September 9, 2012

"i'm so excited" ... "i'm so scared"

** i feel i should warn you, this is going to be a long one. i thought about doing 2 but, f it, you can come back and finish it later **

around 7pm last saturday night, i was having my own jessie spano moment; i was super excited about the 1/2 marathon i was going to run/walk the following day, but i was also super scared.

i signed up for the 1/2 way back at the start of the year. back then, i wasn't worried: i had close to 7 months to train. for a month, i was super stoked. i got some new running clothes and a fancy garmin gps/heart rate monitor and started going to the gym every other morning. i also told my plan to everyone i knew, mostly so they'd ask how the training was going and i'd feel like a lazy ass if i said, umm, i've been kinda slacking. i knew i'd get a little slack, though i had selectively forgotten just how slack i can be.

i had hoped to fall somewhere in-between,

running crumbs results


fit bottomed girls result

for a while my running buddy kadi occationally asked. but soon after convincing me to sign up for the 1/2, she transferred way cross town to disney. she did turn me on to so i could track my progress; it turned out i could see hers as well. great, now someone else can track me and be like, "jen, put down the ps3 controller and get moving!" i soon discovered i could hide my runs from people, haha, no one can see how much i'm not doing.

what i did when i should have been running

so, jump forward to july when my mom came to visit. she's been the one person who's been on my case asking how it's going. we had some good convos about back when she used to run. she really enjoyed it, even ran a 5k when i was in middle school. i told her i was enjoying it, but that i was having a problem keeping focused and motivated, a trend through out my life.

of the many wonderful traits i get from my mom, there are 2 traits we share that i'm sure we both wish we could change:

1) we both suck at math
2) we both work better under a very short deadline

the only time i've ever been able to consistantly get math right is when i'm:

a) figuring out the max questions i can get wrong on a test to ensure the minimum grade i need to just barely pass a class

b) figuring out the average length of a song on a playlist to determine how many more songs i have to hear before i've completed my minimum run distance for the day

one morning as i set out for my 2 miles, mom suggested not listening to music on the run. she had tried running with a walkman when she was training for her 5k and hadn't liked it. low and behold, it went much better. rather than doing the "when is this over" math, the mental work went toward telling myself to suck it up and keep going. it was easier for me to work toward a visual goal of "just make it to the street corner" than "just make it thru this one last song." i was less distracted by the beat of the music and better able to focus on how my breathing was going, working out side stitches, and my old soccer knee problems.

over the weeks of training, everyone had been asking me, "are you going to be bummed if you don't run the entire race?" heck no, it's my first race ever. i had planned on it being a walk/run situation and had decided my goal time to walk/run was 3 hours, especially since 3.5 is the max time allowed (16 min mile), and i knew i could walk that.

up until the race my long runs had been 5, 7 and 10 miles. i had waited until 6 weeks out to go into serious training mode -- i don't recommend this at all-- so having to increase my distance by so much every weekend was rough. kadi told me, "just do the distance, no matter how often you have to walk, just finish." that's what i did.

the day i managed to walk/run the 10 miles in 2:10, i figured this was fine, given my 1/2 marathon goal time of 3 hours. but i was still a little freaked out about actually doing it. most of my fear came from knowing my body hadn't been properly trained. i had no clue if it was going to hold up to the full 13.1, especially since i had started too late and didn't put in enough effort. i decided on race day i'd keep up with kadi and her running buddy bridget until i just couldn't go another step, and that's when the walk/run would start.
the night before, getting my tiara
so, how did the race go? well..

there were a few down moments and a lot of up. miles 1-3 were awesome. we ran thru california adventure land. i met phineas and ferb, saw some princesses and made my way into disneyland where jack sparrow and wendy were riding the carousel, and i must say the that guy by star tours was a little short to be a storm trooper.

disneyland half marathon running phineas and ferb

around mile 4, we ran across a massive bridge where the sun was in our eyes and it was all up hill. that was the first time i thought about walking, but i didn't. right after the 5 mile water/powerade table and a cup of powerade, i got a searing pain in my left side. like being stabbed and i could barely breath. i told kadi and bridget to go on ahead and i'd catch up once i'd walked it out. it took about 3/10s of a mile to get to a dull, manegable pain. i caught up with them at the 6 mile table, then it was smooth sailing thru downtown anehaim and angel stadium.

me and bridget in angel stadium

at the 11 mile water/powerade table, and again after a powerade, the searing pain returned. this time i didn't catch up to kadi and bridget, but managed to get the side pain under control, only to discover my left knee was starting to wobble -- old soccer issues. i walked a little less than half a mile, then resumed a slow run.

at this point, my main concerns were finishing, and finishing with a functional clutch leg: i had to drive us home in my jeep later in the day and kadi can't drive stick.

but before i share the rest, allow me to digress for a moment to explain the "5" you'll see inked on my wrist. back in march, when unc point guard kendall marshall broke his right wrist, carolina fans around the country wrote a "5" -- his jersey number -- on their wrists as a show of support. in a game where stat books show the leading scorer as the top-featured player, kendall's first thought was always to pass the ball to an open teammate. shooting the ball is his second option.

a unc student began the @passfir5t twitter feed to show support for kendall and his instinct to pass first, not just on the court but in everyday life. this movement of #passfir5t grew as the tournament went on with kendall on the side lines.

i began writing a "5" on my wrist to remind myself of how hard kendall worked during his last game when he'd played for 7 minutes with a broken wrist. i've broken a bone and i know what that feels like. if kendall could keep playing and keep passing, i knew i could keep running.

like unc fans, if ever there were a group of people that embodied the passfir5t attitude, it's the chear squad along our race route. get it, ch - ear - as in mickey. not only where there friends and family of the runners lined up along the route, disney had brought in outside groups: a dozen or more cheer leading squads, marching bands and color guards from local schools, girl and boy scout troops, disney characters, park workers, classic auto clubs, hula dancers, parade floats, everything.

my 2 favorite chear signs read: "worst parade ever" held by a little kid in a stroller and "run faster, mckayla is not impressed" complete with gymnast mckayla maroney's unimpressed face.

on top of just being there to cheer and applaud, the chear squad members also shouted our names. you see, each runner's race bib has a number on it. it also has your name. it only took a few shouts of "way to go jen" or "come on kadi" for me to realize they weren't cheering for people they knew. they were for us -- reading the names on our bibs.

since leaving the 11-mile marker, i'd managed to walk and stretch thru the pain and keep running. when i hit the 12-mile marker, i had a moment of "holy crap, i'm actually gonna finish this." i'd actually run most of the dang thing. i'd managed to keep up for 11 miles with 2 seasoned runners, though admittedly they were not having their best run.

then i rounded the corner and saw the 13-mile marker, and here's where a few little tears came: some random guy in the crowd hollered, "come on jen, finish strong! the starting line was hard, this is easy."

damn right the starting line was hard. i crossed that thing at 6 a.m. and the first thing i thought was, oh lord what have i done.

i've been talking about this for months, i've been slack on the training for nearly the same amount of time, and i'd attempted to cram what should have been 12 weeks of training into 6. my plan at that point was just to keep up as long as i could and hope i didn't get picked up in the lag wagon for being behind the 16 min mile pace.

disneyland half marathon running
me and my "5"

turns out, i did a lot better than that. 2:36:00 was the final time on my garmin.

i finished about 6 minutes behind kadi and bridget, but way ahead of my goal. like kadi said, "you blew your goal away, you actually would have had to try to be slower." that's kinda awesome!

me and kadi, we did it!

so, am i a runner? well, i did run. so as a runner, i've concluded the 1/2 is my limit. it's not that i don't think i could do a longer race, but that i can't imagine spending more than 2.5 hours doing anything other than watching a football game, or a basketball game in overtime. i plan on keeping up the exercise and running some 5/10k, as many in disney as possible. as it was absolutely the happiest race on earth - amazing, in fact - and i'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it ...

... and that i finished in 2:36:00


  1. Jen! I am so, so proud of you! Seriously, this is amazing. Look at your tiara! Love it. Congrats on this wonderful accomplishment! Hugs and lots of love :)