“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”- Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon Co-founder
On Saturday afternoon, Melissa and I were at the pool, and she (I think it was her anyways and not me- haha) mentioned that she had no idea how to really recap this race, and I immediately agreed. This was by far the most strange half marathon I’ve ever run, and it seriously can’t be compared to any other half marathon that I’ve run so far (this was half marathon #6). This was a totally different game, and one that I said on Wednesday last week might be totally different due to weather.
My alarm went off at 5, and I checked the weather (humidity at 94%-ugh), and ate my traditional pre-race meal: 12 ounces orange juice, 1 luna bar, and 1 medium sized banana. I got ready quickly and warmed up. Melissa accidently turned her alarm off, so I finally woke her up at 5:45 (we were planning to leave right around 6). She had gotten sick in the middle of the night- a great sign of the day to come. We hit the road and got to the corrals about 15 minutes before the start. We warmed up quickly and jumped in the corrals ready to go. Race start temperature was about 60 degrees with 92% humidity, but we knew the temperature was going to shoot up quickly. I took a salt packet about 30 minutes before the race, hoping that would help any cramping issues.
I need to mention again here that, because I have POTS, exercising in the heat is pretty difficult. I can’t cool myself appropriately, so anything over about 50-55 degrees is really warm for me. Going in I knew this was going to be the case, and Melissa and I decided that it was better to be safe than to put ourselves in a dangerous situation (she also doesn’t do well in the heat). Safety was the name of our game.
The first 5 miles flew by pretty quickly, and the temperature felt ok for us too. We started off doing a 2:1 run:walk ratio, and we decided to keep our pace equivalent to training runs until we felt like it wasn’t safe anymore. The first 5 miles we hit in the 11-11:25 range, and that felt awesome. At that point the sun had really come out strong and the temperature was rising. Melissa wasn’t feeling great, and somewhere in the 5-6 mile range my heart rate got out of control fast. We both walked for a good chunk of that mile- remember our motto? Safety first.
We hit the half way point and I was hurting from walking so quickly. When we walked, we were keeping about a 14:40 pace, which is far faster pace than I normally walk at. My right arch was hurting and my left piriformis was unhappy. I remember taking inventory of myself, looking at Melissa, and wondering how we were going to make it through the rest of the race. Running felt better than walking at this point, even though running wasn’t good for me.
At mile 7 we hit a water station and there was no line at the port-a-potty. SCORE! I hopped in and went quickly- a first for me at any race. It was worth it though (one thing I will say is that I feel like I was hydrating well throughout the race. I drank water and powerade at every station the first half, and also carried gatorade in my handheld water bottle). Melissa told me to run ahead and she’d catch up, so I grabbed the powerade at the station and walked along, eating my race fuel (cran-razz shot bloks. I also had margarita shot bloks at mile 3.8 and 10ish). I also took half a salt packet at mile 7, not because I was cramping, but because I was sweating and losing so much salt, and didn’t want to cramp at the end.
Right after mile 7 was a huge hill, and I definitely walked up it. Melissa caught up at the top, and told me that she threw up again. I felt so bad for her, and even though she told me to run ahead, I refused. We signed up together, and we were going to run it together! And honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the 2nd half without her next to me anyways.
Honestly, those last miles went by in a blur, and I felt like they went by pretty quickly too. We walked a lot, and ran as we could. Neither of us felt fantastic. The second half of the course I only took powerade at the stations because the water was too warm to be refreshing at all, and I couldn’t stomach the thought of it. Right around mile 9 I looked as far ahead of me and behind me as I could, and every single person I saw was walking. That’s when I realized how tough this weather really was.
Somewhere around mile 9 we set a goal for ourselves- we would come in before my slowest half marathon time (set at my first half marathon at the Indy mini), and that pushed us to run just a bit more. Right about mile 12 I suddenly started to shiver a bit, and said “Oh my gosh Melissa, I’m getting goose bumps.” At this point it was still high humidity about almost 77 degrees, and I shouldn’t have been shivering at all, so this was clearly a sign that my body wasn’t doing well. Honestly, if I had more than a mile left I would’ve been pretty concerned, but I felt ok continuing on, knowing that it would all be over in about 10 minutes.
Right around mile 12.5 we ran past some of Melissa’s co-workers who brought out ice cold water bottles for us. I handed off my hand held, and it felt absolutely amazing to hold something that was so cold. Once we saw the finish line Melissa told me to run ahead so I could make sure that I was under my slowest time. I ended up crossing the finish line about 20 seconds before her, but both of us ended with a time of 2:55. It’s certainly a far cry from my half marathon PR, but as I said, this race can’t even be compared to my other races.
I felt more emotional crossing that finish line than in any finish except for first half marathon- I guess because my body felt pretty off at that point. Men who were in the military were passing out the medals, and we also got roses (along with the standard banana, nuts, water, etc…).
Melissa and I took a few pictures, and then headed back to stretch.
Honestly- I wasn’t at all disappointed in our time. This race was really tough for both of us, and in many ways I had to push myself much more than in other races. I ran a relatively safe race with POTS (minus when my body started to hit heat exhaustion), and was able to finish strong in that last mile. I had fun for a good portion of the race, and this race was another example of proving that I am stronger than I thought I was, and my diagnosis doesn’t have to hold me back completely. I think that long distance summer races are just something that I can’t really do because of POTS, and that’s ok. Honestly, looking at the big picture, the time doesn’t matter to me. Me pushing myself, being safe, growing, learning, and just being able to run is what’s most important. I’m so thankful that I can run, even in the tough, hot, and disgusting races. I’m thankful for this race, safety in running, and for the lessons learned through it.
Overall the race was organized well. The course was fine- nothing special. There were plenty of aid stations with water and powerade. I wish the water had been kept cooler, as it was just gross and not refreshing the 2nd half of the race. The volunteers were really encouraging, but there was minimal spectators cheering on the side of the road.
I’m interested to see how I view this race in a few months, but right now I’m not disappointed at all. Despite having to drop our pace, we didn’t quit, and that was huge for us. More on the expo and post race fun later this week!
Check out Melissa’s recap of the race too!
For more information on POTS, click here. For other race recaps, click here. To see how this race compares to the Monumental Half Marathon, the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, and the Carmel Half Marathon, click here. For more information on my Bioskin calf sleeves, click here.
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