Monday, March 17, 2014

New Bedford Half Marathon Race Recap

Unluckiest race number ever?  Or awesome bc it's 13.1(3)?

Well folks, I did it.  My first half marathon is on the books.  It was an experience.  A great experience, a painful experience, and definitely a learning experience.

Gypsy [post-race]: Yeah I guess it is a lot like childbirth.  It hurts while you are doing it and then you walk funny after.

I didn't have the week I wanted going into this race.  I had a lot of stress-related jaw pain and shoulder pain (happily resolved due the efforts of my awesome physical therapist - thank you Laura!), was just generally tired. Then Saturday morning, the day before the race, I missed my last Total Immersion class taking care of my kiddo who had the stomach bug, only to realize I also had it myself.  A half day in the bathroom and bed.  I tried very hard to eat lots of carbs and low fiber for the days leading up to the race (please I never want to see a baked potato again), but all that kind of went out the window down the toilet.  Ah well. Jedi made me my favorite pre-race tuna pasta Saturday night.  Why tuna pasta?  Because it's what my parents made me growing up, and because it's what Chrissy Wellington eats before all her races.  Two good reasons.  Anyway... onto race morning.

Walking to the start.  New Bedford is a pretty little coastal town

 The New Bedford Half had an 11 am start.  Which meant that Rio and my coach Sheriff (also racing this day) would be done with their races before I even got my bib.  It was an hour and a half drive, and we planned on getting there an hour and half before the start to park, catch the shuttle to the start, get our bibs, etc.  This race is known [to me only as of yesterday] for being kind of a logistical nightmare.  With 4,000 runners, there are too few bathrooms, and bib pick-up can take a while.  Furthermore, there are seven aid stations on the course but only water at all of them.  No fuel, no porta-potties.  You're on your own.  As tummy issues are a problem for me even on days that I wasn't recovering from a lower GI bug, I had carefully researched all the coffee shops and convenience stores along the route, should I need an emergency potty stop.  I would later entertain Gypsy by pointing them all out.  "There's the 7-Eleven I could go at..... there's the Dunkin Donuts..."  In fact, I was validated in this approach when we saw a trio of tutu-ed runners bolting into the Dunkin Donuts around Mile 7.  I don't think they were ordering coffee....

Anyway, we got there with time to spare, picked up our numbers.  I got 1313 - unluckiest ever??  Really???  Waiting in the hot locker room for about 20 minutes to pee, and met up with my friend Dawn who was also running.
Staying warm and ready

I did not eat much at this point.  I had tried to eat a pouch of PocketFuel in the car, but I couldn't get most of it out of the pouch.  Instead I took a Gu, which was all sugar and caffeine.  Mistake #1.  I figured I'd have my meticulously planned Mile 4 and Mile 8 fuel stops, so I didn't sweat it.  Also didn't really appreciate that I'd eaten breakfast about 4.5 hours before the start.

We headed out, and lined up with thousands of our best friends for the race.  It was a gorgeous day - sunny and bright but seriously, seriously cold.  With half of the course along the coast where the wind can be quite strong, I had opted to layer for too hot, rather than too cold.  Mistake #2.

The start

Gypsy and me.  I seriously love this girl.
The race started well enough.  The beginning of the course was a gentle downhill.  We had seeded ourselves in the 10:00 minute milers, my goal pace for the whole race, but the first two miles we were running under 9:00 - passing people as we could in the crush.  We even had the amazing experience of running past Team Hoyt around mile 1.  Seriously inspirational.  I didn't get a picture, but my friend Dawn did later so I'm stealing it:

Team Hoyt.  Photo credit Dawn Ertel.

Towards the end of mile 2, I started to slow.  Gypsy asked what was up.  I was seriously too hot.  I made the snap decision to move over and walk while I took off my middle layer.  Why my middle layer, which had the pocket with all my fuel, instead of my top layer?  No idea.  Made sense at the time.  I handed all my gear to Gypsy, stripped, and tied my sweatshirt around my waist.  Back on the road.

Splits.  Pretty clear BONK
at Mile 8
The next section, miles 3-5, were the hills.  I use this term very loosely, because the hills around our homes in central MA where Gypsy and I train make these "hills" look like bumps.  But they were enough to slow my pace to around 10:30.  I'm not quite sure because my watch had stopped working during my strip-tease, so I had to rely on pestering Gypsy for our time and pace.  I was rattled by my watch stopping and my wardrobe failure - already was questioning self.  At Mile 4 Gypsy again helped me take off my sweatshirt, extract my mile 4 Pocketfuel.  Walked for a little bit while I ate and chased it with water.  I tied the shirt back in place, and tucked the Pocketfuel pouch into my waist, thinking it would stay.  Mistake #3.

Around Mile 7 I was starting to feel tired.  My hips and lower back were hurting.  I said something along those lines to Gypsy, and that I wasn't sure I could make the last six miles.  I also knew we weren't pacing as quickly as I'd hoped.  My confidence wasn't really there.

Gypsy said "It's not six miles!!  [Counting on fingers] Eight... Nine.. Ten... ELEVEN!!!"  I looked at her and yelled loud enough for the racers nearby to hear me over their headphones, "It's a 13.1 mile race!!!"  Laughter.  Gypsy said her math was more cheerful.  Agreed.  

I will admit to being pretty grumpy during the race (sign of low blood sugar).  God bless Gypsy for keeping me going.  Mile 7 brings you out onto the water portion of the course.  The crowd support thus far had been great, but at this point the wicked wind drove everyone indoors.  It was very pretty, but freezing cold.  We started joking about going for ocean swims, what kind of wetsuit Gypsy might need (she's in the market).  Make it a reverse 70.3?  Where the heck is my bike?  That would get this over with faster....

Pretty but freezing.  Photo credit Dawn Ertel.
The Mile 8 marker rolled around - the second mandatory fuel stop for me.  I reached into my waistband for where I'd stashed my Pocketfuel.  It was gone.  Not good.  I have pretty severe hypoglycemia - unlike most athletes straight sugar doesn't do it for me - I need the mix of protein and carbs to keep me going.   We kept going.  I'd been stopping for brief walking breaks for the last couple of miles.  

I knew I was in trouble when I stopped to stretch my back, bent down to touch my toes, and fell over.

I caught back up with Gypsy and told her I wasn't feeling well.  I was slurring my words.  I was unbelievably dizzy.  She asked me if I should start walking backwards.  "Why?  Does that help?"  She said the med station was behind us. Oh.  I said no way - I was not stopping, I was not doing anything that didn't result in forward motion.  I was finishing this race.  But that I might have to walk a bit.  Which I did.  Walk and jog and walk.  I'm not sure - this part is a little blurry to me.  I remember being very dizzy, and Gypsy giving me jelly beans to eat.  That the jelly beans were frozen from being in our hands over the last several miles of windy coast, and that they were hard to chew.  Making jokes about feeling like I did three shots of tequila. Handing the jelly beans back to Gypsy like a toddler and telling her I didn't want to hold them anymore, even though her hands were full too. Wanting desperately to be warm again.  (You could ask why I didn't put my sweatshirt back on.  I wasn't in the best decision-making state).  

Around Mile 12 the world stopped spinning.  Jelly beans had done their work.  I told Gypsy I felt better.  Mile 12 is a hill (again I use this term loosely) - if I'm proud of anything from yesterday it's that I didn't walk a step of that hill.  Which isn't to say we were moving faster than many runners who were alternating walking and running.  We weren't.  But I wanted to finish the race running, which I did.

After we crossed the line I again almost fell and grabbed onto Gypsy for balance.  Someone offered me a wheelchair.  Again, no thank you.  I just needed food.  We ate the best orange slices on the planet.  Gypsy told me to give her my phone to take photos of me getting my medal.  Even that wasn't done very gracefully!

It's stuck... wait.... oof got it now!!

My phone then died. Gypsy texted out husbands that we'd survived.  Walked back to the YMCA where everything was based for some clam chowder and fish sandwiches (possible the worst post-race meal possible).  Saw some more friends.  It seems everyone had a tough time.  An elite friend of ours dropped out due to injury.  A friend & trainer from my gym had her legs seize.  Everyone was cold.  Moreover, they were packing up the gym and food while people were still out on the course.  Not cool.  3 hour runners need that food even more than the quick ones!

In the end, our time was 2:23:03.  Gypsy even dropped back to let me cross first.  She is awesome.  This was not the race I had wanted.  I didn't feel strong or well through most of it.  I made some mistakes.  My nutritional planets did not line up right.  I really want a new GPS watch.  And I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't had a good friend there to watch out for me.  Maybe a DNF.  Maybe an even slower time.  Who knows?

I was disappointed on the ride home.  I had been hoping for 2:15.  Why?  Just because.  I feel like that's what I could have ran given all things going well.  But when I got home, my kids were so proud of me.  They had made me paper medals and a paper trophy.

Guess which medals mean more to me?

We went out to dinner at my favorite Mexican place.  My phone was charged again, and I received texts and messages from many friends.  Hummingbird's first HM time was similar to mine.  Rio's time for the day was also similar.  My coach was proud and congratulatory and insisted that nutritional BONKs happen even to the pros.  

And hey, I finished a half marathon.

It's amazing what running 13.1 miles and then having a margarita can do to you.  My kids cuddled in bed and read me stories - I was out by 8:30.  

I deserved this.
I took today off to rest and reflect.  I learned a lot of what to do next time.  I'm grateful for the amazing support of my friends, especially Gypsy.  Grateful for my family, and my kids who have insisted I can stay in bed all day if I want (unless they want me to play with them).  Grateful that I'm not so sore today that I can't go up and down stairs (a small miracle).  I'm not sure if I will run another one after the Raleigh Rock'N'Roll next month.  I'm sure that race will be 100% different.  For one thing, it will probably be warm.  Definitely re-learned that you can't predict what will happen on race day.  And learning to be proud of my accomplishments, even if they aren't exactly what I had imagined.....


Tiffany @ The Chi-Athlete said...

Congrats on what seemed like a tough one from the start! NO POTTY ON THE COURSE? You're one brave cookie...erm...cupcake. :D

Mary Sue said...

Congratulations! That was a tough race and you toughed it out. I can't believe there were no porta-potties and no nutrition on the course. Great job sticking it out, especially since you didn't feel well leading up to the race.

Anonymous said...

Congrats!!!!! Way to not give up!

Marcia Boivin said...

Great job on your first! Running with cold sea wind on your face/body is never fun...but you did it! :) Congratulations!

Courtney Fields said...

Congrats on your first half!!

Sharon Wilhelm said...

Congrats!!! But no port-a-potties? No words.

Janelle J said...

I am so glad that you were okay! I admire your determination and I'm glad you weren't alone during that ordeal! And you still finished in a great time!

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