Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Nike Women's Half Marathon Experience

Finish line with Howard ROTC Members!
Dozing on the Metro after the race.
13.1 miles.  Three hours and sixteen or seventeen minutes.  I just completed my first half marathon.  What a glorious half marathon it was.  16,000 women and men, mostly women running through the streets of Washington, DC.  Past the Dr. King Memorial, past the World War Two Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the Capitol and 13.1 miles of Washington, DC pavement.  It was an amazing day.  There were tears and smiles, twerking and twirling, praying and cussing and at the end Tiffany! 
So there is a lot you learn about yourself when preparing for and running in your first half marathon.  I learned that I am not a planner.  Ok, so maybe I didn't learn that - but it was definitely reinforced for me during this process.  I like planners, I respect people who can order their steps and follow that order.  That isnt me.  My friend Rhonda used to say that my favorite saying back in the day was Do What You Feel.  I mean with a plan that spans the ages - how are you sure that how you feel when you create the plan is how you are going to feel when it is time to implement the plan.  The idea of planning is fabulous and yeah, like everyone I do create plans.  I guess I am not married to the plan, but rather more interested than the outcome.  The how we get there is not important but rather that we get there. 
But back to half marathon training - the how you get there - especially if you are carryng 30 more pounds than you would like and not sleeping enough and dealing with more stress at work than you are used to - is important.  After being selected for the Nike lottery, I started researching training plans online.  There were really serious ones with meal plans, rest and run schedule and a great deal of compliance that I knew I wouldnt be able to adhere to.  I found a great plan that worked for me.  Run (for me) my normal 3-4 miles per day during the week.  Four days a week run, one rest day, one day to cross train and then one long run each week building your miles from 4 to 12.  It was great.  A realistic plan that took into consideration crappy weather, crappy work schedules, crappy life stuff and most importantly a lazy, crappy  runner. 
The rest day I had down pat.  The cross training started out really good - doing Shawn Ts  Hip Hop Abs or taking a spin class at the rec center or Yoga.   About week six of my plan the cross training day quickly morphed into another rest day or a run day. 
The long runs were the beast.  I run with my running group, BGR - DC on Saturdays and Sundays.  Well both of those were 3 - 5 miles at the most - would I be motivated enough to keep running as my mileage was scheduled to increase.  Um---not sure.  My husband who is an accomplished half and full marathoner offered to run with me.  Hmm.  I thought.  This is the same dude that I cussed out when we were building our house over some damn cabinets and who I cussed out back in 95 when he tried to teach me how to drive a stick.  We have a great history together of making a life and raising an incredible son.  The whole sharing and imparting knowledge thing was a slippery slope.   But, dude CAN run.  He ran hot ass Sunburst Marathon up in South Bend.  He ran Richmond where he qualified for Boston and then in 2012 ran and finished the Boston Marathon on one of the hottest days in the history of the Marathon.  He has done long runs in the time it takes me to wake up, do a load of laundry and have a cup of coffee. 
My plan did not call for a long run running buddy - but I did what I felt and put my long runs and the core of my half marathon training in the hands of my hub.  What a blessing that was.  He has just as crappy work schedule, probably less sleep than me but he has mad discipline when it comes to running.  He runs when he is sick, when it is cold, when the last thing he wants to do is run.  For the past 10 weeks, we were incredibly disciplined - hell, selfish even and got up and out and ran all over beautiful DC and Northern Virginia as I trained my body to long run.  When you get tired you drag your feet, pick your feet up he said.  Make sure you are drinking water and taking enough gels in he reminded me after I almost threw up in Whole Foods after one of my first long runs.
You would think running with your husband every week would lead to deep, meaningful conversations but while they weren't played out in words, they definitely were in energy.  We both ran with music and every now and then he would shout out some direction with me or more importantly check in to see how I was doing.  On one really hard run he asked me around mile 8, how I was doing.  I thought for half a minute, what would he do if I said, shitty, I cant finish.  Instead I said, fine and kept going.  Hub is fast, a really fast runner.  I know all those weeks running slower than what he could walk took its toll.  Hell, plenty of weeks he did a long run with me and then turned right around the next day (or the day before) and knocked out his real long run. 
As the weeks went on, I got more confident and realized that maybe I would be able to finish this half marathon.  That was always my goal - I had no time in mind.  I just wanted to be able to run the whole time, pain free, beat the bus and finish the damn thing.
So - with all the planning, week before the race comes and I get a cold.  Nasty cold that actually kept me in bed one day off sick from work.  I was TERRIFIED.  Work, life, weather, everything hadn't derailed my plan but a damn cold could.   Jesus, be a Fence.  The day home from work, helped.  I took every cold medicine we had in the house. Slept, drank fluids, slept some more.  Thursday I started feeling human.  Got up ran two miles, went to work.  Friday I actually started feeling human, ran 3 miles, worked until 7:30 p.m. and even felt well enough to do a pre race gathering with my running chicks. 
Started to get freaked out because ladies were talking about their race outfits, their race plans, their race strategies - WHOA.  I had none of that.  I mean I had the training behind me, but other than my shoes and socks - had not even thought about what I was wearing.  The only race day planning I did was to get my hair colored the morning before the race coz I thought I was cute.
Saturday came and went.  I worked a volunteer shift.  Hub had to work until midnight.  Kid almost made me cry by doing all of his homework on Saturday, because he wanted to have Sunday free to cheer for me.  He also took his shower the night before AND laid his clothes out.   This child was really trying to make me do the ugly cry.
Sunday morning.   We got up, got out of the house.  I had packed my bag the night before - so I had everything I needed.  Hub, kid and I make it to the race.  I was too late for the group picture, amazingly enough I was a little disappointed but I didn't bug me as much as I thought.
I was VERY nervous.  Standing at the race line, checking my watch, my music, my bra, my sunglasses.  The only thing I wanted to concentrate on was my race I wanted no distractions.  Hub and kid gave me a hug.  Race started - I was off.
13.1 miles - that is a long damn way.  In this day of multi-tasking and overscheduling it is a blessing to be with you and yourself in your head for three damn hours.  There is a lot you can work out, plan, do and feel.  I was blessed to have my beautiful hub and kid cheer me all over the course.  They were at mile 2, 4, 8, 10 and then at the end.  Between them and the damn Team in Training folk with their dedication shirts, I knew I was going to be an ugly crying mess at the end of the race.  I started to get emotional around mile 11 and felt the tears, but then I kinda got short of breath.  I quickly shut that down because I was like, hell, I need to breath.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  No tears.
BGR women all over the course also challenged my cry rule.  Ebony, Steph, Markeshia, Tracy, Ashante, Bridget, Leigh, Meg and SO many more.  It was also wonderful to get shout-outs from BGR women from around the country AND shout-outs from BGR supporters lining the route.
The whole day was an incredible blessing.  I'm proud, happy, thankful and almost ready to think about my next half marathon.
13.1 miles.

Homestretch.  Mile 12 or 13, I think.

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