Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's okay to cry

I'm going to see if I can make it through writing the recap of the Lincoln Half Marathon from last weekend a few weeks ago.  Because it's totally okay to spend 2 weeks writing race recaps.  We'll see, it's still something that makes me emotional, and it's been a minute since I crossed this race off the list.

Before the Race:

Something I have really been working on, knowing that marathon training is coming up is a consistent pre-long run / race routine.  However, I also knew that there was no way I'd be able to stick to a routine for this race, since I was staying with Alyx, her husband, and the cutest baby that isn't related to me that I've ever seen. 

Stolen from Alyx's blog like a champ
I mean... she is truly the cutest little girl.  I can't even right now.  Ammon asked me for a baby at least a dozen times over the weekend.

So, back on subject.  I knew my carefully established routines were going to be shot, and I was totally alright with that.  I had finished 2 half marathons before that without ever having a pre-race routine, and I knew I'd get through this one too.  Alyx and I did go for an easy 2 mile run the day before the race, just to shake things out.  We also made it a point to eat EVERYTHING in sight, healthy or otherwise, drink tons of water, and have carbs for dinner.  I typically stick with a stir-fry the night before a long run, but we were winging it after missing the free pasta dinner put on by the organizers, and we ended up having Noodles & Co instead.  It was delicious, and absolutely a great alternative to my standard stir-fry.  Oh yeah, and we drove the course too.  That was pretty critical for me especially, being from out of town.  We both mentioned how long 13.1 miles feels, even when you're driving it.

The morning of:
 The race started officially at 7, so we knew we were in for an early wake-up.  My alarm went off at 5:30, but that didn't stop me from waking up 6 times between 3am and that alarm going off.  I am perpetually paranoid that I am going o oversleep before a big event (morning flights, races, tests, etc), and so my body reacts by waking me up every 30 minutes until it's actually time.  However, we knew that there would be a wave start, and that we'd be in the back, so there would be a lot of standing around.  Alyx and I had picked up some sweats from the thrift store in preparation for standing around in the chilly morning air, and I was so glad that we had.  Dressed in my running clothes and thrift store finds, I choked down 2 pieces of plain toast before we drove over to the start.  We were able to snag some incredible parking really close by, thanks to Alyx's connections, which saved us time, money, and energy.  Before we knew it, it was time to line up.  The organizers were pretty serious about having people line up based on pacing, and Alyx runs faster than I do, so we had to part ways pretty quickly.  She grabbed a picture for Instagram, but I'm too lazy to go find it right now.  We both felt pretty darn nervous at that point.

However, I was so excited to finally go out and have a successful half marathon race.  To see all of the hard work and training hours come to fruition over 2.5 hours.  The 40 minutes between when the race started and I actually started felt like an eternity.  I was near some really nice girls though, one of whom coaches the Nebraska Women's softball team.  I didn't want to talk to anyone though, I just wanted to get into my zone and focus on the tasks ahead of me.  I feel bad, because the softball coach seemed really fun, but I just couldn't get down on a conversation right then.  All I could think about was how much longer we had until I could let the reins on my legs go!

Miles 1-3:
Something I was really serious about this time was not going out too fast.  I had picked up a pace band for a 2:30 half at the expo, and felt pretty good about committing to that pacing strategy from the start.  They also had pace groups for both the half and the full marathons, and so my goal for the first few miles was to not pass the 5:00 marathon pace leader.  And that goal worked out pretty dang well.  I stuck with my strategy of running for 5 minutes, and walking for 1 minute.  This meant that I was playing leapfrog with the pace groups for the entirety of the race.   Mile 2 was the hardest mile of the entire race for me.  I wanted to stop right there and call for a ride.  It felt like my legs were made of cement, and that they were interviewing to be parking stops.  And suddenly at mile 3, the concrete broke loose, and my legs felt ready to carry me to the finish.

Miles 4-6:

 More leapfrogging with the 2:30 half pacers and the 5:00 full marathon pacers.  This was a great section for me until we hit the mile 6 marker (start of mile 7), where we then went onto bike paths for a 2 mile stretch.  I had my best mile split on mile 6, which was a 10:53, because I had to catch up with the pace groups after a rough water stop where you could hardly move.  I caught the last of the pacers, and they told me that they were dead on with their cumulative split, and were anticipating an on-schedule arrival.

Miles 7-10:

 The flipping bike path.  Have you ever tried to run on a bike path with approximately 1000 other people?  That was the reality that we were all dealing with.  I have heard that the earlier waves were better spread out along this section, but everyone in my wave was staying super steady and consistent, and thus we were incredibly bottlenecked for 3 miles of misery.  However, Ammon, Mike, and Elsie popped in to say hello midway through the section, which was pretty much the best thing ever.  We also encountered a huge (for Nebraska) hill right as we turned off of the bike path, right before 15k.  This was a big turning point for me:  up until 15k, I was leapfrogging with the rear pace groups for the 2:30/5:00 groups (there were 2 of each).  Suddenly, at 15k my legs just gave me more.  At precisely the moment my legs have seemingly failed me in previous races, they gave me what I needed to catch the front groups and start playing leapfrog like a champ.

Miles 11-The Finish:

I will never forget when I realized that I was, in fact, going to meet my goals for this marathon.  It was mile 11.  It was getting incredibly hot outside, and despite having already run for around 2 hours, I was still within eyesight of the 2:30 pace group.  I was not letting those 2 pacers go at that point, even if it killed me. But at the same time, I knew I had the energy, the training, and the legs to go the distance.  I had been feeling my left IT band for some time, but I decided that it could wait another 5k while I chased down personal glory.  And so footfall by footfall, I continued to pace that journey out.  At mile 12, I realized just how far this journey, not of 13.1 miles, but of nearly 2 years, has taken me.  I realized that somewhere along the line, I went from the girl who wanted to run for all the wrong reasons, to being a girl who could appreciate the sport, exactly as it is.  I got incredibly emotional in that last 5k, which I had not expected.  Ammon was waiting for me just before the flag for mile 13, and it was what REALLY got the emotions going full force for me.  I was FINISHING, and my husband was there to see me finishing on time and strong.  He waved really quickly, and then tried to take a shortcut to the finish line to actually watch me come across, while I kept going on the "official" route into the stadium.  Oh, and I started crying right about that time, and I couldn't stop.  I had trained so hard for this moment.  I had failed twice at achieving this goal, but not this time.  I had done the work, and now I was reaping the benefits, and it was too much for me to handle.  I couldn't keep it in, and there was no shame in my game as I was just trying to make it slightly less obvious to the people around me that I was pretty much losing my mind right at that moment.

Getting to the finish line was crazy narrow, and pretty dang slow.  I was really frustrated by all of the people around me as we finished, but I made it there, all the same.  Right at the same time that one of the marathon runners from the first couple of waves also crossed the finish line.  Crazy.  I didn't look right away, because I was too busy being thrilled it had finally happened, but when I stopped my Garmin, it told me 2:29:52, 8 seconds under my goal time.  Boom.  With my hands high in the air, and tears streaming down my cheeks, I FINALLY did what I set out to do.


By far the hardest part of the race, though, came after I finished.  I accepted my medal, and began the process of choking back the tears that had been plaguing my last 0.3 mile of my run.  We had to go a LONG way to meet our friends and family, which was a challenge.  I somehow managed to grab a bottle of gatorade and a chocolate milk before texting Alyx to find out where she was.  As soon as I saw her, it was clear we had both had great days.  And of course, that meant that we had to take a selfie.

And after selfies and looking for my husband, we went in search of ice baths, food, and pain killers, but not in that order.  It was the perfect half marathon weekend.  I'm still not ready to put it on a shelf, which is troubling, since I'm starting full marathon training on Monday.  Woohoo.  Someone shoot me, because I feel certifiable right about now.

2 comments:

  1. I can feel your joy radiating from this post!! I am so freaking proud of you Kristen!! I know how far you've come and how hard you've worked!!

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  2. Ahhhhhhh hI'm tearing up just reading this! I can see you coming out of the crowd of people in my head and I am still SO freaking proud of you! YOU DID IT!!! And now you are going to kill this full marathon!

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