WHAT A GREAT WEEKEND!
I’ve finally recovered (it’s been 2 days) and I’m ready to share my race recap.
The ODDyssey half marathon in Philadelphia was a fantastic first! With the help of our two veteran racer friends, Mama C and I rocked our first 13.1 mile race.
The race excitement started with a trip to Boathouse Row to pick up our race packets. While the expo was really small and we regretted that we didn’t “upgrade” to the tech shirt for $12 extra, it was still so fun to hold the race bib and think “wow, it’s finally for real”.
Being a newbie half marathoners, we had no idea what to do the evening before. We wound up going out to dinner, eating bread and pasta (we’ll find any excuse to eat bread and pasta), and walked around Rittenhouse square for a bit. It was a gorgeous evening and the city was alive.
We tried to turn in at 10pm so we were ready for our 4:30 am wake up call, but that proved to be more difficult than the race itself (just kidding). I had so many thoughts and questions running…racing…(puns intended?) through my head: am I hydrated enough, did I eat the right things today and this week, am I going to be able to poop when I wake up so I don’t have to go during the race, how many caffeinated Gu should I take, do I drink coffee in the morning, will I be able to eat anything or will I be to nervous, will I cry at the end of this race, will my family make signs? I have no idea when I fell asleep, but I was glad that I got a few hours in, maybe 5.
Up at 4:30 and showered quickly just to wake up. I choked down cold Ezekiel break with peanut butter while Mama C did the same with her english muffin. We decided we were snobs and only like our bread toasted now. We got dressed, applied just the right amount of make up so we didn’t look like death before we even started the race, guzzled some water, and stretched. By 5:45 am we had met up with our two Mama friends who were also running the race and we headed out the door of the Radisson Blu to catch the shuttle. Since were moved from a different hotel to the Radisson we had about a 5 block walk to the shuttle stop. The sun was up and shining bright; we knew it was going to be a hot day already. I kept getting nervous feelings inside, not butterflies, not exactly the waves either…this time it felt like little fireworks were going off and fizzling out as they went down my body. As we walked, we could see runners emerging from all streets, everyone meeting up at the same corner.
The shuttle was on time and was an easy ride. It dropped us off almost right at the starting line, well pretty much at the start of the Port-o-potty line. The Please Touch Museum was where we started.
We used The Royal Flush (I think that was the company’s name) 3 times before the race, Mama C and I were actually still in line for our 3rd time when the first wave of runners got started. We figured since it was chip timed, our race didn’t start until we got there so we had plenty of time.
At the starting line, I was a bundle of nerves. As the horn continued to blow and get then next wave of runners out on the course, my legs started to feel more and more like jelly. I believe everyone either walking or running was out on the course within 15 minutes which was really great. I think we started 13 minutes into it. When my feet finally touched the starting line, my legs felt like lead and tears welled up in my eyes. I actually cried a bit for the first tenth of a mile. I think it was just a release. I was so happy that the day was finally here, I was so proud of all the hours and time we spent preparing for this moment, I was overwhelmed by the task in front of me, and I felt overjoyed at the thought of being able to say out loud “I ran 13.1 miles today.” This was the moment I had waited months for, this was the day my body was going to carry me further than I had ever gone before. I quickly pulled myself together so I could breath steadily, it’s not good to cry while you run.
We got into a groove and hung around in a large pack of people for about 3-4 miles. We were able to weave in and out of people, we passed some, and we were able to keep up a good steady pace. We felt really good despite the heat of the day that was already starting.
Between miles 4-6 the pack started to thin out and there was more space. One thing that threw us off was the first water station. I can’t remember exactly where it was, but I don’t think they were expecting this giant glob of people wanting water. We didn’t wear our fuel/hydration belts because we wanted to feel free. Well we paid for that decision at the first stop because we had to stop and wait in a line for our one cup of water which wasn’t enough. I declared at that moment that I will never run another race without my hydration belt. Somewhere in those miles we also went down a really giant steep hill and a few tenths of a mile after it we saw a mile marker with the number 12 on it facing the opposite way. My heart sank. I knew we were going to have to run that hill in the middle of mile 12 and I tried to stay calm and tell myself to reserve a little in the tank for that beast.
At about mile 6 Mama C and I split up, our paces just weren’t syncing up this morning. My body was falling into a groove of about a 10:45/mile pace and I needed to go with it. I felt amazing from miles 6-8. I loved hearing the shoes on the pavement, I took in the scenery, and just continued to stay positive.
Mile 9 is where things started to break down a bit for me. Without a buddy, without any music, or anyone talking on the course, my run started to get a little too quiet for me. Anyone who knows me knows I love quiet. I love quiet runs, I like to be inside my head, I can daydream for hours on any given day. But this particular morning, I needed cheering, and music, and lots of smiling. Mile 9 was quiet and I was fatiguing so started to get a little nervous. I reassured myself that my second wind was coming any minute now and it was going to carry me to my victory…
Mile 10 is when I started to unravel. There was no second wind yet. I tried to pick people to help me pace myself but it always felt like I’d look around at something else and when I looked back to spot them again somehow they were gone. I was really fatiguing at this point and had a Gu, but that didn’t seem to help. I can’t even remember this mile. I just know I told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and that I was so close to the end, except it didn’t feel close at all and I knew I had at least 30 more minutes of running plus a giant mammoth hill to conquer.
Mile 11 is when I mentally lost my shit. Forgive my language, but there is no other way to put it. I was anxiety ridden about the hill, there was no second wind, just fatigue and fear. I just wanted to see my family to draw some energy from them, and I was REALLY lonely at this point. I figured this must be what it feels like if you’re on a deserted island. At 11.7 miles I told myself I could take a walk break until mile 12 and then I was going to go balls out one more mile. I slowed down and started to walk, my breathing was ragged because of fatigue and fear of the hill (I really didn’t want to walk up this hill, this was my problem the whole time – we train on hills, I didn’t want this hill to beat me). As I was giving myself one last pep talk at mile 11.8, I see a race photographer pick up his camera and point. I said “Oh, hell no” and I started to run again. I never did get my breathing under control like I had wanted to, but I thought too bad, I’ve got to get this over with.
Mile 12 is when I found said shit and pulled it back together and faced my fear. Though I slowed down considerably, I did not stop on that freaking hill. I was going to die on that hill if I had to (trust me, there’s a picture of me at the top that pretty much shows that’s what happened). Toward the top of the hill I saw my 8-year-old son sitting in the grass not paying attention. Barely audible, I got out “Liam…” when Mama C’s husband saw me and shouted to him for me. He quickly picked up his sign, smiled, and started running closer to me. My soul needed that so bad. Then suddenly I saw my husband (AKA Mr. Pictures – inside family joke) running from some other place with a camera in his hand. I heard him “cheering” which was really him trying to motivate me in a really bad way…he was yelling at me to go faster. Who does that at mile 12.8 after an evil hill? Mr. Pictures does. As the laser beams shot out of my eyes, I saw him smiling and I saw Liam running to the next spots around curves so he could hold up the sign again for me. His sign said “Run Mama Run” and Ryan’s said “Our Mamas Got Sole”. I loved the signs, my legs found the strength they needed to finish. At this point there was more of a crowd and people were shouting words of encouragement like “You’re almost there! The finish line is right around the corner!” I think I was a bit delirious, thought they were all lying…I couldn’t see the finish line at all. All I could see were more people continuing to run in front of me.
When I finally rounded the last corner, I caught a glimpse of that finish line. I picked up the pace – I felt like I was lightening speed, but I’m sure it was absolutely not. I crossed that finish line and everything fell into slow motion. I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t feel anything, and it just became a dream. I grabbed my medal and stopped for a minute trying to catch my breath. I looked around for Ryan and Liam and it was surreal. It took me a minute to figure it out, but it was over. I had done it.
After grabbing some water and finding my family, I went back to the sidelines to cheer Mama C on as she crossed the finish line. She looked SO STRONG running that last .1 mile. I was so proud of her. So proud of us!
Day 1 after the race…
Curse you, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)! I woke up on Monday morning and sat up in bed to take inventory. My legs felt fine, but holy smokes, did my ribs and core hurt! From breathing so heavily, my abs, lats and all the little muscles in between my ribs (intercostals if you will) were crazy sore. It hurt to yawn, sneeze, and be alive in general. I texted Mama D to check in and make sure I was supposed to feel this way and she replied “You just put your body through hell. Enjoy the pain!” And so I popped some Aleve, remembered Mama S and her angry quads, and embraced it all as a memory of my huge accomplishment.
Day 2 after the race…today.
Back to normal today! Soreness is gone and I was back out there for our Soleful Mamas track night. Mama C and I ran 4 miles without a pain or complaint. It actually felt really good. I’m beyond impressed that my body had started to recover so quickly. I guess that means we can go do another one soon. 🙂
What I liked about this race…
My favorite thing about this race was the course. It was beautiful, scenic, and natural. As the course progressed, it took us past the Fairmount Horticultural Center and the Belmont Plateau, past old mansions, and right down to the Schuylkill River. We ran along Kelly Drive and West River Drive crossing at the historic Falls Bridge.
Another thing I really liked about this race was that it was as lighthearted or as serious as you wanted to make it. There were many runners dressed in costume (there was a contest for best costume), and there were fun activities to do along the way during the race. Those two things were a pressure release for me and they did a nice job of creating a fun, easy-going atmosphere.
It was really easy to get the shuttle to/from the race to Center City where the hotels were. That was really helpful.
Lots of port-o-potties with hand sanitizer and toilet paper. All good things.
Best sign of the day: Don’t trust that fart.
What I wish I could change about this race…
The hill during mile 12. Scratch that, I wish I didn’t know about the hill at mile 12. I didn’t like anticipating that for a good part of the race.
I wish I would have been able to get my complimentary beer and glass afterwards, but the line was so long and we couldn’t wait because we needed to get back to the hotel and check out. I didn’t even want the beer, but I did want the glass so that was a bummer.
More music, more crowd, more cowbell…more ANYTHING along the way. I did NOT like that crazy lonely feeling during miles 10 and 11.
I will now bring my own water everywhere I go. I will likely still stop at the water stations along the way, but at least now I’ll have a choice.
I will also bring music/ear buds so I’m ready. Again, I’ll have the choice to either use them or not depending on how I feel.
Trust the training, trust the body, and set little goals along the way. Even if it’s just to get to the next water station to walk while you hydrate. I did this from miles 9-12 and it helped.
I need a good go to mantra for when my brain is exploding during mile 11. At that point I couldn’t think of anything so I just kept falling forward.
WHEW! That was a long post! Glad you made it through. I hope you find some inspiration tomorrow, then run with it!