I trained for three months with the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team for my first half-marathon — Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle on June 25!
Official time: 2:03:15
Average pace: 9:25
My goal was to hit 2:05 or under, so I am THRILLED with my time! Especially considering what happened to me at mile 8.5… I think my splits do a great job of telling THAT story.
You’ll notice that mile 1 was my fastest. I felt GREAT starting out, and really had to force myself to slow down and conserve energy. You’ll also notice that mile 13 was my second fastest — suck it, mile 13!
And then there’s mile 9. Ohhh, mile 9. You were like death. But I’ll get to you in a little bit.
(Can we pause for a moment to acknowledge my mad Garmin skillz, as my Garmin time exactly matched my official chip time? Also, I only ran .01 over the official race distance!)
I woke up at the unholy time of 3:10 a.m. for this race. I ate plain oatmeal with chia seeds and an apple with almond butter as I got ready, then left the house at 4:00 a.m. Aaron and I got to the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Seattle at 4:15, where I met up with the DetermiNation folks to take a 4:30 shuttle to the start line in Tukwila. We got to the start line just before 5:00 — plenty early, which calmed me down, since I think just getting there was what made me the most anxious about this race!
The American Cancer Society had a very sweet setup waiting for us: a tent filled with bananas, bagels, bottled water and private porta-potties. There were ridiculously long lines for the main porta-potties (as anyone who’s run one of these 26,000-person races knows), so the VIP potties were invaluable!!
I wrapped myself in a hot-pink fleece blanket that I’d brought and sat down to rest my legs while chatting with a veteran half and full marathoner. The blanket was the best idea ever, as I would have been freezing for a good hour and a half without it! I ate a whole bagel, half of a banana and a chocolate-chip Clif bar to fuel up for the race, plus drank plenty of water.
The DetermiNation group trekked to the start line at 6:15 for a photo op with our “celeb motivators” — Jason and Molly Mesnick from The Bachelor, and Andrea Powell, an actress who plays Sasha in the upcoming Twilight movie. (Yes, random, I know.) Aaron was tapped to be the ACS videographer, so we did smiles for the still photos and cheers for the video — a great way to pump up for the race!
I hurried back to the ACS tent to pee one last time, then to the gear check to get rid of my stuff. By the time I was ready to head to corral 12, the race had already started! But it took some time to release my corral, so I was able to jog to it and line up with about 5 minutes to spare.
And then we were off! I ran the first mile in 8:52, which was faster than I wanted, but I was going with the flow of the other runners and felt great. I wasn’t even breathing hard, so I didn’t stress about it. I just kept thinking, “This is it! I’m finally running my first half!”
The first few miles were uneventful. I concentrated on trying to slow down, and was really happy with my splits for miles 2 through 7 (9:13, 9:24, 9:23, 9:28, 9:11, 9:15). Around mile 6, the course dipped down to Lake Washington Boulevard, which is a beautiful stretch of road along Lake Washington. The weather was cloudy, but not nearly threatening rain, and the coolness was even nicer with a little breeze coming off the lake.
Mile 7 was unexpectedly emotional. It was dedicated to Wear Blue: Run to Remember, a running community that serves as a living memorial for fallen soldiers. There were photos of soldiers who had been killed, along with their names and ages (so young…), and people lined up along the course holding American flags. It was really incredible. I fought back tears as I clapped for all the flag-holders, along with many of the other runners. (Here’s a great video about this portion of the race from KOMO News.)
I took in my first fuel during mile 8 — a Shot Blok just after the 7-mile marker and another at mile 7.5 (you’ll see that this mile was a little slower, at 9:29, because I haven’t mastered the whole eating-and-running thing.) I had also been grabbing water and Cytomax at every station to stay hydrated.
So I blame what happened during mile 9 on my lack of eating-and-running preparation. Around mile 8.5, I got a wicked stitch in my right side, right in the rib area. I tried to run through it at first, but it became clear that it wouldn’t go away unless I walked a bit. I pulled off to the side and walked quickly, trying all the tricks — holding my right arm up in the air, breathing deeply in and out, massaging the area. I didn’t want to walk too much, so I started running again, and then it hurt worse.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. My legs felt fine and I wanted to run — but this stupid side stitch felt like I was being stabbed, and I couldn’t get rid of it!
So. Mile 9 took me 10:30, which I was actually amazed by — it felt like it had cost me much more time. I kept alternately running and walking through mile 10, which went through a tunnel on the I-90 express lane. It was kind of depressing. I was in this dark tunnel, trying my hardest to get rid of the stabbing feeling, and had lost satellite reception on my Garmin, so I had no idea of my pace. When I did run, I tried to run fast to make up for the walking, and I completed mile 10 in 9:52. I was getting back on track.
I’m not gonna lie: the side stitch really pissed me off and made me kind of a grumpypants for the rest of the race. Even when I felt better, I never made it back to 100%, and miles 11 through 13 were a struggle. The splits don’t show it because my anger made me really want to kick the shit out of those miles. So I did (9:23, 9:22, 9:10).
I’m amazed by those splits because I did a little walking during each of those miles — yeah, I even walked during the last mile, even though I really hated doing it so close to the finish. But when I wasn’t walking, I was hauling.
By the end of any race, I’m usually so overjoyed to be finished that I smile and laugh across the finish line. Oh no, not this time. I was still in shit-kicking mode and busted out the last .1 at a 7:12 pace, crossing the finish line with what I’m sure was a Grumpy McGrumperson face. DONE.
I immediately walked over to the fence lining the finish chute and leaned over onto it, resting my head on the railing. I had planned to eat more Shot Bloks throughout the race, but I didn’t want to take any chances after the side-stitch debacle. I felt really weak and just wanted to lie down.
A volunteer next to me was all like, “Hey, don’t you wanna keep walking?” clearly trying to get me to move along, but I said, “Nope, I’m good here for a second.” She tried a different tactic: “You’ll feel better if you walk a little bit, and you can go get your medal! Don’t you want your medal?”
Ughhh. Fine. Smart move, lady. If you’d ordered me to move instead of tempting me with hardware, I would have punched. you. in. the. face. Grumpypants!
I got my medal and posed for a photo with it, then tried to get through the “secure zone” as fast as I could so that I could go to the DetermiNation tent and lie down. It was super crowded and hard to get through, but I finally made my way to the tent — which had all kinds of food, more private potties and couches — and promptly plopped down on one. Ahhhh.
It took me a little time to recover from my grumpiness and feel really proud of what I’d accomplished. The side stitch was a bummer, but there was nothing I could have done and I now realize that I made kind of an awesome comeback from it.
My secret dream was to break 2:00, but that goal was destroyed by the stitch. In the depths of the pain, I was worried that I wouldn’t even break 2:05, but I decided I wouldn’t let that happen. And I didn’t.
I feel like next time I could definitely break 2:00… and this is why people get addicted to racing… : D
I hung out in the wonderful ACS tent, drank like six bottles of water and Cytomax (not an exaggeration) and ate pizza while swapping congrats with my DetermiNation teammates. It was great to share the experience with the people I’ve been training with for the last three months, including my wonderful coaches!
A few of us also got to meet and take photos with Everclear after they finished their set at the finish-line festival.
Yes, random again, but this was just one of the many perks that came along with training with and fundraising for the American Cancer Society!
When I registered for this race on November 30, 2010 (!!!), I distinctly remember checking the “no” box next to the question, “Would you like to fundraise for The American Cancer Society?” I figured I’d have enough to deal with training for this race, and that I’d be uncomfortable asking people for money.
But since last fall, I’ve made calculated efforts to do things that are uncomfortable and scary. And in March, I received a postcard inviting me to join the DetermiNation team. I was still nervous about meeting new people and intimidated by the minimum $1,250 fundraising requirement, but this time I said YES.
The day after I joined, I discovered a family member had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.
Since that day in March, I’ve met new friends, had the privilege of training with incredible coaches, dealt with a shin injury, ran my first 10K, ran my first 15K, made a fun video that was a big hit with Brooks, held an online raffle that raised nearly $1,000, received an incredible show of support all the way from Switzerland, and raised more than $2,000 total for the American Cancer Society. Oh, and I ran my first half-marathon.
It’d be an understatement to say that my YES was worth it.