…I ran 13.1 miles and lived to tell the tale. It was the craziest experience. I’m still trying to process it between justifying literally every caloric splurge that comes my way and nursing my poor aching muscles.
First thing’s first! I meant to post one last training update prior to race-day but since that didn’t quite make it I’ll do a brief synopsis of the couple weeks leading up to last Sunday:
The last three Sundays before the race I did long runs that consisted of 10 miles each. The first time, the run was only meant to be 9, but I ended up running an extra mile out of the way to find a stupid bathroom! Thank goodness for the tourist center of Old Town Manassas, that’s all I have to say. These runs were not the best. I always started out strong but towards the end I have to say I got pretty sassy. I was thirsty, I was tired and my legs felt like lead. I often became delirious towards the end of these runs, yelling to Zach up ahead all of the cold beverages I wanted to be drinking. Water, water, water, lemonade, water, coke, beer… yeah even beer sounded good to me which is quite the phenomenon. I began to greet landmarks like they were old friends and I felt like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life: “Hello public library! Hello purple piece of trash on the ground! Hello you old Building & Loan!” I learned a couple critical things from these runs that helped me during the race:
1. Do not eat a large amount of food prior to this run, no matter how long you wait after. Also, do not eat nothing.
2. Drink a lot of water the day before. It still will not be enough. So stop at every water station possible even if you’re not parched.
3. The more you stop to walk, the harder it is going to be to get going every time. I swear by the end of these runs my legs weighed one ton each, and I had to use all my strength to lift them off the ground.
4. Once you feel yourself starting to get a little exhausted, switch up your form or your pace. Use some different muscles even if it means going a little faster because you’ll still feel relief from your tired muscles you’ve been using.
5. For the love of God know where the nearest bathroom is at all times.
My 10-miler the last weekend was different though and much, much better. We were in Williamsburg for Easter and did our run Sunday morning before church – and I think running early in the morning before a day of meals made a huge difference. I also think different scenery made it better. It was a gorgeous run through woods, fields and by the water down in Jamestown. Regardless, it made me a lot more confident for the race and I really enjoyed tapering down for the rest of the week! 3 miles honestly seems like a warm-up now. So basically the race was a 3 mile warm-up for a 10 mile run? Or a 3 mile run with a 10 mile warm-up?
I don’t think I could have asked for a better weekend. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! On Friday afternoon Cait (who I ran the 10k with) came up from Richmond and we hung out, had some dinner and then at 11pm we headed to Dulles to pick up Kelly from the airport. Her flight from Phoenix arrived on time and we successfully collected her and came home, and went to bed late after some much needed (if delirious) catching up. Saturday morning we woke up and had a leisurely breakfast/coffee, got ready and began the journey out to DC. We were there within the hour and were able to check into our hotel room early, awesome. We stayed at The Quincy Hotel near Dupont and I was really pleasantly surprised. The room was huge and had plenty of room for us to set out our race stuff for the early next morning, and the staff was really accommodating – they even set out water bottles for us the next morning! After we dropped off our things we went to Georgetown to find the expo and pick up our race packets —
dangerously conveniently located right next to the Nike store. I justified all my obscenely expensive merchandise by wondering if I would ever do something like this again? Better get everything I want now just in case. My one text to Zach that afternoon was “At the nike store, and I’m sorry in advance.”
Next to the store was the huge iconic “WE RUN” sign made up of all the runners names. It was so fun to find each of ours and pick them out amongst the 15,000.
Our packets mainly included a race day shirt and brochure, and our bibs. As soon as I saw my bib I started to get a little nervous, it made it so real and I was more aware than ever that bright and early the next morning I was going to run for a longggg long time. As we made our way into the expo though, the nerves turned into excitement we sampled energy drinks and protein bars and signed the wall of runners.
Walking down the beautiful streets of Georgetown with thousands of other excited runners was just plain cool. It gave me goosebumps thinking that I was included in this big group of badasses and that tomorrow I would join the elite club of half marathoners.
We were able to take a peek at this years Tiffany’s necklace design — it’s different every race and this year we lucked out because it is super cute and totally wearable!
That night we settled into the hotel, carb loaded it UP with some pasta and passed out after some punchy hilarity that I have missed so much since graduating and being with these girls 24/7. It was so special for me to spend that time with Kelly, Cait, Anne and Kyra because real life seems to just kind of grab you by the shoulders and shake you around when you graduate college. It’s such a tumultuous time in all our lives, figuring out where we want to be and what we want to do, where we’re MEANT to be, that it is the biggest blessing to find time to be with each other here and there. No matter where we live or how long the time is in between, it’s always the best time and I hope it stays that way forever. I know it will. It is so refreshing and I come away from it feeling full and happy. I am so thankful for all of you girls!
I hardly slept and 5:30am came all too quickly. We were up and at ’em and arrived at Metro Center to find our corrals by 6:45, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
These first few miles flew by. I am surprised by this because usually at least the first mile is pretty tough for me while I’m getting into my groove. I just always feel so clunky and all over the place. It must have been the exciting atmosphere and the crisp morning air that distracted me. I had decided to wear my old Columbia fleece that morning and then toss it when I got warm — lots of people did this and the garments were donated to the homeless afterwards. It was chilly at first but by the first half mile I was hot and tossed the jacket onto the sidewalk. I settled into a good pace and genuinely enjoyed these miles around the Capitol, the mall and over the Memorial Bridge. I think the words “genuinely enjoyed” and “running” together in the same sentence is probably the biggest accomplishment of this whole process for me, as I never thought I would ever ENJOY running. The bridge portion of the race was just crossing over it and then doubling back across so I actually saw Cait ahead of me which was fun!
At this point, let’s just say I was becoming much more aware of the situation at hand. My legs would get stiff every so often, especially if I slowed down for water/energy shots. I tried not to hit every water station to make my pace more consistent. To be honest I may have blacked out at some point during this portion because I don’t remember a lot of it. I wish I could have said the same for the miles to come.
Gooooood gracious these were a doozy. It didn’t help that these miles of the race were around the East Potomac Golf Course [see above course map], and man, once you passed the Jefferson Memorial it was pretty desolate all the way around that god-awful peninsula. There were no spectators hardly at all and it was just one long straightway for 3 miles. Physically, I was struggling. Mentally, I was dying. I had chosen not to listen to music, since post-concussion I hadn’t been training with any, so there were very few distractions. I started to feel little pangs of self doubt, as my legs started to ache more heavily and I got insanely thirsty. The first miles of the race it had seemed like there were water stations every half mile and suddenly it was like #werunthesahara out there. When we finally did get to water, it took everything in me not to grab every cup from every volunteer and chug myself into oblivion. The problem here, around mile 11, was that once I stopped to drink 10+ cups of water my legs seemed to gain approximately 100lbs each. Ah, my old familiar lead companions. I was hobbling down the road like I’d never used legs before and I was freaking out! I knew it would be harder to start up the longer I did! But I could not make my legs go. I checked my watch, took a deep breath, and said out loud “one more minute, then you go.” After another 60 seconds I used all the energy I had left to lift my
anchors legs up and awkwardly begin running again.
I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Literally, mile 12 was through a tunnel and at the end of it we were almost to the finish. When I came out, right there on the sidelines were Zach and Kelly, cheering me on like crazy!!! It was amazing how much that rejuvenated me. It gave me just enough juice to push a little harder towards the finish. The way the turn in the road was situated allowed Zach and Kelly to run to the other side and see me just as I was crossing the finish line, along with both of Zach’s parents! I got to see all of them yelling and carrying on and even managed a little wave as I summoned one last burst of energy and sprinted with everything I had to the finish. This photo that they so kindly tagged me in shows all my emotions at this point; I like to call it my America’s Next Top Model pose.
I waited in line impatiently just after crossing the finish line. All I wanted to do in this life was SIT DOWN. ANYWHERE. But no, we all had to wait around, for what? I started asking everyone around me feverishly “what are we doing?? Why are we waiting in line? Do I have to stand here? What is this for???” until finally someone politely told me that I was welcome to move out of the line and leave, if I didn’t want my Tiffany’s necklace. Welp, that shut me up because heaven help me I was going to get my necklace. And I did. And it is beautiful and I will actually be wearing it every day from this point forward.
We all met up and went back to the hotel to shower, followed by the best possible recovery/reward lunch ever: Shake Shack. I think the picture eliminates the need for a description.
On Sunday after we were finished, showered and fed I was pretty certain I was never going to do another race, ever again. I thought to myself how do people sign up for more of these things? I was so happy to be done. But I will say that the more the time passes, the more I can see why they do. It’s a contest against yourself and those are always the hardest to ignore. At the beginning of my training I said I wanted to get 2:30 or below for this race. When I got my concussion I was forced to amend this goal to 2:45 having taken 4 weeks off so close to the race, unfortunately. However I DID get exactly 2:45:24 according to my race chip! So now I can’t help but think… if I trained again with non-concussive conditions, could I get below a 2:45? A 2:30 maybe?? I can say that I completely get it now, that this kind of stuff is a total emotional journey and you learn so much about yourself in the process, blah blah blah. It’s all true! And what an amazing feeling to have signed up 6 months ago, and have ran 5 days a week (mostly) for all those 6 months! I am so proud of myself. I’m a little burnt out on training right now but I don’t doubt that if I’m asked again in a couple weeks it will be hard to say no.
I couldn’t have done it without my amazing coach, also known as my husband. Seriously, all those days of dragging me out of bed after work when all I wanted was to take a nap. All those runs where I would be so snippity and frustrated and he loved me anyway. He pushed me to my limits during our speed runs and encouraged me when I wanted to give up on long runs. He taught me how to strategize my speed during a long race, who knew people even did that?? Zach is a man of great patience and love and I am truly grateful. Seeing him at the finish line cheering for me was the best part of the whole day. In the meantime, we’ve purchased the Insanity program and will do that for the next 60 days and I can’t WAIT to switch up the work outs for awhile. Stay tuned for different kinds of training updates!