This past Sunday, I raced in my first ever half marathon! And after all those pre-race jitters, I’m proud to say: I KILLED IT!! I ran it in 1:56:26.3, with an average pace of 8:54 per mile overall. My average pace is 26 seconds faster than my fastest ever training run (see: 42 Seconds), and my math-whiz dad figured out that I ran the last 3.3 miles at an average pace of 8:10 per mile, which also happens to be my fastest ever 5K time! So, LOTS to celebrate here! Booyah!
Here’s how it all went down.
The Night Before…
Lucky for me, my mom trekked all the way from WNY to watch me run in my first half ever, and it was her BIRTHDAY! Yay Mom! She made the V family recipe of marinara sauce (I’m half Italian, which makes pasta its own food group) for myself and my friend who ran her first full marathon in the same race (we’re really taking names over here, go us!). I was so nervous, and I didn’t want any heartburn, so Mom dumped extra extra baking soda into the tomato sauce to make sure that the acidity was neutralized (Yay chemistry! You can use this trick with your own sauce, store-bought OR homemade – it really helps. Just add 2 – 3 tsp of baking soda to your sauce while it’s heating up on the stove top, and stir . The sauce will bubble up – that is the CO2 gas being released from the acid neutralization, and you won’t get any heartburn! Bonus!).
Because Mom is an October baby, she always loved pumpkin pie instead of cake to celebrate her birthday. I went to Petsi Pies (http://petsipies.com/) and got her one of the last pumpkin pies available so we could celebrate her special day.
Mom entertained my friend D and I throughout dinner with funny stories. I’d say laughter was the key ingredient to having a successful “Night Before”. I turn into Anxiety Annie when I get jittery and nervous, and having Mom there definitely eased my anxiety and helped me relax. And most importantly, made me LAUGH! Trust me, I needed it. With pasta in my belly, and a smile on my face, I had a cup of Sleepytime tea and tucked myself into bed at around 8:45 pm.
It’s finally here! The Day of…
As to be expected, I did not sleep all that well. I was up and out of bed at 4:40 am raring and ready to go! I spent the majority of my morning pushing my pre-race jitters out of my head. When we got to the race, all the pre-race time went by in a flash: I visited the port-a-john and pretended to be anywhere else as I held my nose, drank sips out of my designated pre-race water bottle, and ate my energy gel at 7:30 am. I was surprisingly calm, just trying to focus on the goal ahead, and imagine what it would feel like when I had that metal around my neck on the other side of the finish line. Fifteen minutes before gun time, I was in the corral, freezing my rear off (it was a balmy 49°F with 10 – 20 mph winds) with two thousand other runners. The nerves barreled me over. Mom flashed an “I love you” in sign language, and I gave a probably grim, terrified, smile back. I talked to myself: “I can do this.” Then, I did what I normally do – I reached out for those other human connections. “It’s my first half ever!” I nervously confided the woman that asked where I got my sneakers. Everyone around me gave me last minute advice and comforting words. “Don’t go too fast out of the gate. Your adrenaline will be pumping!”, advised the guy next to me. Three women, who all seemed to be friends and running together, said “Oh how fun! Your first EVER. You’ll do great, honey.” The sneaker woman: “Just pace yourself at the start, and you’ll be fine!”
Oh sh*t, this is really happening: The Race…
All the pre-race advice helped ease my nerves slightly: I wasn’t doing this alone. Suddenly, we were singing the national anthem, and cheers rose up out of the four thousand or so runners (half doing the full marathon, the rest of us doing the half). And we were off!”Holy sh*t, this is really happening right now,” I thought as my legs started propelling me forward on auto-pilot. I felt frozen with nerves and I was breathing too fast. “I can’t do this,” flashed through my brain, and the thought paralyzed me for a split second but rationality took over. “Of course you can do this,” I said, “I trained my ass off. I ate the right breakfast. I have all the stuff I need. I got a new shirt from Lulu.” I was afraid of going too fast out of the gate so I followed the three women running together for the first mile. My pace was slow, probably only about 9:25 per mile. After the second mile I started loosening up and getting into my rhythm. By mile three, I felt like I was going too slow and pushed forward, “I can go faster. I’ve done this before,” I told myself. I gingerly pulled off my long sleeve (I was not about to lose my fave, tried-and-true running shirt!) and tied it around my waist while still running. Feeling the cool air wash over me, I focused on my breathing. “I can do this, I can do this,” I said.
It was long. With each mile I told myself my mantra I had used on my last training run: “Don’t slow down. Keep going. Push. Up, down, up, down. Keep going.” I saved drinking water until I was just starting to feel thirst and needed to cool my mouth down, probably about mile 5. The first 6 -7 miles went by like a breeze (relatively speaking). I saved my Mocha energy gel for about halfway, and the rush of sugar to my system helped give me a bump. Then the uphill mental challenge starting rolling in. My knees hurt, my legs started to feel fatigued, “Don’t give up L, you’re more than halfway!” I told myself. I never would have made it without that positive inner dialogue running through my head like the stock ticker on Wall Street. Just as I was starting to really feel my muscles yelling at me, there was Mom! She was waving! “Go L! Go L!” she shouted, “You’re doing awesome!” I almost burst into tears because I was going faster than I thought: I realized I could make it under two hours, which was my goal time. “Okay legs, we are going to DO THIS.” I told myself. The second half was hard; it was a much harder mental challenge to urge your legs faster when you started feeling tired, to fight the constant mental battle against your legs telling you to slow down and stop.
But I did it. The sun eventually came out and the clouds looked pretty; I tried to look up and think about something else, but I kept having that inner monologue: “Go L, don’t slow down!” When I passed the clock at 9.8 miles it was 1:29:29. “Okay, I just have to run the last 3.3 miles in less than half an hour, and I got this under two hours.” My legs were fatigued but I knew I had a little bit left. I cranked it. I changed my music to Booyah (seriously) and turned it up (I’ll probably be hard of hearing at age 60 with how loud I listen to my music). I started pushing forward, across the river, around the bend. Once we got close, I judged the finish line too soon and started sprinting: my legs and lungs were on fire but I just kept telling myself, “Almost there, almost there, keep going, don’t give up!” I rounded the last bend and there was Mom! I probably looked like hell, bright red and sprinting my ass off, but I heard her cheer me on and wave just as the clock came into view: 1:55…1:56….
I heard my trainer S’s voice in head, “GO! GO! GO! SPRINT! SPRINT! SPRINT!” and I gave it all I had right up to the end. I remember how relieved and full of joy I felt as I saw those time trackers at the finish line under my sneakers. Thank god, I MADE IT! I must have looked like I was dying because one of the volunteers rushed over to me and wrapped a heat blanket around me, “Are you okay?” they asked, a serious look of concern on their face. “Yes, (exhale) I know look (inhale) like I’m dying (exhale) but I promise I’m okay…” I managed. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to turn off the Nike+ app I was using to track my pace and play my music and the screen went black and it immediately died. I made it. I MADE IT!
I celebrated appropriately by drinking the mini-champagne bottle of bubbles once I got home. Woooohoooo!!
I’m not ashamed to say: I’m really proud of myself. I trained really hard, and I beat my own goal that I set out. I can’t even believe it’s over already! I guess I got bit by the bug, because I can’t wait for my next one. I’m hoping to continue with my training momentum to keep running through the blustery New England winter and increase my pace (or decrease? I just want to be faster!). In order to prevent losing my motivation, I’ve already signed up for my next half marathon and will be hounding my bestie B to run it with me. YES!
I’m glad you all have joined me on the last bit of my training journey and I’m excited to keep going forward with my sights set on my next goal. 🙂 😛