Big Race – Part 2

I’m still on a bit of a high after the half marathon.  I still can’t believe it happened.  I still can’t believe how well it went.

Without further ado, here are the rest of my highlights from the half.

I had a great mental race.
Unlike nearly every other race I’ve run (last year’s Great Race is the only other exception), I never had a moment where I absolutely wanted to quit.  Or die.  I felt GOOD for about 98% of the time in this race.  The 2% that bothered me would have been much higher than that, but I was able to shut down the negative feelings in this race.

As an example, the first “bad” moment was somewhere right in the middle of the race.  My right hamstring – the one area that has been routinely squawking at me – started for feel tight.  It didn’t hurt, exactly.  It just started to feel tight and heavy .  On my recent runs, it would just feel increasingly difficult to pick that leg up and turn it over.

Initially I thought, “Oh no!  I can’t run the whole second half of this race with this leg bothering me like this.”  But then, almost immediately, my brain struck back with, “No. No. No!  {EXPLETIVE!}. YOU.  hamstring!  Just keep quiet.  You’re fine.  I’m fine.  I’m focusing on something else.  Just STFU.”  Amazingly, I didn’t notice my hamstring bothering me again, even though I still had 6-7 miles to go – and the second half of the race was a slight incline.

I had a few other moments like that during the race, and each time I was able to divert my attention to something else and to just keep going.

I knew better than to think I had to pee.
And speaking of going….Last September, when I was running my first half, I got the serious need to pee with about three miles to go.  I stopped at a portable toilet for fear that I wouldn’t find another opportunity to go.

But I didn’t have to go.

At all.

One minute, I felt like I was about to pee my pants, and the next, I couldn’t go a bit.  Afterward, I learned that when your body is working that hard, it will shut down energy to less essential parts of your body.  For example: the muscles that are holding up your pelvic floor.  Anyway, lo and behold, right at mile 11, I felt the sudden and urgent need to go to “void.”  I can’t recall for sure, but I think I actually said out loud, “Oh no!  I know better this time!”  And I…uh…gave a squeeze, felt better, and just kept chugging along with no urge to go.

I loved my playlist.
I’m a little weird about the music I listen to while I run.  I like only certain songs while running, and I want them to play in the order that I arranged them.  No shuffling songs for this girl.  I tend to be a creature of habit about my running playlist, but I created a new one for this race, which made me a little nervous.  It was composed mostly of songs I’ve always run to, plus just one or two new songs.  I carefully ordered them.  I counted out the minutes of play time, and strategically placed my “power songs” to begin at times when I thought I’d need a boost.  I was feeling okay, but when “Hollaback Girl” started, I felt a little springier.  And when my original running power song came on about three quarters of the way into the race, I felt a big, old rush of “Yesssss!  I got this.”

Amy screaming for me near the finish.
Amy finished the race way, way before me, but told me to look for her on the final lap at Lynch – that she’d be there cheering for me.  She was standing right near the final turn to the finish chute and screamed for me as I rounded the bend.  She sounded as excited as I was that I was finishing sooner than expected, and I can still hear her, “MELISSAAAA!” ringing in my ears, a whole week later.

My husband, my mom, and my girls at the finish.
The finish line was confusing to me.  Total sensory overload.  Even though I was wearing my Garmin and I knew how long I’d been running, the numbers on the race clock almost didn’t compute.

The clock’s ticking up to 2:16.  Am I really done already?

I hear cheering.  I hear my name.  But where is it coming from?  

And are these guys going to get out of my way, or am I going to have to run over them?

Really, guys?

Really, guys?

I did NOT, in fact, knock them out of my way.  I think I was just too overwhelmed to decide to bowl them over.  I almost caught them, anyhow, but they crossed the mat just fractions of a second ahead of me.  Of course, now I wish I’d plowed through to finish ahead of them.

Photo credit goes to my friend Mike Sexton

Photo credit goes to my friend Mike Sexton – who waited with my friend/his wife, Rebecca, after they ran the 10 and 5Ks, respectively!

When I crossed the finish, some friends were ahead on my right, cheering and taking pictures, and my family was on the left.  I didn’t see my family at first because they were further away – and those guys were blocking my view of them from the finish line.  But there they were!  I’d had a fleeting moment of panic that they wouldn’t be there, as I’d told everyone to arrive by 8:45 because the soonest I’d be done was 8:50, but I did better than my best case scenario.   But my husband, Bob, and my mom were there cheering with my girls.  Having all their proud, smiling faces there to greet me was the icing on the cake!

Bonus: This just hit me!
I did not even think of this until I was typing about my best case scenario above.  This marks the first race where I’ve actually beaten my “A” goal!  Huzzah!

I’ve been on a total runner’s high all week – even contemplating registering for a second fall half marathon.  It was tempting, but I had to put the kibosh on myself.  I had already mapped out my training for the next few months, and I decided that I need to stick with The Plan to get ready for next year instead of revising to prep for another half right now.  For now, the only additional race I have planned for this fall is a 5K on October 5th.  If I can just kick this dang cold that’s sidelined me this week, I’m ready to run some hills to prepare!


My “Big” Race – Part 1

I don’t know where to begin!

After I had to sit out the Pittsburgh (half) marathon, the new, Greensburg half marathon had to become my “big” race for the year.  It’s not sexy.  Out and back on the local trail that we run, run, run all the time – especially for long runs for its desirable flatness.  But the perks were 1) it was being held enough time after my injury/recovery for me to train for it, 2) it’s right here in the town where I live, and 3) it offered a 6:30 AM start time.  The early start is nice because I’m used to running early, anyway.  When you run at 5:00 AM routinely, waiting for an 8:30 or 9:00 AM race start feels like forever.

As the fates would have it, my friend Julie and I were both training for it and were roughly starting from the same place, pace-wise.  This turned out to be a God-send in SO many ways.  I can’t even describe it, really.  Since around the end of July, I did nearly all my runs with Julie.  Sometimes others joined us, but it was Julie and me, Julie and me, Julie and me all the way.  Early on we thought an 11:00 minute pace  (2:24) finish was a good goal for us.  And then we started getting stronger on our long runs.  We were running close to that pace just in training.  So we began to think that, with race-day adrenaline, we could gun for a 2:20 finish, which requires a pace of 10:41.

And then…we kind of fell apart on our 11-mile run – our longest run of the training, two weeks before the race.  We were both feeling great and keeping a sub-11-minute pace through six miles.  For the remaining five miles, we both struggled to keep our pace under 12 minutes.  Plus, there were a lot of walk breaks.

I started to have doubts.  But Julie insisted that we still had to aim for the 2:20 goal.   I went along with it, even though I really, really, really thought it was a stretch.  I was only truly hoping that I could finish at 2:23 or a little better.  That was my PR, and I would definitely have been happy with that, after having a bad training year.  But I also figured Julie was right:  If we didn’t go for the 2:20 finish, we’d regret it and wonder what would have happened if we had gone for it.

Well, we don’t have to wonder because we actually surpassed that goal!  I finished with a time of 2:16:01, and Julie was just a few seconds behind me.  I had thought that I’d need a little miracle just for the 2:20 finish, so I could not be more amazed or thrilled.

So let me take a minute to recap my favorite things about the race and why I’m so happy with the results – even beyond the numbers.  I’ll cover a few items here and then a few more in an additional post.

Julie and I were together almost the entire race.
Using a “trick” I learned from my friend Amy, we wrote out mental, physical, and spiritual goals for the race.  In those, we decided we would stick together, no matter what, for the first seven miles of the race.  After that, we each had permission to pull ahead or fall behind, if one of us was having a better day than the other person.  We were side by side until there were only about two miles left.  Julie stopped at a water station that I skipped, and I got just ahead of her for the rest of the race.  But I also knew the whole time that she was Right. There. behind me.  In retrospect, I kind of regret that I didn’t just wait for her.  But the couple of times I thought about it, I was afraid that if I slowed down, I wouldn’t be able to pick it back up again.

I beat my PR by about seven minutes.  Julie crushed hers by almost 20 minutes!  I’m so proud of that girl!

Here we are, celebrating after the finish:

You know you're best running buddies when you can hug all sweaty, stinky, nasty AFTER the race!

You know you’re best running buddies when you can hug all sweaty, stinky, nasty AFTER the race!

This marks the first time I ran 13.1 consecutive miles without walking.
Woo-hoo!  I did take three or four paces through about half a dozen aid stations, but I don’t count that.  That’s not wimping out and taking a break.  That’s simply not drowning.  I can’t run and drink from a cup without just dumping it down my front and/or choking.  The only exception was the last water station I stopped at around mile 11.  When I told my legs to run again after my 3-5 steps, they didn’t at first obey.   I had to really concentrate to get myself moving again.

Mother Nature made this possible.
During our taper – which sounded WAY more fun than it actually was – we had a couple of hot, humid, awful days that made our three-mile runs feel more grueling than our 8 to 11-mile runs.  One day, in the third mile of a three-mile run, I actually shouted, “I HATE THIS RUN!”  Two days prior to the race, it was 70 degrees and humid, and our three laps at the track were killing me.  Race day, it was about 50 degrees – perfect for running 13.1.

My friend Jill made me a “Go Melissa” sign!
Jill was out with her daughter at the turnaround point to cheer on her husband.  She said she’d see me there, but I told her that if she couldn’t wait (as we’d get there a good while after her husband had passed), I understood.  Not only was she there with the bottle of water she’d promised to have for me, she made me a big, poster board sign.  My only regret about the race is that I couldn’t stop and take a picture.  That was such a sweet surprise, I got all choked up.

There’s so much more, I can’t fit it into one post.  Please stand by for Part 2, coming soon!


Accident Waiting to Happen

This post isn’t about running, per se.  But it’s about 1) stuff that happens when you’re up before everyone else because you run early, and 2) how it’s actually quite remarkable that my foot issue earlier in the year has been my only injury.  The last four digits of my phone number are 5150, which happens to be police code for ‘person who’s a danger to herself or others.’  And, as Freud said, there are no coincidences.

It started Tuesday, with a five-mile run at 5:00 AM with Julie.  I got back in time to shower and everything before another soul in my house was awake.   It was Bob’s second day of school and the day before 1) Emily’s first day and 2) Cora’s birthday.  Now I have to backtrack just a smidgen.  Earlier this summer, we got a picnic table from my mother-in-law for the backyard because I wanted it.  Bob did not.  He doesn’t like to eat alfresco.  Plus, he figured it would just be an obstacle for him when he mowed the lawn.  I hadn’t used the picnic table, so I thought I should start, since it was my idea to get it.  I decided to go out there with my nook and my coffee, and enjoy 15-20 minutes before I was going to get the kids up.   I’d planned to wake the girls earlier than they were used to getting up, in order to make the first day of school’s early rise time less shocking.

I went outside and, for about 20 glorious minutes,  enjoyed the fresh air, my coffee, and reading on my phone.  Ahhhhhh….

Then, when I attempted to go back into the house through the garage with the door opener, the garage door wouldn’t open.  I could tell from the sounds it was making that my tailgate hadn’t latched after I’d taken out Cora’s birthday gifts to stash them in the basement.  The hatch floated up and was in the way of the garage door.  (I knew, because it happened before – only last time I was inside the house.)

Well, no sweat, because I’d thought to unlock the kitchen door before I went out.  If I’d heard the kids get up, the side door would have been the faster way to get back inside.

Walk around to the kitchen door.

Turn the knob.




The deadbolt would normally have been unlocked when Bob left, but he went out through the garage that morning.  Therefore, when I unlocked the door, I didn’t think to check the deadbolt.  I was locked out of the house.  And my kids who were sleeping inside were not likely to wake up on their own for about another hour.

The two windows I could semi-easily get in through were locked.  The only open window was the bathroom window, and it’s up pretty high.

Wait for girls to get up or find a way to get in?

Mainly because I didn’t want to just SIT outside (coffee was gone) for up to an hour, I became determined to get inside.

Here is how I (barely) got in through the bathroom window:


The window was still too high above me to muscle my way up with my arms.  (Two attempts were made.)  Fortunately, I’m still a little bit flexible.  I managed to hike my right foot onto the window sill so I could use some leg strength, too.

I ended up kind of hanging sideways, kind of upside down across the window sill, and then had to climb down into the bathroom by putting my hands on the edge of the tub.  I was momentarily completely upside down until I could get a foot down on the toilet seat.  The seat.  Not the lid.  I somehow managed not to fall in.

I’d like to point out that, in addition to the obviously precariousness shown in the image above, I managed all this by also avoiding the clothes line hook that’s sticking out of the house below the window:


As I was standing on the picnic table/bench combo, I was thinking about two alternative endings:

Responsible Mom’s Determination Gets Her Back into Locked House


Mom of Two Nearly Bleeds Out After Opening Femoral Artery on Clothes Line Hook

As if my back flips off the diving boards this summer (after, like, decades of not doing diving board back flips) weren’t bad enough, I’m seriously just a little too reckless sometimes.  That honestly could have ended badly.  (I’m blaming the genes from my dad for this.  It’s something I could totally see him doing.)

But I did get in the house.  And I only ended up with a few small bruises on my right arm and leg.   PLUS, I got in two workouts before 9:00 AM that day.  (Even just moving the table across the yard and back took some work!)

So overall, I guess it was a big win.