I doubt many people sleep well the night before an early morning race. Anticipation and knowing that your alarm is set for an ungodly hour generally has one checking the time throughout the night. Add in the fact that most of the time you're in a strange bed makes the idea of running 13.1 miles even crazier than it sounds on its own. And yet, here I am, signed up for 3 races in 3 months. Well, two now as I thankfully made it through race one yesterday.
I spent Saturday night with my friend and her husband who were also signed up for the race and we headed out at 5 am Sunday morning. The ride was a little nerve wracking, not knowing how traffic would be closer to the start, wondering if I'd have time for that last bathroom break before the starting gun and once again rethinking my decision to participate in the craziness. I should have known better. There were plenty of bathrooms open and once you're in the corral, there is the 30 minute wait as the 25,000 people slowly make their way to the line.
My initial plan was to run the first 3 miles at a slow pace and then start my training intervals of run 3 minutes, walk 1. Word of caution, those first 3 miles, you will feel really good, great, in fact, and your idea of a steady pace increases exponentially until you find yourself beating your previous 5k PR by 2 to 3 minutes. I was so pleased with how I felt that I kept right on running more than I planned. I kept telling myself to take it easy, but the adrenaline and the fact that my friend is a runner not an interval-er, beat out my good sense. She had promised to stay with me and I didn't want to let her down. Never again. I'm not sure how much it would have helped, but walking more earlier may have helped me at the end. At the time, though, it actually felt better to do a slow jog than the intervals.
At mile 5, I ate a couple of GU blocks and for some reason, they didn't set well with me and out of the blue, at mile 6, I hit a wall. My legs felt good, I was breathing fine, but my stomach felt weird and quite honestly, I just wanted to sit down and quit. I expected to feel some of this around mile 8 or 9, but it hitting me so early really threw me for a loop. The thought of not even being halfway made me want to cry. And this is where runners will tell you it gets mental. I just kept telling myself I was fine, that I had run this many miles, and more, plenty of times without incident. And I soldiered on.
THANKFULLY, by 7.5 miles, I broke through the wall and the next 3 miles went by smoothly. I was feeling good again, even jogging more than walking. Oh, but then miles 11 and 12 came and my legs decided they were done playing nicely. If I jogged, my legs felt better, but the bottoms of my feet were a ball of nerves and I could feel the nice new blisters on both of my toes. If I walked, my feet felt better, but my calves and hamstrings rebelled and tightened to the point of some serious pain. Even though I had hoped to finish strong, I walked most of the last mile with short bursts of speed. My time was still about where I wanted it to be, so I thought better to be able to get across the finish line upright than to stop with one mile to my goal. One poor woman I saw must have been having a similar and worse problem because she was leaning on her two friends and her legs were locked straight. I felt really bad for her. Sucks to go all that way to have something like that happen at the end.
All the sudden, I looked up and holy cow, it was the finish line! I ran as fast as my poor legs could carry me that last tenth of a mile and finished with an official time of 2:48. As soon as I crossed the line, I could have broken down and sobbed. The pure relief of completing the race hits you in the face and many people were wiping their eyes. To be honest, I was not feeling well at that point. Where was my high?!
I found my friend (we had gotten separated at mile 10) and she took one look at my goosebumped arms and started shoving food at me. It was the strangest feeling, like I was going to pass out or throw up. Now that I look back, I didn't hydrate enough leading up to the race and being sick the week before probably didn't help either. At this point, I was seriously reconsidering my plan to complete two more halves.
Once again, thankfully, the feeling passed within 10 minutes or so and then Finally,the high started setting in. One day later, I'm still excited that I have two more races to do. They will be fun for different reasons, but I definitely will do better leading unto the day of the race.
I don't want to scare anyone who may be training for their first race, but moreso let you know that yes, it may suck at times, but you can do it and it will still be amazing.