Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This is 39: Month 12, Update 1 (All About That Half, Half, Half)

When I was 29, I set a goal of running the Dublin marathon right after I turned 30 and that didn't happen. I was disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed. I thought I had really wanted to accomplish that goal, but as it turns out, I wasn't willing to make any lifestyle changes or really put in the work required to go after such a big goal.

Here I am, 10 years older and wiser and nearly 65 pounds lighter. I know how to make better choices for my body and my health. I know how to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night because the after effects will impact my training in the morning and the number on the scale when I go to Weight Watchers. I wasn't resentful for the ways in which I needed to change in order to accomplish this goal. In fact, I welcomed it. Even more than that, however, I was ready, excited and willing.

When coming up with my This is 39 goals, I put the half marathon on the list because I knew I could accomplish it if I were willing to put in the work. And even though I didn't get started until April, once I found a half marathon that worked with my schedule, nothing was getting in the way of me accomplishing this goal.

Over the course of my six months of training, I ran 98 times, logged 393.6 miles and my longest run was 12.25 miles. With the help of my good friend Hal, I had a solid training plan that got me to the starting line knowing that I had fully prepared to cover the 13.1 miles on the course.

On Saturday, October 6th, Katie, Steve and I packed up the car and drove down to Long Beach so we could spend the night and only have a short walk to the start line. I was more than prepared with all the goodies I'd need to show up at the start line:

We made it in time to get to the expo where I picked up my race bib, took some photos, and had Steve get me a t-shirt and pint glass.

We had an early dinner at California Pizza Kitchen where I loaded up on pasta and bread and got into bed before 9:00 p.m. I was afraid I'd have trouble sleeping, but luckily that wasn't the case; I slept quickly and easily and woke up a little bit before my alarm. With some nerves and anxiety, I got up around 5:30 a.m. so I could eat, go to the bathroom, get dressed, stretch and warm-up. Loaded with some good luck charms from friends (thanks Tisho, Tara and Marianne) I was ready to walk out the door and get the day started.

Once at the starting line, I was nervous but feeling ready to just get it started. One of the best pieces of advice I received in the days leading up to the race was from my friend Erin who shared advice she once got: "Trust your training and enjoy the race." That became a mantra that I thought about frequently as I ran and got me through some times when my mind was starting to present some doubts.

Here are some photos from the starting line:

Before (photo by Katie)
A quiet moment before my wave started (photo by Katie)
Saying my goodbyes to Katie before the race begins (photo by Katie)
Unfortunately the cell service was pretty terrible (I should have known) and so we weren't able to
meet up with Steve (who was still in bed when we left the room). Our calls and texts weren't going through and that was a BIG BUMMER. But I had to put it out of my head in order to concentrate on the race. I knew I'd see him eventually along the course. (Spoiler alert: I did!)

I anticipated I'd run about 12 minute miles, so I put myself in wave three (which had a 7:40 a.m. start time and an estimated finish time of 2:27 - 2:47). While I was towards the back of wave three, I was disappointed when people stopped moving and the announcer started lining people up for wave four. Note to self/lesson learned: next time I'll get towards the front of the pack in my wave so I can avoid that from happening again.

I was surprised only a minute or two into the race when I spotted my friend Penny who came down to cheer me on. I was so happy to see her and it left me with a smile on my face for the next few minutes. It was a perfect way to start the race.

The first six miles went by rather quickly and easily. I maintained a pretty steady pace and just focused on keeping one foot in front of the other and enjoying the experience. I knew if I had any problems, it'd be after mile 10, so I did my best to not push myself too hard in case I'd need to do that later in the race.

Near the halfway point, I passed Katie, Ivette and Penny and was so happy when I did see them. Ivette handed off my sunglasses and I got another huge smile on my face when they started cheering for me as I passed them by:

After that point, I had about four miles on the bike path and then the final three miles were along Ocean Avenue. Based on my experience during the training, I knew I could use some spectator love around mile 9 or 10. Unfortunately Katie, Ivette and Penny weren't able to swing that because they were on foot. Luckily, I had a really good playlist to keep me company and just kept coming back to trusting my training and enjoying the race. While I passed some people, and got passed by others, I also was in the same company as a few people who were running a similar pace to me. I'd keep my eyes on them to ensure I wasn't falling behind with my pace.

Around mile 7 I also became distracted because this is where the distance my Apple watch was tracking through the Nike Run Club app was starting to become different than what the course mile markers displayed as I was running by them. I tried to not let this distract me, but at times it was as much of a 1/4 of a mile difference and it was both distracting and a little disappointing.

Another thing I was totally unprepared for (since this was my first half marathon) was the number of people who do a run/walk combo. I know people who swear by this method of running a mile (or 10 minutes) and walking a minute and repeating that pattern until the end. But I knew it wasn't for me and during the actual race, it was distracting. Not to mention sort of dangerous too. There were a few times that I almost collided with people. Luckily there were no accidents- but it came close!

When I hit mile 10, I realized that I likely wasn't going to see Katie, Ivette, Penny or Steve and tried my hardest to just settle into things. I was really relying on my music to help my mind and pace stay steady and my feet to keep moving. I got so many wonderful suggestions from friends and put together this kick ass playlist that I finalized the night before. But the worst thing happened at mile 12. My f*cking Apple watch DIED. I was so, so afraid that it was going to run out of battery and tried to take some battery-saving measures to ensure it lasted the duration of my race. NO SUCH LUCK!


With no watch tracking my last freaking stretch of the race and no music, I really had to dig deep. (I don't run with my iPhone, just an Apple watch). It was during this last mile that I got the greatest surprise when I spotted my BF, Stephanie and her husband Joel and their dog Shorty with about 3/4 of a mile left to go.

BF was in The Best Place to help with my waning energy and mood and provided me with the lift I needed to make it to the finish line. I was (and am) so incredibly grateful for her perfect placement and for being there. It's a busy time at work and the fact that she took a few hours out of her non-event Sunday meant the world to me. See the big smile she put on my face:

From there, I ran the last bit of road and saw Steve who ran a few feet next to me and said "You've got a good pace going there!" It was so great to see him too and so touching to see how excited he was for me. I threw my useless headphones and nearly empty water belt over the fence to him and proceeded to run downhill to the finish line.

In the final stretch, I saw Penny again but didn't see Ivette or Katie, even though Katie snapped these photos of me approaching the finish line:

I had two goals with this race: 1) to run every single step of the course and 2) to finish with a smile on my face. I'm very happy to say that I accomplished both of these goals. Here's my official race finish photograph (thanks to the suggestion from my friend Gayla, I raised my arms at the end):

Sweaty and exhilarated at the finish line!
I was 100% distracted at the finish line because of my dumb watch. I wasn't able to fully enjoy the moment because I was worried about my entire run not getting tracked within the Nike Run Club app. (If it doesn't get tracked, it doesn't count, right? FFS!) And I didn't know how I was going to meet up with everyone since I now had no way of getting in touch with them.

When I think back on the race, this bums me out a lot. I wish I had been fully present at the end and could have just let the feeling of accomplishing this major goal sink in and wash over me. I worked so hard for it, and I sort of robbed myself of the finish line experience. (Next time- and yes, I do think there will be a next time- I'll do this part differently for sure.) All of that aside though, I was (and still am) incredibly proud of myself for running every single step, for finishing with a smile on my face and for putting in the hard work for six months that made all of this possible.

As luck would have it, as I walked out of the post-race corral, I walked right into Steve and used his phone to call Katie. Before I knew it, I was with my mighty cheering station for post-race photos:

Couldn't have done it without the best race day support from my wombmate! 
Ivette and I planned on doing the half together, but she turned out to be the most excited cheerleader and that was better 👋
Thanks to BF, Steph and her adorable dog, Shorty for coming up to cheer me on (Photo by Joel)
Penny's my half marathon spectator unicorn! I saw her three different times and it was perfect and amazing! 
And scene! 
And here are the official race stats:

The half marathon training and the race itself were a wonderful experience through and through. I pushed myself in so many ways throughout the past six months and transformed myself in ways that I'm so proud of. 

While I'm planning on taking a few weeks off to nurse a hip and quad issue that developed throughout training, I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular running routine and adding it to the other things I plan to do for exercise (yoga, spin class, resistance training and stair walks).

Before I wrap this up, I want to say one thing. So many people have commented throughout this process that they could never run a half marathon. And I just want to say- you can. You really, really can. If it's something you want to do, then you'll make it happen. I started out running 1/2 a mile and worked my way up to 13.1. I did it slowly and carefully and by sticking to and trusting my training plan. In my experience, the most important ingredient is to really want to accomplish this. If you start with that, then it'll be so much easier for you to stick to all the little steps along the way that lead you to the 13.1 miles!

Thanks to so many of you who were cheering me on throughout the experience and on race day. So many people were invested in this goal of mine and it made such a big difference.

Thank you and ✅!


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