I Survived My Second Half Marathon

Trigger warning: This is going to be a whiney post.

Once upon a time, I ran my second half marathon race. And was totally freakin’ over it before I even started.

Let me go back. When I had first signed up for this race through the streets of San Francisco, I was stoked. I had a few friends signing up, San Francisco felt like home, and I couldn’t wait to run past more iconic landmarks than those of downtown San Jose.

I kind of trained. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was focusing more on strength training than running, partly to stave off shin splints. In retrospect, I feel like I was setting myself up for intervals rather than static endurance running. As the day itself approached, I made sure that I had everything in place and all logistics thought out. Learning lessons from the first half marathon last October, I had actually completed my distance prep runs, I worked out my energy strategy, and I was generally stronger than when I had gone into the first race.

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But something was off. My friends couldn’t make the race anymore, and I was feeling more and more “meh” about it as race day crept steadily forward. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Ultimately, I decided that since I’d already paid for it and I couldn’t think of a legitimate reason to not do it, so I might as well go run 13.1 miles with several thousand other people.

So here’s how it went down. Everything that went wrong:

  1. I stayed over at a friend’s house the night before the race because the starting time was an ungodly 6 a.m. I got up around 5:15, not feeling very rested, and started to get my things in order. Upon going to cut the moleskin that I had bought specifically to prevent my regular blister, I couldn’t find the regular cutting scissors. Because I didn’t want to wake up my friend to ask her where she kept her scissors, I resorted to using the herb cutting scissors (ssssssh), and shock of shocks, they didn’t really do the job. So, no moleskin, which meant yes blood blister.
  2. I did have my compressions socks, but because I am a lame-o, I did my 11- and 12-mile practice runs in the same trail running minimus shoes that I ran in during my first race. They’re not terrible shoes, and obviously I still use them a good deal, but they’re not a very supportive racing shoe and I almost never run in them for exclusively paved courses like the race was going to be. My feet were hurting pretty bad by about mile 8.
  3. I didn’t check out the course ahead of time. Okay, I did look at the course map and I think to some extent I considered that third dimension known as topography, but it was more like “Oh yeah, San Francisco has hills, whatever.” Had I actually walked or driven the course before race day, I would have known that I was in for probably the most topographically challenging run of my entire life. I hadn’t really trained for hills, aside from a few sporadic hill sprint workouts. Honestly, this course sucked. A half marathon is about 13 miles. I don’t even understand how this is possible, but about 9 miles of this race were uphill. I’m not kidding. Two of the four relatively flat miles were over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. By about mile 10, about 90% of the people around had basically given up and were walking, which was somewhat discouraging.
  4. I don’t know what the race organizers were thinking when they set up the aid stations. Water/Gatorade stations tend to be placed every two miles or so. Most people start taking their gels (with oodles of water) or Gatorade around 60 minutes. For me, that’s like 6 miles in; however, the aid stations were at 4 mi and then not again until 8 mi. Writing this now, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but 4 mi in the middle of the race is a long way to go without water or gels.
  5. Last I checked, this was a “Rock n’ Roll” half marathon. Where the crap were all the bands? I mean, yeah, jugglers are pretty cool I guess, but I can’t exactly crane my head to watch as I’m running past. The one band I saw was good… The best part of the Rock n’ Roll series is supposed to be the entertainment, and this one really didn’t cut it.
  6. I also almost didn’t get a ride to the starting line and was pretty close to just throwing in the towel.
  7. Most of the photographers I passed were not actually photographing anything. I saw at least three that were texting on their phones as I was passing. I know you don’t do races for the race pics, but…yeah.
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  8. I rolled my ankle in a crack on the Golden Gate Bridge. Because the race course was an out-and-back across the bridge, all runners were squeezed into two lanes totally about 15ish feet across. There wasn’t really anywhere for walkers, so people would just stop running wherever they were, and when I rolled my ankle, even though I tried to move off to the side, there wasn’t really anywhere for me to stand. Also, since this was essentially the flattest part of the course, I had been planning to make up some time during these three miles, but nope. We were all just pushed along herd-like.

All right, I am done with the whining. Here’s everything that went right:

  1. The weather conditions weren’t bad. It was sunny but not too hot.
  2. I got to run on the Golden Gate Bridge and along Ocean Beach and in the Financial District!
  3. My hips didn’t hurt!
  4. I wasn’t nauseated the entire time!
  5. Once I decided that I wasn’t really racing, I actually enjoyed myself a lot more. It was quite a pleasant 13.1-mile run that I did with several thousand other people that day!

Despite all of the pain and general meh-ness, I am still glad that I did it. Probably wouldn’t recommend this race to a friend, but that happens. Onward and upward!

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