Sunday, September 28, 2014

Race Recap: Akron Half Marathon


I made it!!! 

The day I've been freaking out over for 10 months has already come and gone. I'm proud to say I accomplished my (only) goal of making it from the starting line to the finish line. I was also really nervous about getting injured and having to drop out (my knees suck), but luckily that didn't happen either! Aside from very sore hips, legs, and feet, I'm a happy half marathoner!

As I've mentioned many times before on this blog, I went to school at the University of Akron, so I was crazy excited to run this race! I wanted to make it my first half marathon because of all the wonderful memories Akron has given me. Looking back, I know I made the right choice with this race. The Akron Marathon is truly one of the best races out there. The entire event was organized perfectly and everything seemed to go as planned. The overall quality of the race just blew me away. Even if this wasn't such a high quality race, I'd still want to make it a tradition, just because it's Akron.

On to the actual recap! I woke up at 5:10 and put my clothes on that I had laid out the night before. I got my bagel ready, grabbed some bananas for Jeff, and we left at around 5:45-5:50 to get gas. Jeff forgot his headphones at home so we had to stop at Walmart at 6:00 to pick some up! We parked on campus because we planned on meeting some friends from band there at 6:30. It was super upsetting to see that the decks and lots on campus were charging $5 to park when every other lot and garage in Akron was free and open. We didn't have cash, but I knew a couple secret parking lots from going to school there. The lots were right next to the deck that was charging, but they were open and practically nobody was parked there! It was still dark and a little cold, but I was okay with my tank top on. We met our friends and got our picture.

Akron friends
I had to use the restroom, so we went into the music building, which happened to be open. Across the street, there were like 75 people standing in line for the porta-johns, but all the restrooms in the music building were open and nobody was in there! Another score for us. We went down the street to our corral just before the race officially started.

pre-race selfie!
I accidentally used all the data on my phone, so I couldn't use my RunKeeper app to track the race. Which was disappointing. I just put my music on and that was it. We didn't cross the starting line until 10 minutes after the race had officially begun, so we had to listen to that stupid bell sound blasting from the speakers the entire time. Then we were off!

The first 1/2 mile was all downhill, which made me happy! Now, I'm usually terrible at the beginning of races but great at the end. My husband is the opposite. We stayed together so he could push me at the start and I could push him at the end. My problem is that my calves ALWAYS cramp up at the beginning of runs. They were especially terrible this time. Somewhere between mile 1 and 2, I started psyching myself out. I didn't know if my calves would loosen up at all. Then I started panicking. I was half crying at mile 2 and spiraling downward. People passing by must have seen the look of terror on my face, because everyone kept saying, "You got this!" or "Keep going!" or other words of encouragement. Jeff was really helping to talk me out of it as well. Once I got my breathing back under control, it got easier and easier. After another mile, my calves loosened up a lot and I felt better!

We kept going, and every mile marker that we passed made me more and more excited and confident! It was so much fun to see all the bands playing and people cheering us on! I had to take a pee break at the water station at mile 4, and afterward, I felt like I was back to normal. I appreciated getting to stop for a minute and took the opportunity to relax a little. At mile 5, I got to say hello to a friend from college who was playing in a band along the course! Mile 6 went along Firestone Parkway and through Firestone Park; the scenery was beautiful and the trees were starting to change. Lots of adorable puppies along this area. Won't complain.

Miles 7 and 8 were slightly boring because it was all houses and not a ton of spectators. When I saw a "fluid station" sign, at first glance I thought it said "hug station." Tell me that is not what every race needs! Jeff and I had talked earlier about how we should watch races instead of running them, and I think we need to start a hug station at races.

Then it was my favorite part of the race! We got to run past the stadium and through the middle of campus! I know I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. When we got to the music building, we were planning on getting a picture at the rock candy (I never bothered to figure out what the actual sculpture is called). I was suprised to see my parents outside the building cheering for us! They had come to see us finish, but they saw the tracking notification that said we had just passed mile 8.7. So they stuck around to see us come by and took our rock candy picture for us! It was exactly what I needed, especially because we were starting to get burnt out. After seeing my parents, I felt like I hadn't just run 9 miles.

The last 3.1 miles just dragged. We were tired and in pain and we had to cross the Y-bridge and back a second time. On the bridge, I realized the back of my ankle hurt, and I looked down to see that my sock had slid down and my shoe had rubbed off a giant chunk of my skin. It hurt so bad. Those miles were just miserable!!!

It seemed to take forever, but we made it to the last turn before entering the park to cross the finish line! There were a ton of people watching outside Canal Park, which I did not expect! It gave us the push we needed! Entering the park and running to the finish line was like a dream. There were so many people and it was loud! I was literally in a daze- I couldn't even believe I had made it. We walked around the field to grab our medals/food/swag then left the park to see my parents. They showed me where my name was on this car that had every racer's name on it, and we got some pictures.

This smile was fake :)
my favorite medal so far
the final turn into Canal Park
Found our names! Also, it's a huge pet peeve when people don't capitalize the D
We got our traditional post-race celebratory Chipotle and had an amazing shower! I put on my compression socks and we enjoyed resting and celebrating with our families at my in-laws' annual clambake.

happy legs
Overall, this was an amazing experience! I feel like I accomplished something I can truly be proud of! This race was the most difficult thing I've ever done. And I've walked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and climbed back out with 40lbs on my back. I never thought I'd be a runner, let alone be able to run 13.1 miles! As dumb as I know this is, I never felt like I'd be able to call myself a "real runner" until I did a half marathon. Now I absolutely can call myself a runner and mean it. I may be slow as balls, but I know I can do it now.

My legs are telling me no, but I have a feeling this won't be the last half marathon I ever do!

If you're reading this right now, thank you for all the support you've given me for the past 14-15 weeks as I've been preparing for this race. I would never have made it without the help, encouragement, and happy thoughts sent my way.

And now, it's time to play video games in my pajamas for the rest of the day. I'm going to update this post with official race pictures when they come in, so stay tuned! There will also be a post coming soon about what's next for me (running/health/life/etc.). Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Final Thoughts

Uh... I'm running a half marathon in 9 hours?

Not gonna lie, I'm totally freaking out. Even though I hit my max mileage for long runs like 3 weeks ago, I still feel like I didn't train well. Which I didn't. I'd give myself a C+.

 Before my very first race last year, I wrote a post about how nervous I was and how far I'd come in the 6 weeks I had been running. I'm feeling pretty much the same way tonight, just on a new level. By the way, Monday is my first anniversary of blogging, and Tuesday is the anniversary of my first race. And here I am about to run a half marathon!

The truth is, I didn't make myself proud with the way my last half of training went. I don't feel ready. But I have come a very long way to get to this point. My only goal is to get from the starting line to the finish line and have fun. I don't give a crap if I have to walk the last 3 miles or the course closes on me (which I'm pretty confident won't happen). This is hopefully the first of many half marathons, so I have absolutely no shame in starting small.

Tomorrow I'm going to get up, put my clothes on, smash my Panera bagel, return to my alma mater, see my friends, crush 13.1 miles, hug my parents, and be truly proud of myself.

Then I'm going to my in-laws' annual clambake and EATING ALL THE THINGS.

Even though I'm afraid for tomorrow, the excitement is outweighing the nerves! Tomorrow is the day that I've been looking forward to for 10 months! I absolutely cannot wait to call myself a half marathoner! Wish me luck and good vibes!

Pictures from prep day :)

so much nuun                                          the great debate

Went to Panera for lunch so I could get a bagel for tomorrow!

Expo! I got all the way in the building and up the escalator before I realized there was a blue line on the floor.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Akron Half Training: Week 11

Sorry about the lack of update last week. School started back up and it has been hard to find time to even run, let alone blog about it.

You didn't miss anything.

Now that the semester is almost in full swing and I am getting used to my schedule, I'm ready to finish out my last 2 or 3 weeks as best as I can!

I'm so happy to say I ran my first double-digit run on Saturday! I had 10 miles on the schedule, but it was super soggy and rainy all day. And my sister-in-law came home from California to visit, so I was at a cookout for her for a good chunk of the day. I ended up having to split my run up because I just didn't have enough time at any given part of the day. I woke up and did 3 soggy miles outside in the morning, had lunch, ran another 5 on the treadmill, ran out of time and had to leave for the cookout, came home at like 9:00pm and did another 2 on the treadmill. It was freaking exhausting. But I made it, and my tendon that has been bugging me didn't really start to hurt until my evening run, so that's good news to me!

Honestly, I have no idea how to train for the next couple weeks. A taper seems dumb and I don't feel the need to back off as much as I feel like I need to remain loose and consistently active at my current level. But a lot of articles I read recommended some kind of taper for a half, especially if it's your first (which it is). I am pretty sure I'm gonna go for 11 miles this coming Sunday and that will be the last long run. After that, it will probably be stretching, light cardio, and short runs for the last 2 weeks. And planning out the other details, like figuring out the course, what I'm gonna wear, getting my fuel together, etc.

I can't believe it's almost over! The idea of being a half-marathoner is totally nuts to someone who hated running their entire life and couldn't run longer than 3 minutes at a time a year ago. Anyways, wish me luck and good vibes for my last long run! 19 days until race day!