Spoiler Alert: I FINISHED!!
A little background for any of you that don’t know me: I couldn’t run around the block in September 2013. Toward the end of that month, I decided I wanted to run a 5K. I did that on Thanksgiving. Then I decided to run another one, on New Year’s Eve (that was cold). Then I decided I wanted to run a half marathon. For the next four months, I trained. I followed (loosely) the Hal Higdon Novice 1 plan, going from a 4-mile max run to finishing 13.1 miles today. If you want more information about what it was like to train for this race, read the last four months of posts on this blog. If you’re reading this and have any desire whatsoever to complete a half marathon, you can do it!
But, from here on out I’m going to talk about this particular race. In case it’s not obvious from the title of this post, it was a women’s only race. Here’s race website: Women Run Pewaukee.
This is the first race I’ve attended that had an expo, although it was small. I timed my arrival at packet pickup to attend the course talk at 5:00 p.m. Turns out, no one really showed up for that. It was me, my mom, some other girl, and the trainer giving the talk. I had expected a 10-15 minute walk-through, but since the group was so small she just asked what questions we had. I didn’t even know what questions I should have … this was my first half marathon! She walked us through a map of the course, told us we’d be running on open roads, with traffic (which I hadn’t realized before), and warned us of where the hills were. Then I wandered through the expo, but the only thing I bought wasn’t running related. I found Addicting Pretzels and bought two flavors for my husband—Smoke (tastes like sausage) and 5 Alarm Chipotle. The samples were tasty.
Hidden at the end of a row was a poster board where women were encouraged to write why they run. It was pretty awesome. Bonus points if you can guess which one is mine.
After the expo, I came home and cooked a carb-loaded dinner. Chicken parmesan over whole wheat fusili with a sprouted grain roll. Not pictured: extra tomato sauce, green salad with olive oil & vinegar, skim milk.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. feeling well rested, but my alarm wasn’t going to go off until 6:00. I slept fitfully for the last two hours, and jumped in the shower right as I heard the alarm. Then I got dressed, applied lots of sunscreen (I just picked up some spray sunscreen and it was awesome), added vaseline to areas prone to blisters and chafing, and grabbed a banana and a cup of tea before jumping in the car. I also wrote this on my arm, for some motivation on the course. I’ve been using this as my running mantra ever since I read about a marathon sign that Katie saw that said, “Remember when you thought you couldn’t do this?”
We arrived at the starting line at about 7:30, and the gun wasn’t set to go off until 8:00. I was with my parents and my husband, and we wandered around and soaked in the race atmosphere. There were lots of families there supporting moms, wives, and daughters. There were just over 300 women running the race, so it was pretty small. Here’s my pre-race selfie at the race trailer.
Race conditions were “yellow.” It was 50-ish degrees when we started, but temperatures were going to steadily rise throughout the race, and we were going to be running in full sun most of the time. Good thing I had my visor and wore sunscreen!
And We’re Off!
They had us line up, and then walk down a hill and around a corner to the starting line. It was a little strange, but I understand why they did it. Since this was an open-road course, they had closed the road down to one lane as soon as we stepped foot on it, so they wanted to minimize the traffic disruption. Right before the race started, I ran into a friend I’d made on Facebook but never met in real life. Wendy is a member of the Women’s Running Club Facebook group (highly recommend it if you need some running encouragement, even if you’re just starting). We were both planning on being back of the packers, so we started together. Don’t we look happy?
I only ran with Wendy for a minute or so. We both just had a goal to finish the race, but we have different running styles (intervals, walking, etc.,) so we separated pretty quickly.
This might have been me saying goodbye to her. I’m not quite sure.
My husband was the photographer for all of these photos. He was learning to use a new camera, and switched back and forth that and his old one. This one had a giant lens, and apparently I got too close too fast, so part of my head got cut off.
There are no pictures for the next 6.5 miles. They were the best miles of the race. I surprised myself by maintaining a 14:30 pace, walking the first minute of each mile. During the first few miles I actually passed a couple women, which surprised me. Mostly, I had one person ahead of me and wasn’t aware of who was behind me. Since all but 25 of the runners finished under 3 hours, I was alone on the course most of the time. I have averaged about 15:00 miles on my long runs, so I was estimating I’d finish in approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes. The first six miles made me think that I could maybe do it in a little less than that. Even with a short, steep hill (85 feet up in .3 miles) that I partially walked, I ran the sixth mile in 14:28. I was going to murder this race!
Then the hills came.
Starting just after finishing the 6th mile (6.1, to be exact), a slow, steady climb started. It wasn’t so steep that it was scary to look at, but it was so steady that after a while you’d be asking yourself, “Why is this so hard?” if you didn’t know in advance this was a hill. I was prepared for it. And my family knew about it too. As I rounded a corner at 6.8 miles (running, after stopping to walk part of the beginning of the incline while eating some Honey Stinger Chews), I could hear my mom’s cowbell. I’m sure the 25 of us in the back of the pack heard that cowbell many, many times. Mom walked, then jogged (What? Mom doesn’t jog?) with me for about a tenth of a mile. I could see my dad and husband up ahead at what I sort of hoped was the top of the hill (not even close). I knew Wendy was back there somewhere, so I asked my family to stay and cheer for her (for those of us at the back, there really weren’t people out there cheering unless they were cheering for us). Thanks to my family, I ran up a part of the hill I’m sure I would have walked.
But it wasn’t the end of the hill, so I took a walk break after I passed them. There would be a lot of those for a while, because that hill didn’t stop until the 8 mile marker. You read that right—the hill was 1.9 miles long, and rose 150 feet. Mile 7 was 15:23, and mile 8 was 16:10. My stomach and head were feeling a little weird at this point. I’d eaten my Honey Stinger Waffle at mile 3 as planned, but when I started to eat my Honey Stinger Energy Chews at mile 6, they seemed like too much for some reason, so I only ate a couple. I’d also been drinking Gatorade from the aid stations every other mile … this was something I hadn’t planned on because I didn’t get a chance to do a test run with Gatorade before the race. But it was so hot that I was afraid of sweating all the salt out of me, so I took it for my own good. I walked a bit more through mile 9 until this feeling passed (16:43 pace). Towards the end of mile 9, I heard that crazy cowbell again 🙂
This was my normal face. Even feeling queazy, light headed, and noticing that my fingers were swelling, I mustered up a smile for the camera as I got closer.
After walking at the beginning, I ran to finish out most of mile 10 (15:48). My parents were at that mile marker (they had just leapfrogged me), and I saw a giant hill ahead. I yelled, “We better get to turn before we have to run up that bitch. I thought it was downhill from here!” Luckily, we turned. 🙂 I may have been yelling that in this picture.
From there, I was on my own until the finish. I tried to run as much as possible, but wasn’t afraid to walk because I wanted to avoid an injury. I had run 10 miles and my knees didn’t hurt, which I considered to be a small miracle. I wanted to keep it that way. I would challenge myself to run to a certain point before walking, or run the entire length of a song, or just pass the person I’d been leapfrogging for the final time. I knew I was going to finish, and I didn’t want to kill myself to get there. Mile 11 was 16:03, 12 was 15:38, and 13 was 15:25.
When I turned the final corner, the finish line was still a quarter mile away. After running for almost 13 miles, that seems like the longest run ever. There were two women ahead of me walking that I actually caught up to, so it had a little bit of an element of a race to it. I thought I was going to be crying like a baby when I crossed the finish line, but I wasn’t. I was just happy to be done, and proud of what I’d accomplished.
Being a women’s only race, we were greeted by men in tuxes at the finish line, given a rose, and a glass of champagne. I downed that champagne like it was gatorade.
Wendy knew this race was going to be a challenge for her. At the starting line, she told me her only goal was to finish and not get swept. At that point, I assured her that even if they did have to pull the supported course, she could finish this race. Turns out she didn’t have to worry about that—she made it in under the cutoff pace. She did a great job, and my mom had a blast ringing her cowbell for her.
I expected to cry when I finished. I didn’t. People have already asked me if I’m going to run another half marathon. I’m not sure. I think I need some time to gather my thoughts and process what this race really meant to me. But for now, at least you know how it went.