Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My First Half Marathon

I finished my first half marathon!!! It wasn't pretty, but I'm okay with that. I also read in the local paper that this course isn't certified (for distance), and that Sunday's race was likely more than 13.1 miles. Woohoo! Here's my race report:

Race: Vancouver Lake Half Marathon
Location: Vancouver, WA
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
Time: 02:53:55 (pace = 13:17 min/mi)

Pre-Race: Due to a persistent knee injury and a recent bout of strep-throat, I spent the last couple of days debating whether or not I would actually participate in the run. I finally decided that I didn’t want a “DNS” next to my name. So I would start, get through the first couple of water stations, and then decide if I wanted to continue or not.

I woke up early, ate a PB&J on whole wheat English muffin, downed some coffee, then tried to hydrate and get Ken out of bed and moving. We carpooled to the event with a bunch of people from the gym in the official “Headhunters” van. It was so much fun pulling up to the parking lot and everyone staring at us.

Warm Up: It was just over 30 degrees, so we huddled in the van and breathed each others CO2. I had Denise (coach) tape up my knee. Then did a couple of "warm-up jogs" to the porta-potties.

Run: My friend Mark signed up to do the run with me and said he would go at my pace the whole time…even though he typically does 8min miles. On a good day I can barely pull a 10:30 pace out of my legs, I was expecting more like a 15min pace today. We got out of the bathrooms with 5 seconds to spare before the gun went off. We started in the back to be out of everyone’s way and in about 30 seconds we were all alone.

The course begins with a short out-and-back, passing back by the start line around mile 3 (with the first aid station) for a longer out-and-back the other direction. This makes it boring for us, but fun for the spectators to see us several times. I came through that point feeling a bit winded, but the knee was good. I shed some layers and continued on.

The next aid station showed up around mile 5. This is where the knee started to throb and my gait fell apart. I really just wanted to quit here, but reasoned with myself that almost anyone with 2 legs can get through 8 miles, even if it means walking. Mark kept me running to the final turn around at mile 8.3. As the first runners started to pass us from the other direction, we clapped and cheered them on. Only the first place male and the first place female acknowledged us. Mark and I turned it into our little form of entertainment -- we counted over 40 people before we got another response from any of the runners. Not even a smile! This was surprising, as even though those people were fast, none of them are fast enough to have that big of an ego.

At the turn around we walked for about 5 seconds to take some Gu and water and I realized that walking was way more painful than running. Short of hopping in the sag wagon, there was no other way to get back to the finish line except to suck it up and run. Well, running may be an overstatement, but I did maintain a solid waddle.

Mile 11 and 12 were really long, as was the last half mile. Every time I started to complain, Mark interrupted me with a silly story to take my mind off the pain. As we got closer to the finish, we could see the parade of cars leaving the event. It was a bit demoralizing, but since it was cold out and they had probably been finished for over an hour, I couldn’t blame them. When we approached the finish line, all of the Headhunters were there cheering us on and chanting my name. It was so motivating that I managed to sprint in the last 20 yards. It felt like a sprint anyway. I was thrilled when I looked up and saw the clock was under 3 hours!!!!!

What would I do differently?: I really did just about everything I could considering the circumstances. When my knee was injured around the first of the year, I pool ran 4 days a week. When I got strep-throat last week, I stayed in bed and rested as much as I could. It took a lot for me to just get out to the starting line.

Warm Down: Walked to the cookie table and inhaled a bunch of goodies as I hobbled over to the finish line to cheer on the last few folks. Then off for burger and beers. Mmmm...

Event Comments: The course was flat flat flat – perfect for my first half marathon. It did get a bit monotonous, but my body couldn’t have handled any hills, so I was grateful to at least have company for the entire run. The volunteers were awesome, especially since it was freezing temps. I was at the back of the BOP and made sure to thank them all for staying for us stragglers. And whoever baked all of those cookies did a fantastic job!