Thursday, May 15, 2008

Life After a Half Marathon

There isn't one...

Totally kidding!

I did REALLY enjoy taking a week of exercising. I know I should have been cross-training, but whatever. Sometimes you just want to do nothing... so I did and it was glorious!

I've been reading about this phenomenon of the "post marathon blues" where runners have a hard time adjusting to life again. The past few months were spent diligently training with a goal in sight, and now I'm supposed to be aimless...

Instead I've started making training plans for another half marathon at the end of June. Chris and I are crazy enough to try it all over again! Then I'm pretty sure I'm looking at the Portland full marathon in October...

As trite as this is going to sound, running the half marathon totally changed my life. It's the perfect example of how lots of small goals can become a major change in your life. Like miles, for example. This time last year I would set out to run a mile on the treadmill, and fall about 3/4 of a mile short because it was sooooooo hard!

So instead I focused on quarters of a mile, then after many months I was able to run three miles without stopping. Then I decided to take on the half marathon and added a mile a week. Some runs were harder than others, but before I knew it I could run 10 miles!

A few months ago I was convinced the human body was not supposed to run 26.2 miles straight. Hey, that's why the first dude who did it died immediately afterward. You hear all these horror stories of people's bodies shutting down and losing toe nails, and bloody nipples... and worst of all you have to run for like 5 hours... sounds more like torture than a hobby.

After the half marathon we met up with a friend of mine, and her sister and friend. All of them ran the full marathon, and this wasn't their first one.

Sarah, in an act or recklessness that I can totally appreciate, upgraded to the full marathon, even though she had planned (and trained) for the half. Luckily, she ran a full marathon a couple months ago so she had enough of a running base to survive.

Cat, the super-human athlete woman, just finished her marathon in less than four hours! And was able to walk and talk about it! (Apparently on her long runs she sets into a casual pace of 8 minute miles...) The other two finished in a little after five hours.

Cat had the revelation that when she looked back on her marathon, there wasn't a second where she wasn't pushing as hard as she physically could. I ran my half marathon in the exact opposite way. I look back on my half as two and a half hours of concentrated restraint.

We all had lunch and talked about shoes (haha, running shoes!), running, race locations, goals, and pacing. We casually discussed running 16 and 17 miles, as though this is what normal people do. The Sarah's and Cat encouraged me to run a full. And I left the lunch truly believing that I can do it.

One of the main reasons was that one of the Sarah's was saying that in her training runs she only got up to 16 miles before running the full marathon...

16 miles is only 3 more than what I had run earlier that day...

Although I didn't feel like I could have done 26 that morning, I definitely could have done 16...

Then it's just a couple more miles to 20...

Hmm... maybe this lofty marathon goal pretty attainable after all...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

13.1 miles down! 26.2 to go?

Well, I did it! I finished the Vancouver BC Half Marathon...

And now my life can go back to normal... or will it?

Is it crazy that I'm really considering the Portland full Marathon in October?

Let's not put the cart before the horse. I've lived to tell the tale, and here it is (less clich├ęs below, I promise):

Saturday afternoon we pulled into Vancouver BC, and right as we get to Robson street I realized...

I f-ing forgot my running shoes.

I came to Vancouver to run a half-marathon and I forgot my shoes. The most important piece of equipment for this sport, and I totally forgot it.

To spare some of the self deprecating anecdotes, it was just on par with the kind of week I was having anyway. So... almost 3 miles of walking and several crying episodes later, I finally got a new pair of running shoes. (Thanks, Matt for being such a trooper)

We still had a lovely dinner with the gals from the running team and their husbands, and watched the E True Hollywood Story about Patrick Dempsey before finally falling asleep.

I already had a sore throat starting Saturday morning, and it kept me up through the night and really everything was pointing a recipe for disaster....

5 AM: My alarm is going off, and I had just fallen back asleep... so waking up was pretty miserable. Matt was great and got up to help me make my breakfast while I was getting dressed.

I met up with the team to get some breakfast down and walk to the starting line together. Here's a group pic on our walk down.

Uh, I'm in the back :)

If you can't tell from this picture the weather is perfect! It's a little chili but promises to be sunny and kind of warm... too warm. :)


I was really trying to run at a slightly slower pace, and it felt great. I was reading some where that rather than placing the emphasis on time, really focus on enjoying your first half-marathon. I'll have plenty of opportunities to better my time, but only one first half-marathon.

We got to run through china town and parts of Vancouver I've never seen before. Which isn't a big surprise, considering this was only my second time to Vancouver.

Even though the supporters were sparse, it was greatly appreciated.... until there was this woman around 2 and a half miles. She shouted, "Keep it up, you still have a long way to go!"

Thanks, b****! We are well aware that we have at least a couple of hours of running to do yet. What a butthead... Oh, I'm sure she didn't really think about what she was saying... but it's not really what you want to hear so early on in a race.

Here's a pic of Chris and I around mile 3, seconds after seeing her family cheering on the street near a band covering David Bowie. I love that in all my "action photos" it looks like I'm just walking, but hey, it felt like I was just walking :)

Around mile 5 we headed into Stanley Park. It was such a beautiful run. I absolutely loved it. It felt like a nice leisurely weekend long run... with 20,000 other people.

We ran up this slight incline to the water station near the halfway point. We overheard this gal mentioning how easy "the hill" was, we didn't have the heart to tell her what was yet to come.

The last two months we've all been talking about the hill we were going to encounter around mile 8. It was kind of nerve wracking to know it was looming ahead. The funny thing was, the hill really made the race for me! That was the point in the race that I felt the strongest.

Thanks to all those hill runs we had to do for our training Chris and I were able to charge up that hill! I was 200 ft. and spanned about 3/4 of a mile. We were passing people left and right. It was such an amazing feeling! Then when we got to the top of the hill I knew, the rest was going to be easy.

Although I completely understand why, I was pretty irritated that there were no cheerleaders up the hill. That's when we needed them the most. but I guess bands, djs, friends, and family would have to be really ambitious to get up that hill just to cheer.

We stopped and walked for a few seconds, and Chris wanted to walk a little longer to get her knee back in gear. So I continued on...

The best part about running up a hill... is getting to run downhill afterward! And I had the energy to really push through it. I picked up the pace, and was flying down that hill. Again, passing people left and right. I've never really passed more than maybe a person or two in a race before. It was incredible!

By mile 10 we were out of Stanley Park and running along the water. I recognized where I was from the 10K two weeks back. This was the half way point for the 10K, meaning more or less 3 miles to go. It's funny when you find it comforting to think that you only have one lap around greenlake to go.

I'm not going to lie, I don't think mile 12 was a regulation mile. It was sooooooooooooooooo long.

There was a man preaching around this point. I found myself trying to block out what he was saying (there were protesters at the 10K, apparently you can't "run with with world and walk with God..."), but when I got close, I realized he was encouraging us! The only part I caught was him congratulating us because only 1% of people would even attempt to do this, that makes us the elite.

I started to well up. But starting to cry makes you hyperventilate so I had to slow my breathing down and focus on running. Even though I really appreciated the support of the crowd I knew the mile 12 marker would be coming soon, and I needed to bring it!

I finally made it to mile 12! Little did I know my personal photographer was along the street at this point. It was funny, because I thought to look for him at this point in the race, but knew better so I wouldn't start hyperventilating again.

I actually had enough steam to push really hard for the last mile! I was as close as I could be to "sprinting." As much as I enjoyed the race, I was ready to be done! Crossing the finish line was the biggest relief I've ever felt. Every muscle in my body exhaled. And as much as I tried to hold it back throughout the race, the tears just kept coming (and I don't know if I can spare the fluid or sodium at this point!).

Jonna, my coach, was there to greet me! She gave me a huge hug, and asked what my time was. I looked down at my watch, 2:40 (Just looked up my actual time: 2:38:49).

The best part was, I actually wasn't that sore! Or hungry! I just went through to find Matt. We bought a bag of ice from the fancy 7-11 and walked the mile back to the hotel. I spent about 45 minutes stretching, then a few minutes icing, then hopped in the shower and went to best part about all the running I've done for the last two months...

A full body massage :)

And I'm insane enough to set my sites on the Portland full marathon in October...