Sunday, November 8, 2015

My First Half Marathon and A Great Learning Experience

I did it! I successfully completed my first half marathon and didn't die! The race was the Crystal Lake Memorial Half Marathon in Crystal Lake, IL. Along the way I learned several important things about myself and my race strategy. 

Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that you should always, always think ahead and prepare for your race conditions. The night before this race I found myself at Kohls trying to find a pair of running capris. The weather had been amazing all throughout this training cycle so I had never thought to actually go out and purchase anything longer, or warmer than shorts. It was supposed to be a nice 40 degree morning so I would have been pretty screwed if I hadn't looked at the forecast. Luckily Kohls came to my rescue and I walked away with several different capris and pants.
The morning of the race I got up about 30 minutes before I had to leave a rolled into my clothes. I spent around 20 minutes glaring at my cat because she gets to sleep in while I had to go run in the cold. 
Sometimes I can't help but be jealous of her life. 
I got to Lippold Park about 90 minutes before the walkers were scheduled to start, and sat in my car for 20 minutes so I could finish my tea and eat breakfast. Once, I saw some other people from Running Depot I left the warmth of my car and joined them. We got a really cute group photo before the race of all of us in our Running Depot singlets/t-shirts. 
Photo Credit: Running Depot
I had signed up with the runners so we started approximately 30 minutes after the walkers had started. While I had expected that this could create a bottleneck along the course it actually worked out really well. The walkers had enough time to get out of the narrow sections at the beginning and by the time we reached the narrow sections at the end they had spread out pretty well. 

The race started on time and for the first 3-4 miles I went out way too fast. Originally I was going to run with two individuals who had trained with me around my pace, but somehow I ended up running with the fastest couple in the training group. While this was a great confidence boost it really worked against me in the last half of the race. 

Between miles 4-9 I dropped from a fast run to a run/walk with 6/1 intervals. This section of the race had a few hills and one long stretch that was extremely sunny. The sunny section was along Haligus Road which was not closed to drivers. This created not only a warmer run than I had expected but also forced runners to be more aware of their surroundings and their race strategy. The runners were directed to run with traffic as opposed to into traffic, which goes against all my training runs. I was nervous to pass a few runners because the shoulder of the road was narrow and I did not want to risk having a driver come up behind me. 

The race doubles around in a neighbor hood and we ran back along Haligus and the earlier section of the race. It then shifted into a neighborhood that was flat and allowed me to stretch out and relax my stride. Running on Haligas had caused me to tense up and that tenseness had caused my lower back to hurt. While in the neighborhood I ran with some of the other Running Depot girls who had started with the walkers. Once I felt stretched out and more relaxed I opted to go ahead of them and continue the race at a fairly quick pace. 

From the neighborhood the race went back onto the trails at Lippold Park, I believe these trails are for the disk golf course. The trail was nice and flat, and also had a nice crowd along it. These people along with the runners who were cooling down by running back along the path really helped me finish strong. Every year one of the runners participants in the race while wearing a full fireman's suit. This gentleman finished before me and was running back along the path, in what I believe was his cool down. Just before he passed me I congratulated him and he responded with "you're doing great!" To me this was just a special moment that really made me glad I had participated in this race. If this man can run a race in an extremely heavy outfit and finish strong enough to run back along the path then I could finish with a smile on my face.

The last mile was perhaps the worst. There were so many people along the course and each one felt the need to tell me that I was almost there. After the first five times of hearing it I wanted to cry. I could hear the finish line party, but it still felt so darn long. It wasn't until I saw my coach screaming that I was done that I felt like I could finally breathe. Getting that medal felt like winning a million bucks. I had done it, I had finally finished my first half marathon. 

Also getting that bottle of water at the end was amazing. I could actually relax and drink it and not slosh half the bottle down my front. I have yet to master the running and drinking thing. 

I stayed at the end of the race to cheer everyone from my team in. It really was great to see everyone finish and finish strong. After spending 12 weeks with these people I was honestly more excited to see them finish that I was to see myself finish. We had all been in this together and we had all finished!

I learned a lot during this race, such as making sure to not let my thoughts get the best of me and to always know the weather a few days before the race. The most important less I learned was to not try and keep up with people who you know are much faster than you. I burned out towards the end of the race and really had to fight to keep going. I don't think this negatively effected my overall race but it did make the end quite difficult. 
Results from my age group. 7th isn't too shabby!

Pros: Good course, well marked, nice medal, easy packet pickup.

Cons: They ran out of water at the end, the post race food was left out for the bugs, 
Haligus road. 

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