I went in to today with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I missed a lot of training time this summer, with the hideous weather. I also tore the heck out of my feet yesterday, picking up my race packet. (who the hell thought it was a good idea to make us pick up our packets at Navy Pier on a saturday? That's like making people pick up race packets in Times Square on New Years Eve. Except more annoying.) On the other hand, my long training runs went well. Like, REALLY well. I was probably as well-prepared as I'd never been for a half marathon.
I had butterflies as I walked to the car. My feet really hurt, I was nervous about getting there and finding parking, not getting lost. I followed the traffic and got swept up in the current that was parking at the museum. I thought that was a really sweet score until I got out to walk to the start line and realized they'd entirely remapped the course since the last time I ran this race, and I was close to a mile from the start line. FAIL.
It was foggy and chilly, just like they'd said it would be. The green flag was flying, meaning weather was ideal. I felt a little lonely, being there to run by myself, but mostly I felt really happy about it, because it left me free to run at whatever pace I chose, weaving in and out of the crowds and not worrying about losing a race buddy.
It started out really well, my pace was dead-on, my breathing felt good, and although my hip was sore, it was nothing I couldn't handle. My achilles, which have both been bothering me on and off since Katie was born, felt fine.
Somewhere around mile five, I was suddenly sharing a pace with a man who was attempting to clear his throat/cough/shake out a loogie with every. goddamn. breath. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I couldn't run any faster, I didn't want to slow down, and he would not cut that shit out. Eventually he stopped...and someone on the course started playing the macarena through a loudspeaker. You cannot make this shit up.
Somewhere around mile seven, it went from warm to straight-up hot, with a glaring sun. I wanted shade. I wanted a cool breeze. I wanted to WALK. "I will not walk, I will not walk, I will not walk," I started chanting to myself. I had managed seven miles without walking pleeeenty of times and there was no reason to walk. I chugged along. My hip gradually went from a dull ache to a nagging throb. The sun was beating down with no shady spot to ease into. I passed a gatorade station and it seemed like a good idea- maybe I needed some 'lytes and my hip would feel better. I took one sip and felt my gorge rise. Woops. I dropped the cup on the ground, splattering the person next to me. I feel pretty bad about that.
I made it to mile ten before the beating sun overcame my will power to keep running. Well, that and the announcement on the loudspeaker that they were changing the flag from green to yellow- stay hydrated, it's HOT, in other words. It was all the validation I needed to work my way to the curb and start walking. I was disappointed and sad, but I just didn't have it in me to keep running. The second I started walking, I knew it was a mistake. The nagging throb in my hip escalated to a searing pain that radiated all the way down my leg. I stepped onto the grass and tried to stretch. It didn't help. I was barely able to hobble at that point, and running seemed out of the question. I tried, and it was not pretty. I walked again, and by that time, could barely put any weight on the leg at all. I decided there was just no way around it- I was not going to finish this race. I needed to find an aide station. I started to wonder if I had a stress fracture in my hip, the pain was so bad. I hobbled along, cursing the lack of aide stations in this part of the course, and stepped off again to try to stretch. No help. Started walking again. I started wondering if they'd let me call Stephen, because I knew he would worry if someone else called. Then I started thinking about the girls, waiting at the finish line. I would have to explain to Gracie why I didn't come across with everyone else. And only finishers get medals. I wouldn't have a medal to hang on her neck.
And I started running again. At first, hobbling and keeping as much of my weight as I could on my left leg, but eventually, it loosened up again and I actually felt better. I tried to tell myself that I could run a 5k under any circumstances, and I should just keep running, but I knew I was going to be walking a lot, those last three miles. My goal going into it was to make it in 2:15, but I swore I'd be okay as long as I made it under 2:30 (my real goal was to run the entire thing without walk breaks, but that ship had obviously already sailed). I had been on track for a 2:10 finish, but that chance was gone. The 2:20 pace runner came up over my right shoulder, and I thought, okay. I can be totally happy with 2:20. My new strategy was to get ahead of her, give myself a walk break, then start up again after she'd passed me.
It worked. My official finish time was 2:19:02. Although it was not what I'd hoped for, it's still a personal record. I can't decide how I feel about it. I mean, yay and all. My training went as well as it could. I can't control the weather. I couldn't stop my hip from hurting so much. And I finished! But not the way I wanted to. And sometimes I think I'm never going to get my 2:10 PR. I started running too late- if I'd started when I was 14, I could easily pull out a sub-2hour half marathon- I'm totally built to run. But I didn't, I started when I was 28, so I'm never going to be as fast as I want to be. But on the other hand? When I was training for the full marathon, I KNOW I ran 13.1 in 2:10. I know I did. I just need the right weather. I just need to be healthy. I can do it. And both perspectives annoy me, because I haven't done it yet, officially.
At the end of the day, I finished the race, in spite of some wicked pain. I got to hang the medal from Gracie's neck (special thanks to the stranger who let me borrow her cell phone to call Stephen so we could meet up after I finished) (also thanks to Michelob Ultra for their kick-ass refresher towels, washcloths soaked in lemony, cooling water, that were passed out at the end of the race). And I get to say that I have run four half marathons. And I still have a 15k coming up in November, another chance to set a personal record:)