And I would walk 500 more.
Possibly a bit of an exaggeration? Maybe? Just a weensy bit?
I should probably talk about what actually happened rather than what it felt like happened.
I confess. I did not walk 500 miles. And I would NOT walk 500 more.
What I did do (and I told Ann this would be my proclamation), I PR’d AT A HALF MARATHON!!!
You heard it. A Personal Record, yo!
I confess. It was my very first half marathon. It was my very last half marathon. It will be a Personal Record engraved in the books never to be beaten.
By me, anyway.
Last April I registered for the MO Cowbell Half Marathon. I did this while still recovering from an ankle injury. The same ankle injury that caused me to not be able to do my normal April race. It sure seemed like a great idea at the time.
Since pressing “AGREE” on that registration there have been many, many days of WHAT THE HELL HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO conversations in my head. Why did I want to do a half marathon? It’s a distance I’ve always sworn I would never do.
Until I thought I might. <—- that decision upended all my “I will never….” thoughts. And I began considering what I might be capable of.
Training at the beginning of the summer was stellar! I was on track. I did my workouts like I was supposed to. Everything was good and I felt confident. Then August happened. A trip to South Carolina to meet my newest grandson and the addition of a senior dog into my household and my well oiled machine of a plan fell to pieces. I did well with my workouts during the week, but the weekends took a big hit so I never really got the number of long runs in that I should have done. Both of my longest runs (9.3 & 9.5) happened in September (within three weeks of the race) and those distances were scheduled for mid August. I knew I was in trouble.
Both of my long runs resulted in pain. Knee pain on the first long run. Hip pain on the second long run. The hip pain was the worst and never fully subsided before the race. It was just tight and uncomfortable. The yoga mat was my best friend for those three weeks before the race.
Race day was a SUPER early start! My alarm was set to go off at 5am, but I was up at 10 till. Dressed. Food. Out the door into the dark and HUMID morning. For months I have said that I don’t care how hot or cold it is as long as it’s not humid. So….my bad on that one! Nothing like jinxing it. I was a little concerned about the humidity because it is a killer. But when we got parked and out of the car, the breeze off the river made it actually cold. Full disclosure – when I say “cold” I mean 67 degrees. So…ya know…. not that cold.
We walked along the super creepy riverwalk to the starting line of the race where there was a nice little pavilion where we could sit an stretch. We were over an hour early for race start time, but knew that parking would be an issue if we didn’t arrive in sufficient time. So early arrival was pretty necessary. Once the sun started coming up it was actually quite pretty at the race venue. Foggy, but pretty.
I located Mom and my sister, Rose Ann (who had come up for moral support) right about the time they were calling for everyone to get ready to rumble.
Hugs and kisses and wishes for good luck and we headed to our coral to start the race.
Ann and I chit chatted while we waited for the race to start. And then we were off. Mom and Rose snagged a picture as we passed them – looking all happy to be starting off on a 13.1 mile adventure!
Lady behind me looks THRILLED to be there. I at least PRETEND to be thrilled!! Geez. Get it together, Ladybehindme!
Soooo. The race plan. After seeing me struggle on my 9.3 mile run through Forest Park, Ann decided that she was going to run with me for the entirety of the race. She’s done this before when she knew I wanted to PR at a 5k and it was very helpful. My momma guilt said that she needed to run her own race, but she assured me that she was going to have her own race in November when she did another half. I was happy to have her with me. She was a tremendous help for my mental game.
The MO Cowbell has a time requirement of 16:00 minute mile averages. After the last person has left the starting line they give 20 minutes and then start sweeping the course. In my two long runs, my average minutes per mile were closer to 17 minutes average. The 9.3 run was 16:49 and the 9.5 run was 16:46. This was NOT encouraging when there was a 16:00 min/mile requirement. Ann assured me that I wasn’t going to get a DNF if I was over the 16:00 requirement and I relaxed a little, but I still wanted to do the whole course with an average 16:00 min/mile.
My youngest sister was with me during my 9.3 mile run and advised different intervals. We started our Forest Park run doing a mile run, then a walk break. I petered out very quickly. So she recommended a 4 minute run 1 minute walk interval instead, with the theory that I would rest before I was worn out and would therefore be able to keep up with that time interval better. It made sense, so that’s what my race plan was.
Mile one had a hill!!! Seriously? They promised a flat course until Mile ten, at which point there was a HILL that would last for a full mile. Mile one’s hill was a short hill. A little steep. But not unmanageable. This, of course, did not stop me from whining about having a hill at Mile one. Ann reminded me – better at Mile one than Mile THIRTEEN!! True statement. So we carried on.
I always look at course maps to make a mental note of where the bathrooms are because I have an hour bladder. Four miles is about the max I’ve ever run without taking a potty break. The course map had a green water droplet, indicating (it SAID) water and restroom station. First off, there were not water stations every two miles. Secondly, there were not port-a-potties at every water station.
So, let’s take a moment to talk about poop right here. Because poop is a big part of race day.
At the beginning of the year I began taking a magnesium supplement at the advice of the doctor. I was obedient and began. It seemed to help with the muscle cramps that I tend to be plagued with. Last August when I was visiting my daughter’s family I was having a discussion with my son in law about his weight lifting. He made the comment that magnesium supplements were a boost to lifting weights with the inconvenience that they make you “shit water.” DING DING DING!!! The bell went off. All of the weirdness in my bowel over the past few months suddenly made sense. I had to plan out all my runs to make sure that I was within a mile or two of a bathroom. I immediately quit taking the vitamin supplement because it was having such a drastic affect on my ability to go more than two miles without a pit-stop. I figured I had a month and a half before race day of not taking the pill to hopefully get my bowels back to normal and I crossed my fingers that it was enough time.
ANYWAY!!! We passed the first water station. No port-a-potty. I wasn’t quite sure that I could comfortably make it to the next water station (providing there was actually a johnny on the spot like there should be). The amount of time spent on the course talking about my bowel and me wanting to find anywhere to pop a squat (empty cornfield, behind a van that didn’t appear to have people in it, behind an unopened business – which would have been their entry way) was fairly ridiculous. A new PR for me. FIVE miles without a potty break! THAT is what I feel I need a medal for!
Miles six through eight went through a community which, Ann warned me, was very Stepford Wives-ish. She was NOT wrong! Picture perfect houses. Perfectly manicured lawns. Cute little preppy families sitting on their porches with the little toe-head children and adorable Labradoodles. Best part about this stage of the race was the music (and the snarky comments about the community). My knee and hip were hurting pretty badly around here. It was where I kind of started re-vamping my run/walk plan.
So my knee and hip were sore by Mile three, but not horribly painful until around Mile six. When I did my long training run with Melissa and Ann in Forest Park my knee was really painful, but got feeling better fairly quickly after the run was over. When I did my long solo training run on the Katy Trail my hip was VERY painful and I ended up walking the last mile of my run. I did not put two and two together until Ann asked me to pinpoint the pain. She was like, “TOTALLY your IT Band. When was the last time you foam rolled?” “Ummmm. I’m gonna do that when I get home.” She was not amused. So apparently, I really really need to be foam rolling more regularly. We spent a good amount of time during the last half of the race randomly talking about my IT Band. I think that means I may have been whining about it.
When we left Stepford Wivesville we hit a small hill right before we got to the dreaded Mile ten hill. With my knee and hip being painful, I decided that I wanted to keep up with some sort of run/walk interval, up to Mile 9.3 (15K). I am registered for a 15K in December so I thought it was logical to try and stick as close to the race plan as possible up until that point and then try to maintain a brisk walk pace (16:00 min/mile at the slowest). The run times shortened and the walk times lengthened between Mile six and Mile 9.3, but I managed it.
And then came the HORRIBLE hill. Mile ten. There was a throng of people walking up that hill around us. My favorite of them all (besides Ann, of course) was the lady who pulled out her phone and started playing (as loud as her phone would play), “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This brought everyone within ear shot into fits of laughter. It was quite hilarious.
You can do anything for a 5K! By the time we got to the top of the big hill I felt rejuvenated. Mentally, not physically. My knee and hip were still painful, but I only had 5K to go!! At that point, I felt like I had already succeeded. I had no more doubts as to whether or not I’d finish it. The downhill slope on the other side of the hill was very gradual so I wanted to run for a little bit. We did random stints of running for the next little bit. We were talking about the Hot Chocolate race in December and I decided that I was going to drop down from 15K to the 5K. Ann reminded me that only the 15K participants get medals. And we all know that I only run for the bling. One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not making big decisions while you’re in the middle of something difficult. So I’m not running to the computer to change my registration. I’ll heal up a bit before deciding whether my body can (or wants to) deal with another long race.
About a mile and a half before the finish line there was a downhill stretch, short but steep – from the uphill that I whined about at the beginning of the race. That short piece of downhill was the most painful 20 feet of the entire race. I could not believe the stabbing pain in my knee as I walked down that hill. So, so bad. I had this moment of panic that I would not be able to finish. So close to the finish line and such horrific pain in my knee, I thought something was seriously wrong with it. Once I got off the hill it was fine again. There was just something about going down that hill that didn’t agree with my knee at all.
Once we got off the hill and my knee was back to the normal pain and not the “down hill” pain I thought I wanted to run a little bit more. And by little bit, I mean about a minute. Everything hurt. Feet. Knees. Hips. Back. Ann asked if I wanted to walk across the finish line or run. I told her I wanted to run across it. So we decided that we’d walk to the Mile 13 marker and then run the last tenth to cross the finish. We had the finish line in sight. Then we had Michelle in sight. She was waiting for us on the side of the road. It was awesome to see her! We stopped for hugs and she’s like, “Mom…do your race.” I forgot all about it when I saw Michelle there. Then we got closer to the finish. Right about the point where we were going to run, there was my grandson, sitting on the side of the road with his dad. So we both ran over to give him kisses. Once he saw his momma there was no going back to just sitting on the side of the road. So Ann scooped him up and ran with him and me across the finish line.
My mom, my sister, one of my daughters, my son in law, my grandson…all there at the finish line. And another of my daughters crossing the finish line with me. It was fantastic! My son in law BROUGHT ME DONUTS!!!! It’s nice to have such a great support system.
Once we got back to the car to head home and I was able to open up my garmin app to look over the run, I saw that I had an average time to 15:40 min/mile. I was ecstatic! Not only did I finish, but I finished in a faster time than I had set out to do. It was a validation for me of the hard work that I put into my training, even though the last month and a half were far less than stellar. It made me step back and remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to keep going.
I’m glad that I chose to do this crazy, stupid race. I’m glad I had Ann with me during the race. She had a BIG impact on it being successful. I’m glad that I’m strong enough to even attempt something like this. It was a good (LONG) day.