Independence Half Marathon Race Recap

It’s been a hot little minute since I’ve had a race recap! In fact, the last “recap” I wrote was for my knee surgeries last summer, and the last actual race recap I wrote was for the Longview Half Marathon back in November of 2016! Chris and I had initially signed up for Rock the Parkway, I had a rough spring of training, and was feeling super stressed about doing a half mid-April. Chris and I decided to do the Rock the Parkway 5k and move our spring half back a couple weeks, so we signed up for the Independence Half Marathon.

I did not know much about this half marathon before signing up. This was the 3rd year for this race, and there were about 400 expected for the half marathon. I prefer to run larger races, as they are generally better supported, and having lots of runners around me makes me feel more comfortable and a part of something. I’ve had a few small half marathons as well over the years.

Saturday, the day before the race, Chris and I drove to Independence to pick up our packets, and had our normal pre-race dinner of spaghetti. I laid out my flat runner, and I was as ready as I would be for the half marathon early Sunday morning.

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We got to the race about 45 minutes early, and one of the huge benefits to a small race is the close parking! We parked about 50 feet from the finish line. I got to chat with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and after using the bathroom one last time, we were off!

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One thing I was aware of for this race, but not prepared for, was the hills. The elevation map, below, looked rough, but doable. The course itself, once we were on it, was a different story.  The three large hills just never ended! They were super steep and the last hill was ass kickingly relentless. The course was mainly an out and back, with several small out and backs on different roads as well. There was not a lot of shade on the course, which I was prepared for, and luckily, there was some cloud cover, or the temps would have skyrocketed pretty quickly. Chris and I had sunscreen on, but I feel like I sweated it all off by the halfway mark.

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I cannot say enough good things about the support on the course. There were water stops just about every mile, with water at every one, and gatorade at lots of the stops as well. They even had gu available at mile 9, which was unexpected; I had my own gu, but it was nice to have it as an option.  As I expected with a smaller race, there were not a lot of spectators, but what was lacking in spectators was made up in course support and fun signage along the whole course.

In training this spring, Chris and I had been doing intervals of .35 miles running and .15 miles walking, repeated for as many miles as necessary. One of my goals was to stick as closely as possible to this ratio. The first several miles,  I was able to do this ratio, aside from a couple hills that we walked. About halfway, my feet and glutes were sore and tired, and my shins and calves were quick to follow.

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This was around mile 4. Already very hot out but I was still smiling! Photo courtesy: Corey Stark.

I definitely did not put in enough training to do a half, but at the end of the day, the course doesn’t care if you put in enough training, 13.1 miles is 13.1 miles, and all of it had to be completed. Throughout the rest of the race, my hamstrings tightened, then my back and hips. I was in quite a bit of pain and it took quite a bit of convincing by Chris to make me keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The last 3-4 miles included a heck of a lot of walking. The last 2 miles included almost all walking, some stretching, and a bit of crying as well. My quads started siezing up during the last few miles, and I hit the wall hard, and did not want to have anything to do with finishing the half. Chris was such a rockstar and the best support I could have had out there. He encouraged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and we cussed the last hill out together.

When we could see the finish line, but had to still complete about a mile loop around the end before finishing, he grabbed my hand and told me how proud of me he was and that we were going to finish no matter what. I am certain I would not have completed this half without him by my side.

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We finished, hand in hand. It was my slowest half I’ve ever done. Slowest out of 14. But I’m proud of this race. I’m proud that I went from 2 knee surgeries and 8 weeks on crutches to completing a half marathon in 40 weeks.  I hit some low lows in this race, and have nowhere but up to go in my personal running. I gained the confidence that I can keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when I think I can’t. My love for Chris grew even more, knowing that he is by my side no matter what.

Looking below at the 14 half marathons I’ve done, I can see each race in my mind. I can feel the pain, and feel the happiness, I can feel the accomplishments I’ve had, and I can’t wait to feel this again. I’ve got nowhere to go but up. Those 13.1 miles won’t run themselves, so I’d better keep running so I can do it again and again and feel the happiness, the pain, the pride, and each mile of my next half.

I’m a half marathoner, again!

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That Time I Quit Caffeine

Raise your hand if you’re addicted to caffeine. No really, almost everyone should have their hands raised right now. As of 2 months ago, I would have raised my hand too. Today, I wanted to share my story about how I ditched caffeine! I’ve had lots of questions from lots of people about how I did it, how I felt while I was was detoxing, and how I feel now. This is not a sponsored post, these are my own thoughts. I am not a doctor, and cannot tell you what to do or how to do it, but I am sharing my own personal experience.

Firstly, why did I want to get myself free of caffeine? Well, the simple answer is because I was addicted to it. Without some sort of caffeine in the morning, I would get a headache and become irritable and just feel like poo until I got some caffeine. I hated feeling like I HAD to have pop or tea. And more often than not, I would find myself reaching for pop, which not only has caffeine, but also has tons of sugar. I wanted to stop, once and for all.

Secondly, what was my end goal? My end goal was (and is) not to never ever have caffeine again, but simply to not be addicted. There will be times I want caffeine. I will want warm tea in the winters to warm me. I will want a cold pop now and then. I will have an iced tea in the summertime. I simply didn’t want to depend on the caffeine.

The game plan: SLOWLY lower my caffeine intake to zero. I had tried to stop cold turkey before, and it’s awful.  The headaches, irritability, and crappy feeling just sucks! I knew I wouldn’t last trying to quit cold turkey. I did some research and decided that caffeine pills were the way to go, for me. I found these pills and bought a pack after reading tons of reviews and talking it all over with my husband.

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The pills came, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to start! The pills I chose to taper with were 20mg caffeine pills, and the plan was a 4 week taper plan. I began with 10 pills on the first few days (200mg of caffeine, which is about the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee), and tapered down to 1 pill, before having no pills at all! The taper lasted 4 weeks. I started on February 1, and by February 26, I was down to 1 pill (20mg of caffeine) and decided to not take any, just to see how I did. I ended the 4 week taper with 3 pills left over.

I have not had caffeine now since February 26, so just shy of 1 full month of 0 caffeine. The biggest challenge for the first week was just the habit of getting caffeine in the morning. I coped with that by replacing pop and tea with sparkling water. I tried la croix and was just not satisfied, so I have been drinking sparkling water. The fizziness and hints of sweet suitably replaced the pop craving, along with the allotted caffeine pills. I am still drinking my sparkling water in the morning, but no caffeine pills!

What is my plan moving forward? To generally not need caffeine! I am going home to Hays this weekend, and plan on having a snoball, which is my very favorite. I plan to have 2 when I’m in town, and then Monday when I’m back in KC, no caffeine. 2 days of having some caffeine should not induce caffeine withdrawal headaches. I plan on having caffeine occasionally, here and there. I hope to stop drinking sparkling water every day too, to only have that occasionally, and have herbal or green tea more often, as there is no sweet or sparkle in that, and the health benefits of herbal and green teas are much more than in sparkle water, and definitely more than pop!

So there you have it! I’m off caffeine, guys! I’ll still go have coffee with you, though, I’ll just have my sparkle water with me.  🙂

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All you have to do is FLY

I’ve been running lately. But my running doesn’t look like it used to. Instead of doing a 4 miler after work like it’s no big deal, I struggle to get in 2 miles. Instead of going for a long run of 8-12 miles on the weekend, I do a run/walk ratio and barely get 6 miles. And I cry during my run because I’m not where I used to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond happy to be running again since my surgery. AND I have no knee pain! I do have some hamstring and calf pain, but it’s muscular… the ACL screw removal surgery was successful. The surgery has eliminated the nerve pain caused by the screws from my ACL surgery 10 years ago.

But I have so many frustrations with my current state of running. I’m slower than I was before surgery. I am heavier than I was before surgery. My lungs don’t breathe as well as before surgery. My legs don’t turn over as quickly. My mind is second guessing everything and is weak. The list goes on and on. I cannot stop comparing my current fitness level and current running self to my previous running self.

I was never fast, not by any  means. But I was consistent with my running. I was confident that I could go out and run 5 miles with no problems. I was proud that I could complete a half marathon. Now, I feel like all of that is gone. It’s all lost. I can’t consistently run, and if I do, my muscles are sore. I’m not confident that I can go out and even run 1 or 2 miles without having to stop for one reason or another. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in 5 weeks and I’m terrified that I won’t be able to complete it, even with tons of walking.

I know I have a lot to be proud of. Just 3 months ago I was still in physical therapy 2 times a week, running with a therapist watching me in a highly controlled environment. 4 months ago I was running on an Alter G treadmill at a percentage of my body weight. 6 months ago I was still on crutches. 7 months ago, exactly, to this date, I had a second surgery in 9 days on my knee.

I know I have come a very long way in 7 months, but I cannot stop comparing myself to where I was before surgery. Sure, my knee hurt, but I could run. I had a base built up. I had 13 half marathons under my belt.  I know I will get back to that point, but right now it seems so very far away.

Last month, I finally had the courage and support to quit drinking pop. That was a bad habit… let me tell you. I’ve not had a pop since January 31, and I’ve actually weaned myself off caffeine too. Because I wanted to feel better. I wanted to not feel the addiction, the need for it. I would be lying if I said I also quit pop to help my running. So now that I haven’t had pop in 33 days, why can’t I run any better?

I feel like I’m moving along, and then the engines have been reversed, and I’m in that limbo where I’m not really moving forward, but not going the reverse direction yet either, I’m just spinning and spinning and not getting anywhere.

I am hoping with all my heart that I’ll start moving soon, that those propellers will start making momentum and I’ll begin moving. Moving in the right direction. That quitting pop will help my running. That my legs and lungs and heart and mind will start feeling stronger, like I know they can be. That running will start to feel like it used to, aside from the knee pain. And that I will be able to go out and run 5 miles any old day of the week, like I used to. That I can lose the weight I put on by doing nothing for several months, and start to feel lighter and faster.

I have the very best support team. My husband, family, and friends are unmatched in their support and encouragement. I know I can start making more progress with them.

I’m not quitting. In fact, the opposite is quite true.  I am far from quitting, but I am having a difficult time coming to terms that my running self is not the same running self of a year ago, or two years ago. And that’s okay. Progress is progress.  I just need to convince myself of that, and allow my own progress to happen.

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