Since running the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon a week and a half ago, I have been suffering from half-marathon hangover. If you have ever run a half-marathon, you know the feeling!
You may fall into a bit of a post-race coma which is punctuated by feelings of:
Fatigue: Running that far, and training that hard, takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally. I had been so singularly focused on this event, while keeping up with a busy time of year at home and at work, that I felt like a slowly deflating balloon when it was all over. The adrenaline that had pushed me through training and race day abruptly exited stage left and went on vacation.
Relief: It’s over! All that pre-race anxiety and anticipation is behind you. What’s done is done. No more worrying every time you head out about negative splits or tempo paces or aches and pains potentially turning into injuries. No more stalking the Weather Network and trying to make deals with Mother Nature. No more race day planning, making lists, checking them
twice a million times, packing and unpacking to make sure you have everything. Nothing left to worry about.
Disappointment: It’s over! No more of any of the above. While it is a relief on one hand, it is oddly quiet in this new place where I am not “in training”. The next goal of going Coast to Coast with Disney’s Tinker Bell and Princess Half-Marathons seems far off. Although the training was very disciplined for Niagara Falls, I enjoyed it. I loved the sense of purpose and the steady progress. But it seems I forgot how to run just for fun. Going out for a run “just because” now feels very strange. And my “get up and go” has kind of got up and gone as a result.
Pride: Of course, you feel proud when you finish a half-marathon. It’s a long way to run and it takes dedication and commitment just to get yourself to the start line. So you bask a bit. In my case, I basked in some extra Halloween treats (“Hell yeah, I just ran a half-marathon!”) which of course didn’t help with the tired haze I was already in. For weeks leading up to the race, I had been so strict with my diet and my body wasn’t quite sure what to do with this Halloween haul I seemed to think I deserved. It certainly didn’t help me shake the sluggish feeling…but I’m thinking those calories don’t really count since I was technically just “fueling”, right? My costume was a Pace Bunny, after all. They need their strength.
I am now slowly coming out of my half-marathon coma and my race report is grossly overdue – so for those of you who were desperately on the edge of your seats with anticipation of this post (I realize this is essentially limited to one person: hi, Mom!), here we go!
First things first, Niagara Falls was a goal race for 2 princesses on the run with me running for a PR in the half-marathon and Alana hoping to improve her 10K time for Tinker Bell corral placement. But, in the end, it was 1 princess on the run by the Falls as Alana was ill and had to miss the whole weekend (sniff, sniff).
This princess was not alone, however – it was a family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge and my kids were over the moon with excitement! We did the waterpark, we did the Halloween party, we did the trick or treat trail, we did the MagiQuest adventure, we went into Niagara Falls to ride the Maid of the Mist, see the sights from atop the Sky Wheel and take in the fireworks. And that’s just what was on tap with the family!
I also attended the VIP Welcome Reception (above) on the Friday evening with my fellow running bloggers, Laural and Tabetha as well as Tabetha’s sister, and hit the Expo on Saturday (below) to get my race packet and do some shopping. The Expo was fabulous! It was a busy few days and probably not a big surprise that, despite my best efforts to taper, my legs were not rested or fresh come race day. (Actually, they were frozen. Like icicles. Leaden stumps of fozen muscle. Probably because it was the coldest October day ever on record. I exaggerate, but not by much).
And finally it was race day. The weather gods had not been smiling down on us. All week it had looked pretty iffy. In the end, the day before was much worse with pouring rain and high winds. Race day was calmer and dry, but that was all relative because it was still mighty cold and windy. And get this: the wind decided that it would blow (and not just blow: we were treated to “wind gusts”) from the north. We were running a point to point course heading…say it with me…north. You do the math on that one. Brrr. And: Grrr.
Mother Nature loves to throw me curve balls on race days. Pouring rain. High humidity. Blistering temps. And now gale force winds. The take-away from this is simple: don’t sign up for any races that I do! Save yourself!
Laural was kind enough to pick me up at Great Wolf Lodge so we could head to the shuttle buses together. This was one less thing to worry about and I appreciated it so much. We were up bright and early and, soon enough, on our way. The bus ride to the start line is always an odd thing. You come to realize exactly how far you will be running. As the ride went on and on, we started to question our sanity a bit, but I think that happens to most of us before running a half-marathon!
Once we got to the race site, we stayed busy: hitting the bathrooms, having a snack, checking our bags, taping my foot, getting our iPods and Garmins ready to go, and shedding the extra layers (lesson learned: always bring a throw-away layer!). And soon enough, we were off! It was kind of a surreal moment when the horn blew. I had been worrying about everything other than the actual running – so when my legs started moving, it was a bit of a surprise. And they felt heavy. Not exactly how you want to feel at the start line with 21.1 kilometres to go!
My body did warm up as I went, but my legs never quite joined the party – they were moving and keeping pace, but it was not feeling as good as many of my training runs. The course was very pretty, running along the Niagara Parkway, and there was some nice support at different stations; however, it was mostly a quiet run of just getting it done. It is said to be a flat course and, while there are no big hills or climbs, you are running a slight but steady incline for at least the first half and maybe longer. It was likely the wind that made it feel so challenging, but I was expecting it to be a faster course. I was doing well with keeping on pace for my goal and trying to enjoy it along the way.
Around the 17K mark, I really started to hit a wall as the winds picked up. Fighting wind for that long was catching up with me and I was really just trying to keep moving forward and knock off the kilometers. In hindsight, maybe I should have added some extra fuel to account for the extra effort so I will be playing with my fueling strategies a bit going forward. In any case, eventually, I made it to the 20K mark and ran for the Finish which you couldn’t actually see until you were about 400 meters away. I am a runner who needs to see it to believe it! I would rather see it a mile away than just before you cross. But cross I did! And just like that, half-marathon #4 was done like dinner.
As I do after every half-marathon, I cried a bit – pride, relief, pain, all the emotions come to the surface. I checked my watch. It was a PR by 7 minutes, but it was also 1 minute off my goal time. So close. And so frustrating. I have yet to regain the speed I had before my injury, but I am getting there. So while I was happy to celebrate a big PR, I was disappointed in the conditions that surely cost me my A-Goal for this race.
Laural finished just behind me and was quick to point out that a PR is a PR and mine was a big one so I should be smiling. She was right. So I did. We were given jackets instead of mylar blankets which was a nice touch (and will be great as throw-away layers in the future!).
I found my family and some other friends who had run as well, but we quickly left the race site as we were all freezing! It was so cold that ice pellets actually started coming down shortly after I finished which did make me feel for the marathoners still on the course, running in wind and ice. The sun then started to peek out from behind the clouds and, as we made our way to the parking lot, we were treated to this:
A rainbow at the end of my journey to Niagara Falls, where I made amazing memories with my family and had so much fun with friends. This get-away wasn’t just about the race. I know that travelling solo and resting might make for faster paces, but I also know that I run to create these opportunities for my family and to show my daughters what hard work looks like. I run to be with my friends and wear sparkle skirts and train hard and set impossible goals. I run for castles and pixie dust and rainbows too. This reminded me that it’s not about that 1 minute on the clock. It’s about a lifestyle of health and happiness and chasing big dreams.
And as for that perfect half-marathon that I know is inside me, waiting to be run, I’ll get there. One day, the stars will align. Right now I am still a work-in-progress and, after all, progress is progress, no matter how small.
PS Thank you to my cheer squad (and my friend, Stacy, for snapping this picture after she ran the 10K)! Check out the smiles on the faces of my mom (with camera in hand) and my girls peeking through the fence to see me cross the Finish line!