What an INCREDIBLE weekend! I’m still kind of in shock…words just can’t describe how elated I am. This weekend I ran the Frosty Knuckle 5K+ AND the Hyannis Half-Marathonback to back days.

Not only did I do well in both races…but I came away with a pretty big accomplishment in the 5K+ and a MAJOR accomplishment in Half-Marathon! If I can do this…anyone can. How did I do it? And how can you? Read on, and share in the journey!

This weekend, by all accounts, was probably a really bad idea. On Saturday I ran the Frosty Knuckle 5K+…then I ran the Hyannis Half-Marathon Sunday. That in itself could’ve been passable…if it weren’t for a few things… you’ll find those as you read through…

Let’s Talk About the Frosty Knuckle 5K+!

Frosty Knuckle 5K+ was a blast! I should start by thanking my friend Natalie at Eclipx Salon for sponsoring me into this race! Eclipx Salon is her hair salon in Salisbury, MA (50 Elm St.) – the race was actually only about 8 minutes from her salon! Normally I do aim to sign sponsors that have something to do with health & fitness, but I think it’s also great to represent local / small businesses. Please be sure to give her site a look! I’ll be running more races for her later this year, so keep an eye out!  She loved my shirt idea, by the way – “Run Like A Beast, Look Like A Beauty”.

It was a smaller race – the “field” (# of participants) was only 160 people. Smaller races are different – having a smaller “field” can provide for a different feel. I don’t really know how to describe it… “intimate” isn’t the right word…but it isn’t the big song and dance that something like the Falmouth Road Race is (with its 12,000+ runners) or even the Hyannis Half Marathon (with just under 3,000 runners). You get to see more of individual runners’ personalities, the groups that come having fun together, and even the event staff has more fun. Whatever word you use to describe it – I enjoyed it.

Going into this race I was still riding the high from my MIRACULOUS 2nd place overall finish in the Winter Warlock 5K (Plymouth, MA). Between that and the size of the race…I may have gone a little harder than I initially intended….whoops.

How I Set Myself Up For Trouble:

My initial plan was more or less to take it easy – I knew I had my 2nd ever half-marathon the next day, I knew what my goal was for the half…and I didn’t want to risk screwing it up by burning myself out the day before. What ended up happening was mile splits of 7:21, 8:09 (when I realized I had to SLOW THE HELL DOWN), and 8:48 (once I hit the sand).

Oh yeah…forgot to mention…from just before the 3rd mile until pretty much the end…we were running on the beach. SAND! Good Lord…let me just tell you…this was the first time I had ever run on sand before…NOT FUN.

OK…maybe “not fun” isn’t the right way to put it…

Running on sand was incredibly challenging. There’s a reason my mile split dropped to 8:48 on the sand…its just so tough! *PRO TIP* If you’re running on sand, do yourself a HUGE favor and run near the water, where the sand is wet and more firm. The dry sand is nearly impossible…it just moves underneath you so much – it’s hard to get any propulsion! When you push off with your foot, usually the ground doesn’t move and you go forward…but when the sand moves backward you get less forward movement for the effort you’re giving. Running on the wet sand is a little better, but it still moves and dampens the effort you’re putting out.

This is why I’ve come to the conclusion that running on sand is EXCELLENT for training. It’s also why I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think I want to run any more races involving sand. Haha. Unless it’s an obstacle race – then I’ll just consider it another obstacle.

I ended up doing pretty well all things considered. The race was a little over a 5K (3.3 miles) and I finished in 26:59, which is about 8:11 min/mile. I was pretty satisfied with that, especially considering I intentionally tried to slow myself down starting somewhere late in the 1st mile. What really caught me off-guard was when the race director Heidi started announcing age group awards…and got to the Male 19 – 29 age group…and announced me as 3rd place! My Mom (who was there) can tell you…the look on my face must’ve been hysterical – I was NOT at ALL expecting that. The medal itself was pretty hilarious, but appropriate considering Frosty Knuckle is actually a beer (Google it).

Yeah – it’s a bottle-opener. Hah. 

The race was put on by Heat Event Management – Heidi (the Race Director) was SUPER nice and great to talk to – she said they do a LOT of trail runs, which is something I’m looking to get into. She also mentioned that they happen in some really scenic places, which is a bonus. I definitely recommend looking into what they have to offer 🙂 I LOVE local races. Another great thing about local races? …sometimes they bring in LOCAL BEER! Ipswitch ale was there with a free beer for every runner 🙂 So that was pretty great.

Quick side-note: Salisbury Beach in the winter looked like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Think Zombieland…its got that creepy abandoned fun-house / boardwalk thing going on…it was odd. I wish I got a picture. Maybe when I go up in March for Smuttypalooza 🙂

On to the Hyannis Half Marathon!

This was the big race! I’ve been looking forward to this since before the new year! This was my 2nd half marathon ever, and I was going in with a goal. My first half – the Cape Cod Marathon Half – I had a rough idea, I was a little slower, and I was focusing on just finishing. I had a lot of hamstring and foot issues, I had I.T. Band issues, and I stopped to walk a lot as a result. In the end, I finished in 2:09:29 (goal was to break 2:15:00).

Hyannis was different. I had run more, trained more, and done long distances more. My obvious goal was to beat my old time. My REAL goal was to break 2 hours.

So I showed up in Hyannis ready to go. My timing was a little off and I ended up getting there with enough time to get my number and shirt, hit the restroom and stretch. I had planned on getting there early, but that didn’t happen…so I had to fight off that awful “rushed” feeling. I managed to simmer down once I got to stretching though.

For starters…(literally)…I couldn’t even get in the corral! It was so packed full there was just no room! I wasn’t the only one who had to sneak in once the gun went off, though. To be fair, it was partly my own fault – I waited until about 5 minutes before gun time to even GET to the start and I refused to go farther down the chute – I was right up at the 8 min/mile flag. What can I say…I wanted to be near the start line! There’s something about having that big neon clock at the finish at least KIND of close to your actual time…

***REAL quick – for those who don’t know – gun time is when the starting gun goes off to when you cross the finish. Net time is from when you cross the start to when you cross the finish. In a big race, you might not cross the start right when the gun goes off – might take 30 seconds, might take 5 minutes. The big neon clock at the finish goes off of gun time…so by being close to the start line, my net and gun times are close and that big neon clock is ALMOST accurate.***

As far as the race itself – It was a nice run through Hyannis – we went close to (if not IN) downtown Hyannis, through Osterville, Craigville, and Centerville. We didn’t quite go as far as Cotuit. It was a nice tour of Hyannis.

I’ve learned that it’s all relative. I approach each different distance I run with a different mindset and a different target pace. When I’m half done with a 5K I’m just as pooped as I am when I’m half done with a 10K. This is almost the same with a half marathon…but it’s a little different. It may have been because I was trying to go much faster than my first half. It may have been because I ran a race the day before. It may have been because there were hills ALL OVER the course instead of mainly concentrated along a 3 mile stretch…or it may just be because 13.1 miles is a long freaking distance. Whatever the case, this race was tougher than my first 13.1. I may not have had injuries/cramps/issues like the last time…but that opened up a new set of challenges.

What challenges? It was me, my preparation, and my mind. In general, I feel like anything over 10 miles is all mental, and today reinforced that for me. That’s the front of my shirt right there. I wasn’t sponsored for the Hyannis Half, so I wore my own shirt. It wasn’t a giant logo…it was motivation. It was for me and for whoever saw it – it’s what I believe and what I’ve been saying all along. The front said “NO Limits.” and “I Can. I WILL.” – You can see the back up above – “Success happens one mile at a time”. I was repeating these three little gems to myself the whole race, because they were all true. Every time I wanted to slow down…stop…take a walk-break…I DEMANDED more of myself and resolved to get to the next mile. Know what I figured out? I didn’t really need to stop. I kept telling myself “I Can. I WILL.”…and I did.

I started feeling my quads after a while…I kind of want to attribute that to running the Frosty Knuckle. The Race Director DID say she’s had people tell her how sore their quads are after that race…whoops. After a while, that led to me feeling just how much my legs really weigh. I was reminded that while I have lost a ton of weight…at 175 lbs I’m still heavier than many runners, and picking those legs up with each step requires a lot of work. Didn’t matter. No Limits. I powered through it. I didn’t demand big crazy reaches out of my body…I did it one mile at a time. My calves started to feel like they wanted to cramp up on me. I didn’t allow it. I Can. I WILL. I kept telling myself…every little bit you can run instead of walk…every little bit you can keep going…it ALL matters, and it ALL gets you closer to your goal!

At mile 11 an old friend caught up with me…my left hamstring. I realized if I tried to just blast through it my time would suffer and it could get worse, so I stopped and stretched super-fast and got back in it. I took a couple extra 10 second walk breaks because I had the time. And I kept going. Nothing was going to hold me back – I was on track for a sub-2 hour half…and I was gonna get it.

How did I know I was on-track? I had a paceband. What’s a paceband? It’s that thing right there! I found a site, I plugged in the time I wanted to finish in, and told it the distance I was running. It did the math and put it together into a wristband that said at what time I needed to be at each mile marker. I printed it out, cut it out, and…”laminated” it…with some scotch tape. For the first 8 miles I was 2 minutes ahead of target. After that I started to slow a bit, but I was on-track. I knew for a fact that I could do it. It also allowed me to make smart, informed, tactical decisions about “walk-breaks”…10 seconds of walking here and there helped me keep my overall pace up. I DEFINITELY recommend printing up one of these for your next race. Solid idea for sure.

So…How Did It Turn Out?!

I DID IT! THAT’S how it turned out! MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT – I BROKE 2 HOURS! Not by much, but I did it! I came in at 1:59:40 official time. That’s 9:49 faster than last time…almost 10 minutes off my time! I cannot BEGIN to describe how elated I am to have accomplished that! ESPECIALLY after having run that 5K+ the day before with that freakin’ sand.

The whole point of ALL of this…all these races I’m running this year…this site…all of it…it’s to encourage, to motivate, and to show that it can be done. I was 300 lbs at the end of 2012! I had been a big guy my whole life. And here I am running back to back races and achieving amazing things like a sub-2 hour half marathon in the process! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Is this real life?! I literally would’ve laughed out loud if, back then, someone tried to tell me this would happen…

It goes back to what I said in the Lose Your Limits Challenge article – the only limits we TRULY have are the ones we set for ourselves. The human body is an amazing thing – given time and training it will do whatever you ask of it. It will change shape. It will get faster. It will endure longer. You just have to have the confidence and stamina to make those changes happen. Tell yourself exactly what I put on that shirt for me and everyone that could see it – NO Limits. I Can – I WILL. And remember – Success happens one mile/km/lap/rep/pound/day at a time.

Honestly… If I can do this, anyone can. You WILL get there. Just keep going 🙂