For about six weeks I've been sharing information about running and my plans to do the Madison Half-Marathon. I first decided to do it after running with Ryan at the McNaughton run. Today is the day, and not only did I survive--I did pretty well!
I've been struggling with some injuries from over-training in my left leg involving my IT Band and Posterior Shin Splints. As a result of them, I've done basically no running for the past two weeks with the exception of 20 minutes this past Monday. I was pretty nervous (just ask Josh) about what was going to happen when running 13.1 miles, which, by the way, is the furthest I've ever run in my life. Even in training I only got up to 9 miles in the Dells.
I picked up my race packet yesterday at the Alliant Energy Center and perused the products offered by the merchants at the trade show going on there, although I didn't buy anything because I have set a near-moratorium on spending unnecessary money while working on the house.
I lined everything up last night and felt nervous like a kid before his first day of school. Do I have what I need?
I didn't sleep very well—I was awake and a little anxious between 3 and 4:30 I think. I also woke up in a sweat.
I did some research about what to eat the morning of a race, and opted for my normal routine: protein shake smoothie with fruit and fiber.
Josh and I got to the Alliant Energy Center (where the race ends) to park by 6:15, and were on a shuttle to the Capital Square (where the start was) in a few minute. A really well-run event! Josh was going to carry the backpack with stuff in it, and take my last warmie from me before the race started. I stretched and we waited in line at the porta-potties. LONG LINES, and I made it just in time for the start of the race.
You can see my playful-nervous face at right when they shot the gun for our race. OK, so maybe I wasn't completely being playful. ;o)
My strategy was to shoot for 5.5 or 6 mph during the race while I ran, and to do cycles of running 20 minutes and walking 5. If I was going to make it through the race, I was going to have to be reasonable and give my body a break from time to time, or my leg wouldn't allow me to finish. There were several groups of pace setters whose job it was to do just that--set the pace. One carried a sign with the total goal time and goal time for each mile. I stuck with the 2:20-total group (I think it was 11:47/mile time).
I had a little shock after running about a half mile when I realized in the excitement I'd forgotten to put an ace bandage on my left calf to support the shin splints! Oh well, too late to do anything about it. I focused a great deal on my body, ensuring I was running with a good, smooth form. After about 2 miles I walked for 4 minutes (it felt like enough), and then walked mainly on uphills only. My breathing and energy levels were great. My left IT Band began to tighten up after a few miles, and I just stayed as relaxed as possible. It was OK.
The run was really fun. It reminded me of doing the Devil's Lake Sprint Triathlon with Rachel and Adam in 2002 (I think). I had a dumb smile on my face most of the time. I am so used to running alone with just my iPod that it was a lot of fun to be surrounded by a bunch of people! Also, the folks along the way who cheered for runners were really great. Since they put our names on our race numbers, people often called specific encouragements, "Way to go, Jay!" which felt really fantastic.
After we got to University Avenue, my leg was getting tighter and I walked again. It was at this point that I realized it was more painful to run up hills. I ran up Monroe Street very carefully (I couldn't walk all that way--too much time), and downhills were much more pleasant.
There were police officers along the entire route to direct traffic (or stop it, primarily) and ensure we were safe. I had a lot of gratitude for them.
As I got to mile 10 things were getting more painful. I had to stop at one point to tie my shoe, and starting was a bit difficult. So I decided to not stop again--logical, right? : ) At mile 11 I realized that my 'tank' was beginning to feel a bit empty, so I pulled out the Gu (energy stuff) that I got at the Mile 6 aid station, and ate it. Mmmmm--chocolate! That helped.
Sometime around Mile 11 or 12 the pain in my lower calf started to hint at me, and my focus on my form and body were critical at this point. It was at this point I discovered I could not run up hill--it was too painful. I decided once I got to Mile 12 to pick up the pace and end strong. I hadn't saved very much during the race in terms of total running ability. Had my legs been in good shape I could have run faster. So I picked it up for the last mile.
As I got nearer to the finish my excitement was building. I could hear the music, and the cheering increased. And then I saw the finish line. I picked up the pace again grace a the adrenaline coursing through my body. It was a pretty moving experience. For so many years I'd said that I "hated running" and didn't consider myself a runner. I was now completing 13.1 miles, which, again, is the longest distance I'd ever gone. It felt great to break through a barrier of limiting belief. I'm going to call myself a "runner" even if I don't feel it completely. I think running a Half-Marathon allows me to qualify for the descriptor.
I crossed the finish line ensuring I stepped on the mat so that the sensor on my shoe registered! I was done. I got in line to have the chip taken off my shoe, then started looking for Josh. I couldn't find him, yet found Brian, a fellow I'd met at Friday Night Dinner two nights ago. I walked right up to him and said hi, and had to remind him who I was. : ) I asked to borrow his phone, and called Josh. He was just on the other side of the exit. I went out and he gave me a big hug and just held me for a minute. It felt very good. I then went back into the finish area and grabbed some food, and saw Brook and Libby, who ran the 10k. I came back and ate with Josh, then Ryan finished his race. Josh took a couple pictures of us talking.
I'm impressed that when I got home, the results were already online! Here's how I did (full results):
bib number: 3575
location: Madison, WI
overall place: 2201 out of 2866 (23rd percentile)
division place: 140 out of 161 (13th percentile)
gender place: 1076 out of 1238 (13th percentile)
pace: 10:35 (5.67 mph)
mile 6: 1:03:59
mile 8.5: 1:30:40
chip time: 2:18:42
Are the times fantastic? Nope. And while I tend to be perfectionist about many things, that doesn't matter to me. My only goal was to finish, and that I did. I would have been happy had I averaged 5 mph, so for a first crack at it, I'm very pleased. Any race/run I do next I will be in better condition with no injuries, and can then find out the next limiting factor to work on.
Josh has been so wonderfully supporting through this whole thing, and especially today by getting up earlier, playing the roles of pack mule, boyfriend support and photographer. I also appreciate the support of many others in my life as I've shared the ups and downs of my training and challenges with my leg. I'm very grateful for all of this, and after I take a break and recover, I look forward to taking it easy and running for fun, both alone and with groups...
...until I decide whether I'll be doing another Half, or a full Marathon next.
See all 10 pictures in my Picasa Web Album