Today was my first half marathon. I had a great run, really enjoyed myself as I promised myself I'd do. I was able to keep a good pace and relax, not worry about anything and just run. Fantastic day. Here's how it went.
2:00 AM: I wake thinking, "Alright, if I'm doing under 8 minute miles before mile 10, I'll slow down. Just finish healthy, uninjured and soak up the experience of your first long race."
3:45 AM: Both (me and my wife's) alarms ring. I shoot out of bed. FINALLY time to get up. I brush my teeth, eat a banana, cliff bar and protein shake. On the way out the door my father-in-law asks if he can tag along.
5:00 AM: We arrive at the location where the buses drive the runners to the start line. It's cold, but I don't have to wait long before the bus (probably 50 of them) open up for us. I was surprised they were school buses, and mine was from Nogales School District, about 80 miles south.
My wife reaffirms that I am going to be done by 9 am and wishes me luck.
5:45 AM: The bus pulls into the start-line staging area. The race information said there were ample heaters, and there were...if it were May. 12 heaters for 2,000 runners on an exposed hill top, all dressed for a run, in 30 degrees with a breeze. The portable bathrooms were all zip-tied shut...adding to the excitement.
I huddled around a heater wishing I'd brought some warm wool socks and shoes. I wore toe shoes for the run, but we had drop-bags that the buses would take to the finish line for us. I now know how penguins feel. We all huddled around the propane heaters, the body of people spinning and moving to maximum wind protection for its members.
6:15 AM: The woman in charge of the half-marathon start line comes to our heater area and says we can re-board a bus. The bus is about 1/4 mile down the road and I trot over there thinking how nice it would be to sit down, remove my shoes and rub my feet warm. I get to the bus and they're leaving. PSYCH!
At this point I decide to just move around to keep warm. I was ready to start the race right then!
6:40 AM: Time to load the drop-bag, which for all practical purposes means, get naked in the wind. I load the bag, toss it in the bus and warm up.
7:00 AM: I leave with the second wave of people. The first mile was 7:05, way too fast. A pair of ladies mention the same and point out a group in front that they think will provide a good pace for them. I decide to stay with them and see how it works out.
We pass people, people pass us as we run down towards Tucson. I listen to them talk some more before chiming in. After a while I'm in their group. They're from South Dakota, traveling for their annual tropical winter run, which they said was terribly disappointed this year (the weather only they meant).
I explain that I'm a new runner and my goal was just to finish in under 2 hours and have a good time. We were clipping the miles off at 7:30 or so for the first four miles. I felt great, hardly working. I only worried about cramping or have my muscles reaching muscle-failure at mile 10. I expressed as much.
Stacy, the stronger of the two today, said, "This isn't hard for you?"
"Then you can tell us stories to distract us."
So I did.
When we got to the second aid station I decided I'd get some water. I grabbed a cup that was half full of blue powerade. I watch Cynthia and Stacy drink their water, then proceed to dump my powerade all over my face.
"How do you drink while running?"
"Fold the top, like a funnel."
Lesson 1 learned.
Lesson 2 was about pace. We ran and kept watchful eyes on our pace, sub-8 minute miles was their goal. The two wanted to finish in under 1:44. I felt great, so just went with them seeing how it would play out.
Around mile 7 I started hurting. My feet were getting sore. They usually do around mile 8 or so, as I've not done a lot of running really. Each time I run a new distance they really hurt once I get past my previous long run's distance. I also had a blister in full bloom on the bottom of a toe.
Around this time Cynthia dropped out. She said she was ok, but fell off the pace. Another runner that had fallen in with us complimented the steady pace, though I suspected he'd not stay as he was laboring.
I mastered drinking while running and was able to pick up a few Gu's or Cliff Shots along the route. At mile 9 I felt ok, not over-doing it and getting that too hot feeling. But my legs were getting quite tired, my blister was obviously beyond the point of a blister and my feet were complaining at me. We kept the pace at under 8 the whole time.
At the 11 mile mark Stacy said she usually picks up the pace but said she didn't have it in her today. So, I left her pushing ahead. At that point it dawned on me that there was a good chance my family wouldn't yet have arrived at the finish line. I thought of how they'd be disappointed, especially my wife. My first road bike race I finished an hour and fifteen minutes before expected. So, this was old hat.
What happened next surprised me. We came to our first "hill." It was a fairly light incline and short, but all of these people that had recently passed I reeled back in. Pays off living in the middle of lots of big hills I guess!
I labored through the next mile and a half, teetering on the point of getting too hot. When I saw the finish line I sped up and left those around me behind. It certainly was NOT a sprint, I didn't have enough left for that.
Here's a post race picture. I'm happy to have Oreos in my hand!
After the race I was on cloud 9 for a few hours. My feet and blister really hurt. The muscles in my feet are so painful now that walking is only done when 100% necessary.
I had a great time, loved the run and can't wait to do it again!