So we’re back with another half under our belts!
Saturday morning, my mom and I went for our last 3 mile run before making the drive up to Portland, Maine to pick up our race bibs and t-shirts. We’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, so we were pretty darn excited. We have family friends (and former neighbors) who moved up to Maine so our plan was to spend the night at their house before making the drive into Portland for the race in the morning. So, we got to catch up and visit with them AND run a race – you can’t beat that for a good time!
I had made numerous lists to make sure we wouldn’t forget any valuable supplies at home, and thankfully, we remembered everything- iPods, GPS watch, gels, Clif bars, and of course, our sneakers (I was really paranoid about forgetting these!)
After picking up our bibs at a local running store, we had lunch in Portland, putting some of the finishing touches on our carbo-loading plan. I had a delicious pastrami sandwich and my mom had a black bean and chicken burrito. And then, of course, we had to top it all off with some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. Pure perfection!
We explored some of the cute, local shops and then met up with our friends before heading back to their house to relax and cook up some dinner- homemade lobster rolls, potato salad, corn on the cob and a little green salad (my mom and I tried to go a bit light on the vegetables since it’s not a great idea to eat too much fiber the night before a race!).
All in all, I think my mom and I did a good job maximizing our carb intake and hydrating in the days leading up to the race. This was only my 3rd half-marathon (#4 for my mom), and we’re still experimenting a bit with nutrition and trying to find out what works best for us.
Race Day Recap~
The alarm went off very early on Sunday- 5 AM! We had to get ready, eat our breakfast (a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar for me and a PowerBar for my mom), and grab our travel mugs of coffee for the drive into Portland.
Thankfully, we had zero navigational issues getting into Portland and found parking easily. Lots of runners were milling around, and it suddenly felt very real- we were going to run 13.1 miles!!
We dropped off our supplies at the bag drop area, and went outside to warm up. The sun was starting to come out in full-force, and it was already beginning to feel warm- a little foreshadowing of the race we were in for!
Before we knew it, it was time. We lined up in the starting chute around the 9:30 min/mile pace group. I was hoping to run roughly this pace through the first 5 miles, before increasing my speed to between 8:30 and 9 min/mile for the last chunk of the race. This strategy has worked well for me in the past, so I thought it could be done. I was a little too ambitious.
The vibe was cheerful and excited, and everyone was ready to go. The gun went off, and we were on our way! Everyone was packed together through the first 2 or 3 miles and in the excitement, I think our 9:30 min/mile group was doing a pace closer to 9 min/mile. But me and my mom felt good, so I wasn’t super worried.
The only problem was that early on, we both realized we were going to have to stop and use a porta-potty. This was frustrating, but I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Around the mile 5 marker, we stopped and had to wait in line for the 1 porta-potty that was stationed next to the water-stop. This probably added a solid 4 to 5 minutes onto our time, which made me anxious. We had been making great time up to that point! Oh well, I thought. You gotta do what you gotta do.
After the little pit stop, I felt better, and ran a bit like a crazy person to make up for the lost time. I’m not sure, but I was probably doing around an 8 min/mile pace at this point. I caught back up with my mom, and she told me to run ahead- she needed to go a bit slower.
So I continued on by myself, immediately tackling an intimidatingly steep hill. I was proud of myself for running up it (tons of runners were walking), but when I got to the top, I was out of breath, and needed to walk a little to recover. The worst of the hills were done by this point, but now the heat was ratcheting up. It was well into the 80s with high humidity- basically, anti-running weather.
By mile 10, I was dying. In my previous 2 half-marathons, I had barely walked at all, but this was a whole different story. I would tell myself I only had 3.1 more miles to go- I could easily run that, right?! Wrong. I tried to limit my walking breaks to around 50-100 feet before running again, and this worked fairly well. I was a little bummed that my aggressive pace had fallen off so sharply, but eventually, it just became about finishing. I passed a biker who was being attended to by paramedics- he was lying down in a shady spot with an IV in his arm! My mom told me later that when she passed, he was being put on a stretcher to be taken to the hospital. And he wasn’t the only one- 5 runners had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for heat exhaustion!
I felt like crap and started wondering if I was going to throw up and/or collapse. Not an awesome mindset to run the last 3 miles of a half-marathon with…
FINALLY, I passed the marker for mile 13, and I told myself to limp on just a little bit farther. By this point, I had 2 giant blisters- one on each big toe- that throbbed painfully with every step. Let me tell you, that last tenth of a mile felt like the longest distance in the world. I finally crossed the finish line at 2 hours, 11 minutes (about 10 minutes off my PR). I was handed a cold, soaking wet towel, which I draped over my shoulders and I hobbled away to get some water.
I went back to the finish line, and cheered for my mom as she crossed the finish line soon after at 2 hours, 19 minutes. We had both finished without any serious bodily harm, and that was what mattered.
After drinking tons of water and allowing our stomachs to settle a bit, my mom and I tried some of the free food they had for us runners. We tried the strawberry-flavored Yasso frozen Greek Yogurt Bars- SO GOOD! And just what we needed after that crazy run in the heat. We purchased a little race merchandise, and headed out to a nearby Starbucks for some post-run refueling.
We chatted as we walked, and I heard about my mom’s experience of the half- not good. Like me, she had to walk WAY MORE than usual, and also felt pretty darn horrible. But as we talked about it, we realized there was really nothing we could have done different. We had trained for it, and were definitely fit enough to run the distance. The heat and almost-complete lack of shade really messed with us. We’d also had to stop to use the porta-potty which added time. But, you can’t run a PR every single race. For the conditions, we had actually done pretty well.
We proceeded to reward ourselves with some mini (and very melty) Snickers bars with our Starbucks. My mom got an iced coffee and I indulged in a coffee light frappucino with extra coffee. Yummmmmmmm.
So, it wasn’t our fastest race, but it certainly wasn’t a failure. We triumphed over the crazy conditions and as my blisters heal (and my mom’s toenails grow back!), we’ll soon be ready for our next adventure! I CAN’T WAIT!