Sunday, September 30, 2012

Completed my first half-marathon

I survived my first half-marathon yesterday at the 5th Annual Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival to promote healthy living in Fort Wayne. What a great time it was too! Jane also did the 10k, and both kids were there to support us. A very good day. I also finished under my goal.

There is a nice article HERE, which notes that there were a record 9,809 participants this year. I also heard there were 28,000 spectators, so it was a good day for Fort Wayne too.

I finished with a time of 1:47:41. I hoped to be under 1:50 and made it easily. I think I could have done even better if not for hurting my knee (more on that later), but I'm not complaining. According to the results page, the winning time was 112:16. I ended up being 467th place out of 2582 runners in the half. I think I was 13th out of the 54 men who were my age (49). There were 1215 men, and the average time was 2:15. According to my watch I averaged 8:07-minute miles.

It was a bit tedious at the start - as you can see from this awesome video - and it took me quite a while to get to where I could run freely. I started way too far back, and a lot of people started way too far up. I had to pass a lot of people. We were seeded into corrals based on the times we supplied. I gave a time of 9:30 miles, so that was my own fault. So I started out pretty slow due to the bottleneck of runners, but I was surprised how soon I was running under 8-minute miles (by the 2nd mile). I actually thought I ran between 7:30 and 7:50-minute miles for the bulk of the race. Around 9 1/2 miles I had a runner stop right in front of me at a water station. I ran into him and twisted my knee. I was a little miffed when it happened, because WHY WOULD YOU JUST STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, but I was really upset when I didn't think I was going to be able to finish. My knee started hurting on the outside, and I thought it was going to give out on me. So the 10th and 11th mile were pretty rough. I actually thought I was going to have to stop because it hurt so bad. That was the first time since the first mile where I went over 8-minute miles. But I kept pushing through and when I got to the 12th mile I don't know if I just blocked out the pain or if it felt a little better, but as we started rounding the corner to Parkview Field I kicked it back in gear and was on a 7:30-minute mile pace. Then we turned the corner to come down the big ramp into the stadium and it was hard going down that steep of an incline, but once we hit the stadium turf and ran along the outfield wall I kicked into high gear and I finished on a 6:15-minute mile pace. I was pumping pretty hard. But not too hard to notice Carrie and Anna cheering for me from the concourse above. Although I didn't realize at the time that when I waived at them, and Anna saw me, she tossed her pacifier down onto the track. :) Anyway, when I crossed the finish line my legs were pretty much jello. I had trouble getting off the track and into the area where the water and drinks were. I'm used to walking another mile when I get done running, and there wasn't much room for walking on the infield. At any rate, I was glad to be done, and glad my knee held up. I really wasn't too out of breath, but my knee hurt pretty bad, and for some reason I got a big blister on the underside of my right big toe. It hurt pretty bad too and I didn't want to take my shoe off because I was afraid of how it would look. But it doesn't look too bad.

So, I got done, grabbed a banana, bagel, apple, cookie and water, and tried to stretch a little on the infield. I also tried to keep an eye out for Jane, as she was set to be finishing sometime soon too. There were quite a few runners, what with both the 10k and the half finishing at the same time in the same place. So I never did find Jane. I eventually made my way up the steps (after waiting in line for quite a while) and met up with Carrie, Anna, Isaac and Ricci on the concourse. Jane was there when I got there too. And let me say, the hardest part of the day was walking up the steps of the stadium. My legs were pretty sore.

Jane finished the 10k (6.2 miles) in 657th place out of 1803 finishers. She finished in a time of 1:03:51. According to the results page the winning female time was 43:18, and the average time was 1:14:42. I know she wanted to finish in under an hour, but I was pretty proud of her. I think she was trying so hard to not go too fast at the start that she went a bit too slow, and I'm sure she could have done it under 2 hours if she'd had my watch to see her pace. At any rate, it was quite an accomplishment.

So... what were my thoughts as I ran this race... Well, I'm still having a hard time collecting them and putting them into words. It was a really, really, really awesome time. I had a blast. We left the house at 6:45 am and headed downtown. It was still dark, and I couldn't believe how many people were already downtown when we got there. Jefferson was backed up, and people were just walking about all over. And it was C.O.L.D. I think it was like 48f when we left the house. I wore my sweat suit jacket and was freezing. There were lots of bare legs, and a lot of people were just in t-shirts or tank tops... and some had even less on than that.

We parked along Wayne Street - because it was free parking, even though it was several blocks north of the starting line. So we made a brisk walk to the stadium, did a walk through to the other side, and made our way a block south to the starting line at the Baker Street train station. They were just lining up for the 4-mile run. We looked for a friend who was running in that but there were sooooo many people. So we stood around and waited for it to start. The mayor addressed the crowd, they sang the national anthem, and then they started the race. There was music blasting the rest of the time. That helped take our mind off the cold a little bit.

After the 4-milers were all gone they started setting the starting corrals back up for the half marathon. I was in corral "I" (they went alphabetical, so I started quite a ways back from the starting line... But my time didn't start until I crossed the starting line). So, I went potty one last time in the row of port-a-potties at the start line, tried to stretch out a little (there were people everywhere), and then got in my corral. Jane was hanging with me until the start, then she was going to take my jacket and take her jacket and sweat pants to the car before her race (she started an hour later). We saw someone we knew who was also in the "I" corral, so I stopped there and got in line. Pretty soon my corral was packed in like sardines, and I couldn't move. I was in the middle of a bunch of young women, and while it did warm things up, I soon realized I was going to need to get around most of the people pretty quickly or I was going to be going really slow. So finally they got things ready to start. I kissed Jane, they had a preacher give a prayer, sang the national anthem again, and then did the countdown. Although with our race the cannon went off too soon, so everyone kind of stood there. Then the announcer just told us to "GO!" And we were off.

It was really frustrating because I had to maneuver around so many people. I tried making a break to the outside but there were just people everywhere. We headed east on Baker and then turned onto Calhoun and went under the bridge. Once we got out from under the bridge there was a little more open space and I was able to get around a lot of people. For probably the first 2 or 3 miles I was passing a lot of people. Every now and then someone would take off a long-sleeved shirt and just fling it, or you would find one laying in the middle of the road. Sometimes I went up on the sidewalk to pass large groups of people. I was really surprised how good my legs felt. Taking some time off running was a good thing, I think.

I was still passing people pretty easily when we got to Tillman (the 4-mile mark) and we turned and went up towards our house and got on the Rivergreenway trail. I passed Molly (from church) at about the 5-mile mark. We chatted briefly. She'd had strep throat a couple weeks back, otherwise she probably would have done much better. When I hit the half-way mark in the middle of Foster Park things started evening out a little for me. Although I did pass a guy in a Ronald McDonald outfit. That was weird. But I still felt pretty good, although I was ready to be done and I wasn't passing near as many people, nor as easily. I started having some doubts about how much energy I was going to have left at the end.

When we exited Foster Park and started winding through some neighborhoods it was interesting. The entire course was pretty cool, and it was great seeing all the people out along the streets cheering for us and things. My only complaint would have to be the water stations. People stood on both sides of the street and held out water (and gatorade), which was nice, but they were IN THE WAY. I wasn't interested in water or gatorade (or the beer they had at one station). It really narrowed the course though, so we always had to slow down at the water stations. Plus the whole thing with the guy stopping in front of me...ugh. Anyway, several places had stereos outside and were blaring music, or they had signs, or were having big yard parties. It helped make it fun.

As I said previously, when my knee started hurting I was majorly bummed. I thought it was going to give out on me with every step. I've never had a knee hurt that bad before. But I just kept pushing, and it was a real strain to keep going. However, I rounded a corner at one point and all of a sudden didn't notice it so much. And during the last mile or so it seemed like we wound around quite a bit. Then we went under the bridge again and came back to Baker Street, and rounded the corner leading up to the stadium, and I didn't care how bad it hurt... I pushed harder than I have in a long, long time. Then coming into the stadium was pretty awesome. It was hard coming down the ramp (harder than going uphill), and pretty soon I heard Carrie's voice. I gave them a wave and put it into high gear. I wasn't really concerned about passing people (and didn't really even notice anyone else at that point) but I just wanted to get in under 1:50. I was pretty happy when I hit the finish line, clicked off my watch, and it said 1:47.

Overall, it was just a huge blast. Isaac asked if I would do it again. I think I would. But the next time I would like to go slower and just take it all in. I have no desire to go any faster, but it was just fun being a part of the event. I might even do the 10k next year instead of the half. And the thing I was most worried about - the hills - didn't really seem a factor at all. I only remember one spot where it seemed like a significant hill, other than the ramp coming into the stadium. So it was just a really, really enjoyable time. It was neat walking around the stadium afterward - and basically everywhere in town - as I really felt like I was a part of a group for a change.

So we stood and chatted for awhile on the concourse with the family, and a few people we knew, then we took a walk around the concourse. We got $1 coupons for beer as part of our runners package, so Jane and I had a pale ale to celebrate. Then we all went to Spyro's for breakfast/lunch. The place was packed with other runners, and it was kind of like it was "runners day" in Fort Wayne. Once again, a fun time.

So that's about it. I'm sure I will think of other things. And my left knee was really stiff and sore this morning when I woke up, but I'd say it was well worth it. The knee seems to be loosening up, and I'm sure my toe will heal eventually. I AM looking forward to taking this week off from running entirely, but I can't wait for the next Fort 4 Fitness next year!