Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon Race Recap

Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon – 4/27/14

I JUST FINISHED MY VERY FIRST HALF MARATHON!! I AM ON CLOUD 9!!

In reality, 4 days have passed since I finished my half marathon. I am no longer feeling the runners high to the extent I was when I crossed that finish line, but I will do my best to recapture those feelings, along with any of the bad ones I felt during the race.

I prepared for this race for 16 weeks. I think that’s the part I didn’t understand before becoming a runner.  I did not just complete a race on that single day. I completed 16 weeks worth of racing on that day. It took dedication and I am super proud of myself. I don’t want to sound like I am bragging.  I am just surprised at myself. Last night, I re-read a conversation I had on facebook with a friend back in January when I first considered starting this journey. I had so many doubts and questions back then. Re-reading it made me realize how far I have truly come.

Okay, now back to the race weekend. I owe a big THANK YOU to my in-laws for keeping my daughters for the weekend! My husband and I decided to hit the road on Saturday morning to head up to Columbia. We made a stop at UMBC to pick up my wonderful Goddaughter.

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After a quick tour of the campus, the 3 of us headed to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Ughhh…my first big decision. What should I have for lunch?!? Here is my internal conversation:

Me: Pasta, right? In red sauce.

Me: Okay, but I’ve never had the spaghetti/meat sauce from here. What if it upsets my stomach?

Me: The chicken alfredo sounds so good!

Me: But, the thick sauce will not be good for you!

Me: Its only lunchtime. I will just make sure to eat well for dinner.

Me: Chicken Alfredo, it is.

Nobody ever accused me of having a lot of discipline when it comes to food choices :o) I also had some of the Fried Mac & Cheese bites as an appetizer and the 3 of us shared some Peanut Butter Cheesecake.

With an overly stuffed belly, we were finally headed to the Sheraton to pick up my race packet. Bib #104. Shit just got real!

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We looked around the expo for a little bit and then decided to drive the race route. That probably wasn’t a good idea. The hills totally freaked me out and I swear it felt like 20 miles when we were driving it. Did I mention the hills?!? Holy Heck! I was scared!

After scoping out the race route, we dropped Kelsi back off at campus. We then drove back to Columbia and checked in at the Sheraton. The race start/finish was right outside the hotel so the location was perfect! After unpacking the few things we had, we decided to explore the hotel grounds for a bit. There was a beautiful lake with a trail around it. We took a few photos but decided not to make a lap around the lake.

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I didn’t want my legs to be too tired for tomorrow. After the selfies, we decided to make a Walmart run. I had brought my toaster and peanut butter, but still needed to grab some bagels for my breakfast the next morning. So off we went. Unfortunately, we were both still stuffed from lunch so we decided to just head back to the room afterwards.

By the time we got back to the room and put the bagels in the fridge, we were both starting to get a tad bit hungry – go figure. We were both tired and my feet were starting to hurt (from walking around in flip flops for the first time this year, I assume). Neither of us wanted to do anything at this point but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to skip dinner altogether. We decided to try to find something light and headed across the street to the mall food court. Again, I had no idea what to choose. I wasn’t really that hungry. So, I decided on a salted pretzel from Auntie Anne’s and a side salad from Chick-fil-a. I’m still not really sure if that was a “good” runners decision or not?!? I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to nutrition but I was like “pretzels = bread = carbs”. Good. And a salad to make myself feel healthy.

We went back to the room for the evening and I was spent. I set my cell phone alarm for 4:50 and tried to go to bed. I think it was around 9:30 or so. Uh oh…both of our cell phones needed charging and we only brought 1 charger. We decided that since the hubbys was closer to fully charged, we would charge his first. Since he is a night owl, he assured me he would stay awake and plug mine in when his was charged. I do trust my husband, but I still had huge anxiety that he would forget to plug mine in before he went to bed. So during my first hour of sleep, I probably woke up 10 times and asked him if he had plugged my phone in yet. He said that at one point, I asked him twice within a 5 minute time period. Oops. I had no perception of time during that hour. He finally plugged mine in and I was able to fall into a much better sleep. Until the rockers who were also staying at the hotel for some gig that weekend began walking up and down the hallways. Or maybe it was my fellow marathoners pacing the hallways. Either way, it wasn’t the best night of sleep I have had, but actually better than what I expected.

My dream…I had a dream nightmare that the race was cancelled. In my dream, I was at my moms house and the race was going to start there. There were only about 10 participants there. Some woman in an old beat up station wagon drove up and said she was having car trouble. If she couldn’t get her car to start again, the race wouldn’t be able to happen because it was somehow connected to the timing and start of the race. Lo and behold, it wouldn’t start and she had to cancel the race. I couldn’t understand why the other participants didn’t seem to be bothered. I was trying to explain to her the importance of running on that particular day and she just didn’t understand. Thank goodness it was just a dream, but I think by now you get the idea that I had a lot of anxiety over this race.

Finally…the alarm went off and it was time to start preparing. I got ready pretty fast and ate my bagel with peanut butter. I had a little bit of water and finished preparing everything and was off around 6:15 to try to find my running pal. I ate a banana on the way down.

After meeting up with the group of running ladies from my area and taking some pictures, it was finally time to line up.

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I ate my first GU at around 6:45 because the race was scheduled to start at 7:00. My running pal, Crystal wanted to start in the 9:30 pace group and I figured I’d join her. Not because I thought I could keep that pace but because I really didn’t know where I should start. So a group of us ladies from Southern Maryland waited together (Crystal, Michelle, Rita, and myself). I was cold and very anxious. They played the National Anthem and we were ready to get going. I was pumped!!

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Shortly after announcing 1 minute to start, the announcer came back on and said they were working on clearing the course and there would be a 5 minute delay. Okay, I can handle 5 minutes. 5 minutes came and went. I started to think my dream was coming true and the race was going to be cancelled (only I couldn’t see the old beat up station wagon). My husband was great during the delay. He took lots of photos and even jumped on the microphone to give me a shout out for it being my first half marathon and then later gave Crystal a birthday shout out! Finally, they told us to go ahead and get out of line because the delay would be at least 15 more minutes. I used that opportunity to go back to my room and use the restroom one last time. We went back outside and they were starting to line everyone up again. I was really nervous about the timing of my breakfast and the fact that I had already wasted my first Gu. Was this going to affect me? No time to think about that now!!! It was now 8:00 and after an hour delay, we were finally off!!!

I knew by .5 mile that I would not be able to keep up with Crystal. I also didn’t see the other ladies I had started with. I went ahead and put my ear buds in and cranked up my music and just tried to establish a good rhythm. Around mile 3, I remember thinking, “Wow, this isn’t that bad. It’s not nearly as hilly as I remember”. I was feeling REALLY good! At mile 3.5, I ate another GU. I really didn’t feel like I needed one, but “they” say that it’s important to eat it BEFORE you need it so I went ahead and ate it. I felt great for the entire first half of the race. At the half way mark, MAP MY RUN told me that my time was 1 hour and 4 minutes. I was super stoked. I started thinking it may be possible to finish in about 2 hours and 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the elated feeling didn’t last much longer.

Holy hills was right! The hills were much worse during the 2nd half of the race. There was a steep downhill section of the course. I think it was around mile 7 or so. This is when my knees really started bothering me. During my training runs, I had experienced slight knee pain, but nothing major. This was different. It was PAINFUL!! I had heard rumors that running down a hill can be brutal, but I hadn’t really trained much on hills. And never any steep hills at all. I felt as if everyone passed me on this hill. I kept telling myself “KIM, you are going DOWNHILL. This should be easy. Pick it up, girlfriend” but my knees just weren’t listening. I was almost in tears. Partly because of the pain and partly because I started to think there was no way I’d be able to finish. When I finally got to the bottom of the hill, I was so relieved to find that the pain subsided.

I forced myself to eat another GU around 7.5 miles. My stomach wasn’t feeling it, but I didn’t want to wait too long and hit the proverbial “wall”. The next couple of miles were tough. There were a lot of hills to conquer. I had to walk halfway up a lot of the hills and that really slowed me down. I was feeling no pain though so I was happy about that.

Around mile 9.5, I started to feel nauseous. This was the first time that has happened to me while running. I saw a woman with some kids on the side of the road, cheering everyone on and thought “Just don’t do it in front of the little kids”. I didn’t want to traumatize anyone! I started gagging though and figured I better stop on the side of the road, just in case. Luckily, this feeling passed and I was able to pick it up and continue on!

The last 5k, I was feeling much better! I tried to eat another GU around mile 10.5, but ate one bite and couldn’t get the rest down. I didn’t want to litter (I was a girl scout after all) so I was stuck carrying it with me for a while. I got a 2nd burst of energy and felt especially good during mile 12. After that, I told myself, “Girl, you got this…1 more mile, don’t stop”. But then I saw another hill so that didn’t last. The last mile felt great though, even if I did have to walk a bit of it. There was more crowd support and signs, which I loved reading. When I finally got to the finish chute, I only had one thing on my mind. FIND STEVEN!! I knew once I found him, I would be able to kick it into high gear for that last stretch of the course. I found him and knew it was just a quick dash to the finish.

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Probably not as quick as I would have liked, but it still felt amazing!! I saw the clock was at 2 hours, 16 minutes and I just gave it all I had until I crossed that finish line. What an amazing feeling!!! I can’t even describe how awesome it felt to get that medal around my neck. I am totally addicted! The past 16 weeks of training have been totally worth it!!

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2:16:06 was my official time, with an average pace of 10:24/mile. My first half average pace was 9:50/mile. My second half average pace was 10:58/mile. Here are my splits:

Mile 1 – 9:42

Mile 2 – 9:55

Mile 3 – 9:21

Mile 4 – 9:31

Mile 5 – 9:31

Mile 6 – 10:23

Mile 7 – 10:33

Mile 8 – 11:04

Mile 9 – 10:54

Mile 10 – 11:30

Mile 11 – 11:30

Mile 12 – 9:41

Mile 13 – 10:53

Steven and I have decided to run a half marathon this coming weekend. Frederick Running Festival, here we come!!! If I finish with no issues, I will also earn the Titanium Girl Medal for running both races, which are 1 week apart. Here are some lessons learned/things I will do differently:

  1. Substitute 2 Gu’s with sports bean. I had a hard time stomaching the GU’s on the run. I had practiced with them so I don’t know why this was different, but I think the beans will be easier to get down. (UPDATE AFTER RECAP WAS WRITTEN…SPORTS BEANS ARE NOT EASIER TO GET DOWN IN MY OPINION.  I ACTUALLY PREFER GU’S)
  2. Bring 2 cell phone chargers
  3. Don’t eat such a huge lunch the day before (this probably didn’t really affect my race too much, but it did make dinner much more difficult to figure out)
  4. Don’t wear (new) flip flops the day before the race
  5. If crowd support is good, I may turn off my tunes and listen to the crowd more

Here are some things I may consider changing up during training:

  1.  Start training on hills. I specifically avoided hills during training because I was worried about causing an injury before the race, but now that I have completed the first one, I’d like to train on some hills in the future.

Here are some things I did that I will do again:

  1.  I loved having handheld water bottle. Although there were plenty of water/Gatorade stations, I liked the fact that I didn’t have to stop. I tried to take a sip of my water (with NUUN) about every mile.  (UPDATE AFTER BLOG WAS WRITTEN…FUEL BELT WORKS EVEN BETTER FOR ME AND HOLDS MY GU’S)
  2. I liked using my spybelt to hold my GUs.

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