On Sunday, August 25th, I completed my first ever half marathon. An entire 13.1 miles. I’m still trying to grasp the concept of running 13.1 miles without stopping after a life of high intensity, explosive sports.
For all the exercise nerds out there, my muscle fibers are super dense, fast twitch. I was a thrower for 5 years in college – I lifted heavy stuff and put heavy stuff back down. Not a whole lot of slow twitch going on over here. But I wanted to run a half marathon, dang it. So I trained.
I began training for this 17 weeks in advance, on April 29th. My big brother, experienced half marathoner, sent me a 14 week training program that I tweaked a little to get me 17 weeks (I was too eager to start training and hadn’t even picked a half marathon to run in yet). I wrote my own 4 day weights program to compliment the running, changing up cycles every 4 weeks. I did in-home yoga (and sometimes at-work yoga) fairly consistently, and every day for the last 30 days. I had every intention of completing a Whole30 for the final 30 days before the race (more on that later). I was set.
When I first started training, I was having so much fun. I was learning so much new information about running and getting to try workouts at varying paces, which I have NEVER done before. I’ve always just trained for FAST. I’ve been running my whole life for sport, but it’s not the same as getting out to the track with a workout and a pace chart – plotting out your times before you even get to the track.
Weeks go by and I’m getting stronger, faster, leaner. Losing weight as a function of training rather than an intentional effort – what a great feeling. Then the 30 day timeline begins, Whole30 here we go.
Except… not quite. I made it 18 days before realizing that something was off. Now, I’ve completed a Whole30 before. But not while distance running. I went for my longest training run of 11 miles during my peak training week, just before the taper began. It was miserable, to say the least. I struggled, but I expected to struggle. I swallowed that and told myself I was supposed to be tired, this was the toughest week. Come Monday, about 3 weeks before race day, the taper began. My endurance run that week was 8 miles. I thought “I’m gonna crush this. 8 miles after 11 miles last week? Easy.” Right?
…Wrong. It felt like I had no gas in the tank, looking at my splits and seeing how slow I became after mile 4 was a huge red flag for me. I’m asking myself how this could be happening. “I’ve done all the training. What am I doing wrong?”
Phone a friend (or a brother). “Yeah you need hella carbs now… Peak running performance comes from glucose in your blood.”
Here is where I face palm. Duh. I knew that. If I was taking care of myself like I would talk care of a friend training for a half, I never would suggest anything low-carb. I simply could not eat enough potatoes on Whole30 to get the carbs I needed to train this hard. I stepped on the scale and realized I had lost 12 lbs just in the last two weeks. Losing weight is cool but not as cool as actually finishing your race. It was a fight against myself, but I took a good hard look at my goals and stopped my Whole30 early.
In those last couple of weeks before the race, I tried to make up for what I had lost. But I was worried. What if I don’t get this energy back? What if I’m this tired and gassed on race day and I can’t finish?
Night before the race – I’m nervous. Everything is ready. But I cannot sleep. 4:30am alarm. Hit snooze. 4:45am alarm, okay time to get up. As I’m getting ready in my normal morning routine, I remind myself that I never slept before track meets. This is normal. I remember that I have the power to choose my thoughts. So on that day I chose to trust my training.
I arrived to the start/ finish line in Westport of Kansas City 30 minutes before start time. I nervously waited for the bathroom with everyone else and managed to get to the start line about 60 seconds before the race began. I barely connected the GPS from my phone to my watch in time to start. (Super good timing, Nicole!) I could have freaked out, or I could just start running. So, I chose the latter.
I broke the race up in my head into 3 parts. The first 5 miles, the second 5 miles, and the final 3 (plus one block). My goals were to finish the race, without stopping, somewhere between 2:10 and 2:30. The first 5 miles, full of hills and nerves, went by quick. By mile 8, I was feeling good. I couldn’t believe how fast my pace was, I didn’t know if it would last so I rode it out. Mile 9, it’s drizzling. Mile 10, it’s absolutely pouring. I held my arms out for a moment and I laughed. I remembered a 10 mile training run I had in the rain and didn’t think twice about it.
I hit mile 11 and I smiled, remembering how much 11 miles hurt before and how good I felt in that moment. Without even realizing, I had said a phrase to myself that I used to say during volleyball two a days in high school amidst our dreadful 1 mile (laughing) run at the end of our morning workout. “The fast you run, the faster you get done.”
The last half mile was uphill and I was pushing, ready to finish. I’m telling you, when I turned the corner to finish that last .1, all I could do was smile. My body was finished but I crossed that line still running and holding my own self up. I walked straight to my friends and family and may or may not have lost some more water with happy tears.
2:13:14. Two hours, thirteen minutes, and fourteen seconds. No stops. Goal accomplished.
It feels good to take a big step outside of my comfort zone and do something different. I’ve been trying to navigate my retirement from sport for the last two years and training for this half marathon was a quiet reminder that I can still find ways to push and challenge myself outside of sport. What to do next? I’m not quite sure yet. But you all will be the first to know!
Ready to take a leap outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself to be better? Schedule a free mini session with me and let’s do this together.