Well I did it. I finished my first half marathon in under three hours. I feel great about that. I can’t say this one was fun, BUT I *might* even do another one someday.
I had been checking the weather five times a day for the week prior and it did not look good. Cold, windy and rainy. I hoped it would magically improve by race day, but it did not. So I had my pasta dinner, drank a ton of water, and went to bed super early Saturday night. Everything was laid out and packed to go at 5am in the morning. I drove to the Cop Shop and bummed a ride downtown with KatyFit head coach, Amy. Our conversation was pleasantly distracting.
Of course when we got there I realized how cold it was, and the wind blew right through me. A drizzle had started up, so I determined I would wear my jacket and my poncho. In the KatyFit team area I handed out four extra ponchos I had purchased and brought with me. It turned out to be a vital piece of equipment.
After a few photos, a banana and a potty stop we moved through the mass of people to our starting corral. It opened up and POURED on us as we stood around waiting in the back of the open corral with the 13 minute pacers. One more trip to the port-o-potty and some stretching. We lost one of our fellow Turtles, the amazing 74 year old fireball, Judy Loy. That was sad, but she ran on her own and finished strong. I determined to stick close to my coach, Angie, and follow her pacing.
It took us nearly 25 minutes in the pouring rain to get to the start line after the gun went off. I had to hold my poncho hood on my head for a long time. We ran up the long hill of the Elysian Viaduct and it was kinda cool crossing the interstate from way above. I don’t really like downhill runs in the rain though, I’m so paranoid of slipping that my shins work extra hard to brace myself.
|This is how the first half of the race was. Photo courtesy of Randall Pugh on Flickr|
The first couple of miles did go by very quickly in the rain. Not so many spectators out for that part. As a group we decided to yell “Go KatyFit!” every time we crossed a mile marker. I saw my friend Stephanie all by her lonesome in the rain around mile 3 and that was so encouraging. She trained with me in the 5k group last winter and again in the beginning of marathon season till she injured her IT Band (sound familiar?) and couldn’t continue.
I spent much of my time running through The Heights looking for my friends Sam and Karen who said they’d be there cheering on his brother. No luck finding them, but I enjoyed passing the KSBJ booth and the Vineyard Church booth where a band was playing Everlasting God. As I ran down Studewood past my friend Christine’s old photography studio I got several encouraging texts, including one from Mike telling me where he’d be waiting with the boys not far ahead. I was so glad I’d be seeing them soon.
Also around mile 4-5 the left side of my back started to tighten up very hard. I’ve never had that happen before. I stretched it out a lot during our walking intervals and after awhile the cramp went away.
I took off my sopping wet jacket to give to him but left my poncho on. My bib had been hidden under the jacket till then, so once my bib was visible I heard a few folks yell “Go Vanessa!” to me. (I was wearing my friend Vanessa’s bib!)
I told my group my family was up ahead and I was so happy to see them. The boys jumped up and down and Mike gave me a quick kiss as I handed him my wet jacket. I think the Turtles enjoyed seeing my kiddos.
As we entered Montrose there were a ton more spectators and the rain finally stopped. After awhile I decided it might be done raining for good so I tossed my poncho. It was still cold though as a north wind blew hard through our wet bones. At this point in the race I was passing a LOT of walkers. We still walked our intervals but we walked fast and ran fast (for me). Coach Angie kept slowing us down so we wouldn’t burn out too soon. I had a tendency to want to run 11:30 or 12 min/mile but she kept us closer to 13 as much as possible.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike and boys again, not too much farther up Montrose! They hustled to be there for me. I figured they would also cross the street so I knew I’d see them again after the turn around.
Some of the funniest and most encouraging signs and spectators were along Montrose. I have to say that the most encouraging to me were the signs and people who said “YOU are SO inspiring to me!” That means so much to me. That’s a huge part of why I do this. I want other people to know that they, too, can set a huge goal and work hard to accomplish it.
Right around the 9 mile turnaround is where I started to really feel tired. I saw Mike and the kids one more time around mile 10 and gave the boys a high-five as I ran by. Mike got a photo of that. After that we turned onto Allen Parkway. On the one hand, the downtown skyline seemed so close. The idea that we only had about three miles left was great. But around there I started sucking wind during our runs and I would get light-headed at the start of our walks. Same thing happened during my 14 mile run in training but I had attributed it to the heat and my being off due to injury for so long. Now I think I’ve decided my sports beans may not be enough fuel for the race. I may need to start experimenting with Gu in the future.
|High-fiving Nathan. Coach Angie is in red behind me, religiously checking our pace.|
I kept up with Coach Angie and our group until we hit downtown. She mentioned that we were way ahead of the three hours finish mark and that even if we walked the rest of the way we’d beat that goal. She was trying to encourage us to make the right choice and press on with running, but that was all I needed to hear for permission to walk a little more. I let them go ahead and walked and ran when I could. I wanted to save my energy for that final turn towards the finish line, and that’s what I did. At the finish I raised my arms up high, smiled wide for the cameras and crossed. I looked down to stop my Garmin and saw 2:55:32, which was very satisfying. According to my stats I actually passed 254 runners in the last four miles. That’s amazing.
The second I stopped running my legs and back started screaming in pain. I hugged and congratulated all my fellow Turtles who finished close together and stopped to get an official Finisher photo. I hobbled inside, grabbed a banana, a bottle of water, and a rice krispy treat before getting my Finisher shirt. Mike texted me that he was in the Reunion area waiting so I decided to skip the huge line for a hot breakfast. The pain in my legs was so bad I started tearing up as I walked over to grab my checked gear. I just kept walking, knowing that if I sat down I might not ever get up! I saw my pal Joe (who fell off a bridge during training and broke a couple bones) waiting for his wife and also got a hug from my injured Coach Walter.
I really do owe so much to the support and encouragement of my coaches and fellow runners of KatyFit. I know I would not have done all this without their support and camaraderie. I made a whole bunch of new friends through training.
The boys were so excited to see me and really loved my medal. Alex said “You got a silver medal! Did you come in second?!” They were great. I changed into my warm dry clothes and shoes and we abandoned the race area to walk another mile to the car. I knew that the extra walking would probably do me good to keep my legs from stiffening up and hurting too much later.
So I can’t really say that it was a fun race, despite the smiles I showed the cameras. The race and cold made the first half miserable. I just kept thinking how great next year’s race will seem, because no way could the weather be that bad again. I am though, totally grateful to God for the health and strength that allowed me to complete it despite multiple training injuries. The glory goes to Him, not me.
I don’t think I’m going to run the USA Fit Half Marathon in Sugarland in two weeks, which I thought I might. After today I’m not ready to torture myself that much, that soon. I am thinking about running the Woodlands Half in March.
I want to thank EVERYONE who has been so supportive and encouraging during the training and race. Hanging around so many marathoners makes it seem like no big deal, but then my non-runner friends remind me that it really is. The feeling of accomplishment cannot be beat.
Somebody tell me it gets easier after your first?