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My Half-Marathon Comeback!

Posted May 04 2010 4:43am

By Alison, "RunBuggy" 

Yesterday, I ran and finished the Long Island Half Marathon. This was my 10-year anniversary of running this race. This race marked my running "comeback" since  cutting back the mileage in attempts to get pregnant,  and then giving birth to Lil' Bubba this past October. 

A half marathon seemed like quite a mountain to climb after having a baby. It seems like yesterday I was living vicariously through running friends and family as they trained for races while I was happy to get some 3-milers done in between sonograms and prepping the baby nursery. It was pretty amazing to be back in the race game again!

Yesterday morning was unusually warm and humid with temps creeping into the low 80s. Although I had laid out my clothes and gear the night before (left), I was still pacing around. Despite how calm I felt on Friday, the pre-race nerves definitely hit me starting Saturday evening. 

Regardless, I thought I'd relieve some stress being silly in my backyard, true Alison-style: 

I began nervously fiddling around with things - totally unnecessary! Here's a picture of my GU Chomps - I was trying to figure out a way to stash them in that little red pouch and then somehow attach them to my shorts in such a way that I wouldn't get pissed off and toss them to the wind. 
I ended up putting them in the pouch and safety-pinning the pouch to the inside of my shorts. To my surprise, they didn't piss me off and my set-up worked out well.

My pre-race rituals continued.  Toast with peanut butter. One cup of coffee. Text my sister about where to meet. Text my mom to tell her I'm in my yellow hat and black tank. Drink some water with Gatorade.  Put Body Glide on my feet, under my sports bra, on my inner thighs, and under my shorts' waste band. Pee one, two, three, four, five times.....

This year there was a new twist to the pre-race shuffle:  I had to wake and dress Lil' Bubba! Here we are for a pre-race photo:
I started out with my sister, but I knew I wanted to run this race alone. I love company for long training runs, but when it comes to racing day, I tend to be a loner. After all, you're not really alone when you're running alongside approximately 6,000 people. I didn't know if I'd be a lot slower than usual or suddenly get this post-baby, super-hero-mama strength and want to plow full steam ahead; so I thought it would be best to have  Mr. Garmin  be my race partner.

Early in the race the tears came. Not because I was in pain - I was actually feeling pretty good. I got behind a young guy and started reading the back of his t-shirt. I don't remember the words exactly, but he was clearly running this race for a son he lost, one of the strongest people he ever knew, and that he'd remember him forever. I got the chills. I thought of our Lil' Bubba and could not even imagine having the strength to run after losing a child. There were many people running in memory of someone yesterday.  It only proves that running is very therapeutic and brings people together for different reasons.

I knew my parents would be somewhere in the first 5 or 6 miles to cheer my sister and me.  Do you ever feel like you waste precious energy looking for someone on the sidelines? My eyes were darting everywhere, but I couldn't find them. I was able to find them at every single other half marathon AND the over-crowded, spectator-stuffed NYC Marathon.  I didn't find them yesterday at their first cheer post.  That's always such a let-down when you can't find your cheering section!   Oh well... I kept on truckin' along. 

I'm not sure if  Mr. Garmin  helped me through this race or if he were my nemesis.  I didn't really have a concrete plan with regard to my pace. I wanted to get as close to my half marathon PR as possible, 1:52, but I knew I'd more likely finish around 1:59 or slightly over two hours. I though it would be best to stay around a 9:15-9:30 pace in the first half of the race, then slowly kick it into gear at the end at around 8:30-8:45 min/mile. 

In the first 10K of the race, my pace was all over the place. 9:45, 9:15, 8:45, 8:25, 10:10. I got nervous whenever it went under 9 because I didn't want to bonk out at the end. Then my competitive rage came out when it went over 10.  Over 10?!?! You'll never make it under two hours if you keep this up! Why are you so slow?!?!?

At around mile 7 the pain came. Yes, my legs were getting a bit sore, and I'm still dealing with  sore ab muscles from all the pushing during labor. But this pain was that horrible, knife-stabbing  stomach cramp  that I seem to get a lot lately. It's got to be something I'm eating or drinking. I still can't figure it out. My mind was racing as I ran hunched over to one side, squeezing my gut with my hand and breathing heavily in desperate attempst to make it go away. 

Maybe it's these damn Chomps! Maybe I shouldn't eat peanut butter on my toast. Maybe it was that sip of Gatorade I took. 

At around 10-1/2 to 11 miles, I figured it was time to kick up the pace and finish strong.  I tried to ignore the fact that numerous runners were walking or dropped to the side. I tried to ignore the ambulances and EMTs attending to fallen runners. No one from the Long Island area was acclimated to this surprise heat and humidity. 

In the last mile,  I wanted to drop,  but I kept telling myself I was fine. I was pushing so damn hard to at least make it in 1:59. The last time I did this race in 2008, I felt GREAT and remember zipping past people in the last mile.  Not this time. This time every last step I took was rough. I saw my parents at 12.5 miles and tried to smile for my dad's camera. At this point, my Garmin made me well aware that I  would not  have a sub-two-hour finish.  And at this point, I just wanted to finish with a smile.

You know when you're so close to the end, but you feel like it will be an eternity before you reach that finish line?  As I neared the end, my eyes were peeling the crowds once again in search for my husband and Lil' Bubba.... I couldn't find them either..... sigh.....

I crossed the finish line at 2:03. I grabbed my metal, two waters, a goody bag of food and staggered through a thick crowd of hot, smelly runners. Within seconds I felt a tap at my shoulder - it was my  sister! She said she was behind me most of the way. Congrats to L (in white headband)!  She PR'd and shaved SIX MINUTES off of her last half marathon time.   

Do you ever have a goal in your mind, but you kind of know it's a bit unrealistic?  Well, I knew finishing in less than two hours was probably not going to happen, but I still had this glimmer of hope. Once we trudged slowly like herded cattle through the finisher's carrel, I found my parents and my husband with Lil' Bubba. 

Suddenly silly time goals didn't seem to matter.  Seeing Lil' Bubba's beautiful smile and chubby little feet melted away the cramps, sore legs, and dehydration.  It's almost as if I had to slap myself in the face and say, you dummy! You just had a beautiful baby boy six months ago and were able to finish a half marathon!

What better reward than this? 
Not only did I finish, but I still had some energy left for humor: 
I DID NOT eat that nasty, melting apple danish that was in my race goody bag. But I most certainly did treat myself to: 
  1. Big roast beef sandwich with pretzels
  2. Chocolate milk and grahams as a snack
  3. A one-hour nap in the late afternoon
Later in the evening:
  1. 2 rum and Diet Cherry Pepsi's
  2. A "like-it" size Cold Stone Creamery - banana ice cream with Oreos and graham cracker crust
Ahhh..... I love races. Life is good. If any of you raced this weekend, I hope you had an amazing journey!
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