Half way through my training, things started to go bad for me. I can't really pin point why. I think the main reason was doing too much too fast in a body that wasn't ready for it. When our mid-week runs went up to 6 miles, my body started to break down and I never really recovered from it. On top of that I did something weird to my knee and it started hurting - big time. I didn't know what to do because I didn't want to stop running - I needed to finish this half marathon. My psyche couldn't take another DNS. I couldn't give up on myself once again.
So, I started reducing or skipping my mid-week runs and just doing the weekend runs as written. I also stopped dieting thinking that the low calories were contributing to the 'non-knee' related side of my breakdown. And it worked for the most part. I made it through my 12 mile run, the peek of my training plan, and then didn't run for thirteen days leading up to my race. I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but it worked. I was able to run relatively pain free (in my knee) for the entire race.
Race day was beautiful. It wasn't going to be too hot, or too cold (starting in the high 50's and warming into the low 60's) there was a breeze but not the strong winds we had be having for days. Getting to the race was easy because the starting line was about 1/2 a mile from my house. I simply walked out my front door and did a brisk walk to the starting line and I was there! I wandered around, waiting for the start and visiting with a few friends. Then it was a short walk to the street to line up and, we were off.
I don't do many foot races, and the majority of those are 5K's so I wasn't really prepared for what the start of a 1/2 marathon is like. I'm used to having this HUGE mass of people go shooting off without me, while I start my plodding pace, that's the same speed I'll go the entire race. This time I found that while there was a speedy bunch that zoomed off, there weren't many of them and there seemed to be just as many that were like me, in it for the long haul. The number of walkers, run/walkers and just plain ol' slow people was a nice surprise.
The first few miles clicked off fairly easily, and before I knew it I was to the foot bridge that was almost at the three mile mark and I was still feeling good. Four miles still felt ok. My knee was good, my lungs felt great and I was in a happy place (as happy as I get when running). Five miles was still ok - I was making sure to drink plenty of water and was walking through ever water stop in order to top off the water bottle I was carrying. Six miles I was starting really dig in mentally. I knew this was going to be a long race and keeping focus was going to be one of the struggles - my focus was slipping a little but not terrible. I hit the 1/2 way point and got a little happy. I felt pretty good, but I was tired - bored of running - tired of fighting and the thought occurred to me that if I was doing a 10K I would already be done. At that moment I promised myself that I would never do a run longer then 10K again...
The last 1/2 of the run was an exercise in pain management. While my knee was behaving beautifully, my lower back had started to tighten and my hips (probably from the slow shuffling run I was doing) were killing me. I stopped and stretched several times and basically talked myself through each 1/2 mile. Looking back on it now though - I was never... exhausted. I was in pain, but not terribly tired and that, at least, makes me happy and gives me hope. The last half mile I decided to gut it up and just keep running. And I did... a little before the finish I saw my family waiting and cheering for me - it gave me a burst of energy I didn't know I had and I started to speed up - I kept running faster with each step until I crossed the finish line.
Two days later I'm still worried about how hard it was. However, thinking back on it now, yes there was some pain that I had to work through, but the biggest issue was mental. Figuring out how to not get (frankly) bored... Physically I know I can do this - but I would like to do it and not have it be a 'punishment' If I can figure that part out, I'll do alright.