my first half marathon!

Hello, hello! I survived! Three days ago, I ran my very first half marathon and I am finally here to tell you a little bit about my experience. #warninglongpostahead

(In case you missed the previous half marathon posts, here’s a quick link for all of those.)

Last time, I talked about my taper week of training which officially ended on Saturday but really, I was done running by Thursday of last week. Friday was a literal rest day, where I did nothing but stretch a little and try my hardest to not think about the impending race.

Saturday morning I picked up my race pack, which sadly included nothing more than a long sleeved shirt (it was actually decent material) and my race number. There may have been a coupon in there for a discounted massage. #notwhatIexpected

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Fueling wise, I made sure to drink extra water and coconut water to make sure I was already hydrating properly. I also ate a ton (3 large bowls) of salad for lunch because, well…I don’t need to explain it but let’s just say I wanted green roughage to work its’ magic. Saturday evening, I laid out all my clothes and prepped part of my breakfast which was two hard boiled eggs. For dinner, I baked up a veggie lasagna to load up on carbs. Around 10 p.m., I was finally in bed.

Sunday morning was a whirlwind! For starters, our sweet baby decided to wake up at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4 a.m….and then my alarm went off at 6 a.m., so I could make it to my 8 a.m. start time. Phew! Needless to say, I was already running somewhat low on fumes by the time the race actually started. Of course it could have been worse so I’m not complaining and really, I wasn’t all that tired when the race started.

After grabbing a quick breakfast of 2 hard boiled eggs and a slice of toast, I was out the door. The drive to the course was about 25 minutes so I chugged plenty of water (and coconut water, too) on the way there to make sure I was sufficiently hydrated.

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{Pre-race…the sunglasses were for protection against the light rain & winds}

Clothing
For anyone interested in how I stayed warm, the trick was layering. (I’m sure northerners are laughing at me right now but please humor me for a minute.) I wore my race belt (the one I use for triathlons) which came super handy, since I could remove it and place it underneath the top layer, which I ended up shedding during the race. For my legs I had long cotton leggings (non-running ones), running capris over that, and then my running shorts. I wore two pairs of socks – one short and then long ones on top, which covered part of my leggings. Super attractive. Not. 
In my shorts, I carried my car key and chapstick in the key pocket. In one fuel pocket (those are on the hip part of the shorts, one on each side) I carried laraballs and in the other fuel pocket I carried a tiny Ziploc of agave nectar. Yes, the straight up stuff. It was like my own version of a honey stinger
On top, I wore a long sleeved Under Armour shirt (the white one you see peeking out), my Adidas lightweight waterproof jacket and a black fleece neck warmer. There were hot pink fleece running gloves, which were a lifesaver and a warm headband which helped keep my head and ears warm. I was going to wear a beanie but decided against it at the last minute. Nothing I wore matched but I didn’t care because I didn’t get cold.  
Weather

Between the time I left the house and race start time, it only warmed up two degrees. Thankfully, there wasn’t an awful wind chill like we had been experiencing in the days prior. Note that it says it was cloudy on the screen shot below which it was, but there was also a light rain/mist throughout the race. I noticed a few people had frost building up on their beanies or neck warmers, and one guy’s beard definitely had frost on it. #thatmademyday

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{Temp right at start of race}
By the time I was done running, it had warmed up to 32 degrees. I actually took this screen shot below almost half hour after I finished (since I wasn’t thinking clearly right after crossing the finish) but I’d guess it was about the same temperature. 
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{Temp about half hour after I finished}
The Beginning (Mile 0 to Mile 4)

In a literal last minute decision, I chose to take my cell phone with ear buds and just leave the phone in the zipper pocket of my running capris where I knew it wouldn’t bother me. I’m not an ex-cross country runner so music is something I like having when I’m running longer distances and for this race, they were allowed.

One thing I didn’t expect (because it was a local race put on by the local club) was the fact that there were pacers. This meant that I didn’t have to solely rely on myself (aka my GPS) for knowing if my pace was on target with my goal. Like I mentioned in this post, I had a goal of finishing in 2:20. I found the pacer holding up the sign for that pace, but then in another last minute decision went ahead and started with the 2:10 pacer. I felt that based on all my training, it was certainly possible.

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{The pacer with my newly decided race goal}
After singing the Star Spangled Banner and counting down from 10, the race started! It’s good for me to note here that by this point, I wasn’t feeling nervous anymore. I’m not sure if it was the cold making me numb or if I was just in a zone, but I didn’t have the normal butterflies I usually do before a race. Sure, I was a bit nervous the day before but at the start line, I was feeling pretty normal which was a new to me.
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The first few miles were all about warming up and settling into a pace. Since the only clothes drop was at mile 2, I had to decide fairly quickly whether or not I was going to shed any layers. Just in case, I went ahead and moved my race belt down one layer, underneath my jacket. Turns out, I decided to go ahead and just keep the jacket for the time being and if I got too hot, I would just tie it around my waist. It’s not like I’m so fast that it was going to slow me down. 
There were rolling hills, which actually felt pretty easy. One mental trick I used from the very beginning was to not even look ahead at the hill when I knew it was coming. Since the course was so rural and the road stretched out as far as the eye could see, it would’ve been easy to see the hill looming in the distance and let it play mind games with me.
The light rain (more like a mist) was mostly during this portion of the race. I also kept my neck warmer pulled up over my mouth and cheeks, which helped create some steam and therefore helped me warm up faster.
Even though I started with the 2:10 pace group, during this first portion of the race my main focus was to stay in front of them but still behind the 2:00 pace group. This strategy worked well for me the entire race.
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The Middle (Mile 5 to Mile 8)
Out of the entire race, I felt like miles 5 and 6 were the hardest for me. There weren’t any significant reasons as to why, other than just really feeling tired. But then I started feeling pretty good, once I got a second wind around mile 7. This was also around the time where I guzzled the agave nectar which probably explains why I got that second wind.
At this point, it was more overcast and cold than anything. I still had my outer jacket tied around my waist at this point and didn’t feel ready to put it back on yet. The longest hill was right before mile 8 and went on for probably a good 3/4 mile. It was more of a gradual ascent which wasn’t nearly as bad as the steepest hill that was yet to come.

Up until this point, I felt like the miles were going by really quickly. I kept hearing the GPS through my ear buds at each mile, but it wasn’t corresponding with the mile markers on the course so after a while, I just disregarded it and the split times as well. I think my split times were probably a tad slower than what the GPS was saying but I will never know for sure.

The End (Mile 9 to Mile 13.1)
Once I reached the 10 mile mark, there were two things I thought about. One was the large looming hill in front of me and two was the fact that once I ran through this mile, it would be the furthest I had ever run in my training. The thought of the hill I made quickly go away, since I knew that would only end in me wanting to stop and walk. As far as the distance, I thought about how at this point I only had a 5K left to run which made it seem a lot less daunting.

Around mile 11, there was some headwind starting to pick up so I started getting a bit chilly. Thankfully, I had the jacket tied around my waist so that came in handy. This was also when I finally started feeling the outside of my left foot start hurting. It wasn’t too bad especially once I made sure to focus on spreading my toes every time I landed and exaggerating the heel-toe motion.

Somewhere between mile 11 and 12 is where I finally started letting my mind think about the finish line. This was also around the time where I started thinking that I should have run faster over the course of the race. When I crossed the finish line, I actually broke out into a smile and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I’ll admit, I got a bit teary when I realized that I just ran 13.1 miles without stopping. The feeling was surreal and as much as I was glad it was over, I also felt like I could have kept on running.

Numbers
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to use my stopwatch for mile splits so all I have are the official chip times. Fortunately, I beat my goal of 2:20 and didn’t have to walk any part of the race. I’m not sure about the negative splits but I felt like I at least maintained a fairly consistent pace the entire time.

Overall              537/917
Female              204/462
Age Group       39/59

10K                1:00:56           
Finish             2:08:16           
Avg Pace         9:47 min/mi

Overall Random Thoughts
I felt prepared and strong. I was confident in my ability to run the distance, even never having run it before. I didn’t let the hills mentally get to me, which helped tremendously. I also listened to music the entire time, and even sang out loud at times was made it fun. I took time to look around me at the scenery, taking in the corn fields and seeing the ice on the edge of the lake. I felt like I probably could have run faster, and yet at the same time wasn’t sure just how much faster I should have run. Knowing from past experience about my foot hurting after a lot of miles, I should have taped it up before the race. Next time, I won’t use my GPS – it’s too unreliable for knowing my mile split times. I’ll just go old school and use the lap settings on my basic stopwatch at each mile marker. I will definitely do this again. Running this distance used to intimidate me but now I know better. It was cold but I didn’t feel cold. I can see myself running double this distance so that’s encouraging for when I want to tackle that goal.

It’s official…I am a half-marathoner and couldn’t be more proud. Now where’s my 13.1 sticker?!*
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*It wasn’t provided in my race pack, so how will I ever prove that I ran a half marathon?! 
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