6 weeks ago I mentioned that I would be walking my FIRST half-marathon!!
Well, the day for the big race has come and gone, and I'm here to tell you that it can be done successfully!!
I participated in the 13th Annual Holiday Halfathon, and spent 12 weeks following the Hal Higdon Training Program for Walkers.
I started off GREAT, easily making it through the first 9 weeks, and then I accepted a position with the Hillsborough County Public Library system, and that really put a crimp on my training.
But when you are determined (like you all know I am!) then you will make it work!
For the previous 8 weeks I had been training with my CrossFit En Fuego friend, Connie. We did our shorter walks right after our WOD's, and our longer walks we did on Thursday mornings.
But that all changed the week of November 17th.
I had 9 miles on the training plan, and that was also the week I returned to work full-time. Connie and I had tentatively made plans to meet on Saturday morning, but when I woke up it was drizzling and ugly outside. I texted her and she told me she was already at the meeting spot with her sister and was going to attempt to start walking then. I was not prepared to leave so quickly so I told her I'd do it on my own sometime that weekend.
And I did! But not alone. My 8yo son Ronin came with me. He's training for his first 15K, the Gasparilla 15K in February, so doing some mileage would be a good thing for him to get under his belt.
We decided we'd do a 3 mile out and back, 3 times. That way in case he got too tired, hungry, etc., we weren't more than 1.5 miles from the car at any given time.
We did 6 miles with ease, I even attempted to jog a few times, and looked over to see him walking right next to me. His walking pace is my jogging pace. Sad for me. But it gave me a good laugh.
His dad called and said he was going to come out and would be bringing Ronin's bike along. That worked out great.
As we were coming back in from mile 6, dad met us with the bikes. Ronin took off with Dad for a 14ish mile cycle ride. So he walked 6 miles with me and then biked 14 miles with dad. The kid is a machine I tell ya, a machine!
I finished the last 3 miles alone. It was tough. I got a cramp in my foot/calf on mile 8. But I pushed through.
And then for the next 3ish weeks I backed down on my mileage, continued to CrossFit, and walked every single day during my lunch break at work. I averaged about 1.5 miles every day.
Race day morning came without any problems.
Connie and I arrived on site by 6am. Checked in, and let the race director know that we'd be starting earlier than the 7:05am walking start time. We wanted to make sure we had PLENTY of time to finish as they had recommended that all walkers finish within 4 hours. Since neither of us had walked more than 9 miles during our training we honestly had no clue how long that last 4.1 miles would take us and we wanted to err on the side of caution.
They were fine with us starting, let us know that the roads would not be closed until 7:35am when the runners started and that our chip time would reflect 0:00. We were both okay with that, and off we went on our brisk Sunday walk!
We finished our first 3 miles UNDER our anticipated pace! We were both really happy with that.
It was COLD so I think we were trying to warm up!
3 miles down, 10.1 to go! Right off the bat I noticed that my GPS was measuring a bit off, like about a 1/4 of a mile.
Both of our hands were FREEZING but we were feeling good and strong! The aid stations were starting to be staffed and people looked at us so confused as to why we were out in front. LOL. Don't judge a book by its cover.
We hit mile 6, refuled with a banana and a port-o-potty and kept right on trucking!
We kept breaking the race down into 5K chunks. 2 5K's done, 2 more to go, plus a 1.1 extra miles for good luck.
The course was great and Connie and I both kept wondering WHEN the runners would start to pass us. As of this point we were still alone out on the course.
I started talking about my fast friend Chris (also part of Team Polar) and I wasn't sure if he was running or not, but I told Connie that if other runners at his pace were running, I'd expect them to start passing us around mile 7.
Well, just as we hit mile 7, I heard the police sirens, looked behind us, and sure enough, there came the running pack!!
As they ran past us I thought I noticed my speedy friend Chris and I told Connie, "I think that was Chris" and then she told me she thought she heard someone yell "GO CHRIS" so then I yelled "TEAM POLAR" but I still wasn't sure if it was "my" Chris or not.
After the leaders passed us, the pack started coming on a bit more heavily. Groups of 5, then 10, and then suddenly 50 or more started passing us by.
We tried our best to keep our pace, and keep out of their way. Connie kept going over into the grass and I kept telling her, "NO, stay on the course, runners are used to going around slower paced people, as long as you stay to the right, all is good." But she felt bad. She felt like she should get out of their way. But I told her that runners don't look down on someone walking or running more slowly than them, as long as the rule of the road are followed, all is good.
When we hit mile 9 we were both so happy!! We knew we only had 4 miles left to go, and we knew we could do it!! But then....around mile 10....suddenly 2 things were against me.
1) I had to pee. BADLY. And there were no bathrooms to be found anywhere! And we were on a public trail and there were no spots to sneak off. Trust me, I checked.
2) Blisters. I could feel some pretty gnarly blisters develop on the bottoms of both of my feet. I could tell that they were filled with fluid b/c I was feeling a squishing feeling every time I stepped down. I tried to do more of a "wog" and that did help some.
But it was bad folks, real bad.
We hobbled, we snacked. Connie joked that while all the runners were passing us we were walking having a picnic. It sure lightened up the mood.
We passed mile 11, and knew we had 2 more miles in us! We walked 2 miles after WOD'ing for months! We could surely do 2 now when it counted!
And then BAM! We came into a park, and there was a BATHROOM!!! Thank goodness!!
We both stopped, freshened up, and went back on the course. Laughing and nearly crying at the same time!
We passed mile 12 and I was so happy to see that sign.
It was right after mile 12 that my friend Denise from RUNDMT caught up to me. I knew she would. It was only a matter of time. She was kind enough to pass me a packet of organic gummies and they did the trick. My feet were killing me, but my energy level picked up. Connie and I also snacked on some cashew nuts, and we could see the finish line across the lake so we knew we were getting so close!
We could hear music playing, names being called, people cheering. It was exciting. There were also a lot of runners who were now walking. I guess 13.1 miles can take its toll even on the most seasoned of runners.
I told Connie to go ahead if she wanted to run, because I knew I was holding her back from finishing as strong as she could. So off she went!
I kept walking. I will ALWAYS RUN across a finish line, so I had a landmark in my mind and knew when I would start running. I rounded the corner towards the finish line when a well meaning woman yelled at me "GET RUNNING" and I snapped at her "I'm a REGISTERED WALKER, I'LL RUN WHEN I'M READY!" I guess I was feeling a little testy.
But I shuffled through the finish line and earned my medal.
Race results show that I finished in 2:35.
But that's not accurate because we started earlier. This is much more accurate.
I stopped my Polar within one minute of crossing the finish line, while I forgot about my app for just a few minutes while I got my bearings and looked around for Connie.
We kept between a 16mm-17mm, which is faster than anything we trained for. We would have made it to the finish line in time if we had started with the other walkers. But honestly I don't think we would have had as much fun. Having the course to ourselves for 7 miles really was something else. And we need to factor in our time that we stopped for photos. And the bathroom.
I'd say our first WALKING half-marathon was a success!!!
Was it easy? NO. Not one bit. Was it worth it? YES. Without a doubt yes.
And in case you were wondering.
Yup, that was my buddy Chris!
He finished the race in 2nd place overall with a time of 1:14. Yes, you read that correctly. He ran a half-marathon in ONE HOUR FOURTEEN MINUTES.
Told you he was speedy quick.
So what would I do differently?
1) I'd follow the training plan up through the last week. Had I walked 10 miles during training I might have developed blisters and known how to properly deal with that possibility. I'd been discussing buying new shoes throughout my training but never did it. Ugh. I had well over 500 miles on the shoes I wore.
2) Buy new shoes during training.
And that's pretty much it.
I felt well prepared for this event.
Something else that I found interesting was this this race was not the typical out/back races I've done in the past. This was just an OUT race. There was no back tracking. That made it both challenging and exciting. I think in training for my next out race I'd actually do some out training and have the husband pick me up somewhere. I've only trained out/back and tend to rely on landmarks.
So there you have it. My first half-marathon as a WALKER. And I was successful!!
A HUGE thank you goes out to Enell Sports Bras for sponsoring me for this race. I wore my Enell Scuba Blue Bra, and my Enell racing jacket during the race.