Way back in June, Barb asked if I wanted to buy her sister's bib for the Indy Monumental. They'd planned to run it together, but her sister was going to be unable to run. I told her to give me a few days to think about it, then I'd let her know. At this point, my feet were still pretty up and down. I wasn't running any more than 3 miles, my pace was all over the place and I couldn't foresee another half. Then I think I texted her back 20 minutes later and was like, You know what? I'll take it. I figured that I would start training and if my feet couldn't handle it, I wouldn't do it.
Barb told me that for $20 more I could transfer the bib from her sister's name to my name, but I was all, "Pssh. I'm cheap. And this is definitely not going to be a PR or anything." Sarah was considering doing the marathon, then decided to step down to the half so at some point, it became a kind of girls' getaway, too.
I decided to follow the TLAM Finish It half plan. I followed the Own It plan last fall and while I got a PR with it, it's also a pretty intense plan and I was definitely burned out on running by the time I was done. The Finish It plan was nice because it was somewhat more intense than some of the other lesser plans I looked at, but not so that it would kill me. And then, I'll be honest. I cut down on the week day runs. Most weeks called for 3-4 runs during the week. I only did 2. With preschool pick-up and drop off, that's all I could squeeze in. I picked the ones that I felt would be the most beneficial. I always did the long weekend runs, of course. My feet flared up a few times, but I made sure to roll them, step back if needed and always wear good shoes (Orthaheels, of course!) to work. In other words, I trained smart. Somewhere around week 7, I started to feel stronger in my running again and was seeing paces in long runs that I hadn't seen since last fall. I thought that maybe I could come close to my time last fall, which would be really cool.
Then I got up super early for a long run on a Saturday morning, with a month to go before the half. I had brunch plans with friends, so I figured I'd start out my run by doing laps around my block, then head out of my neighborhood when it got light. I do laps around my block on the mornings before work, so this is nothing new and should've been routine. On my second lap, I moved over for a car and moved right into a pothole. Normally when I roll my ankle, I can roll it back the other way, but I didn't even see this one coming. I went down, hard. Once I crawled out of the way of the car, I realized that I was hurt. I limped home crying, bleeding and swearing and realized that I wasn't going to be finishing that run. Or going to brunch. Instead I went to urgent care with a swollen ankle, where I got an unsurprising diagnosis of a sprained ankle. The doctor gave me a wrap and an air cast to wear and told me that maybe I could run again in a week, but that it would more likely be two weeks (meaning that I would miss the last two double digit runs of the training plan). I was optimistic about a week, but he was right about the two weeks. I'm not going to lie that it was incredibly defeating to be at a point where I felt like my foot issues were almost all the way cleared up, only to go and sprain my ankle. I knew it was temporary, but come on. So, I gave up on any thoughts I had of a good half marathon time and just wanted to run it and finish it without hurting myself. I did my first run a week and a half after spraining my ankle and it was in a lot of pain the next day. I let myself rest for four more days, realizing that I should've just waited until the weekend. Then I headed out for what was supposed to be 8 miles but ended up being 7.5 when my left knee and legs seized up. My ankle wasn't so bad, but my legs and knee were a mess, I can only assume from off-loading weight from my right ankle. It was painful. I didn't have much hope, but I pushed through the last two weeks of the training plan. I did feel better and better with each run, although my left knee and calves continued to bother me. I just got better at ignoring them.
The day before the race, Barb, Sarah and I headed down to Indy around 11, stopped for lunch, then went to the expo. I'd been dealing with a migraine since the day before (because why not?), but I found an amazing doctor at the expo who specializes in ART and he did some incredible maneuvers on my neck and shoulders that really helped. After that, we went to the mall where we all proceeded to go broke at lululemon, Athleta and Lucy (which may be my new favorite store). We ate dinner at Cheesecake Factory, where we shared a divine pumpkin pecan cheesecake for dessert, then we headed to Barb's brother's house, where we were staying for the night (he was also running the half). I seriously slept like a rock. I'm thanking the ART guy for this.
The weather on race day was perfect. Mid-40s at the start. I decided awhile ago that I wasn't going to run with a watch. When I ran the 5k in July, I also didn't use a watch and I really liked doing that. I've become good at running by feel and through most of this training, I've ignored the pace on my watch and don't even look at it until the very end of my run. It's not something I care about or need to know anymore. I knew that it took us a few minutes to cross the start line, so even the split clocks at each mile were meaningless to me. I found my pace, settled in and just kept going. I could tell somewhat where my pace was because I was hanging pretty close to the 4:00 pace group for the marathon, but otherwise, I was blissfully unaware. And for the most part, I felt good. I was loving the course. The spectators were amazing. There were a lot of funny signs, a lot of people high fiving and little kids and strangers cheering you on. I haven't ever run a half marathon with crowd support like this and I think it made a huge difference in my motivation.
Normally, my game plan for a half is that I run without stopping until mile 6, then I stop for water, stretch if I need to and run again until mile 9 or whenever the next water stop is. However, when I reached mile 6 on Saturday, I thought, "You know what? I still feel good. I don't feel like I need water." So I kept running. There were water stops every mile, so I knew that if I got thirsty, I could stop. I was in such a good stride and such a good place that I didn't want to stop, which is not something that has ever happened to me during a half marathon before. I was with a group of people who just kept running, too, and this was definitely a huge help. But mostly, I felt strong. Occasionally, my breathing would get a little out of control, but I was able to get it back under control. The miles seemed like they were passing by quickly because there was so much to look at and take in. I didn't really start to struggle until mile 11 or 12 and by then, I was SO close that there was no way that I was stopping for a drink. I realized that if I pushed through, I could tell myself (and anyone who will listen, hi!) that I ran the whole entire half marathon without stopping once. 2+ hours of non-stop running without slowing one single time, after this last year of injuries and wondering if I'd ever run another half again. I'm not going to lie, I started to tear up a little when I got to mile 12, but that might also be because my knee and ankle were starting to kill me.
Finally, we were almost to the end and all the spectators were cheering (seriously, best crowd ever) and saying things like, "Just two more turns, you're almost there!" and the finish line literally right around the last turn, which was awesome. Because how much does it suck when you come into that home stretch only to have the finish line be SO far away? The time on the clock said 2:09 when I crossed, which was already a PR, but I was more focused on the fact that I'd forgotten how to walk and I was seriously crashing into people left and right while trying to navigate my way through the crowd to get to where we'd all agreed to meet post-race. I found Sarah and discovered that she also PRd, then she looked up my official time (apparently she'd been trying to look me up to see what my projected finish was but couldn't remember Barb's sister's last name, because remember, I was too cheap to switch the bib?), which was 2:06:14. A six minute PR! About ten minutes later, Barb came up with a huge smile and announced a nine minute PR, so basically, this was a magic day for the three of us--none of whom set out to PR or followed a strict training schedule. It was just one of those days, one of those races where everything fell into line. Numbers and paces don't mean everything to me or much at all to be honest, but this one feels pretty good.