Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gazelle Girl Half Marathon Race Report

I could wrap this up in a short sentence but that would not explain the overall experience. That sentence would be a run-on too, both good and bad.  So really, a sentence couldn't given an accurate picture.  It also would not capture the range of emotions I felt during the race and after. I guess I'll start with the race experience itself... Keep in mind I've done one other half and it was huge (Run Disney is the best ever, I swear!).

The expo for GG was good - there were some things to try - gluten free protein bars, wine, and cherry juice - made into a smoothie (and oh my gosh... a cherry juice and banana smoothie was the stuff!). Family and friends could create signs.  There were sales vendors there. And of course some vendors just advertising which was kinda boring (who like swag - at least give something free to listen to your speech). There were activities but we did not get there for those. The shopping was nice - there was a a  selection of merchandise from the sponsoring sports store, as well as special race apparel. Sizes and selection was limited for some of the merchandise (unless you were there right away) because things were picked up quickly. As a shopper, a larger shopping selection would have been nice. So, the expo was pretty nice - in a space that could get really crowded but we waited to go so it wasn't too bad. Picking up our Bibs and shirts was very easy.

Race day was pretty typical....I was up and ready early, with enough time to do some stretching and a little foam rolling, mix-up my pre-workout and eat a little something. I did however goof up and forgot to grab my cliff bar to eat on the way. So I had a banana and two scoops of C4 in my system pre-race...Not exactly a great idea. But I did my energy chews so thank goodness for that!

We arrived shortly before the race was to begin, which was perfect. There wasn't so much extra time that I could just sit around and think about how nervous I wanted was (which I felt on Saturday). Sunday I just kind of got up, got ready, and was like "okay I'm going for a run...a long run." The race started right on time and off we went. I started toward the back of the pack with the other slower runners, but ahead of the walkers and the sweeper lady. The morning was great - it wasn't too warm or too cold.  I was chilled before but knew it would be perfect running weather for a tank top. Some people started with long sleeves and pants.  I'm glad I decided to pick up a pair of capris the night before because I had packed some leggings/tights which would've made me hot....Hotter than I got later in the race which was roasting. Supe roasting. I'll get there.

I started off a little ahead of my normal pace but it still felt comfortable.  I hit the mile markers almost exactly at the time that I did throughout training.  I didn't take any walk breaks for the first four.something miles and then it was only for a moment to drink some water.  I got to mile six-ish, still feeling pretty good. I noticed I had slowed a little bit but only a matter of seconds so I wasn't worried.  I noticed it getting warmer before mile six but not too bad- still tolerable and running was comfortable.  Then after that mile six-ish point I realized that it was hot. Not just warm but the sun seemed to pop up out of no where, casting it's powerful rays on me, while the temperature seemed to drop about 10-15 degrees in a matter of minutes. Then we were on a trail through a field area, between the river and the expressway. It was then that I got really hot. And was thrilled that I decided to bring a water bottle (I typically just use hydration stations and didn't really use my belt during my first half...which was in Florida but since it was so early in the morning, it was much cooler). I finished my water and got a refill at the next aid station.  I drank that quickly and had my boyfriend grab me a bottle when I saw him at the next view point (I should mention we stayed with friends and us ladies did the race and the guys hung out and traveled around various areas to cheer us on) and I stopped to refill again. It must've been there that I was getting super hot because his friend asked if he thought I'd be able to keep up my pace. I must've looked as rough as I felt.

I had a bit of a rough time from mile seven to eight. I saw the guys again at some point and I think I looked so crappy that I avoided looking at them. My boyfriend told me later that I looked "pissed." Ha! I wasn't...I just started to feel gross. And the goosebumps came... Ohhh the goosebumps. Of course, I was getting hot and sunburned so I suppose my body wondered what the heck I was doing by throwing my temperature all out of whack. I also tend to get really hot while I'm burning.  I didn't bring sunscreen because.... The heat wave and sun were NOT expected (by anyone). I knew it would get hot, but I thought that it would be later in the day. So then around mile eight I felt better. I'd been walking a lot more by this point so maybe I rested enough, and we were in a park so there was a bit more shade (a lot of the course was in the sun). I got to mile ten, behind pace, but feeling pretty good.  At mile ten, I told a struggling runner, "now we just have a 5K - you've can do that!"  Funny that I could be so encouraging to others but was in and out of my own head with the negativity. Like on my last long training run (a 12 miler), life after mile ten was not fun. It was like a hit a wall. Hard. I also allowed myself to think of that training run and how hard it was after ten miles. I'm sure that didn't help. But I pushed on, slowing even more.  There was a cheer station where someone had ice. Ohhhh I loved those people. I grabbed a couple handfuls and tossed some down the front of my tank, some down the back, and a few cubes into my mouth.  that felt great and got me to mile 11 without too much difficulty (but also slower with a little more walking). At this point I was like "are you frigging kidding me?" But I pressed on. Mile 11 felt long.  Then I finally hit mile twelve and thought "I'm in the home stretch now!"  Honestly there were lots of words of encouragement to myself during those last three miles.  I passed some people around mile ten and thought "okay I need to stay ahead now" just to encourage myself.

I think I experienced running hell during mile 12. It was long. The longest mile ever. I was quite sure they added distance. And it was hot... SO hot. There wasn't much shade after mile ten and it was a hot and sunny.  I just kept going, following "the two girls in orange" (as I named them) to make sure I stayed near them.  My goosebumps were still there and I was hot but getting chills.  Around mile 12.5, I was nearing the last aid station and cheer station.  And uphead, was my friend taking a picture of me (I think). At first I thought "oh my gosh why is she taking a picture of this!?" Then I thought "I'm so glad to see her." I knew the end was near and I needed some encouragement. I walked a lot during mile 12; most of it, I would say.  She walked with me and tried to encourage me to run and catch the girls in orange. But I said "I...just...can't" and proceeded to whine about the hell I was experiencing. I saw that there was a hill ahead (yeah, who puts a hill at the end of a race!?? CRUEL!) and I think the hill itself was why I didn't want to run. I honestly think that I was thinking that I'd need all my energy just to walk up the damn thing. It looked like a mountain. Later I was kind of bummed that I didn't run when she encouraged me to earlier. She was so nice and I guess I felt (still feel) like I should've pushed a little. I mean, that's why she was there!  I did reach the top, mile 13. I ran the last .1 into the finish.

 I finished within the time limit for the race (although I later saw that they kept the finish open quite a bit longer). I was behind pace so it took me longer than I anticipated. My overall pace was just over two minutes slower than I trained at. So, that tells you how much walking I did at the end and how much I slowed (especially since I started ahead of pace). I had a few points during the race that I wanted to cry for various reasons. I am quite surprised I didn't collapse into a fit of tears when I saw my friend.  I've gone to races with friends and they've waited for me at the finish (obviously since we traveled together). This was the first time I had someone walk back part of the course to find, and wait for me, to finish with me - to get me to the end. I've seen this happen but I can't even begin to find the correct words to express how much emotion I actually felt and how thankful I am.

I was disappointed after. I still am. I am bummed that I was slower. Part of it was definitely the heat. A huge part. Probably the majority of it. I wasn't prepared for that. I also realized that my training runs on the torturemill were more broken up.  All those times it would stop on me added up. And those gave me breaks.  I didn't stop at all during the race. I may have walked slowly getting water or throwing away my trash but I didn't stop and stand like I did during those training runs where the torturemill acted up. In hindsight, that was probably a bigger factor than I thought of.

So today, two days post-race, I'm sitting here feeling a variety of emotions.  My goal was to finish within the time; to not take so long that I'd be moved to the sidewalk, swept, or finish last. None of those things occurred. I finished on the actual course. I wasn't swept nor was I last. I even passed, and finished ahead of a "skinny" girl who was walk/jogging like me. Finishing without death was basically my goal... But I did have a time goal in mind. I kept saying I was giving myself a cushion and would be okay finishing in that range, knew I wouldn't PR, and was okay with just a finish. But then the race came and started so, so wonderfully.  And went downhill so quickly. I guess it's normal to feel some disappointment of taking longer than I anticipated. I probably whined a lot after the race about everything, which I think was my way of trying to find some sort of validation that it was okay to have finished in the time it took me. I guess I needed others to pull me up. And I probably still do.  My boyfriend is great, giving me those "I couldn't do that" and "you finished though and that's what counts" comments along the way.  I've gotten the "I'm proud of you" from family and friends. But inside, I'm still down about it. I'm trying to be positive but when you have a goal in mind (even if it's not set in stone and you give yourself a cushion for "just in case") it stinks when you don't meet it.

The overall experience was wonderful! We had a great weekend with friends (and now I super wish my friend lived closer so I could hire her to be my running coach because she's been running forever and I now view her as a running guru). I can say that the race really did have more good points than bad.  It's very easy to get caught up in the negative but I just keep working to stay positive.  I know I'm not ready for a half next month, but keep thinking that with more training (outside!!) I can be ready for one this summer. As long as it's one of those early morning ones where I'll be done by nine or ten in the morning. I also have a lot of room for improvement before my next half.  So the negative can be easily refuted with positive things. Knowing that I will be able to improve before the next one is huge.  Knowing that I completed my second half marathon is an awesome feeling. Especially given that my weight is up from last time and when I last weighed this I hadn't even started running yet. So, that in itself is a bit of an accomplishment. And like my friend said during that last part of the race, "you're doing more than 98% of people" - and she's right. My family and friends have been amazing and supportive.  This was probably one of my better race experiences despite it being my slowest overall pace. No one has ever appeared at points on the course before - and this time I had my boyfriend and his friend there.  They watched me cross the finish line of a half (my parents were too busy talking to the people next to them and missed me at Disney...don't worry I won't soon let them forget that!). My friend came back, after running (and getting a PR by the way!!!) her race. She walked with me and even jogged (in flip flops!) with me toward the end. That's never happened for me.  People have shown so much encouragement, support, and congratulations... It may have been my second half but it feels just as good as when I finished my first. Probably because it was harder this time.

So, there's my race report!


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