Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Heavenly Half marathon

Well....I did it!!! Broken foot and all, I crossed that finish line. Let me preface this entire post by saying that this was THE most difficult race (physical AND mental) that I've ever done. And this is a really long post. Sorry in advance! 

My alarm went off at 3:15 and I got up and got showered and dressed for the race (yes, I like to put on a little makeup and "do" my hair before I go out and run 13.1 miles...). Hubby made breakfast (scrambled eggs, canadian bacon and GF toast). We left the house around 4:30 to travel the 1.5 hours to the race. Google maps tricked us and it actually only took 45 minutes to get there. Guess what happens when your sitting in the middle of a pitch black parking lot, up in the mountains, knowing you have to run a really long ways in just a few hours? Yeah....tummy troubles. And no porta potties. My nerves always, always get the best of me. 

Luckily my race partner, Leila, and her husband got there not too long after us so that definitely distracted me. We got on the bus that took us to the starting line at a few minutes before 6:00. The bus took us about 20 minutes up the hill to a middle school where we were going to start. Thank the good Lord above, they had thought and prepared for the chilly weather and had the school gym (and bathrooms!) open for us to wait in. We stayed inside until about 7:15 when they kicked us out and told us it was GO time! 

Leila and myself, at the start line! 
Listening to the national anthem before the gun goes off is always one of my favorite moments of the whole event. This time, they played Leann Rimes' version of the anthem and the group of people next to me were so amazed by "that girls" voice and were looking all around to see who was signing. Ummm yeah...heres your sign. 

How many different colors do you think Melissa needed to wear? Im bright, what can I say? ;)
The start line- love the energy!
I had my phone put away for most of the race, but this is what a lot of the course looked like. Many times, either to the left or the right of this small 2 lane mountain road, was a steep drop off and amazing views of the entire valley. I wish I had taken more pictures of the course. The weather was perfect, sunny and about 55. It wasn't so sunny that it was warm, it was pleasantly cool the entire time. I never got hot or cold while running. Oh, and yes I ran despite my foot. I just couldn't "walk" the entire 13.1 miles. Mentally, I couldn't do it. So...I took it as easy as possible and ran.
I'm not sure if you can tell by the picture above, but the steep downhill was insane. The first two miles were INTENSE- straight uphill it seemed. Not short, steep hills- but long, climbing hills. It seemed like we were running up a wall. It was extremely difficult and Leila and I were both really worried that the entire course would be that way. 

About mile 2.5 or 3 (if I can remember right), the steep incline turned into a crazy fast downward slope. Running downhill seems easy right? Um no. Its NOT. Especially when it very varely "flattens out" for your legs to catch up with themselves...it was like several long (we're talking several mile long) fast, downward hills. I heard a man telling another runner "With these kinds of downhills, its very important that you keep your feet directly under your body, don't let them get out in front of you". I kept that advice in my head and it actually helped control my speed a bit. Running down a hill is very streneous on your knees and hips. It uses completely different muscles (muscles which apparently have never been used before considering how I feel today).

Along with the downward slope, we also had to deal with an extremely curved/uneven road (I know theres a certain word for this but can't for the life of me remember...help??). Because the course is up in the mountains where there is often snow, the roads are all curved, so no matter what part of the road you run on (left, right, middle) its not the same...basically meaning one foot is always hitting lower ground than the other. Does that make sense? Even running on the shoulder doesn't work because its sloped as well. And there was no shoulder to run on for the majority of the course.

We had a pretty good race up until about mile 8. And then it went downhill from there (literally and figuratively!) Mentally- we could not imagine doing any more than we already had. We were towards the back of the pack and people started creeping up and passing us. We weren't trying to finish in any specific time (besides the 3:30 cut off time!) but it was getting extremely difficult to even put one foot in front of the other. Our hips, knees, quads, feet, ankles, hamstrings, glutes...they were all in an incredible amount of pain. We slowed our pace and started walking a lot more than running. We just wanted to get to that finish line.

At mile 10, I think we both considered calling it quits. Thats how hard it was. I didn't even care about the medal, the jacket or the pride of crossing the finish line. I hurt. I'm not kidding you when I say we looked like drunkards stumbling along the side of the road. If it wasn't for her, I would have given up. We make a great team. Its not often you find someone who runs your exact pace and is at the same fitness level as you. I'm thankful to have her as my race partner. 

Somehow, we pulled it together and finished the last little bit pretty strong. That feeling of running into the small mountain town and seeing the Finish Line (and 95% of the others who had already finished haha!) is something you always remember. We came in strong and ended up finishing only about 15 minutes slower than our normal half marathon time! I expected a lot slower than that so we were both really proud of ourselves. We got our beautiful medals and awesome finishers jackets and hobbled on over to get breakfast.
Wayman did great, he finished in 2:25 and agrees that this was a brutal course. He actually decided after this race, he is never ever doing a half again (and hes actually dead serious). He is happy to tag along as my cheerleader and photographer!
We had breakfast (eggs and bacon for me- passed on the pancakes) and then waited to board the bus back to our cars
I wore my heart rate monitor for the race and while I did chafe where the strap rubbed against me, I didn't notice it all that much. It didn't drive me crazy like I thought it would. And look at that awesome calorie burn! 
Wayman and I were both so stiff and in so much pain that we drove straight home to take a shower and change out of our sweaty clothes. I have never, ever been this sore. 
The jacket is a half-zip pullover and its so nice. Perfect (womens) fit and so comfy. I will definitely get more use out of this than the long sleeve tech tee which I also got. And yes, I wore my new "jewelry" around my neck for the entire day!!!

This race was part of a 3 part series- the next one being in August. Being that I will not have time to train for that after recovering from surgery (not supposed to run for at least 3 months after so I'll only begin to start running again in July) we are NOT doing it. Not to mention we hear the course is one of the most uphill around, and its in MID-AUGUST in CALIFORNIA. Yeah. Not happenin. Its most likely going to be 105 degrees and I am not putting myself through that misery. I'm not that dedicated :)

I think the current plan is to jump slowly back into running once I am fully recovered. I'm talking Couch 2 5k all over again. I will work up to half marathon training again and run the Two Cities Half the first weekend of November. I should have plenty of time to train for it, the weather is always perfect and I've ran the course twice and love it. 

So there ya have it, the longest race report ever! :)