Sunday, May 1, 2011

Two Half-Marathons - #2

I was expecting yesterday's race to be better than the last one.  After all, this was not my first half marathon...

Luckily, the the Team in Training (TNT) walking coach reminded me of the fact the "every race is different".  She was right.  I learned a ton of new stuff from this race.

First, I tried to take some of the lessons learned from the last race to heart:
  • I made sure that the Ipod shuffle was actually charged.  Turns out, my laptop does not have the necessary USB 2.0 port to charge the silly thing.  That's why it petered out on me at the last race.  This was not going to happen again.
  • I sorted my music by bpm and loaded it on both the shuffle and the nano as a backup. 
  • I got up an hour before the race to make sure that I would eat something. I did get a banana and 1/2 bagel down.  Somehow I skipped the Gatorade.  This would come back to bite me. 
  • I also made sure to go to the restroom before the race.
  • Since the last race I purchased one of those belts to carry Gatorade on board.  I filled one bottle with water and 3 bottles with Gatorade.  I also bought new shoes since the last pair was on its last leg at the last race.  

This was going to be a good race!

This half marathon was a lot bigger than the last one (15.000 vs 600 participants) and runners were sorted into corrals by expected finish time. I swear that our corral was at least a mile back from the starting line.  I may have walked an extra mile getting to my corral and another one back to the starting line before the race began - making my half actually 15 miles....

Just before the race started, the lack of Gatorade for breakfast reared its ugly head and I had to utilize some of the on-board nutrition: a few sips of Gatorade and 1/2 Luna bar.  

When the crowd finally began moving, I was with a few fellow TNT runners, and initially felt very good.  We started fairly slow and I was jogging along, listening to music, talking to my friends, 

However, only about 2 miles into the race, I could feel my legs complaining - and I was starting to get worried.  This was not going to be pretty!  (At the time, I had forgotten that the previous race had started the same way.  Apparently, I don't find my running legs until 3 miles into a race...) 

I also needed to find a port-a-potty... soon... This was definitely a habit I needed to break. 

Around mile 4 or so I discovered a small row of port-a-potties.  Unfortunately, I was not the only person who found them.  The line was a mile long, but I had no choice - so I said Good-bye to my fellow TNT runners to wait in line.... for 8+ minutes...

I was on my own now - just me and the music.  

At the first water stop, I was surprised, that there was just water and not Gatorade.  That worried me a bit, because I knew from experience that I had needed every one of those Gatorade stops in the past. 

A quick inventory of the on-board nutrition made me realize that I definitely needed to pace myself.  

I don't remember how long I had been run jog/walking when I ran into a guy with a purple shirt that had the  word "survivor" on the back.  He was walking this race at a pretty good clip.  I had passed him earlier and decided to say "hi" to the fellow cancer survivor this time around....  

Long story short, I ended up completing the rest of the race with H. - walking, talking and having a good old time.  This race was not going be my best time, but it would be a great time...  He didn't seem to mind the company, either. 

We talked about a lot of things: each of our survival stories, his running experiences - he used to run this half marathon in 2 hours and this race was his first one back after the cancer treatment, my triathlon experiences and my first half a few weeks prior, our respective children and their plans for the future, etc.   I believe that a good time was had by all. 

Toward the end of the race, he told me that he appreciated me sticking with him.  Apparently, he had some issues around mile 7 - and walking with a companion helped him through it.  I could have easily focused on my developing blisters and slow way down had it not been for him. 

Eventually, we made that last turn and we could see the finish line.  We would be walking down-hill the rest of the way.  I looked at him and asked "What about it, do you want to jog this baby in? " He thought for a moment and replied "I think I can handle that." Then he took off like a rocket.  

I had forgotten that he had told me that he was routinely running 2-hr half marathons.  Clearly, he was used to running a lot faster than Ms. "3+-hour half marathon" over here.  But I was determined to keep up with him for that last little bit - and so I ended up flat-out running those last few hundred yards. 

It felt absolutely amazing to be weaving around all the walkers (at "breakneck" speed) as I was trying to keep up with him - and we crossed that finish line at the same time.  

I only sort-of regretted that last minute sprint just after I crossed the finish line, because my body questioned the effort immediately.  "What were you thinking?" asked my light-headed little self, but that was nothing a little Gatorade and a short sit-down didn't fix.

My overall finish time ( (3 hr 24 min) sucked and even after deducting the potty break time, it was slower than the my first half, but ..... every race is different, I thoroughly enjoyed the race walk (and the company) and I definitely want to do this again, maybe a little faster next time.

Oh, and that sprint at the end felt amazing!

PS: Shirts and signs seen during the race

  • "If you can read this, I am not last."
  • "DFL > DNF >  >  > DNS"  (did finish last  >  did not finish  >  >  >  did not start)
  • A lady at a water station held a sign "Your legs will forgive you eventually."
  • They changed the course of the half marathon this year by cutting out the very hilly Iroquois park section.  At what I assume was the turn to the park, a lady was holding a sign that said something like "Smile, it could be worse.  You could be heading to Iroquois park right now."

Lessons learned:

  • Seriously, eat your breakfast of champions!
  • Seriously, go to the potty one last time just before the race starts.
  • Select only the songs you love to run to. You only need about 3 hours of music, not 3 days. 
  • Maybe cotton really is rotten. Consider non-cotton socks
  • Run your race - and remember that you don't find your running legs until about mile 3.
  • Study the course map.  It's there for a reason.  When I complained about the lack of Powerade on the early stops, my daughter, who did not run the race, informed me that all this information was available on the map, that she apparently studied...
  • There is nothing you need to have at the end of the race that would require you to take advantage of a gear drop.  You're not changing into another shirt anyway. 
  • On-board nutrition is great, but fill all your on-board bottles with Gatorade.  There will be water on the course. 


  1. LOL, this is great! Love your running stories!

    Laura's Last Post: Random Thursday

  2. Congrats, Steph. We appreciate you...and what you do for others!

  3. Thanks Laura and Rusty.

    Come to think of it, Rusty. It's actually your fault that I ran this half marathon to start with.

    Had it not been for you, I would never have met Sheri, who introduced me to Team in Training, which is who I ran this event with.

    Essentially, you're responsible for me meeting at least half of the people I currently call my friends.

    So, thanks for all you've done for me!

    PS: I wonder, if Sheri be willing to collaborate on a blog post entitled "Turns out, it really is all Rusty's fault..."