Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Run A Half Marathon? CHECK!

It all led up to the moment I've been training for, been talking about incessantly, been stressing over, been spending my Sundays working hard and then recovering afterwards for, yep, the half marathon!


But, I'm being a lot more enthusiastic than I was after the race, or even today. Sometimes, my competitive nature and perfectionism do NOT do me many favours.

To start at the beginning, however, we need to go back a few days.

My friend Tania flew in from Washington State to run my first half marathon with me. Seriously! Who does that, right? Yes, she did. She's run several, and marathons, and does Crossfit and Hot Yoga and all of that kinda stuff, so she was just coming to run with me for running with me's sake.

The days leading up to the half were kind of a hot mess. I was anxious and stressed and moody. I felt like I hadn't been resting enough or drinking enough. I had run a half distance previously during my training, with a finish time of 2:32 and change, so I knew I could get the distance. That part, ironically, didn't phase me. However, because I'm a crazy person who believes in putting undue pressure on myself, I'd decided in my warped mind that I wanted to finish under 2:30 "officially" but secretly, I was hoping for around 2:15. Yes, if you do the math, that meant I'd have to shave off like 45 seconds per km. Tania asked me for my REAL goal, and when I told her, she paused and said, "that's.....aggressive."  Yes, that about sums me up. Almost kill yourself or go home!

As we stood in the corral, taking a few pictures and shaking out some raw nerves, I felt pretty confident. Trust me, that confidence did not last very long.

The cannon sounded and we were off! My mouth, for some reason, was already dry. I had thought I'd hydrated enough the days before, so I'm not sure what that was about, but I was aware of it from the get go. As we began running, immediately there was a hill. I figured that would be the only one I'd see until we hit the residential Rockliffe Park area, but I was horribly, horribly wrong.

We passed the Parliament buildings, and headed down the Parkway. At this point, you travelled down to a turn around, and then back up towards the bridge to Hull. How did I not know that the Parkway is chock a block FULL of rolling hills? Holy moly. Did I mention previously that I did most of my hill training on the treadmill and CLEARLY not enough of it? I was totally staying on pace, however, and even going faster (I know, a big no no!) several times where Tania would tell me to slow it down. I was well ahead of the 2:20 pace bunny and feeling pretty good except for the stupid @#&*!!! hills! We got up near the bridge and it was already 7k and time for fuel. I always walk 30 seconds or so to have my GU and drink some water with Nuun. I did so, as I had in training, but then we noticed the 2:20 pace bunny was right on our heels and there was no way I wanted to get behind him! Tania said "Let's sprint!" so we did, hitting 5:40 on my Garmin. From there, I was back on pace and while not feeling awesome, I wasn't feeling horrific either. I was hoping the hills were DONE but nope, they continued for awhile longer-it felt like until we hit the final 5k up the Canal! As we passed the 10k mark on the bridge back to Ottawa, I saw that my time was 1:04 and change. DUDES! I'd done my fastest 10k time! That 10k was hard won, though. I'm "known" for my consistent pace. My friends joke that they could set their watches by my pace. This race did NOT look like that. I was pushing myself hard to go faster than I ever had in training, and I was speeding up and slowing down repeatedly. Ya, not my brightest moment.

I knew that one of my "tough" parts of the run was coming up as I neared that 11k mark. I figured I'd just push on and told myself in my head that 14k was soon and I could get my next GU, which would give me some energy! We were also nearing the Art Gallery, which was lined with people cheering and clapping. I can't remember now if I walked a bit here, but I was starting to feel all of that pushing and back and forth speed/slower hitting me. When I say hitting me, I don't really mean physically. I felt tired, for sure, but the real problem was my mental game.

I made it to 14k to have my GU and walk break, and my head was a jumble of negative self talk. I felt like I couldn't do it anymore, like I wouldn't make it, and I kept repeating "NEVER AGAIN!" in my head. That said, I finished fueling and started running again, albeit slower paced now. Tania asked me if I was okay and I said, "Not at all."  She said I looked okay, and was I just an Emmy award winning actress? My reply, "YES!"  Here's where it got really ugly, folks. I was super fried emotionally and mentally. My head was telling me just to walk the stupid thing into the finish, but my stubborn nature wouldn't let me give up that easily!

Tania was chatting off and on throughout the race, and I'd told her before hand that my style is usually to be very chatty, light, laughing and joking the whole time. That was not at ALL the case the entire half. At one point I told her I was just trying to focus, which was true, but it was also because I was trying to just hold myself together.

I hate, hate, hate walking during a run. I'm not sure what my big "deal" is about it, but I find it.....weak. Not for others or anything-I'm not a total jackass, but like I said....I put a lot of pressure on myself. Pressure I wouldn't ever expect to put on anyone else. Sigh. So when I hit 16k and I felt like I just could NOT go on another step, I told Tania I had to walk. She tried to encourage and reassure me, "There's just 5k left! You got this! What's 30 minutes??" At that point though, 2 minutes felt too long! I wasn't sure how I was going to hold it together to even make it. I lost my mind, people. I truly started spinning out of control in my head and I yelled at Tania that I was DONE, okay??? DONE!!!!!!

Somehow, I managed to smack myself across the face, internally, and started running again. Ya, I was not a happy camper. My thought was that I'd just get to 18k and have another GU. That would help me get to 19k where my friend Jay would be waiting at a cheer station. I knew from there, I'd see my family shortly after, and then I'd be at the finish. I literally counted down for these moments in my head and just tried to push to get to them.

I fueled and walked at 18k, the 2:20 pace bunny having passed me. Let me tell you, folks, at this point I didn't give a rat's ass when I finished, in terms of time. All of that flew out the window and my only thought was finishing this stupid, worst idea ever, event.

I started running again, and once I rounded the corner and saw Jay, it was like all of this pent up frustration and emotion and crazy came pouring out of me in a swift flood. I literally ran into her arms like someone being chased by Zombies, threw myself on her shoulder and sobbed!!! The ugly cry sob!!! Oh. My. Jay told me to "Go, go!" and I said I couldn't. I just really didn't even care.

But, go I did. I ran on, scanning the crowd for my family, frantic to hit that next mark and see them. For some reason, 20k seemed to take forever to reach, and still I didn't see my kids or husband. I started to think maybe they were just at the finish, so I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I could see the finish banner ahead, probably 500 meters or so out, and there they were! If you thought it was bad when I saw Jay, that was NOTHING compared to what happened when I saw them. I literally spent a minute sobbing over them, with my girls telling me they were so proud, and my husband and Tania telling me to "GO! The FINISH IS RIGHT THERE!" Again, I didn't really care.

I started to run, sort of in a daze, and the best part was....my girls ran right alongside of me, crossing the finish with me at 2:21:59.

I burst into a hideous amount of tears and threw myself into my husbands arms, where I kept repeating "I choked, I choked!" I KNEW that up until that final 5k, I had 2:15 firmly in my grasp. I was mad at myself for walking, I was mad at myself for "giving up." I knew if I hadn't stopped so long hugging and crying, I would have shaved off some time as well. I'd just run my first half marathon, a year to the day of running my first 5k ever, and I felt like a huge disappointment.

It was not a great feeling, to say the least.

After much sobbing, and then seeing my friends and heading to lunch, and discussing and replaying, I felt....not better, only because I was still upset with myself, but at least more composed, and happy (always happy) to be in the company of fantastic women that always manage to lift my spirits.

Tania and I went to LeNordik the following day, which was the perfect antidote to sore legs. We spent 5 hours in hot tubs and sauna's and pools. We drank B-52's and ate yummy food. My legs are still a bit stiff, and I always bloat during a race, and for a few days afterwards, but generally, I don't feel too badly.

She headed home today, and I've had some time to digest the race and be alone with my thoughts.

Being me, this means, I've been scouring the internets for "average first half race times for women" and "post race depression."  I've been devouring accounts of bloggers half marathons, and I've seen some 20 somethings that have been ECSTATIC over their 2:44 or even 3:00 finish times! Did you know the average pace for a 40 year old woman running a half is 11:15? I'm horrible with conversion from km to miles, but I was running more like 10:30. On top of which, my "finish" during my training half was 2:32, and I finished a full 10 minutes faster than that. What can I say? That can't be THAT horrible, right?

I've been kind of moping around today, my legs are still sore from pushing and I just feel generally emotionally and physically tired. I'm starting to come around, though, and I'm starting to let it sink in that I RAN A HALF MARATHON!!

I learned a lot from this run. I learned some things I shouldn't do, and I have a better understanding of what works for me. I don't know what's next for me, running wise, or even other activity wise.

Right now, I'm just glad that I did it, that I can check off the 'ol bucket list, and that, for a 40 year old lady running her first half, I didn't do "half" bad. I pushed, I persevered, I rallied when I didn't want to....and I finished.

In future, for any goal, I need to learn not to put more pressure on myself than I'd ever put on someone else. Life.....always more to learn....just like running. Let's hope it doesn't take me another 40 years to finally get this into my brain! You know, it's hard to "unlearn" stubborn.

Tania and I, above, before and after the race!

                                      My Girls. They pushed, cheered, talked down from ledges!
                                                                Finishers, ALL!


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  2. I totally teared up reading this, felt like I was in your head during the race, and i know what that mental battle feels like. But you did it, you didn't give up. I think you did awesome, it was a challenging course, you killed your previous half training time too! I love the part where you saw your family, i love that they ran to the finish with you, so much pride in their eyes. The look on your girls faces after the race was the perfect reflection of how amazing you did. I get the blues after a big race, you push yourself so hard, and after there is this release...I feel so raw and vulnerable. Lots of TLC :) So very proud of you.

    1. Thanks Katie. I know we share this similar personality trait, and I learn so much from watching you! I hope, one day, to get to the "happy run" but...I dunno. Being competitive has its perks and drawbacks. Seeing my family was the highlight of my race. I'll never forget the feeling of actually being "lifted" by them into the Finish.

  3. Dude! Before I say stop being so hard on yourself I'm going to tell you that I totally get it. I used to be ridiculously hard on myself but through my Tri training have weirdly gotten so much better. I just started focussing on what I can do instead of what I can't. Having said that.... STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF : ) You realize just a little over a year ago you couldn't even run 5k, right? And on Sunday you ran 21k! That's HUGE. I'm so proud of you for pushing past the negative self-talk. One of the hardest things I've found when it comes to anything athletic is getting past the mental hurdles and you totally did that. So proud of you.

    1. I definitely need to stop being so hard on myself. :) Dang competitive, perfectionism! As the days have passed, I've been able to let it sink in more. I RAN A HALF MARATHON! That seems crazy to me, given, like you said, that I ran my "first 5k" race exactly a year go. Also the Army. I've come a long way in a short time. I need to remember THAT and not all of the self criticism. Thanks again for your support and encouragement! I'm always excited to "show you" what I've accomplished-because I feel your belief in me!

  4. What Sharon said. Duuude, you rock!! I ran my first half marathon slower than you. You are doing awesome! Don't forget that you're doing this for fun, it's not your job. ;-)

    1. Lol! This made me laugh because you are SO right! This is an activity I've chosen to do, for recreation. Sometimes, maybe, I take myself a little *too* seriously. :) Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

  5. What you accomplished was epic. The "learning" part will only catapult you to extra-epic-ness in the very near future. Rock on, girlfriend.

  6. Extra epic-ness?! SWEEET! BRING IT! :) I'm definitely looking to learn from my mistakes and just get better and stronger. I'm also freaking out a little that Yum Yucky commented on MY blog! :)