Thursday, November 18, 2010

Women's Half Marathon

After my last half marathon blunder, I'm surprised that I signed up to do another race- why put myself through the torture again? Simple, it couldn't get any worse. After encouragement from my co-worker and friend Becca that I would have plenty of time from May to September to train I decided to give it another shot. We signed up for a Fleet Feet training group that met from July till weekend before race day (September 25, 2010) Due to my work schedule I was only able to meet up for the long saturday runs, but that happened to be what I needed the most accountability for anyway because lets face it- sleep is more appealing than waking up at 5:45 am on a Saturday morning to go for a muggy run.
Starting out it was difficult for me to even do 4 miles, but once we built up to 7 I thought I was getting the hang of it. 9.5 was the most I was able to do with our group due to family commitments and traveling back home, but since that run went well I didn't worry too much about adding another 3.5 miles to that for race day (adrenaline should carry me right?!?! ha)
Pre-race day
Parents came down from Ohio to visit and cheer me on in my attempt at becoming a long distance runner again. While they were changing at hotel for a night on the town, I hit up the expo to get race packet and check out vendors.
Right when you walk in they hand you your sweet tote bag with lots of goodies inside. Each Women's series chooses a theme based off the city its in. This one is in Nashville and Nashville is donned the 'music city' so our theme was musical notes.
my cool tote bag for the race

Since I've been away from the world of longer distance running for awhile, I was blown away at all the new types of gear that has come out. If I could have bought it all, I would, but since I've yet to make my millions I ended up getting several of the no slip head bands with cool sayings, got a couple of window decals for my car, and a front pocket tank to hold my gus and phone so i don't have to worry about wearing it on my arm. *disclaimer* if you sweat a lot or if its really humid out, may be better to wear on arm as to not ruin your phone or mp3 player by end of race... or just for holding your gu. After an hour spent at the expo I met up with my parents and ventured our way to Spaghetti Warehouse for pre race dinner- fettuccine alfredo, steamed broccoli, and breadsticks!
After dinner I showed my parents around the main strip in downtown Nashville, aka the infamous Broadway. Took pictures of some different monuments, statues, animals and ended with a carriage ride down the strip.
These dogs had hair glued to them- hilarious. had a crowd around the motorcycle, think every one of us put a tip in the tip jar.

Mom and I outside "Boot Country" store w/ their giant boot! 

Parents inside our carriage- we opted for a covered one as it was starting to sprinkle

Me and our Clydesdale horse pulling our carriage.
Afterward we went back to their hotel, watched a movie, then lights out.
Actually got a decent amount of sleep this time around and felt pretty good when I awoke at 5:30- already one over the last race. Nibbled on english muffin with sunflower butter (free sample in my tote), water, swig of coffee, and some yogurt before heading downtown. 
Parking is very tricky downtown Nashville- if you're lucky to find a meter or free parking, GREAT, otherwise you're bound to be paying anywhere between $5-$15 for one of those pre-pay lots. Since I happen to live in Nashville and have a close friend who lives downtown, I direct my parents to his side alley and can park hassle free, score! Make our way to the start line in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame and its an absolute MESS. Race was on the corner of 4th st and Demonbreun- 4th intersects with Broadway and they did not put up any barricades at the Broadway and 4th intersection, so cars were pretty much driving all the way to the start line only to then come to the barricades and having to do a 4 point turnaround and find an alternate route. To be honest I was a little shocked that was not planned out better. Was waiting for Becca near the entrance with my parents and she calls to let me know she is one of the people that turned down 4th only to find she needs to turn around. I hop in the car with her, direct her around traffic, and land her a sweet parking spot next to my parents up the road. 
We venture our way back toward start line where its stretch and warm up time!
Jumping up and down getting blood flowing 

always remember the importance of stretching 
Parents take a 'before photo' before we venture off to our corrals and then say goodbye to them until finish line time.

As we make our to the openings to get to your corrals there is a photographer waiting to take a picture of you and whoever you're with- I thought this was really neat, however it ended up being a bad picture so I didn't order it in the end. We're in corral 2, - about 1,000 in each corral, so not too close to front but still manageable. 
Bikers who lead the way for us
Despite us being in corrals, there was no staggered start. Once the gun went off it was every woman for herself- chaos. It took us a good 30-45 sec just to cross the start line, and even then it was like a slow trot for several hundred yards. The first mile was actually uphill, but due to the congestion and just trying to find a good spot as well as pace, I hadn't even noticed. I don't wear a watch, so when we passed the mile marker and the clock said 10:45 all I could think of was 'damn'. I have to remind myself that is not accurate with where I'm actually at, but its still disheartening to see. About 1.5 to 2 miles in I lengthen my stride a bit and separate from Becca- not a smart move. Although I'm tall and have the potential to have a great stride, I have yet to master that technique without tiring myself too quickly. By mile 3 I had to walk a little bit- nothing major, but I was kind of worried that I was already tired.
Between miles 3-4 there were a lot of mini hills and my calves were already killing me. I walked slightly up this progressive hill and this man yelled at me "Come on hit 36 min for 4 miles you slacker!"- excuse me... I'm out here at least trying, and maybe that isn't even my goal to average 9 minute miles. Then 2 things occurred to me: 1.) I don't really have a goal time for this race other than beating May's time 2.) Holy crap am I about to run 4 miles with the clock saying only 36 min and yet my first mile read 10:45?!?! A lot of people would be excited by the latter, I on the otherhand, knew that meant I was going too fast and I would hit a major wall- which I did around mile 7. Miles 4-6 were okay, crowd support here and there, no major elevation changes. Once 6 came I had to pee... bad. I tried to ignore it for as long as possible, but once I got to mile 7 there were 3 port o lets and 2 people in line- SWEET! What I didn't realize was that one of the toilets was out and the 2 girls ahead of me had decided to do more in there than I was planning on, so by the time I had finished a whole 3 minutes had gone by- 3 whole minutes! Becca ran by as I was waiting so I did cheer her on- she yelled for me to catch back up (or at least that was the plan)
I'm not sure if it was because I was miserably hot and tired, or if the break just interrupted my rhythm, but once I hopped back in there I only lasted a mile before my body just fell apart. Between miles 8 and 10 there were a LOT of slow gradual hills that were just killer on my already sore calves. I wish I had the ability to block out pain, but unfortunately I have a habit of 'babying' my body vs. pushing through it so because of this I slowed down drastically. I started walking and taking mini breaks at all the water stations hoping that would alleviate some pressure off my joints, more specifically my hips- it did, but pain resurfaced after 30 sec back to running. Majority of mile 10 was spent running down Broadway- due to it being downhill as well as knowing my parents would be somewhere along the sidelines cheering me on, I opened my stride again and sped up.
Sure enough amongst the hundreds of spectators cheering on the runners were my parents, encouraging me thats its almost over- 2.5 miles to go! Easier said then done.
Once we ran all the way down Broadway we had to turn left onto 2nd Ave- never noticed till now that it was a  S-L-O-W gradual uphill. By this point my hips and calves are screaming at me, so I decide to give them a break and walk the majority of 2nd ave, right past mile marker 11, and up until the hill finally flattened out. From this point till mile 12 it was relatively flat terrain. I did walk for a min and a lady passed me telling me I shouldn't walk because we have a little over a mile to go, so I ran with her for about 30 sec and she took off. Turn the corner right after mile 12 only to look up and see the gigantic hill we have to run up to cross one of the bridges downtown. I literally blurted out slight profanity on how it was ridiculous to have such a hill in the last mile- a passerby said 'screw this' and she started walking too; at least i'm not alone in this. We talked briefly and then I decided maybe I should start running again.
Reached top of bridge, got a little downhill action then I knew the rest of the way would be flat- thank the lord! As long as I'm giving thanks, I also was extremely grateful for having my name across my bib- definitely motivated me to at least not walk the last 1/2 mile. No seriously I tried to walk and a few people said "Come on Lisa you're so close" ~ I hate being called out by name, so now no more walking it shall be.
Finally reached mile marker 13, and I had no kick in me, luckily no one behind me did either, so at least I didn't get past in the home stretch. Apparently a girl 2 people ahead of me was also named Lisa, so it felt good to at least hear cheers for my name, regardless if they were intended for me or not.
For the record, I did beat the girl in yellow 
 As you get closer to the finish line, there is a guy announcing your name, which is pretty neat (and also how I knew the other girl's name was Lisa)
Just about there...
Finally made it across the finish line. Headed straight for the gatorade and then reconvened with my parents. Although they were proud of me, I did get the question of what happened between when they saw me at mile 10.5 and the finish line- i.e. I majorly slowed down and they were expected me to finish earlier. My response "2 more major hills happened to me"
Dad giving me a hug after my race :) 

Wishing and hoping that some of the pain in my legs is due to lactic acid and elevating them will alleviate that pain- fat chance. 

Can I sleep now?!?!

Post race pic- smile is forced 
So after a lot of stretching and sticking around to hear some of the awards, first place female ran 1:24- sick, we headed back to parents hotel for some good quality pool and hot tub time. Have you ever tried getting in a hot tub with major chaffing on your inner thighs? If you haven't, it BURNS! Chlorine and raw skin do not mix well together. After much coaxing from my mom and about 45 min of delaying, I finally took the plunge, literally. I would have to say that the hot tub did wonders! Although I still had difficulty walking afterward, it only took me 2 days before my body fully recovered and I was ready to run again- last race it was almost a week- wahoo!!
After our pool time we got ready for the wine festival that I bought tickets for all of us to attend. Exhausted mixed with heat = no desire for this girl to drink, so I mostly just followed my parents around having a sample here and there. Afterward we went to my favorite German restaurant in town (obsessed with German food) and called it a night. Once got back to hotel parents were asking me how I felt about my race now that I've had time to 'recover' so to speak.
Looking back at my race  my official time 2:15:22 was a disappointment. Although its a huge improvement from my abomination of a race in May, I was so angry with myself for having to walk so much because I actually trained for this one, why was I in so much pain? Then I got my 'aha' moment- I bet if I weight lifted and worked on my knees, quads, and hip flexors, my body won't torture me as much, ya think? Then as an added bonus I wouldn't have to walk as much and my time could naturally decrease. Even though I hated myself as early as mile 7 for thinking it was a good idea to run this many miles, I decided that I at least had to do one more 1/2 to see what I was able to accomplish!

Lessons learned in this race:
1.) Still need to work on pacing better for first half of race so I don't fall apart in the 2nd.
2.) Hill training will pay off dividends
3.)Always, always, always make sure to go to bathroom right before the race to avoid having it hit you during race.
4.) If you're going to wear shorts either invest in body glide or get a longer pair
5.) Important of weight training. 

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