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– George Sheehan
Myrtle Beach Mini (half) Marathon – 10/24/10
1:51:16 – 13.23 miles – 8:24/mile pace
359 / 2698 runners overall
108 / 1698 female runners
27 / 256 females age 25-29
Wow wow wow. Yesterday was a learning experience in so many ways. I don’t even know where to begin. If I wasn’t so sore, I’d go for a nice long run to sort it out…most of my best blog posts come to me on a good run! And while I have a lot to share about the whole weekend, I’m just going to start with the half marathon itself while it’s fresh on my mind.
Yesterday morning, I met up with my little sister and drove over to the start of the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon at Medieval times. We visited the porta potty, visited the horses in their stables, and watched some knights in shining armour joust. Gotta love pre-race entertainment! I was nervous, but not nearly as nervous as I had expected to be. I was more of a wreck 48 hours prior, but I think I had come to terms with my race plan….either I was going to do it or I wasn’t. No need to be nervous. Just do it. I met up with my friend Christine. A sub-3 hour marathon herself, she had volunteered to pace me to a PR. She genuinely had more faith in my capabilities as a runner than I did, and as doubtful as I was about it (on my part, not hers!), I took her up on the offer to get me to a 1:50 half marathon. 8:23/mile pace. Fortunately, we didn’t wait around too long, so I didn’t have time to start freaking out. Here goes nothing.
Mile 1 – 8:46: Ahh open corrals. We started in the 8:00-9:00/mile corral, though it seems most people in this area were running 9:00-10:00/miles. LOTS of weaving in, out and around slower runners. It was probably a good thing though, as it allowed my body to warm up.
Mile 2- 8:14: Up and over the overpass. Holy cow, I ran that pace up and over the biggest hill in Myrtle Beach? Who would have thought!? Great conversation with Christine about all sorts of things. Shoes, babies, tattoos, exercise science. See why we get along so well? haha 🙂
Mile 3, 4, 5 – 7:52, 8:04, 8:07 – Feeling good. Still talking up a storm. Decided our plan of attack was to bank whatever time we could. Christine told me that her general plan when she is racing is to also bank the minutes in the beginning because she, just like me, often suffers from random bouts of angry stomach. Since you never know when that’s going to hit, you might as well run hard when you feel good. My nutrition plan for this race was a single cliff shot block somewhere between every 2 and 3 miles. I’ve realized that my body does better having a steady level of blood glucose, AND digesting calories slowly and steadily. 100 cals all at once every 45 mins-hour is just too much for my body to handle. We did a short out and back and I was able to see a few local runners (Melissa and Elena!) coming in the other direction. It’s always such a boost when you hear someone shout your name!! Somewhere around mile 5 I realized I was about to hit an unofficial 10k PR (unofficial because it wasn’t a 10k race)
Mile 6, 7, 8 – 8:13, 8:14, 8:19 – Hit the unofficial 10k PR in 50:52 (previous 10k record is 51:20). Started to feel the burning in my quads. We passed a 13 year old named Emma and her dad. Emma was running her first half marathon (and she was cruising, passed us later on!) We congratulated her, and I told her when I was 13, I DREADED running the one mile in gym class. So she was way ahead of me already. Haha!
Somewhere around mile 8 I put a cliff block in my mouth and after a few seconds spit it right back out. When you really start breathing hard, sticking one of those big clunky blocks in your mouth took way too much effort. I nearly gagged on it. Bye bye race nutrition. (for future races, I plan to cut these things in half pre race, and carry them in a plastic baggie). I felt my mind starting to creep in and remind me of how much my legs were starting to hurt. My breathing was no longer easy and steady, but becoming a bit labored and inconsistent. Christine noticed, and told me to stop talking, she would do all of the talking from here on out. The night before she had asked me to think of 5 things I am thankful for and 5 people who are struggling more than I am at that moment. She started calling on them now, telling me to visualize them, to gain strength from these people.
Mile 9,10,11 – 8:22, 8:38, 8:42: I never walked. Not once. But around mile 9 my breathing started to get the best of me, so I told Christine that we needed to slow down. Just for about a minute or so at a time, we would slow down to the 9:30 ish pace, catch my breath, and pick it back up. Oddly enough, when I’d slow down, though I’d catch my breath, my legs would hurt that much more. Christine continued talking me through visualizations.
Mile 12, 13 – 8:55, 8:55; Ow, ow , ouch, ow. My legs were on fire. I realize now that I’ve never, I mean never pushed myself this hard. Because I’ve never felt that type of burning in my legs before. I couldn’t help but wonder how they were even moving, but they were. (and on a side note, I didn’t mention it to Christine at the time, but I realize I WAY chickend out on my VO2 max test last year and called it quits way too soon. Seriously, I clearly freak at the first inkling of “wow this is hard”) But the sore quads isn’t what got me at this point. I was dizzy. I think it was a combination of coming in and out of sunny patches (I mean, sun in the eyes blinding) to shaded patches, (silly me forgot glasses or a hat) and remember the spitting out of the cliff block before mile 8? That was the last time nutrition passed my lips (other than half a sip of Gatorade). I was bonking and I was bonking bad. Low on fluids, fuel, and electrolytes. Bonk, bonk, bonk. I knew better, but in the heat of the race you tend to forget. And now that voice in my head was getting the best of me. “quit. Walk. This is so hard!” it was taunting me. I remember at one point telling Christine “please do not let me walk”. Thank goodness she was by my side, because I honestly can’t say that I wouldn’t have stopped if she hadn’t been there.
These last miles were on Ocean Boulevard, so I KNEW we were close. But sometimes, knowing you are so close just makes the race SEEM that much harder, and make the miles seem to drag out even further. I had to slow my pace down quite a few times to get through the dizzy spells. Christine was a saint! Seriously, I do not think I could thank her enough for what she did for me yesterday. She kept telling me that I was GOING to do this, she would NOT let me quit. She kept telling me I was a strong runner. I HAD this. She was yelling at the spectators (no really, yelling at them, I don’t know what was with the spectators at this race but clearly 99% of them hadn’t had any form of caffeine that morning), telling them to cheer for me, this was hard work! And she kept telling people I was about to PR. I couldn’t smile on the outside, but it made me smile on the inside. I know how I felt at that point, so I can only imagine how I looked. I remember at one point she said to me “remember, you aren’t going to actually physically die from this”. I giggled a little. I must have really looked awful!
We finally came to the last corner and turned onto the boardwalk for the last four-tenths of a mile. WORST PART OF THE RACE! While I’m sure it took less than 5 minutes, it felt like 30. I couldn’t physically see the finish line, and I was convinced it wasn’t where I initially thought it was. This part of the boardwalk is a giant serpentine/S-shaped path. At that point, the dizziness combined with all of the zig zagging had me just spent. I seriously lost it. I didn’t even want to look up. I just kept looking at the ground and giving it what I could. Christine tried so hard to push me that last stretch but I can honestly say, I felt like I had nothing left. All I could do was grunt, whimper, and eek out a “where is the damn finish line!!??”. She even told me she’d catch me if I fell, but just keep running! Looking back, I realize this was probably 75% nutrition (and I hadn’t even finished 75% of my 20 oz water bottle…oops), 25% just lack of strength and training.
Finally, FINALLY we hit the straight part of the boardwalk and the finish line was in sight. Somehow , I managed to sprint (if you can call it that) across that finish line. 1:51:16. That’s an 8 minute 15 second PR. I don’t really remember the next few minutes. I knew there was a hug from Christine and my friend Dawn who had beat us to the finish line, and I remember feeling completely exhausted and utterly proud of myself.
And then I received my ridiculously over sized medal/magnet/beer bottle opener. No really, look at this thing, I actually had to take it off after a while, as it was hurting my neck. To give you an idea of it’s size, here it is next to one of those big DVR remotes:
Lessons I learned this race:
My mind is by far my biggest opponent. Hands down, no contest. Sure, I need to get better at following my training plans. (I hit all but one long run for this half marathon training, but missed a good part of the mid-week runs. ) Sure, I absolutely need to focus more on strength training (my quads were KILLING me!) But above all, I need to work on telling my mind to SHUT THE H*LL UP!
If Christine wasn’t with me yesterday, I can almost promise you I would have certainly slowed my pace down a lot more, and probably would have walked a few times in the end. I hurt that bad. But at the end of the day, I DIDN’T stop and walk, which proves to me that my body is much stronger than my mind gives it credit for. And afterall, that sort of pain is temporary. I survived, without walking, and other than some sore legs, I am no worse for the wear. So even though my mind was screaming “you NEED to walk now!” clearly, I didn’t NEED to.
But Christine, or any other pacer, won’t always be there with me. So now, I just have to work on getting the mind and the body both on the same page.
Yesterday I ran faster than 87% of the people on the course, men and women combined. I ran faster than 94% of women on the course, and faster than almost 90% of the other females my age. I’m certainly not heading to the Olympics, but it shows me that I am not a BAD runner. I never dreamed I could be a DECENT distance runner, but maybe, just maybe, I do have that in me.
And if I can learn to let the “I CAN”s speak up over the “I CAN’T”s , combined with the right training, well who knows what I’m capable of. Maybe Boston isn’t so far fetched after all…
So that’s where I’m at. I’m proud of myself. I’m EXCITED to begin marathon training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February. I have a great group of local runners I’m going to train with. And I’m going to really, really focus on sticking to my training plan. I’ve picked one that’s not too intense so I don’t burn out, but thorough enough that I believe I can meet my goal: a 4 hour marathon.
And I’m ready to learn to push through the discomfort.
*whew*. I’m sure I have SO MUCH more to say on this subject, but my mind, just like my quads, is exhausted. I also have so much more to share, from pictures of this weekend (including the 5k, doggie dash, and high heel run), the winner of the allied medal hanger giveaway, and some really exciting news about that Landice treadmill I really wanted to win 🙂 Stay tuned, and thanks for reading this really long post!
Happy running my friends. Believe in yourself 🙂