Monday, June 13, 2011

Utah Valley Half Marathon

I modified my race shirt. Just a bit. Do you like it?
I'm sure you've been dying to hear how the race went, right? I know some of you will want to know every detail and the rest would rather have the short version. So, here are three versions for your reading pleasure:

The Short Version
I came. I saw. I conquered. Go me.
(Now skip to the end and tell me how impressed you are.)

The Medium Version

Mile 1: So cool. Lots of people. Tons of Excitement
Mile 2: Wait a second, how come this road is concrete?
Mile 3: Ouch, ouch, ouch. Left knee, what is happening to you? In thirteen weeks of training, the only injury I had was a teeny little blister. Here it is race day, and you decide to give out on me? No fair.
Mile 3-6: Why is this road still concrete? Left knee, are you and I going to make it another 10 miles? If I promise to let you walk some, will you be my friend to the end? How about if I stretch you out a bit more? Will you promise to stop throbbing if I run on the side of the road in the dirt?
Mile 7-9: Finally, asphalt roads. I'm out of the canyon and starting to think I might finish the race. Knee pain gets worse while I run, but subsides a bit while I walk it out. Run, hurt, walk, repeat.
Mile 9: No bandages at the aid station. But hey, free drugs hanging out and ready for the taking. I take two Advil and start wondering how long it will take to take effect.
Mile 10: I can do this. I run with a nice girl named Anita and we stay together for several miles.
Mile 11.5: Pain in the knee is starting to subside (wow, those drugs really do work), and I know my family is just a half mile away. I tell Anita to catch me later and I sprint the next few blocks to see my kids.
Mile 12: Wow, that is one HUGE cheering section I've created. Eight kids sure generate a lot of excitement. Hugs from everyone and a "hurry up and win the race, mom" from the little ones. Joey hops into the road and runs a block with me. He's a lot faster than I am and I have to ask him to slow down.
Mile 13: Just a block to go. Why does everyone look like they're in pain? This is awesome! Other than the knee, the rest of my body is so ready for this.
Finish line: Cool! I made it. There's free food. My time? 2:50:12. Not too bad, knee, not too bad. If I promise to treat you nice from now on, do you promise never to do that again?
(Now skip to the end and tell me I'm amazing.)

The Long Version
I'm so proud of myself for seeing this through and for how much work went into training and preparing for yesterday. I enjoyed walking through the running expo on Friday night and picking up my packet full of advertisements for strange and exotic running gear and amazing races all over the state that I don't have time to run in. My shirt was way too long, so I shortened it, then added "Mom of 8" with eight little faces grinning underneath it on the back. I figured the extra encouragement wouldn't hurt.

I took a good nap on Friday afternoon, ate lots of carbs this week, including frozen yogurt Friday night with Lillian and my mother-in-law, and went to bed well before 10:00. The nap worked against me, however, as well as the anticipation and excitement, because I think I only slept an hour or two when the alarm went off at 3:30.

I showered, dressed and caught a bus at the Provo mall for the starting line. The half marathoners were to meet the buses there, while the marathoners were supposed to catch their bus just north of the Provo Marriott. The last bus for the half was due to leave at 4:30, while the last bus for the full was due to leave at 4:15. It was just about 4:15 when the ladies in line in front of me said, "Now this is the bus for the full marathon, right?"

We told them no, and tried to tell them where that bus left -- "It's right north of the Marriott." "Where's that?" was the response. "It's where you picked up your packet last night." "We didn't pick up our packets." We tried to give them directions even while we reminded them the bus left right then, and they took off running towards their car.

"I hope they make it" I commented to the guy in front of me. "That's one group that's probably not going to race today," he replied. "You train for a whole marathon and then don't pick up your packet and don't know where to meet your bus? Maybe they really don't want to run anyway."

It was fun to talk with the various people in line and see the thousands hanging around the fires at the start. I understand they capped the race at 2000 runners for the full and 2000 runners for the half and it was sold out. I sat on the bus by a brother and sister who were excited to run. When we got to the start, I sat down by two friends from Orem who had trained together for the race. I was surprised at the different levels of preparation for the race. The brother and sister had only run six and seven miles as their longest run before the race, while the two friends had worked about as hard as I had and had run twelve miles two weeks before.

It was cold at the start and I was glad for my jacket. Ten minutes before the 6:00 start, I took it off, strapped on my water belt, put my running tag with my race number on my bag, and tossed it in the back of a moving truck piled high with other navy blue bags tied with bib numbers. My muscles were cold, so I opted not to stretch at that point and joined the back of the pack at the starting line. Right on time, at 6:00 a.m., the pack began moving slowly towards the starting gates. Our bibs were pinned to the front of our shirts and the race was started individually for each runner as they each passed under the gate at the start and the finish.

I walked towards the start with a mother and daughter pair. With my jacket off, I started to get some comments on my shirt. The mother was one of ten, and I asked her advice for raising a big family. She said she had loved having so many siblings. Her mother was very organized and had all the kids performing in music, but she wasn't very nurturing, so she encouraged me to make sure I love my kids and express it often. I think I do a good job of that. Another mom told me I was amazing because she could barely handle her two kids. "Well, it's like adding a mile at a time in running; you add just one at a time," I told her, when she replied that she'd had twins first. Oh. I told her I had twins too, right in the middle, and she was shocked that I'd gone on to have more kids after twins.

I soon lost track of these runners in the surge towards the start. The loudspeaker reminded us all to walk through the start so our chips would register. Just a few steps from the gate, everyone started running. It was a slow but manageable pace at first and I held myself back from my regular pace, knowing it would be easy to go out too fast. I enjoyed the race atmosphere. The sun was just peeking out over the canyon and there was a good pack of runners. A few runners would comment on my shirt as I ran. There was a group in front of me wearing shirts that said PGFD, so I asked them what it meant. They were from the Pleasant Grove Fire Department. They had two teenage twins in their group who looked about 14 years old. I was to pass them and be passed by them several more times during the race. I was impressed how well the five or six of them stayed together throughout the whole race.

I was a bit concerned as the sun started to rise and I looked down to realize I was running on concrete, not asphalt. I hoped it wouldn't cause any problems (concrete is the worst thing to run on and I can feel a difference after a short time running on sidewalks versus asphalt) and I told myself that surely the road was only concrete through this part of the canyon and would soon give way to a softer surface. I would be wrong, but it was a comforting thought at the time.

I reminded myself that the first mile was for Katie, and I turned my thoughts to her. She was the one who arrived without an epidural and showed me I can handle more pain than I thought I could. She was the one who refused to sleep but who was so sweet and pure I considered our nightly nursing sessions a privilege. She is the delightful soul who charms us all. She lights up when she sees me and brings me joy.

The pack was still pretty crowded at this point and I passed the first mile marker without seeing it. When I checked my phone, I was past the first mile and running at about 12 or a 12:30 pace. I thought to myself how quickly I'd be able to make up the time a bit further into the race and congratulated myself on starting out slow. Then I tried to focus on Harmony, who was my second mile. Harmony, who lives up to her name and started her first steps at just eight months old. Harmony with her bright, shining personality and her absolute love for Katie, Harmony who loved the story I told her Friday night about "Princess Harmony" and then asked me, "tell a story now Ziza (Eliza) a princess."

The second mile passed quickly and I felt great weaving in between runners and walkers. There was an aid station handing out bananas, oranges and Powerade, and I walked while I ate my banana and cup of Powerade.

Sometime in the middle of the next mile, which I ran for Eliza, things started to change. I felt a sharp pain in my left knee that began to throb. I was so disappointed and I started to worry that it might be an injury I couldn't run on. I hoped it wouldn't get worse, even while I thought through all of my training. All those miles I'd logged and the worst thing I'd ever felt was soreness after a run and a teeny little blister on the end of my toe and then here it is, race day, and I'm injured? Of all the luck!

I took a short walk break and then started to run again. I moved to the shoulder of the road and tried to run on the loose dirt there for much of the next three miles. It was a struggle and part of it was the weight of the ten remaining miles. What would I do if my knee got worse? Would the pain work itself out? Could I stretch it and make it better? I ran a half mile or so with an attorney in Orem and our conversation took my mind off the pain a bit, but even with the distraction, there was no denying there was sometihng wrong. There was a good hill towards the end of the third mile. I barely noticed the uphill; I've run a lot of uphill the last month. But still, I had to stop before the top because the pain got worse.

During mile four and five, which I ran for Allison and Sarah, I thought of how they turned my life upside down. I was a mom of three little ones close in age, but they turned me into a mom of many when they were born. I thought of how sweet they were as babies and how crazy they were as toddlers. I thought of how they catch snakes and keep them in their window well, how they love all of God's creatures and tackle life head-on.

It was also during this time I decided to use the strategy that got me through labor to deal with my knee pain. I began to rate the pain and decided that it was about a three out of ten when it started and probably a four or five during the runs. During my short walking breaks, it would subside, but it would start back up again every time I ran. I'd run until it got to about a six, when the pain began to interfere with my form and it felt like I was running on a twisted knee. A short walk break would get the pain back to a three when I'd begin to run again. Run, walk and repeat. Run, walk, and repeat.

The pain was the worst around mile six and seven, run for Michael and Joey, when there was no shoulder to run on and I was back on concrete a good part of the time. I remembered how sweet and thoughtful Michael was even as a baby and how he's becoming more responsible this week, asking daily for extra jobs to earn work hours. I thought of how Joey is becoming goal-oriented, with big plans. I recalled how hard he was as a toddler and how the only way to get him to take naps was to turn on a Thomas the Train DVD in my computer and have him sit in the rocking chair (because he refused to lie down). I thought of what a great relationship we have and how much I enjoy his company.

I checked my phone every so often and was pleased to see that even with my short walk breaks, I was running between 13 and 13:30 minute miles. I kept up that pace through the next miles as well. About mile eight, with the pain not getting too much worse (except when I'd run for too long), I felt more confident that the knee wouldn't get worse and I'd be able to finish the race strong.

I began to fall into rhythm with various other runners and I enjoyed getting to know them. I asked a man about his shirt, which had two dates on the back. "I'm running for my son who passed away two years ago," he replied. I had to smile at the people who skipped the porta-potty lines and headed straight for the bushes instead. I ran for a bit with a gal from Colorado, who was looking forward to the spectators as we got out of the canyon (I think she was probably disappointed, however, as there weren't that many and they were mostly quietly watching for their own runners rather than cheering for the masses who passed them).

Mile eight was for Lillian, who made me a mother. The pain in my foot was getting worse and I had to take more walk breaks and let some of my running partners run on without me. I used the time to text my husband and tell him where I was.

I'd planned on running mile nine for my husband, mile ten for me, mile eleven for the past, twelve for the future and the last mile in gratitude for my blessings, but about this time, I got caught up in the excitement of the race and didn't really pay attention to which mile I was on. I cheered for everyone who passed me and told the ones I passed how strong they were and how great they were looking. I loved smiling through those last miles. Instead of knowing which mile I was on, it was "just five miles to go!" and then "just a 5K left" and then "Just a mile until I see my family." That last one was the most motivating of all!

About this time, I fell into running with a new friend named Anita. Anita had only run nine miles as her longest run and was really feeling it, so she was happy to take walk breaks with me and it was wonderful getting to know her. She's a MPA student at BYU with two kids ages 9 and 7. She does divorce mediation and has horses. We enjoyed our discussions and motivated each other through the miles.

I stopped at a first aid station at mile nine and asked the EMT about what to do about my knee, which was throbbing. I'd been hobbling a bit through the last mile and figured it couldn't hurt to ask. They'd run out of bandages but he suggested I try some of the ibuprofen they had on the table -- free drugs ready for the taking! I found that weird. I took two and hoped they'd help. Anita stopped with me and we did a good run and walk through the next two miles.

Around mile ten, we started to get passed by some amazingly fast marathoners. It was easy to tell who they were -- they were the tall skinny dudes who looked straight ahead and never changed their expression as they breezed past going faster than should be possible at mile 23 in a full marathon. It was so motivating to see how fast these guys were and what the human body is capable of. I cheered for them all, though I doubt they even noticed.

The pain in my knee started to subside about that same time and I started to speed up as I approached the spot in front of the Glenwood apartments where I knew my family was waiting. Aaron texted me telling me the twins were high-fiving all the runners and I couldn't wait to see them. With apologies to Anita, I left her behind as I sprinted through the next block. It was thrilling to catch sight of my crew on the corner. "That's my family right there!" I told a couple of my new running friends and I ran over and got hugs from them as well as encouragement to "hurry up and win, Mommy!" It's hard to describe how much it meant to me to see these ten people (including my wonderful mother-in-law) there to love and encourage me. Joey ran the next block with me.

Then it was just a little over a mile left. The ground was concrete again, but still I ran pretty fast through that last little bit. There were lots of grimaces and pain on the faces around me and I tried to encourage the runners I passed and cheer on the ones who passed me. I marveled that even though my knee was bothering me a bit and I cursed the concrete road, I felt wonderful and strong. I had none of the struggle I'd had in my training run three weeks ago, when I ran the full distance. Because the week prior had only been ten miles, the last three were hard, hard, hard. This time, though I felt tired, it really wasn't a struggle at all to get through those last miles. It made me glad I'd gone the full distance, and I told myself I'd do the full marathon distance before St. George as well.

The finish line was full of cheering fans. I crossed the line, watched a bit for Anita (though I never saw her), then wandered over to the pizza tent and got myself a slice. I absorbed the race atmosphere, took a picture or two with my cell phone (but I still don't know how to download them -- my phone is smarter than I am), then hopped aboard a packed bus going back to the mall where we'd left our cars. I stood in the aisle with a bunch of other tired-but-thrilled runners. We'd gone a block when I realized I hadn't remembered to pick up my gear bag, which had my keys in it. So I sat in the first seat and pretended to be engrossed in my phone while everyone else got off the bus. I went back to the start, had another piece of pizza, picked up my stuff, decided against waiting in the long line for a free massage, and spent five to ten minutes stretching before I got back on a less-crowded bus. The girl across from me looked about dead. The guy behind her said he'd watched a marathoner pass the finish line just ahead of him. The marathoner was running like the wind, but the second he crossed the line, he fell down and passed out.

Back at home, the kids were convinced I'd won the race because I got a medal.

I was really sore yesterday, but going up and down stairs was not nearly as painful as it was the day after I ran the thirteen miles last time, and I'm hopeful that the knee pain was just a fluke from running on concrete and not a sidelining injury. I logged my miles on DailyMile yesterday and realized I was at a total mileage of 247 for the year. Joey came on an easy three mile run with me this morning to bring that total up to 250. We had a great time together and -- blessings -- my knee didn't give me trouble at all. I felt stiff there, but I felt stiff everywhere else as well.

I am so proud of my race. I'm thankful to God that the culmination of my training meant a great race despite my first injury. I'm so thankful that I didn't have to stop short and that I was able to smile through the last five miles. I'm thankful for my family for their support and excitement, and I'm thankful for my body, which has given me eight amazing children and is capable of more than I thought possible.


bjahlstrom said...

That is so incredibly inspiring! I am in awe! It means so much to hear your story, so thank you!

Corri said...

Hurray! That is an amazing triumph! I'm going to have to search through your blog to find some of your beginning running entries. Maybe I can motivate myself to follow your example!

Holli said...

You.Are.Amazing! Way to keep it going even with the pain. I loved the part where you talked about knowing your cheering section was just half a mile away and you picked up the pace to see them. Family makes everything better and helps us do better! Way to go!

John Colton said...

Way to go! Congrats on the accomplishment.

Montana Blakes said...

I am very impressed and you are amazing! :)

Natalie said...

So wonderful! Congratulations!!! So sorry your knee gave you trouble, but way to push on through. I'm totally inspired. Maybe I'll do it after I have 8 kids...just kidding=) Hopefully sooner. You look great!

Angie said...

Good job! The first race is always the hardest. After this you can always remind yourself that you've run a half with throbbing knee pain. When the professional marathoners passed my sister and I when we did the SLC half a couple of years ago, we just started laughing. It just seemed so unreal that humans could be that fast.

As for doing the full 26.2 before St. George, only do that if you have a lot of training time to recover fully before the race. At least that's what everything I read told me before TOU so I didn't do a full 26.2 training run. We did okay without it--the end of the race seemed long, but I think it had more to do with the boringness of that race once you're out of the canyon. Hopefully St. George will be more interesting for you.

Yeah for you!

Diane said...

Congratulations!! You are amazing!

Amber said...

Way to go!! I enjoyed all 3 versions of the race. Sounds fun!

KB said...

Way to go Christina! You are awesome! We got caught in the unexpected traffic on our way down provo canyon that morning, and I tried to look for you, thinking that it was probably the race you said you were going to be doing. I'm sure I would have seen you if I had know what to look for on your shirt! Congratulations!

Catey said...

Congratulations!!! I love reading your different summaries. :)

lurel said...

Fabulous job! I think I high-fived your kids, depending on what time they were there. I definitely high-fived a bunch of kids along the way, but the locations are all a blur ;)

Christine Rowley said...

Congratulations! Its a great accomplishment.
When I trained for a marathon, the most I ran was 23 miles. The long runs really made me tired so I couldn't run more than that until the marathon. I just hoped that adrenaline would help.

Joy For Your Journey said...

Congratulations!! That is awesome. My sister also ran in that race and her husband did the full marathon.

Good luck in St. George!!

Laura@livingabigstory said...

Congratulations! And thanks for inspiring us to get off our patootie and to just do it! You're awesome!

famr_4evr said...

Way to go!! You are so amazing and motivating!

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