I Did It! I Did It! I Did It!

You guys. I did it. I ran 13.1 miles. I ran a half marathon. I ran the farthest I have ever run in my life. I ran without stopping.  I ran for two whole hour. I ran 3 minutes faster than my goal time (2:07 was my actual time, 2:10 was my goal).  And best of all? I ran with my bestest friends and actually had a blast!

But let’s start from the beginning. Back in the Spring my crazy running-loving friend Leslie convinced me to run a half marathon in September. As I explained here, I agreed to do this race for 3 reasons: 1) I wanted to see if I could do it (I can!), 2) I loved that it was with my three great friends Leslie, Maria, and Margaret (it was the best with and because of them!), 3) it was a 13 mile tour of some of the best places and things in Milwaukee, my most favorite city on earth (and boy was it an amazing run for a Milwaukee-lover!) so I signed up and hand’t REALLY realized what I got myself into.

Then my training began in the end of June and I was feeling pretty good for most of July since I the farthest I had to run was 5 miles. At the time 5 miles was the farthest I had ever run and it was a total struggle, but I was damn proud of myself.  By the end of my training the furthest I would run before race day was 11.5 miles and looking back I would joke about how hard running 4 or 5 miles for the first time was or seemed to be and now I could run 11.

By the beginning of August, I was just a little over a month away from race day and had hit the 7 mile training day mark. 7 miles is obviously just about the halfway mark of half marathon distance and my 7 mile day ended up being one of the best training runs I had.  I was feeling really good with where I was at and the pace I was keeping up during my runs and the weather during my early morning runs was heavenly.

I haven’t written much in the last month or so before the race because I have gotten crazy busy with photography (Fall is my absolute busiest time of the year and I have multiple shoots a week) and coaching high school girls rugby (go SWARM!!) and running a bagillion (it felt like) miles.  Also, aside from my 9 mile run, which happened to fall on a trip home to Wisconsin and was a wonderful run through my hometown, my runs were starting to get AWFUL.  I was starting to get sick of training, and the mornings were getting so cold that getting out of bed to run was just too hard some (most) of the time and I started skipping my shorter runs, and my longer runs were getting slower and slower and I hated being out there alone for so so long and it was getting harder to push myself to finish.  So everything kind of piled on top of me and I just didn’t want to talk about it or deal with it or do it. And frankly I was a little bit regretting signing up for this whole thing

As the week before race day came I got to work on Friday (8 days before race day) and both Ella and Max were sick. Which is their go-to mode when it’s getting close to me leaving for a trip. Without fail they get sick and then I get sick. Awesome. So I was sick all week leading up to the race and therefore only ran a total of 4 miles in the 6 days before the race. Not so good.  Then I start to pack on Wednesday night and I look at the weather for the weekend and race. 40′s and 50′s and rain.  And sure enough, by the time I got to Wisconsin Friday night the forecast for the morning was COLD (upper 30′s, low 40′s) and rainy and windy.

So I was starting to panic a little bit.  Although when we all got together for our “carb loading” dinner at Buca’s we all made jokes about it and made jokes about other things (like how my friend Maria ordered chicken parmesan, which was a dish that came with no pasta. awesome job carb loading friend!) and generally tried to be glass-half-full about the whole race.  But the later into the night it got and closer to a reality the morning was the more I was freaking out.

This is Maria. Not carb loading. Except she really was because we all shared out various pastas with her. :)

5am rolled around Saturday morning – race day – and it was frigid outside so I sunk further into “this is going to be awful-sucky-the-worst-ever” mode.  Maria had slept over with me (sleepover!!!) and when we hopped in the car at 5:55am I kid you not – as our doors closed a HUGE flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder and we both lost it. I mean COME ON. It’s already freezing cold and rain would just make it worse.

When we got to Miller Park, where the race started and finished, Maria and I found Leslie, Margaret and Patrick in the parking lot. We sat in their car, with the heat blasting, and all started to REALLY regret signing up. By 6:30am we figured we’d better suck it up and head to towards the stadium to get ready.  Lighting was flashing all over the sky and it had started to drizzle. Freezing drizzle. Everyone was being shuffled inside the stadium to warm up and stretch before race time and then they announced it was being delayed until 7:15 due to the lightning.

We had a while to wait inside so we took some pictures … first just the girls: Margaret, Me, Maria and Leslie.

And then one with the lone man: Leslie, Maria, Patrick, Margaret, Me

At 7:15 they announced the race would be starting at 7:25 and we all started to head back outside and the closer we got to the doors the more I was dreading the next 2 hours of my life.  Outside the rain had just about stopped but it was still dark and gloomy and, oh yeah, FREEZING.  At this point Maria and I split off from Leslie, Margaret and Patrick because, since it was Maria and I’s first half marathon ever, we decided our goal was to not walk at all and the other three decided to just take it easy and see how it went as they went.

My original goal had been to run the race in 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is a 10 minute mile pace and something I was pretty confident I could do. But as the race day got closer and I got sick, and then hardly ran at all the week before, and then it was so so so cold, I changed my goal to be to just finish without walking (I was 99% confident I could do that), and see how I did overall. I was afraid of setting myself up for failure with a 2:10 goal and I figured since it was my first race (and horrible conditions for me) I should set an easier goal and see how the whole thing went, and then if I did another race someday I could set a time goal.  But I wanted to start in the corral for the 2:10 goal time so I could just keep tabs on how I was running the race – math and numbers are not my strong suit so it helped to be near a pace runner so I could figure out my times.

Everybody at the starting line right outside Miller Park

Running buddy and I … nervous for the race to start! 

So the race started and we headed off into the freezing morning with 5,000 other racers.  We (Maria and I) ended up running slightly slower than a 10-minute-mile pace for the first few miles, and we ran together for the first 6 ish miles.  It was seriously the best decision I made, I think, because we talked the whole time and the time flew!  Plus, in the end I think it was good that I started at a slightly slower pace and saved some energy because around mile 6, when she said she needed to slow down and we separated, I was feeling really good and I realized I was 3 minutes over finishing with a 2:10. And 3 minutes was something I knew I could make up and get back to 2:10. So from about 7 miles on, I started to turn it up and was slowly getting faster and passing people and was feeling really good.

This race was like an awesome little (or not so little maybe… 13 miles is a lot!) tour of Milwaukee that included the Harley-Davidson museum, Marquette University, the Domes, the Miller Valley, Saz’s, and ending in Miller Park!  By far my two favorite parts of the race were Miller Valley and the end at Miller Park.  And since both of those things happened near the end of the race, I was especially thankful to have run with Maria for the first half when it was not as scenic or interesting.

Kind of boring at the start of the race… cold and rainy

Mile’s 7 and 8 were my first two alone and I was feelin’ good and the second half of mile 8 was when we turned down into Miller Valley.  In case you’re not from Milwaukee, Miller Valley is an awesome little section of town that houses the Miller Brewery and has lots of Milwaukee’s history wrapped up in it. And as you ran through it and under an overpass/walkway were you can see Miller products being bottled and moved along a conveyer belt, there was this adorable older man working and just waving to everyone as they ran under him. And out the other side were all of the Brewer’s racing sausages lined up and the runners made a tunnel around them and we all got to high-five them as we ran by.  It was seriously so fun for anyone who’s a Milwaukee/Miller/Brewers fan!

Coming around into Miller Valley. Sorry the picture’s not great, my phone is terrible, and I was … you know… running. 

Here’s the overpass/walkway thing. You can barrrellly see the man waving on the left in the window. And I love the Run Beer Run sign :)

Brewers racing sausages! 

Unfortunately as soon as you left Miller Valley it seemed like the entire 9th mile was uphill and missssserable. But just after mile 9 was a big crowd of cheerers who were yelling things like “almost done!” and “this is it!” and “only 5K left!!” and “3 more miles you can do it!”  At which point I realized I had caught up to the 2:10 pace runner and was about to pass her. As long as I kept her behind me I would meet my original goal, which I had thought would be impossible.

Turns out I hadn’t factored in the race-day adrenaline and the affect the whole atmosphere would have on me. Plus I am uber competitive (even with myself) so as soon as I realized I was running in front of the 2:10 girl and I was feeling REALLY good I just told myself to go go go go go and I was NOT going to fall below 2:10. I was going to beat my goal. Or else.

Mile 10 wasn’t too bad, but after that if felt like the entire thing was straight into 20/30 mph wind. Freezing wind. I was SO SO cold, but SO SO close to the finish and I was still passing people and going strong to I just ducked my head into the wind and pushed myself because I knew I was almost done.

And then the coolest thing ever happened. We ran up and around the back of Miller Park and turned into a back parking lot and ran under ground through a back entrance and down underneath the stadium and we came up ONTO the field. We were right at third base and we ran around the warning track past home plate and back up the first base line and out of the stadium.  The place was full of people cheering us on and apparently we were broadcast up on the big screen over the field, but I was too busy trying not to die and finish the last quart mile of the race to see it.

This picture’s kind of terrible, I’m sorry. Again… my phone sucks and I was running. But it’s proof we ran inside Miller Park!

So out of the stadium we go, and around to the front and through the finish shoot and I was done!  I had done it!  And I gotta say, it was kinnnnd of anti-climatic. I was handed a banana, a water bottle and a finishers metal … and then I just stood there. No one I knew was there to see me, and all of my friends were behind me. So I congratulated myself (I didn’t know exactly what time I got, but I knew I was still in front of the 2:10 girl, I was pretty sure I beat my goal) and waited for one of my friends to finish.

My finishers metal… 

and I took some time to take a picture of a stormy sky and Miller Park

About 5 minutes later I heard someone say my name and I turned around to see Caitlin, who’s sister was running the race, so she and her mom were waiting for her to finish. She congratulated me so at least there was that!  And shortly after I heard the announcer (who was on the loud speaker and just reading the names on the bibs of random people coming through the finish line) say “and here comes MARIA!”  so I looked up and sure enough there she was!  So she got her finishers metal and banana and water and we headed further up the finish track thing and saw her three Aunts who had come to support her and were just the best!  That was more like the celebration I expected! :)

Our race bibs had an iPhone thinger than you could scan and it told you your race results so we did that on Maria’s phone and I finally knew I beat my goal for sure!  2:07!  I was so freaking excited to not only have finished but to have done better than I even expected and it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be!  Part of it was probably setting myself up all week for how awful the whole thing was going to be, that it seemed to much better, but also I just didn’t account for how much the whole atmosphere and fun things along the way would help me keep going.  It’s crazy because those 13.1 miles were easier than some 4 mile or 5 mile or any other runs I’ve had while training.

Pretty soon after that, Margaret and Patrick (holding hands. those two.) and Leslie finished and we all hauled ass (as fast as 5 people who just ran a half marathon can go) to grab our free beers (I heart Wisconsin) and get in the car and blast the heat.  We all sipped our beers as our bodies slowwwllly started to defrost and we all just kept repeating how happy we were to be done. And how cool it was to run through Miller Park. Then we went and got Gillies (lunch of running champions!) and ate at my house quick before going out separate ways to shower and sit on our butts for the next several hours at least!

We did it!!! 

These two love birds did it too!

I plan on continuing to run but probably rarely more than 6 or 7 miles tops because that’s about the point where I start to lose it when I am running all alone if I try to go further.  Plus that’s plenty far for me when I’m not training to go longer.  Maybe someday I will decided to do this again but for now my body will rest and take it easy and I will enjoy being free of the scheduled runs and the “have t0″ runs. And I want to just revel in it all for bit. :)

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