I ran my first half-marathon on Saturday. Yes, I said first. There were moments during the race when I thought to myself, "Why am I putting myself through this?!" But now that I've completed it, I know there will be more in my future. I plan to write a full race report (with more details that you'd ever want to know), but I wanted to start with sharing a list of things that I didn't expect on race day.
1) Going to the bathroom is a big deal. This may be TMI, but I was constantly reminded of runners' need to run with an empty bladder. Before the start, the line to the porta-potties trailed down much of the parking lot. It took me 25 minutes to reach the front of the line. (I passed the time talking to a friend and making a few new friends.) After the race was underway, there were constantly runners-- men and women-- dodging into and out of the woods. Constantly. Even within the first few miles.
2) I was amazed at how energizing it was to run with a crowd. There were 2302 finishers in the half-marathon so you can imagine the mass of people at the starting line. I literally did not run alone for even a minute of the race, though it did thin out as runners set their own pace. At the beginning of the race I let myself enjoy the camaraderie and excitement and I didn't need to turn on my iPod for musical entertainment (or distraction, depending on which way you look at it!) until after mile 3.
3) Different road surfaces "grated" on my nerves. For the first two-thirds of the race, I was unaffected, but around mile 10, I had had enough of running and I was cranky. When the course took us through a small covered bridge with a wooden plank floor, I couldn't wait to return to pavement. It was flat and just felt better under my feet. A little before mile 12, we ran over another bridge. Looking down through the drawbridge grates were nerve-wracking enough, as you could look at your feet and see straight down to the bay, but the bumpy surface was also irritating. The last half mile was run on the boardwalk and the sound of my feet hitting the wood drove me crazy, too.
4) My legs felt pain they've never felt before. I don't know what I expected post-race, but after a regular run, I've never had more than very minor muscle soreness. On Saturday, the second I stopped racing, my legs starting cramping. It was not like the muscle cramps that can wake you out of a dead sleep at night, but it felt like someone was squeezing or tightening my leg muscles and wouldn't let up. I've read that if that happens, the best remedy is to keep moving so I did. I kept walking for the next 45 minutes, but the dull, persistent cramping continued, mostly in my left calf and right thigh. Standing still was the worst. When I finally sat down on a bench to get something out of my bag, the pain did not increase so I continued to alternate walking or sitting for another 30 minutes, but never standing still.
By Sunday, my pain was downgraded to plain-old muscle soreness. Granted, it was every muscle in my legs and hips, but at least I could walk, sit, stand, and function at a slow normal. I guess I underestimated what the intensity of the race would temporarily do to my body.
5) Oh, the hunger! I typically don't feel like eating after a long run and the race was no different. However, I know how crucial it is to refuel after putting your body through such rigors so I grabbed a bag of pretzels and some water at the finish line. Once my stomach settled, I ate the free pizza offered to all runners. That's when the floodgates opened. Pizza never tasted so good. For the rest of the day and all day Sunday, I couldn't get enough to eat. Eating a snack--whether it was a banana, almonds, or a bowl of oatmeal-- only revved up my metabolism and made me even hungrier.