The short recap: I did it! I ran my first half marathon and finished with (a tiny amount of) time to spare!
Want more details? Well, read on!
Sunday started super early with my normal race routine. I usually wake up about an hour before I want to be up and out of bed (in this case, 2:30am) and chug a glass of water. I go back to sleep for another hour until my second alarm goes off. Who really gets up at 3:30am? I’m insane. The weather forecast was looking absolutely beautiful and it definitely did not disappoint.
It was chilly at the start. We got there just after 6am and right before the sunrise. It was just as beautiful as last year. It’s hard to beat a sunrise on the beach, no matter how cold. For the race, I was wearing my Unleashed Team t-shirt and compression shorts and calf sleeves. My legs were fine, but I was glad I brought a hoodie to wear prior to the start. I kept it on as long as I possibly could and gave it to Tara right before I went to the start and that worked out perfectly. Once I took it off I was freezing, but warmed up quickly when we started running.
Now, the day didn’t start out as I’d hoped. I woke up with a super tight right hamstring (which is not the bad one!). I tried rolling it out before we left the house, but it did nothing more than hurt me instead of feeling better. I decided I’d hit up the free massage tent the race was offering before the start to see if they could loosen me up. It helped a bit, but not in the way I hoped, so I just figured I’d hope for the best.
My friend Amy from Unleashed was also running this race. She got there a bit late, but it was right after I got my massage. I wanted to hit the portapotty one more time, so Julie and Tara told me she had gotten there and gotten in line. I found her and waited with her and tried to warm up a bit, then we thought they were starting the race! Turns out we had about 5 minutes, but basically by the time the line finished, I had come out of the stall and they WERE started! I saw tons of people running by. I quickly tried to get my stuff sorted, phone on and ready to set off Runkeeper and got my Garmin looking for a satellite while I hurried over to the start. We managed to get right in at the end (which is where I would have been anyway). I was able to start my Garmin right at the line, but we were running directly into the sun and I was having trouble seeing my phone screen, so I spent the first 1/10th of a mile or so fighting with it – hence why I never saw Tara and Julie (or heard them since I had turned my headphones on).
At the last minute (meaning race day), I made the decision to change my intervals on Runkeeper. The whole time I trained, I did 4 min run/2 min walk. Doing it this way, I was sometimes well under the 13:30 pace cut-off I would need to finish on time, but then others not so much. I decided I would need to run longer than I was (which I would do during training, but not consistently). I ended up setting the intervals for 6 min run/2 min walk and if I could do more towards the beginning, I would.
After the fiasco getting my phone set up, I just told myself to calm down and find a good rhythm. I tend to get caught up in the speed of a race start, but the good thing was that all the speedy people were long gone by the time I got over to the start line. This left the people who were mostly around my pace anyway, so that was a good thing about getting to the line late. I saw these two women in front of me who looked like flags (red tshirt, blue tutu with white stars), so I decided I would try to keep them in front of me as long as possible. After a few miles though, I ended up passing them and then stayed in front of them. I lost them for the remainder of the race by mile 3 or 4 and never saw them again. Then there was red shirt man. We slingshotted each other almost the entire race and he told me towards the end that he kept me in front of him as his lead to follow. He ended up beating me though, because towards the end I made two pits stops to pee. I was glad I’d built up some spare time!
I was able to maintain my 6/2 for probably 8 or 9 miles. It was around this point I started to hit a wall, and hit it hard. We were away from the gorgeous beach views on pretty well-traveled roads and there was no pack to look at ahead or anything. It was very mental from that point on. My pit stops came around 11.5 and maybe 12.5 miles? Or a little sooner? I’m not sure, but towards the end. Oddly enough, I almost didn’t fuel at all and still felt strong for the most part. I had brought a sleeve of Shot Bloks with me, but never even opened them. They were offering Gu on the course, but I don’t like gels. The only thing I ingested along the way was water and two small half-full cups of Gatorade. I was surprised, but I had fueled well before the race (banana, bagel with peanut butter, coffee) so I figured I just had good stores built up!
Like I said, I built up a nice little cushion for myself and it was very much needed towards the end. Between the pits stops and not being able to maintain a run for very long, I was getting very nervous about beating the 3 hour course limit. Once I passed 12 and looked at my watch, I figured I had it in the bag (I think it showed 20 minutes?), however I walked way more than I planned. I just couldn’t find enough oomph to switch back to the run and when I did, it was for very short bursts. When I rounded that last corner, I told myself I was going to walk to a hotel sign I could see in the distance, and then said I NEEDED to run to the finish because I was cutting it very close.
Shortly after the sign, I picked it up and then I noticed my friend Amy running towards me to run me in. I can’t even tell you what a welcome sight she was. And then I saw Julie and Tara off to the side who had been waiting with her. I got a high five from Julie on the way by and managed to pick up the pace the tiniest little bit to get across that finish line. I also got my first ever shout out at a race! The guy at the end said something about me finishing and “for the Unleashed Team” which I thought was fun to throw in there. So cool to hear!
I grabbed a water from the people at the end of the finisher chute, proudly took my medal and put it over my head. I couldn’t wait to get out of there to find Tara and my friends and get some hugs! It felt so good to be done! My body was very angry so I just kept moving to get to the beach and go stand in the cold water. It felt so awesome after that!
After my quick trip in the water, we said our goodbyes to Amy and I shuffled my way over to look for food. The bananas didn’t look great, I didn’t like the bars they had and the only other option was clam chowder (yuck!). I got a clam chowder and gave it to Julie and then we went to check out the merch tent. I got a cute bumper sticker and a finisher tshirt for $5 on clearance! It doesn’t have the year on it, but that’s OK. It was only $5, so you can’t really complain. I was hopeful to get another massage, but they were already broken down and done for the day so that was a huge bummer. After we made our purchase, we headed over to the car so I could stretch before driving home, where I would promptly foam roll and lay in my recliner for the remainder of the day watching the Patriots and our DVR (hey, I earned it!).
Overall, I thought it was a great race. They DEFINITELY made an improvement over last year that I noticed. Each time they have this race, it falls during Fall Fest and there is a carnival set up in one of the beach parking lots. Last year, it was in the lot closest to the start, so we had to park farther down the beach and walk up. The registration was also set up in a parking lot across the street from that. This year, they had the volunteer lot where the registration was last year, plus the carnival was farther down the beach. This meant the parking was right next to the registration area and all the tents and portapotties were all in the one lot. One complaint though – they still need more portapotties. It was set up MUCH better than last year (in clear groupings with signs showing where to form lines), however there just aren’t enough. This is why there were still long lines again right before the start this year and I missed the actual start of the race.
I think the improvements were great this year, but the volunteers were even more awesome. They were all cheering us on and stayed there until the very end and that’s very much appreciated! There were even still multiple photographers still on the course as us back-of-the-packers came in for the finish. I tried to smile through the pain to get some good race photos, so we’ll see what I get!
I’m really proud of myself for not only finishing, but actually meeting my goal of being an “official” finisher by beating the 3 hour time limit. My official time from race website: 2:59:10! I also didn’t finish last, which is a nice bonus.
Thanks for all the well wishes and support along the way! It’s meant the world to me.