Friday, October 25, 2013

4 Bridges Half Marathon recap (subtitle: I DID IT!!!!)

Okay, so as those of you who check in on my Facebook page already know, I actually completed the half marathon that I have been planning to do since January!  What a relief.  There were some moments near the race day that I seriously thought to myself "Who am I kidding?", but I persevered.

And yes, I walked some.  Okay, I walked more than I would have liked.  But I freakin' did it.

I am a half marathoner!!!  
Hear me roar!!!

This is going to be a long recap of the entire race experience, so go grab a beverage and make yourself comfortable.

First of all, the day before the race my cheerleaders and I had to travel from Memphis to Chattanooga, because I had the crazy idea that my first half should be somewhere pretty.  Chattanooga is really pretty!  So much scenery, including mountains!

I brought my cheerleaders, Stacey and his daughter LaPrecious with me.  After we checked into our hotel, we went to the race site (Coolidge Park, Chattanooga TN) to pick up my packet.

I was super excited to see my name on my bib!  What a cool surprise.  It made this race seem so much more official than the 5Ks that I've done.

After we picked up my packet, which included a really cool race shirt, we walked around the park and found where the start line would be.  We also did some general site seeing.  Chattanooga is gorgeous!

I was concerned about the weather for the race.  The forecast said that it was going to stay between 40 and 60 degrees, which to me seems pretty cold.  I had an awesome race outfit, but was debating switching from my long sleeved running shirt to the Tshirt provided in my packet.

laid out the night before!
The night before the race I could barely sleep, I was so nervous.  I had done a 13.1 miler a week prior on my own which didn't go so well.  I was desperately hoping that the excitement of race day would help me run more than I did on my own attempt.

the course

The race started at 7 a.m., so I decided to eat my breakfast at 5:30 to give myself time to digest before the run.

I chose to have a plain bagel and peanut butter for my breakfast, as recommended for me from some marathoners as being the "perfect" race day breakfast.  Something about the carbs, protein, and fat combination, along with it being pretty easy on the stomach.

This was pure fuel eating for me, as I was not hungry at all at 5:30 a.m.  It was the first time in my life that I had actually eaten just for fuel and it was interesting to say the least!  I didn't like eating when not hungry, but I understood the need to fuel before a race.

I chose to go with the long-sleeve running shirt instead of the T-shirt, because it was FREEZING.  Here I am before the race, trying to get jazzed.

I tried to find a pacer that would work for me.  I was aiming to finish the half in three hours.  I couldn't find anyone before the race started, so I just stood in the middle of the crowd.

When the race started, I set my Garmin as I crossed the start line.  I was going to wait  a little while until I started my audio book, because I wanted to just enjoy the crowd for a bit.  And it was exciting!  All of the running energy surrounding me made me feel like a strong warrior!

A little after the 1 mile marker, I looked at my Garmin, and was upset to find that it had stopped working.  I tried to reset it, and it still didn't work.  It had charged all night long, so it was definitely malfunctioning.  I was sad about it, but I kept on, hoping that the mile markers would actually be shown every mile (they mostly were).

There were aid stations about every mile, which was nice.  Some had only water, some had powerade and powergels, and every one starting at mile 8 also had snack options.

Around  mile 3, I found a pacer for a 6 hour full marathon.  (The half marathon and the full marathon were running at the same time).  I did some quick math and figured that if I stuck by this guy I would maybe hit my 3 hour goal.  I told the guy my goal, and he pointed to the guy next to him and said that he was going to do the half in 3.  I decided to stick with that guy for the rest of the race.

I stuck with him until mile 7 or so, and then I lost him at a hill.  It was a very hilly course!

4 Bridges Half Marathon Elevation Profile!!!  Yikes.
At that point, I was feeling pretty worn out, but excited that the race was more than halfway done.  I looked at my watch and saw that I was halfway done and it was 8:40, so I was almost on schedule for a three hour half.

I happily accepted some apple slices at the mile 8 aid station, along with a bit of water.  I walked that mile 8 the entire way, and totally lost sight of my pacer guy.  At mile 9, I was rejuvenated with Powerade and ran all the way to 10, then ran/walked the rest of the race.

There was a giant germ-infested bowl of Reese's pieces at the next aid station, and I grossly grabbed a few.  The sugar rush really helped me get through the final 5K!

At mile 11, my lower back suddenly ached terribly, and I had to stop and stretch a bit.  It was a sharp pain, but I stretched and then kept on going, and it went away.

At mile 12 I felt like I was about the die, but was so thrilled that it was almost over.  I saw that it was ten minutes past 3 hours at that point, and I was a little let down to have not met my goal, but still excited to be almost done.

The final mile I switched from my audio book ("Not  Young, Still Restless" by Jeanne Cooper - AMAZING memoir!) to my Jock Jams Pandora station.  I wanted to be PUMPED at the finish line!

Finally, the finish line was so close!  The race had the one feature that I always love to see at races: The last stretch was past a corner!  This made it possible for all racers to run the last stretch and to look like maybe they had been running the entire time.  I love it.  :-)

The final tenth mile stretch was exhilarating.  The crowd was great!

And when I crossed the line, I saw that my time was 3:23.  (Later, the official results actually said that my finish time was 3:18).

Someone placed a medal around my neck, someone else handed me an official water bottle filled with ice cold water, and someone else handed me a bag of snacks.

I took out my headphones and searched for my team.

Finally, they found me.

I was so proud of myself.  I was a half marathoner!  I had accomplished this, for real.  I felt the spirit of Mom with me the entire time.

I only realized after I had accomplished this that this was the very first thing that I had done completely without Mom.  Mom had never known me as a runner, though she knew that I dreamed of being one. This was all accomplished in a world without Mom in it.  It was the first goal that I had made, seen through, and accomplished without Mom.  It was a very healing experience.  Mom would be so proud of me.

I placed first in the division of
women born on October 7, 1984
with blonde hair and green eyes!
Anyway, after the race my legs felt like noodles.   Stacey and Precious took me to Chillis for a post-race chow down.

Sitting never felt as good as it did after the half marathon.

Injuries:  blister on my right heel, blister on my left pinkie toe, and sores all around the bottom of my sports bra.  Also, my left heel hurt so badly whenever I put pressure on it that I suspect that I may have plantar fasciitis. No knee pain thanks to the braces, and no chafing thanks to this guy:

cheaper version of Body Glide
($5 at Wal Mart)
I'm thrilled that this race is behind me.  I am planning to do more training soon, but I had to take some time off because I came back from Chattanooga with a very bad cold with flu-like symptoms.

There is a 5K tomorrow that both Stacey and I are doing, even though neither of us are 100%.  Still looking forward to it, though.  The Color Run should be a blast, and hopefully really easy compared to a half marathon.  ;-)

I'll share more about my upcoming training plans on a future blog post.  I hope that you enjoyed reading all about  my first half marathon!!!


Asia K. said...

Great race report! Once again, congrats on your first half! Love the pictures too. :)

P.S. most people would consider 40-60 degrees ideal race weather. :)

Shannon Tatlock said...

Congratulations! That's so amazing Leah. Your Mom would have been proud. :)

spiritualcreaminess said...

"There was a giant germ-infested bowl of Reese's pieces at the next aid station"

Have you ever seen the little stuffed animals made in the shape of different bacteria and other biological cells? As I read the quote, I was picturing those floating in a bowl of candy.

Congratulations on completing your race. It is such an amazing accomplishment.