Friday, July 3, 2015

Lessons Learned From My First Half

Last Saturday, after about ten weeks of training (other than my usual routine of The Morning Run) I did my first ever half marathon.  It was overall a really exhilarating experience, and I did a bit better than I was shooting for (1:38:02 -- almost ten minutes faster than my goal, 07:29/mile -- a minute per mile faster than my training for several months, 29/121 in my division, 119/727 men, 171/2264 overall), but here are some of the takeaways:

• It is possible to get up earlier than is entirely decent (I'm pretty sure I didn't even know 3:00 came twice a day) just to pay to go running.
Hello, nighttime.
The girls who took this were struggling so much with my phone.
• It's also possible to run on your own without paying anybody, but there's something about being in a big group, not to mention running for a cause, that makes it more exciting, especially if it's something you need to prepare and train for.
Oh, there's the sun.
It was a lot more people than I expected (2500 total, including 5K runners).
 • It's important to eat something before running, especially before a long run, especially if you get up two-plus hours before your run actually starts.  Those gel packs are kind of gummy but they do seem to help.  Also WATER.
Still happy to be here!

• Use the toilet first.  (I did, so it wasn't an issue, but just do.)  They had some 80 Honey Buckets (grossest name for a porta-potty ever) at the starting line area and the lines were forever long.

• If you do tunes, the right music makes a big difference, before, during and after a run.  After asking on Facebook for some suggestions to add to my rotation, I ended up with a great mix of soundtracks, pop, rock, musicals, and some of them weren't as good as I expected, but some were just perfect (this was completely magical at about the halfway point, I felt like I was going to fly down the canyon).

• The right clothes and shoes also make all the difference.  I splurged on a few new things a few weeks before (including new insoles) so I would be comfortable and cool but also excited to break them in.  I also have discovered of late the benefits of wearing a headband.

• It's okay to walk or run at a slightly slower pace to catch your breath now and then.  This is hard for me during official runs.

• Don't underestimate the distance of a run (any run, really).  A 5K, a 10K, a half marathon or a marathon or whatever, they can seem like the longest and most difficult things ever.  I've run 10Ks that I thought would kill me, and this time the first ten miles were fantastic, and then, when the first little hills started to show themselves after coming out of the canyon, that last 3-4 miles were pretty rough.  But I endured and I was glad I did.

• Running downhill really is a great way to do a half marathon.  It helps to live in the foothills where my daily runs feature a fair amount of uphill/downhill, but even so it did a number on muscles that don't usually get much work.  It might have helped to do a little more downhill training.

• You might think your foot's bleeding, but there's a good chance that your toes are just falling asleep or developing blisters.  (And then those blisters might bleed later on subsequent runs, but not necessarily on the long run... though that can happen too.)

• Running this far and this long you really take a beating.  You will get sore in places you didn't even know you had.  But it's a good sore.

• Towels soaked in ice water are THE BEST THING EVER after a long run.  I wanted to have it with me always as my new and beloved pet.  Or at least after every run I ever do for the rest of my life.

• Crossing that finish line is a wonderful feeling, but collapsing in the shade with a bottle of cold water while you regain feeling in your toes and your legs stop wobbling and your head stops feeling fuzzy is even better.
(Thanks to the race for offering all these pictures for free download, by the way.)
So done.

• It's nice to have Kneaders French toast after a long run, but it also helps to have a great team of supporters to help you finish it, because if you feel like you're going to keel over and die if you don't lie down immediately, you don't exactly want to guzzle maple syrup.
Om nom nom.

Sleepyhead still waking up.

• Speaking of supporters, it's wonderful to see people you love after a grueling experience of any kind, but especially one that ends with the rush that comes with crossing a finish line.  The pom-poms and tambourines were a nice touch.
This may or may not have been staged for photographing purposes.

This one too.  *ding*
I did iiiiit!

Mom and Dad did the 5K.  They gave medals to ALL the runners this year!

• It feels great to have a nice long training schedule, work on it for months, check off every week as you go, and then follow through with your goal (and it helps if you do even better than you were aiming for).
 Later that morning we stopped at Target and picked up a copy of The Little Engine That Could for The Boy.  I found I could quite relate with that whole I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can thing.

And, finally:

• It might take a few days to recover, that is, to be able to walk up and down the stairs like a normal human being, but that's just fine.  It reminds you that you're alive and of the amazing things your body can do (read: that you can put your body through).  But I was also glad to get back to a regular, short morning run.

People asked me after if I would do another one, and my answer was... not today!  I may do another one in a few years, and this really was a good one to do, but I'm in no hurry.  I think a 10K is a great longish-distance run.  If you're thinking of doing a half marathon, don't be afraid!  People do them and survive, and it's a great accomplishment.

There's a metaphor or allegory in here somewhere.

(Now, if you're thinking of doing a full marathon... that's just crazy.  No one needs to run for that long.  Just the thought of running twice as far as I did last Saturday makes me feel kind of insane.  But we'll see... if anyone can get me to put myself through that, it's Disney.)

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