I can’t believe I did it!!! This weekend I completed my first half marathon, The Diva’s Half in Wine Country, and I had a BALL!!! I may be sore, but it was totally worth it, and I think it is safe to say I am hooked!
The race was held in Loudoun county which is about an hour from where I live. Getting to the race via 495 was a breeze, but the closer I got to the winery, the traffic began to stack up. The road leading there is a two lane road, so I expected that there would be a little wait. The fun part was when all the water that I drank the night before and the day of started to kick in. Once I got to the winery, I got a pretty good parking spot and then I started looking for the porta potties. This was a fail. There were four port a potties in the parking lot and the line to use them was bananas. I’m sorry I couldn’t hold it that long. I got between my car and another and took my tinkle right then and there. Thank God for my stash of baby wipes in my car. Once I got to the start, I met with my running group and we had our mini photo shoot and gave each other words of encouragement. My nerves started to dissipate. We all made our way to the starting line so we could be ready for the 7:30 start. This is where things went left. Once we got there, we heard an announcement that due to an accident outside of the winery they were going to delay the start of the race. No big deal, I was thinking a 15-20 minute delay tops. Yeah, no. The race did not start until almost 9:00. By that time, I had burned up my little bagel and my tummy was rumbling. It was ok though, I was ready to get this thing started.
Since this was my first half marathon, this race was one big teaching moment and the first lesson I learned was not to go out too fast. I started off at a 11:05 pace and even though it was 2 minutes slower than my regular pace, it was way to fast to sustain me. Did I also mention the first 2 miles was a hilly gravel dirt road? I got through the first four miles of the race as the same pace, and around mile 5 my pace started to drop to a 12 minute mile. I was still feeling good and I was enjoying the beautiful landscape complete with rustic farms and vast fields.
Mile 7 is where things began to go way down hill. My calves began to cramp. My knees felt like softballs. My feet were on fire. The hills for the last six miles destroyed me. I tried to start back running after each walking interval, but my calves seized up each time. I stopped and stretched my legs on a light post. Still no good. I walked another mile to the next water station (put a pin in that) to refuel on Gatorade and water. Then it became clear to me the cramping was happening because I was losing electrolytes and they were not being replenished properly. Once I got a little Gatorade in me I was able to run the next 2 miles in intervals and then my calves AND feet began to cramp. I stopped on the trail and bent over trying to stretch as best as I could. The next thing I heard was, “Come on Victoria! You can do this!” It was my running buddy who stopped and helped me stretch out my calves and thighs. Once we stretched she encouraged me to keep running and helped me keep my pace. By this time I dropped down to a 15 minute mile and that felt a little more comfortable. But just as we got comfortable, the hills became alive again. It was literally one hill after the next. To save my legs from locking up again we walked the hills and ran the flat parts. We came to a residential area and I focused on all of the beautiful homes to take mind off the fact my legs and now hips were HOLLERING from walking up and down these hills. Mile 10 we came across a group of neighbors who were tailgating on their lawn cheering all of us on. The hilliest part of the course was behind us, and now it was time for the last 3 miles.
The last three miles made me really wish I started out slower. My muscles were fatigued and I felt like the race would never end. Around each corner I kept hoping to see the finish line and it wasn’t there. We started to run into people who had finished the race and I was so jealous of their bagels and bananas. This just pushed me more. I just kept thinking that if I kept going I too could get a bagel and banana. I was totally ready to give up, and after receiving my tiara and boa, with my race buddy cheering me on I hit the corner to cross the finish line. I thought I would be more emotional when I crossed, but I was probably too dehydrated to produce tears and all I wanted to do was lay down on the ground. There were two things that rejuvenated me: Seeing the big shiny metal and the shirtless man candy holding it. Honey, when he put that metal around my neck I got a second wind of energy that I needed, and you know I took his picture too! Once I collected my sparkling cider (put a pin in that too), my friend and I took pictures in front of the step and repeat and grabbed bagels and oatmeal cookies. Our group took a picture together to commemorate our finishing and then I had to hightail it out of there so I could collect The Goons.
The Morning After
My legs felt like Rick James’ in that Chapelle skit. Everything was stiff and hurt despite doing an ice bath the day of the race. I let my muscles get a lot of rest and I spent the day rolling my legs and using a rice sock for heat therapy. I also hydrated with Gatorade so I could replace the vast amounts of electrolytes I lost.
What I Learned
I enjoyed running my first half marathon so much, I have already signed up for another one. I was in a great deal of pain after, but it is because of things I didn’t do to prepare.
- Compression: After this race, I have learned I need lots of compression for my calves and feet. Those were the areas that had the worst cramping.
- Fuel Belt/Nunn Tablets: When I called my sister and told her I didn’t have a fuel belt, I could hear the shock in her voice. Yes, I went out there and relied on the generous water stations for hydration and it was a fail. For the next race I plan to invest in either a camelbak or a fuel belt. Continuous hydration could have saved me a lot of trouble when it came to my calves.
- Gu: This would have also helped with the cramping issue. I was used some Gatorade chews that did nothing.
- Different Pace for Different Race: I cannot run a half marathon at my 5k pace. Now I know what they mean when they say run at your such and such pace. At least now I have a baseline to know what pace to run when I am training.
My first half marathon was a huge accomplishment, and I am looking forward to running my next one!
- Run Like a Diva Half Marathon Review (runnerbyaccident.com)
- Race Review and the 4 Fs: Run Like a Diva (talesofstinkymom.wordpress.com)