I did it! I finished my first half-marathon on Sunday in 2 hours and 36 minutes. This of course is a personal best for me (by default, since it is my first half) and I am proud of myself. It was long, hot and sunny and painful at times, especially near the end. I still can’t believe that I did it!
As I learned during my prep for my 10k two weeks ago, a gluten free, dairy free and soy free diet works really well for me. I’ve been diligent about the diet for about 3 weeks now with no slip-ups and my stomach has been feeling great. As a bonus, my eczema is also almost completely gone! The week before the race was my taper so I only ran twice, two miles each time. I felt blah, tired and lazy all week – I really missed running! The day before the race I headed down to the Direct Energy Centre with my mom and Benjamin to pick up my race kit and visit the expo. The expo was fun – lots vendors, lots of samples of various protein drinks and bars. I stayed away from most of them but enjoyed the Gidi Yoyo chocolate and Sha Sha buckwheat snacks. We didn’t stay long at the expo as I wanted to rest my legs. I tried to eat a lot of carbs the day before, and drink a lot of water. I attempted to go to bed early, but of course it was very difficult to sleep.
The half-marathon began at 8:30 am. I woke at 5:40 am so I would have time to eat my pre-race breakfast, vegan overnight oats, and drink some Vega Electrolyte Hydrator. This breakfast works really well for me. My stomach felt good, and I felt full, but not stuffed after breakfast. I left the house just after 7 and I drove up to the start at Mel Lastman Square by myself (there was no way we were going to get the kids up and ready to go by 7am!). I got there quickly and parked on a side street. I ate one Vega Sport Endurance Gel about 30 mins before the race. Luckily I arrived in time to make a quick portopotty stop – the lines were long but went quickly. It was a lot warmer out that I expected. It was probably about 12 degrees at the start and quickly went up to 18 degrees. This doesn’t seem so hot, but the sun was blazing down and there was little shade. I had on my throwaway jacket, but discarded it before the race even started. I wore my Lululemon Swiftly Short Sleeve T, and my Lululemon Inspire Crops. I also had on a Nike running hat and sunglasses. And of course my trusty Mizuno Wave Elixirs. I was SOO thankful to have both my hat and sunglasses. Really needed them both!
I lined up in my corral just before 8:30. The corrals weren’t organized very well. I situated myself somewhat near the back and before I knew it, it was time to start. I knew I had to start out slowly or there was no way I was going to finish. Here are my splits:
Mile 1 – 10:57
Mile 2 – 11:15
Mile 3 – 12:46
Mile 4 – 12:07
Mile 5 – 11:18
Mile 6 – 11:43
Mile 7 – 10:48
Mile 8 – 11:34
Mile 9 – 11:35
Mile 10 – 12:30
Mile 11 – 11:31
Mile 12 – 8:52
Mile 13 – 7:59
Mile 14 – 11:27
A few things to note about my splits. I’m happy that I was able to keep most of my miles faster than 12min/mile. I attribute the ones higher than 12 to either hills, or water stops where I walked a bit. I’m not sorry that I slowed down on hills or walked while drinking as it was important to get fluids in because I was HOT. As I mentioned before, it was really hot and sunny. It was the kind of day where it was cool and beautiful in the shade, and hot in the sun. 95% of the race was not shaded, and I really felt the sun beating down on me. After training through the winter, I wasn’t really prepared for the heat. Should I have worn shorts? It was warm enough, but I really like the support that the Inspire Crops give me. They hold my tummy and thighs in and prevent jiggling, and they are really lightweight. So I think they were a good choice. I was also glad that I applied sunscreen before I left the house in the morning.
I was so thrilled to see my parents around mile 5, Jake, my brother in law and my kids at mile 6 and at the finish line, and my brother at mile 7. Knowing that I would see them helped me push through and, they also snapped some great pics.
I was feeling good with no aches or pains until about mile 5. At mile 5, my left ankle started to hurt. This pain went away around mile 7. Mile 7 was beautiful, down Rosedale Valley Drive. Finally there was some shade and it was cool and breezy. Miles 8-10 were brutal. They were down Bayview and River Street. There was no shade. It was hot. There were no spectators. The scenery was ugly. My stomach started to rumble and I started to feel sick. Earlier that morning, I had received an inspirational tweet from my cousin who was also running the half marathon. She is an accomplished cyclist who races (and wins!) a lot, and she wrote:
It’s all in your head. Just tell your brain to push through and you will kick butt.
Her words helped me push through miles 8-10. I wasn’t going to give up because of a tummy ache, and some hot weather. I told my body that I had to keep going and I wasn’t going to stop. I willed that stomach ache away. By mile 11 we were in the downtown core and there was a breeze, some shade and I was feeling good again. I pushed pushed pushed through those final miles.
Another thing to note – according to my GPS, I ran 14 miles and crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 36 mins, but a half marathon measures in at 13.1 miles. I really tried not to weave this time but I still inadvertently added 0.9 miles to my race. Oh well! I am thrilled that I ran mile 12 in 8:52 and mile 13 in 7:59. I really gave it my all in those last two miles, as I tried to make it in before 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, once I got to 13 miles I unexpectedly still had one mile to go. That last mile was BRUTAL. I couldn’t wait to see that finish line. My legs felt like they were going to break off and when I finally saw the finish I was absolutely thrilled.
As for race nutrition and hydration – I ate a Vega Sport Endurance Gel at mile 5 and mile 10. I drank a full cup of water at every aid station (and also poured one down my shirt or on my head!). I had my Amphipod Hydration Belt on and I filled one bottle with water, and 2 with Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. They gave out Gatorade along the way, but there was no way I was drinking that nasty stuff! I drank my electrolyte drink intermittently throughout the race. This worked for me, as I had practiced drinking and eating on my long runs. It is so important to practice race fuelling and hydration to figure out what works best for you!
I could barely walk when I was done the race. My legs felt like lead blocks. They were so stiff and it was hard to lift them. I got my medal, picked up a banana and called Jake. I was not impressed with the post-race party. It was in a parking lot, there was a fence around it and there was a lot of confusion because the 5k was starting at noon. So there were a lot of runners milling about aimlessly and I couldn’t even find water. Jake and the boys weren’t allowed in the party (or were they? I’m not sure. There was someone guarding a small entrance into the fenced in area and they didn’t allow them in). I was exhausted and didn’t feel like hanging around and couldn’t wait to get home.
However, the only thing harder than running a half-marathon, is taking care of small kids after running a half-marathon. It’s not like I could go home and have a nap or sit on the couch for the rest of the day. The kitchen counter needed to be wiped, the kids needed to be fed and diapers needed to be changed. That is life as a mom and of course I’m so grateful for my wonderful kids, but next time after a half I will employ the help of babysitters or perhaps grandparents.
If you had asked me immediately after the race if I would do another one, I would have said NO WAY. I’m already changing my mind. I’m slowly forgetting the pain of the last 3 miles and already plotting my next few races.
A half marathon is hard. Perhaps this is obvious. (Perhaps if you run 100 mile ultramarathons, a half marathon is easy…I guess it is all relative.) A half marathon requires dedicated training, knowledge of your body and fuel requirements. You feel like crap after a half marathon. My whole body ached Sunday and I had a splitting headache. I forgot about my ankle pain because that was nothing in comparison to the pain in my hip flexors. I could barely roll over in bed Sunday night. I felt better Monday, and feel almost back to normal today. I really didn’t expect it to hurt so much.
My mom asked me after the race – what is the point of running a half marathon? I think she just didn’t like to see me in pain, which is understandable. The point is I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something hard. And why not do it? I run because I can. I’m thankful that I have the health and the ability and the time to run. I saw this quote yesterday, and it sums up the way I feel about running:
Don’t ask me why I run. Ask yourself why you don’t.
I love that Dylan watches me race. He brought in my medals and a cow bell from the race to school for show and tell. I’ve already decided that I’m going to do the Oasis Zoo Run in September. It is a 10k through the Toronto Zoo. There is a 1k race for kids and Dylan wants to do it. I’m so thrilled!
I’m already plotting my next half marathon. I know I can go faster! I have been bit by the long distance running bug. The pain of a race is fleeting, but the memories of pushing my body and my mind will last forever. Perhaps there is even a full marathon in my future…