After a couple days of letting things sink in, I figure I’m finally ready for a race report. I was hoping for enough time to let the emotion of race day pass, and for me to get my head on straight and regain some focus. So tonight, in my North Carolina hotel room ~ following a couple glasses of wine and way too much Thai food ~ I figure there is no better time than the present.
Yes ~ I finished the RNR Half Marathon on Sunday.
Yes ~ I shaved about 2 minutes off my first HM from November.
I think at one time, that would have been the end of my post and I would have been ecstatic about the mere thought of finishing a half marathon. Problem is ~ I learned on Sunday ~ during the long 13.1 miles ~ that my perspective on running, and my perspective of myself as a runner ~ has drastically changed.
The weekend leading up to RNR was nothing other than FANTASTIC. I got to meet and hangout with an amazing group of runners ~ Marcy, Lori, Mendy, David ~ and of course, Lisa. I am hoping that by the time I post this, there will be pictures for me to steal from their blogs :P since I was the only one that forgot a camera all weekend long! Although he’s a little camera shy, I’m sure that David got plenty of great pictures of our group outings :)
The blogger dinner on Saturday night was also great ~ with a chance to see Pat & Amy, Eric & Lori, and Taryn & Clay ~ and a whole slew of other bloggers that I didn’t know. Even my dear hubby, who couldn’t give a rat’s tail about running, had a great time talking to all the wonderful people!
Race day morning went off without a hitch; at Pat’s advice, we took the shuttle and made it to the starting line in plenty of time. As an unexpected bonus, our charter bus (a.k.a. shuttle) had a restroom and we relished in that luxury all the way to the AZ State Capitol Building.
We had enough time to check our gear bags, chit-chat a little and make one final trip to the luxurious port-o-john’s before finding our corral and settling in for the start.
The atmosphere was amazing ~ incredibly crowded….but the people watching and listening was great. It is amazing to me to watch so many people about to run a race for such a variety of reasons. There were solo runners, charity group runners, parent & child runners, runners that looked tense, runners that were cutting up and laughing hysterically, and runners who looked as nervous and anxious as I felt in the pit of my stomach.
I took us just over half an hour to reach the starting line ~ we were corral 16 out of 28 ~ almost dead middle of the pack. The projected finish time for our corral was 2:30.
9:02 came and we were off. The entire group of us ~ Lisa, Marcy, Mendy, Taryn, Lori and myself ~ headed out together. The race was extremely crowded, so it made jockeying for position among other runners ~ along with keeping the group together ~ very challenging. Taryn and I both needed a bathroom break at about mile 2, and against our urging, the rest of the group waited for us.
We took of again, except at this point I could feel a change. We had been trucking at a pretty good pace for the first couple miles ~ much, much faster than my “comfort” pace. Yes, I know it’s a race…..but when you only have one pace, my comfort pace IS my race pace! (Lisa…I really need to get that shirt!!!)
In retrospect, I KNEW I should have broken away from the group at that point. I was way out of my comfort zone, and was doing exactly what I had promised myself that I would not do ~ and that was to head out too fast, only to bomb later in the race. But there was also a part of me that thought maybe ~ just maybe, with the 5/1 intervals ~ I could pull it off.
It became apparent over the next couple miles that this was not going to be the case. I was continually falling back ~ and Taryn, bless her heart ~ ran with me for quite a duration before splitting from the group all together.
Just after mile 5 (and I only know this since that is where both mine and Marcy’s Garmins died at the same time), I finally did the smart thing. I was getting way too behind during the run intervals, only to catch up with the group during walk intervals, and them needed an additional walk time to get my own break. It just wasn’t working.
So I finally took my own advice, which I had been repeatedly giving to Lisa in the days prior to the race ~ and decided to “do my own thing.” I said adios to the group and slowed my pace. We had been running anywhere from 9:30 to 10:30 pace during our running intervals, and it was just beating me up. I slowed down to my comfortable 11:30 pace and all became well in my world again. This also freed up the rest of the group to do what they needed to do, and not worry about keeping me in sight.
The only regret I have about this is my lack of an iPod. I purposely left it in my car, since I had full expectation that I would be able to stay with the group, and would have plenty of chatter to keep me occupied for a couple hours. But now, as a solo runner, I regretted this decision in a BIG way. The bands and cheerleaders along the way were great, but they definitely didn’t give me the motivation that a good playlist could have.
The next couple miles were uneventful really. I ran pretty continuously, without a need for much walking at the slower pace. Up ahead, I could still see the group ~ Mendy’s pink shirt gave me something to track, and it was good to keep them in my sight.
I think it was about mile 6ish that I felt a new sensation. My hamstring muscles were tightening, which was new to me. During long training runs, the only issue I’ve ever really had was hip flexor tightening, and just general fatigue. But I didn’t think much of it, and figured it was just a result of the faster pace for the first 5 miles.
I remember hitting the half way point and thinking ~ COOL, I can do this. Let’s wrap this bad boy up and set a PR. At that point, I still had 2:45 on the brain. If I could do 3:06 at Big Sur, certainly being better trained for RNR, I could knock off a chunk of time on a much flatter course.
Sadly, the running gods were not aligned with me in this thinking. As clear as anything, I remember exactly where I was near mile 7.5 when the first leg cramp hit. It attacked my right calf first (I remember because at Big Sur the issue was with my left leg) ~ and within less than half a mile, the other leg fell victim too.
I started racking my brain for a solution. I ate Gu…and more Gu. I told myself ~ outloud, I believe ~ to listen to my body and walk at the onset of a cramp. I knew all too well that ignoring the initial twinge would leave me curled up on the side of the road. I did a lot of research on the cramping issue after Big Sur, and knew it was nothing to be messed with.
So I ran when I could, and walked when I had to. Out of desperation, I choked down one of the salt packets that I had stashed in my waistpack ~ ANYTHING to try and alleviate the cramping.
By mile 8, I was a complete mess. I kept telling myself that it was “just” another 5 miles ~ like an easy training run down to Fry’s and back ~ just another 5 miles. The cramps became more frequent, which meant less running time between them. I was walking a lot.
By this time, I had lost sight of Mendy’s pink shirt and new I had seriously lost time. It was at that point, I knew ~ in my heart ~ that I wouldn’t even break 3 hours. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I could feel my motivation heading for the hills. It was ALL gone. I couldn’t stomach the thought of doing worse at my second half marathon that I had at my first. It was not supposed to work out that way.
By mile 10, I had consumed everything in my pack. That meant 3 Gu packets, 2 salt packets, plus another energy gel from an aid station. My water bottle never became empty ~ I drank as much as I could stomach without going overboard. Nothing was going to eliminate the cramps, so the intent became just to find a way to make it to the finish line.
At mile 11, I was mentally defeated. The pain had gotten so bad, I was so hot, tired and frustrated ~ that I contemplated the curb. Yes ~ I literally considering sitting down on the curb and calling it a day. In other words ~ QUIT. I was astounded to think it had even entered my thought process. But two miles is a long way to go under my circumstances, and I just wanted the race to be over.
It was just at that point when a runner next to me got a call on her cell phone. “That’s so awesome!!!” she yelled, and then proudly exclaimed to her running partner that her dad had just finished the Disney Marathon in 5 hours and 50 minutes. They hooted and hollered, and I found myself being happy for a person 2000 miles away that I didn’t even know.
Then I thought of all the other people I knew racing that day….and all they great things they were accomplishing. And I knew right them that a big, fat DNF on my record was not going to happen.
I was fully able to walk the next couple miles if that is what it took. It was my PRIDE that was tempting me to quit, not the PAIN. Pride said I needed to finish under 3 hours; my body said I would finish when I finished, one way or another.
The last couple miles are blur for me, even now. In the final stretch over the Mill Avenue bridge, the spectator crowd grew. I fought with everything in me to keep running (vanity, of course) and to hold back the tears. There was no way I was having a race picture of me bawling like a baby. Afterall, I have a reputation to uphold ;)
I made it through the chute, and across the finish line (I may have even put my arms up in honor of Lisa) before it all exploded. I was fine until I saw Lisa, and then all the pain and frustration from the last 6 miles just gave way. I am not a cry baby, so the emotion of this event astounded even me.
Lisa, being the mom that she is, tried to get me to the medical tent to get me checked out, but this time my pride prevailed. I knew I just needed some time to walk and stretch, and I would be fine. My calves were still extremely tight, but the spasms/cramps had stopped.
We went on to take what I’m sure will be a fabulous finisher picture as a group, and my running buddies were just as supportive as they could possibly be. Lori ended up being the slave driver; Mendy got the endurance award for feeling like crap and still making a good show of it; Lisa set a great new PR; and Marcy had a leisurely jog and never broke a sweat! :P
Lisa and I went to track down Pat, with the hope of running him in for the last half mile of his marathon. We found him, and he was doing GREAT! I thought that after an hour of rest, I’d be able to help my buddy, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and Lisa had to run him home. I am SO proud of Pat for his accomplishment.
Me? Yeah, I am proud of myself too. Not proud of the race itself, but the fact that somehow I managed to make it across that finish line when everything in me was screaming to quit. Maybe the most beneficial part of my training the past couple months was the little bit of mental toughness that I had been lacking before. The physical training may have failed me, but the mental got me through. And for that, I am grateful.
I realized over those last 6 miles, that somehow over the past couple months, the mere thought of finishing had become no longer enough for me. I had a new set of expectations for myself, which I never dreamed of having. I had trained and prepared well for this event, which is why it was so disappointing to fall short. The Pokey of the past would have been content to finish ~ running, walking or crawling ~ it would not have made a difference. What I realized, is that I am no longer that person.
Right or wrong, I have a new set of expectations and ambitions. In the past, I had never expected much of myself as a runner, and never really thought that I would. Boy, have times changed.
I now have a new set of challenges ahead of me. It is time to seek some medical advice for the leg cramps and try and get to the root of the problem. All the training in the world isn’t going to help me if I cant make it thru race day without cramping. Part of the deal that was so heart breaking for me is that I felt like I had worked SO hard in preparation for RNR ~ only to have it go by the wayside for something I cant control.
So I need to find a way to take control of that situation. I know I am not the only runner that has ever suffered from cramps like this, so I know there is a solution. I just have to go find it.
So I’m finally over myself, folks. I spent the last couple days being crabby and dodging as many of the “how’d it go” phone calls as I could.
I can’t lie and say that I am not disappointed. I will ALWAYS be disappointed about the way this race turned out. But my efforts are much better spent concentrating on the future of my running and how I’m going to get past RNR and learn from it. For starters, this means a trip to the doc to discuss my stupid legs. Anyone got any better ones they want to trade in????
I appreciate all the support from everyone, more than you will all ever know. And to Micheline, who got the major brunt of my frustration on Sunday ~ thank you for being such a great friend.
And Lisa ~ who texted me tonight to make sure I was aware of all the support ~ you da bomb. And you put on one helluva Java Fest! :)