Here it is, the long-awaited recap for my first half marathon!
What/Where/When: The inaugural Catamount Half Marathon (and 5k) in Brattleboro, VT on Sunday, June 29, 2014.
About: A new Vermont half marathon that crosses the historic Rice Farm Bridge and the Dummerston Covered Bridge. 6 water stops, porta-potties, “top-notch make-your-own goodie bags” and pastries, fruit, water and gatorade at the finish. Free technical t-shirt for half marathoners and medal to half marathon finishers. Pint glasses to overall and age group winners.
I got up early to have coffee and a bagel with peanut butter. About halfway through my bagel, I came to a sudden and startling realization: I don’t really like peanut butter. I’ve been eating it because it’s good for me and easy, but this morning it actually made me gag and I couldn’t finish my bagel. Time to try sunflower seed butter, I guess… The drive to Brattleboro from my parents’ place took about 40 minutes. Ben and I arrived at the starting line at about 8:15 (race start was 9am), which was perfect. There were 5 porta-potties at the start, and when we arrived, no line. I hit them up right away, and I’m glad I did because about 10 minutes later the lines were really long. The race start was actually delayed by about 5 minutes because we had to wait for everyone to use the potties! Speeches, announcements, etc, and we were off!
During the Race
Miles 1-5 I felt pretty good. I started out at the back of the pack with a really conservative pace, and ran through the first 2 water stops (I think miles 1.5 and 3), but after that, walked them since I apparently can’t run and drink from a Dixie cup without choking. I was enjoying my run and the scenery, but I was definitely feeling the heat, and starting to get a little concerned about the lack of shade–80% of the course was along the side of Route 30 with almost zero shade, and running on asphalt, so it was pretty rough. I felt mostly fine though. At mile 5, we turned off the highway, crossed the Rice Farm bridge, and got to run on some rolling dirt road hills.
Miles 5-7. Finally some shade! It was nice to be away from cars and asphalt and out of the sun. I started feeling really excited, like, holy crap, I’m really doing this! I’m actually going to finish a half marathon! I feel great! I’m making good time. This is great! Unfortunately, this was the last time I felt happy or good…
Miles 7-8. Across the Dummerston Covered Bridge and back onto Route 30. Sun beating down. Sun reflecting off the asphalt. Hot, hot, hot. It was actually kind of cruel irony that we were running alongside the West River. It looked so cool and inviting, but there was no way to get to it without risking personal injury. At this point I was still running, but really starting to feel the effects of the heat and sun.
Miles 8-12. It was brutally hot, and I finally had to start alternate walking with running. My parents drove by around mile 10 and screamed my name, which kept me going for a bit, but not long. I simply couldn’t push anymore. I wasn’t dehydrated, and I wasn’t sick, I just felt hot and sluggish. I could feel enormous blisters squishing around inside my shoes with every step. I kept telling myself, “Just run to that tree, and then walk this little shady bit. Then run to the next cone, then walk to that street sign.” I was probably running 1/8 mile, then walking 1/4 mile–it was that bad. And as slow as I was going, I actually passed at least 6 people during these miles. Lots of people were struggling with the head and humidity.
I can’t tell you how many times I thought about stopping. About having someone pick me up. About risking life and limb to jump over the guardrail, tumble down the embankment, and sit in the river for an hour. But somehow, I kept moving. I started singing motivational songs to myself (oh yeah, I forgot my headphones so I didn’t have any music) and somehow, the distance between me and the finish kept decreasing.
Miles 12-end. The final water stop about 1.5 miles from the end was so, so welcome. The volunteers were incredible–kind, encouraging, and sympathetic. They let me refill my bottles with water and cheered me on my way. The final cruelty was that the finish line was up a small, but steep hill. I walked about halfway up, and then ran the final 1/4 mile. Ben was waiting a few hundred feet before the finish line, and I pasted a smile on my face so he could take a picture. I yelled “Holy hell!” as I ran by, and he yelled back “You got this!” My mom was waiting at the finish line with my Tigger and a giant sign that said “Bouncy Bouncy Rachel!” and had all kinds of encouragements all over it, and Dad was waiting to snap a photo. They were both screaming their heads off, which helped me to smile and speed up to cross the finish line.
- Official Time: 2:41:13
- 20th of 22 in my age group
- Overall 146 out of 167 half marathoners
I felt like absolute hell. I could hardly talk or walk. Volunteers handed me my medal and a bottle of water, and I tried to walk a few laps, but ended up sitting down almost immediately–my legs just didn’t want to work anymore. I dumped a bottle of water on my head and tried to stretch, but could barely focus on even doing that. It was crazy how much my body just shut down. I felt better after sitting for a few minutes and we snapped some pictures. I perused the food tent, but all the gatorade was gone, and honestly, the thought of eating bagels with nutella and cupcakes just made me nauseous. Also, the “top-notch” goodie bags were nothing but random samples of products that looked like somebody just donated because they didn’t know what to do with them–shave oil, body lotion, athlete’s foot powder, and granola. Not exactly “top-notch” in my book, but whatever.
When I was able to walk again, my dad drove me down to the boat launch on the river and I just took my shoes off and sat in the water for a good 10 minutes. It felt AMAZING. Then we drove into town and had lunch at a place called Whetstone Station that’s right next to the river. It was beautiful. I had a burger and fries and a couple of beers and started to feel somewhat human again. Unfortunately, my brain fog was still in effect, because I ended up leaving my bag of wet, dirty running clothes at the restaurant 😦 Thankfully, they held onto them, and my parents are going to send them to me.
When we got back to my parents’ house, my mom insisted I take a nap, and honestly, I’m not sure I could have done anything else at that point. I zoned out but didn’t really sleep for about an hour, and then Ben and I drove the 2.5 hours home. Our apartment was super hot and I was a zombie, so we ate buttered noodles for dinner and I passed out at 9:30 with the lights on while we watched Disney’s Robin Hood. Party animal, right here.
I can say without reservation that completing this race was the hardest thing I have ever done. Ever. Period. Even though I was really well-hydrated, the heat was intense, and the lack of shade was punishing. I will DEFINITELY NOT run this particular race again. Running 10ish miles alongside a highway is no fun at the best of times, and on a day like Sunday, it straight up sucked. It also sucked that they ran out of Gatorade. But the volunteers were all wonderful, so there’s that.
Even though this was incredibly difficult, I’m still really glad I did it, and that I finished. And even though I didn’t finish in the time I was hoping for, and even though I had to walk a lot, I am SO PROUD that I managed to finish. It took everything I had to keep moving during those last 5 miles when all I wanted to do was stop.
For the rest of the summer, I’ll probably just try to maintain some of my base mileage, and maybe try another half in the fall, when temperatures are more reasonable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready for a shiny new PR by then 🙂
So there you have it! I’m officially able to claim the title of “Half Marathoner.” Woohoo!
What’s the toughest race you’ve ever done?
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever gotten in your “swag bag.”