So I caught up to Alea and am now also the proud owner of a Star Wars Half Marathon medal! I ran my first half on January 17, 2016–just this past Sunday, with our other friend and her brother, but not Alea this year (saaad!) It was quite an experience. I’ll try to cover as much of the feels/highlights as I can:
I definitely learned my lesson from last year–absolutely nothing but food and rest the day before, and minimizing the Downtown Disney shenanigans/staying up late. My friend Erin and I did pretty well here–Friday and Saturday were pretty low-key and revolved around food and napping. What I didn’t expect was my new caffeine habit and how it would affect my well-being. I foolishly did not pack enough coffee and started to get a raging frontal headache. Thank goodness Erin pointed it out and reminded me to stock up at brunch, which solved 90% of the pressure in my brain. Lesson learned: do NOT mess with your routine–if your diet involves (legal) substances (ahem), golly, now is not the time to go cold turkey.
I had a small dose of coffee packed, along with my French press. Drank that and water first thing after getting up. Had a slice of bread folded up with some Nutella and PB for sustenance. Thankfully was able to go to the bathroom, all was well–just nerves. Got on the shuttle with no major drama.
This year I decided to wear a throwaway sweater to the start line–thankfully there was no rain, just cold. This year’s weather was very good, quite warm (high 40s-low 50s) at 4 am, and just a touch of fog. Sat in the corral bundled up until it was time to go.
The 2016 course was not well-designed. A series of narrow lanes in the first five miles created noticeable bottlenecks where everyone had to slow down to a walk. Granted, there’s not much you can do about it while in the park; space is what it is, but I felt like last year’s 10K still allowed you to enjoy the park and go along for a jog without feeling hindered. The route opened up once you came out onto Harbor Blvd and into Anaheim itself, but it took about 45 minutes to get to that point.
After an hour in, I was able to run/walk fairly consistently, but I noted an energy crash right at mile 8. I hadn’t practiced with race day nutrition/gels/bars, so I was somewhat worried about accepting some of the Clif energy gels at the nutrition station. Next half, I want to practice this, because the energy deficit really slowed me down. My legs weren’t too bad, nor was my breathing, but the lack of food and core strength whittled away at my pace.
I was fortunate this year to have my family at the finish line with me. My aunt and uncle waited at mile 10, and my parents waited at mile 13. It was somewhat nerve-wracking, wondering if they’d found their way to the course, but once I saw them and passed them by it was like an emotional boost. I wasn’t too tired but there’s something about knowing people are there for you–not just the cheerleaders, bands, and random folks coming out to watch–but someone there to see you. I know I won’t always have this type of back-up at all my races, but for my first big race, it felt really good to have them there.
I also am glad that several of my friends ran this race with me–even if we weren’t on the course together at all. My friends Nick and Erin came from the Bay Area to run, and one of my local running buddies, Steven, was there with his team. Everyone went at their own paces, but we managed to meet up at the finish for a group photo.
I had a lot of fun in my half–barely thought about anything, really. There were too many emotions and events to really feel down, and that crowd boost really buoys you through the tougher parts. Every time I participate in a race, I appreciate volunteers and bystanders a lot more. Perhaps this is due to understanding the struggle one goes through during a race. At any rate. I’m still a bit sore in the legs and back; haven’t quite recovered yet, so my focus for the next few weeks will be rehabilitating and getting back to the schedule. I have a 5K lined up for February that I want to PR on–so it’ll be back on the track for me soon enough.