Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's over!

I have participated in the St. Jude Half-Marathon for three years now, and every year there has been a point at which I have felt overwhelming relief that I was running the half and not the full. This year, that point came when, just past the 10-mile marker, a girl running next to me looked at her watch and said, "Two hours down. Three more to go!"

Ugh. Forget you full people. The half is where it's at.


Two-hours, twenty-seven minutes, and forty-six seconds (unofficially). You wanna know my time from last year? 2:52:24. The year before that it was 3:05:28. 2009 was 25 minutes faster than 2008 and almost 40 minutes faster than 2007. My goal this year was simply to run the whole thing start to finish. Not only did I do that, I did it at an 11:17 pace. For most runners, an 11:17 mile nothing to brag about. But I'm a medicore runner. My first half, my pace was 14:10. Reducing that by almost 3 minutes per mile is a pretty damn big deal to me.

OK, so this was my morning:

I got up around 5:30, got all my stuff in order, took my time getting dressed, and then I ate what I have eaten before every run 10 miles or longer this year: a bowl of organic Naturals Mallow-Oats cereal, a container of Kroger key-lime pie flavored yogurt, and a peanut butter and chocolate chip granola bar.

I left around 6:45. My plan was to get to a parking garage by about 7:15 and then sit in the car for ten minutes in the heat before walking to the start area. Except I forgot that the Memphis Grizzlies House 5k started at 7:15, so three cars before it was my turn to drive across Third Street, the 5k started and I had to sit and wait for 4,000 runners to cross in front of me. I completely freaked out.

But I was OK again by 7:30, which was when I finally was able to cross the street. I parked, scarfed down one last peanut butter and chocolate chip granola bar, and then met my dad, who was walking towards me in case he had to sit in my car and park it for me should the 5k take too long.

7:45 we reached the area where 8,000 half-marathoners and 3,500 marathoners were lining up to start the race. I ran off to go to the bathroom, spent an extremely anxious 15 minutes standing in line, and then, at exactly 8:00 made it to Corral 12 (for runners with an 11:00 - 11:30 pace) and met my parents. I was also supposed to meet some people from my training group but I never saw them so when my corral was up, at 8:20, I started the half-marathon by myself.

And I stayed by myself the whole time. It was strangely liberating. Like one of those things that you have to try once to prove to yourself that you can do it. And now I know. I can run 13.1 miles by myself (well, excluding the 11,500 people running in my general area).

I went out too fast but it's almost impossible not to at a race like that where the start is lined with hundreds of cheering people. I slowed down in my second mile and evened out for the third. Based on how I felt, I estimated I was running an 11:15 pace by the 4th mile, which would have put me at exactly 45 minutes. As I ran across the mile marker, I looked down and my watch read...45:00. After that, I knew I had this thing.

Observations from this year...I only saw one elite runner (lapping us in the final leg of the marathon), right before I entered Overton Park around mile 8.

Even at my increased pace, I was still surrounded by walkers in the final couple of miles.

The general pain of long-distance running didn't truly kick in until around mile 9. I was able to run through it, though.

The hills through miles 10-12 are always a thousand times harder than I remember them.

It was 25 degrees this morning when I started, something I was extremely concerned about because last year it was 32 and I got so cold that my joints locked up around mile 4 and I spent the next two days in more pain than I have ever been in in my entire life. But my rushing around before the race paid off because even with the colder temperature, I was never as cold as I was last year.

Last week at this time it was 20 degrees warmer. And it's been at least 20 degrees warmer every single weekend since training started. Why does God hate the first weekend in December so much?

While my core stayed warm, my gloves got sweaty and wet and by the time I was done running, I had lost all feeling in three fingers on my right hand and one on my left. They were completely white and looked like dead person's fingers and I think I totally freaked my mom out (they're fine now).

I passed people right and left in the last half mile. So many people were finishing with me that Mom and Dad missed me crossing the finish line, but right up until the end, I was weaving in and out and pushing ahead of runners who (inexplicably) seemed to slow down when they saw the finish line instead of speeding up. Lame.

Due to my lateness, I had to park on the 5th floor of the parking garage. There is not much good that can be said about walking up 5 flights of stairs after running a half-marathon.

My right knee really, really hurts and now that the adrenaline rush is over, I feel a bit sick to my stomach, but who the hell cares? I did it!!!! I wasn't sure if I would this year. It wasn't the same without Megan and I can't wait till she's back alongside of me next year. But if I had to do it alone, this was the way to do it. A blog to hold me accountable (to myself, if no one else), a group to help me through the long runs, and with the experience gained from running this race before and not doing such a great job of it.

So here endeth the chronicling of the 2009 half-marathon training. I am happy. I am also tired. The end.

My official time, as posted by The Commercial Appeal: