Well, my 4th half marathon is in the books...now what?! Does anyone else get that kind of spacey/funky feeling after a big race? Like, 'what do I do now?'.
I had a really wonderful weekend back home in Bethlehem, PA for the Runner's World Half. Going into this race, I didn't know what to expect. In the deep recesses of my mind, I wanted to run under 2 hours (my PR to date was 2:01), but as the summer progressed I wasn't sure how likely that would be. Because of my lingering lower leg issues, I had to abbreviate my training to just 8 weeks. In fact, I only did one 13 mile run prior to the race. Additionally, I heard from a past participant that the course was 'death by hills'. And add to that, the zero hours of sleep I got the night before the race, I really did not know how this was going to turn out.
However, despite all of this, I PR'ed this race by 3 mins and finished in 1:58!!! I am not a happy crier (I only cry when I'm sad), but I nearly cried at the finish line that's how elated/surprised/exhausted I was. In fact, as the race went on and I started to realize I may come in under 2:00:00, I hate to admit that I very nearly cried a few times on the course just knowing it was within my reach.
Sooo with that said, let's recap away...
I did not do the Hat Trick, like some of the famous bloggers did (ie. RunEatRepeat, SkinnyRunner, HungryRunnerGirl, StuftMama) so Saturday for me was spent checking out the race expo and hanging out with my cousins at a family party while I was in town. The Hat Trick, for those of you that don't know, is where the participant runs the 5K, 10K AND the Half Marathon all in the same weekend. (INSANE, I know). So those lovely ladies I mentioned above ran a 5K at 8am on Saturday morning, followed by a 10K at 9:30am (same day) and then the Half Marathon on Sunday at 8am. Ouch!
Check out all that race swag!
Saturday night I ate my standard pre-race dinner of spaghetti & meatballs at home. It pays to be Italian when you're getting ready for a distance race! I also focused on drinking a lot of fluids (water, Gatorade, coconut water) Friday and Saturday. Truth be told, I tried to remember to drink extra fluids all of last week, but some days were better than others. I also tried to 'carb-load' throughout the week last week but I'm not sure how well I did that. I am not the biggest fan of grains. I prefer to eat a more protein heavy meal for dinner but I did eat pasta two days in a row last week.
Saturday night I barely slept. This happens to me before every big race. I usually toss and turn all night, mostly thinking about the race, and actually imagining myself running the race in my head all night. I know, weird. But as long as I get enough sleep 2 nights prior to the race, I've always been ok, and I did so on Friday night.
Sunday morning was COLD. Coldest running weather (for me) thus far and it was quite a shock at 7 in the morning. I arrived at the gear check/port-o-let station at 7:15am which means I had to stand outside in 40 degree temps nearly naked for 45 mins. I had a running jacket on, which I waited until the last minute to check, but on the bottom, just shorts (and compression socks). By the time I made it down to the starting line, my feet were numb. I was actually thinking, how am I going to run if I can't feel my feet?! (Overreact much?) But then I found my cousin and kind of forgot all about the weather. Side note: My cousin was in town from Florida to run his first half marathon ever! He grew up in Bethlehem as well so I think he wanted his first race to be on 'home turf'. We both started with the 9:00 min mile group and were standing next to a 2:05 pacer. We chatted for a couple minutes, I wished him good luck, and before we were knew it, we were off. The race started exactly on time, for which I was immensely thankful.
The race started downhill which was nice. Before I even knew it we were at mile 1. And then the hills started. But you know what? I did not think the hills were THAT bad. They were rolling but none of them were incredibly steep. I will say this was the hilliest race I have ever run, and definitely not a course I ever thought I'd PR! The first 7 or 8 miles were up and down hills, but I felt really strong the entire time. My pace did not seem to suffer. Because I knew there were hills I deliberately went out slightly faster than I normally would. I wanted to power away at the start. Mile 4 was probably the most drawn out hill and right after we crested it, I spotted my pops on the side of the road! I tossed him the gloves I had been wearing up until that point, we chatted for a second or two, and he encouraged me on.
At mile 7, I passed my grandparents who had come out to cheer for my cousin and me! They were all bundled up - I could tell they were cold - but when I shouted to them, they lit up and shouted right back to me! I also saw my grandmother try to take a picture as I ran by so I waved :)
After that point, I don't recall any more memorable hills. There were lots of people standing outside their houses in all the neighborhoods we ran through. Every time I saw a kid with their hand out, I made sure to swing by and high five them! I also verbally thanked a lot of the spectators as I passed them, and the police officers who were blocking the streets. Thanking the volunteers and spectators is something I try to do in every race because I just really appreciate them being out there. Their cheers and signs give me a boost and keep me moving.
At mile 9, they were handing out fuel (GU packets) so I grabbed one but wasn't sure I was going to eat any. My stomach was just feeling a bit wonky and I didn't really feel like I needed it. So I held onto it for a mile and then just tossed it. I had been taking fluids at every aid station and mostly Gatorade because I wanted the calories and sugar, so I think that kept me going. As a rule, I generally take at least a sip from every aid station when I'm running Halfs because I don't want to get to the point where I'm dehydrated.
Around mile 10 I randomly spotted a friend from high school who I haven't seen much since college so that was pretty neat! Right after mile 11 we had a huge downhill which was AWESOME! By that point I knew I was closing in under 2:00 and I just wanted to get there. At mile 12 I saw my Dad again! He had driven over to the finish line from mile 4 so he could catch me at the end. It was at mile 12 that my legs must have finally realized all the hill climbing they did and I was tired. When I passed the mile marker, the clock said 1:49 and I think that's when I finally knew, I'd get in under 2:00. That last mile my legs were heavy and my body was tired but I just kept picturing the clock saying 1:something and that kept me moving.
As I came down the finish corral I heard my sister (who has the loudest voice known to man) shout my name and I saw her and my brother-in-law and my nephew a few seconds before I crossed the finish. I think she may have caught a very unflattering photo of my rear end as I passed by :/
And then, there was I was. Crossing over the threshold in 1:58. Disbelief. Absolute happiness.
I met up with my cousin who finished his first half in 2:06!! Then I went inside the heated building for a minute and spotted an entire table of famous bloggers! HungryRunnerGirl, SkinnyRunner, StuftMama, and RunEatRepeat were all sitting around chatting. And what did I do? Um, nothing! Ha, I was starstruck. I had no idea what to say, or how to approach them. It was like I was seeing them in a dream or something! I realize this makes me sound crazy. After I walked back outside, I immediately regretted not going over and introducing myself to all of them. But let me just tell you, they all were incredibly pretty for having just finished a race. I think I need to start wearing makeup or something to run?!
This race will be memorable for me on so many levels. My PR of course, but also because it was at home and I was surrounded by so many people I love. Growing up, I don't know that I ever imagined running from one side of my town to the other! All of my other races were in different cities so I didn't really realize how far I was running, but I knew most of these streets like the back of my hand and when I think about the ground that we covered in my town, in two hours of running, it's kind of mind boggling! How did I ever get to a point where I just love running for hours on end?
This year has been amazing for me so far in so many ways and this race is definitely one of the highlights. I don't really know how else to describe it other than to say, I feel more like ME than I have in a very long time and because of that, so many positive things/people/experiences are happening in my life right now. I often doubt myself, my abilities, my future, but this race has once again made me see that I am stronger and far more capable than I give myself credit for.
And, now I'm already thinking about a spring race...It never ends...
Here are a few pics from the weekend for you to enjoy (from my Instagram account):
SteelStacks (old Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces at the finish line)
Happy as a clam :)
My sister and nephew who waited out in the cold for me!
My cuz, who makes me look like an elf :)
I hope you all had an amazing weekend as well! What did yours entail?
Well, if you were this 6 year old, you were also running a Half Marathon! Did you see this story on Runner's World today?!