(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it. I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date. This was my first half marathon, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This report was written in September, 2013.)
Short Version: I was warned (here http://boards.fool.com/so-rnr-half-is-an-ok-race-if-you-foll…) … but I did it.
And the longer version isn’t all that different from the short version – it was a miserably hot and humid day. They’re reporting that one person died (though that wasn’t necessarily the heat … it happened at the first mile marker and there was a lot of blood, apparently) and thirteen people had to be taken to the hospital with things like dehydration, heat stroke, etc. A week ago they were forecasting a high of 80, and it wound up being more like 90 and brutal humidity. Yeah.
My training, I think, was spot on. My really long run was a negative split 11-miler two weeks before the race. My taper went as planned, and I felt strong. I had the traditional pasta carbo-load the night before, and my traditional race morning breakfast of steel-cut oats. I couldn’t have done anything differently … I believe that.
The race started “right,” too. Miles 1, 2, & 3 were all the exact same pace and were exactly my goal pace. Mile 4 was only 10 seconds slower, but that was the mile where we had the hill. And mile 5 was about 45 seconds slower, but that was the first water stop that I actually used (I was carrying a water bottle so skipped the first handful of stops). So, through mile 5, my times reflect that my race strategy was going perfectly.
And then I completely melted down in Mile 6, and ran that mile and each subsequent mile nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than my goal pace. Holy crap. It was at the 10k split that I knew my “outside chance” goal was off the table, and by Mile 9 I knew my stated race goal was a goner. I and the people around me were like the walking dead at that point, shuffling through as best we could. By the time we got to the boardwalk for the last mile to the finish we were mostly only running when we saw photographers or because it just seemed like we should have.
I’d expected a total zoo in the chute after the finish line, but it wasn’t so bad – tons of people and tons of help. I almost passed out at one point before I got some food in me. But, well, I did it. I found out my chip time when I had it engraved on the back of my medal – which is something I felt I should do for my first half-marathon – and I wound up being just under 10 minutes slower than my stated goal time. But some friends I was running the race with confirmed what Kevin said in the link above – EVERYBODY runs this thing 15 – 30 minutes slower than they normally would. Which means I’m ecstatic about my finish.
Now for a bit of the personal before my usual notes – in April of 2012 I saw one of those pictures that you read about where I didn’t recognize myself, I’d gotten so fat. I stepped on a scale and the number scared me to death, and I signed up for Weight Watchers that week. I lost 35 pounds pretty quickly, but after a difficult summer gained 20 of it back just as quickly. I was in a funk and didn’t know what to do about it. And then a friend emailed me and told me about this Ragnar Relay he had just run and how much fun it was … and suggested that I might want to do it. And when I asked him if he thought I could, he said 100% and then said one of the more important things anybody has ever said to me. He said “and when you do, you’ll be one of the select few people who are able to say they actually followed through.” The running got me out of my funk, and since April of 2012 I have lost 55 pounds and completed a half-marathon that sent people to the hospital. And in October I’m going to run that Ragnar and follow through.
And it feels good.
– I either overestimated how much entertainment there was going to be on the course or underestimated how important my iPod is to my training – because I missed it badly. I listen to audiobooks, not music, so it is merely a distraction and not an adrenaline boost – but there were times I could have used the distraction. I now have to determine whether I want to stop using it during my training or go ahead and use it during all future races.
– Even though I’ve spent years down there and I know it, it is always jarring to be reminded how much of a military town Virginia Beach is. The absolute best were the Navy guys at the Mile 5 water stop singing Anchors Aweigh – absolutely incredible. And there was also the man (and his daughters) running in honor of his son and carrying an American Flag through the race. To Kevin and all of the others on this board that have served or are serving – thank you for your sacrifice and your service.
– That was the last time I’ll ever run in that pair of shoes – which is the only one I’ve had since I started back up. 415 miles on those shoes, which means 415 miles since last November. In the grand scheme of things that is a relatively small number. But two years ago it might as well have been 4 million.
– I took nearly twice the GU that I normally do and it didn’t even move the needle. Did I mention it was hot and humid?
– Of course, because this was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, holy crap there was a lot of support. The race swag was cool, and this was my first race expo. Which I enjoyed a rather lot. I am irrationally excited to be in legitimate possession of a 13.1 sticker.
– Having Frank Shorter at the start line was more motivational to me than I thought it would be. Seriously – there was an Olympic Gold Medalist right there. Smiling at us.
– Seven months in a row running a race, with races scheduled for October, November, and December. I’ll get to 10, at which point, all bets are off.
– I am officially announcing that I have signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in March. It’s not that I’m partial to the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks, but more that the timing and the location worked with my calendar. My long runs are going to have to hurt less than that half did for me to stay excited about that distance.
– Next race: Celtic Classic 5k … and I intend to improve my 5k PR by several minutes. Seriously – I’m going to try and bomb this one.