Today I'm recapping my very first half marathon which I completed on Sunday, May 4! It's kind of crazy to look back and think about everything that has transpired since I decided to start running. When I started this blog a year ago (the anniversary of which I let pass unceremoniously) I had just decided to train for my first 5K in June.
I confess that I have started and stopped running programs in the past a handful of times. I just never enjoyed it and I couldn't get over the mile hump. I think I may have peaked at running 8 minutes straight once.
Something has changed in the past year. There has been a tremendously shift in my mentality. Working out went from being a chore to something I actually enjoyed. I started believing I COULD do things instead of I CAN'T. I wanted to challenge myself. Most of all, I learned that I'm capable of far more than I've ever held myself accountable for. I want to thank my aunt, most of all, for teaching me that exercise could be fun. Her boot camp classes started as something I absolutely DREADED to something I looked forward to - without her pushing to be better and without my family joining in, I don't think I'd be where I am today.
Last May, I did something I don't think I've ever done. I ran an entire mile without stopping. I just never thought I could, so I didn't. I was never very athletic - I was the slow kid who would rather be inside reading a good book and couldn't catch a ball to save her life.
I suppose I got bit by the running bug after that mile because after numerous 5Ks, a 10K, and now my first half marathon, there's no sign of stopping!
Now for the recap!
Cincinnati. My hometown. We are a traditional bunch who value family, community, and good beer. Our city is has a small, hometown feel but we are mighty - just check out the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day! Another thing Cincinnatians love is the Flying Pig Marathon.
It took me a while to realize that other people think the name of our marathon is kind of goofy - it seems normal to me because I'm used to passing pig statues on the sidewalk and have a collection of FPM volunteer t-shirts from my high school days with pigs all over them.
Back in the day, Cincinnati was nicknamed "Porkopolis" as it featured the country's premier hog packing industry - one could see farmers herding piggies down the town streets. Somehow out of that history, the Flying Pig Marathon was born! (Of course you have the phrase "when pig fly" to tie everything together). Can you tell I'm a history nerd? Much to my surprise, the marathon is only 16 years old - started in 1999. The half marathon is even younger but it's still a big event here.
On Saturday morning, Nick and I went to the Expo to pick up my bib and t-shirt. There were TONS of goodies and vendors! I ended up getting two new headbands because I can't help but spend money. In addition to a tech t-shirt, you also get a really nice pool bag, a poster, and a virtual goodie bag with coupons and such.
Another piggie! You can see these all over the city. This one features the Cincinnati Skyline including the "crown" on the new Great American building.
As I said in my last post, after the Expo Nick and I met with our priest and then I went to my bridal shower. We had the best appetizers and dessert at the party - hummus and pita bread, spinach dip, mini sandwiches, etc. - perfect for carb-loading (although I was pretty busy running around so eating wasn't a high priority). That night (after a flat tire incident) we just relaxed and I ate some pizza and drank lots of water! (I think this is why I love running...).
Lucky for me, my maid of honor decided to stay in town to be there for my half. J and Nick woke up sooooo early on Sunday to take me downtown - we left at 5 am. It was great to have their support :) I hate going to races alone.
You can't see them very well but I'm wearing compression socks which I think helped a lot during and after the race! They kept me from swelling and I didn't even notice I had them on.
As you can imagine, I was pretty darn nervous for the race by the time 4 am came around Sunday morning. I did get a pretty good night of sleep - sleep never seems to be a problem these days. The worst part about races to me is waiting in the corral area. Everyone is just standing around waiting for something to happen and it's crowded - my inner introvert starts screaming to get out of there!
I just wanted the race to start! I was in corral G because I wasn't sure where I would finish when I registered - we waited a while to start because there were so many people! I was thankful that the entire race was pretty thinned out. There wasn't a lot of congestion and you had the freedom to move. Even the water stops went smoothly. Some of the best race logistics I've ever seen!
When we finally made it to the start line, I started to crank my music and we were off!
At this point, the whole experience is a bit of a blur. It went by really FAST!
The first 6 miles of the races were very similar to the Thanksgiving Day Race I did this year - three big ole bridges which seem like nothing after mile 6-10 of the Pig. 6 miles went by pretty quickly - I think I took some gel around 4.5 miles because I was anticipating the horror that was coming up.
Miles 6-10 took us up a big ramp and up into the Eden Park/Mt. Adams area of Cincinnati (did I mention Cincy is also called the City of Seven Hills?). Let's just say it wasn't flat. I decided to walk steep uphills because I knew my pace would suffer and I would be less efficient. Walking is ok!
The upside to the hellish hills was the spectacular beauty of the park and surrounding areas. The Pig is known for having amazing volunteers and entertainment - all along the course there were people cheering you on with HILARIOUS signs and encouragement. I found myself getting a little emotional throughout the race - it's nice to see so many people encouraging others.
And the outfits. So funny! Many people dress up as piggies, there are tutus (which I'm sad I did not have), and much, much more! Many people run in memory of losses loved ones and raise money for charity as well.
At mile 9, volunteers gave out free gels so I took another gel with water. Which reminds me - the water stops were on point! There was water and gatorade at nearly every mile! After about mile 2 I would grab some water and walk a few seconds to drink. Luckily, the weather was perfect - it started in the 50s and stayed pretty cloudy the entire time so I was never dehydrated or sweating more than I could reasonably replace with fluids.
After mile 10, the hills pretty much stopped and it was downhill from then on. Mile 11 was a steep downgrade which actually hurt my knees wayyyyy more than running uphill. I was NOT a fan of that mile - I think it definitely played into my ankle soreness and knee discomfort that I'm experiencing right now. BOO downhills. I thought for sure that would be my favorite part but we literally covered the same elevation in one mile as we did in the previous 3 miles.
Thanks to walking the uphills and mini rests in the water stops, I still had plenty of energy for the final two miles. The final mile was my least favorite because I knew the finish line was coming up but I wasn't sure how far it was ahead (at this point my Nike Plus app was being a ninny and told me I had already finished 13.1 miles - YOU LIE!). I wanted to kick up my pace but I also didn't want to burn out too soon either.
Nearing the finish line, I saw spectators handing out little cups of beer (just like at the water stops) which made me laugh. I was so close to grabbing one! Kept trucking along and then I saw my fiancé with his parents and my maid of honor. I booked it for the finish line and before I knew it, I was DONE!
I finished shy of my 2:30 unofficial goal at 2:24:11 but I was still really excited and proud!
As soon as I stopped running, I knew I had to keep moving. We could NOT stand around. I needed to walk and then stretch. I started to notice the aching in my legs and shoulders but I didn't feel bad - I actually felt pretty great! Maybe I held back a little bit because of the hills. Really, I just wanted to finish! Now that I know I can do this, I can start working on speed.
I spent the rest of the day pretending I wasn't tired. It was Nick's birthday so his family had people over for brunch. Nick's mom also supplied me with the recovery goods: classic Lay's and chocolate milk that was better than Kroger brand - AMAZING.
Overall, I loved my half experience - I'm glad I chose to do it in my hometown! Many of my classmates ran the Indianapolis Mini on Saturday so I missed out doing that with everyone but it was worth it! I'll definitely be back next year.
So what's next?
Most of my soreness has worn off and I'm ready to get back into the gym and back to training. My left ankle is being a little stubborn - it still feels a bit unstable but it tends to flare up randomly anyway. my knees are hanging in there - still popping and cracking like always.
Since I'm already conditioned and trained for a half, I decided why not just do one more? I will be running the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon in a month - June 7th which is also a week before the wedding. Am I crazy? Maybe a little.
After my second half, I'm going to take a little break from running to focus on leaning out and lifting - I'll just be running for maintenance. I'm considering trying Crossfit this summer once Nick and I move to our new apartment. There is a great summer special for students at a local box so now's as good a time as any! I've been wanting to try it for a long time.
In August, I will start training again for my next half - probably at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I'll find a few 5K/10Ks as training races and take it from there.
Is a marathon on my bucket list? Yes. I don't think I want to commit to that until I have a few more halfs under my belt, though. I want to get stronger and faster before I even think about dropping the money and time required into training. Clearly my thinking has come a LONG way because I never ever would've admitted that before now.
The goal now is to continue to lose weight, get lean, get faster, and get stronger! My nutrition is continuing to improve, I'm cutting out the artificial sweeteners and sneaking vegetables into everything I possibly can! Just making the small changes. I'm not going to lie, I still make mistakes and eat things I shouldn't. Sometimes I convince myself it's ok to buy a bag of potato chips (a major trigger food for me) or eat some pizza. Everyday I'm getting a little better, though, at making smarter choices and controlling my disordered eating (i.e. emotional bingeing and late night snacking).
So that's where I'm at. I'm really optimistic about my plans for the rest of the year. Completing this half marathon was a really proud moment for me - I wonder what else I could achieve if I just try?
Thanks for reading, everyone!