Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Singer Island Half Marathon - April 27, 2013

I have been avoiding writing about the Singer Island Half Marathon on April 27th for a number of reasons.

1) it was an awful experience.
2) it was a personal worst for me, and almost led to a DNF (did not finish), and probably should have been a DNS (did not start), if I am honest with myself looking back.
3) I was so messed up during this race, I don't remember great big portions of it (like the fact that my running partners had to remind me multiple times how gorgeous the course and the weather was).
4) I was so messed up after the race that I was sad, self-depreciating, and really would have rather forgotten.

But in the end, I write today because there are some take-aways from this experience that I could put to use next time to ensure that I never had to relive another experience quite so bad again.

The night before this race, I felt significantly under-prepared for my final half of the spring season. I posted to facebook that I felt under-trained, and I suppose I should have. I had just come off of a 5 day trip to Spokane, Washington and had only managed 2 training runs and a 5K race between my prior half marathon (which was a PR), and this one. What's more, I had just decided to start eating differently than I had been in recently (I will be posting a separate entry about this later, just note that while I felt like I had a ton of energy on a day-to-day basis, I wasn't sure how to properly fuel for this race). Lastly, the Singer Island half was fairly far from home and required an overnight trip. Brina graciously offered me her spare bedroom, but I have been known to under-hydrate when I am not at home... something that I am sure contributed to the problems I had during the race.

I woke up early the morning of the race, and donned the great "we are Boston" tribute shirt that Brina, Juanita and I had made up to run this race in tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. I wasn't hungry (as I hadn't been since starting to eat differently), I choked down a banana but couldn't stomach even the thought of my usual pre-race bagel. Instead Brina made me a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter. Mistake number 1.

Before leaving the house, I heard the sprinklers outside, and thought it was raining. I was half hoping, that it was raining so we could back out of this race. My heart just wasn't into it, and I recognized that... but I also knew I was running for Boston. So I sucked it up, and we were out the door.

The race had a later start time than I am used to, so the sun was already on its way up when we started. As this was the last run for us for the season, Juanita chose to run at my pace (along with Brina), with the goal that they might be able to push me to a new PR (hoping to break the 3:15 mark so I could prove my time for Disney and move up a corral in my Marathon in January). It definitely didn't happen that way, but that was the plan.

The course was straightforward (so it seemed) with the first mile and a half being an out and back over the Singer Island Bridge that crosses the intracoastal, then north until we hit approximately 6 miles, then return to the bridge, over and back again, then an additional couple of miles through a cute neighborhood at the end. But seeming fairly straightforward and being fairly straightforward are two totally different things. And something was really off for me.

Our game plan was to run intervals to the base of the bridge, walk up the bridge, run down (letting gravity do the work, repeat on the return trip, then run intervals until we hit the bridge for our second out and back. By the time we hit the top of the bridge the first time, I was having trouble catching my breath. I took double doses of my inhaler, but it wasn't seeming to work. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was worried. We ran down the reverse side, then began the ascent again. Once again, I was winded, light-headed and my chest hurt. We tried to let gravity work coming off the bridge on the return trip, but I couldn't catch my breath.

We started to walk. I hadn't even hit mile 2 and I had to give up entirely on running, meaning we walked the next 11 miles. During that time, I never caught my breath. I never stopped being dizzy. My heart never stopped beating out of my chest. I was sweating profusely. And I was getting angry. My running partners were talking about how beautiful a day it was and how they wanted to go faster because they weren't even breaking a sweat and I was drenched.

I was really gassy and my stomach also really hurt. By mile 6, I was nauseous. Whereas normally I am chatty when I am on walking (either on intervals or in general), I found myself getting very quiet and closed off. And I felt the ailments mounting.

By mile 7, I was throwing up... although instead of dry heaves, it was purely liquid coming up. Waves and waves and waves of liquid. Yuck. So I tried to push more fluids and more electrolytes (in the form of nuun tabs in the water).

By mile 8, I was beginning to have severe cramping in my calves. Every step was excruciating. We were exponentially losing speed, and I was afraid we wouldn't finish in the 4 hour time limit. I've never taken over 3:36 to finish a half, but I was beginning to worry. And I worried that I was irritating my partners. I begged them to go along and leave me behind. At least they should still get good times...

But they wouldn't leave me. And at mile 9, while passing some park benches, I don't know what came over me. I just sat my sorry butt down. I called Brina and Juanita back to me and told them to go along without me, that I was ok with taking a DNF.

Seriously I said that. I said I was ok with not finishing and having someone just come and get me. Who does that?

And what was worse was that (and I had to be told about this later because I didn't actually remember it), while I was sitting there, I told Brina that I had been hoping it would rain so that we could stay at her house and hang out on the couch eating ice-cream all day. OK, what kind of alien life form was invading my body???

After going around and around about how I was giving up, Brina and Juanita got fierce with me and reminded me that I was wearing a Boston shirt, and the pain I was dealing with was nothing compared to what the bombing victims were dealing with in the hospitals. Well, when you put it that way... even I saw the hypocrisy in my giving up at that point.

So I got up and forced my body to keep going. By the time we hit the bridge the second time, I didn't think my calf cramping could get worse. But by then we were already at mile 10, and I had rationalized almost being done with the race. There was still one man behind us on the course, and as long as we kept moving, we could keep it that way.

On the return trip across the bridge, I was so dizzy, I frequently had to grab the railings to keep from falling over. The last place runner passed us on the down hill, and Brina (frustrated to find that we were the last 3 finishers) started to pick up her pace. I love Brina and do not resent her one bit for doing this, but I was freaked out to see her speeding up while I just kept slowing down and having more and more problems.

In the last mile, We had a police officer fall in behind us with his cruiser and give us an escort. Brina waited for us at the 13 mile mark so that we could do the final tenth of a mile together. The home stretch of the race was through a side street lined with bars and restaurants. The plan was for us to jog that home stretch and finish as strong as possible, but my body had a different idea. People in the bars were cheering for us, jumping up and down because we were the final finishers and I think that Brina and Juanita were somewhat embarrassed. I was embarrassed for them too. But I wanted to finish as strong as possible.

And I did. At least until I was about 5 feet from the finish line when my cramping calves finally called it quits. And just like this girl who hit a wall at her high school track championships (go to 1:31), I felt my calf muscles give out. I was so close that if I could have gotten just a little spring in my step I might have been able to throw myself over the finish line, but I didn't have the energy. Thankfully Juanita and Brina were there to catch me as I went down. It was like slow motion, and I saw finish line officials stepping over the finish line to help grab me, and medics reaching for me. The crowd was cheering loudly. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and hide... then pass out.

As soon as I was over the finish line, I was whisked into a tent and given some fruit and water and shade. I was embarrassed and exhausted and out of breath and cramping and nauseous and dizzy and a hot ball of mess.

I was ok with being the last finisher in this race and had joked with Juanita about who would take it, but in the end, I didn't have much of a choice. She was behind me holding me up as she handed me off to medical, causing her to finish last in the race. I didn't want that for her. She deserved better than that.

In the end though, last or second to last doesn't much matter.

We finished. And for me, that was all that mattered (particularly when I had been so sure we wouldn't finish in the first place).

Looking back, I realize that sometimes finishing strong means only comparing yourself to what you yourself are capable of. Did I finish strong by my normal standards? Absolutely not. Did I do the best I could with what I had to finish as strong as possible? I can answer that with a resounding yes.

HFs Brina, Me, Juanita and Seth at the finish
As a side note, I continued to suffer from the shortness or breath, cramping, nausea, heart palpitations, and dizziness for an additional 36 hours and I *did* go to the doctor the following Monday. I am fine now but now know the importance of eating right and properly hydrating as an ongoing issue, particularly when being a distance runner.

My stats on this race were awful, but for the sake of documenting, here they are:

Gun: 3:51:39
Chip: 3:51:12
Pace: 17:38
Sex: 228/229
OA: 382/383
Cat: 35/35


  1. That was such a hard day. I was mad at you, but mostly at myself for losing patience near the end. It was like the ticking of my watch was getting louder or something. I wanted to piggy-back you...anything to get you across that line faster because ill never leave you alone like that. Now had you been fine and going that slow, I might have left ya!

    1. next time will be better, i am sure of that.
      (and the truth is, had you offered to piggy back me, i probably would have let you ;))

  2. Hey, it happens. You shouldn't beat yourself up about it. You were out there. Now you have a better idea for the future. You are still a new runner and it takes time to learn. I am proud of you everyday--if you finish last or first. You should be proud that you started and finished. Period. I love ya even when rainy days and Tuesdays get me down.

    1. thank you so much. it felt like the worst Saturday turned Tuesday ever! love you.

  3. That had to be hard to type out, but you finished! You did it, you persevered, you pushed, and you finished. I find that inspiring!

    1. it was... partly because it was such an emotional day, partly because I felt like such a failure. but thank you for your kind words and support. they mean the world.

  4. I saw your spotlight on Runaway Bridal Planners blog, and came to check your blog out! I think finishing a race when things aren't going as planned sometimes just the finish itself is a rewarding accomplishment that you should hold your head high and be proud of!

    1. thank you so much for checking out my blog, Carrie. And thanks big time for your kind words! I cannot tell you how great it feels to have other runners supporting me on this journey1

  5. Sounds like you learned a lot that will help you in future races and you learned just how tough you are. I'm not sure I would be able to finish a half if I was puking at mile 7. Great job finishing and even better job being able to blog about it!

    1. Thank you so much April. I didn't feel strong or tough at all that day. I felt weak and like a hot mess! but looking back, I toughed it out with the help of some awesome friends... and that experience is probably one i will not soon forget!