly, mile nine seemed to go the quickest for me. I was truly surprised when I saw the mile ten marker and thought to myself, "Already?" I could not stop being surprised at how great the whole race was going. Making it past mile ten felt great. That was the longest I'd ever run before, so as I continued, feeling really good, I felt really proud, and so excited that I only had a few more miles.
After that every mile marker felt like a new accomplishment. I was feeling great and especially great when I would pass a guy. When I hit twelve I decided to crank up the pace for the last mile. I ran at what felt like 90% the whole way, and this is when I started to feel fatigued. I kept thinking the finish line was right around the corner, and it just wasn't. I finally found myself thinking, "When is this going to end?" And then I saw that blessed finish line. At that point I gave it everything I had and pushed 100%. I felt like I was going fast, but sometimes when you're that tired you're actually going a lot slower than you think. There was some decent crowd support, which always helps. I finally crossed that finish line and couldn't believe it when someone was handing me my medal. It was surreal. I turned around and looked at the finish line and thought, That was my half! I just did it. I just ran a half marathon.
I walked back so I could root on Karli at the end, and as everything sank it I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. I fought it because when you see a girl crying alone it's not totally clear if it's a good thing or not after a race. I didn't want anyone worrying that I was hurt, or that something was wrong.
I stretched out as I watched for Karli, and then when I saw her I cheered like a fool, and then ran to the finish line after her to hug her. We then walked over to the snack/water table to get some eats. I couldn't get over how happy I was. We were able to find out friend Gretchen again and all sat and stretched and chatted together. When we decided to make our way back to the shuttle buses I realized my hip flexor was in bad shape. I'd been trying to stretch it out while we were talking, but it was really hurting. I was limping pretty badly to the bus, the point that Gretchen said she was worried. I tried to walk it off, and thankfully it eased up later.
We took the shuttle bus to our car and there was a celebration with beer and bratwurst (it was a German 1/2, people were even running in lederhosen. Karli and I took a look around, decided we were over it, and hopped in the car. When we got back to Renee's we were both so exhausted. She told me I could hop in the shower because she didn't want to move for a few minutes, and I told her I was about to say the same thing to her. So we both just laid there for a while, and I finally showered. I'm not one to take a long shower, but this shower was so amazing. I just wanted to stand under the hot water and never get out.
We finally left Renee's place and headed to Philly to get some cheesesteaks from a great little hole in the wall she recommended. The traffic was awful getting to Philly, so we didn't actually eat until about 3 or 4. We were famished.
After that we were on the road. Traffic was awful, per the usual, and when we were about 30 miles outside of the city I finally had to pull off and have Karli drive because I was so exhausted. I honestly am so happy I don't have to drive normally. I think traffic has got to be my most hated thing in life.
I was so happy to get home and just go to bed. I was out cold by about 10:30pm, and when my alarm went off at 8:30am the next morning I easily could have kept sleeping.
I'm happy to say I wasn't too sore. My knee joints were hurting a bit, but I mostly was fine unless I sat or laid down somewhere for a long period of time. Today I'm feeling great.
My official race time was 2:04:23. My running app had the same time, however I'm not convinced my splits are totally accurate.
Mile 1: 9:47
Mile 2: 8:56
Mile 3: 9:48
Mile 4: 8:55
Mile 5: 9:32
Mile 6: 10:02
Mile 7: 10:23
Mile 8: 10:32
Mile 9: 9:50
Mile 10: 9:47
Mile 11: 9:31
Mile 12: 9:27
Mile 13: 7:40
I can honestly say I loved this half. It made me so excited for the full in November, and other races in between.