Sunday, May 1, 2011

Run and Smell the Tulips x 13.1

I honestly cannot think of the last time I've had so much anxiety. Every time I thought about running the Thanksgiving Point Half Marathon, I felt sick to my stomach. I waited until the last possible day to register for the race, because I was having commitment issues. Even though I completed 12 miles on the treadmill the week before, I just wasn't sure.

I tried not to tell to many people I was even thinking of doing this race because I was embarrassed. Let me go on the record as saying, I'm not a runner! Hylan and I bought a treadmill in November of last year because I don't have time for a gym anymore, and cardio fitness classes don't always work into my busy schedule. Yoga and strength training may make me strong and flexible, but it doesn't help me walk up the 3 flights of stairs at work without feeling winded.

So, after Thanksgiving, I took advantage of our at home treadmill. I only have three days a week that I can even use the treadmill: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. That's it. Tuesdays and Thursdays I get home late after teaching and Fridays are always out of the question. So, although progress would be slow, I could at least commit to that. My first goal was to complete a treadmill 5K (3.125) in 35 minutes. Yes, lofty goals people (I aim for attainable goals)!

Since I've actually recorded my stats, let me share something with you. In early December, it took me 52 minutes to do 3.2 miles. WOW. Just five "runs" later I was already down to 40 minutes 30 seconds. Improvement is always encouraging! With a few significant milestone in between, a mere thirty-one "runs" later I finally met my 5K goal and came in under 35 minutes at 34:45. (My current fastest treadmill 5K is 33:26--I know that's like your slowest time ever when you were pregnant and sprained your ankle, but that's my personal best).

So perhaps it was around this time that I thought, hey I have exactly enough time to prepare for a half marathon if I just increase my Saturday mileage by one mile each week until April 30th. If I did that, I knew I'd at least be able to finish 13.1.

Now I've known some very cool people in my life, some very awesome marathon-loving people who can literally run twice as fast as me. I admire your 7:00 minutes mile paces, or even your 10 minute mile paces. My apologies to you for my lack of competitive spirit, but like I said, I'm not a runner. I just like exercise. I like to do things I've never done before. But all I wanted was to finish this race and not be last. That's it. Another lofty goal, I know! Ha.

After I finally committed myself to this race last Wednesday, I still couldn't shake the pre-race jitters. I would be sitting at work thinking about the race and start to feel nauseated. I was embarrassed to talk about it. I really didn't want anyone to know about the race because then I knew I would have to face the dreaded, "what was your time" question. I was scared by the weather forecast. I didn't know what to wear. I was just nervous because it was a new world I was stepping in to. One filled with gels and gummies, carb-loading, gait-proper footwear, runner's tights, and timing chips. I was out of my comfort zone!

Friday rolled around and I was angry. I love women and I love BYU but I HATE WOMEN'S CONFERENCE. It took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to get home from work. That night I had to pick up my race packet at Thanksgiving Point by 8:00 pm (good thing I live so close now) and make sure to eat a decent meal and get a good night of sleep. Thank you women's conference traffic for stealing 1 hour and 10 minutes of my life from me.

Anyway, moving on, Saturday I woke up at 5:15, ate a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese and half of a large banana. I looked out the window and unsurprisingly saw an inch of snow on the ground. This is what it looked like at Thanksgiving Point.

For the first time ever, I clipped a timing chip to my sneaker.

I decided to wear my moisture wicking tank and shorts underneath a jogging suit and gloves (thanks Allison, good advice on the gloves). The headband was an afterthought. I thought I would just wear it before the race began, but decided not to take it off, which turned out to be a great decision because I hate cold ears and mine would have been without the coverage. Clothing wise, I think I made the right choice because I actually felt quite temperate throughout the entire race, despite the cold temp. It would have been nice not to have so many layers, but c'est la vie.

I had some PowerBar raspberry gummies in one jacket pocket and an ipod in the other jacket pocket. Then I had my key fob in my back pocket, since Hylan wasn't going to be at the finish line because he was working, so I'd have to drive myself home.

Okay, now I'm a little excited.

This is me playing with my ipod. Oh, oops, I grabbed the earbuds that only pipe sound to one ear. Dang it. I was going to hand it off to Hylan, but I thought maybe sound in one ear was better than nothing. MISTAKE. The ipod bounced around in my jacket pocket making me feel like I needed to go do the bathroom. I tried to switch it to inside my shirt, but by completion of mile 1, the sound went out completely. So much for the bulky Ipod Nano. I shoved it into my back pocket and it stopped bouncing around, so then it didn't bother me. I don't know why I brought it; I didn't need the music anyway. The scenery was so beautiful, it was enough distraction for me. At home, I distract myself by watching recorded episodes of Chopped or Cupcake Wars.

And we're off. I bet Hylan was too because he was wearing flip flops and a t-shirt. Crazy man.

The race itself I thought went pretty fast actually, despite how slow I am. At one point I heard some girls who were keeping track of the mileage say "9.5, woohoo." I wanted to tell them to be quiet. I don't need to open the oven door every minute to know whether my cake is rising or not. I chose not to wear a watch or pedometer or anything else. Each mile was posted clearly and time was irrelevant to me. I just wanted to enjoy the journey!

Miles 3 through 6 went through the gardens. I was totally enraptured by the comical looking thousands of multi-colored snow-capped tulips (dappled, to say the least!) There is such an irony to spring, especially Utah springs. The pansies looked like clusters of cauliflower. The earth smelled fresh. The brooks babbled. The waterfalls dazzled. I even saw a couple of grizzly bears a long the way (statues). It was so delightful. All I could think about was Wordsworth and Austen and Thoreau. I get why Wordsworth would walk for inspiration. I imagined that this was the very world Austen thought of when she envisioned the grounds of Pemberly. This is why Thoreau experimented living the simple life in nature. And it's precisely why I jogged slowly and walked fast throughout the race. I just wanted to take it all in. You know, "stop" and smell the tulips, or something like that.

After circling out of the gardens, we wound through the golf course. There weren't as many pretty colors, but there were still some breathtaking vistas. The first couple of miles of the race we ran on the road and battled snowflakes on our nose and eyelashes (not a few of my favorite things while running a race), but around this point of the race, there was a clear sky and even a bit of sunshine. The earth looked clean and pure. The mountains looked strong and majestic with a fresh coat of snow. And I'm just happy that Dr. Hoopes gave me back eyes to see it all without contacts!

The course was a little bit hilly. I actually heard some girls say, "who would have thought we'd run up the hills and walk down them." I thought they were silly and here's why. Some of the best advice I've heard is to lengthen your stride on the down hills and your legs will carry you fast without wasting energy (thanks Bridget--I read your marathon posts like 3 times!) I also heard that walking up the hills is a good way to conserve energy (thanks Allison, for sharing that tidbit). So every time there was a downhill, I'd lengthen my stride and speed down the hill, always passing a ton of people without getting winded. Then on the steep uphills, I put my head down and walked, probably faster than I would have jogged anyway. So when I heard those girls say that, I wanted to help them understand that their strategy was all wrong, but then what do I know, I'm the novice!

So, like I said, I actually thought the race went fast even though I'm so slow. I always smiled and thanked the people, especially the cute kids, at each aid station. I took water and power aid intermittently. Had I known there would be gel packs handed out, I wouldn't have carried a pouch of gummies in my pocket. I only ended up eating three of those. I took a gel pack near the end of the race because I figured if it was free and they were offering, so why not try it. I got a strawberry banana one that didn't have caffeine. I didn't want caffeine, so I figured it would be safe. It wasn't bad actually. I liked it. I just may prefer the "goo" over the gummies because the gummies are a bit too big and hard for me to chew and dissolve, but the goo went right down and also packs more of a caloric punch, so it's needed less often.

My legs started to burn during the last mile and a half. We were back on roads at this point, so I was bored by the lack of visual spectacles. I noticed that there were two guys, a pair of girls, and a girl in purple jacket around me and we each took turns passing each other as we walked and jogged to the finish.

I eventually passed all of them, including the pair of girls. I had a great kick at the end and was able to sprint fast through the finish line. Makes me wonder if I stored up too much energy in the tank.

The clock is deceiving because obviously it's not my chip time. I smiled the entire race, but maybe I smiled bigger at this point because I didn't expect to see Hylan at the finish, and there he was in his suit taking pictures. Now that's a good husband. I was going to be mildly irritated with him for not being there, but he found a way to make it back! Yay. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had a photographer.

And now I've got the medal to prove it! As for my time, okay fine, I will reveal it because you could look it up on their website anyway. I finished ahead of exactly 100 people, so it turns out I reached that lofty goal of not being last. Okay, okay, here is the stupid time: 2:46:43.1, making it a 12:44 pace.

In the end, this race was fun. It was beautiful and scenic. I'm quite sure that hiking Timp is a much more difficult feat (and I've done that 3 times), so maybe there will be another "half" in my future, but probably not anytime soon. I've got other things I want to turn my attention to and other fitness goals I want to accomplish. Besides, running makes you fat! I've gained over five pounds and trust me, it's not muscle! Running makes you hungry!!

But at least now I know I CAN do it. I'm quite sure I can do it faster too, but there won't be any sub 10 minute mile paces in my immediate future. I'll leave that to the serious-minded runners, because I'd rather tiptoe through the tulips, dance with the daffodils, meander through meadows, and stop to smell the roses.

And how did I celebrate? Well, I came home and spent 3 hours cleaning my house and doing laundry. Guess I was feeling pretty good post-race. But that's just what you have to do when there is no other time to do it.

Congratulations if you actually made your way through this entire post. I bet you feel like you just ran a half marathon, don't you? Haha. Welcome to the finish line. Give yourself a medal.


Sandy said...

I'm so proud of you! Good job keeping to your own goal and not letting others pressure you into running a race your body wasn't prepared for. Hope my half goes as well as yours did!

Marissa Marie said...

You're awesome! Maybe I'll do a half again someday...but it's a long time to run! Good job.

Allison and Eric said...

Good job!! I am so glad that you signed up and met all of your goals. I'm also glad that Hylan was there at the end. It'the race.

Ginny said...

Congratulations on reaching all of your goals! I probably would have quit when I saw the snow. I'm working on my 5k now but only walking. Riley runs her 2nd 5k this coming Saturday at F&M.