Sunday, June 27, 2010

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

I did it.  I ran 13.1 miles.  I finished my first half marathon! 

I was feeling incredibly nervous and quite unprepared because I didn't train as well as I should have.  I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish, or that it would be a miserable experience, or both.  The day and night before the race, my stomach was in knots and I hardly slept on Friday night.  The Scientist and I woke up around 4:15 on Saturday morning and I did my best to eat a small breakfast but was still feeling incredibly anxious.  We have The Scientist's mom's car for the weekend so we drove into Seattle to catch the shuttle that would take us to the starting line.

As we rode down to the starting line and I saw the buildings of downtown Seattle slowly fade into the distance behind us, I suddenly felt the strangest calm come over me.  I thought to myself "The finish line is back there.  I'm here.  There's only one way to get from here to there."  And that was it.  From that point on, I felt calm, collected and READY.

We got to the starting line around 6 am.  The skies were cloudy and it was pretty chilly, but there was no rain. We had about 2 hours to kill before our wave started, so we just wandered around and took it all in.  Eventually I had to pee so I decided to brave the long lines for the porta potties.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Meanwhile, my bladder was getting uncomfortably full.  I hadn't checked my gear bag yet and time was ticking.  The first waves were starting and I was hardly any closer to the bathroom.  I started freaking out a bit, so I ditched the line and ran to the gear check.  They were about to close up and drive the trucks back to the finish line, so I just barely made it!

I got my gear checked and The Scientist and I made our way over to our "corral".  I still had to pee but other than that I was feeling pretty good.  We slowly made our way up to the start and there was such a buzz in the air.  I loved feeling the excitement of everyone around me.  And then the air horn blew and we were off!

We started out at a pretty slow pace, which is what I wanted.  I still have a difficult time pacing myself from the start, but I managed to set a good pace right away.  I still had to pee so I planned to stop at the first porta potties I saw, which were right before the first mile marker - the first mile luckily passed in a FLASH!  So I cut out and peed and The Scientist continued on (we didn't plan on running the whole race together anyway, since he's a much faster runner).

I peed and then got on my merry way.

I ran non-stop for the first 5 miles and felt great.  I kept my slow pace but I couldn't believe how quickly those first 5 miles went.  I was running through parts of the city and neighborhoods that I don't see on a regular basis along with 27,000 of my closest friends!  There were live bands every mile or so to keep us all motivated (that's why it's called the Rock and Roll Marathon) and it was great to get pumped up every time I passed one of the stages.

Miles 5 through 8 were pretty incredible.  Most of that portion was along Lake Washington and we passed beautiful houses and ran through tree lined streets.  There were cheer squads from many of the local high schools cheering us on, and my god they were adorable.


Mile 9 was a bit tough.  My knees were starting to hurt and I was feeling a bit tired, but I pushed through.  I stopped to walk a little bit, but it actually felt better to run.  A little after mile 9 we got to the I-90 bridge.  The full marathon split off at that point and ran across the floating bridge and back:

This photo is from last November's Seattle Marathon, but you get the idea

Those of us running the half marathon went straight into the tunnel instead of crossing the bridge.  The tunnel was one of my favorite parts.  People were hootin' and hollerin' the whole way and there was an awesome DJ set up halfway through.  When we exited the tunnel I saw the 10 mile marker ahead of me and downtown Seattle in the background.  I could see Qwest Field - the finish line!  Even though I was super pumped at that point, I was also starting to lose steam.  So I stopped to stretch a bit and take in the view.  As I started running again I noticed a girl in front of me with a very distinctive tattoo covering her whole arm.  A very distinct tattoo that I recognized.  It was my friend Tasha, an old bookclub buddy (she ran the full marathon last year, and didn't know she was pregnant)!  It was such an awesome motivator to see each other and we ran the last 3 miles together. 

The last 3 miles were difficult, but once I saw the 12 mile marker I was downright giddy and I even picked up my pace a little.  We ran on the viaduct (you can see Qwest Field in the background):

We ran past Qwest Field, exited the viaduct and turned a corner to run back to the north end of Qwest, and that's where the finish was.  On that home stretch, I had the biggest damn smile on my face and was waving at all the spectators.  Tasha and I crossed the finish line together and threw our hands up in the air.  It was one of the best moments of my life.

I met up with The Scientist, our friend Jon, my brother and sister-in-law (my brother ran the full marathon!).  Every participant got a free beer in the beer garden (it was gross 64 calorie MGD that tasted like water, but who am I to turn down free beer?) and there were more bands (including Lifehouse) playing on a big stage for participants and spectators to enjoy.

 Jon, The Scientist and myself, being overly enthusiastic about my medal.

Was the race difficult?  Parts of it were, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single minute and all 13 miles.  Not once did I feel like I was going to die, or that I couldn't finish, or that I was pushing myself too hard.  I felt strong and able.  I was THRILLED to be there.  In fact, there were several points along the way where I actually had tears in my eyes because I was just so overwhelmed by it all.  I kept thinking I am actually doing this.

Throughout the race I looked around me and saw people of all ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, from all walks of life.  I felt so proud to be running with all these people, in this city that I love so very much.  I'm also incredibly thankful to anyone and everyone who was involved with putting this race together.  It was like a well oiled machine, it was so organized.  And also the spectators who got themselves up early on a Saturday morning to cheer us all on.  I think I speak on everyone's behalf when I say that we couldn't have done it without them.  I also have to thank my brother and sister-in-law for making this possible.  The Scientist and I cheered them on at last year's race, and that's when I decided I wanted to do it this year.  As a Christmas present to both of us, they entered us and paid our race fee.  If they hadn't done that, I'm sure I would've found some excuse to chicken out of entering, so I'm glad I had that accountability to keep me from being a wuss.  Thanks guys!!!  And finally, big thanks to all of you for your encouraging comments and e-mails!  Your support is very much appreciated. 

Oh yeah, and remember in my previous post I said my predicted finishing time was 3 hours?  Well, I beat that.  My official time was 2:50:30.  Not bad for a first timer, eh?  (The Scientist finished in 2:29:51)

Seattle Rock 'n' Roll, I'll see you next year!

If you're interested in checking out the course, here is a quick time lapsed video of the entire course.  Pretty cool.  

21 comments:

  1. Congratulations! You are AWESOME!

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  2. Considering the first workout of the first week of Couch to 5K almost killed me, I am kind of in awe of your running skills.

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  3. That is awesome! Congrats!
    I wanted so badly to run this year! Injuries are no fun :/ Next time for sure!

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  4. so awesome!!! I feel very proud for you!!! 13 miles!!! So cool. I'm glad you felt strong and able! Big hug!

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  5. Yay! Congratulations on the half marathon!!

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  6. Well done you :-) What an amazing achievement!!

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  7. Congratulations! What a fantastic accomplishment!

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  8. This is AWESOME. Congrats!

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  9. Congrats! I'm so glad you had an awesome time!

    I had a few friends running & walking in it as well, and they were plenty sore for our softball game the next day. :-)

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  10. I wish I could run that far! I max out at like um, a mile or two? I'm more of the pumping iron and biking girl. :-)

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  11. that is freaking awesome!! i love half marathons because they are so fun and badass at the same time. congrats on running! i'm surprised you liked running in the tunnel. i ran through it for the Seattle Half and it was so muggy i was dripping in sweat... but i am a BIG weanie :)

    S.

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  12. Congrats, Stevie. What a great experience and wonderful finish! BTW, they always say your most important night of sleep is two nights before the race, because the night before you're often full of nerves! Glad to see that didn't set you back one bit!

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  13. Oh, wow! Congratulations! HUGE congratulations! And what an amazing course to run - it just looks so incredibly beautiful! I think Nick has a conference in Seattle next year and I so want to go; I've never been.

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  14. Thank you EVERYONE for all your wonderful comments! It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. And now I can't wait to do another one!

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  15. I am so INSANELY amazed at this kind of thing. I thought running a 5K was hard. :-P But I would really like to do something like this one day. You're inspiring!

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