2012…My first half marathon – The Strip At Night. Aka, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Las Vegas. I followed a training plan, recommended by a friend, who was also running it. There were beginner, intermediate, and advanced options. I chose the intermediate, even though I had no experience with this distance. I liked that it included cross-training and sample workouts – similar to what I used to do in swimming. I didn’t really even follow it though. Mostly because I don’t run around a track, so I would have no idea how to run 800s, or whatever other distances. For my long runs, I decided to add time, instead of distance. I added 10-20 minutes, on alternating weekends. This probably would have worked fine; however, it was only over an 8-week period. The farthest I ever ran, was somewhere around 10 miles. The few days leading up to my race, I told myself I’d be fine. It’s only a 5k more. I could do it.
So this race, if you don’t know, is at night. Late afternoon, really. This worked out for a good night sleep, since I didn’t have the stress of an early morning race. This did not work for my eating and hydrating, though. I ended up having a late breakfast, but with increasing nerves, didn’t really eat very much. I was worried about having to use the restroom, so I didn’t drink very much. Yeah, both of these things are kind of important.
Adding to this…I had never really practiced nutrition while running, nor did I really look at the course map, to know where the water stations were. I had another friend who was also running. She had recently ran her first half, so passed along her words of wisdom – drink the energy packet at miles 4 and 8. Ok, sounds good.
Oh yeah…and then there were the 20-25mph winds! I just kept telling myself, ‘hey, at least I don’t have to run with the stroller!’
So, now the actual race…I knew what kind of pace I wanted to hold. At this time, I used the RunKeeper app on my phone…with music and pace cues. Typically, when I run, I work into my pace. I understand that I don’t have to push early, because I have adrenaline on my side. This was not the case today. I started out running way under the pace I wanted to be. I tried to slow down, but just kept hearing my descending pace. I took my first packet of Island Boost energy at mile 4, like I was told. So far, it was going ok.
Again, I didn’t study the course very well. (Or, at all). I knew that the race finished at the Mirage, which was near the Circus Circus – signified by a giant illuminated clown. I knew part of the course was off the strip, but I had my RunKeeper to tell me what mile I was at.
Regardless, I don’t really know what happened the rest of the run. I got to mile 7 and took my other energy packet. I felt hot and thirsty, so was drinking water and gatorade from all the water stations. During our run toward the Old Strip, I saw a giant illuminated cowboy. At the time, it looked like the clown? So I think, ‘I’m almost done!’ No silly…it’s a cowboy. Then we run around the other side, and I see it again, ‘Oh ok, now I’m almost done.’ Nope. Just keep running.
I started having the feeling, that I needed to use the bathroom…so, if I didn’t find one soon, I’d wet my pants! Ha, using a port-a-potty in the dark is fun stuff!
I’m pretty sure it was between mile 9 and 10, where I HIT THE WALL. Mentally and physically.
I had recently done the Insanity 60-day challenge, and remembered Shaun-T saying that when your form starts to suffer – take a break, then get back in it. But I didn’t want to stop or walk! I also remembered someone had said to run slower, if necessary. But I felt like my walking pace would be faster than what I was running, at this point. Plus, I was so thirsty! I decided to walk the next water table, then run again. Ok, that was a good idea. Oh wait! There was that wall again! So I walked the next water table. Same thing. I ended up walking a little more, one last time. I remember people running by me, looking strong. Man, was that frustrating!!
Finally, the finish was near. I crossed the finish line and was disappointed. Time-wise, I shouldn’t have been, even though I was slower than I wanted to would be – I really had nothing to complain about. Plus, it was a PR, right?! Performance-wise, I most definitely was bummed though. I should not have walked. Why did I let myself do that?!
Well, after a few days, I got over my feelings of disappointment, and decided to feel okay with my performance. It was my first time and I learned A LOT! Oh, and then, I decided to register for a full marathon!
2013…Knowing a little more of what to expect, I had a much better experience. I had another friend running it too, so we stuck together. He’s a pretty natural runner, but this was his first half marathon. He’d been going through school though, so he didn’t train as much as he’d wanted. Like I said though, he’s pretty natural and has always been a runner. We stuck together for most of it – all the while, he would run, do a cartwheel, and encourage everyone around us. It was like running with a personal cheerleader! It was great!!
By the way, after last year’s experience, I gave up the music and pace cues, and run by feel. It’s much less stressful that way. He had on his watch though, and every now and again, would comment whereabouts we were pace-wise. I started out pretty slow, but I wasn’t worried about it. I was probably being a little too conservative, but since I didn’t get in the distance I’d wanted beforehand, I wanted to be smarter than last year. At least I had the experience of running that far, now.
We made it to that dreaded mile 9/10 area, and he tells me to go ahead. He needed to slow down and stretch. So I did.
Let me add, that I love being able to finish my races strong. This, is oftentimes, my overall goal. (You have no idea, how much I hated watching everyone run by me last year!!) Sure, I’d like to PR, but finishing strong is very important to me. So this year, I was stoked to not only finish strong, but I was also about 4 minutes faster than last year!
The Strip At Night has since, become an annual tradition, so we shall see what 2014 holds.
To Be Continued…