I know I've been woefully late in posting my recap of the half marathon we ran back on Sunday. Honestly, it's just taken me ages to remember to edit this post and get it up...it's been written since Monday when I meant to put it up! Anyway, this is a long one since it's my first race postmortem. I'm still figuring out which details I want most to touch on.
The Night Before:
The Husband and I checked directions for parking online as well as reading through the race packet to see what the schedule for the day would be like. While we did the grocery shopping, I texted the friends who would be watching Ethan just to finalise our arrangements.
After watching The Walking Dead all day, we put on an episode of The Office to watch over a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. E decided he wasn't so keen on the whole thing and refused to eat unless bribed or otherwise talked into it. Just before going to bed, I fished out the safety pins, race bibs, timing chips, and iPods and set them all on the desk in the living room. After that, I got out the clothes I wanted to wear and set them in a pile in the room so that everything would be easy to find.
The Big Day:
I woke up just before 7:00. The Husband brought me 2 pieces of toast with Nutella for breakfast. This was the first thing I was worried about for the day: I still wasn't quite sure how my fueling routine would go, and nothing would make the day worse than having to stop and ruin my time for a 5-minute potty break on the route. I forget whether I had milk or herbal tea with my toast (my throat had been swollen and sore for a few days), but I did try not to drink too much before we left.
We got ourselves dressed, then got E ready, and packed his bag to take to Tom and Kerri's place. We'd initially planned on bringing them and both of the kids along to run around the start and finish lines, and maybe to stand in the crowds and cheer us on. Of course, when we saw the grey and rainy day it was shaping up to be, we figured it was best for everyone to stay home if they could.
We got phones and iPods ready for the wet weather, and I snagged one of the gels that needed finishing and put it in the pocket of my running tights. The Husband and I both tied a set of keys to the drawstrings of our trousers as well. We planned to bring his old backpack to hold any after-race clothing or extra odds and ends, but we wanted to avoid putting too much important or valuable stuff in there if we could. The runners' tent was supervised, but still, it was better safe than sorry.
By 8:30 we were out the door and dropping E off with our friends. He quite happily let me leave once we put on an episode of Sarah & Duck. Then, we were off to Fleet to go get ready to run. By this point, we'd fielded plenty of supportive texts from the family and were feeling pretty good about the prospect of the race.
The weather had been drizzling a bit all morning, and it was still okay as we parked the car and walked the mile or so to Calthorpe Park where the start was. Once we got to the park, though, that was a different story. The rain picked up and the runners' tent quickly crowded to bursting with people trying to stay as dry and warm as they could. Then, the sleet started. Getting hit in the face with tiny bits of ice isn't how you want to start any activity, let alone running 13.1 miles outside.
I had a bag of salted crisps and we made one last 'just-to-be-sure' stop in the porta-johns before making our way to the starting line. There may or may not have been lots of sullen complaining going on with regards to the rubbish weather. But then the start came, and we were running in a huge crowd of people (and I was checking out everyone's running shoes), and the spectators were cheering, and people were coming out of their houses to watch us all run by, and the mood improved quite a bit.
In the end, the Husband ran with his backpack on. What with the cold and the rain and the sleet, we couldn't face stripping off our hoodies and things before the start of the running, so we kept the bag with us to be able to shed layers as we ran and warmed up.
The first mile felt a bit longer than I'd expected, but not in a tiring way. I started taking blurry pictures on my phone and chatted on and off with the Husband about the niceness of the route and the crowds. We high-fived a lot of little kids along the way. By the end of the first 5 miles, I was feeling really good and settling into my stride.
At 6 miles, I finally put in my headphones. Technically, they suggested in the strongest language possible that iPods and headphones were NOT a good idea and were dangerous, and they really preferred that you not bring them along. As we observed at the start line, no one was really listening to that. Plus, by the 6-mile mark, we were out on country roads, and so you could still easily keep the volume at a manageable level to hear instructions or hold conversations without straining to make out your music. It was nice and quiet as we ran on roads through the fields and farms, and even on a rainy day, the scenery was quaint and relaxing.
I took a bit of water on board at every water station and popped a bit of energy gel just before. This meant taking on a little bit of fuel just over every half hour. It seemed to serve me in good stead, because I never felt fatigued until near the very end of the race. Luckily, there were some kids on the sidelines with Gummi Bears, which was a nice pick-me-up.
By mile 10, things started feeling as if they were slowing down again. I was keeping pace, but by this point my knees were getting quite achy, and I was having twinges of discomfort along my hips and the outside of my thighs. It was nothing too bad, but I was getting focused on it. My music was doing me good, though, and I had the Husband right there to talk to and check in on. His shin had been giving him trouble after helping his brother pace a half the weekend before, and by this point in the race it was barking. We'd made it this far, though and were determined to keep going with no walking breaks.
This is also the point in a long run where I tend to hit The Zone. I don't care about any pain or who's with me or where I am and how fast the scenery is going by. I don't even really pay attention to anything I've got on the iPod: I just hit this hypnotic rhythm of feeling my body move. It isn't even necessarily about the pace of my stride, just the overall sense of movement and how I could keep repeating it for ages. Of course, by the time mile 12 is coming up, this is wearing off and I'm getting tired and scowling. I'm suddenly frustrated with everything, but I'm determined to see this thing out to the end and to do it well. Then, I start feeling sorry for myself in all of my discomfort, but I keep running because the finish line is nearly in sight.
Just before the last 200 metres, there had been a hill. The Husband rushed down it, but I couldn't with my knees hurting me like they were. At the bottom of the hill, though, as we re-entered the park, he turned around and held out his hand to me. We would end the race hand-in-hand and push each other across the finish line.
It felt so good to be done that I could hardly make myself keep moving to get past the inflatable gate and turn in my timing chip! We hobbled back to the car looking like zombies from The Walking Dead. Honestly, that was the hardest mile I ever walked. But we finally made it to the car, picked up E, got ourselves some much deserved McDonald's for lunch, and settled down to eat, lounge, and have hot hot baths for the rest of the day.
The Morning After:
I've been feeling slightly less sore. Not sure how my right flank is doing, but my knees aren't quite as stiff and achy. The arches of my feet, though, are a different story. I need to find some way to really rest them. Maybe a good foot rub to help the soreness, or just a long soak in a hot tub of water again.
The sense of accomplishment at running my first half marathon has also finally settled in. Being so cold and sore and tired at the end of the race, it took a while to really look back and enjoy the experience. Sort of like when you get past how tiring and painful labour was and decide you want another baby.
(Several Mornings After...)
After about 2 days, everything was back to normal. I could walk like a normal human being, my quads and knees and ankles weren't aching, and I had a healthy sense of having accomplished something by running 13.1 miles in the freezing rain. I could even pat myself on the back for having run the whole course without any walking breaks: a first for me over that sort of distance.