The Race Report

Before the Race

Before the Race – Look how happy we are!

This past Sunday, Gary and I ran the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana. We had chosen this particular race because we wanted to run something other than the Derby Mini, which we had run the past four years. The Biggest Loser Half was in the Region, and since I’m from that area, we thought it would make a nice weekend getaway before all of the end-of-school-year-my-baby-is-graduating festivities. We left for Indy Friday after work, checked into our hotel, and had a healthy meal of roasted chicken, veggies, and potatoes. While this might seem inconsequential to most, in our world it was a rather big deal. We are more of a burger and fries couple.

On Saturday, we checked out the house I lived in in Hobart, went to the cemetery (What’s more romantic than that?), shopped (we bought 13 pounds of candy at a candy factory), and went to the expo to get our race gear. The expo was somewhat disappointing, but it wasn’t a large race, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Dinner that evening was at Teibel’s, which is somewhat of an iconic Northwest Indiana restaurant.

Sunday morning arrived; the sun shone brightly into our room. I had very low expectations for the race. My plan was to run the first four miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. My IT bands begin to tighten up after four or five miles. I wanted to complete the race, and knew that a fast time just wasn’t possible. This was my seventh half marathon, and my third since having knee surgery in 2013. I hadn’t trained too hard for this race, but felt that I was ready. I was not. Not even close. Living in Southern Indiana, I am used to hills. I have plenty of hills to train on, but had avoided them because Northwest Indiana is flat. Why would I train on hills to run a flat race? I have never been more wrong in my life.

The first several miles of the race, I listened to the soundtrack of the stage version of Mary Poppins. I’m pretty cool like that. Actually, my family will be involved in the production this summer, so I thought I’d begin to learn the music. People don’t really expect to hear Step in Time in the middle of a race. I tried to not sing out loud, but sometimes it just sneaks out. There were several small, manageable hills in the first few miles, and I kept thinking that surely it would flatten out. Where did those hills even come from? This was the north.

And then it got worse. Miles eight through thirteen were just brutal. I don’t typically cuss (okay, I do), but the expletives were flying. I even texted my running friends on one of my walk breaks just so I could complain to someone. Here is a good picture of how I was feeling in the second half of the race:

joycehillcrown

Not quite as happy as the prerace photo. My plan had been tossed aside. I walked whenever my legs began to scream, which was at the beginning of many hills. I certainly wasn’t alone as many chose to walk up the hills. I was getting passed by lots of runners, but I really didn’t care. At one point a guy in a Spiderman shirt passed me, and I thought It’s okay – It’s Spiderman! I can’t expect to be as fast as Spiderman! 

At several points during the race, I asked myself why I thought running half marathons was fun. I was miserable. My legs were absolutely killing me; my calves were tied in knots. I just wanted this hell to be over. It was also pretty hot out compared to what we had been running in. I got water at almost every stop, but still felt so dry. And then I’d spot yet another freakin’ hill. Are you kidding me?? Can I just crawl now? And did I mention that hills really put a strain on IT bands? Mile 11: Someone was stabbing a knife into the side of my knee. And twisting it. Damn, it hurt. I stopped and rubbed that area hoping for enough relief to keep going. I walked most of that mile. I then alternated walking and running until I finally reached the finish. I don’t think my legs have ever hurt so much at the finish of a race. I would never run a hilly half again.

I actually lived!

I actually lived!

Gary and I then had a five-hour drive home. As we discussed our ‘adventure’, he also complained about the hills. After cooling off and getting our heart rates back to within a reasonable range, we were actually pretty proud of ourselves. That was undoubtedly the hardest half we have ever done, and although our times were not impressive (2:23 for me), we didn’t stop, nor did I puke. The next morning I had to teach a 5:15 Tabata class, and hadn’t planned to participate. When we started, I went ahead and worked out with the class, figuring I could stop at any point. I ended up completing the class and…running! I actually went out and ran about a mile and a half just to see if I could.

Do you know what else I did the day after the race from hell? I registered for the St. Jude Half Marathon! More info on that will follow in the coming months (because our team is fundraising and I’m sure you’ll want to donate). I would compare running a half marathon (or a marathon for some) to childbirth. It is so very painful as we are going through it. Breathing is labored, body parts we weren’t even aware of suddenly scream with pain, and we cuss like we’ve never cussed before. And then when it’s over, we realize how badass we are, and begin to forget the hell we endured. It wasn’t that bad. When can we do it again?

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Training Hard…Or Not

I have struggled with whether or not to run a half marathon this spring. I have run one – the Derby Mini in Louisville – the past four years, but just didn’t want to run it again this year. I wanted to try a new race, but I also wanted to run a race that none of our friends were running. I know that sounds odd, but I get really nervous at races, and much prefer to be anonymous. My husband suspected I’d throw a race at him, so he began doing long runs before we had even found a race. Because I have a senior daughter with a crazy busy schedule this spring, our options were limited. Gary received an email about a Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana, which is about five or six hours from here. It also happens to be near my hometowns of Hammond, Hobart, and Munster (I claim all three since I had lived in each place by the end of fifth grade). This particular race also claims to be a great race for beginners, and has a walking division. I am not really a beginner, but after running six half marathons, this will be the first in which I work in walking. Walking.

Because of all of my knee issues, long runs seemed to be out of reach. I had tried to do a couple of longer runs, and at about 4.5 miles, my knee would lock up – IT band. I had decided I’d have to stick with no more than five miles, and running 5Ks. I wasn’t happy about it, but knew if I wanted to be able to run at all, I had to be sensible (I am not usually sensible when it comes to things like that). Once I’d made that decision, I received the book Tales From Another Mother Runner compiled by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. One of the essays told of a woman who also had knee issues. She began working some walking into each mile, and was able to complete her long runs. Although I don’t want to walk, I really don’t want to quit running. I want to run half marathons. The atmosphere at a half is unbeatable, and runners don’t receive medals at 5Ks unless they win their age groups. I would travel to run a half marathon; I doubt I’d travel very far to run a 5K. And so I walked.

I came up with a plan to run the first two miles of my long runs, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. I’ve had to really make myself stick with this plan. Since I am walking some, my knees feel fine, so it’s hard not to just go ahead and run further. The last few weekends, I’ve stuck with my plan, and have been able to complete ten mile runs; this Saturday I will complete eleven. I tend to stress out over really insignificant things, so, of course, I worry about things like what to tell people about my runs. I can’t say ‘I ran ten miles this morning’ because I didn’t run ten miles. I only ran 8.4; I walked 1.6 of the ten. I did ten miles? I ran/walked ten miles? I completed ten miles? What the heck am I supposed to say to people? I stress when people see me walking. I swear I’m running, too. I’m only walking a little. I’m still a runner. My knees hurt, dammit! I stress over the fact that I will post my slowest time at the half marathon. I wonder if there are any running therapists out there?

I have found there are some advantages to walking part of each mile. When I begin to get tired, I know that I only have to run 8/10 mile, and then I can walk again. For some strange reason, it seems to make time go quicker even though it’s taking me longer to complete my runs. Another thing I’ve done to add interest to my running is listening to podcasts instead of music. My daughter actually told me that’s what she does, so I gave it a try. I listen to Jillian Michaels, Another Mother Runner, and All Things Comedy Live Podcast. I’ve found that I really pay attention to the podcasts, whereas with music, I tend to listen on and off. Focusing on the podcasts also makes my runs go faster, and they are very motivating. The comedy one isn’t motivating, but it makes me laugh. Laughing while running alone seems to be frowned upon. Passersby give me mortified looks when I just randomly laugh as they drive by. If they only knew I had Sinbad in my ear.

On Tuesdays I do a three-mile training run after school. I sometimes run with students, and one of my eighth graders asked if she could run with me this past week. We met after school, and took off. I had told her I wasn’t fast, and she said she wasn’t either. Seeing her black Converse on her feet, I wasn’t too concerned about keeping up. After about a half mile, I was quite winded. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so tired. We kept trucking along, talking about her desire to run a 10K and her goals for speed. I was getting more winded, but blamed it on not quite feeling up to par. After about a mile and a half, she wanted to walk a little. Praise God. Sure, Sweetie, if you need to walk, that’s fine. [pant, pant, pant]. Once she was ready, we ran again. When we got back to school, I checked our time, and saw that we had run the first mile and a half at a 9:17 pace. No wonder I was struggling! I’ve been running a 10:00 pace or slower since I am trying to build endurance. Those darned Converse kicked my butt! Well played, Ashley.

Tomorrow is a rest day; Saturday is an 11 miler. After that I’ll just have some short runs, a seven or eight miler, and it’s race time. As much as I am looking forward to crossing that finish line and earning another medal, I am also looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband. It’ll be the first half marathon we have run in which none of our friends or family are there. I hope it goes well for both of us (or it will be a LONG ride home!).

I do want to wish all of our wonderful badass friends who are running the Derby Mini Marathon the very best of luck! We plan to be there to watch you finish. May the weather be perfect, your food digest well (you poop before the race), your legs feel strong, and your spirit carry you through.

#NeverGiveUp