Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Recap: Girlfriends Half Marathon (Katie)

I did it! Months of training, 13.1 miles and 2+ hours later, I completed my very first half marathon! Two things are for sure: 1. I could not have done it without Jess and 2. this will definitely not be my last half marathon.

The 3 nights prior to the race, I did not sleep well. I know I was nervous and that definitely contributed to the insomnia, however, the night before the race was the worst. We had traveled to Portland and were staying at my sisters house. She has a guest room which is handy but it means that we then share a room with our 18 month old. She was recovering from a cold so hadn't been sleeping that great and was waking herself up coughing often, that combined with the fact that she could see me from her crib (and constantly yelled out "mommy! mommy!") plus my husband being hopped up on night time cold meds so he wasn't even aware that anything was happening made for a pretty miserable night. All that to say, I was strongly relying on adrenaline to get me through the race and my furthest running distance ever.

On the morning of the race, I woke up late so didn't have time for coffee (which helps with my running if I have it early enough), so had to quickly eat some breakfast and get dressed before Jess was picking me up. Luckily we had planned to go early and ended up having plenty of time. We were able to walk around, scope out the place and see hundreds upon hundreds of women ready to get their race on. The lines to the porta-potties were insanely long (of course!) and it was fun to check out what everyone had chosen to wear for game day. Lots of unique breast cancer shirts and even some women in aprons and pearls. Jess and I decided to keep it simple in our matching light purple Nike shirts and black pants.

Now, on to the race details. It was a chilly morning in Vancouver, WA. About 50 degrees and overcast with a decent breeze keeping us very cool before the 9am start time. I was wearing a jacket and decided I would toss it to my husband at the starting line (a good call). After a fun warm-up, we finally lined up and the race began. It was a slow start as 3200 women funneled through to cross the start line, and we were off!

Here we come!

All smiles (thanks Jess for handing off my jacket)

There we go!

And the fun began. It was strange going into it and thinking "okay, now I have to do this for 13.1 miles". Honestly, it seemed like an impossible task especially when I got a side ache before we even passed the Mile 1 marker. Whenever I was feeling weak or tired or like I couldn't do it, inside my head, I would say to myself "you will run 13 miles, you are running 13 miles" and that would give me the boost I needed to carry on in that moment (I certainly think my doula training came in handy and applied perfectly).  They had water/gatorade/sport gel stations every 2 miles which was perfect. I took either some water or gatorade at each and I think around mile 6, I took a sport gel. Turns out, I did not eat enough breakfast and about half way through my stomach was growling! I was so hungry and so excited to finish the race just so I could eat.

Jess and I ended up running together the entire way, which was not expected. We had both given each other the freedom to take off or slow down if needed but I think we both got comfortable having each other there, maybe because we had been training and planning this together for so long or maybe we were truly relying on each other to make it to the end, either way it just felt right to start and finish the race together.

Passing the Mile 7 marker and knowing we were more than half way done was a great relief. At Mile 9 Jess and I decided to take a quick walk to catch our breath as one of us said "only 4 more miles!" I wished it was only 2. Two seemed doable, four seemed long. After about a 60 second break, we were off again. We did this a total of three times, at mile 6, mile 9 and mile 11 (also a quick one at mile 12). These little rests made all the difference to me. They were short enough to not mess up our pace or to convince my body that I was done but they were long enough to give me the relief I needed to continue on. I knew before I even started that I was going to need these breaks, so I had already given myself permission to take them when needed which helped me to not feel like I was weak or failing.

I had been having hamstring issues over the past several weeks so I was honestly nervous about how it would feel after pounding the pavement for so many miles. Luckily my hamstring, though sore, didn't really bother me too much. My knees, however, were aching bad for probably the second half of the run. It hurt to turn corners or to quickly hop up or down a curb, it was brutal! It didn't stop me and didn't mess with my pace but I was certainly hurting.

As I saw the Mile 12 marker, I knew we could do it and that the end was so close. It was a looong mile but as we got closer and closer to the end, the crowds got bigger, the cheering got louder and the encouragement was coming from every direction. I don't care if those people weren't cheering for me, I took everything I could get and it motivated me to the finish line. As we rounded our second to last corner, our husbands and kids were there to cheer us on; snapping pictures and shouting our names. I was so happy and excited and even felt a little teary, I had done it! One last turn and a final push to the finish line and we were DONE! We both threw our hands in the air and finished with smiles on our faces. What a rush, what a relief, what an accomplishment!

I'm not sure what our official time was yet but the clock at the finish line said 02:19:55 which probably means it was a little faster than that since we didn't cross the start line until a couple minutes after the clock started.
The final push to the finish line

I did it!
Done! 13.1 miles complete
Relieved and proud (and tired!)

Though my throbbing knees are a reminder, I am having a hard time grasping that I did this yesterday. I cannot believe I accomplished my goal and ran a half marathon and actually had fun doing it. I feel very proud. And though I cannot even imagine running double this distance and doing a marathon, I can say that I look forward to another half marathon sometime in the not too distant future.

My daughter (her shirt says "Run Mommy Run")

Things I learned:
  • Eat a larger breakfast before such a long run (and coffee if time allows)
  • Strengthen legs between now and next race (and continuously)
  • Carry shot blocks, starburst or gummy bears because those gels are nasty
  • Don't carry water, what a pain (I didn't but lots of people did and it seemed awkward)
  • Give myself more time to stretch and recover before sitting in a car for 3 straight hours
  • Always run with your best friend (together, even if not side-by-side)
  • Have fun and be proud!


  1. Congratulations!! You did GREAT!

  2. So proud of you, Katie! Great post. Lots of emotion and details that made me tear up and wish I had been there to cheer for you!

  3. I hate gels too! Blahh! I have used shot blocks and they are a lot better. Congrats to you!!

  4. This was such a fun race! Nice job, both of you. Very speedy for your first half as well.
    Great pictures too!

    I wonder what your next half will be? Did you consider RNR Portland next May or will that be too far away?

  5. wow Katie, I am so proud of you! Running 13 miles is something that I could never do, and I'm so impressed and in awe of you that you accomplished your goal!! Hooray for Katie!!