Sunday, May 5, 2013

Post-Race Reflections

Ouch. Sleep.

Those are the two things that have been in my head for the past 31 hours or so. I am hurting. And I am tired. So sleepy. 

It all started with this blog post where I mentioned possibly doing a half marathon. Then my good friend Whitney commented asking me to do the Provo Half with her. She said it was downhill and a good one to start with. Fair enough. 

So I kept thinking about how I needed to find a training schedule. I would rely on Pinterest because I had already pinned several. But my first issue of Fitness Magazine came just in time. Flipping through it on the elliptical one day I came across a schedule for a 5K, 10K, and half marathon. And that's where I started. 

I have trained according to that traditional running schedule since February 19 or so. I've run 190 miles, short 4 miles of what the schedule had me down for. I've been totally committed to preparing for this race. I've run 4 days per week, with 1 cross training day, and 2 rest days. I've trained with intervals, hills, tempo runs, and a weekly long run. 

I've put in a lot of time and energy and sweat and research for this race. 

Things I've Learned

- You have to find what works for you. You can look up all sorts of things like what to eat before a race, how long to eat before a race, and what to eat during and after a race. Ultimately, you just have to try things out and figure out what works for you. 
---For example, I ate a banana about an hour before my runs. It was great fuel, and I didn't cramp. Of course I hydrated all day, like I always do. And I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch. 
---Unfortunately, I only experimented with mid-run fueling in the last two weeks of running. I only tried one type of fuel. I liked that it was natural, made from fruit. It was tasty, too. But I only had one packet at the most during my runs. 
---After the race I liked chocolate milk. It sounded like a horrible idea at first but turned out to be really yummy for me. I used Carnation Instant Breakfasts. The goal is a 4:1 or 3:1 carb to protein ratio. Eating within 30 minutes after your run is ideal for maximum absorption. 

- You need to warm up with movement: dynamic stretching. I knew this already, but I'm posting this in case anyone needs the info. DO NOT do static stretches. Here is a good place to start. Mostly I did butt kickers, raised my knees into my chest for about 30 reps total, hip circles, knee circles, and high kicks (swinging my leg up to my hand). Walk and light jog for about a quarter mile. Then start your time. 

- You need to cool down. EVERY TIME! I was good about this all but one time when I was in a hurry. It was awful the next day. It is so important to stretch and cool down. Your soreness will be significantly reduced or almost non-existent. This is the routine I use every time after every workout. 

- It is extremely important to cross-train the day after your weekly long run. Schedules are set up this way to keep your muscles loose and to make sure you can perform on your next run. Don't take your day off after your long run. 

Pre-Race Pains

I've lost about three toenails in the training process. I know this is probably gross. I don't even like to look at my feet. One toenail completely died--leaving my toe black. I've had lots of ingrowns as well that have gone away with some gentle rubbing (thanks, WebMD). Blisters have also plagued my feet. 

On April 17, I started to get sick. It was a sinus thing, as usual. It was on a much smaller scale than usual. It was about a week of sickness. But then it always lingers for another couple of weeks. Here we are, almost three weeks later, and I am still coughing up infection. No joke. I tried not to let this affect my training and ran anyway, but I was deeply concerned about it. I just tried to be grateful it wasn't as bad as usual. 

After I ran 9 miles for the first time, various pains started to kick in. Almost a different part of me was hurting after each different run. This was extremely discouraging after over a month and a half of training. My left hip was really bad after a couple of runs, making it difficult to even walk. It was making clicking sounds, even. I wasn't sure if this was because of the hills combined with my rotated pelvic bone. 

One run, scheduled for 5 miles, I had to stop at 1. I had horrible shin splints. I've only done minimal research on this, but basically the pain in the muscles just outside of my shin were hurting me almost to tears. I stopped several times to try and stretch it out and continue, but it just wouldn't stop. This was the second and last time this happened to me during training. The first time I easily stretched it out and felt better. The second time I couldn't even move. The pain was preventing my foot from flexing the way that it needed to. 

On the Monday before my run, my ankle was giving me all kinds of pain. 

A couple of different occasions left me with pain on the inside of my knee. My friend Kristen said this is called runners' knee. I hadn't really had any knee pain up until the past couple of weeks. 

In the last week during my runs, my feet started to hurt--mostly my left foot. I think I need new shoes, but also wondered if this was due to poor form in my running. I always shoot for a mid-foot strike rather than a heel strike. I strongly believe this has caused me a lot less pain throughout training. Along the inside of my left foot, along the arch and just above it is where I was experiencing pain. 

You can probably guess that this plethora of pain just a couple of weeks before my run left me somewhat discouraged, and extremely concerned about how the actual run would go. I have been reading through a book called Chi Running. I believe that all the pain we get from running can be avoided through implementing proper form (mid-foot strike, alignment, leaning, etc.). I still have a long way to go, obviously. But I believe that a lot of the reason I am not in even more pain is because of the parts I have tried to implement. 

My Meltdown

In the last couple of days before my run, I started getting really overwhelmed and extremely emotional. After two and a half months of training, with a very stressful and busy schedule of work, run, work again, sleep, institute (church class) on Wednesday, and other obligations coming up, you can imagine that I was and am rather exhausted. Knowing I was coming to the end of my training was overwhelming because the moment I had been working for was finally upon me.

But then all the fears started to take over. "What about all of these pains I've been having? What if they stop me in the middle of my race?" My knees, my hips, my ankles, my feet... I've worked so hard for this, what if I can't finish? 

And all of the negative thoughts started pouring into my head. "You can't do this." "You'll get a slow time." "You're not a runner. Look at your body. That's not a runner's body." "You have no idea what you're doing." 

Additionally, I got the email from the organization a few days before the race. They said I should pick up my race packet the night before instead of the morning of. This doesn't seem like a big deal except that I live 45-50 minutes away from the place. And I had to do visiting teaching coordinating for a couple of hours after work on Friday. Going down there and getting back to Salt Lake and getting any sleep just didn't seem practical. I'd have to stay the night at my grandma's in Lehi to lower my travel time. All because of this stupid packet pickup. 

Thursday night, I wanted to get a fuel belt. I had to go to the running store. So I went with Kristen. I got the one he demonstrated (I thought). I went grocery shopping and picked up some more fuel packets because the guy at the store recommended fueling every 45 minutes. 

I also had put off downloading my race music. I had to because I knew Pandora probably wouldn't be working up in the canyon. This was an ordeal. And I was up till 11:30 working on it all and trying to get my phone to sync, trying not to cry from stress and exhaustion. I was so stressed thinking about the next day, hoping that I'd packed everything I needed. 

I was stressed also because I am NOT a morning runner. I have tried exercising in the morning. My energy stores are low, and I am slow and have terrible workouts. For the race, I'd have to be there at 5 AM and run by 7 AM. This was causing me a lot of anxiety. 

I was stressed because I'd be sleeping in a bed that was not my own. Changing my routine the night before a race just seemed like the worst thing I could do. And would I be able to sleep at all?!

Regardless, I tried to make the best of everything. I had everything packed and ready to go on Friday morning so I could work, go to the church, and go straight to my grandma's.

So Friday night, I got done with visiting teaching stuff (thanks to Danya) around 5:45. I had to stop at home after work to get the church key--the ONE thing I forgot. But all the visiting teaching stuff went smoothly, and I was grateful for Danya's help. I didn't get to my grandma's till about 6:25 (thanks, traffic). She drove us to the mall, and we got my packet. Number 994. New shirt. Shoe chip. Coupons. 

Grandma and I ate at Pizza Pie Cafe because they were offering discounts to racers and racers' families. The wait was 20 minutes or so even though there were tons of open tables. We weren't impressed. There was no silverware available. The salad ran out--spinach too. They brought out some Alfredo sauce without even cooking it. Yeah. Yikes. We chatted and tried to enjoy the food anyway. 

We got back to my grandma's at about 9:30 PM. I went through the email with her, parking locations, and all sorts of other things. We discovered that my fuel belt actually wouldn't fit my fuel packets. So my grandma took quite a bit of time releasing some of the seams so that I could fit them in. I'm so grateful she did that. 

We laced my chip to my shoes.

I remembered around 11 PM that I had to charge my wireless headphones. Wish I had remembered earlier. 

We had a prayer together, and I'm so grateful for that too. 

I finally got into bed at 11:30, planning on about 4 hours of sleep before running 13.1 miles. Another reason to cry. But I tried to keep it together and just sleep as best I could. 


I woke up at 3:50 AM and said a prayer, begging to be free from pain and to have the energy I would need. 

I had a piece of toast with almond butter, honey, and half a banana sliced on it. I'd eat the rest of the banana an hour before the race. 

When I got there, I realized I had nowhere to put my keys. I walked over to the buses. I saw the tents, where "the crowds" would be picking up their packets. There was no one. I could have gotten my packet in the morning. In retrospect, I could have gone home from church at 6, eaten, gone to bed by 7 or 8, gotten up at 3, left at 4, and gotten to Provo by 5. I would have been fine. That stupid email induced panic for me and caused me to only get 4 hours of sleep. I know better now. You're fine getting your packet on the morning of. 

On the bus, I realized that I hadn't taken off my glasses. I absolutely cannot run with my glasses. They don't stay on my nose even when I am not sweaty. I started to panic. I didn't bring a bag to use the bag drop service. 

I asked those around me what they thought I should do. I texted my friend Tonia. She said to find someone to share a bag with, or they might have bags at the top. This caused me serious anxiety and stress for quite some time; I prayed for comfort that things would work out. After being in the freezing canyon for about a half hour, it was finally light enough for me to see the water table. They had bags and markers. Thank the Lord. I felt so much better. I put my glasses and keys in a bag. 

They had fires going in the canyon to keep the runners warm. I wished I had brought a bunch of layers knowing I could put them in a bag to send down with the bag drop. I decided at the last second to take only 2 fuel packets with me. I knew every 45 minutes would be too much. 

I lined up with the 10:49 minute mile to finish with a time of 2:20, without any expectation of myself to finish or stay with them. I planned on taking it easy, especially the first two miles with a huge elevation drop, to save my energy for later. I lost sight of that group pretty early on, with intentions of simply enjoying myself and finishing the race. I set a goal of 2:30, hoping I'd finish around 2:23 at an eleven minute mile. I wanted to give myself some leeway to try to beat my goal. An 11 minute mile was my pace at my 11 mile training run, so I thought 2:30 would be reasonable. But I wanted to just take it easy and try to enjoy it. 

Race Time

This is where all my prayers were answered. And my grandma's prayers. And the prayers of everyone who knew about my race. I was excited. I felt ready. I was going to do this. 

For the first six miles up in the canyon, I had amazing energy. I was happy to be running. I was just enjoying myself and taking it easy--taking my time. I was looking at the trees. I rubbed the backs of my freezing hands and tried to warm them up--my only discomfort for a while.

In the first few miles, I ran by Nunns Park. There were these cute little boys standing by the trail cheering everyone on. They made me smile. At mile 4, enjoying the scenery and the run, I looked up at the blue sky and thanked my Heavenly Father for helping me to feel so great and have so much energy at 7 AM with 4 hours of sleep. 

Around mile 5, my left foot started to hurt in the arch area like I had been experiencing. I could deal with that. I smiled and ran through it, grateful that was the only thing causing me pain. 

At mile 6, I turned the messages on my phone and let my fan club know that I felt amazing and was doing great. I went to the bathroom, ate a fuel packet, and drank two cups of water. I was feeling great and wasn't sure I needed the fuel, but I ate it anyway, since it had been about an hour, and I still had over an hour to go. 

I passed the mile 8 mark smiling at the people with water. I didn't need any. At mile 10, I grabbed a water cup and swallowed another fuel packet. I didn't feel like I needed it then either, but ate it anyway thinking it'd give me energy. 

With about 2.5 miles left, I started feeling a little bloating in my stomach. But my knees felt good, my hip was great, legs felt fantastic. I was smiling almost constantly, just enjoying my music and my run. I couldn't believe I had run so far and didn't feel tired. 

With about 2 miles left, "Titanium" came on. I started to feel a serious adrenaline rush. This is my workout jam. It was great. 

I passed the hamburger joint on University Avenue and realized how close I was. It really hadn't felt like I had run that far or put out that much effort. I texted my fan club (Kristen and Grandma, roommate couldn't make it) to let them know I'd be there in about 11 minutes. 

I passed by some people sitting outside their homes. One sign said, "Your perspiration is my inspiration." That made me laugh. 

When I could see the finish line, Requiem for a Tower Mvt IV by Cornerstone Cues came on. That is a serious victory song. It was followed up by Kesha's "Tik Tok," which is also fantastic. Victory was close, and I had had a GREAT time. The run was beautiful and enjoyable and minimally painful (thanks, foot). 

I could hear my grandma yelling from the sidelines on my left. I waved at her as she recorded me running past her. I also saw my friends Kristen and Julie cheering me on at the left. I smiled and waved at them, so grateful that they came so far to support me. 

I crossed the line with the clock reading 2:45. I was really disappointed. It took away from my feelings of pride at the finish line. I was confused, because I had passed by the 2:29 mile pacer a long time ago. And then my stomach started to hurt. 

Post Race

I don't know how much I want to talk about this part. My body felt great. I still had energy. My knees, legs, ankles, hip, everything felt totally fine. But my stomach. Oh, my stomach. My first thought was, "It must be the fuel packets." I had never had two in one run before--only one. I started keeling over in immense pain. I got in line for the Honey Buckets--gross. And the pain continued even after that. I was being a huge complainer because it was hurting so badly. 

I crouched down and felt so bad that my fan club was there trying to be positive and proud of me, and I was in the most ironic kind of pain--pain that had nothing to do with my run. 

Fortunately, my grandma had some Imodium. After about 20 minutes, the pain started to subside. 

I re-scanned my QR code for my time results. I saw that I had met my goal. 2:30:06. I felt better that it wasn't 2:45. I had met my goal, even though I hadn't beaten it like I had hoped. 

After some stretching and chatting and picture-taking, Kristen and Julie left. My grandma and I got some free Magleby's Fresh French toast. We also stood in the ridiculously long line for 5 minute massages, where they rubbed my calves and only one butt cheek, because, you know, I only used one of those during the run... What? For reals? Whatever. It's just funny. 

We walked to my grandma's car, where she had a cute "To do" list pad and pen waiting for me, and some cute, bright flowers. Isn't she the cutest? She took me to my car. 

Then I drove to my friend Brianne's house in Pleasant Grove to drop off a long overdue Christmas present. 

I got home around 1 PM. My roommate felt really bad that she couldn't make it to my race. So she decorated the apartment. She also made a shirt she wanted to wear for me at the race. 

I unpacked, showered, ate, took a Lortab, and then got in bed around 2:45. I got up around 5 PM to get ready for dinner at Zupas and stake conference afterward. 

Zupas was delicious. Conference was good. And I got back in bed around 9:15. I didn't wake up till 9:20 this morning. Today I have done 2 loads of laundry, done all my lesson plans, 15 minutes of yoga, finished visiting teaching, emailed visiting teaching assignments out (and posted them on Facebook), gone to stake conference, and written 2 articles. 

And now it is Sunday night, and I am in pain and still exhausted to tears. I am glad it is done. I am grateful I felt so amazing physically and mentally during the run. I honestly had an amazing time and know it was due to all my preparation and everyone's prayers being answered. 

Here are some pictures. 

Running to finish with Grandma yelling, "Go Nae Nae!"

My race shirt.

My roommate's cute shirt. 

I'm so grateful for everyone's support and enthusiasm and prayers throughout all of this. It's been an awesome and difficult experience, to say the least.