Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life Begins at 13.1

Today, I ran the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, TN, USA.

My goal time was to finish in under 3:00:00. My time according to my stopwatch was 2:43:06. Official chip time will be posted soon, and I'll post an update to include it.

I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll begin at the beginning.

[Note: There is absolutely no blood in my brain right now, and the pain in my lower extremities has caused severe loopiness. This post might be incredibly disjointed and in a stream-of-consciousness style worthy of Faulkner himself.]

[Another Note: I am so loopy, that when I first typed that, I said Steinbeck instead of Faulkner. Um, Steinbeck is, like, the total OPPOSITE of SOC writing. I need a nap.]

I had to get up this morning at 4:00 to get ready, because I needed to be in the parking lot at LP Field by 5:00. I left in plenty of time to get there on a normal day; what I did not take into consideration, though, was that there would be 30,000 other people trying to park at LP Field at the same time as me. So, yeah. Traffic sucked.

I did get parked in time to hop on one of the shuttles to the starting line (LP Field was the finish line, so our cars were there when we were done). Talked to a nice guy who sat next to me on the shuttle. He had run the CM half before, and was really cool to talk to. One of my favorite things about running is the camaraderie that almost instantly forms when two strangers find out that they are both runners. It's very inspiring to talk to a pro; it's equally inspiring to talk to someone who has trained their ass off and is running his or her very first endurance race.

So we got to Centennial Park (starting line), and I checked my gear bag, went to say hi to my TNT team leader and coach, and got in line for the Port-a-Potty. The lines were long...

So, time to get in my corral. I was in corral 26, because I put on my race registration that I expected to finish in around 3 hours (faster runners are in the front corrals; it keeps them from trampling us). The race started at 7:00; our corral started at 8:00. It was a long wait. I had to use the bathroom again by the time I got to the starting line. Damn.

So, I took off at a nice, easy pace at the starting line. I went totally according to plan; 3 minutes run, 1 minute walk. It was going well. There were bands playing every few miles, there was plenty of Cytomax sports drink and water, and it was a beautiful run. I love Nashville.

The only bad thing in the beginning was the heat. It was hot. Like, 80ºF (26.6ºC). That's not too bad for spectating, but it was hot for running.

The bands were great; the spectators were awesome. There were lots of TNT supporters shouting "Go Team!" whenever they saw a purple jersey passing. My coach from the triathlon four years ago saw me, and shouted "Go Nena!" It was so energizing, so exciting! I had lots of energy the whole time, really, but just after mile 6, around the 10K mark, the bottoms of my feet started to hurt. I mean, really started to hurt. Like they were breaking to pieces starting to hurt.

I pushed through it, maintaining 3 min run/1 min walk. Lungs felt great; heart rate was good; knees felt good; legs felt good. I'm fit enough to do this. Damnit if only the bottoms of my feet didn't hurt like the fires of hell.

Have you ever had a sudden, stabbing pain that only lasted a split second, and it hurt so much that you couldn't imagine how awful it would have been if it had lasted longer than that split second? That's how my feet felt, but not for a split second; it was enduring pain of that magnitude.

I was maintaining my intervals through mile 10; still felt good. There was a Port-a-Potty with no line right before mile 11, so I made a quick pee break, then right back on course.

At mile 12, however, I started to go downhill. The pain in the soles of my feet was almost unbearable; my legs were getting fatigued; and my general energy level had dropped drastically. I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit so badly; but there was no way in hell I was quitting. I had worked too hard for this. I did have to ditch my timed intervals and just run when I could, and walk when I had to.

Mile 12 was the longest mile ever in the history of the world. There were more TNT supporters along that mile, cheering and encouraging us to keep going. They knew that's where we would need them. It helped; but it didn't take the pain away.

Then, I saw the pedestrian bridge. The home stretch. This was it. I make it to that bridge, run across it, turn the corner, and I can see the finish line.

13 mile sign...there it is. I can do it...

Turn the last corner...


It was the most amazing feeling ever. I did it. I finished the half marathon.

- The bands. They were awesome.
- The crowds. Especially the TNT supporters.
- The general excitement of all the participants. It was contagious.
- That I didn't crap myself. Seriously. That was a fear of mine.
- Knowing that I was going to finish. It hit me at mile 10, and it was an incredible feeling. I almost cried.
- Crossing the finish line.

- The heat.
- The horrible pain in the bottoms of my feet.
- The weird snake-shaped blood blister thing I have on the big toe of my right foot. I just discovered it when I got home.
- The ice bath afterwards. No one was home when I took it, and it's a good thing. I screamed like a banshee. No; not like a banshee. Banshees would have wondered "what the hell kind of creature can make a noise like that? Damn!"

I am so glad I did it. I'm already thinking that I want to do another here in Tennessee in October. Then another in Florida next March.

I'm not sure whether there is an effective treatment for my particular brand of insanity.

I'm sure I'll think of more things that I want to say. I'll post updates as I think of them.

Thanks to all for your support.

UPDATE: Official chip times were published today. Mine was 2:42:42. Even better than what I clocked; and the chips are way accurate! YAY!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Truth About Tapering

Apparently, when one trains for an endurance event, one must go through a process called "tapering" during the last two weeks before the event.

Tapering consists of doing shorter, gentler workouts to allow your body time to heal from the rigorous training it has endured, and rebuild some of the strength you will need for the actual race.

It also consists of being RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY and having tiredness and soreness after even a short, easy run. Yesterday I ran four miles, which lately has been a piece of cake; today I am sore and really tired. It's strange.

As for the ravenously hungry part, I was told by a seasoned endurance athlete with whom I work that I would be hungry. She wasn't kidding. I have been eating like there's going to be seven years of famine. It's overwhelming how hungry I have been. I'm going to have to really buckle down on the food intake after Saturday. I actually gained some weight back last week, but this is not the week to worry about that. After the race is the week to start worrying about that again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Julia-ism. Antarctica Edition.

So, my husband returns from working for six months in Antarctica. You can imagine he had some very interesting things to tell. One story in particular was about when they had to spend several hours at a time out "on the ice," where there were no facilities or buildings or anything.

Husband: So, when we had to pee, we had to just go outside. There were yellow flags posted where you were supposed to go.

Julia: [pause]

Julia: Were there also brown flags?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Because I Just Now Have the Strength to Post Again

On Saturday, April 4, 2009, I ran 12 miles. That is 19.3 kilometers. That is a lot.

Surprisingly, it was a good run. I felt good; I felt strong. I kept a very good rhythm until about mile 11, when I started to really feel the fatigue. Mile 12 consisted of a lot of walking, but I managed to trod to the end at a pretty good clip.

There are no words to describe how much my legs and abs hurt on Sunday. Honestly. No words. The bottoms of my feet felt like they had been shattered with a jackhammer, too. Lotsa pain.

What frustrates me is the fact that I can not get my eating under control enough to see any real weight loss results, even with all this exercise. I just seem to eat to make up for the extra calories burned. I'm not gaining anymore; at least I'm maintaining. But I'd like to see a loss.

Admittedly, I have not been journaling my food like I should. I guess I'm going to have to start doing that again. It's just kind of a hassle. eh.

Oh, and PSA: Race to Witch Mountain is a decent movie. It's not awesome. Don't pay more than matinee price to see it; but I think it might be worth seeing it on the big screen. Dwayne Johnson is hot.