The following entry has already been posted a few places: on my MySpace blog, and on both of the iVillage boards that I frequent. But it wouldn't make sense to leave it off of this blog, so here goes:
Finished the Nike Women's Half Marathon in about 2:24 (haven't seen the official results yet), slower than I'd hoped. Killer hills, and I don't think I got enough calories during the race. Had a great time, though, and will definitely be racing again!
Jesse and I made a little weekend of it, so we drove into San Francisco (we live about 25 miles outside the city) on Saturday afternoon, and had a great time shopping and relaxing that afternoon. We had some amazing Italian food that evening (yay for carbs!), and I did my best to fall asleep early. I actually didn't feel too nervous on Saturday, mostly because it didn't seem real that my race was actually about to happen!
By Sunday morning, I was definitely nervous--I woke up at 4:45, 45 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off, and couldn't go back to sleep! There was already a lot of activity on the streets outside (we stayed about two blocks from the starting line), so between that and the nerves, there was no more sleep for me. I got dressed, ate my Luna bar breakfast, drank some more water and we headed down.
We ended up at the starting area almost an hour before race-time, so we just hung out for awhile. We actually ended up heading back to the hotel about 6:40, as the elite runners were starting, because it was quicker than waiting in line for the port-a-potties!
The main race started at 7 a.m., and I actually crossed the start line at about 7:14. The first few miles were a ton of fun--running through downtown San Francisco just after sunrise with thousands of women. It was just a really fun atmosphere. I did, however, get off to a very slow start. I found it hard to move very quickly with so many people--lots of dodging and weaving--and beyond that, I have a terrible track record of starting way too quickly on my long runs, so I was consciously trying to keep a slow pace to start. Unfortunately, I think I did too good a job!
I ate a package of Luna Moons at mile 5, in preparation for the big hill during the seventh mile. (Moons are an awesome new product, by the way--just like Clif Shot Bloks, but smaller! I have a small mouth, so Shot Bloks are a bit much to handle, but the Moons are perfect! I don't even know if you can buy them yet--I got mine for free at the race expo, and it doesn't look like they're actually for sale on the Luna Web site yet--but as soon as they are I'm buying more!)
I'm glad I did, because wow! I'd looked at the route elevations on the race Web site, but WOW! The hill at mile 7 was actually the second hill of the route--the first was steep but not too long. The mile-7 hill, however, stretched the entire mile. The whole entire mile was uphill. And it was all pretty darn steep. I'm SO glad I did as much hill training as I did, but I could have used more! There were a lot of people stopping to walk on the hill, but although that sounded like a very nice idea at the time, I managed to keep running.
I think I probably ran too fast on the downhill slope on the other side of that big hill. I knew I had run too slowly at the start of the race, and was sure that all that uphill had made my time worse, so I kind of saw it as my chance to make up the time easily. I know in my head that running downhill actually expends a lot of energy, but I always *feel* like it's easy, you know? Anyway, I think it would have been in my best interest to rein it in a bit on the downhill.
The next couple of miles were ok. I was definitely feeling a bit tired, but nothing terrible. We ran through some nice neighborhoods, and Kaiser handed out orange wedges, which were nice!
Here's where it gets a bit rough ... I had thought that the race map said there were going to be Luna Moons passed out somewhere around mile 9, so I only brought the one package with me, counting on that second package to take me through the last few miles. Well, either they weren't handing them out, or I missed it. So the one 100-calorie pack I'd brought ended up being my only calories during the race. I learned my lesson--next time I'll bring what I need so that I'm set either way! I did drink Gatorade at one of the aid stations, but because I'd only used Gatorade after my runs while training, I didn't want to drink too much during the race for fear of my stomach rebelling. So at all the other aid stations I just drank water.
Anyway, the last few miles were really tough. There were two more quite respectable hills, and my mile time rose into the high 11-minute range (my average pace during training was 10:15-10:30 a mile), and I was feeling pretty exhausted. By the time I got to the finish line, I was not feeling well. I'm sad about that, because I didn't really get to enjoy crossing the finish line--it was more of a "Thank goodness that's over--now let me try not to pass out" feeling, which wasn't quite how I'd imagined it. ;)
Jesse found me just after I'd crossed the finish line (unfortunately, with all the people, both runners and spectators, he never did get to see me during the race--he waited at the 10-mile mark for a long time, and we must have missed each other), and after walking in a daze through the various checkpoints to grab a bottle of water, my finisher's T-shirt and necklace (The necklaces were handed out by firefighters in tuxedos! I wish I'd been more lucid, lol.), we walked down to the beach (the race ended right on the waterfront). That was wonderful--I waded out to my knees and enjoyed the cold water. Much more fun than an ice bath! After several minutes in the ocean I was feeling much better.
So overall, my first race was a good experience. I am disappointed by my time, as I was hoping to run it in the 2:15-2:17 range, but I feel like I know the reasons why I didn't reach that goal, and I know what I need to work on next time! I am very proud of myself for finishing the whole race without walking (well, besides walking through aid stations to drink the water--if anyone has a trick for drinking water from a paper cup while running, please clue me in!), because when I started training that was really my goal.
I loved the atmosphere of the race--especially the camaraderie that came with running an (almost) all-woman race. Everyone was really nice and helpful, and the course itself was beautiful. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was great (Although I wouldn't have complained if it was a few degrees cooler, lol. I am such a wuss about the sun!), and there were lots of fun things along the way--spectators in fun costumes with funny signs, entertainment stages with live music, even an oxygen bar at the top of that terrible hill! (I didn't take advantage of the oxygen bar, but I thought it was a cool idea).
So all in all, I had a great first race experience. There were definitely some moments (mainly in miles 11 and 12) when I thought I never wanted to do this again, but by the time I finished I was making a mental checklist of everything I'd learned and how I would apply it to my next race. I think I've got the bug. ;)
I will say that this race did NOT make me ever want to run a full marathon! Wow ... I cannot imagine yesterday's finish line being the halfway point. All you marathoners have all my respect.