I did it. It’s all over. 13 point freaking one miles. I can’t believe I did that! And I can’t believe my time either! It’s been an incredible journey up to this point, and there are many miles ahead as I continue on to the next goal.

So today, as I recover, I think I’ll take some time to talk about the last couple of weeks – the injury worries, the Boston Firefighter’s Memorial 10K, and the half-marathon itself! I have a lot to catch up on…bear with me!

Lesson Learned – Listen To Your Body! If It Feels Wrong…Something’s Wrong!
So I’ll start with the injury worries that, for a minute, I thought might knock me out of the half marathon before I even started. September 29th I went for a 10 mile run as part of my training for the half. I was wrecked for the rest of the day – limping everywhere. I ended up feeling some pain on the outside of my left knee…I’d never felt pain there, but I thought nothing of it. I gave myself a full week of rest to recover from it. Fast-forward to the Canal Run For The Troops 10K…and things got bad. Not only was I feeling that left knee pain I’d never felt before the 10 miler…but at 5.7 miles I was stopped dead in my tracks by debilitating right hamstring pain (right at the bottom of the hamstring). I thought it was just an immense cramp, and almost a month later I’m still not sure what it was. I do know that I’ve been able to stretch on the spot and run through it every time it comes up. I struggled through the last half mile of the Canal Run and finished.

At that point I hit the panic button…made appointments with my primary care doctor (not until November), a podiatrist (not until 10/31) and my physical therapist (right away). As it turns out, my work shoes were too small and caused acute plantar fasciitis, which led to I.T. Band irritation on my left side. Painful, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. I took the right steps by getting new work shoes and new insoles as soon as my foot started really hurting, but by that point the “damage” had been done as far as my knee was concerned. My physical therapist was able to help me identify the problem (I.T. Band) and do some work to help me get through the half-marathon. Good news is, I did it…and now I’ll see the podiatrist to permanently resolve the plantar fascia / foot issue and be back to normal come springtime, or maybe even later this winter (frozen fivers, anyone?).

For those who didn’t read that far – ow. 

Anyway, Boston Firefighters’ Memorial 10K

This race was supposed to be my last “big” run before the half-marathon…and it ended up being even more important than that – it became the big test to see if I’d actually BE ABLE to run the half. I want to start off by saying a big THANK YOU to Flex Appeal Sports Nutrition for sponsoring me for this race!

I have to say, I had a lot of fun with this race, and I learned a lot about my body, my legs, and my running. This race is apparently a big deal – lots of firefighters and military people coming out to support the cause. This was the 31st running, so they know what they’re doing, and they had a huge level of support from countless area businesses. I ended up taking home a free year’s subscription to New England Runner…they were literally just tossing stuff out there.

Anyway, as far as the race itself – the course was pretty flat overall. I got to run through some major highway space which was pretty cool. It’s too bad I’m not much of a mid-run photographer…the firefighters had their boat spraying water everywhere for runners to see as we went over a bridge and ran through the harborwalk area. That’s ok…my Droid stays right in my TuneBelt where I like it.

Unfortunately, thanks to more walk-breaks than I would’ve liked, I didn’t quite get the time I wanted. I finished in 56:39, 9:08 min/mile average. 467th of 995 overall.  I was hoping to  break 54 minutes, and I know I can do it…but my knee/I.T. Band was an issue…oh well. There’s always next time, and I know what I’m capable of. Still WAY better than my first 10K!

The Cape Cod Marathon Half 

This was it…the big one! I’ve been training for this for three months! I still can’t believe it. It was an incredible experience getting my first 13.1…I feel so accomplished! It’s so different running a half-marathon than it is to run a 5K or 10K…much more challenging and a completely different mindset.

This race, as well as the full marathon and relay, are put on by the Falmouth Track Club. The half is a beautiful course that starts in front of the post office downtown, does a little loop in the downtown area, then goes along Surf Drive, to Woods Hole along the Shining Sea Bikeway, back to Falmouth along the first three miles of the Falmouth Road Race route, and finishes in Town Hall Square. The full/relay goes in a big loop all around Falmouth, starting in the same place and finishing downtown.

Before I launch into it…a big thanks to all my sponsors that made it possible not only for me to run, but for me to be able to afford the gear necessary to train and compete in cold weather! It was 35 degrees at the start! SportClips in Falmouth was my title sponsor and, actually, my first sponsor period! I was fortunate enough to have a lot of sponsors – please check out the Sponsors Page to see who thought I was good enough to sponsor! THANKS!

So, the race itself…first off let me just say I have never before run in such absolutely FRIGID weather! It was bone-chilling cold…and I know it’ll get colder, so I shouldn’t complain…

That cold weather was forgotten as I passed the first mile marker…traded my Under Armour beanie for a sweatband and kept on truckin’. I had gone four miles before I even realized what happened! It was at that point I realized just how different the mindset is when you run different races – Your mind and your  body adjust to the length of the race! 6 days prior, when I hit 4 miles I felt like I had gone so much farther…but during the half? I wasn’t even 1/3 done…and I felt like I could keep going for days! It’s interesting, that’s for sure.

And it is at this point I would like to say – what a beautiful course! As we ran along Surf Drive, with the beach to our left…I was marveling at how great the scenery was. If it’s one thing I’m coming to realize is a treat about foot races, it’s that it’s about taking time to appreciate the scenery, get in touch with your body and your world, and just be. If you’re in the market for a gorgeous road race, look into the Cape Cod Marathon Half. We turned left onto the Shining Sea Bikeway to make our way to Woods Hole, and were treated to more of the same beautiful sunrise / early morning beach views. Makes me wish I was taking pictures.

It was at this point – about 4.5 miles, I had my first problem. The right hamstring issue, that I didn’t experience AT ALL during the Firefighters’ 10K, came back! I immediately stopped off to the side, stretched it out and kept on going. I had to do this several times between 4.5 miles and 5.5 miles (which slowed me down by a couple minutes, total), but by the time I got off the bike path and into Woods Hole I had run through it.

But now I had a new challenge…

The entirety of the CCM Half is flat…except for miles 6.5 – 9.5. Those three miles are the first three miles of the Falmouth Road Race, so there’s rolling hills, including Nobska Lighthouse. This was the challenge not because of the hills, but because my I.T. Band is sore 100% of the time going uphill (it’s in and out / avoidable on flat terrain and non-existent on downhills). This part of the course slowed me down by probably a minute or two…I went slower than I wanted and had to take a bit more walk-break than I wanted. I got through it though…and at mile 9 I had a feeling…

But at Mile 10 I knew – I had a real shot to break 2 hours 15 minutes! Not only that, but if my math was right…if I was able to keep up 9 minute miles, hell…just be better than 10 minute miles…I could break 2:10! At that point, nothing else mattered. I had, at that point, officially run farther than I ever had in one shot before…and nothing was going to stop me from breaking 2:10. I told myself no more walk breaks – walk when you finish. I told myself the knee and the I.T. Band weren’t going to be a problem – I’ve come too far to crap out now. This was my time, and I was going to nail it.

And I did. 

When I started the race, the one thing I hadn’t checked that morning was my playlist. There were about 12 songs not showing up that I had put on…and I thought nothing of it. Ironically, at Mile 13, with the .1 miles of the finish line lead-up left to go…I ran out of music. For the last .1 I had to listen to my own huffing and puffing, but I got to hear the sound of the crowd…the cheering and clapping…and I saw that LED clock…2:09:22…it was in reach! I crossed at 2:09:29.  Thirteen point FREAKING one miles…accomplished. I found out that considering how serious of an accomplishment it is and how hard you have to work to be able to do it…it seems every race half-marathon or longer gives you a finisher’s medal after crossing the finish line. Know why? Not everyone finishes. There were 1,200 people in this race…995 finished. The first picture in this article was the bib and finisher’s medal, but I put it in again in this part too – that will not be the last finisher’s medal I get. I’ve got big plans for next year.

I thought calling this article “Achievement Unlocked – 13.1” was incredibly ironic considering this was about as far from sitting on a couch playing a video game as I could be. A year ago, I WOULD’VE been on the couch playing a video game. Its incredible what you can achieve when you just put your mind to it. I now firmly believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, something I said in a prior article – Given time and training, anything is possible. I don’t care who you are, how heavy or skinny you are, what problems you have or how busy you are…if you put in some time, train, and get determined, you can do anything. So, on this Motivational Monday, think about this – if, in less than 14 months, I can go from 300 lbs with a couch cushion molded to my butt to 179 and running half-marathons…why can’t you? If I can do this, anyone can. I’d love to help! If you’re interested, check out the Coach page of this blog.

It’s already yours…Go out there and GET IT!