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My First Half Marathon Race Day!

If you haven’t already heard about my crazy 2018 resolution to run a half marathon, head over here first.

First Half Marathon Race Day

So I did it. I finished my training plan with only a handful of deviations (gotta be flexible, right?), and I found my starting corral on September 15th, 2018 to fulfill a promise to myself.


My Race Morning Breakfast

I stayed with my tried-and-true pre-run breakfast. I eat the same thing before every long run and let my stomach settle for about 1-2 hours before I run. On race morning, I ate my breakfast about 2 hours before lining up in the starting corrals.

My breakfast consisted of:

1/2 c. Old Fashioned Oats

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1 spoonful of peanut butter/Nutella

A splash of almond milk

1 banana, cut into pieces and mixed in with the oatmeal

Related: 5 Best Pre-race Breakfast Foods to Fuel Your Half Marathon

Gear Check Bag

This was the thing I sort-of freaked out about in the days before the race. I had never done a gear check before, and I had no clue what to expect.

So you’re telling me, I just throw the stuff I want with me, but don’t want to run with in a trash bag and they will have it for me when I cross the finish line??

Yup. That’s exactly what happened. And it was awesome!

5k’s and 10k’s don’t offer a gear check because they usually start and stop at the same place, so I wasn’t familiar with how this system worked. Usually I just put the stuff I need in a backpack and try to hide it by a tree or in a bush somewhere in the start/finish area.

What did I put in my gear-check bag?

Initially, I had everything that I wanted for the race but didn’t want on me yet. Aka my headphones, armband, waist belt with sports drink and pretzels, and sunglasses. I also had my pre-workout formula that I would sip while warming up. Oh, and don’t forget chap-stick!

In the minutes before the race, I switched it out. I put my sweatpants and sweatshirt in the bag, along with my pre-workout cup. I tied it shut, put it in the U-Haul, and prayed it would meet me at the bottom!

Before the Race

The race was about an hour away from my house, so my husband and I drove there in the wee dark hours of morning. After we found a parking spot, I proceeded to use the bathroom and then make my way over to the buses.

On the bus!

It was a BEAUTIFUL 20-minute ride up the canyon (and I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the view).

I sat next to a really nice older lady who helped calm my nerves a bit. Her attitude towards the race really helped rein in my appreciation of the moment, all the work I had done to prepare, and the amazing endeavor I was about to undertake.

I immediately got in line for the porta-potties when I got off the bus because, I was….well-hydrated. I now know that it’s a good idea to stop drinking in the hour leading up to a race.

After that I walked around and warmed up. Then, I panicked a little because I realized the “Race” playlist I had saved on Spotify was only long enough for a 10k, and I hadn’t bothered to add enough songs to last a half marathon.

Oh, and there was zero cell phone service at the starting line. Have no fear—I did have another “Running Hits” playlist downloaded that I usually listened to on my longer runs. I quickly shuffled through that and added all my favorites over to my “Race” playlist.

Another note on the fact that there wasn’t any cell service. I had planned to turn my RoadID app on right before the race so my husband could track when I was getting close and then venture over to the finish line to watch me, but that plan didn’t work at all.

No service, no RoadID…Note to self.

Playlist now in check, I continued warming up and stretching until it was about 15 minutes out from the start. At that point, I got in line to pee one more time, shed my extra layers, shoved the gear bag into the truck, and found my starting corral.

Start through Mile 6

I started behind the 2:30-finish pacer, because I figured that I could run finish somewhere between 2:15 and 2:30, but I wanted to start off sloooooooow. Starting slow was the key, I had been told.

The excitement was electric, but I forced myself to stay slow because this was the longest distance I had ever run.

This race would be all downhill, so it should be easy, right?

The first few miles were a breeze! I could have easily run them faster but I consciously slowed myself because I knew I would regret it later if I rushed at the beginning.

Everyone was excited and having fun.

I had set my favorite run-tracking app, MapMyRun, to give my time, distance, and pace updates every 0.50 miles. It informed me that that I was consistently hitting a 10:30 pace.

There were a couple aid stations that I breezed right on by. I sipped the sports drink I carried, but didn’t bother taking in any more than that. I didn’t feel thirsty, so I didn’t want to slow down more than necessary.

By mile 6, I felt awesome and ready to take on the world!

Mile 6 through Mile 10

After mile 6, I focused on holding on to my pace, and just knocking off mile after mile. My time was great and I felt good, so no point in slowing down. Just keep pushing forward.

I did make better use of the aid stations in this section. Mainly, I focused on eating a couple pretzels before an aid station, then washed them down with water.

Just keep ticking off the miles…I figured that after I hit mile 10, it was just a 5k from there on out and I could kick-down the pace.

Mile 10 through the Finish

At mile 10 I checked my watch, I was at 1:45. In my mind I thought, “Ok, it’s just a 5k left, and I can do a 5k in less than 30 minutes. If I kick it down now, then I can finish in 2:15!”

Except, I had nothing left in the tank to “kick-down”.

This is when I learned what “Hitting the Wall” feels like.

I was thirsty, so thirsty. I had run out of the drink I had been carrying, and the air was so dry that my mouth just felt parched. When I pulled up to an aid station, desperately looking forward to a cup of water, I allowed myself to walk for several steps while I drank. “Perfect,” I thought, “Just what I needed to finish out the last 3.1 miles strong.”

Except, when I told my legs to start churning again, it was a struggle to get them going. And then I desperately wanted to walk again. Shuffle, walk. Shuffle, walk.

All the way to the end. It was a real struggle.

Once I knew I was in the last half-mile, I tried to push my pace. Then I hit the 13-mile mark and only had 0.10 left.

Push…


Push…

I mentally wanted to run faster and my body desperately tried to sprint through the end, but my legs felt like they had filled with lead. I forced my legs to churn faster as the finish line came into sight.

Faster, sprint through the end!

My knee almost buckled about 10 strides from the finish line, which scared me a little but I kept pushing toward the archway that marked the end of this agony.

I finished in 2:19:41!

A volunteer draped a finisher’s medal around my neck and I knew I had done it. I had fulfilled my New Year’s Resolution.

My first half marathon done!

I walked through the finisher’s corral where they had all the food, but the only thing that sounded edible to me at that moment was grapes.

A cup of grapes and bottle of water, then I proceeded to grab my gear bag and meet my husband, who was motioning for me to come out.

I was really light-headed as I walked out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass out…so I made sure that my husband was within arms-reach as I walked around to cool down and catch my breath.

Recovery

As far as recovery goes, I pretty much did everything wrong.

I had brought my post-workout recovery drink with, but my stomach was so tight after finishing that all I could bring myself to consume was more water.

Other than the grapes, I didn’t eat ANYTHING for nearly 3 hours after the race.

I (unintentionally) had starved my muscles of the nutrition they desperately needed to begin the recovery process immediately after the race.

We didn’t stick around the finish line area. After I cooled down and changed, we jumped in the car and drove an hour home.

Ouch. Talk about muscles getting stiff.

When I woke up the morning after the race and it hurt to move anything, I called my mom. She suggested I soak in a bath of Epsom salt.

Why didn’t I think of that?? I should’ve done it the day of the race instead of the morning after.

Did I mention that the race was mostly downhill? I thought that was going to be a good thing because gravity would help me run faster.

Turns out, it just SHREDDED my legs.

I live in a split-level house. The following week consisted of my grabbing the railing and falling down the stairs.

Every. Time.

I had a really hard time walking for the first 4 days after the race. My “workouts” consisted of my trying to slowly take my dog for a walk. I tried a few running steps and was crying in pain.

By the 1 week mark, I was finally able to slowly jog a few miles to get the blood flowing through my muscles.

What did I learn about recovery?

Next time, I am going to have a recovery plan because it is just as important as having a training plan before the race. The moment I cross the finish line, my recovery plan will go into effect so I can get back to my normal life and back out on the roads sooner.

Next Goals

What’s in store for me next?

After a week of recovery, I started my next plan.

I want to keep moving my fitness forward so I signed up for a Thanksgiving 10k and dusted off the 10k training plans.

My husband and I did go to Mexico in the early weeks of this training plan, and I would like to say that I stayed committed while I was there but that would be an outright lie.

Beyond that, I’ve been bitten by the half-marathon bug. I know I can do better and I’m looking forward to training for a great season next year!

Here are a few of the things I plan to improve:

  • Learning how to push back “The Wall” and incorporate those strategies into my training and race day plans.
  • Race fueling. I haven’t ever used gels, but it looks like I might have to start experimenting with them in order to meet my carbohydrate requirements for my longer runs.
  • Increasing my weekly mileage. During my first half-marathon training plan, my highest mileage week was only 23 miles. I would like to work up to the neighborhood of 30-35 miles per week to improve my endurance and capacity.

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Happy Running,

Alexis

About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>

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