Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Journey to a Half Marathon...and back.

I have been wanting to write this blog for awhile now. I would think about it during my long training runs as some level of motivation. I started training for this run about 4 months ago. If you are a blog reader of ours, you would already know this as I've talked about it often. This is going to be a long post, so bear with me.

I started doing a "bootcamp" back in April of this year. I had decided I was tired of going to the gym Monday-Friday, and wanted to try something new. I really enjoyed it (although painful!) and continued to do it up until September. The bootcamp instructor, Aubrey is a triathlete. He has done several Iron-mans and he and his experience can be such inspiration. Being around these kind of fitness-frame of mind people truly changes your perspective on life, and what you can push yourself to do. Running was never a favorite thing for me. I would do it, because I felt like I had to. I ran my first 5k the end of my first bootcamp. Never did I imagine that I could run 3miles all by myself! Looking back on that first experience- I never thought that I would have ran quadruple that distance in my lifetime.

I chose to run the Cannonball Half Marathon in Greensboro,NC this year on October 17th. It was hard to find one that worked with my schedule, since I knew I would need support there and James' racing schedule was all over the place. So, I picked the day and continued training.

Training many things. Hard, painful, fun, exciting, boring, tearful. When you are training for something like this, you are gradually increasing your mileage throughout the weeks. It is hard enough to convince your mind that this IS possible and it becomes nearly impossible when the rest of your body starts to tell you its had enough. A month away from my race, my IT band was beginning to hurt and started to be very painful. This was a big set back for me, and caused much frustration. I had finally reached a point in my training where my cardio level was very high. I felt good breathing wise during every run (even 10miles or more) but my lower half began to feel like it was falling apart. So, 2 weeks before my race I could barely run 2 miles without stopping because of the pain. I was so angry and upset. How could I work this long and this hard and not even be able to run 2 little miles? Thankfully, Aubrey was there to help me. I began to cross train (no running at all, just other cardio things) and it was going well. Although horribly boring to spend over 2 hours on the elliptical. The week before my race, I did nothing. I stretched, drank water, iced and repeated. And before I knew was the day before my race.

I began to doubt myself. I hadn't truly ran any distance for about 3-4 weeks. I felt like my body was going to forget that I had trained it to run. You could say I was getting fairly anxious... ;o)

My parents and J both went with me to my race. I ate pasta the night before (as it is called "carb-loading" and helps give you energy) and was feeling okay. I was just so ready for it to be over.

The day of, it was cold. During my training it was mostly hot, warm and humid. I was used to that. But it had gotten so cold, so quick- there was no time to train in it and being injured I couldn't really do it any way. Add another frustrating mark to the board.

There were about 400 runners. Going to races like this can be intimidating. You know the type....tall, lanky, a "runners-body", very short running shorts....these were the ones who passed me, and who will always pass me. But that's okay with me. Did I mention it was cold?

The race starts and I am thrilled to know that in a few hours this journey will be over. Its hard to break down the race mile by mile, because they didn't have a lot of markers. I didn't know how far I had gone truly, until I hit the 8 mile mark because I saw an 8 painted on the ground.

The first 4 miles I felt good. My knee felt good- there was still a clusters of people, and I was happy to be doing it. I see my parents and J in the car driving next to me, cheering for me. I love them.
Mile 5 wasROUGH. The race went into a greenway at this point. I am fairly certain I hated everything at that time. MyIT band began to make itself known and started aching.
Mile 6-7, the bottom of my left foot began to cramp. Ever get a charlie horse? Imagine that, on the sole of your foot, while trying to run. That was really special. Add another frustrating mark to the board. Its beautiful scenery- the leaves are changing, there are lakes and bridges. And its so quiet. Normally I would love this. But today, I want the hell out of there. Where are the people? The cars? The noise? If something doesn't happen soon, I will lie down right here, and take a serious nap.
Mile 8 I see the leader of the race, coming towards me, heading to the finish line. There he was, in his short shorts, with his brow barely sweating and acting like it felt awesome to be running in this lovely cold weather. I almost asked him for a piggy back ride to the finish but decided against it. There are no more clusters of people. Its just me. Thats the thing with running- no matter who you run with, its always just you convincing yourself that yes, you can run the remaining 5 miles and no, your foot, knee, back and shoulders don't hurt that bad. This is what I have programmed myself to get moving.
Miles 9-11 suck. The cold has really gotten to me now, I really feel like I can't catch my breath. I keep wishing it would just be hot and humid. (Never did I think I would ever wish for humidity!) There are my parents and J again along the side of this nasty hill. This marks about the 20th hill of the race, (which is highly annoying since I was told there were hardly any hills...) Seeing them makes me want to both stop and push harder. My mom tells me everyone walked this hill- so naturally I keep running. Thank goodness they are there cheering.
Mile 12 I am more aware of who is behind me (as I was petrified of being last.) and I refuse to let anyone else pass me. I don't really feel my legs anymore. I know they are there, and I know that if I stop- there is no way they will start again. So, yes I keep running. I see a man with his child, talking a walk. He looks at me and says..."Just up this hill and you're done. You're doing great." I say thanks to him and then silently wish he would get his child on his tricycle the hell out of my way. I mean really, the last thing I need is to get tangled up in a big wheel. Can't you see I am trying to finish 13 miles??
Mile 13 I am starving. And tired. And soooo over running. I have already decided a marathon is a bad idea. Nothing good could happen after 13 miles. I hear people and see the finished runners along the sides. I pick up my pace. I can see the finish line. I'm so close- I can't believe its almost over! A photographer is in my face- I think I remembered to smile. I better have- who knows if I'll do this again. I see my time on the clock and can't believe it. 2:35. When I was training I ran 12 miles in 2:38. How I managed to run 1.1 more miles and finish quicker, being injured- I have no idea. Can you hear me beeping my own horn?

Its over! I crossed the line and am so relieved. I see J first- and he tells me he is so proud of me. I see my mom and there are the flowers- I am so relieved to be done. I can't even explain it. Did I mention that I am not walking properly? Because I'm not. I get my medal- I and it promptly takes it place acround my neck- where it stays for the rest of the day.

It took about 3 days for me to begin walking like a normal person. Climbing stairs was an act of congress and took a good minute or two.

So, was it worth it? Absolutley. Would I do it again? Possibly. It has been quite the journey to see what I can push myself to do. I have no idea whats next, but I'm not done with running.

Hope all is well,



kmelanese said...

Holy crap!! 13 miles?!?! You are crazy!! :) I am so glad you were able to run and finish with such a good time!! Congratulations!!!!!

Miller Fam said...

Hey girl, get yourself a Garmin Forerunner 305 or 405. Seriously the best running tool EVER!!! And cross training is insanely helpful as far as preventing injury, if you ask me. As you know from reading my blog, I did my first half without really training for it and did it under 2 hrs because my body was ready from my tri training. I love to run, but I am too injury prone to train exclusively for a marathon. This way, I still get to do them but it's easier on my poor whimpy body! It is so worth it! My money is on you definitely doing another one! Wish you lived here and could run with our crew! We have a blast! oh, and btw, I had IT band issues this year too, early in the year! So difficult!!!

diana said...

What tremendous writing! I loved reading it, so proud of you and your commitment on this journey. So very glad we could be there to watch. lots of love.