Some of you might remember that I originally registered to participate in the full marathon at Spacecoast. Well, my plans went a little awry when I sprained my foot in August and even more so when I began experiencing knee pain during my long runs over summer.
First of all, I must admit that my friends have been so supportive with regards to my knee pain. One even sent me a recommendation for perhaps the best knee compression sleeve on Amazon, that she has used for a long time! But anyway, a few weeks ago, I swallowed my pride and emailed the race coordinators asking to drop down to the half marathon. There was no doubt in my mind that my training, or lack thereof, hadn’t prepared or conditioned me for a full 26.2. I could have walked/ran through the second half of the full, but I wanted my first marathon to be something I was prepared and ready for physically and mentally. I wanted to be proud when I crossed through that finish line. The reality was that my heart just wasn’t in it anymore, but when all was said and done, I was really glad I did the half instead.
I had planned to have my husband join me in Cocoa for the expo and at the finish line, but we decided it was best for him to stay home with our daughter. I decided that I could go alone. I had enough friends attending this race that I could meet up with them if I needed support before or after the event.
I left my house around 1pm on Saturday and would have made it to the expo around 3:30pm had I not taken the wrong route on my GPS. I unknowingly was en route to the Shuttle Launch Viewing Site, which put me about 30 minutes behind schedule. The expo was open until 5pm, so I got a little anxious as I swung a U-turn and headed back towards I-95. I arrived at 4:15 for packet pickup at the Kennedy Space Visitor Center. I hadn’t been here since I was a kid, so it was like new all over again. I must admit, I felt a wave of patriotism as I stood looking at the displays of shuttle memorabilia all around me.
I picked up my bib and race shirt from the small quarters of the visitor center, then made my way back to the car. There were not many vendors to shop around from, which was a disappointment for me.
I checked into my hotel and then set out to grab some pasta at the nearest Italian restaurant. After dinner, I went back to my hotel to shower and set out my race belongings. I watched Star Wars on tv until I feel asleep in the big white fluffy bed.
4 am came very soon. After I threw on my race outfit and loaded up my necessities, I was out the door and grabbing a cup of coffee in the lobby. I scarfed down an oatmeal and mixed up a bottled water with Fruit Punch flavored Nuun. I made it to the start line in twenty minutes and then immediately began looking for a bathroom. There was maybe thirty girls in the women’s line, so I decided to jump on in there and get to it. It was absolutely mandatory that I take a bathroom break before this race began.
I was making good time though; I still had 45 minutes until blast off. About twenty-five minutes before the countdown began, I finished up at the bathrooms and headed over to the starting line. I found the appropriate corral, I was attempting to stay near the 2:10 pacers. I knew I didn’t have a sub two finish in me today. I just wanted to wing it and see how my legs could hold up for 13 miles today. While I was settling in chatting with the people around me, I happened to spot Denise about 15 feet away from me. (I love being tall enough to see over people’s heads) She was staged up with a another Tampa Bay Blogger and another girlfriend. The four of us took a few photos together and chatted while we waited for the start of the race.
Cocoa Village, where the start and finish line was setup, was decorated with an illuminated tree and the surrounding area was decorated with wreaths and other holiday decor. It made for a nice backdrop for an early and dark 6 a.m. start time.
Once we were off, the course lead us to the waterfront where we were directed South on Rockledge Drive. It was an out and back course, with some beautiful homes adjacent to the water. It reminded me a lot of Bayshore Boulevard here in Tampa, where the Gasparilla Distance Classic is held every year.
I had previously decided that I was going to take this race mile by mile. Still being concerned about my knee issues, I admittedly came to the starting line with a head full of doubts, but still, I wanted to try my best. I knew I needed to listen to how my body responded and adjust accordingly.
I strategically placed slower songs at the beginning of my running playlist to help keep me moving slower in the initial miles. Music can be a huge tool with trying to control my cadence – most of the time. Of course, it’s very difficult to start slow when you’re caught up in the race excitement, especially when they begin with a countdown as if a real shuttle is blasting off.
3 – 2 – 1
I lost Denise and the other girls right from the beginning. I was running around a 10:00 and they were speeding through the crowds of people too fast for me to keep my desired start pace. I just turned up the headphones and zoned out. I tried not to bob and weave too much around everyone and just kept moving one foot after another.
By the fourth mile, I had warmed up nicely and found my stride around a comfortable 9:30. It felt good and steady. My breathing wasn’t labored, but I felt like I was pushing just enough effort to sustain through to the end. I held at this pace for the majority of the next four miles.
Soon enough, the speedsters began making their way back around towards the finish line. It’s always an extra boost of inspiration when you start to see these guys hauling ass back towards ya. I didn’t miss the opportunity to clap and holler out a few words of encouragement as they all passed by me.
When I finally got to the turnaround myself, I discovered something that I had never really struggled with beforehand…..terrible headwind. It was brutal at moments. My visor flew off a half dozen times; thankfully, my pony tail kept it from escaping my grasp. Unfortunately, I knew I was going to wrestle with this the entire last half of the course.
Right around the 8 mile mark, the wind became a little much for me and I began to slow just mildly. A guy in a purple shirt came up behind me and told me I better not be slowing down, because I had been pacing him and he needed me to keep going for his sake.
Moments like this are what makes me love the running community even more!!!
Thank you Purple Shirt Guy for keeping me on track. I stayed with him for another two miles then fell back behind him when I stopped at a water station. (I had decided beforehand that I would walk through each fuel station) He was still in my line of sight, so I kept looking ahead to keep an eye out for him. I popped a Cliff Shot Block right before the 10 mile marker and attempted to ramp up my cadence. It didn’t do any good. I was fading ever so slowly. I hadn’t ran this far in months, so I was feeling it.
Right before my Garmin beeped at the 12th mile, I felt it……in my right knee…. that little pang of annoyance that turns into unbearable discomfort. I tried to focus on and align my form in hopes of thwarting off any serious pain. It wasn’t excruciating yet, but it was not enjoyable, and I didn’t want to risk a permanent injury. I decided it was best to walk it off. I grimaced in pain as I looked to my right and behind me for the clearance to begin walking.
Most runners begin running harder around this mile mark, I had to do the complete opposite. 🙁 Boo. I alternated between running for a few minutes then taking a 30 second walk break.
It really stings to come this far and then succumb to an injury. If I had stayed on pace, I wouldn’t came in minutes after the 2:00 clock, maybe would’ve had a new PR, but I didn’t deserve that, especially after taking so much time off and not logging enough long runs. However, I’m very happy with my performance despite the last mile hiccup. I finished
Half marathons are pretty tough on your body if you’re not conditioned for the miles. Sure, you can stand up there on race day and push yourself to the brink, but would it really be worth it if you’re risking injury?
In the end, I can walk away knowing I did what I could with what I had, but I’m still not satisfied. My next half is February 1st and I’m shooting for a sub 2:00. If my knee can hold out, it’s on!
Official Time was 2:10:24 I placed 35th out of the 259 females in my division.
5k – 31:11
10k – 1:00:56
15k – 1:31:06