Saturday, December 10, 2011

13.1...my new lucky number

I DID IT!  I finished my Half Marathon today :-)

Yesterday was very emotional for me.  I went through tissues like you would not believe.  Before I had even finished packing the car I was already crying.  In fact, I stopped at Subway (Eat Fresh!) for lunch and cried the whole time.  I scared this poor elderly couple who wanted to make sure I was alright.

It was a good cry.  I felt like there was a video montage of my life happening.  I was reflecting on who I used to be and how far I have come.  I was completely cried out by the time I arrived to pick up my packet.  I got my number (1099) and my shirt.  Then I took the half mile walk up to the beach.  I wanted to sit on the bench and just clear my mind. It was a beautiful day, but the smell of french fries and pizza was overwhelming. 

I had been worried that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep, it felt a lot like Christmas Eve, but I was so emotionally drained that I didn't think it would be an issue. I loaded up on carbs (pasta pasta pasta) and headed up to bed at 8:30.  I didn't quite fall asleep until 9:30, but I fell asleep hard.  4:30 came mighty fast.  I can't believe I was up that early, but I was.  I got up and jumped into the shower.  I needed that to wake me up. As soon as I got out the giddiness took over.  I quickly finished getting ready and then had my protein bar and a banana for breakfast.  Time to get on the road.

I'm giving a huge shout out to my cousin Randy.  He was my chauffeur/cheerleader/photographer for the day.  He's doing his first half in March and I will be happy to reciprocate. I was way too anxious to drive.  I was also a little freaked out at how dark it was.  Had I not just experienced Sunrise club over Thanksgiving?  The sun was up at least a half hour earlier...this was freaky dark.

Waiting on the boardwalk was one of my favorite moments of the day.  The buzz in the air with everyone stretching and taking pictures and just enjoying the moment...the cold moment.  Yeah, it was a little chilly.  As it got closer we gathered around the bandstand area for the National Anthem (I was not prepared for that and got a little misty...shocking I know). 

Right behind the starting line were the first port-o-johns...the line was huge. ICK.  Luckily I had hydrated the day before so I had only had a couple sips of water before the start.  I was fine.  Oh, and in case you were wondering...I was also good to go on the other front.  I was quite happy that I would not need to worry about that.  haha.  Randy loves me talking about that.

When the starter gun went off it was funny.  There were so many people that I didn't move for a few minutes.  Randy's pictures show a blur of people starting. By the time my group passed you could see all of our faces.  haha.  Just wanted to finish. No need to run.

So my first mile was good.  I had passed a bunch of people.  I know that sounds bad for someone that just wanted to finish, but I'm also competitive and I knew having people behind me would push me to keep moving. There was this couple that kept jogging past me then slowing to a walk.  I would pass them and then a minute later they would pass me again.  This kept up for a mile, then I got my lead.  I didn't think they were going to finish the way they were doing.  I did pass them again later on the final turn around and I had a mile lead on them.  Pace yourselves!

Before I had even finished the second mile, the leaders were heading back towards me and that sucked.  Do you know how hard it is to walk in one direction when close to 2000 people running past you in the other direction?  I tried to not let it get to me, but it's hard.  We had our first water checkpoint and that calmed me down a little.

I am amazed at how I could pick people out of that group. I had seen the guy that checked me in (who had done the JFK 50...amazing) and the very cute guy that had checked me out twice prior to the race.  He checked me out on this passing too.  Nice.  That felt good.  When I hit the turn around point I started counting the people behind me.  I couldn't help it.  I had a dozen.  That was good enough. 

My mind started wandering though.  I had to stop myself.  There was to be no thinking.  I was in the zone.  I don't know how I did it, but I completely cleared my mind.  I know that if I started thinking about the finish line I would start crying.  That would slow me down.  If I started thinking about how far I've come I would start crying. That would slow me down.  I literally focused on the pack of people in front of me. 

I soon noticed that I was not losing ground on them.  They obviously had started earlier than me because we were keeping pace with each other.  If I ran I could have kept up with them.  NO RUNNING.  My hope was that I could catch up with them on a potty break.

On mile three I was walking back on that long stretch where everyone had just been running towards me.  It felt like forever when I was going against the people, but following them it seemed much shorter.

Mile four was funny.  My mind started to drift towards the Hottie that I had seen three times.  Hmm...maybe he's single.  Maybe I'll see him at the finish line. Oh we could get married and have little Marathon babies.  FOCUS JENNIFER!  I let my mind wander for about 3 minutes and then I was back on track.

Mile five I passed two more people...at the potty.  HAHA.  This is also when I saw the first runners heading back towards the finish line.  I had just finished 5 miles and they were about to finish 13.1  argh.  Well good for them, but this was going to be hard to put out of my mind. Something else happened on mile 5.  I also realized that two people who were ahead of me swerved off course.  We were supposed to turn right with the white arrows.  they went straight with the orange cones.  Oops.

So mile six I saw my Hottie pass me.  We smiled...awww...he was cute.  It was nice to see before I headed on to the trail. Up until this point we had been on pavement.  Now we were heading into the trail and it was going to get tricky.  It's a smaller path.  It's a gravel path.  It's a path where you can't really see ahead of you.  It was very tough for me.  I focused on staying out of the runners' way, but also trying to stay on pace.  Not knowing where the next mile marker is was really hard for me.  I let it go though.  I also avoided looking at my watch the whole time.  I just want to finish.

Mile seven is where I started to see the casualties.  Lots of people stretching out cramps.  Sitting.  Stumbling to a walk.  That'll play mind games with you.  But, I was paced to walk and that's what I did.  I never broke my stride.  I may have slowed down a little on the first half of the trail.  It was really hard to focus and stay out of their way, but I never really dropped my pace by much.

Mile eight was exciting.  I was still seeing lots of people coming towards me.  I knew that the turn around point was at mile 9.  That meant that I was within a 2 mile pace of a bunch of people.  That was all I needed.  It helped me get through the hunger.  I started to get really hungry at that point. I had a protein bar in my bag, but I didn't want to get the bag out.  That would mean slowing down.

Mile nine was awesome.  I was turning around and now knew the path ahead of me.  The only thing that got to me was that now I was going to have the Full Marathon runners coming up behind me and blowing past.  It sucked the first few times, but I got used to it and was happy for them.  Except when they got too close to me.  I was hugging the side of the path to give them room and more than once they literally brushed past me. 

Mile ten it started to get tough.  I felt like blisters were starting on the bottom of my feet.  I was getting pinches.  The rest of my body was numb from the cold (it had gotten warm earlier, but the wind had picked up again).  The best thing came into my mind then.  I'm an Athlete now.  I am pushing past this and I am going to FINISH.

Mile eleven was tough.  I no longer felt the blisters, but my feet hurt.  Less than three miles to go though.  I got this!  I contemplated texting Randy to tell him when to expect me at the finish line, but I knew that would mean I would see the time.  I really didn't want to know my time just yet.  If it was good then that's awesome, but if it was bad I was afraid it would really mess me up.  It already felt super long.

Mile twelve had the next to last water stop.  And the only beer stop.  haha.  I had water.  The paper cups were blowing around at my feet because the wind had kicked up so much.  One of them was actually keeping pace with me.  I stepped on it and crushed it.

Mile thirteen.  My body hurt.  My feet were killing me.  One mile to go meant that I didn't give a damn about my pain. I was soooooo close.  When I rounded the corner for the final stretch I could see the white tent up ahead.  I started to feel it.  The emotion just built up in my chest.  I pushed it back down for a minute, but it was hard to keep down.

I had told myself that I could run the last .1 mile.  I was going to finish strong.  I almost took off with .2 to go, but I started to cry and I was afraid that my lungs would give out before the finish so I waited.  As soon as I saw the 13 mile marker though I took off.  The best was that I heard a woman yell after me "That's right girl FINISH STRONG!" 

I saw Randy and my dad at the end and I really thought I was going to trip because my eyes were so blurry.  And then I saw the clock.  HOLY CRAP!  3:28.28...I crossed the line 7 seconds later at 3:28.35.  I had completely blown away my anticipated time.  I really thought I was going to be in the 3:45 range.  Not knowing the course and dealing with the runners coming at me had really thrown me off, but apparently not by much :-)  The best part is that when I crossed the line I heard my name over the loud speaker :-)

I got my medal and my running blanket (that looks like a silver superhero cape) and looked for anyone I knew.  I needed a hug and was about to collapse from emotion.  I found Randy first and just hugged him. Then I got a big hug from my dad and that's when I exhaled and sobbed.  It was over.  I had done it.  I had finished!  AND I had finished with a great pace for me.

Immediately after I had to go into the tent for water and food.  I saw people carrying plates with pancakes and mac'n'cheese and I knew I had to find it.  I got my plate and we went outside and found a bench.  It was the best food I had ever eaten.  I tried to stand up after though and immediately had to sit back down...and take some aleve.  After a minute I got up because I had a mission.

I went back to the ten for a 13.1 t-shirt...and that sticker for my car!  I actually got 3.  One for my car, one for my scrapbook, and one for the mirror on my dresser. I want to see that every day when I wake up.  I was also hoping to run into Hottie, but I never saw him again.  Oh well...maybe next year...

It was still a little early for lunch so we decided to come back to the house, let me shower, then head out.  I had asked my dad to bring ice packs with him so I iced my knee in the car on the way home.  That felt good.  Surprisingly, they have not hurt at all today (and I thank myself for staying smart and walking only).  The shower was wonderful.  Although my fingers started to tingle and I realized just how swollen they were.  I hadn't actually been able to hold a pen to sign my name for my purchases. It looked like a kid had signed my name.

We went out to lunch and they brought me a pitcher of water.  I was a happy girl.  I ordered my mega cheddar cheeseburger with fries.  This is my day of celebration.  Back to the healthy food tomorrow.  Oh and I topped it off with raspberry cheesecake.  Good stuff.

I tried to nap when we got home, but it was useless.  I laid in the massage chair for 3 hours trying to sleep, but my brain would not allow it.  Unfortunately, my body really wanted a nap so I was pretty non-responsive for that time.  It was a good rest at least. Plus I iced the knee a little more. Oh well, I earned it.  I shall sleep well tonight.

So the day was amazing.  I ended up with no blisters. Go buy Reebok Realflex.  I highly recommend them.  In fact, I am buying another pair for myself from Santa.  I hadn't even finished the race when all I could think of was "which race can I do next?".  Oh yeah, I'm in this for life now.  I'm good for twice a year I do believe.  In fact, I already have a partner lined up for next December's race.  This was one of the most amazing days of my life.  I have come so far and could not be more excited.

Have a wonderful wonderful night.

Check out my facebook (address below) page for pictures :-)

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