Sunday, October 31, 2010

Augusta Half Marathon Race Recap

I have attempted a lot of things in my 28 years. I've tried college (many a time), fad diets, Catholicism, smoking, quitting smoking, veganism, writing a novel, starting my own home business, you name it. I can begin things with gusto, but it wasn't until last Sunday that I finally finished something I'd started. As I crossed the finish line of the 3rd Annual Augusta Half Marathon, surrounded by my family and friends, I felt a sense of peace that I have never experienced before in my life. I did it. I am a half-marathoner...I am a finisher.

The week before the race was not a good week for me. My running went severely downhill, and I could barely run a mile without stopping to walk. I was burnt out, tired, and zapped of all my self-confidence. I felt more like I was being led to my death than a race. I actually found myself wondering if I had really experienced any growth at all over the last few months, because I felt as if I was right back to the scared, self loathing person that I was in April.

On Saturday morning my sister-in-law came up from Florida to babysit the kids for the weekend, and Jeremy, our friend John, and I took off for Augusta. We got an earlier start than we had planned, so we got to the race expo as soon as it started. It was teensy tiny at that point, and no vendors were even there yet, so I picked up my packet (Jeremy literally had to push me into the packet pick-up tent because I saw all of the "real" runners coming out and was so intimidated I was frozen in place), and we decided to drive the race route. Well, before we got back in the car, Jeremy and John insisted on taking a picture with the James Brown statue in downtown Augusta.


Anyway, so after they paid their respects to the Godfather of Soul, we drove the race route twice. It didn't look too bad, and the hill that I had been fearing was long, but not awfully steep. I knew I had run on worse. It was while driving on the route that I finally started to feel better and I knew that I had this. After we finished with that, we checked into the hotel and then they dropped me off at my high school best friend's house while they went off to do whatever it is they do. ( I actually lived in Augusta from when I was 11 until I was 17) So I got to hang out with Erin for a long time, and she took me out for my pre-race dinner. I had bread (lots of bread), rice, and some grilled shrimp and veggies. Good stuff.

It was after 10 when she dropped me back off at our hotel. I didn't even try to go to bed early...I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. Instead, I got my race outfit together and pinned my number to my shirt, and made sure I had everything ready for in the morning. (This is totally unlike me...I am the most disorganized person you could ever hope to meet)

My race number was 123! How cool is that? I took it as a good omen...

After that I settled down to read John Bingham's The Courage to Start. Let me just say that I don't think that there is a better pre-race book for calming nerves and getting you excited to be alive. Anyway, long story short, we tried to sleep, but nobody succeeded with that. Everyone was wound up! This ended up being a good thing for two reasons: #1 I was up and ready to go early and didn't have to worry about rushing #2 While flipping through the channels at 4 am, we came upon The Joy of Painting on PBS!! Hello, show from my childhood!! Hello Mr. Happy Afro Guy and your happy little trees and streams and mountains! It was awesome...nuff said.

OK. We arrive at the race. Wow. I can't even describe the atmosphere. It was charged...there was just energy buzzing from everything. It was still dark outside and the air was perfect- cool and crisp. The man on the loudspeaker kept announcing how many more minutes until the race, runners were racing back and forth across the park doing their warm up runs, people kept shouting to each other, hugging each other, making PR predictions. It was a crazy feeling to be standing there among so many other people who had trained so hard to do the exact same thing that I was there to do, and I knew that it meant as much to all of them as it did to me. I guess that was my first real feeling of camaraderie with other runners. I just kept wandering around and soaking up everything. I almost burst into tears a lot before the race.

Right before the race. Look to the guy on the left in jean shorts. He ran the entire race in that outfit, and came in at 1:50!! In DENIM. He is a bad ass.

So its finally time to line up at the starting line. I get as far in the back as possible so I can let all the faster runners not have to deal with going around me. Then its time to sing the national anthem, and there I go again with the tears! But then I look over to my left and see a woman standing a few yards away holding a very large cat who is wearing a race number. That was an odd enough sight to stop my waterworks.

The gun goes off. I thought that I was in the back when I lined up, but I underestimated that, judging from all the runners who were flying past me. I almost got caught up in the excitement, but I knew that pacing myself from the beginning was going to be the most important factor of my success. So I just stuck with my easy 13 minute per mile pace and let them go. I felt strong, and that gave me confidence.

The first aid station was at mile 1, and from thereafter they would be at every other mile. The volunteers were awesome and enthusiastic and didn't laugh at me just because I was in the back of the pack. Who woulda thunk it?? I took my water and kept on running. By this time, runners who had rushed past me when the gun went off were stopping to take walk breaks. I passed them one by one, drawing immense satisfaction from the fact that I was still running.

After the mile 3 water station, I started climbing "The Hill". That's what all the locals were calling was a 2 mile, gradual uphill climb. I took a few planned walk breaks during this time in order to conserve my energy. I managed to maintain 13 minute miles and had a great conversation with an old man and a young couple who were dressed like Batman and Robin. Towards the end of the hill, there were a bunch of locals cheering for us and assuring us that we were almost at the top.

Miles 5-8 were FUN. That was when it really occurred to me what a fantastic time I was having. During this time I was coming DOWN the hill, and I felt like I was flying. I didn't stop to walk at all except for at the mile 5 and mile 7 aid stations.  Which was amazing, because my last few training runs were just crappy. I guess you really should trust your training, because mine certainly paid off. I passed several more runners and finally became confident that I wasn't going to come in last!

At Mile 9, we turned onto Calhoun Expressway for the last leg of the course. I made it there by 9 o'clock on the dot, and it was then that I knew I was going to make my 3 hour goal. It actually hadn't been worrying me very much--I was having a great time and decided that no matter what my time ended up being, I wasn't going to ruin this accomplishment for myself. No matter the clock said, I had already decided that I was a bad ass.

Miles 9-12 were a little tough. I was still running, and I was still having a good time, but I began to feel my effort in my legs and in my lungs. A lot of the highway was another gradual uphill climb. For a little while there, I felt as if I'd hit a time warp. I was moving but I didn't feel like I was going anywhere.  I started playing tag with this girl who looked about my age. She was really nice, and as we would pass each other we would chat a little bit. Once she asked me what time it was, and when I told her, she was happy and said that the only thing she was worried about was coming in under 3 hours. I was like " Do you think we'll be able to?" And she was adamant about the fact that we would. Then she goes "We passed the Mile 10 sign a long time ago". I almost kissed her!! Apparently, I missed the mile 10 sign and I just kept looking for it. I thought we were still on mile 9 and we were almost at mile 11!! Woo hoo!! That gave me just the pick me up I needed to get through the rest of the race strong.

At mile 12, I exited the highway and headed back downtown for the last mile. This was awesome. The crowd was thick and everyone was cheering and screaming. They kept telling me I only had a little way left to go. Then I finally turned back onto the last street, where the finish line awaited me. It was far in the distance, but I could see it. I just kept running and running and running. As I turned the last corner into the park and ran for the finish line, people kept cheering "You go 123!! You go 123!!! You're almost there, 123!!" I looked up and saw my mom and my niece and they were screaming. I waved and then charged towards the finish line.

 2:50.08!!! I obliterated my 3 hour goal by 10 minutes!! I accepted my medal and then fell into Jeremy's arms and began sobbing. Then I hugged my dad. Then I just started hugging people!! It was a great moment. I was surrounded by people that I loved, and they were proud of me. And I was proud of me.

Right after I cross the finish line

My mom, dad, and niece...oh and me guzzling down an entire bottle of water at once.


It all ended up with a big party at Red Lobster, where I promptly ordered the largest cocktail on the menu and guzzled it down. FYI...alcohol dulls post race aches and pain. Try it!!

I don't think I could have had a better experience for my first half. But this is just the beginning. There are definitely more halfs and a full marathon on the horizon. I also have a bunch of weight to lose.  But now, I know that I am capable of pushing my boundaries and doing something hard. So I kind of feel like the world is my oyster.

Thank you to EVERYONE for reading this blog and sticking with me, encouraging me, and lifting me up when I needed it.  You will never know how much that meant to me. I hope that you guys will stick around for my next big adventure, whatever that may be.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

This Is It

Hi everyone. This is going to be my last blog before the race. I was going to blog more this week, but I've honestly been in such a bad place that I couldn't even bear to write it down. I won't go into long, whiny detail--suffice it to say that my last few runs have been really bad ones and my confidence is pretty shaken. People keep saying-trust in your training. Well, I am telling you: I do not.
Do I know that I can make it to the finish line? Yes.
Do I think that I can make it to the finish line in under 3 hours?  Not really.

If I don't make it in under 3, the course will be closed and they will already be giving out awards and I don't think I'll even get a medal. They seem to be very strict about this in this particular race-not sure if most or all other half marathons are like this. In fact, I have to make it to a certain street by 9 am or I can't even finish the race on the race route. They have a special "walk of shame" route for the losers who can't make it to Calhoun Expressway by 9 am. And I don't even know how far that is! Oh, and here's the kicker: they sent me an email with last minute race details and it stated that WALKERS must maintain a 13 minute mile or they wouldn't be able to finish. WALKERS?? Hello, I RUN 13 minute miles. Don't tell me that people walk faster than I can run. Oh somebody shoot me.

So, we'll see. I've come too far to quit now. I am going to cross that finish line, even if its a totally humiliating experience. And if it is, I never have to run again.

Hopefully things will go well and I'll have some interesting stories to tell when I get back.

I want to thank all of you for reading this blog and sticking with me for the past few months. I truly do cherish every comment that I recieve, and every person who chooses to become a follower. You guys are the best, and I never would have come to this point without you.  Wait a second, maybe I'm actually pissed off at you for that! Lol...just kidding. No, really.

Okay, off to Augusta I go...send me some good energy on Sunday!

Monday, October 18, 2010

First Weigh In and an Awful Run

First things first-I've been doing great tracking the calories since my last post a few days ago. Staying under 1700 calories really isn't that hard and My Fitness Pal makes it SO convenient to keep a record of my eating. They simply have every food under the sun! I decided to go ahead and weigh in this morning because it's Monday and I would like to do my weigh ins on Mondays. Anyway! I'm down 3 pounds! YAAAAY!!! Actually, I'm happy and all that, but not ecstatic, because my weight is still 212 and its been fluctuating between 212 and 216 for the past two months. The scale has yet to get under 212, so I guess next week will be the real test, eh? Regardless, I'm happy to be on the low end of my weight range instead of the high end!

I wish I could be as happy about my run last night, but it was just awful. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad run!!! Let's see. I was supposed to go 9 miles...kick in the bucket, right? Ha! I was good for the first couple of miles--I was taking it real easy and I felt strong. THEN around mile 3 I started to get an upset stomach. This has NEVER happened to me before. I tried to push through it, but running on a sick stomach just makes things worse! I was able to stick it out until somewhere between mile 6 and mile 7. Hey, at least my GPS decided to reset itself so I couldn't get an accurate reading of my run! That was a nice touch.

It's not like I haven't had bad runs before...duh, read the blog. Its just that this was my LAST long run until the RACE. It was IMPORTANT and I SCREWED IT UP. Now what if I'm not ready? I mean, the training plan didn't put that run in there just for kicks.

Sigh. It's not the end of the world, but it sucks to have my confidence shaken like that a week before the big day. If I can't make it 9, how in the world am I going to finish 13.1?

Friday, October 15, 2010

These Are My Confessions

Just when I thought I said all I can say...Okay, off the Usher track. God, my husband hates him! He'll be so pissed when he sees this post. Anyway!!
A few posts back, I stated that it was time to get serious about my weight. Well, I haven't.  I got discouraged when it comes to weight loss months ago, and I just gave up. Not on running, mind you. I Love Running! I love working toward a tangible goal and the thought that I am about to achieve a major one (half marathon-8 days-gulp) seriously is starting to bring tears to my eyes. I never thought I would make it this far, and I certainly don't intend to give it up now, even after the race is over.
But weight loss? Yeah. I checked out on that a long time ago. Part of the reason why is simply because I like myself so much more now than I did before I started running. I've gained so much self esteem, self respect, self regard, all kinds of self stuff. So, even without the weight loss, I'm starting to look in the mirror and not hate what I see. I'm holding up my head in public and basically saying "Yeah, I'm not a barbie. So what? I'm hot and I bet my fat ass can run a lot further than your skinny ass can!"  Which is a good thing. A good, good thing and I'm totally grateful for it.
BUT...that doesn't change the fact that something is wrong here. Weight loss is stalling, and I refuse to believe that there is something wrong with my body. I just lack discipline when it comes to my food. Sure, I've made some positive changes, and on the days that I run I generally eat pretty well simply because I don't want to mess up my run. I don't drink soda, 95% of the fluids I take in are water, I love hot green tea with no sweetener, and I have been known to down a green smoothie or two. All that being said...
--When I want a cake, I bake a cake....and Jennifer has never been known to stop at one slice of cake. Cake is my great love/hate/eat until I'm sick affair.
--If I want fast food, I eat fast food.
--A great number of the vegetables that I consume come from Chinese buffets and are lathered in Whatever that sauce is
--I don't say no to fried chicken.
--I totally have seconds at dinner a LOT
--I never count calories--ever
--Aside from my running, I'm not a very active person.

What can I say? I just DON'T want to be that girl who kicks her own ass every time she has a bite of dessert. That's no way to live!! There has to be some happy medium, right? RIGHT??? Come on, tell me I'm right!!

And so, I run my ass off 3-4 times a week, the scale never budges, and I just think I can't lose weight. A very large part of me really believes that I should be able to do it just by running. That I have EARNED a hot body by becoming a runner! But then last night I sat down and did a little bit of math...
If I run 15 miles a week, I'm burning roughly 1500 calories through exercise. Which is fantastic. However, that is less than half of what it takes to lose 1 freaking pound. ONE POUND!!!! So of course I've only lost 4 pounds...doing this through exercise alone will take forever. And lets not forget the weeks I have where I don't run as much and eat twice my usual amount.
I never count calories, so I have no idea what I take in on a daily basis and how much I should cut to get a bigger weight loss deficit. BUT i found this cool website, My Fitness Pal, where you can input all your personal info and how much weight you want to lose a week and it just spits a plan back out at you.  So I put that I would like to lose 1 1/2 pounds a week and that I expect to exercise 4 times a week for 30 minutes. (Ha! I always do much more than that, but will probably take a little downtime after the race).  Anyway, so I can have 1770 calories a day, and I don't know much about much, but that seems like a pretty reasonable amount to work with. Also, on this website, the food tracking aspect is really easy, so there is just no excuse.
This is GOING to work. I do deserve the body I am dreaming of. Oh, and I'm putting a little  weight loss widget thingy on my blog to stay accountable.
Please wish me luck! This feels like starting an entirely different journey all the way from the beginning.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

12 Miles

Running 12 miles is:
-longer than most people walk
-kinda dumb when you think about it
-time enough to talk yourself out of every goal you've ever set
-eventually numbing

But after you're FINISHED, running 12 miles is:
-a great excuse to eat WHATEVER you want the next day
- a reason to walk around town tooting your own horn for the next two days
-totally something a goddess like you can do--YOU, my dear, are the queen of the world
-and last but not least---OVER!!!  (it bears repeating)

So I ran 12 miles last night. It wasn't my best run ever, and it wasn't my best time ever. (Although it certainly wasn't my worst time, either, considering) It was HARD. I've been staring at this run in my training schedule ever since I signed up for this race. It's literally been looming over me for the past 3 1/2 months and I have been DREADING it. Even as my long runs started to increase in distance, even after I ran 10 miles, nothing ever made me feel better about this damn 12 miles. It was everything I could do to get dressed and make myself do it, and every damn positive thought that I've been holding onto lately flew right out of my head. I was Pissy.
I started off a little bit too fast and that affected me the rest of the run. Pacing is SO SO important, I will never be able to emphasize that enough.
The first couple of miles were okay, and then on about mile 4, I started to despair. Are you kidding me, I've only gone a THIRD of the distance I have to go tonight? Who does this??
After my body numbed out around mile 5, I had a good next few miles. At mile 8 I started to feel woozy, so I took a Gatorade prime and that really helped me. I've never refueled my calories in the middle of a run before, and I didn't realize how much effect that can have on performance.
By mile 10 I was spent. All the body parts that had gone numb were now fully awake again, screaming at me. Ironically, at this point, it hurts more to walk than it does to run. Hell if I know, but I ran as much as I could and took as few walking breaks as possible.
The last mile I wanted to lay down and die. I couldn't even think straight anymore, and I hurt so bad everywhere. All I knew was that I was almost home and if I could just get there, I could lay down. Somehow I gathered up the energy to finish the last quarter mile at a good, strong pace...
I started to get cocky and think things like "Hell, I may as well have just gone the other 1.1 miles and then I'd have my race done."
"That wasn't as damn far as I thought it would be".
"I may be the most awesome person alive".
"I am going to kick this race's ass".

I just find it all so funny. Running is the sport that OTHER sports have to do as a punishment for when they screw up. Running is hell!! I don't really think that anyone actually likes to do it, and yet we do. Even somebody like me, who has never stuck to anything very long that has ever caused me a little discomfort, is absolutely ADDICTED to running. I have a permanent scar at my sports bra line from the chafing. My feet are so blistered and callused that they barely resemble human feet anymore. I am juggling four children, a husband, and a full time school schedule and on top of that setting aside several hours every week to just kick my own ass. And for what?
We do it for the feeling AFTER we're done. Nothing compares to that. Nothing feels better or more empowering. Nothing is as satisfying as knowing that we've just done something that most people can't even think about doing without getting tired. Nothing feels as good as that surge of energy we get after we're done, I swear its like a high.  And nothing is as addictive. I want it again already.
TWO WEEKS until the race. I am so my hotel booked and everything.
I wonder how long I'll be able to ride THAT high???

Monday, October 4, 2010

This is funny

Not that I'm anywhere near an Ironman yet, but I do identify with this a little bit.  Sometimes I think if I hear one more person tell me that they wouldn't run unless they were being chased I will totally scream. Get a new tagline, people!!

If the thing won't play on my blog, you can click to watch it here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I have 9 miles coming up today. I haven't been on a long run in 2 weeks, since my 10 miler. I am so freakin nervous. About everything. This race is in 3 weeks and I just don't feel ready. I know I'm not really supposed to feel ready yet, because that would mean that I'm peaking early, or some such twaddle, so I suppose that everything is going according to plan but it doesn't FEEL like it. It FEELS like I've gone and done something REALLY DUMB and now its too late to back out!!!
Two weeks ago, I was excited about this race and knew I was going to kill it. Now I want to vomit!! WHAT WAS I THINKING?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!