I had an amazing time at the 2014 Santa Hustle in Galveston yesterday! I still can’t believe it.
I had signed up for the run for fun with a few friends of mine this summer, with the intention of seriously training for it in the fall. As you might have noticed, my fall training went badly and after every other run, it seemed I had to take extra rest days to get my calf to quit whining. My other exercise also went down the tubes as all of my favorite teachers left my dance studio and I was left with a very thin cross-training schedule. I gained about eight pounds from my low of 133.7. With all of this in mind, I went into this weekend with the stretch goal of 2:30, a hope that I could keep a consistent pace, and ultimately, the desire to just finish the thing. And have fun, of course.
This was my second half-marathon. My first was the Livestrong Austin Half in 2012, where I finished at 3:01 (2:47 according to my Garmin, but I paused it for potty breaks. Since my dinner the night before did not agree with me, I had had to take too many, too long potty breaks.) I’ve started three full marathons and completed one, the Green Bay Marathon in 2010, in 6:20. This is why I felt 2:30 was a stretch goal.
My husband and I decided to get a room in Galveston the night before so we wouldn’t have to face unpredictable I-45 traffic early on Sunday. We got to packet pickup with 30 minutes to spare. I discovered that my size small hoodie was way too small and traded it in for a size medium. This did not bother me, as I consider myself a medium and it annoys me when size small is too big for me. The medium is slightly snug on me, but since I am eight pounds up from my lowest weight and over 20 pounds heavier than I want to be, I figured it was better for me to get that one and leave the size large for people bigger than me. I know it will fit fine when I reach my goal weight. After packet pickup, we arranged dinner plans with friends. My husband found an Italian place with pasta e fagioli, one of my favorite dishes, but we eventually agreed to go to a different place as that place was a bit fancier than what we were dressed for. The second Italian place we tried was full, but we lucked out and got space in the third.
I suspect it was not a good night for the staff, as our service was very, very slow. We saw others get seated after us, but get their food before we did. However, our waitress was very nice and they put on a whole pot of coffee just for me! I enjoyed it because I like places where I don’t feel rushed. This is why I don’t eat at American chain restaurants. I felt like we would have been welcome to stay all night if we had wanted to. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay all night because we wanted to get some sleep before the run. I had a delicious, piping hot lentil soup with pasta. We made our way back to our hotel and I tried to get to bed by 10, with a planned wake-up time of 5:30am. Unfortunately, the person in the room next door kept their TV on all night and I had forgotten my earplugs and my sleep headphones. I managed to doze, though I was awakened by someone stomping quickly up and down the stairs several times throughout the night. I finally gave up on sleep at around 5am. I ate a Clif Builder’s Bar (the chocolate peanut butter is accidentally vegan) and drank a cup of coffee and a liter of water. I also took two generic naproxen tablets. My digestive system did what it was supposed to do and we were ready to head out at around 6:45 for an 8am start. We found parking about three blocks from the start and ran into a member of my local running club while walking to the start.
I felt really good, although I was cold. We wandered a bit and got the lay of the area. The starting corrals went from 6-minute-mile pace to 9-minute-mile pace. There were a lot of us lining up in the back! The announcer started telling us the race was starting any minute now at about 7:40, which got confusing, since race start time was 8am. He talked (and talked, and talked, and talked) until it finally was really time to start. They started us in three waves, one wave for the 6 and 7 minute milers, one for the 8 and 9 minute milers, and one for the rest of us. This seemed to work out really well, although at least two stroller people started too far up. I quickly settled into a comfortable 10:20 pace, intending to do the first three miles very comfortably. Two of my friends passed me about half a mile in, going about 9:40 or 9:50. Although I did have to pass people, the first few miles were not as congested as I’ve been in in other races and it was pretty easy to find a groove. I did spend a lot of time playing tag with Gallowalkers, but eventually passed them for good after about an hour.
I got passed quite a few times in the first hour. Every time, I would look at my watch to make sure my pace wasn’t lagging. I was almost always around 10:20. I tried not to let the people passing me get to me, since one of my goals was to keep a very consistent pace. I felt like I was working comfortably hard, not struggling a bit. My form felt good. Nothing hurt. Even though miles three through nine were pretty much into the wind, I was able to keep a very consistent pace. After about an hour, I realized there was a possibility that I would be able to run the whole way and set a PR. At about an hour and 50 minutes in, I realized I would definitely finish in under 2:30. I started crying at about two hours because I was so happy.
The wheels started to come off at mile 12, which was more than I deserved with my lack of training. I struggled to get back to my 10:20 pace and ended up doing an 11:14 mile. I did walk a little bit, but was able to get back to running. I had hoped to do the last mile or so in 10 minutes flat, but I just didn’t have it in me. As usual, I had trouble eating. I ate a cookie at the first stop, about a mile in. It didn’t make me sick, but my stomach did warn me not to try that again. I had Gatorade at mile 6, but that was also a potential mistake. The rest of the time I stuck with water. It was nice to run fast enough to not have to worry about water running out, since I had decided not to wear my belt. John was meeting me at various places on the course just in case, so if I needed it, I would have it.
The finish line clocks were broken. The one on the right said 2:07 and the one on the left said 1:47. Since I had my Garmin, I knew they were not accurate. I was still so happy with my time that I cried a little bit at the finish as well. I got my medal, banana, water, and potato chips and ran into my friends who had passed me. They had also made their goals for the day! We all suspect the course might have been a bit short, but the organizers say it was measured and certified. I wasn’t too worried. Even with the extra quarter mile that seemed to be missing, I still would have finished under 2:18. My official time was 2:14:55. 15 minutes faster than my stretch goal!!! And I wasn’t in pain! My hips and butt were a little sore, but it was symmetrical, which was good, and the soreness told me I had been using the correct muscles. (Today, however, my calves are screaming at me.)
It was an amazing day and a nice course. There were not a lot of spectators, but I was okay with that. I was tuning out a lot of stuff anyway and listening to my running playlist.
My time is so encouraging. I never thought in a million years that I could ever finish a half that fast! I’ve never run 13.1 miles that fast in my life. And that was pretty much detrained. I think weight loss and cross-training have made a huge difference. I have a lot of new core strength and upper body strength and that has helped my form quite a bit. Now, I’m wondering how fast I can run if I do actually train and stay consistent!
Things I will do again: the lentil soup was the perfect pre-race dinner. The Clif bar two and a half hours before the start was also a good idea. Stopping all liquids two hours before start was also good, as was having a single cup of black coffee. I felt like I could have used the portapotty one more time at the start, but I didn’t have to stop at all during the race.
Things I have to work on: I have to figure out what I can take in during the race. I wonder if the last mile was so hard because I ran out of energy. But anything with sugar seems to upset my stomach while running.
My next goal is to train for a sub-2 half, while also speeding up my 5k.