Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My First Half Marathon: Lone Star 13.1

My FIRST ever Half Marathon.

I learned a lot of things from doing this race. More than I learned from reading runner magazines. I suppose it is true that you learn more from doing instead of just hearing about someone else doing it.

If you DON'T train for a Half you will not be able to run it. You may not be able to finish it unless you are as stubborn as me. More on how stubborn I am later. Training is something you have to do. Even if it is running small distances every day. It gets your body used to running instead of used to sitting all day. 

Something different about me than other people is my feet. I have no clue why I have trouble with my feet, but I do. And it isn't just when running. When I am on my feet for long periods of time it makes my feet hurt, badly. The pain starts in my middle toes where they touch the balls of my feet, if that makes sense. The pain can become so extreme that it brings tears to my eyes or even makes me break down and actually cry. More on how my feet reacted later.

I was really excited but nervous about the race. I KNEW I hadn't prepared for it like I should have. I let all sorts of things get in my way, mostly just silly excuses that I could have found a way around if I really wanted to, most of them anyway. But I was determined to do it and finish. Seven in the morning is early when you are racing but I was thrilled it was a local race, in my own city, and I only had to drive about 3 miles to get there. I arrived right before they started the race, maybe 5 minutes. No time to worry or wonder. I got my tracker on and my worship music on and I set off. I had planned to take it slower because of the things I had read, run slower than normal for a half or full marathon. I thought I was running slower but the first mile went by and it actually said I was running about on track with the usual. My feet started bothering me after I completed mile 3, so somewhere along mile 4. I started doing stretches for my feet and toes to help get me through. It worked for several miles. The pain is less when I am running than when I am having to walk to whatever reason. Plus, I prayed that I would be able to make it through despite the pain and that it would be less than I feared.

Mile seven had a big incline. That was challenging. I tried to run up the entire thing but only made it half way and had to walk the rest. The next big hill came right after that one. I walked backwards up it part of the way because another running suggested it so that I couldn't see the hill as I was going up. It worked OK. I can't really remember but I believe there was only one really big incline let on the course, during mile 9 or 10. I did NOT think I was going to make it up that one. It was as long as the other two put together. I was already extremely tired at that point. I had been running/walking for well over 2 hours. But I knew there was no other option. I tried the walking backwards thing but it didn't really help me this time. I just prayed that God would help me push through and get to the top of that hill.

As I got to the top of that hill I felt a sense of relief. I looked ahead at where I must go next and I knew I would just do it. My attitude changed a bit as I got over that hill. I only have 3 miles left, a simple 5K. I had done those plenty of times walking and running. I could do it. I decided to start thinking about what a nice day it was and how I was just out for a nice long walk. At that point I told myself I was just going to walk unless I felt like a short sprint. It made it easier knowing I wasn't going to push myself to run the entire rest of the way. I can honestly say I ran some in every mile. I ran LESS in the later miles and MORE in the beginning ones. I reached a point where I could no longer stretch my toes to make it feel better. Sometimes I could curl my toes under as I was walking and it would relieve some of the pain, but not always. Once the pain shooting through my toes got so bad with a simple movement of my toes I no longer tried to move them. I just tried to ignore them.

There were plenty of water stations. They were giving out water, Gatorade, pickle juice and jelly beans at the water stops. I did try the pickle juice. It was terrible. I only drank a sip during mile 10. I did eat some jelly beans here and there for energy. I did drink some Gatorade. But mostly water. Someone was giving away bottles of water along the route as a community service and I was thankful for it. I took my sweatband off and poured water on it to wipe my face with throughout the later part of the race. It was one of the things that really helped. The weather was great but started getting hotter as I reached mile 10. Before that it actually sprinkled and looked like the crazy storm they were worried about was going to hit. Then it cleared up. Must have been because I prayed for the storm to hold off for just awhile longer because it just totally passed us by.

Along the route there were so many people saying "good job" and "way to go, keep going, don't stop" and things like that. EVEN people driving by in their cars. The police that worked the race were super nice and encouraging, too. The other runners were super supportive. I met and ran with one lady for a bit towards the end that said she had done 48 Halfs. Wow! That was just amazing to me. She is a single mom of four and her oldest is 19. She encouraged me to keep going. She is the one who suggested walking backwards. We came through the finish line together, running.

It took me 3 hours and 36 minutes to complete 13.1 miles. I was dead last in my age group, 45-49. There were only 4 other runners that came across the finish line AFTER me in all age groups. But that is OK. I finished. I did it. I got my finisher's medal and that is proof to myself I did cross that finish line.

As I got towards my car and sat down the pain in my feet increased ten fold. Plus, I was sore from going that long of a distance. I sat in the car and texted two people that I had finished. I knew they would be waiting to hear and I didn't want them to worry about me. I then took off my shoes and socks to see if my feet were really swollen as big as they felt. No, they weren't but they sure felt like it. The pain we extreme and I was unable to move my toes on my owe except with my hands. I wasn't sure I could drive home since putting my feet on the peddles was painful, too. But I had to get home so I could soak my hurting feet. That runner told me how it would be best to use cold instead of hot for the swelling. All the way home my feet would go from feeling OK to hurting worse than ever. I had no one in the car to be brave for so I just let it out and cried all the way home. When I arrived home I very slowly got out of the van and walked to the front door. The concrete driveway felt like pieces of glass on the bottoms of my feet. It was a slow walk to the door and beyond.

I hadn't eaten anything but a cup of mocha and a banana for breakfast around 5:30. It was now almost 11. I poured a glass of chocolate milk and it tasted so good. After a cold shower I got a tub to fill with ice water to soak my feet in. That felt wonderful and painful at the same time. Strange how that works. I was hungry, too so I got an apple. I knew I would eat lunch in a little while so I waited. I was able to rest for a bit and felt somewhat better. I found I had a blister where my underwear rubbed and I felt like one was starting on my back at my bra line. I did have a huge one on the ball of one foot and on a couple of toes. Those feel much better already after just a couple of days.

As I was talking to my husband about the whole thing he asked me a very important questions. "Why didn't you just quit? You were injuring yourself, you were in pain." I said, "I couldn't just quit." As I thought about it afterwards I know he had a very valid point. I was hurting very badly. I could have quit. I could have asked the fireman that they had stationed all over to give me a ride back. But then what would that have said about me? What would my kids think about it? Would they see that when the going gets touch, quit? or will they see to just keep going, keep putting one foot in front of the other and you can make it? That is what I want them to see. My husband and kids are proud of me for not giving up. I am proud of me for not giving up.

My race has just begun and I am doing what I can NOT to give up. I don't want to be known as someone who quit at the most important race of her life, a healthy life. I want to continue to make healthy choices and meet healthy challenges all through the rest of my life. I can't wait to see what more await in the years to come.

Training is key. If you want to succeed at something you can't just pick it up one day and say I am going to do it. You have to take it slow and steady, with running anyway. That is my mission, to not let any more full weeks go by without any type of running or workouts. It is just too hard on this body of mine.

Changing my life one day at a time.