Monday, April 11, 2011

Charlottesville Half Marathon

So I think the last time we spoke I was packing up my car and my ice bath and heading down to Charlottesville. I was nervous about the half marathon because I picked the week before the race to become obsessed with Bikram and skipped several of my last training runs, opting for yoga instead. If you've ever read any articles or books about running, or spoken with a trainer or fellow runner, you know that you're never supposed to try something new right before the race. Eat the same foods you always eat, wear clothes that you know you can run long distances in, stick to your tried and true routine. So I was pretty nervous about all of the soreness in my body from the yoga and worried that I wouldn't be able to finish the race, let alone get the time I hoped for. On Tuesday night I started to feel a soreness in my neck, and over the next few days it got worse, also causing a headache  and earache on the left side of my head. I spoke to my mom about it and she said that it sounded like I pulled something (probably in yoga) and suggested I take Aleve and try putting a warm compress on it.

On Thursday I went for my last run before the race, just a 3.25 mile run down and around the UVA campus. My legs still felt heavy and sore. On my drive down I'd listened to Born to Run, which contained a lot of history about running and information about some of the fastest and fittest running cultures. The author went into a fair amount of detail about the chia seeds that the Tarahumara Indians use to fuel for runs and repair their bodies. I'd heard about the health benefits of chia seeds before (full of antioxidants, omega 3s, high in fiber and protein, boosts energy, etc) but after hearing so much about them in this book I was convinced to try them. 

I bought some chia seeds at a health food store in Charlottesville, and on Thursday I got to work incorporating chia in my meals until my race. I added them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, and made "chia gel." To make chia gel just combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3-4 ounces of water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and it becomes a thick gel.

Doesn't look terribly appetizing, but chia seeds are pretty much tasteless and I actually liked the gel.

In addition to all of the chia seeds, I also tried to get some extra sleep, and I said my prayers. A lot. On Saturday morning I got up at 5am (the race started at 6:30 - the earliest race I've ever done) got dressed, ate, and Laura drove me to the starting point. It was much colder on Saturday than it had been the past couple days, and it didn't really help that it was still dark out when we started to run. I hadn't looked at the course map for the race, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I spoke to a few runners in the starting corral, and one of them told me that the last time she ran this course she saw a woman crying as she tried to run up the largest hill. I tried to put that out of my mind and hoped it wouldn't be all that bad.

And then we were off - the first few miles were rolling hills, a lot of up and down. We started in the downtown area of Charlottesville, ran past campus, and then out to country roads that were spotted with beautiful mansions and a golf course. I'm not really a fan of a "there-and-back" race (I prefer a loop) but at least we did run through some very nice areas. I was feeling pretty good, lots of energy and minimal leg soreness, until the extremely steep ascent between miles 5 and 6. The first half of it was alright, but as I continued up and up I became genuinely concerned that I was going to throw up. I just kept pushing on and luckily the top of the hill was close enough that I didn't have to stop and didn't have to puke. I've never thrown up in a race, but I can imagine it wouldn't be much fun. Soon after the killer hill was the turn around point, and then I repeated the same course back to the finish. The rolling hills seemed harder on the way back, and when I looked at my Garmin watch around mile 10 I saw that I wouldn't be able to make the 1:50 finishing time I'd hoped for. I kept going and ran the rest of the race as fast as I could. Even if I didn't make my goal, I still wanted to put all of my effort in. I crossed the finish line with a final time of 1:53:07, which was a pace of 8:37/mile. I'm a little disappointed that I missed the 1:50, but more disappointed with the pace - I ran a couple of my long training runs faster than that, and if I can maintain a pace by myself I think I should always be able to do it faster in a race. But it was done, and it was time for some food!

Laura and me

At the expo I collected food from the vendors and quickly ate it - I was starving. I had a banana, a protein drink, a slice of pizza, and a piece of Great Harvest cinnamon chip bread. I was so excited to see Kath slicing bread for all of the runners! I told her that I was a KERF reader and a big fan. Afterwards I wished I'd gotten a picture with her, but at the time I was too tired and hungry to think straight. 

After refueling I went back to Laura and Todd's apartment for the dreaded ice bath. It was so cold and rainy outside, and I was already shivering in my sweaty running clothes - getting into an ice bath was really the last thing I wanted to do. I stood there whining as Todd emptied 30 pounds of ice into my tub and filled it with water.

I was a big baby and complained a lot...but then got in.

Todd told Laura to stop taking pictures because I was shaking so much and in a lot of pain. The ice bath didn't last long - I'd say probably only 4 or 5 minutes until I'd had enough. Then I took a very hot shower and napped for a few hours. Aside from my persistent neck pain and some left knee pain, I felt pretty good. 

I left early on Sunday morning to drive back to New Hampshire. The trip seemed like it went by really fast; it was great to spend time with Laura, see her apartment and explore Charlottesville. I need to get down there again for another visit, but until then, sleeping in my own bed last night felt pretty amazing. I got up this morning a went to a Bikram class before work. I'm hoping to find a good Bikram/running balance that I'm happy with, since I love both. My next half marathon is on May 1st in Rye, NH - the run is along the beach and the course is flat, the way I like it!


  1. Way to go on your race! Even though you didn't get the time you wanted, it's still very close and you should be proud of it! Hope your neck pain goes away soon!

  2. I think your time is fantastic!
    I'm so impressed you got in that ice bath...I would have probably chickened out!

  3. your time is awesome!! you should be so proud. love your face in the last pic. haha

  4. Thats awesome!! I'm sorry you are disappointed with your time but I think it's fantastic! And now you have another race so soon..way to go!

  5. Congrats on an awesome race!

    I had a similar experience where I did a new abs class the week before my most recent 10K and my abs KILLED me the last mile or two.

  6. Congrats on your race!! I think you did great! Hills are tough, especially if you haven't trained on them a lot, so you should really be proud!

    I've been hearing tons about Chia Seeds lately, I really need to pick some up.

    I'm hoping I'll be able to join you for a Bikram class sometime over the next few weeks!

  7. Nice job on the race! Your next one is going to be a cakewalk after running such a hilly one. :)

  8. Congrats on your race!! Youll get that 1:50 goal next time. Mad props to you for the ice bath.. I've done that once and it was so painful I never returned. :-)

  9. CONGRATS!!!! OMG, you're so funny getting into that ice bath. I don't think I could ever convince myself to do that!!

    And I've been interested in this Chia seed business for awhile but don't know what to do with them. Thanks for some ideas! (;