Monday, October 14, 2013

Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug: Half Marathon Number 2

Saturday morning, I ran my second half marathon, the New Orleans Jazz Half. I ran my first half marathon in New Orleans this past February, Rock N Roll Recap here.

Deep down south our running Season typically begins at the end of September with a few 5k races, October and November pick up with more 10ks, and our true Half Marathon and  Marathon races don't begin amping up until December and usually conclude in February. There is one big glaring reason for placing long races during this time of year, and that is the weather. 

The Jazz Half, however, in it's fifth year has become known for its optimal running conditions. Everyone who has run the race previously raves about the course and the weather. The race is ordinarily placed on the last weekend in October, but this year to due to scheduling conflicts it was moved UP two weeks. Through out training for this run, I've done serious complaining about the weather. I woke up at 5am every Saturday to log my long run before the sun came up, and still had trouble beating the heat. Heat isn't the only factor we're dealing with down here, the bigger badder monster is truly the humidity. High humidity makes breathing a real pickle, and ya know runners need oxygen! Thanks captain obvious!

How humidity affects the Runner
Going into the race, I felt incredibly strong. I truly felt with a dew point even in the upper 60's I could PR this race. I had training in 70 plus humidity for my shorter runs, and last week when the humidity dropped to 63, I was a flying, and it was easy! I'm so much stronger physically than I was in February, and I knew I could accomplish my pace goal. I knew it. A cool front came through early last week, and I was feeling extra confident in this run. I hadn't even payed much attention to the weather. I knew the humidity would be down. I knew it.It just had to be so! Then we received this email Friday afternoon from Race Day organizers:

The "strongly urge you to consider participating in the 5k instead" part did raise a red flag with me. I drank 200 plus ounces of water Friday to ensure I was hydrated. Even with this email raising some red flags, I decided to sweep those concerns under the rug. I'm going to PR in the morning. That's my only option.

Friday, Mr. Noel (race day pit crew) and Kate (also running her 2nd half) and I all loaded up into the car, and took off for New Orleans. Kate and I were the only ones from our run group running this race, but we knew a few other people who would be out running. We were super excited to get this half under our belt! In true Noel fashion, our travels were not drama free. I realized 20 minutes into our trip I'd forgotten the Race Day shirts, and we had to turn around. Womp womp. Lucky my travel buddies were go with the flow and only teased me about it for a few hours. I can take it! We made it to NOLA and got checked in to the hotel. One of the great aspects of the Jazz Half was that if you stayed at one of their sponsored hotels, your Race Day packet would be delivered to that hotel. This was perfect and easy. Especially since I had turned out 2 and half hour card ride into a three and half hour trek. Sorry ya'll ;)

Next we were off to carb load! This has to be my favorite aspect of the long race. Carb loading. I never ever let myself eat pasta. Oh all my geez this was delicious!

Grilled Shrimp pesto pasta

After dinner, we went for a little walk to pick up more water and few odds and ends at a convenient store. Then it was time to rest. 5:00am, bomp bomp bomp goes the alarm. I felt freaking fantastic Saturday morning. I was amped up to run half marathon number two! First things first, gotta check the weather. My bubble starts to deflate. Dew point at 70 at 5am. I found one website that claimed it was 69, but all others pointed to 70 and rising. Rapidly. Fack. This was No Bueno and I knew it. There was also going to be about a 10 degree hike in temperature between 8am and 9am. Ya know during the second half of the race. Awesome sauce. I had a decision to make. Dramatically alter my time goal, or throw caution to the wind and live on the edge. Guess which one I picked....

I could tell Kate was looking to me for my reaction to the weather. We both knew these were way less than even so so conditions we were dealing with. That's when I said, "This day is going to go one of two ways, I'm going to be the windshield or I'm going to be the bug. I'm still going for the PR!" 

First check of the day went for the bug, realizing my phone hadn't charged all night. Still, I wasn't stressed. I started the race at half power. I turned off all my aps aside from music, Nike Running, and turned my brightness all the way down.. I can tough this out. I am stronger than these obstacles.

Gathering at the start line all those familiar feelings came rushing back. The thrill of putting on the number and lining up with all the other crazys. There were no corrals for this run. This was a smaller half, and everyone was smashed in there tight together. I was excited to start the race with Kate, and take in the experience together. People were all talking about the weather. Lots of moaning and groaning going on about how bad this is gonna suck. I couldn't believe it! Come on people don't say those things out loud! I actually heard someone behind me say Great I'm sweating already! I put in my ear buds. I couldn't let this negative talk get to me. I'm going to PR. I trained for this. I am strong. I am prepared!! 

The lack of corrals made the start rather crowded and I actually got caught in between the road timers, throwing off official time. Everyone around me was moaning and groaning. Well there goes official time! I'm still feeling undeterred. I am the windshield!

The 5k runners and half marathoners all began the race together. It took about a mile for me to break away from the pack and establish a pace for myself, but I felt super strong. The weather was not affecting my run. I saw my husband at mile two and I ran over to him, and he was snapping away pictures Hi hunny, Bye hunny!! I felt awesome! After the race he told me he already saw people looking super weak at this point. Not me. I'm ten feet tall and bullet proof. This girl is on fire!

Mile One- 9:50 (dodging tons of people)

Mile Two- 9:00 - at this point I  had to force myself to slow down. It's a half marathon not a sprint.I kept thinking endurance endurance. pace this out. I feel so strong!

Mile Three- 9:28- Tra la la la- I can go all day!

Mile Four- 9:20 - I start thinking my shit doesn't stink. I'm going to blow this PR goal out of the water. I felt fantastic. I actually remember thinking, I can do this all day BAY BAY!!!! I really really wanted to pick up the pace BUT I remember the heat is coming up. Pace it out. I make a mental promise, If I still feel awesome at mile 8, I'll allow myself to dial it up to a 9:15

Mile Five-9:28

I feel amazing. I'm not winded. I'm holding back pace. This day is going to epic!!

Mile Six - 9:28 

Passing the 10k mark, I begin imagining my PR. I'm going to nail this run! I felt awesome! I never passed on water. I even walked the water stops. Drinking one water and dumping another down my back. I was getting warm, but nothing I couldn't handle. I had eaten one shot block at this point. I had made a run friend, another girl built similar to me and running about the same pace we hung together for a long while. Then it occurs to me that the super athletes haven't made the loop back yet. Where are the super athletes? I always look for the super fast endurance runners. They always make it look so easy, sprinting along at a 4 something minute mile looking cool calm and collected. They inspire me to push myself harder!

Mile Seven- 9:32 

I'm starting to get warm but I'm so far ahead of my goal. I'm good. My legs feel great, I'm running in the shade and I've passed the half way point. I've got this in the bag. My music is blasting out, and I feel strong. I'm completely unwinded. I start thinking if the humidity ever does come down, the road better watch out! I start planning a sub-two hour time. I'm out of control confident.

Then I see the first super athlete. He's not making it look easy. He actually looks like he's in serious pain. The other side of the road is not shaded. Sweat is pouring out of his body. The same with the next runner, and the next, they all look pained. The sun is beating down on the other side of the road. People around me are slowing down, but I'm holding onto my pace. 

Mile Eight- 9:44

I feel my pace slipping but I'm still ahead. Keep it in a 9. Be the windshield Leigh Ann you can do this!! Between miles 8 and 9 my whole run starts coming apart. I guess it's about 8:25 ish in the morning and the heat is really increasing. I'm having a hard time breathing. My body doesn't hurt, but I can't get my pace back up. I tell myself to relax and recover for a mile. I'll pick up the pace once I hit St.Charles. (The unshaded road. I've clearly become delusional)

Mile Nine- 10:39

Rounding the corner at the park, I see the sun coming. I physically grimace. This is going to hurt, and I know it. I'm still only one shot block into this run, but I can't stomach the thought of trying to eat another right now. I'm getting unbearably hot. I honestly think I may upchuck if I try eating.

Mile Ten- 10:28

I can't stop thinking about how badly I wish I was wearing shorts. My capris feel like they are melting onto my thighs and I know I am a sweaty disgusting mess. Although, at the same time, I really don't care. There's walking going on all around me and I keep pep talking myself. Only a 5k to go, you can do this. There's a man running next me, and I can tell he's using me to pace himself. He runs with me for a little while then walks, then sprints to keep back up, then walks. The back of his shirt says "Northern Runner". I felt so bad for him. I smiled and said We're almost done hang in there! I'm pretty sure he wanted to shank me. I have never seen so much walking during a race. Lots of people are stopping to stretch, walk, and hold their sides (cramping). I could feel my goal slipping and I was powerless to stop it. I made a deal with myself then in there. You can go slow, but you can not walk.

Mile Eleven- 10:28

I'm feeling really poorly. I'm actually having trouble producing saliva and I can feel my body going into shut down mode. My phone is dying, and I'm having trouble breathing. At this point, I saw my first fainter. People were dropping. Literally. I start feeling ok with being the bug. I didn't feel totally splat against the windshield just yet.....

Mile Twelve- 11:02

I'm spent. The universe is laughing at me. I can't lie, at this point, I was just happy finish. I'm hot, burning up. I'm completely drenched in sweat and I know the PR is out of my reach. I can't get enough air to move faster, but I haven't stopped to walk. I made a conscience decision to shut down the negative mind set. This race is no joke, be proud of yourself!

 I start feeling really proud of myself for toughing this out. I didn't have to show up and do this today. I could have backed out. I could have said There's too much stacked against me I'm not going to try. But I didn't do that. I was out there, in the heat, in the humidity running a half marathon. I am one bad ass chick. I start feeling like the windshield again. Maybe I'm a little cracked, but I'm moving. I'm breathing. The good energy starts returning. I'm still moving slow, but I'm moving. This girl ain't walking yet.

 I high five a cop cheering on the route He pumped me up, someones still got some energy go girl go! This race was really lacking in spectators. I guess it was too hot and humid for people this day. Ba dum cha I'm nearing the end, and there's a group of people that are ALWAYS out at NOLA races with fun signs. They always have free whiskey and water for sale for a dollar. Everyone is passing on the whiskey shots. I've never even considered taking them up on the offer previously.

I caught a case of the fuck its and took the whiskey. The group with the signs is clearly pumped up to finally be taken up on the whiskey shots. One of them tells me You look really strong! You're almost finished!

I look strong????? Oh yeahs, fake it til you make it!

The Whiskey actually makes me feel better. I'm deliriously happy, I'm going to finish the hardest run of my life. I start passing people. It's time to finish this thing, and I'm finishing it strong!

Mile Thirteen- 11:10

I'm hot. I'm tired. There's salt all over my shirt. Salt that came out of my body. My phone dies. I'm trying to screen shot my time on my phone. I'm at 13.1. 2:12:48 unofficial time.

Text from Mr. Noel and dying cell phone. He's such a super star!
I can see the finish line. I'm so unbelievably proud of myself. This is what I actually got out of that screen shot. Remember I can't see anything on my phone with the brightness turned all the way down. You're just going to have to trust me on the time. Mr. Noel is thinking "What the hell is going on out there?? Pick it up Leigh Ann!!!"

I see my husband cheering on the side of the road. There's lots of people on the side of the road, but even the spectators are a looking Womp Womp. What the heck is up with people today?! I see another fainter 200 yards from the finish line with medical personnel all around her. Heartbreaking to say the least.

I'm moving slow, but I'm still passing people. I start sprinting. Or what feels like sprinting. My heart is in my throat. I am so happy, and I am so proud. This is it! I may not have gotten the time goal, but I will next time. This was hands down the hardest run of my life. I powered out the last bit of the run.

I felt like a Cheetah ROAR!
The race was small, as it was a Charity Run (and this glorious weather was obviously a deterrent), crossing the finish, I felt all those wonderful feelings of accomplishment as I did the first time. It was just much shorter lived. Only one person was waiting on the other side of the finish line with a medal. She just handed it to me. No congratulations, no smile, just's your medal. No banana, no water, no smile, what the heck??? Other runners are sitting on the side of the road, looking womp. Everyone is spent. I find my husband and he's smiling and happy, and we hug. I'm so happy. I did it, again. I feel like a real runner. I can't wait to tell him all about the beating I just took from the road. Do you want to get some water, do you want to stretch? I'm so proud of you! 

I start laughing, Let's go get some beer and cheer for people, these spectators need a pick me up!

Mr. Noel's support Tee is from Flex it Pink - to say it was a huge hit would be a HUGE understatement
Race ReCap Part Two Tomorrow....

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  1. Congrats, Elle. A few people from our neck of the woods almost passed out around mile 11/12 and had to take IVs at the medical tent. That humidity was strong, but you were stronger! Congrats on a job well done.

  2. Congrats lady!!! That was a HARD race... Love your hubby's shirt!

  3. Sounds brutal but congrats!! You finished and that's what counts. :)

  4. You are a beast! So proud of you-Congrats!!!!! And I want to do a marathon now just so my husband can wear that shirt:)

  5. Loved this recap! I'm getting tears in my eyes reading it, you are so inspirational and you got it done!! I def ordered one of those shirts for my hubby, he will LOVE It! Great work Gisele

  6. I freaking love this recap-- your stream of consciousness sounds a lot like mine during my first half marathon! (where we had some shockingly high humidity for Chicago in September). I'm so proud of you for toughing it out through what seems like a pretty brutal race, and your bug/windshield couldn't be more perfect. You're going to feel like superwoman when the heat and humidity finally drop! LOVE Mr. Noel's shirt. Congrats girl-- get you a beer (you deserve it!!)

  7. So proud of you for powering through!!! I think this may be the most motivational post you have ever written. I got chills reading it :)

  8. Great job, Leigh Ann! Way to push thru and finish strong! Very inspirational post, ma'am!! I definitely need to get my man this shirt. ha ha ha!!

  9. Proud of you girl! You did awesome!!

  10. Way to go! Love his shirt;-) Love that one of your first thoughts was to be a pick-me-up spectator to the rest...too sweet! Awesome character building'll remember this on your Full Marathon day!!

  11. thats so awesome! what an inspiration, your rock!!!

  12. Love this!! Achieving your goal is such an amazing feeling. You are such an inspiration. Congratulations on your second half. I am itching to heal my foot and get out there running!!

  13. You had an awesome time. You rock! And I love hubs shirt!

  14. Way to finish strong! This was oh so similar to my half a few weeks ago and I haven't run since...your post made me ready to pound the pavement in the morning!!!

  15. girl I am so proud of you! I was dying just reading about the sun beating off your black clothes uggghhhh you are a true rockstar!!! way to to sole sista! So proud of you! LOVE Mr. Noel's Tee *wink wink*
    Elisha RUN RUN RUN