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Decker Half Marathon

As many of my friends know, I was seriously worried about this half marathon. My first half marathon in November last month left me feeling blah. I thought I’d do better and I never was able to just enjoy my run. It’s crucial for me to enjoy myself out there because who wants to put themselves through almost 3 hours of misery? Not me. So going into the Decker half, I was a skeered chica. 

The SA half had temps in the 50s, sky was overcast 95% of the time, think it was humid, too.  The course was mostly flat and had lots of turns with @30,000 runners/walkers.  I had my friend, Stef, with me during almost the entire race plus my friend Dawn at the start line.  I also knew about 20 other people running and heard lots of stories from people who’d run the race before.  For the Decker Half, it was a dry 41 at 8am, 10 mph north winds with higher gusts, and sunny skies the whole time.  The course was the equivalent of climbing an 895 ft building over 13.1 miles (thanks, Joe!)  There was a big hill @ mile 6 and “Quadzilla” at mile 10.  And I think there were less than 800 runners, total.  I knew one person who would be running (Joe!) and thankfully ran into a fellow Roguer (Tia) who I’ve chatted with before, so I had someone to hang out with the last 10 minutes before the race.

Before the SA half, I wasn’t nervous. I felt prepared, good.  For the Decker half, I was nauseous over the weekend more than once just thinking about the race. I was a nervous wreck!  I didn’t feel as prepared.  I got about 6 hours of good sleep the night before.

When I finally crossed the start line, I felt good.  I felt confident.  I’m not sure what happened, but once I crossed that line, my nerves left.  Maybe I was happy to start running so I could warm up?  Not sure, but this wave of calm washed over me.  Then I thought my arch support slipped up under my big toe and I started to worry.  This was a new thing for me to wear (first long run with it in my shoe) so I decided to just stop @ the .5 mile mark to check it out.  I thought it would be better to get it out-of-the-way early than to have it continue to bother me throughout the race.  Plus, if it had moved, it would probably cause a blister in short time.  I sat down on the side of the road, took off my shoe, and removed the insert – arch support was exactly where it was supposed to be!  GREAT!  I guess it was my sock and an active imagination?  I pushed the insert back in, untied my shoe, stuck my foot in, laced my shoe back up, and got up to start running again.  The group I had started with were a good minute in front of me and it was hard to know that my chip time would not be a true reflection of 100% of my effort, but it would’ve been a big distraction if I’d thought something was wrong so I’m glad I decided to check it out.

Once I was running again, the calm came back.  I felt so good.  There weren’t that many people on the course so I knew I wouldn’t be dodging people like I did the entire 13.1 miles of the SA half.  But then…here came 4 Tough Cookies.  The Tough Cookies were running, then walking, at timed intervals. I have no problem with their method, but they were running around me and then stopping to walk.  It was really annoying b/c then I’d have to run around the person who stopped to walk in front of me.  Fortunately for me, they picked up their pace and moved far enough in front of me that I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.  By mile 2, I was mostly by myself. 

I was wearing a tech tank under my long-sleeved race shirt, plus capris, gloves, and a head band that can cover my ears.  By mile 4, I removed my gloves.  I had one small hydration squeeze bottle in my hand so I took advantage of the water and sports drink being handed out every 2 miles or so.  That way, I never ran out of water (something else I learned the hard way after the SA half.)

I learned from SA half and brought a peanut butter sandwich with me which I ate @ 20 minutes before the race and that was a great idea!  I was never hungry.  I also ate a vanilla bean Gu (yum!) 15 min before we started and every 45  minutes afterwards. I think it helped me quite a bit.  I ate power jelly beans at the SA half but trying to chew those things and swallow them isn’t much fun when you’re running a half marathon.  Gu is definitely better.

I kept marveling at how good I felt.  I was climbing the hills with minimal problems.  I kept focusing on picking up my speed going down the hills to make up for going slower up the hills (thanks, Coach Carolyn!)  I didn’t have my Garmin (embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t figured out how to use it yet) so I had to pace myself with my cheapo digital watch, the mile markers that had the time showing, and how I felt.  I could tell I was running a respectable race so far and was really trying to conserve my energy so I could feel good about facing Quadzilla.  I also figured out that the wind would be its worse at the end of the race but thought if I was smart with my pacing, I could pick it up, even against the wind.

Once I passed mile 9, I knew Quadzilla was closing in on me. I also knew that my family, if they’d made it to the race course, would hopefully be somewhere near Quadzilla so that helped me more than I expected.  Once I was about a 1/4 up the monster hill, I could see in the far distance at the top (it’s a LONG way up this hill!), a man in a light-colored jacket and a short person beside him.  I KNEW it was my dad and Katie. I knew it!  I started crying immediately.  I was sooo happy!!!  Tears of pure joy!  Once I made it up to them, I bent down and gave Katie a big hug, squeezed my dad’s hand, and kept going.  Talk about putting some wind in my sails!  It meant so much to me to see them out there, supporting me.  Katie is probably my biggest running support with Dylan and my parents being a close 2nd.  She gives me pep talks sometimes and everything!  I was so lucky to have them there, at the top of Quadzilla.  I honestly didn’t think the hill was that bad.  That’s how happy I was to see my family =)

Glad I had some wind in my sails because I was about to make a right-hand turn and run against the north wind for the next 2 miles.  Those 2 miles were the hardest miles of the race for me.  Forget about picking up my pace – I had to just make it through the wind. I had a great pace though.  My effort to pick up the pace vs. the north wind and rolling hills probably averaged out to about a 11:45-12 min mile and I’m satisfied with that pace.

When I had less than one mile left to go, the 1st marathon finisher passed me. I clapped for him and shouted out a “woo-hoo” and meant it from the bottom of my heart.  To know that someone finished two laps of that course in under 2:40 is IMPRESSIVE!

I finished the race in 2:41:02 (12:17/min avg pace), one minute less than the SA half. My goal was to finish in 2:45 but I thought I might be happy to break 3 hours, to be honest.  Out of the 765 runners, my time put me in 714th place over the first 6.55 miles and 680th place over the second 6.55 miles.  That made me happy!  I can tell you there weren’t a lot of walkers on this course.  Most of the people doing this race were serious runners.  My overall place was 698.  I’ll take it!

After I crossed the finish line, I found some grass and started doing foot drills when Tom, a friend of mine from dailymile.com, came over and introduced himself in person.  It was so great to meet him!  He’s training for his first marathon (Austin, in Feb) and a year ago at this time, he was working on a Couch to 5K program!  Talk about inspirational!  I really enjoy following along with his training so to finally meet him in person was a treat.  I also found out that his awesome daughter was one of the kids who was passing out water @ mile 8 and I always made a beeline for the few kids who were braving the cold to volunteer at the hydration stations.  Very sweet!  Also have to mention my other dailymile friend, Joe.  He kicked some serious butt at the race!  He finished in 1:27 for a 6:37/min pace! HELLO, JOE!  I’ll have to include a link to his blog when I figure out how to do it.  He also runs for a friend of his that was diagnosed with cancer, but unfortunately, Dom didn’t make it.  I didn’t know Dom, but I know, without a doubt, that Dom is with him and so proud of Joe’s accomplishments.  He also has a super supportive wife and a precious baby girl. I’m so happy to have his support/advice and the ability to follow his story.  Great guy!

I loved this race!  I felt a sense of gratitude the entire time.  I thought about my kids, parents, grandparents, my extended family that I’ll get to see over the holidays, and my dear friend, Nancy.  I always think about Nancy.  I still wear the bracelet I made in her favorite colors and I don’t think I’m taking it off until it falls off by itself.  She gives me strength.

This post is long enough so I’ll wrap it up for now, but in the future, I’m going to elaborate more on what I think about while I’m running.  I swear that every time my running shoe hits the pavement, I shut the door a little tighter on the cloud of self-doubt that used to envelop me.  Makes the wind, hills, cold, and occasional pain seem not so bad, after all =)

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  1. December 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Oh, I love it. Your last 2 sentences seem to be true for me too, even though I’ve only done my first 5k. So glad I get to learn from your experience along the way! I can also related to how emotional you felt when you saw your family. For me, it was my dear friend who surprised me at the finish line of my first 5k. She was the only one taking pictures, and the tears I shed when I saw her held so many emotions all wrapped up together. What a great thing, running, huh?! 🙂

    • December 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm

      Yes, great! Can’t wait to see you at the end of the Capitol 10K!!!

  2. December 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    P.S. I didn’t want you to take my WHOLE name out of your first post, just my last name. I kinda liked taking credit for recognizing your genius blog name when I saw it!

    • December 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

      Ha! K, I’ll work on that later =)

  3. January 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Ahhh. So glad to be back in the spotlight! 🙂

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