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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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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2018 Running Goals

Don’t call it a comeback…

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You guys, I’VE BEEN RUNNING!

Over the past 2 months, I’ve graduated from physical therapy and continued on my therapy “return to running” plan. Just a couple weeks ago, I ran my very first nonstop mile post-surgery. It’s slow going, and not entirely pain free (my KNEE is pain free while running, it’s the hamstring and calf now that are sore while running, and then there’s a bit of residual knee pain after running).. but I’M RUNNING!

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These pictures were taken 6 days apart, in December. Tank tops to long sleeves.. only in Kansas!

I have a few goals for 2018. If you would compare these goals to previous years’ running goals, you’d scoff at how tiny these goals are, but if you look back at the year I’ve had in regards to my knee injury, surgery, and recovery, I’m so excited the roughest and toughest stuff is behind me, and I can RUN!  It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s disheartening how much fitness I lost over the past 8 months of barely running to not weight bearing at all after surgery, to slowly recovering back to where I am now. My last month of decent-ish mileage was May, and that month only had 50 or so miles in it!  2017 was extremely low in terms of mileage; I will end up with just about 300 miles for 2017, almost all of those miles happening January through May.  For comparison, I ran 1025 miles in 2016. 

2017 was a really rough year in terms of fitness and running for me. I have a lot of work to do, and I need to be kind to my body and be extra kind and thankful for my knee which is still mending.  But I’m not looking into the past, I’m looking forward!

In 2018, I hope to complete 2 half marathons, even if it is a walk/run. I hope to do 1 in the spring and 1 in the fall. Ideally, I will walk/run the spring and run the half in the fall, but right now, all options are open, and no races are on my schedule.  I have a couple races in mind, but I’m not signing up for anything until much closer. Right now, I’m on a running schedule with minutes, and strictly using a metronome to keep my cadence up. My return to running schedule currently does not allow me to run back to back days, and I am very cognizant of my running form and any signals my knee is giving me.  I will continue on this path until I’m ready to run back to back days without a metronome. I will sign up for a race when I feel I can complete it.

In 2018, I will get my butt to the gym. I hope to get back to lunch time classes about once per week, and lift once or twice per week as well. I’m not setting myself up with a strict schedule to begin, but I want to get back to the gym consistently in 2018. I am lucky that my employer pays most of my gym membership, leaving me with a tiny monthly fee. There is absolutely no reason I can’t get into a solid routine, which will certainly help strengthen my weak leg muscles and help me get some fitness back.  I want to keep up my cycling, and add in a regular cycle class, in addition to using my bike at home.

In 2018, I want to eat healthier. I want to limit or eliminate my pop and sugar intake. I drink wayyyy too much pop and have wayyyyy too many sweet treats.  The addiction is real.  As I ease my way back into running, I want to help my body and treat it with kind and tasty healthier foods instead of giving it sugar and crap to eat and drink. I know the journey off sugar or limiting sugar will be a long one, and I’m not planning to go cold turkey.  There isn’t anything wrong with an occasional treat, but my treats have become mostly daily. I anticipate this goal will be the toughest of the three I have for 2018.

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Thanksgiving run in Hays with Chris and Momma, my first outdoor run since before my surgery in July.

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