It is truly an unbelievable feeling to have accomplished what I did today. Just 2 short months ago (maybe less), completing a half marathon was a distant dream that I wasn't sure could ever happen. Now, I'm sitting here with sore knees and tired eyes after successfully running 13.1 miles this morning. It was a great run in so many ways! New scenery, the company of very strong runners, nice course, lots of people cheering on the sidelines throughout the whole run, and most importantly, I felt very strong!! I'm used to hitting a wall in about the 7th mile(the point in a run where you lose everything and are overcome with an intense urge to stop running - do you give in to your body's request or push it to the next level?). However, today I never hit the wall. I started at a slow 11 minute per mile pace so I could conserve as much energy as possible without running TOO slow. I don't know if it's a subconscious muscle memory thing or what, but I'm amazed at how close I can get to my goal pace. The first 3 miles I literally ran at exactly 11:00 each. Starting in to the 4th mile, I was pleased at how I felt, so I got off rhythm a little and accidentally kicked it up about 20 seconds per mile, but as I passed the 4 and 5 mile marks, I didn't get too concerned because I was feeling very strong still. During the 6th mile, I maintained my 10:40 pace and mentally started preparing for the approaching "wall". I sucked an energy gel pack down and got two cups of water at the next water station (ever try to drink water from a cup while running? It's not easy - I choked 3 times!) . At the 6.5 mile marker, we turned around and headed back, and I was still feeling strong, no wall. Miles 7, 8, and 9 came by, and I was still at my 10:40 pace feeling great! After 9 miles, I started paying more attention to how many miles were remaining instead of how many I had run. I got excited when I realized I only had 4 more miles to go!! I was starting to think I may finish this run without having to walk! At the 10 mile marker, I crossed over and told myself, from this point forward, I'm setting a new personal distance record. There's nothing that hypes me up more than breaking a distance record!!! However, my excitement was tapered a little by the pain in my knees. I've been fighting off tendinitis in my right knee, and at this point in the run, both knees were pretty sore. It wasn't enough to concern me, it's just typical soreness from pushing your distance - so I kept on at a slightly slower pace. I also try to "glide" more as I run through the discomfort to decrease the impact as much as possible. I eventually made it to the 11 mile marker and my knees finally reached the "numb" stage, where you know they're sore, but you can't really feel it anymore. There was a water station at 11 miles, so I got two cups again and settled in for an attempted "strong" finish. Emotions started rising at this point as I knew I was nearing the end, and I was passing runners who started too strong and were losing the battle. Let me rewind for a minute - at about the 1 mile point, I noticed a girl about 10 feet ahead of me who had about the same pace, so I just kept an equal distance from her, especially after hearing her tell one of her friends who was passing that she was at an 11:00 pace, but would kick it up to 9:00 at 6-7 miles. So, I figured I could try to pace myself with her until she kicked it up and then I would just stay back. About 5 miles in, she steadily increased her speed and I eventually lost sight of her. Well...just past the 11 mile marker, lo and behold, who do I see up ahead?? Yep, it's her. I could tell that I was slowly gaining on her, which added to the emotion of the race...so I kicked it up a notch without increasing my cardio too much. You can probably guess what happened at the 11.5 mile marker...yep, I passed her! I felt so victorious!! I kept my pace up and ran hard. As I crossed the 12 mile marker, I was in such disbelief of how great the run was going that I attacked the last mile like there was no tomorrow. The excitement and a deeper sense of accomplishment than I have ever felt in my entire life propelled me forward. I was almost overcome with joy, pride, satisfaction, and yet disbelief at the same time - it was indeed an emotional experience. A few people I passed looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn't care. I wasn't just merely going to finish this half-marathon, I was going to OWN it!! Kill it - crush it - make it MINE! I knocked over a minute off my pace time in my 13th mile and then did a full out sprint the final one tenth of a mile. It was incredible!!! Such a rush!! Those last two miles I was in such a state of euphoria, it's almost like an out of body experience. Amazing.
Jenn and the kids arrived 12 minutes after I crossed the finish line, but the directions I gave her were not as specific as they could have been - it was my first time there, all the way in Dallas, so I didn't know exactly how to tell her to get there. Sure, I wanted them there to cheer me on as I crossed the finish line, but even more than that, I felt bad that she had a hard time finding the place with 4 kids in the van. Thanks for trying Jenn (I'll take credit for not doing a better job of getting clear directions beforehand - sorry!)!! We'll plan the next one better.
So where do I go from here? I've been reading about how you should "recover" from a half-marathon (or full), and surprisingly one of the common side-effects is a mild state of depression. I honestly don't see that happening to me right now because of how excited I am still, as well as my new goals I have embraced, but I guess I'll have to monitor that (let me know if I weird out on you, Jenn). Other than that, I think I will take it easy this coming week and just do some walking and light jogging, maybe 2-3 miles. I could also gain a few pounds as my muscles retain water to aid in the repair and recovery process, but that weight should come back off within a week or less. Now for the big thing - I am going to run a full marathon December 9th in Dallas!! Or maybe we'll plan a trip in November to Austin or San Antonio for a marathon there. Honestly, today I feel like if I would have maintained my pace in the 12th and 13th miles, I could have run 17 miles. With 5-6 more months of training (double what I've already done), I feel very sure that I can complete a marathon. Key word - complete, not WIN! I'm excited about that! When I first started running, I dreamed of a half-marathon, but never even considered a full marathon until just recently. There's a good lesson here...you should always dream big. Don't blow something off because you think it's unattainable, just dream big and take one baby step at a time...eventually you will gain confidence in reaching your dream. I recently read a statement in my Runner's World magazine from John Kelley, multiple winner of the Boston Marathon in the 50s & 60s (in fact, 8 years IN A ROW). He said "Follow your heart, it's the one thing you can count on. Let your passion ignite bonfires, and feed the flames every day. The things we do should consume us. If they don't, our lives won't have any meaning." I love that. I recognize the potential danger in allowing our passions to consume us, but if you can keep a healthy balance, you can accomplish it. Dream big. If you don't know what your dreams are, take a few moments (by yourself with no distractions) and think about it...everyone has hope for something...a material possession, a vacation, a new skill, an accomplishment, anything. If you're married, share it with your spouse and see how each of you can help each other achieve them! Jenn, I thank you for supporting me in training for this half-marathon, and I want to help you achieve your dreams!!
Just for grins, you can go to http://www.thrustonracing.com/results/070520.html and see the results from today's race. In my gender/age group (men30-34), I came in 17th place!!!! That sounds really good, until you throw in the part about there only being 21 finishers in my gender/age group! HA! Yeah, I'm slow, but I finished!! :)