Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 marathon

This past Saturday, I completed my third 1/2 marathon.  

Honestly, that's not something I really ever imagined myself saying.  Fitness wasn't always a major part of my life.  I've struggled with weight and body image, but I now know that I'm doing something healthy for my body just about every day.  
I'm not one of those people you see running with grace and super skinny legs.  I'm pushing through and looking forward to the finish.  However this year I got my best time yet and I'm very proud. 

I'm also very tired.  Training starts to take a toll and the miles seem to drag on. When race day finally gets here I'm ready to run.  One of my co-workers said she doesn't do races because she doesn't want running to become competitive.  Running is her time and I have to agree.  I like when I can go for a run and my mind is so focused on something that I don't even notice the past three songs I listened to on my Ipod.  My runs are a great time for me to think. On one of my runs I decided to start this blog. I would sometimes dread getting out for a run, but once I did I can't say I ever regretted it.  
However, it does become something I have to do.  
Have to run.  
Have to get my miles in.
Have to train. 
Training came pretty easy for me this year.  Since I had two 1/2 marathons under my belt I knew what I needed to do for training.  I am a cardio junkie.  Give me a class that revs up my heart and leaves me out of breath and I'll be there.  Since I have good cardiovascular strength, I can run distance pretty easily without feeling too winded. It's my body that gets tired.  Last year my body was very tired.  I was plagued by injuries and these injuries led to a lot of self-doubt.  My plan after last year's 1/2 was to attempt to do a full marathon.  I had the running bug and figured I already had a lot of training done.  On one training run I pushed myself too hard and my body got mad.  Very mad.  I had extreme knee pain that might allow me to run a mile before the pain became excruciating.  I went to doctors, I did stretches, foam rollers, orthotics.  In the end I had to rest.  My doctor said "there will be other races.  no use killing yourself over this one.  you have to accept it."  So I acceptd it.  I stopped running.  I was mad.  I would see people running around Greenlake and be jealous. I wanted to yell, "do you know how lucky you are to be able to run?"  Real nice, huh?
Then Darling Husband bought me a pair of Nike Free running shoes and I was able to run again, pain free.  I felt like a brand new person.  I had missed my chance at the marathon for that year, but I was happy just to be running again.  Had the shoes saved me? Or just the rest? Not sure, but I believe there is something to be said about the minimalist running theory.
I signed up for the 1/2 this year with a goal.  I would run the race in under 2 hours.  Last year I ran it in 2:02.....barely missed it.  There was still another goal in the back of my mind.  The marathon.  Could I do it?  Self-doubt and fear took over.  What if I get hurt?   What if I can't do it? I decided to do the 1/2 and make it my best yet.
On race day I felt pretty good.  I knew my goal and I was going to meet it.  I started out running pretty fast just to try and get out of the pack.  First mile was about 8 or 9 minutes.  I was feeling pretty good, so I just kept running at a good pace.  The awesome thing about this race is that you see all types competing.  All ages, shapes, and sizes.  You also see people who are running in honor of those close to them who have passed away.  It's inspiring to see and also very emotional.  It's also a very fun race.  There are local high school cheerleaders every few miles and bands playing music.  It's a very high energy event.
I kept running.  From my calculations I was doing a pretty consistent 8 something mile.  Every so often I would feel a twinge in my knee.  Was my fear coming true? Had I trained for months just to have it come crashing down on me on race day?  I tried not to think about it.  
At around mile 8 I was getting tired.  It's a tough part in the course because it's the first major split for the 1/2 and full runners.  You have to pay attention to make sure you don't choose the wrong side, plus there's a hydration station right there and it's quite congested.  I was fighting through the crowd, feeling annoyed...then I saw some friends!  Izzy, Grant, and little baby Henry had come to cheer me on!  Izzy and Grant have both done the race, and Grant has done a few other marathons, so they know exactly what race day is like.  Seeing them gave me such a boost!  I was able to run with a new confidence.
I kept running.  At about mile 10 I saw Darling Husband.  He was able to keep track of my progress by receiving text messages about where I was in the race.  He told me to keep running, that I was getting a good time.  Almost there with another boost.
I kept running.  At this body really was tired. I realized that I hadn't stopped for water.  I think this was around mile 11? Not too smart. I actually stopped and drank a nice cool glass of Cytomax, which is basically like a Gatorade.  
Back at it, but my legs felt like lead. "Do more than you think you can" is my exercise mantra.  My body was in defensive mode.  My brain told my legs,"she's working too hard.  Stop this.  Stop this now."  It would have been so easy for me to stop.  To slow down. But then my body would not realize that I wanted it to run 13.1 miles.  It wouldn't be pushed and I would make little progress.  "Do more than you think you can."  
I kept running.  I kept running.  I kept running.  And then....

I was done.  

I grabbed my medal. Drank water. Ate a banana.  Grabbed all the post-race snacks I could.
I met Darling Husband and he told me "1:50"  I was well below my goal.  Since my first race I had shaved 23 minutes off my time.  "Do more than you think you can." And I did.
Looking back, do I think I could have done the marathon this year?  Tough to say.  My knee continued to hurt for a few days after the race, so that may have been my max.  I won't say I'll never do it, but for now I am content.

I'm going to hang up my running shoes for a while.  It's not only a physical drain, it's a mental drain. I'll keep up with my aerobics classes. I'm going to get back to yoga.  Not that yoga is easy. Not one bit.  It just challenges me in a different way. 
I do look forward to the day where I can run outside and just run for fun.  Nothing beats a nice sunny day here in Seattle. I have a feeling I'll be out there soon

If you've ever thought about doing a 1/2 marathon, or the full, you should.  
It's an awesome feeling of accomplishment. 
And you join a group of select people who will get up at 5 am to run.  On a Saturday.  
It's truly crazy.  Do it.

"Do more than you think you can."


  1. What an accomplishment! Congratulations on your race! All of your hard work paid off :)

  2. Congrats on doing so well for your half!!!

  3. You're awesome, Alex!!Congrats on finishing your half! I can definitely relate to you because I've grown up with so many body issues and struggled with keeping myself healthy (I still do) and running has pushed me a level higher than I've ever been. I just started running late last year and will be doing my 3rd 5K (don't laugh) and signing up for races make me feel really accomplished! I hope one day I could do a 1/2!

    p.s thanks for visiting my blog! Project Wifey Wife is just something I made up this year. I'm a newlywed and wanted to try something new. I try to make 2 new recipes a week, one sweet and one savory. So far so good! And fun!

  4. Alex, this is an awesome post and I'm so in awe of your accomplishments! I actually just signed up for my first half - I'm doing the Nike Women's Half in San Fran in October. You have totally inspired me to keep being positive and keep running - I've never been a runner and training has been incredibly difficult for me so far. Thanks for being so inspiring and sharing your experiences! And CONGRATS for surpassing your goal immensely! What a great feeling that must be. :)

  5. Nice post Alex! Not only did you run a 1/2 marathon but a few hours later you put on your party shoes and came to my wedding, that is some skillz my friend. Congrats on the race & your time!

    ...This is Darcy, it won't let me log in for some reason.