Monday, April 29, 2013

Year of the Badass- The Half Marathon

So, here's my lengthy half marathon recap.  If you don't want to read all of the details, you can scroll through and look at the pictures and I will provide a brief overview at the bottom (as to not give anything away), but I had no idea what to anticipate going into my race, so here's the nitty gritty for all interested parties. 

I ran my first half marathon yesterday, April 28, 2013 with one of my best friends, Shannon.  Prior to this, we've ran 5ks and trained, but this was our first "big" race.  We did the Run Like a Diva  (here's their facebook page) half marathon in Myrtle Beach SC.  

I try to be prepared for everything and I stress if I can't plan something out or don't know how it's going to go.  I worried about my phone battery dying during the race.  No music?  No Nike+ to track my run and give me my pace?  Oh no!  We couldn't have that.  So, I got a new iphone5 before the run.  My old one was a piece of crap and neither of the buttons worked anyway.  The people at the apple store showed me how to put this "ghost button" on there so I would have a home button.  It was time for a new phone anyway.  The weather forecast called for rain.  I've never ran in the rain.  I was stressed.  I took 2 sets of everything that I may need, just in case.  I even took my old running shoes.  What I thought may happen to my current ones, who knows, but I was prepared, JUST IN CASE! 

Our goal was to finish the half in 2.5 hours.  It was a lofty goal, and I was prepared to finish anywhere from 2:30-2:45. 

I don't know exactly when we decided to do a half marathon.  I know it was before Christmas, but we didn't register until later.  We ran a lot in October and November... a little in December.  January got cold.  We picked back up in February and March more heavily and started adding and extending our long runs.  We ran several (2-4) times a week, doing 2-4 miles, and tried to do a long run on Sundays.  There were a few Sundays we missed.  We did an 8 mile run and an 8.5 mile run, but those were the longest runs we did prior to the half.  We do Zumba twice a week, and weights or crossfit 2-3 times a week, on average also.  I try to walk 1-2 miles on my lunch on the days that the weather is nice, but it's not a definite thing.  I researched training programs and we tried to loosely follow Hal Higdon's plan.

About 2 weeks before our half, 8 miles was the longest run we had done.  I dreamed that Shannon and I showed up to run and the course (which was not at the beach) was not marked, so we had to follow pacers.  We started out with white trucks as our "pacers" but they stopped at mile 3.  We then had to follow runners that were pacers, and ours stopped at mile 8 to rest.  The race coordinator insisted that she stop to rest, but said that we could go run the hill that was next to us to finish the race.  So we ran the hill and were still only at 12 miles, so we had to run the hill again, and a bunch of other runners were closing in on us but Shannon sprinted and took first place, while 2 other girls finished in front of me and I got 4th. 

This comes into play in a little while.

Someone sent me a link about how to carb load before a race.  It was for a full marathon and it said to start 3 days prior to the race.  Well, I knew I wasn't running a full marathon, but I allowed myself to have a few of the things that I wanted a few days leading up to the race.  The run was on Sunday, and on Wednesday, my office manager bought lasagna from Olive Garden for administrative assistant's day.  So, I had lasagna, salad and a breadstick.  I had a regular, healthy dinner.  On Thursday, I had a regular lunch, but I had some left over salad and a breadstick with it.  We took the hubby's mom out for dinner for her birthday.  I had grilled salmon, broccoli and mashed potatoes.  Friday, I had Japanese for lunch.  It had been so long since I had it and it was DELICIOUS!!!  Friday night, we got to the beach and we went to Dick's Last Resort.  You know, the one where they make you wear a condom hat with a funny saying!

 There, I had blackened chicken, mixed veggies and rice.  I even had a few drinks Friday night, mixed with and followed by water, of course- couldn't get dehydrated! 

Saturday, we woke up and I had one piece of blueberry loaf cake (think pound cake) and we went to breakfast, where I had a bacon and egg sandwich with hashbrowns.  For lunch, I had steamed oysters with crackers.  Then, we went big for dinner.  We went to the seafood buffet and I ate like it was my last meal!!!  If it looked good, it went on my plate.  And man, was it good!  I see why I was a fatty before!!!  I LOVE to eat good food!  I even had dessert! 
Saturday morning, I had a bagel thin with about half of a Laughing Cow cream cheese wedge and a banana. 

I drink water throughout the day, every day, but around Tuesday or Wednesday, I really started paying attention and trying to add a little more each day.  Friday and Saturday, I drank water like it was my job.  I didn't drink much Sunday morning, because I always have to pee and I wasn't going to stop during the run.  I did drink a Gatorade prime on the way to the race.  They're only a few ounces- think, kind of like Gu, but not that gross, slimy texture that makes you want to gag.  Love them for long runs. 

The packet pickups I've had for 5ks in the past have been just that... a packet pickup.  You give your name, they give you your stuff, you leave.  This was so much more.  I guess that's where the "expo" comes in.  There were hundreds of people EVERYWHERE when we arrived.  We got a free koozie when we walked through the door.
Then we were directed to Gym 1.  In Gym 1, I bought a 13.1 sticker for my car and for my phone.  The one for my car actually says but the word run looks like the number 1.  Cute, right?!  They had tons of items to purchase... you name it, they had it!  Except for my Gatorade prime, that I had to go to the grocery store for.  But they had clothes, sports bras, jewelry, shoes, Gu, everything.  Shannon and I both ended up buying SPI belts and we LOVED them!!!  I'm very happy with my purchase!  It was great for the race and they really do stretch to fit a LOT of crap in them.  I had 2 packs of shot blocks, gum, and extra ear phones in mine.  Shannon had 1 pack of shot blocks and her phone in hers.  And they didn't move during the run, AT ALL!  I highly recommend them if you're in the market for something similar.  You will see it in some of the pics below.  It's also what I attached my bib to, so I didn't have to get any holes in my shirt!  Plus one for the SPI belt!   At the expo, they even had djs playing music.  The energy was great!  In Gym 1, we got our bibs.
Then, they told us to go to Gym 2 for tshirt pick up.  Gym 2 is also where Ali Vincent, the first female Biggest Loser, was meeting people and signing autographs.  There were some size issues with the tshirts, but the race organizers provider changed providers, and they are making it right (sending us new shirts in the mail).  Ali was soooo nice and encouraging.  I can't say enough good things about her.  She took time with each person and talked with them individually and personally.  She signed anything she was asked to.  She is a genuine person with a wonderful spirit and it made me love her even more.  I'm so proud of her accomplishments and know she will continue to do great things.  By the way, she is running 13 half marathons in 2013!  How awesome is that?!
There was also this fabulous DIVA that was dancing, taking pictures with everyone and keeping the energy level up!  It was hilarious!

After the expo, we rode the race course so we could get a feel for it and know what to expect.  By the time we made it out to the beach, it was cloudy and chilly.  But, I did slip my bathing suit cover off long enough to snap a picture. 

This is the first time in a while that I've actually felt comfortable in a bikini. 
More beach fun.

Then we went out for dinner, but had a photo shoot first!

I had mentally planned to be in bed by 10:30 or 11, to get plenty of rest.  When we got back to the room, we had to make signs for our cheerleaders.

And I had to get my stuff ready.
Notice the SPI belt in there (black with a pink zipper) that my bib is attached to.  You'll see it again in more pics coming. I ended up not wearing the hat.  It was in case of rain.  Told you I tried to prepare for everything. 

Shannon and I both kept putting off going to sleep, like if we didn't go to sleep, morning wouldn't come.  To say I was nervous was an understatement.  We finally went to bed around midnight, and had to get back up at 5 am. 

I was still worried about the weather.  The percentage of chance of rain had gone down, but was still there on my weather app.  But, we woke up to this:
The weather was gorgeous, and even warmer than the chilly night before.  No rain in sight!  It was the big day!  I was kind of on auto pilot all morning, and even through the race.  I think the nerves and adrenaline took over.  I got ready and we headed to the race.  We got there around 6:15 or so, and lineup started at 6:30.  There were THOUSANDS of people EVERYWHERE!!! 
We both had to pee, so we stood in line at the 20 port-a-johns that they had for a race with THOUSANDS of women.  It took forever.  I peed before I left the room, but I still HAD to again.  We should have gotten there a little earlier, to eliminate extra stress from waiting in line for so long.  So, we got through the line, lined up at our pace marker, and it was time to start.  I remember them singing the national anthem and cheering at the end of it, but it's also kind of a blur. 

I started my Nike+ app and the line started to move.  We didn't make it far before we stopped and waited a few more seconds to really get going.  I had my app set to tell me my distance and pace every .25 miles.  I went back and forth on how often I wanted to hear it.  When I trained, I started with it telling me every minute, but thought that may be too much while doing the half, and finally decided on every .25 miles.  It worked out really well.  Side note- I LOVE the Nike+ app because you can track all of your runs, your total distances, your paces, it breaks up your pace by mile, gives your average pace for each run and total runs, and your friends can like and comment on your status on facebook and it actually cheers for you through your earbuds while you're running.  It's very encouraging for me. 

We lined up in the middle of the 11-12 minute group.  Our goal pace was 11:30.  In 5ks, I usually line up ahead of my pace, because so many people just get in line and don't pay attention to the paces.  With this, I figured I needed to be in my right spot. 

We crossed the start line and I spotted my dad, his girlfriend and my brother.  They were later getting there and we didn't get to see them before we started, so it was great seeing them right as we started.  From riding the course the day before, we knew there would be a long straight stretch to start off.  We hit mile 1 in no time, and we were ahead of pace, according to my app.  I could see the 11 minute pacer (wearing balloons that stuck up over the mass of people).  I think it was before mile 2 that we passed the first dj.  There were lots of people, along the first few miles, cheering us along.  People were on their balconies and on the side of the road watching, holding signs and cheering.  It seemed like no time that we hit mile 2, then we made the turn off that of first long straight stretch.  I couldn't believe how fast that part had gone by.  The pacer was still in sight too.  The first water station was at mile 3, and I didn't need any, so we kept going. 

There was another water station around mile 4, and I was going to take a shot block and grab a sip of water.  When I got to the table, they didn't have the water ready, so after looking at a few tables, I said screw it, and kept running.  Shannon hadn't stopped for water, so I sprinted to catch up with her.  I ate my shot block and she did too.  Strawberry is my favorite.  We were getting close to mile 5, and I knew my family and Shannon's husband would be there, so that kept my momentum going.  Here's the sign my hubby held most of the time:
Which caused this girl to photo bomb MY photo opp:
I may or may not have yelled, "Not you!!! He's not taking the picture of you!!!"  Oh well... It was MY photo opp!  But my brother did manage to capture this one:
And I was still happy, regardless.

I knew we would see them again at mile 6.5, so that made the next mile and a half fly by.  Seriously, I don't even remember that part of the course at all.  I told Rocky (hubs) when to anticipate us at each spot, but we must have been faster than they thought, because as we were approaching the spot, they were running up to hold the signs and cheer for us!
I knew after this, I wouldn't see them until the end.  So I tried to find other things to focus on to keep going.  I was HALF WAY through my first half marathon!!  Half way!  I was doing this!  Who am I?  Who is this person that has taken over my body and is doing things that I never imagined I could dream of doing?!  Around mile 6.5 I grabbed some Gatorade at the water station.  I wore more of it than I drank.

We went up a little bitty hill right before mile 8.  There were signs staked along the course, and the one at the hill said, "Relax, it's just a hill! (A very small hill)"  That made me laugh.  You could hear the people behind us complaining about the hill when it came into view.  We got to mile 8.  I knew I was going to be fine until then.  I had ran 8.5 in training.  Anything beyond that was unknown to me.  We saw a little girl with a sign that said something like, "My mom made me get up at 4:00 this morning and all I want is BOJANGLES!"  A guy had one that said, "Sure this was a good idea months ago" and a few others, including, "Toenails are for sissies!" 

Somewhere along the way, I felt like I could use a good stretch for my legs, but knew I wasn't going to stop.  I don't know what gave me the idea, but I brought my knees up, kind of like high knees, while continuing to run.  I realized how stiff my knees were.  This REALLY helped, so I did it about every half mile after this.  Oh, I forgot to mention, Shannon and I have both had arm tingling/numbness during our long runs before.  I think it's lack of circulation, because of all of the blood pumping to our legs, but I'm no doctor, and it's just a theory.  So, we make it a point to shake out our arms and wiggle our fingers every so often.  Shannon had a really good idea a while back to start doing that every time we got a cheer from our Nike app.  It really helps.  So, I started wiggling my arms and doing my knees when I got cheers. 

I took 2 more shot blocks, 1 strawberry and 1 margarita (it adds sodium to your body), I think somewhere around mile 8.  I can't remember.  I do remember, at mile 8, we saw our pacer's balloons- which explains why I couldn't see them ahead of us anymore.  That made me feel better, because I thought we had dropped too far back.  Then, Shannon said, (and we were exactly at mile 8... remember the dream from above?!) "It looks like our pacer tuckered out!"  Too crazy!!!!  I didn't know what kind of omen that was! 

We got to mile 9 and this part of the course was on the highway.  Of course, they couldn't stop ALL of the traffic on the highway, so the runners had one lane to run in.  This was my least favorite part of the run.  There weren't any spectators cheering us on.  A few cars beeped their horns, but most of them zoomed by us, making it seem like I was moving at a snail's pace.  I felt Shannon pulling away from me, but I was determined to keep up with her.  I just kept going.  I had to get a fresh piece of gum (I can't run without gum) around this point because mine was mushy.  Thank goodness I had extra in my SPI belt.  I ended up getting Gatorade at 2 of the water stops and water at 1.  I don't remember after the first one where I got them.  

We were almost at mile 10 and there was another dj.  There may have been others in there somewhere, but I don't remember.  I knew once I made it to mile 10, I could finish.  It was only 3.1 miles left.  That's a 5k.  I've done plenty of those.  Somewhere along the way, Shannon pointed out a guy with a sign that said, "My hot wife runs half marathons and I just sit here and drink beer."  So funny!  Another one that I really liked was a group around one of the dj's that had a sign saying, "Not everyone can be heroes, someone has to sit on the side and cheer for you!" 

After mile 10, I felt myself wanting to be done.  There were a few times that I felt like Shannon might pull away.  I had read something before the run that said, "When your legs get tired, run with your heart!"  I kept telling myself this.  I would literally tilt my head back a little, straighten my posture and keep running.  This mantra kept me going through the entire end of the run.  We passed one girl with a shirt that said, "We don't chase our dreams, we run them down and catch them!"  I really liked that.  Another sign that I had seen along the way was a series of 3 that said, "That voice in your head... That says you can't... Is a LIAR!"  Then, around mile 10.5 or so, I saw, "Ask yourself if you can give more... The answer is usually YES!"  These were so motivational and encouraging.  So much of my doubt was purely mental and these kept my thinking right.  I had to ban all negative thoughts from my mind while I was running.  I also had a ton of pent up emotions leading up to the run.  I thought I would cry during the race, and I did get teary a few times, but I made myself focus on the positive and not lose control, so that it wouldn't affect my run. 

 Around mile 11 or so, we came across this woman that was singing out loud.  Shannon told her that she loved her singing, especially since her music went out around mile 1.  So, the woman started singing "We Are the Champions" and we joined in, along with several others around us.  We sang this until we made our turn onto our last straight stretch that led up to the finish line.  It was awesome!

I hit mile 12.  One mile left!!!  I was actually doing this!  I kept trying to decide when I was going to push it and run all out through the end.  Because I was waiting for 12.25 and 12.5, I guess, this was the longest mile for me.  We grabbed our DIVA gear- boas and tiaras- at around 12.5 and it was on from there!  I remember running past a few people getting near the chute, and they were just standing there with long looks on their faces, watching us run by.  I had been cheering at everyone I saw on the sides from mile 12 on, so I yelled at them, "We just ran 13 miles, cheer for us!!!"  We turned onto the road that the finish was on, and we broke out into a full on sprint.  People were cheering, music was playing!  I spotted our families cheering for us! 

Shannon is faster than me, and I know my picture doesn't look like I was going very fast, but we were moving!!!  We crossed the finish line and were given our medals by a shirtless fireman.
Then we were given roses.
And to complete our Diva treatment, we got champagne!  They really know how to treat a girl!
I was in shock!  It took a while to hit me that we had actually just ran a half marathon.  I saw the time as I crossed the finish, but I wanted to know MY CHIP time... and here it is:

We kicked that goal in the FACE!!!!  Well, only by a few minutes, but we freaking did it!  We ran a half marathon AND beat our goal time! 

Out of all of the races that I've ran, I'd never gotten a medal... until now!
I'm sooo proud of that thing!

We even got to see Ali Vincent as she was headed to the finish line!

I really thought I would be sobbing at the finish line.  I didn't.  I think I was still overwhelmed.  The whole thing felt almost like an out-of-body experience.  Like it wasn't me running.  Like I was watching someone else do it.  I didn't even feel like me.  I don't think I'm that old me any more! 

When we got to the room, I showered and put my race shirt on.  I looked in the mirror and got ready to criticize how the shirt fit on me.  This is when I got emotional.  As I was getting ready to see how "fat" I looked, I looked at person that had just ran a half marathon.  I was PROUD!  Who cared how I looked?!  I just did something I didn't think I would or could EVER do!!!  I realized acceptance in this moment.  So I cried a little more.

Let me take a second to mention all of the support that I got.  My facebook, instagram, Nike app and text messages BLEW UP with support from family, friends and MLFC girls- people I've never even met in real life, but that cheered me along the way.  I was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement that I got.  I wasn't able to keep up with it all! 

Overall, this experience was PERFECT.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.  The weather ended up being great.  The crowd and support was great.  I just hope that all of my future races go so well. 

- My half was awesome!  
- I over-prepared, but at least I was ready for just about anything
- I carb loaded and it was great
- I began hydrating several days before the race
- Signs, spectators cheering and music help a lot
- Get excited, get into it.  It gets the crowd into it and makes the experience enjoyable.
- Our goal was to finish in 2:30:00.  My chip time was 2:27:56!!!!!
- Yeah, I rocked that shit!

- Half marathons are awesome.  You can do so much more than you give yourself credit for.
- Signs are motivational and encouraging.  Have your people hold them up!
- "They" say don't do anything different on the day of the race.  "They" are right.  I used body glide between my toes (in case of rain, so they wouldn't rub and get blisters)... well, I'd never used it on my feet before, and I ended up with a nasty blister on my second toe
- Stretch your knees out during the run- at least, I need to.  It really helped.
- Carry extra gum
- SPI belts rock my socks

- Try not to stress too much, especially over the things that are beyond your control.  It does no good.
- Get there a little earlier than you think you need to be there. 
- You are good enough.  Even if you're a work in progress and are not at your goal, accept where you are.  You have worked hard to get here.  Enjoy the ride. 


  1. oh sweetie I am crying just reading this. WOW thank you so much for the in depth recap on it all and the photos. I am so proud of you :) well done - love kate mc from mlfc

  2. You rock! Thanks so much for sharing! You are making me excited for my first half in less than 4 weeks! =)

  3. Thank you for sharing this is exactly what I needed to read. I am REALLY wanting to do a half in less than two Weeks and my longest run to date is 8.5 miles. Ive been freaking out that I cant do it, but you've proved to me, I CAN!

  4. You rocked that half! I love your detailed recap!

  5. You rocked it!! Way to go! Love your post!