Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Dash Half Marathon Recap

Saturday, October 26th, will easily be a day I remember for a long time. It was a day that I completed a huge goal, reached a dream, proved something to myself ... I ran my first half marathon. That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but for someone who went from 0.0 to 13.1 in five months, it's a big deal.

My excitement began the day before during packet pickup. Lisa, one of my best friends, was running the 5k race so we went together to get our race packets. 

I checked my chip for accuracy, checked out the booths and we stood in line to exchange our hoodie for the super cute zip ups they were offering that day - love the swag (see the pictures below)! After, it was back home to try and rest the remainder of the day, eat some food, pack up my stuff, and visit with my parents who came in that night as my amazing support system.

On race day, my alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. Early, yes, but honestly I was awake before it went off. I slept okay that night, but woke up often with thoughts about the race/ what could wrong, including right before the alarm went off. I easily got out of bed, ready for coffee and to start getting ready for the big day. As I tiptoed around my parents, I knew they would wake up the moment I started the coffee maker. Or when Mercedes came down and jumped on them! But I knew I needed my pre-race routine - I get up early enough to have some coffee, make breakfast, get dressed and just let my body wake up and do it's thing prior to leaving the house.

I checked the weather as normal - temp was hovering around 32 degrees with winds around 15 to 25 mph. Not ideal, but at least no snow or rain. I would survive the cold. Or at least I was hopeful I would!

The drive to St. Paul was pretty uneventful, thank goodness. I was quiet, thinking of what I was about to do. Trying to remain confident that I could do it; thinking back on all the training I've done, the miles I've logged. We arrived in plenty of time, waited to get in the parking ramp, and made the long walk to the race start - the Cathedral in St. Paul. Lisa took off to her race start and I waited in line for the bathroom talking with some other racers including another racer about ready to do her very first half marathon. We both felt the same way - nervous, excited and cold!!

My parents and I made our way to the start corrals. It was at this time that the cold and wind overtook me. I could not stop shivering. No matter what, I could not feel warm. We took some pictures and my dad was sweet enough to wrap his jacket around me, but still, I kept shivering. Dang Minnesota weather! 

As they announced to start getting into the start corrals, I lined up right in front of the 9:30 pacer - my goal was to try and keep a 9:20 average pace. I was sad to give my dad his jacket back, but I hoped the huge crowd of over 5,800 racers would help me feel warm. Not so much. It also didn't help that they delayed the start about 15 minutes or so due to backed up traffic. Every part of me was just getting colder! Finally, they announced it was race time! I felt the excitement hit. As we started moving toward the start line, I just kept thinking "you got this, you're going to make yourself and your parents proud." We hit the start line, and off we went!

The first few miles went well. It took until about mile three for my toes to thaw out! Around mile five my hands were warm enough to throw my gloves off. The wind was still chilly and I was thankful my shirt had thumbholes so I could wrap my hands up when running into the wind. 

My biggest issue other than the cold? The other racers. I have never raced in such a big race before and mentally I needed to shift my focus. I found myself being so caught up in passing others, or worrying about being passed. I needed to figure out how to shut my thoughts up about the other racers and only focus on me, my racing, my breathing, my stride. Honestly, I struggled quite a bit until I figured this out; trying not to let others pass me. But in the end, I wasn't doing this to beat them, I was doing this for me, to prove to myself that I can. To overcome that voice inside my head that was telling me to quit.

My toughest miles were miles 7 through 10. I'm not sure why, exactly. I think part of it was taking a slight turn and starting to run directly into that cold, hard wind. My lungs felt like they were on fire. I walked through the water stop at mile 8.5 just as I had planned to take my GU fuel and have some water. At the other water stops, I had taken small sips as I kept going. But I needed this short walk; I needed the fuel.

Right before mile 10, the 10 mile racers diverged off to their finish line and us hard core half marathoners kept going for the final 3.1 miles. I was warned that this would be the toughest part of the race. You would want to give up, and some hills were on the way. I somehow kept pushing through even though I felt at times I was going to be sick. The 9:30 pacer passed me on the hill, and I thought I was going to cry. At that moment, I felt like I was failing. I knew at that point I wasn't going to hit the 2 hour goal I dreamed of; I was a disappointment. Tears sprung into my eyes and my pace slowed down even more. At some point, I pulled my phone off my arm and switched my music to the Christian contemporary station on Pandora. I tried talking with God, asking Him to get me through this; I needed Him to help me run with my heart. By mile 11.5, I felt much calmer and just ran at what I could.

As we got closer to the finish line, I could hear the crowd cheering and yelling. There were so many people. I just kept pushing forward on my tired legs; legs that wanted to give out, an ankle that wanted to quit. But through the pain, I pushed on. I heard my name and saw my friend Lisa right before the finish line. Right at that point, I felt awful, but seeing her gave me that extra wind I needed - so thanks Lisa; I'm not sure if you know that, but seeing you right at that moment helped me so much! 

Crossing that finish line was so amazing. Somehow it all comes together and you no longer feel sick or hurt, you just feel elated and euphoric. I heard my parents cheering and ran to give my mom a hug. I thought I was going to cry as the gravity of what I had just accomplished hit me. I was a half marathon finisher. I did it. 

After collecting my medal and food, I found my amazing support team and just felt happy. More than happy - accomplished, proud and relaxed. Of course, I also felt cold again as my body heat started to regulate and the shivering began again! We didn't stick around the race area much; just took some pictures and headed toward the car. I'm pretty sure the big smile never left my face.

Lisa and me - Lisa ran the 5k in costume!

My medal

The rest of my day was spent trying to warm up from the frigid cold and resting my sore muscles. We ordered a pizza for lunch before my parents left to go back home and I have to say pizza never tasted so delicious! I sat in my compression socks, foam rolled a bit and took Mercedes for a walk before I collapsed on the couch for the night. I was in bed a little after 9 p.m.! Big partier, aren't I?!

The swag - this zip up will get LOTS of use; it's great!

Here are my final thoughts on my first half marathon.... It definitely wasn't easy, but it was 100% worth it. I finally felt like I had found a place where I belonged. That runner high? Yes, it definitely hit me after the race. I finally felt as if I was born a runner; it just took me awhile to figure it out. I am meant to do this .... to be a runner, to run races. This is my passion; something I am meant to do. I can't wait until the next half marathon (and all the other races I need to find)!

I'm sure some of you are interested in my stats so here they are. I had three goals - Goal A was two hours, Goal B was 2:10 and Goal C was 2:20. I finished in 2:07 although the clock did say 2:04 when I crossed. I'm not arguing though and I am perfectly happy with finishing in 2:07! 

Until next time~


  1. Thank you for posting this. I signed up for my first half in May and I'm reading all I can about races, particularly from "newbies." :)

    Sounds like you had a great experience! So proud of you!

    1. I'm the same way - I read so many blogs about half marathons. Somehow they helped me feel more prepared! Good luck with your first half in May! It was a great experience for me!

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