Monday, November 11, 2013

Fort Myers Beach Half Marathon 2013

So what happens when a runner, after two weeks off and a borderline upper-respiratory infection, decides last minute to actually run the race she's been preparing for?

Well, I won't lie. The race was rough. I had to really dig deep to push myself through it, while at the same time cutting myself slack due to circumstances. It was a weird balance of disappointment, resignation, and personal understanding like I've never experienced.
Tried and true: I stuck with my go-to Saucony Hydralite top.
When I decided to run the race Saturday night, I immediately sought out others I knew were running it. Sarah, who ran the 10k and 15k with me recently, immediately offered to carpool. I got my stuff together.

Breakfast of semi-champions: peanut butter and honey on toast and a cup of coffee.
When I woke up Sunday morning, my stomach was doing what runners are used to...nothing like some GI distress to start the day. I tore through all my purses until I miraculously found a sample packet of Immodium. I took half a dose, which was enough to allow things to move along, but then put the necessary stopper in the pipes.

I chose to run with Gatorade Energy Chews instead of Gu Chomps because the shape of the package fit better in my fuel belt with my inhaler taking up space.
The super-crowded trolley that brought us to the start line.
Pre-race: all smiles!
 Sarah and I got to the trolley pickup spot at 6am. The race began at 7; we got on a trolley at 6:40. Yeah. We were a little anxious, but luckily we were able to check our bags and use the porta-potties before start time. I am so glad I remembered to carry TP with me. That could have made for a nasty run.
Sean was smart and got to the venue early enough to see sunrise. Here's the bridge we ran across.
The giant bridge was the end of the first mile. It's twice as steep as the bridge I sometimes run during training. It actually wasn't that bad. So early in the race, my legs felt fresh and I took the bridge nice and slow to account for my asthma.
A little blurry; all the runners making their way up the bridge.
I kept my earbuds out for the first few miles, until I had my first fuel/water stop. Then I popped those suckers in and enjoyed the first half of the race. It was overcast and breezy at this point, a little humid, but not bad by usual Florida standards. My plan was to eat/drink at miles 3, 6.5, and 10.

By the time I got to the halfway point, though, I knew I had to adjust that plan. My energy was low and my muscles were cramping up something wicked. I wonder if my impaired breathing had something to do with that.

I saw Sarah and Sean as they came back from the turnaround, which was a nice morale booster. At mile 8 I took my first non-fueling walk break. By this time, the sun was high and had burned off any cloud cover. There was no shade. The main stretch of the race was basically 11 miles of straight urban road.
I saw this sign on my way to packet pickup and nearly cried with disappointment at the idea of not running this race.
This was the first moment that I wondered if maybe I shouldn't have run this half. But then I remembered my visceral reaction when I saw the Marathon - Expect Delays traffic sign while picking up my packet. I would finish this race...slow, painful, ugly...I didn't care. I was going to finish it.

I passed Five Guys, storage places, the hospital, and a multitude of other concrete establishments. Not the most inspirational of routes. There weren't a ton of spectators, but the ones who were there were awesome!

As the temperature rose, I decided I'd have to take walk breaks at each mile. The 2.5 miles between water stops became a problem; I could tell I was dehydrated. (Probably due to cold medications on top of everything else.) I began drinking Gatorade along with water at the stops, as much as I hate to drink it while racing. I knew I needed the sugar.

So, with all this walking, imagine my surprise when I realized at mile 10 that I was still safe to come in under 3 hours. (3 hours for a half marathon isn't really a good goal for me usually, of course, but today was different.)

I found my second wind with 1.5 miles to go. I was able to run to the last drink stop, at the base of that same bridge.
This look of relief is not at all feigned.
The last stretch was literally all downhill. From the top of the bridge, I could see the runners looping around to the finish below. I kicked it up. I let the momentum of the bridge push me through the last quarter mile, and I finished feeling strong and satisfied with my tortoise-pace (2:41:13...not my worst, but certainly not my best).
How Florida is this start/finish?
Sarah, Sean and I enjoying our bling. This was Sarah's first half, and she finished in 1:47. Ah-maz-ing!
Am I happy as a runner with my time? Not really. Was the race difficult? Hell yes. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely and without a doubt.
Despite the disappointing time and all the walking, I earned this baby.
I proved something to myself today, and the pain and struggle was well worth it.

Also, I think it was a miracle that I couldn't run this as a full. The dull, quiet course and brutal weather wouldn't have been a good one for my first marathon.
I think I need to add some more hooks to my bib holder!
Post-race meal: sushi!
Sometimes races are about more than the time and the performance.

Take that, DNR.

Here's a weird thing about long-distance races: afterward, I'm both starving and disgusted by food. As hungry as I was all day today, I could barely stomach more than chocolate milk, sushi, and a handful of grapes. Does this happen to anyone else?

Post-race, I'm having some pain in both knees and there's a fist-sized spot at the small of my back that is just killing me...But I think that's related to sitting in the trolley on the ride back more than anything else. Also, the almost-blister I got at the 15k came back in the same spot. Maybe it's time for new socks?

I hope to be in tip-top shape by Tuesday.

I need to give a quick shout-out to Kristina! She ran her first ever half-marathon. With a bucket-list that includes running an ultra before she's 30, I'd say this is the first big step toward her goals!

I can't wait for some of the professional pictures to come back to so I share the total awkwardness of my running form.



  1. Way to kick butt Ali! Great photos too! I am very envious of that race hardware. ;) I am a lot like you in my feelings towards food post-race. I read that as much as you don't want food, you should consume some nutrient rich foods to help with recovery. Your finishing photos are awesome. :)

    Congrats :D

    1. Thanks girl. It was admittedly not a good race, but in a way it was GREAT, you know? Today my appetite is back...pancakes for brunch!

  2. Yay! Way to go! Woo-hoo!

    And yes, after a hard effort I both want to eat a lot, but can't think of anything I actually want to eat. For a while, at least.

    1. :) thanks! Glad I'm not the only one who weird appetite issues post-run!

  3. Just want to say that my look of relief crossing the finish line yesterday could probably beat the pants off of your look of relief. As soon as the pictures come in for my race, we will have to compare :) haha

    I really like the medal you got for this race! For all the things you had to overcome to get to the finish line (infection, foot, etc.) you EARNED that thing! Way to go :)

    1. I can't wait to see pix of your race! I'll bet you look strong and confident in every pic :)

      The medals were really beautifully crafted...the pelicans are pretty!

  4. You're so awesome! Finishing a half while sick? That's such a feat only us runners will ever understand. I'm so happy for you. And that sushi looks AWESOME!

    1. Seriously, only runners (and other hardcore athletes I guess, to a lesser degree haha) understand this kind of commitment.

  5. That is some serious dedication and drive...and that is exactly why you and this blog are so inspiring to other runners. Thank you! PS We missed you at alumni weekend!

    1. Thanks lady :) If I had been a little less sick Friday, I would've gone to alum weekend (and missed the race anyway)...I guess things worked out, but I wanted to be there SO badly! Next year maybe!

  6. Love your medal race and bib holder. I have never kept any of my bibs. Sort of wish I would have now. I love you said that about being hungry but not being able to eat. That has never happened to me before but it just happened at the Savannah half this weekend. I was done, drank chocolate milk that tasted delicious but then really couldn't stomach anything else even though I felt hungry. Usually after a race I am hovering the food in. Congrats on your half!

    1. Some people find it silly to keep the bibs, but I'm a sentimental fool. I even have the one from my first race ever.

      Chocolate milk is my go-to recovery snack! I figure if I can down that, then I can wait until real hunger returns haha.

  7. YAY ALI!!!!!!!!!!!
    I'm so glad you rocked this half! You are amazing!!!!

    I'm happy this wasn't your first definitely need a more scenic view!!!!!!!!

    1. I'm not sure I'd call what I did "rocking" it, but I'm super glad I did it anyway!

  8. Way to push through, Ali! I'm glad you were able to run but also glad that you took it easy. It can be difficult to accept a finish when it's not in a good time but, you're right, you did earn that medal!

    1. It was definitely hard to tell the SIUP voice in my head to shut it. This race wasn't the day to pull out all the stops!