It’s insane to think that just 7 months ago I was in so much pain, barely able to get out of bed or stand long enough to cook something in the kitchen. To think that on Sunday, January 24th, 2016 I was able to not only run, but run 13.1 miles and earn myself a finisher medal at the Miami Half Marathon… I’m still on a cloud.
When the month of December 2015 began, and I started this blog, I never thought that so shortly after my injury I’d be running anywhere close to the double digits. But discipline, motivation and pure desire to be stronger got me to where I wanted to be 4 years ago and had simply kept hitting the wall.
So, yes, on Sunday, January 24th, 2016 I ran 13.1 miles as an official participant of The Miami Half Marathon, or what is apparently now being called the Marathon of the Americas. The process to this race and the aftermath has been quite the journey. However, the moments where I noticed how much of a badass I was, were those during the race.
In this post, I share my experience in my first race of 2016 and my first half marathon.
First off, let me say how excited I was to race back in my hometown again. The running community is amazingly big and very strong. Our races also start very early, since we never want to get caught by a harsh sun and humid temperatures. But, most importantly, it reminds me of the beauty of my own city. Although I will never be a fan of living in Miami, I never forget that beautiful palm trees, water, cruise ships, and neighborhoods full of story surround me.
I woke up at 4:45am, after having a potluck dinner at my house. It was not the best meal to have the night before such a big, important race: rice & beans, grilled KFC chicken and potato scallops. I don’t remember having veggies. But I do remember the 2 delicious servings I had of potatoes and I remember being proud of the decision to skip on the NY style cheesecake. But I went to beD by midnight and woke up at 4:45am. Made it to the race right on time, at an early 6am.
I couldn’t find my wave, which happened to be K. After several attempts at finding it and failing each time, I joined the H wave, where I found my goal pace. The H wave started at about 6:30am and what came after was unbelievable. The only goal I had at first was to try and start slow and steady. I have a habit of starting fast and well, I knew this wasn’t like my previous races. So I tried. And I did more than succeed.
We started and I liked my pace, trying to focus on my breathing and using my core rather than insisting my legs do all the work. The course is mostly flat, with two bridges which have to be crossed on the way to Miami Beach and on the way back into Miami. So, basically running up and down 4 bridges. Dee, whom you met early December via Everybody Has A Story, reminded me of a few things that certainly helped me that morning. One of those was “When you feel like quitting, don’t” and that’s exactly what I repeated to myself over and over. I’ve never ran a mile non stop before and on that morning, I ran nearly 2 miles non stop, that first mile included a bridge. That was success #1.
I skipped the first water station, temperatures were in the high 40s and I felt hydrated enough to not need one just yet. I continued running, choosing to walk a few times after that and grabbed water at the second water station. This became the pattern, stopping every other aid station and drinking Gatorade at all of them except for the first and last stations.
At each mile I tried to pay attention to the timers as I chose to not run with my Runkeeper app during the race. I was glad to see that I was running at a good pace and although I wasn’t sure, because I was more focused on running than doing the math, it seemed as though I was doing better times on this race than during any of my training runs. At the end of the race not only did I realize I beat my time by 15 minutes, but I noticed that I had just done the best 10K ever, that my 10 miler pace was faster than the one I had two weeks prior to the race and that I was also at a faster pace than required for my 10 miler for CUCB in April in DC. Success #2 – 4.
Once I reached the 10th mile, it was game. After I did my 10 mile training run 2 weeks prior to race day, I was in a bit of pain. I had made not so smart decisions because I never really consider biking a workout… I like to call them fun bike rides. So, not having even gotten to 11 miles during training had made me anxious. I’ve heard you normally stop at the 12 miles during training and taper and then go at it on race day for that last mile. But this was 3 miles I had just never done and had to kick ass at. So, this was a mental challenge for me. Funny thing is, that when I reached the 10th mile, I knew I was ahead of my time and my mind started coming up with phrases like “you should do the full next year” and “you can do 26.2 anytime.” I had to fight them back, reminding myself to focus on this race and nothing else. So, instead of getting anxious about the next 3 miles, I was ready to show myself what I’m made of. That’s success #5 and that never stops.
After the 11th mile, it got a bit hard though. Not mentally, but physically. I had maybe stopped to stretch my IT band before the 7th mile but nothing major, more like prevention. Halfway through mile 11, my calves began to cramp up. I thought half of the banana I had that morning would help and I thought the CliffBlox chews would help as well. I attempted to run and it became difficult. Had to stop and stretch out my calf and massage it at least twice. I continued to run and it wasn’t easy at all. It never went away until the end of the race. I bitched at my calf though making it clear we had made it so far and that they would not make me walk the rest of the race. I kept running as much as I could. Success #6.
After the 21K mark, I got a really weird pain in my ankles. I’m not sure what caused it. I stopped, stretched it out and kept right on going. Success #7.
The end though. That finish line. That was my main and biggest success. I knew I had to sprint, I always like to finish strong. I don’t think this was my fastest sprint to the finish line but it was definitely my strongest. Right when I started to sprint, my right calf cramped up again and I did sort of like a run, hop, limping thing. That was Success #8.
This race brought out my tears when I remembered why I had busted my butt for 4 years, injury after injury trying to complete my first half. I remembered promising myself that I would run the LiveLong LiveStrong Half in October as my way of fighting against cancer, that run was then canceled, but I got injured either way. I remembered when I tried to run as part of a charity group 2 years ago, and stopped going to the training runs after yet another injury. I remember wanting to run one in Clearwater, FL and getting injured as well. Running this race wasn’t just to add a medal or another bib to my running life. It was a reminder of strength, because I can run for so many people who can no longer do so. At one point during the race, I felt like giving up and I reached my left hand over to my right upper back, where I have a memorial piece tattooed in honor of my grandpa. It’s a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe with “Papito” written right above it. It was as if it was a reminder of why I was there, crazy enough to wake up so early in really cold temps with so much wind to run 13.1 miles.
To know that in June 2015 I began the 6 hardest moments of my life, in doctor and physical therapy appointments every week, losing my job because I couldn’t make it to work due to the pain, having to withdraw from classes because the headaches were unbearable and then that I started off 2016 stronger than I ever thought possible, it’s insane if I ask for more. But I will. Because it’s what I always do. And it’s how not only did I finally cross the finish line at my first half, it’s also how I finished 15 minutes ahead of the time I had set for myself.
So, before I make this any longer, check out my times:
The Miami Half Marathon
10K: 1:13:11 (11:47 min/mi)
10 Miler: 2:04:38 (12:28 min/mi)
Finish Time: 2:45:54 (12:40 min/mi)
Overall: 11,242nd of 14,492
Female: 5,235th of 7,472
Female 25-29: 735th of 958
Check out my medals though!