Before a long race, training programs always build in a “taper” period, where your runs get shorter and then you take a few rest days leading up to the race. So, while you spend months training with no more than one rest day in a row, to suddenly have 3 days in a row right before the very event you’ve been training for, just makes you feel restless! For me, I had all sorts of concerns.
Mostly, I was worried about being sick. I’d had an upper respiratory virus for 2+ weeks that just wouldn’t go away, and was making my asthma flare up.
I was also worried about the workouts I had missed on my last “peak week” in training while my husband was in the hospital and my kids and I were sick (all at the same time). There were two cross-train days and two runs that I wanted to go really hard at, to really help build my muscle strength to get a good time on race day, but I didn’t get to do any of them! That was 4 important days in a row that I missed! Before “hell-week”, I felt confident that I could finish with a sub 10:00/mile time.
And, the killer worry-inducer: My last “long run”, one week before race day, was a disaster. It was a frustrating and exhausting 12 miles with a pace that was close to 13:00/mile. Afterward, I had come up with a list of reasons for why it went so badly, (it was hot, sunny, noon, I hadn’t run in 5 days, I was sick, my lungs were bad, I was dehydrated, going slow to avoid injury), but I still wondered if I had any chance of getting the race experience I had been hoping for all throughout my (16 weeks of) training.
Getting Over Myself:
All of my worries and frustrations leading up to the race forced me to focus all of my energy on getting my body as healthy as I could, as fast as I could. So, cue the pills. A new round of antibiotics, Mucinex for my congestion/cough, benadryl for drainage, multivitamins, water, religious use of my inhaler and nebulizer, and religious use of my religion (in the form of lots and lots of prayers).
I realized that this was somewhat of a selfish desire, to care so much about having the race experience that I had planned on, and that I should just be grateful to be well enough to still participate in the race (unlike my husband, who had been equally as excited to run it but won’t be cleared for exercise again for weeks). Even if all of my “worst fears” happened, I knew I’d still be able to complete the race without walking, which was my initial goal when I committed to the race. So, what was I whining about?
I made a new plan. I’d do as much as I could to get healthy and then on race day just start out nice and slow. If I was still feeling good at the halfway point, I’d let myself speed up and hopefully save enough energy to get a good sprint in at the end (my favorite!).
During my antsy rest days, I did some reading up on people’s first half marathon stories and articles about “mistakes to avoid” and was starting to get anxious. If it weren’t for all the benadryl I was taking, I probably wouldn’t have slept at all. I channelled my excitement(/nervous energy) into planning. I planned what I’d wear, what I’d bring, what I’d eat, what order I’d do my makeup, what the kids would wear, what songs would be on my playlist in what order. I was a full-on crazy person. See:
My poor tired 4 AM brain only had to remember “left to right” and all would be well.
All the planning helped me relax.. I felt like I had less stuff I had to worry about and more stuff I could just be excited about. I started to feel less sick! I ate Hawaiian rolls and chugged water until I had a full-on carbalicious food baby in my belly. I had set myself up for race day success and I slept great, even if it was only going to be for less than 5 hours. I didn’t stress about that because an article told me it wouldn’t matter. And literally everything in any online article is always true.
Because my main problem on training runs was feeling hungry (and tired and dehydrated and asthma’d), I tried to get in a bunch of nutrition before the race started. I knew I’d be starting out at a slow pace, so I wasn’t too worried about getting a side cramp from being too full.
3:45 – Oatmeal for breakfast, a little milk, a little water, medicine (including a preventative Immodium as per some expert advice!)
4:30 – Protein shake, water
6:00 – half of a protein bar (Clif Peanut Butter is my favorite), while waiting in line for the bathrooms
6:20 – Got to our starting spot, ditched my extra layers (I wore a sweater and sweats from my donation pile, so I didn’t mind parting with them.)
6:25 – one pouch of GU (they suggest 5 minutes before you start your workout and every 45 minutes during your workout. 3 tummies is roughly equal to a pouch of GU.)
6:30 – start gun!
Here’s me and my friend Lauren right before we crossed the starting line:
I wore shorts, a tank, my iphone in an armband, headphones, my apple watch set up with nike+ on the distance/pace screen, and I stashed my GU pouches and gummies in my sports bra. And, of course, I was rocking my Buff (the headbands they wear on Survivor) and crazy hair, like I do best.
I had heard from a bunch of people that the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is on a lot of “must-do” lists and after just a few minutes, I could tell why. I don’t think I can do it justice in words, but it was just so incredibly emotional.
As I started running, I couldn’t help but think of the people who were killed in the OKC bombing 20 years ago, and to see their friends and family running the race with their names pinned to their backs. It’s called the “Run to Remember” and all along the course, there are reminders of things I am so grateful for.
Here I am bobbing along on the news coverage of the race:
(You can find me by my aforementioned “crazy hair.”)
At mile 4, I had three of my gummies to keep my energy up.
We ran to the Capitol building with a field full of American flags (one for each person who died in the bombing), we ran with a bunch of fire fighters in full uniform, we ran by the Arena where the Thunder (who pulled our community even tighter) play, and through Bricktown and the OU Health Science Center Campus, where me and my husband have so many memories.
At mile 7, I had a pouch of GU.
We ran through gorgeously wooded historic neighborhoods and were constantly bombarded with never-ending spectator support. I kept waiting to get bored or mentally fatigued, but it never happened. I read every motivational sign and high-fived every kid, and probably looked like a runner weirdo smiling so much. I loved every minute.
Around mile 8, I saw my little cheering section. The kids both perked up and smiled so big, but wanted more than just a quick high five, so I basically just got close enough to make them both cry, but that wasn’t my problem. Not today. I was passed that halfway point and feeling good. I wanted to pick up the pace and see how fast I could push it till the end.
At mile 9, I started on my last three gummies, washed them down with lots of water at the next water stop and finished off with all that energy I had saved from holding back in the first half.
When my “power song” came on, I was so excited because I could actually sprint it out to the end. It’s literally my favorite thing about running. And I got to do it! Even after worrying so much, my sickness and my training faults were mostly a non-issue during the race.
After eating my celebratory finish line Carl’s Jr. burger (yes, it’s a real thing) and meeting up with my cheering section, we walked through the Bombing Memorial and I couldn’t help but feel one last little dose of pride for my city and a wave of gratitude to God for giving me so many big blessings in my life and for this little blessing of having the day go even better than I thought it could.
I kept looking at my Nike+ summary yesterday after we got home. I’m always so fascinated by other people’s split times, so I figured I’d share those here, in case anyone else is “into” that too:
(The red spots on the route are the slowest spots and green ones are when my pace was faster. Green dot = starting line, red dot = finish line)
Here are my official times and rankings:
(This is the “Things I Learned” section)
-13.1 miles in that race felt SO much easier than even 9 miles in a training run.
-Nutritional preparation goes a LONG way for your energy (and happiness) levels during a race.
-Don’t be afraid to run by yourself! I was always nervous about that, feeling like I’d lack motivation or feel silly, but I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the whole “I’mma do me” swag I had doing the race without a running buddy. There is so much camaraderie among the runners.
-Don’t start out too fast! Its much more fun to have the extra fuel at the end to finish strong.
-Don’t listen to your GPS. It will always say you’re done when there’s still .22 miles left.
-Even though you’ll spill 90% of the water you get at a water stop down the sides of your face, you should still try to get some more often than you think you’ll need it. Once you’ve got less than 15 minutes left, you can skip the remaining water stops. It takes about that long for your body to be able to start using it.
-Dress as if it’s 15 degrees hotter than the hottest it will be during the race.
-Always give everything a practice run, armbands, outfits, GU, Tummies, gatorade, medicine… That’s what training runs are for and you never know how a new snack is going to treat your stomach! Which brings me to the next point:
-Take one Immodium to gently slow down your digestion before a 10+ mile run. A short check on google will confirm that lots of people run into stomach issues right around 9-10 miles, and caffeinated snacks just add to the problem!
-Carb up the day before the race (eating your last big meal 15 hours before the race starts). The two days before the race, you can also focus on getting lots of carbs and water, since your body will start to store them that early. (You don’t really need to eat MORE than usual, just have more of what you eat be carbs. Complex whole-grain carbs two days out and simple white-bread style carbs the day before.)
-And of course don’t forget to carb up (and bacon up) AFTER the race at IHOP with a breakfast that comes with one of everything. Then go home and take a coma nap for four hours, whilst wearing your medal.
Thanks for reading! I loved reading about other people’s experiences to prep me for my first long race, so I knew I wanted to write about mine. Here are some links to my favorites: