Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Captain Clumsy and the 21K Race

I ran my very first half marathon last Sunday. And you know what?

I killed it.

Like, not just, "Oh, I ran a half marathon and I'm proud of myself," but "I fucking killed that race to the best of my motherfucking abilities."

You guys, I was so scared for that race. I never thought it would go as well as it did. I finished in 2:35:11, which is really a million years for many half marathoners, but for me? It was a motherfucking VICTORY.


Some details (which could take you as long to read as it took me to run the damn race):

The distance: I do a lot of math calculations when I run. I divide time by distance to figure out my pace, I add and subtract to determine how many miles I've run and how many I have to go, and sometimes I figure out what the distance I'm running is in kilometers. It keeps my mind busy and passes the time and miles. Or kilometers, whichever you prefer.

It was about mile five in last Sunday's race that I figured out that a half marathon is about 21K. I instantly forgot the answer, but I assure you that I did have it at one time. Also, Google can do the calculation in, like, a millionth of a second.

The Fear: Prior to running this race, I was scared to death. In fact, it had taken great courage and probably five or six trips to the registration page to even sign up for the thing in the first place.

Thirteen miles seems like a lot of miles when you're on the starting end of them.

That Fear continued through pre-race eavesdropping on thin people in running tights ("I've only run four times this week," "I'm using this as a training run for my marathon training") right up until the first couple of waves of runners had set off and I realized that if I didn't hit the porta potties, the next thirteen miles would become increasingly uncomfortable. Fortunately, after the race has started, there are no lines for the bathrooms and I was able to pee and get back in the corral before my wave (the last one) was released.

Once I started running, the Fear dissipated. That is the great thing about racing. Once you're in it, you're in it and even though I was well aware of how brave I'd been to register and force myself to show up that morning, after the start line the Fear goes away. I spent the next .74 miles without any fear at all.

The Captain Clumsy part: So, I ran 13.1 miles all in a row, but I did it in probably the ugliest way possible. I was three-quarters of a mile in when I fell flat on my face, toes to nose on the asphalt. Seriously, people, it was like I was diving for first base.

Frankly, considering how packed in all the runners were at the time, it is a MIRACLE that I didn't take down a bunch of other people with me. As you know though, I jumped right back up. Then I spent the next half mile trying not to visibly cry because, Christ. Really?

You may be thinking, "Oh, well, at least she got that out of the way early on so she could get down to business and run the rest of the race without being a complete buffoon."

How wrong you would be.

Fast forward to mile 12.6. I trip on a rock and do another nosedive to the ground, this one coupled with a slight roll to the side. I popped up, assured the two nearby runners that I was fine and had, in fact, already fallen once in the race and set off running again.

Then I realized that even though I felt fine, every time I inhaled, I made an involuntary gasping sound. I kept running, going over possible reasons for this weirdness. This is what I came up with: (1) I was in some sort of shock and was panicking, (2) I had somehow inhaled a chunk of gravel and it was busy killing me, or (3) the wind had been knocked out of me.

I stopped to walk and concentrated on taking slow breaths. A few seconds later the gasping stopped and I continued on my way.

It is quite obviously awesome to be me.

The injuries: Fortunately, other than some bruising, abrasions, and a big chunk of skin that ripped off of the palm of my hand, I escaped from my falls unscathed. This is fortunate, because I was already facing down enough aches and pains—a trifecta of injuries, if you will.

The hip injury: Remember my hip injury from last year? Well, it's on the other side now. I'm steadfastly ignoring it.

The wonky knee: This isn't actually a running injury. I have a wonky knee. It's been wonky for a long time and it actually feels better when I run than when I don't. A couple of weeks ago, I sat on a couch with my knee tucked under me the wrong way and ever since it has hurt to do such strenuous things as walk up or down stairs. Fortunately, (1) there are no stairs in (most) half marathons and (2) "resting" by not running and going to Disney World instead seemed to have let it get a lot better. I am encouraged that ice and rest obviously helped so much.

It isn't completely healed though, as I discovered when I could feel it slowing me down on some of the uphills. Not a lot, but there's definitely something going on there.

The peroneal tendonitis: This is what my doctor called it. He said it was painful, but not harmful, which pleases me because I don't care if it hurts (see: hip); I just don't want my ankle to blow out. I went on a five-mile run last week and it fucking hurt. Like, I'm tough, but damn. I was worried that bad things were going to happen to it on Sunday.

I made sure to stretch and loosen it before the race and I KT taped it as well. I was not just happy, but astonished that it didn't hurt even a little bit during the whole 13 miles. Honestly, it was a little weird. But I'll take it.

The pace: I'm still not a super fast runner, but I'm getting faster. I even ran a 5K this summer at a 10:30 minute pace, but there is a big difference between 3 miles and 13. My speed tends to drop off dramatically after a few miles. That is why I was so surprised to finish with an average 11:51 minute/mile pace.

Honestly, I was hoping to finish this race just ahead of the official 12:26 minute/mile cutoff pace. I just didn't want to be swept off the course because I wasn't running fast enough. Never would I have imagined running an 11:51 pace. The best average pace I'd allowed myself to hope for in this half marathon was maaaybe12:20.

I remember passing 10 miles well under two hours and marveling that I'd covered that distance nearly 15 minutes faster than when I ran my ten-miler in early March.

I have no idea how that happened.

Actually, I do. It probably has a lot to do with the hundreds of miles I've run this year. That's probably how it happened. But still. It was surprising.

The mood: Somewhere around mile four, my stomach started to hurt. I was really bummed out because no other part of me was sad. My feet didn't hurt, my legs weren't tired, and my mind wasn't fatigued. Happily, the stomach pangs went away after about a mile and I spent the rest of the run feeling pretty damn good.

I'm not sure what helped me run these thirteen miles in what felt like the most effortless long run I've had in a long time. I think it helped that the course is familiar as well as pretty flat/downhill, but I was prepared to be in pain and I never really got there. I somehow managed to fuel exactly right with the Gatorade and water stations set up every two miles and a few energy chews I'd stuffed in my waist pack. I didn't spend the majority of the race thinking about how far I still had to run, something that often happens.

Everything came together perfectly.

I'm not saying this race was easy. It was a lot of running and there were points when I wanted to stop and walk (but didn't!), but I was really proud of the way I managed it. Maybe someone can tell me why I could do this race, but it is so goddamn hard to run three continuous miles on a treadmill.

The cheerleaders: One of my lower points came at around mile nine. I was tired and the distance I still had to cover was just long enough to be a little bit demoralizing. The thing that kept me going was knowing that my family was coming to cheer me on just before mile ten. My family rarely makes it out to races, so having them on the course was a big deal.

"I can run to my family," I told myself. "I can run to my family. I can run to my family."

I knew where they were going to be standing and once I was close enough, I strained my eyes looking for them. I was so happy to see my babies jumping up and down with hands out for high fives. "HI, BABIES!" I called, slapping hands and smiling so big. I felt really special having a cheering squad out there. I don't think they have any idea how far their presence carried me.

Standing just past my kiddos was Alex. And he had chosen to wear the shirt I had bought for him at Disney World. This shirt:

How super cute is Alex?

I had my mantra for the next three miles.

I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable. I am unstoppable.

And I was.

The finish: At some point I realized that I was on track to finish in under two hours and thirty-six minutes, which was, like, a super stretch goal. The desire to beat that time kept me going through that last terrible mile. Ugh. That last mile. It sucked. I think that is the nature of last miles, but let's be honest here, mine was particularly gruesome what with my unplanned trip to the gravel less than a half mile from the finish.

It was all worth it when I crossed that finish line though. I feel really proud of myself. Since starting to run again a couple of years ago, I've done a lot of things that I'm proud of, but this one felt really good. It feels like a real accomplishment. I feel brave and strong and proud. It feels great.

I also earned a beer glass that unfortunately came without beer, a situation I was able to rectify.


The conclusion: Guess what guys? Turns out I'm unstoppable. And a little bit of a dunce. But mostly the unstoppable thing.


  1. You are just the best! I would never, ever, ever run a half marathon. I stopped running long distances because I decided I, um, hate it. But seriously, so impressed by you!

  2. A-freaking-mazing. Great job! I did the Army ten-miler last year and omg I hated the last two miles so much and that's pretty much the last time I ran. Maybe it's time to get back out there--you've inspired me! :)

  3. Jean, you rock! I really miss you. I nearly cried seeing you at the Labor Day Parade. As a newbie to the running thing I get ridiculously excited about every baby step, so it's awesome to delight in your victory and hope that some day running won't feel quite so daunting!

  4. Awesome pace! Good for you! (and yes, Alex looked adorable in his T-Rex shirt. lol)

  5. You ARE unstoppable! I loved reading this and am so very proud of you! You totally inspire me to run more than just the couple miles that Oliver the Dog and I run daily though I can't say there are any races in my future like there have been for yours! xo

  6. Keep it up! You are rocking the running! I love reading race reports. Although ouch! I fell a few weeks ago on a training run and that hurts. There was no way I was going to run after that - but you did! That's amazing. Next time I fall, I'm going to try and remember that it's possible to not only get up, but to start running again. Bravo! Bravo!

  7. Oh my. Are there words for this? I suspect that you have a Mom who is quite proud of you. But I just want to say, I wanna' join that proud-of-Jean team. You have accomplished so much! Such an example to set for team Stimey. Just amazing. And I only cried a little as I read this. Such joy for/with you.

  8. You. Are. Awesome! So inspiring. Congrats and thanks for sharing all the details -- good and painful :) :)

  9. Ha! Thanks! :) And, yeah, it's not for everyone.

  10. If you keep at it, one day you will hate it less, then one day you will be used to it, and then one day? You're going to miss it if you don't do it. I swear.

    I miss you too. Let's get together soon!

  11. Thanks so much, Leticia!

  12. It is totally possible. :)

    Congrats on your recent half too!

  13. You are wonderful. Thank you.

  14. My running hero. Unstoppable indeed. So proud of you!

  15. She does have a mom who is really proud of her! She is Unstoppable!

  16. I'm so proud of you! (and I don't even know you!) But I started training for a half after you said you were doing this one. Mine's in December - although I didn't pay the registration yet, which I need to do so I don't chicken out!! I will not however be at your pace...I'm hoping for sub 3:15. Take care of those injuries you are ignoring!! :-)

  17. Huge congratulations to you! That us awesome. As for falling, you made me think of a favorite quote of mine:

    It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.
    Vince Lombardi

    You got up each time & for that (and many other reasons) you are a ROCK STAR!!!

  18. You should be proud! That's amazing!

  19. Awesome. I can't run but I did a few Revlon Run/Walks. 5K in NYC ... First year I was second to last 3 hrs 6 minutes. 2nd I did it in 1hr 15 min. I don't do them as I moved to So FL and it is too hot 'n humid down here plus I am now 76! I do walk in the cooler months.

    I am in awe of you. You are a fantastic person.

  20. YOU ARE AMAZING. What a brilliant achievement. Very inspiring (especially as I have a run myself coming up this weekend).

  21. You are awesome! We are all so proud of you.

  22. My mom ran nine miles when she was younger and hurt, I think it was her knee. Btw, I have lurkers in my blog. My last posts have been read and not commented on.

  23. Jean, Congratulations!! That is both a milestone :) AND imo an exceptional time. [Apologies; I'm going to post three comments here.]
    Definitely relate to falling while running. I once tripped on a broken sidewalk while jogging to pick up carryout. [Kinda ironic.] Because I was carrying a clutch in one hand, and it happened really fast, I didn't use my hands to break my fall. It wasn't pretty. :(
    While I'll never be a runner, I do want to take up Nordic walking again. It's very low impact, and fun.

  24. Yes, Alex looks adorable. So cool that Disney sells that shirt in adult sizes.
    It took me a minute to get the humor. Because T-Rex had really short arms, right? :)

  25. As you know, I'm a real fan of physical therapy. If your hip & knee pain continue, or worsen, you might ask your MD for a referral for a physical therapy assessment. It's usually covered by insurance!
    OR, you might try the following *official* exercises for hips, knees, and ankles. I posted these way back when; here they are again:
    I'd still encourage having a couple of appointments with a physical therapist, so you know which exercises to focus on.
    Happy running!

  26. Hmm, that third comment didn't post. Maybe there's a spam filter on the blog?

  27. Jean, Now, that third comment has posted. Guessing that your blog is looking for 'spam' comments, as I DID post three comments in a very short time.
    So, you'll likely see two or three similar comments from me, all related to physical therapy. So, please delete the duplicates, and just keep the one from 3:04. Hope the links are helpful! :)

  28. Thank you! I'm proud of you too! Don't chicken out. It's totally worth it! Please, please let me know how it goes in December!

  29. Thank you!! And, yep, I agree with Lombardi on this one. :)

  30. And I am in awe of you!

  31. Thank you! And good luck at your run!

  32. I haven't had a chance to read your blog for a couple of weeks. I'll have to go over and read soon. Sometimes I read and don't comment, but I usually comment.

  33. Ha! This sounds like something I would do. :)

  34. I think it asks me to moderate comments that have lots of links. Although it misses a lot of *actual* spam. Thank you for the exercise links!

  35. Reading this after running a particularly grueling 2.5 miles today. Yes, that's right-- your warm-up run. I can't imagine running 13 miles! That is fantastic.

  36. I learned about lurkers from blog reading. I guess once you have lurkers, you've arrived. I don't mind, hey it's readers.

  37. I LOVE the 2.5 mile run. It's one of my favorites! :)

  38. […] race that got the cut was the Parks Half Marathon, which I ran once and cheered at once, and fell at three times. I deferred my entry to next year (dammit, now I have […]


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