Thursday, December 6, 2012

I did it!

Oh my word.  I have been waiting for six months to write this post and I don't even know where to start!  I did it!  I finished a half marathon!  It's taken me five days to find the time to blog about it and I'm still in shock a little bit.

I think I mentioned before that I had been so nervous in the weeks leading up to the race, but somehow had found a way to get my nerves in check a couple of days before.  Even on race day I had decided this was going to be just like any other race.  I was going to start and then I was going to finish.  I wasn't trying to finish first.  I wasn't trying to beat anybody.  This was my first half marathon, so I didn't have a personal record to beat.  No need to be nervous, right?  I was, however, super excited!  The night before I laid my clothes, bib, headband, etc out, ate some fried rice because apparently you're supposed to "carb load" before a long run (I don't really know but it seemed like a good enough excuse ;)), and made sure to be in bed by 9:30.  **side note: by "bed" I mean "couch."  My bed had been hurting my back recently and my couch had seemed much more comfy.  I didn't want to risk waking up with back pain.**

Saturday morning I woke up right on time.  (5 a.m. in case you were wondering.)  Got ready and was out the door to meet my friends and head downtown.  Notice I didn't mention eating anything for breakfast.  No granola bar.  No banana.  No gu.  I will find a little later, during the race, that this was a mistake. 

We got downtown around 7 and the race started at 8.  The atmosphere was so exciting.  There were a TON of people down there but somehow I ran into my aunt and uncle and was able to get a hug and talk to them before I took off.  That was a nice surprise.  :)  We caught part of the 5k that kicked off at 7:15, so watching and cheering for them was fun.  Like I said, the half and full marathons started at 8, but the pace group I started running in didn't cross the start line until about 8:25.  And then I was off!  Sadly, or maybe not sadly, but oddly I could probably still describe each and every mile to you in detail, but I won't torture you!  At the start of the race I tried really hard to keep my two friends in my vision.  That lasted all of about a minute and a half.  There were just too many people, but that was ok.  I ended up finding them again at the mile and a half mark.  The first 5 miles were a blast!  We ran up Riverside drive and up Beale Street.  There were bands or DJs almost every mile.  On Beale I saw a ton of people I knew standing off to the side cheering people on.  At mile 5 we ran through the St. Jude campus and OH MY WORD.  I can't even describe to you the feelings.  There were balloons, people, signs, St. Jude kids and their parents...all cheering for you, thanking you, calling you by name.  I'm tearing up now just at the memory.  What an awesome and incredible experience!  We had some friends waiting on the side for us when we ran through St. Jude.  It was so good to seem them cheering us on and to hug their necks!  After running through there and seeing our friends, we knew we had more people cheering us on around mile 9, so that kept us going that far.  Unfortunately, and here comes the TMI, I somehow managed to get hit with a UTI somewhere in the middle of the race.  I've never had one before, so I was completely freaked out.  And in every port-a-potty from then until the end of the race.  It was really, really painful.  At mile 7 my legs started cramping badly.  I ran through the pain off and on for about two miles.  At mile 9 we saw my friend's mom, sister, and son.  Her son was holding a giant balloon shaped like a monkey that said "Hang In There!"  I don't think there could have been a more appropriate sign!  After hugging their sweet necks we were back at it and headed straight for the finish.  I tried running more, but at that point I couldn't run without my calves cramping up.  Between that and the UTI, I just didn't have anymore "run through the pain" in me.  At mile 10 my friend went on ahead without me and I conceded to walking the rest of the way.  Miles 11-13 were the most difficult and most painful of the whole race.  You'd think getting to mile 11 I would be able to tell myself, "Come on...just two more miles!"  Nope.  I felt like I was done.  I wanted to text my cousin, who was waiting for me at the finish, and just ask her to come pick me up.  Then the texts started rolling in.  So glad I had my phone with me!  I was getting text messages from my sisters, my cousin, and so many of my girlfriends pushing me and encouraging me!  (Here come the tears, I can't even blog without getting emotional!)  When I got just past the 13 mile mark and made it into the redbirds stadium I could see the finish line...and my mom and cousin.  It was like every bit of pain I felt had disappeared (for the time being).  I tried to run across the finish, if for no other reason than to look better in my picture :), but my legs were still cramping, so that didn't happen.  But it was ok.  I finished!  I crossed the finish line about an hour after I hoped to but I just didn't care.  I was so happy and so proud of myself for finishing!  My mom and my cousin were so proud of me...that felt awesome!

Here's a (terrible) picture of me just after finishing.  Note that my arms and fingers were so double sized!  I couldn't even make a fist.

So, as it turns out I was super dehydrated which caused the UTI and the leg cramps.  I should have drank a lot more water than I did in the week leading up to the race.  And I should have eaten a little something Saturday morning.

Since the race on Saturday I am still receiving so many text messages, facebook messages, twitter messages, etc congratulating me.  Such a great feeling!  My friend that got me started running had me over for wine to celebrate with some of her friends.  And they MIGHT have made a happy, cheery "woo hoo" bridge for me to run through.  But don't worry, it wasn't embarrassing at all.  ;)  Some other sweet friends sent me beautiful flowers to work!  How sweet!

So, I've been asked a lot if I lost any weight while training and if so how much.  YES.  I did lose weight, but not a lot.  I lost about 25 pounds in the whole six months and that was mostly in the beginning.  The fact is, long distance running is not the best for weight loss.  In the beginning it was working because there was a lot of running and walking.  My heart rate would go up and then go back down, back up and back down.  Steady running and keeping my heart rate basically the same the entire time wasn't as helpful with the weight loss.  BUT, I didn't gain any weight back, ever.  Not when I wasn't eating like I should, not at Thanksgiving, never.  That's awesome.  And starting in January I plan to work on my speed, which should help with the weight loss again.  I do feel much more healthy than I have in a long time.

Another question I had been asked is if I would keep running after the half.  Before I just didn't know.  Now I can say I will definitely keep running.  I will definitely do another half.  It was such a great experience and I still feel so proud.