Thursday, February 11, 2010

My First Half Marathon: 13.1 miles and covered 1643 vertical feet!

My cramping toes on both feet spread out in every direction ... lookin' like scared petals on a daisy.

Those toes were angry with me and I understood why. I had just put them through the ringer.  But it was all worth it: I had just completed my very first half-marathon. And it wasn't like any other half-marathon. This race was 13.1 miles and covered more than 1643 total vertical feet of climb and descent behind me.

It was 38 degrees out when the gun went off at 8:00 Sunday morning.

I had such adrenalin rushing through me, I just took off ... lost in the heap of the runners running at a quicker pace than I was used to. I didn't see Angie or Heidi or Heather anywhere near me. I was ahead of them... and that began my focus to keep it that way. 

I know you're not supposed to start the race that way. 

You're suppose to start it off slower, so you have some energy in reserve to finish the race with.  But i didn't recognize my pace well enough to know if I was running faster except for not seeing any of the girls around me. So I threw caution to the wind and just ran. One foot after the other. 

The first mile was along a wide gravel road and then we turned onto Canyon trail and began the next four miles of climbing that took us from just over 200 ft above sea level to around 1400 feet above sea level.  Running up to that level was made more difficult by all the rocks sticking up and we had to snake our way around the various boulders and puddles...  the lyrics to the songs playing in my ears were fun and made it more personal.... 

Justin Timberlake singing ... "... so you pass to the left, then you sail to the right..." and Beyonce singing.. "To the left.. to the left.. to the left.. to the left.... "  as I kept maneuvering around the trails, passing some, others passing me... darting left and right, jumping over rocks and puddles... and then I started to feel rundown and worried my english muffin and banana I had for breakfast wasn't enough for this run, so i grabbed a strawberry clif shot block from my pouch.

It was soooo sweet. It was tooo sweet. 

It just sat there dissolving on my tongue and the thick syrupy juice was gliding down around the sides of my teeth and I didn't want to swallow it. I started to feel nauseous and started to dry-heave. That lasted for about 4 miles.

Heather caught up to me just before the second Aid Station and we started running together. We asked how each of us were doing. I told her I felt like I was gonna throw up.  She picked up her pace and I never saw her again.

A few minutes later, I saw my sister at the second Aid Station where she was volunteering and she snapped my picture.  "GO Shawn GO!!" she shouted. "You're doing great!!!!"

She turned to the others at the Aid Station and pointed at me, "That's my sister!"  They waved and cheered me on and I saw my neice Chelsea there, too! Their encouragement gave me so much more energy and off I ran right into this large puddle.
It's not surprising they call this Marsh trail. Running with wet feet... water sloshing around your toes... for 10 miles or more is really an experience. But there was no way getting around it, so i just had to acknowledge it and continue running.

The sisters-in-laws were still behind me. I started to worry I couldn't keep up this pace. But I tried. I really did. I figured I'll hurt for a day or two... but i'll give it my best shot.

I was struggling when I turned onto Ridge trail and was considering walking up the next 20 yards, but I was greeted by a few adults and their children ringing cowbells and carrying signs saying, "WAY TO GO!" and "YOU CAN DO IT!"

It was a perfect place for them to be.  And, I'm quite sure it wasn't by accident. I waved to them and thanked them.. and I picked up my pace as I grappled my way around these large deep ditches that looked like muddy river beds. The boulders were large and I tried to climb above, only to slip and fall back into this heavy deep slushy muck of mud. The mud was so intense, some lost their shoes in it. It was crazy. Each time I would step down into the mud, i felt it grip me back and not want to let me go.

It was somewhere amidst all that winding quick sand that Heidi saw me ahead of her and she zeroed in and I became the target to beat. And she did. Right there around Mile 8 or 9.

"No problem," i thought to myself. "I'll catch her going downhill.." But.   Something serious happened to me when I finally got to the summit and started to cascade down, I almost felt a snap.

I felt a pain that sprung on me that I had never felt before. I felt like a salamander who had it's leg partially severed off.

I had injured my illiotibial band. And from then on... though I was running downhill, it felt uphill all the way. I didn't feel I could control my right leg.

"ow-OW-ow-OW-ow-OW-ow-OW" i would shout for each step I ran. Then I would change it to "youcandoit.. youcandoit... youcandoit... youcandoit..."  then back to "ow-OW-ow-OW-ow-OW-ow". I was running back down that same boulder filled trail again that I started running up 9 miles earlier, only this time I was in pain and my fatigue had dulled my senses and the ability to lift my legs and pass to the left and sail to the right was much more of a struggle.

(this photo was taken around Mile 11... Matt took this and it was so encouraging to see him out there.. I picked up my pace even quicker after this shot was taken and after i saw him)
"ow-OW-ow-OW-ow-OW-ow-OW" ..... "youcandoit.. youcandoit... youcandoit... youcandoit...

About a mile and a half before the finish, I ran past a parked ambulance and it's emergency team helping one of our female runners who had taken a really bad fall against the rocky fire road. I stopped for a moment, worried it was Heather. 

"I'm fine... keep running!" the young woman smiled over her tears flowing down her cheeks. It wasn't Heather. I turned around and kept running. I was near the finish.

When I rounded the bend, I could see the crowd and finish line and started to push myself to run harder. I was in so much pain by then, but seeing the finish line .. the pain began to feel numb.

My mom, lloyd, ann, ed, wally, tyler, kate, guilliana, mark, tony and heidi were there to see me at the finish line. Heidi who finished about 6 minutes ahead of me, ran back toward the finish line with me and it helped pick up my pace. 

By the time I crossed the finished line, I had run 13.1 miles and covered 1643 total vertical feet of climb and descent behind me. I came in 11th out of my age group.. but just 222 out of 300 runners. 

Angie's knees were hurting her and she followed behind me equally the same distance as I was behind Heidi.

I am not a runner like my sister. But I ran the race. And that's what mattered to me the most. I did it! I accomplished my goal I had set out to do this past Thanksgiving! 

We really CAN do whatever we put our minds to doing ... if we want it bad enough.

Thank you for keeping up with my "running entries" these past 12 weeks. And for encouraging me along the way. It meant so much to me.  I never ever want to forget how this running experience has felt to me and I hope to do it again real soon.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence 
by every experience inwhich you really stop to look fear in the face. 
You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
~Eleanor Roosevelt


danny said...

Shawn! That was absolutely incredible, once again your post has left me breathless, like I had just run that 13.1 miles...but I didn't of course, you did!
Your entire saga of running and training and running some more is just awesome, and an inspiration to all of us who've been reading along! Congratulations and take care of your IT band...and toes!
The next race awaits, but rest first! :o)

doodlegirl said...

awww. Thank you danny sooo much! You've been such a great inspiration for me all these years. I appreciate you soooooo much! Thanks for your continual "waving them cow bells for me". You're the best!

Christine said...

Congratulations, Shawn! Wow. You did it, just like I knew you would! After just twelve weeks of training... and look at you, running your first half marathon in the mountains! I'm sorry that you got injured during the run and I hope you're already mending... but what a trooper to keep going like you did. You must still be on that natural high, feeling so empowered... I'm just so happy for you. =)

Jen and Angela said...

Yay! Go, Shawn, go! Has anyone ever told you that in addition to being a runner you are a GREAT writer? I love your posts. I am so proud of you. Congratulations! xoxo Jen

ValGalArt said...

WOW! i am speechless! it is as if i was there with you! i am in agony now... how are you now????
really something doodlegirl, you should be super proud of your bad self :D i am ;)

doodlegirl said...

Thanks Christine! I actually woke up this morning and felt somewhat the opposite of feeling empowered, but instead felt a bit bored that I don't have any goals to challenge myself with. So as I laid there I decided to join a new training group that begins at the end of February to train for a street half-marathon in May.

Jen! No one has told me that I'm a good writer. Thank you for this. Especially after this last post, I cringed when I hit the POST as it was sooo long, I worried I would scare everyone away.

Val-- you made me laugh! Sit down, I'll go grab you some water....