Wow...I did it!
I got up on Saturday and got on the road to Dallas. When I got there, I met up with my friend Megan and her beautiful family--hubby, three kids, and one on the way! I've known Megan since high school, and it's fun that we've ended up living close enough to see each other every once in awhile. With all those kids, you can't fault us for forgetting to take a picture...but I'll always remember the incredible green beans we had at Babe's Chicken. Wow, there may not have been any nutrients left in those suckers, but they sure were good!
After that I headed to the hotel to get settled in. Then it was time to meet Sasha. I've "known" Sasha for almost five years, but this was the first time we'd met in person. We were on an online message board for our daughters, who are the same age. Since then, we've kept in touch via blogging, Facebook, and email. I first heard about the Couch-to-5K running plan from Sasha, so she was one of my inspirations to start running. It was wonderful to meet her in person!
Sasha and I picked up our race packets and soon headed to dinner to meet another friend, Elaine--also a mommy message board/blog/Facebook friend.
Sasha and Elaine already knew each other, but it was the first time I'd met Elaine, and again it was great to spend "real" time with someone I've spent "virtual" time with for years! We had a wonderful dinner together (pasta, of course!)
We joked about how weird people think it is to meet up with online friends...but really, I knew these girls well enough to be sure neither of them would end up being a creepy 50-year-old man! They were both just as nice in person as they are online!
Elaine headed home, and Sasha and I drove back to the hotel to finalize our plans for the morning and to relax. We both slept well (which for me is not normal the night before a race!) and got up bright and early the next morning. Sasha's friend Jennifer (my friend now too!) met us so we could all go to the race together.
My recurring running issue--that tight IT band which sometimes is caused by tightness in my glutes--had cropped back up last Monday, and I'll admit, I was paranoid it would bother me during this race. I had my little massage ball with me, and I rolled out that area at least six times on the morning of the race. I rolled it in my hotel room, outside waiting for the train, on a bench when the train dropped us off, and in a building waiting for the race to start. Injuries definitely bring out my inner control freak!
When we got to Fair Park where the race was starting, we walked in and immediately saw a local radio station booth, broadcasting live. Through speakers, I heard the guy commenting on various things people were wearing, so I stopped, lifted my Vibram Five Fingers-shod foot, and wiggled my toes. He'd never seen any before, so he called me over, gave me a headset, and interviewed me about my shoes! I was able to give just a bit of info about minimalist running (including a warning to ease into it slowly.) It just added to the overall fun and memorable-ness of the experience!
We got there around 7:30, knowing the race started at 8. It was cold, in the 30s. I'd taken a friend's great advice, bringing an old long-sleeved shirt I didn't need anymore, and wearing it over my running clothes. I also wore a hat I didn't care about (both of which I ditched right before the race started.) Even with that...standing around waiting was not fun!! But it was only for a little over half an hour, right?
Wrong. I knew it would take a few minutes to get to the start line because we aren't the fastest of runners, and we were stationed far back. But the street we started on wasn't particularly wide, and that meant a really long line. We were near the back of the crowd of 22,000 participants (for the marathon, half marathon, and relay), and we didn't get started until about 8:55! Thankfully we were able to spend some of that time inside, just waiting for the line to move.
Finally it was our turn. As they let through each (large) group of runners, they did a countdown, blew confetti in the air, and played music, so the start still felt special for us!
We got started, and Sasha and Jennifer (both faster than I) pulled ahead while I did my customary slooow race start. I quickly felt warmer, and less than two miles in, I stepped off the street to take off my toesocks. (My Vibrams are more comfortable without socks anyway.) I also pulled my little massage ball out of my Camelbak and massaged some tight muscles in my glutes. I didn't know if they'd get tight enough to start pulling on my IT band, but I preferred to lose some time trying to get loose, than to suddenly cramp up during the race, and have to stop running.
I repeated the rolling/massage around four miles in. About halfway through the race, my foot arches were hurting, and I again stopped, using the ball to roll the bottom of my feet through my shoes.
Afterward, I had to consider--should I have made those three stops in the first half of the race? Well, the foot rolling didn't seem to work...but focusing on relaxing my feet after that did work, so for my next race I'll try to relax and work through foot soreness that way. But I did make it through the race without my IT band cramping, and for all I know that may have been because I took the time to massage those muscles once they were warmed up. So while I wish I hadn't needed to do that, I'm glad I took the cautious route.
Once I got past the first half of the race, my body really loosened up, and I was feeling good...well, good considering how long I'd been running! You know, 13.1 miles is just far. It's hard! So you can imagine how happy I was when I saw this sign:
10 miles down. "Only" 3.1 miles...5K...to go!
Because I'm slow, I was running with a lot of others who found this distance challenging, and we were excited as we saw those nice high numbers on the mile markers! "Who else is a first-timer?" I called out at 10 miles. Other runners raised their hands and cheered. "We're going to make it!" I called out. More cheering ensued!
Before the race I'd let my Twitter friends know that if they sent me direct messages, I'd get them on my phone. I got a lot of awesome DMs and other text messages--it was so encouraging! At around nine miles...when the race was really feeling hard--I received two Scriptures from my Twitter friend Seansmoma. That was exactly what I needed to read at that time!
The last three miles were really hard, but I knew I'd get through! As I approached the finish line, I was saying, "Thank you, Jesus!", realizing that my prayers had been answered and my recurring injury hadn't made me start walking as I'd feared it would. Through the last hundred yards or so, I was beaming! I didn't have the energy to actually sprint, but I was able to pick up speed. I lifted my arms in the air and cheered as I ran through the chute. And then...I stopped running. It was a little unbelievable to me that I could actually stop (and didn't have to start again!)
Then the emotions overtook me, and I was crying and trying to keep myself from falling apart completely. It just felt so incredible, knowing how hard I'd worked to get to this distance, and knowing I'd finished it, running the whole way. The feeling was amazing!
In the race rankings, my time (2:34:21, 11:46/mile) doesn't look too great. But in my rankings, that's a good time, beating my long run pace by one second per mile. I was happy with it, and felt I'd handled the race the best way I knew how.
Every mile of training, every physical therapy appointment, every sore muscle...it was all worth it! I'm so happy and blessed that 13 1/2 months ago, 32 years into my life, I became a runner!
Sasha, me, and Jennifer...half marathon finishers!