On Sunday, I ran the Oktoberfest Half Marathon in Pennsylvania. In case you're new here, this was my first big race (over 5k). It was also on the 10-month anniversary of my first run. I ran my first half marathon in 2:16:12, crushing my race goal time of 2:30. I'm still flying.
|My very first medal!|
It was a day 10 months in the making, that I've been training for since I decided to go for it this summer and set a goal I thought impossible even at the time.
For this race, I decided not to use my usual run tracker (I run with Runkeeper while I save up my pennies for a Garmin.) because I wanted to give myself totally over to the course. Advice from veteran runners encouraged me to leave it on the course, run the mile I'm in, remember that I am ready and trained for this. Sometimes I can get too far into my head, and I didn't want to worry about what mile I was in or how many I had left to go. I wanted to run each mile as it came to me, and finish when I finished.
There were a few mile markers on the course and a couple other dead giveaways so I wasn't totally in the dark. The first few miles were along a paved bike trail through Pennypack Park. The weather was a dream — low 50s and sunny — and the turning leaves gave the perfect colorful cover. We started out with some rolling hills, but nothing that felt insurmountable. I've been running on hills as long as I've been running, so I've come to feel pretty comfortable with them most of the time.
At mile 6.5 (which I knew from the race info), the halfway point, the trail turned from paved to crushed gravel. There were some rockier sections and I knew this part of the course would slow me down, as trail always does, so I accounted for it when I set my race goal. I made it out relatively unharmed, aside from a small ankle roll that I so very gracefully recovered from and a few stomps through muddy path.
When I came out of the trail at mile 9 and back onto the paved road, I took about a 20-second pause to slam some Gatorade from the awesome volunteers and fix my falling pony. Shortly after this point the course retraced path we'd run prior, so I knew to expect more hills.
After I hit mile 10 (marked on the course), the really challenging part kicked in. Like I said a few days ago, I'd only been able to train up to 10 miles, though I really had wanted to get to 13 in my training runs. (Funny how life doesn't give a damn about your plans, huh?) Those last 3+ miles were the absolute longest miles of my entire life.
I'm guessing it's partly because I had no idea how far there was left to go (although I've gotten pretty good at estimating semi-accurately based on my music), and partly because I'd just run 10+ miles on hills and trail, and partly because the wind was kicking in, but the going got tough. At what I assumed was roughly mile 12 and after I'd climed and descended the biggest bitch of a hill on the entire course, I took the advice of my sweet friend Tracy and allowed myself to walk. I walked for about 30 seconds when another runner who I'd crossed paths and shared some sympathy with earlier came up behind me, said we had only a quarter mile to go and kicked my butt into gear.
Determined to finish strong and give the finish-line photographers my best smile, I picked it up and told myself I'd be there in less than one more song. But... the course was long. Or this guy's watch was way off. We passed each other again later and he said we were already at 13.2, but the finish line wasn't even in sight yet. Of course it's possible that his watch was off, but based on how long it had been since I saw mile 10, I wouldn't be surprised if you told me I ran more like 14 miles.
Either way, eventually, the trees broke and the path beneath my aching feet turned into grass. The sun was blazing, the crowd was cheering, my mom and stepdad were poised and ready with their cameras as I came flying down the chute. And two hours, sixteen minutes, and twelve seconds after I set out, I crossed the finish line. It's still surreal. I still have to remind myself that after months of training and planning, I did it.
The rest of Sunday was spent hearing my parents gush over how happy they were to see me finish, foam rolling my aching legs, eating all the food I could get my hands on, watching Harry Potter, napping, and soaking in a warm bath of Epsom salts and a few drops of peppermint essential oil (thanks, Trace!).
So now what? Well, now I rest for a few days. I didn't want to think about this at all before the race, but on Saturday, I was rear-ended in traffic and I don't think I can convince myself any longer that it didn't do any damage. My back and neck were sore as I lay down to sleep Saturday night, and now in the aftermath of the half marathon, I can add a weird knee pain (I've always had bad knees and knee pain isn't really anything new to me, but it's still pain) and a hip pain (bad alignment that I've been working on with my chiropractor for months), both of which are sure to be expected. I did just run a half marathon after all. :)
Within a few days I'll be up and running again, but I'm taking a break from racing and training for the rest of the year. I did want to try and find a 5k or 10k to race in November or December, but the accident was the last straw for my little car so I'm better off saving my pennies (race registrations ain't cheap!) for the new car payment. But I still have running goals for the next two months and I still love running, so I'm looking ahead to 2015 races already — surprise, surprise.
On my mind already are a 10k in March (the race is a 5k/10k, and the 5k was my very first race ever. I'm trying to start a tradition here!), a half marathon in May, and posssssssibbly a full marathon in the fall, though I may just attempt the half. We have a year to go, so we'll see. :)
I'm also hoping to add some runcations to my schedule for 2015, maybe even with some visits with Tracy, Kristen, and Lisa thrown in (?!), as I work toward the bananas goal I have of running a race in every state. (Two down, 48 to go!)
So that's where I'm at. I'm ready to set the next challenge and clamor toward it, too.
What are you training for?
Your turn! Link up your posts below with Tracy and me for the second edition of Training for Tuesday! (ICYMI, find the "rules" here. We can't wait to see how you're doing!)