Bonking at the Half Marathon
Last Sunday I ran in a half marathon with my dad. His first, my second. I have been too frustrated and embarrassed by my performance I haven't written about it. But of course I have to write. It's the only way I can let go of the frustration.
I will admit that it wasn't until the last month or so was I feeling it on my training runs. The first four weeks I think I was tired and I realize I hate running in hot and humid weather. I was debating on whether or not to run the Parks Half Marathon. I was going to use it as a training run for another half in October. But when no one else was interested I decided to bag it until my dad showed interest. We decided to run it together and I put it back on my racing schedule. I was very excited to run with my dad. I have always (and still do) looked for affirmation and approval from my parents. I was excited to be doing something that my dad enjoys doing. My dad enjoys running. Over the last 9 years I have asked him to run a race or two with me, 5Ks or 5 milers, and he kept saying how his knees hurt and wasn't up for it. I kept running and I kept racing. He ran with the wounded warriors at work and paced them through some 10 milers. My dad is a life long runner and has never run in a half marathon. It's kind of crazy that I ran one before he did, but he was never interested until now.
I struggled through a lot of my training runs and was finally refitted with a new pair of shoes. The new shoes were amazing and I was able to run without knee, hip, and ankle pain. As the date loomed closer the more excited I became. For the first time ever I ran 13 miles and then a week later 14.51 miles for training runs. They were slower than race pace, but everything I read said that was to be expected. I was just working on endurance.
For this half marathon I added hill training and interval training. I participated in a run clinic to work on my form and I ran more than I ever have in my life.
The day of the race I was excited and nervous. I made sure I had everything ready. In trying to prepare for getting out of the house I realized I didn't have time to make my usual running breakfast of rice and beans in a tortilla and went with almonds and a bagel. I've eaten that before and thought it would sustain me. I also drank a small bottle of water and I was ready to go.
My dad, friend, and I made it to the race start. It was in the low 60s and cloudy when we started. It even started to drizzle just a tiny little bit just as we passed the race clock at the start of the race. It was still a little too warm for me, but manageable. I've been in races where it was 80 degrees and sunny at the start.
Dad and I decided to start with the 2:40 pace group so that we would start slower in the beginning and go for a negative split. We planned to pick up the pace around the halfway point. I had the beginnings of plantar fasciitis and foolishly (?) took an Aleve before we left the house. I usually stay away from aspirin and whatnot for long runs, but I knew that I would be running faster and I wanted to stave off any unwanted pain. I spoke to the 2:40 pacer and she said she would keep a 12:12 mile. I thought that was more than doable and followed her when it was our turn to start. It was crowded at the start and it took some time to move beyond the crowd of people. When my Garmin went off at mile 1 I realized we were starting way too fast for what I thought would be a comfortable pace. We hit the first mile in the low elevens and the next three miles we were in the high tens and low elevens. Now my dad naturally runs about 3 minutes faster per mile than I do. He was more than comfortable with this pace. I was concerned that it was too fast. I even stopped to walk to fix my gait a few times. My gait was off because of the plantar fasciitis. At mile 4 I decided to walk up the hill known as The Silencer. I was warned about it and decided with my nagging pain to take it at a fast walk versus a run. It was a good decision. We were up and over in no time. However, between mile 4 and 5 I looked up into the sky because I thought it was raining and when I rubbed my hand over my face I realized that I had small salt balls coming off my face. That's not a good sign. I was a little concerned but we kept running. After an hour of running I refueled with sport beans and got a little pick up at mile 6 and I was feeling better. Dad estimated that we would finish well within our goal of 2:30 and 2:40. The pacer was still quite a ways ahead of us, but we were fine. We saw my mom, my husband, and my kids around mile 8 and it was so nice to see them. Hubby even had some fresh orange slices ready to give to me. I thought it would help pick me up. But it didn't. It began to unravel for me at mile 8 when I felt the need to pee and couldn't when I got into the port-a-potty. I tried again at mile 10 and was becoming really concerned that I couldn't go. I had been drinking water at every station which were stationed just about 2 miles apart. I should have taken in some Gatorade, but it makes my stomach hurt so I just kept to drinking water and pouring it down my back. My dad didn't seemed concerned about my inability to urinate so we kept running. By this time the 2:45 pacer had passed us and I couldn't keep up. I kept falling further and further behind. I just couldn't do it. We saw Mom, Hubby, and the kids just before mile 12 and that was nice. They cheered and gave us fist bumps and I loved them for that. They are the best!
At the mile 12 aid station the medic saw me as I passed her and said, "Get water NOW!" I must have looked terrible. I didn't tell her my concerns because I only had a mile to go. It was the worst mile of my life. I kept thinking I run a mile at least once a day. I just have to keep going. But I couldn't. I was doing a lot more walking than running. I kept telling Dad to go on ahead because he was feeling fantastic and I just wanted to suffer alone. I remember looking at the path at mile 12.3 thinking I could just lie down right now and not get up. I could curl up and be content to not finish this race. Running sucks. And then I remembered my friend m00se saying, just enjoy the run. I tried. I really, really tried. I had not only hit the wall, I had slammed into it and it knocked me on my butt. I had bonked. I saw the minutes on my watch tick by and knew then I had blown my goal and I was not even going to come close to my first half marathon time. I was beside myself. I knew my dad was frustrated. I was very frustrated and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. I had never felt that way before.
In retrospect I had bonked. I looked it up later and all of the signs of wanting to just curl up and lie down and of not being able to move clearly indicated I had bonked. I spoke to my spin instructor who is also a distance runner. I told her what happened and she told me I had bonked. She said that salt balls coming off my face and my inability to use the bathroom showed that I was dehydrated. She also thinks that my kidneys were starting to shut down and that I should have gotten IV fluids after the race. My neighbor, a nurse, did not think it had gone that far, but that I was definitely dehydrated. Come to find out, I was not only dehydrated I was also way under fueled. I found my mostly uneaten bagel in the car when we returned from the race. I had forgotten to eat. I guess I got caught up in the excitement of running with my dad and the thought of getting a PR, I had forgotten to finish my breakfast. I was running on a handful of almonds and a few bites of a bagel. I am the first to tell people to fuel up before a run and what to eat. I have run so often I know exactly what will carry me through each distance. And for this crucial race I did not follow my own advice and simply did not remember to eat. Ridiculous! Frustrating! Irritating! I could have done so much better.
I did finish the race by sheer determination. It took every ounce of strength and energy I had to cross that finish line running. My dad and I crossed at 2:51:47. It was not my best time and it was by far the worst running experience I have ever had. It took most of the day to recover. I cried when I got home. I cried for a few days after. The worst part of the race was disappointing my dad. And I know I did. I could see it on his face and I could hear it in his voice. And it was pretty much confirmed when we had talked about doing another one in the future and after the race he's not really sure he wants to do another one. He was feeling good and looking forward to this race. And now, he doesn't really want to do another one. It's a bummer. It should have been a good experience for him and it wasn't.
As I was finishing up that mile I kept thinking there is no way I can ever do another half marathon, much less a marathon. This run is killing me. But I have run 13+ miles before and never felt that way. But now I know what I did wrong. And now that I have come to my senses, of course I'll run another half marathon. I actually have my eye on another one next month and another one scheduled in April. If the plantar fasciitis in my left foot can heal in the next few weeks I'll sign up for the one in October. If not, well, this certainly won't be my last half marathon. I'll just keep running, because that's what I do. I just keep running.
I wish I had the following verse with me on the last five miles of the race:
Our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (2 Corinthians 4:17)