Friday, June 3, 2016

My First Half Marathon Recap: Gate City Took Me for an Emotional Ride

 Anyone close to me, my parents, my husband, my friends that are my family, know that I'm notorious for holding myself back in life. Whether it's in my career, my schooling or just getting ahead I do things to sabotage myself. My weight is a prime example of this. I know how to eat healthy and exercise, but I can go long periods of time where I consciously abuse myself with food.

My running is not safe from my self-sabotaging.

And this is exactly what I did to myself during my very first half marathon, the inaugural Gate City Half on Sunday, May 15. The race I'd been training 4 months for. 

All that training, all the time away from my family, all of my hard work and effort that I put in and I fell back into old habits and held myself back. I kept myself from running the race I knew I could. I let myself down. 

Let me just say that before we go any further I don't want you to think I'm going to be all emo about my race results. These past few weeks I've gone back and forth between feeling extremely proud of myself for completing a half marathon when less than a year ago I couldn't stand running and extremely disappointed in how I ran that race, that I held myself back and didn't run the race I was capable of. 

At the start of it I was nervous, scared even. The enormity of what I was about to do got to me. I tried to tell myself it was just another long run but my brain knew better. I was nervous but excited too. After the gun went off I spent a good 5 minutes slowing my pace down. I couldn't run a 9mm half marathon. I wouldn't make it past 5 miles. I managed to get myself down to an 11 minute mile where I knew I would be comfortable for the first 5 miles or so of the race. Then I needed to pee. 

I tried not to think about it but as I was completing the first loop (it consisted of 3) back to the start I remembered where the porta-potties were and made a break for it. I didn't care that it would add 2 minutes to my finishing time. I wanted to be comfortable for the next 7 miles.

The Halfway Point



After kissing my family and hugging a childhood friend who surprised me by coming out to watch me run, I was off for loop 2. The wind really beat me up here. I knew that I needed to crank up the pace but I just couldn't. I felt like I was running in place for most of it.  I also had lost my pack so I was running solo. I felt incredibly lonely. Usually, I prefer to run by myself but today this really bugged me. I did pass a runner here and there, but I noticed even the water stops didn't have many volunteers. The vibe was different. It was desolate.  

Surprisingly, it took me until mile 8 to believe I could finish the race that no matter what happened I would get it done. This was another proud moment and I think it shows in my time for the following mile. 

By mile 9 Florence and the Machine's "Dark Days are Over" came on over my headphones and I was finally able to crank my pace up. Incredibly,  this was my fastest mile of the half marathon. It still wasn't as fast as I knew I could go this late in the game though. 

Let me say that again:  Mile 9 was my fastest mile. I'm proud of that. 


By mile 10 "AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" came on which was perfect because my left ankle started to go and I felt like I was on my way to hell. Searing pain radiated up from it. I stopped at the next water station to stretch it out but it didn't help. I pushed on. 

By this point I just floated on the realization that I was going to see my family for the second and last time before the finish. 

Mile 11 took me back to the start/finish line. While grabbing Gatorade the volunteer looked at me, looked at my bib and said, "Sabrina!  Look over there!"  My family was screaming and cheering me on to keep moving.  I also saw my friend Ang and called to her.  She had been wanting to run a leg with me and I knew she would catch up with me at the end which is exactly what she did.  She told me to hurry up and we were off for the last 2 miles.

Now miles 12-13.1 were uncharted territory for me.  My training had only taken me as far as 11 miles.  In retrospect, I really wish I had made the effort to get the full 13.1 miles in.  It would have lessened some of my pre-race anxiety.  I really feel like my nerves just zapped me.

I expressed my concern to my friend and told her that my pace was waaaay off.  She quickly replied with what I kept telling myself in my head but my heart didn't believe, "No, it's not.  It's your first half marathon.  Whatever you get is a PR. You don't want to set the bar too high on your first time out because then you can't PR the next time."

I kept moving.

I hit mile 12.5 and it sucked.  In order to complete the last 2 miles of the race I had to re-do part of the first loop I ran.  The volunteers warned us that some of it was going to look familiar and not to worry.

I let out a loud, "Ugh. Not this again." when I saw where we were.  This part of the course wasn't bad, it wasn't scenic either, but I just had no desire to be back where I had started.  I just wanted to be D-O-N-E.


At this point I really wanted to walk.  I was hurting.  I felt like I was just walking fast and barely moving.  But my friend just kept encouraging me and taking pictures of me to document the moment. It kept my mind off the pain in my left ankle.



When I hit the mile 13 marker the volunteers started clapping and other runners that were done racing gave me thumbs up.  I started singing out loud, "My quads are in fire!" as I approached the finish line.


But I did it.  I hobbled to the finish line.  As soon as I was done the race director gave me my medal and told me she loved my Wonder Woman headband because she has the same one.  I told her it was my first half marathon and that earned me an extra congratulations.

I limped back to my family who immediately sat me down.  My best guy friend who had driven down from Maine to cheer me on asked, "Um, you do realize you are limping, right?"  Right.

My 3 year old daughter gave me my Train Like a Mother 13.1 medal that I had earned for completing the half marathon training program through Another Mother Runner.

Friends from my running group, Mom's Run This Town, came over to congratulate me.

Ang handed me a jello shot.  I had earned it.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing and trying to figure out what happened, why my pace was so off.  Why couldn't I ever seem to speed it up?  Why did I hold myself back yet again?  Surely, I did something to sabotage this race for myself.  Why can't I live up to my potential once and for all?

Then I looked at my Garmin, specifically at the elevation chart. One look at it told me all that I needed to know.  This wasn't a flat course.  It was fairly hilly with an elevation gain of over 300 feet.  My poor ankle that sustained a ligament tear in the fall was put to the test with all the of rolling hills.


Realizing this gave me some reassurance that I ran the best I could on a hilly course while being battered by wind gusts of up to 30 MPH.

I'm proud to be a half marathoner.  I didn't run like I knew I could but there were circumstances out of my control.  You can't train for wind for one.

There was only one way to make myself feel better about this race.  I signed up for my next one on October 2.  Smuttynose Rockfest here I come!

It's billed as being flat and fast by the way.  


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