So, I did a thing

Last year, when I signed up for the Hyner 25K Trail Race, I said to myself that I would  train for this race. Yes, ma’am, I would be a good little runner and be prepared for once. Before I signed up, I knew very well that Hyner was a beast. I mean, look at this elevation profile.

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A year went by, and I trained… but for the Pittsburgh marathon. I did some trail runs here and there, but absolutely nothing to really train for Hyner. I have been running four days a week and cross-training at least once a week, mostly two days a week. I’m in fairly decent shape and I thought maybe there’s a shot I can survive Hyner.

Barely survive, that’s what happened for me at Hyner.  Here are pictures from the time at Hyner 25K taken by friends of mine. I didn’t take any pictures along the way because I was too focused on not falling or hurting myself. Since it had rained pretty hard the day before the race, the conditions were less than ideal. The ground was ridiculously muddy, and the stream crossings were a little… intense.

I ended up spending the entire 16 mile trek with a new running friend. I honestly do not know if I would have finished without her. I could have mentally DNF’d at some of the aid stations, but I know she never would let me. If I hurt myself and had to drop out, that would have been one thing. Quitting – nope.  Amy would have pep-talked at me until I got back on the trail and gave it a shot.

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See the top there? I made it up there.

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My right calf seized up on me, and my right foot went numb around this time.

Hyner 25K caps at 1,000 registrants, and it has a 9 hour cut off. Out of the 1,000 registrants, there were 798 finishers, and I was motherfucking number 788. That’s right – I FINISHED.

This trail race was the most physically and mentally demanding feat I have ever voluntarily done. (Since I have gone through cancer treatment, that’s going to always take number one spot.)  Afterwards, I thought no way in hell do I want to do this again. A couple of days removed from the race, I’ve been thinking, maybe one more time.

My recent life motto has been this: “I don’t know if I can, but I will try.” I say it to the trainer I work with once a week whenever he has me try something new. Here, I looked up at Humble Hill and had no idea if I could do this. I tried, and look what happened. I finished.

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Pittsburgh is my White Whale

On May 5, 2019, I am finally going to catch my White Whale. I’m going to give it everything I have physically and mentally, and I am going to attempt to run the Pittsburgh Full marathon. This will be my third marathon, but it will be my first time attempting the entire full marathon course in Pittsburgh.

I have wanted to give this race a shot several times but life got in the way.  I have signed up for the full once before–forget which year–but dropped down to the half when I realized I couldn’t do the full marathon. One year, I decided to put the Pittsburgh full off until next year when I started a new job as a consultant. The following year, I ended up doing the Columbus full as my first marathon.

The following year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until new year when I had surgery on my abdomen. That surgery reset me to zero but I still tried to do a marathon that year. I ran the Indianapolis full in 2017 and added a half hour to my previous marathon time.

I wanted to do the Pittsburgh full marathon in 2018, but at the end of 2017, I tripped and face planted, breaking my nose and pride. By the time I recovered from that, bronchitis came roaring into my lungs and hung out there for a solid month.  Last year, I put the Pittsburgh full off until this year.

This is my mother-fracking year. I am going to do this. I had a couple of challenges, namely bronchitis yet again.  My umpteenth bout with bronchitis and my one billionth sinus infection during this recent training cycle actually led me to installing an internal french drain in my basement. I am tired of getting sick, damnit.

 For the first time ever, I am actually consistently cross-training during a training cycle. I have been seeing a trainer once a week, and I’ve been working on weights and core. Friends, I actually have a bicep muscle. Squee! The other day, the trainer referred to me as Quadzilla. Other people can actually see the progress I’ve made since I decided to accomplish this goal of mine and get this White Whale. I am giving it everything that I can.

Pittsburgh, in all its hills and pot holes, is my White Whale. Just even thinking about running the  Pittsburgh fullmade me think I could be more than a sickie, that I could be a runner. That I could actually be an athlete. Growing up, I was the weirdo kid who you did not want on your team during gym class, so for me to even be considered athletic is mind boggling.

Pittsburgh is my white whale because if I end up not being able to do any marathons after this, I will be okay because I did the race I have always wanted to do.

I’m fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis foundation, which does amazing work for those living with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My cousin Kathryn’s children, Andrew and Cece, have Cystic Fibrosis. I want these little ones to grow up as strong and healthy as they can be, and the CFF is the foundation making that happen. Whatever you can donate, I appreciate it, and if you can’t donate,  please share!

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/runtocurecf2019/lkhuffman

 

I am not a good sick person

Almost a month ago, I woke up with a fever and head congestion. I didn’t take any time off from work, nor did I go to the doctor for any medication. I worked from home that week, and I thought that was sufficient. I took a week off from running and honestly thought, “I’m okay.”

Soon after, evidence of my 1093908 sinus infection came around, and I continued to ignore it. Each morning, I enjoyed my hot steamy shower as it allowed me to clear my sinuses. Despite evidence to the contrary, I kept telling myself, “I’m okay.”

I continued to run 4 days a week and cross training 2 days a week. Last weekend, I did a 15 mile race and felt so terrible afterwards. Granted, it was cold and North Park isn’t the most forgiving. Still, I felt like I had been hit by a truck and had zero energy for the post-race festivities. I still thought, “I’m okay.”

For almost two weeks, I had obvious signs of a sinus infection, and I knew it was a sinus infection. I would hack up a lung every time I stopped running, plus I was fatigued. I knew I was sick, but I still thought, “I’m okay…. this will pass.”

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During work on Thursday, I started to feel an ache in my chest and began wheezing, and finally the rational part of my brain screamed, “Go see a frickin doctor, you dumb ass!” I still fought the urge, texting Best Boyfriend Ever that I was considering going to Urgent Care after work.

I was still ON THE FENCE because I didn’t want someone to tell me what I already knew: I had to stop running and rest. The Pittsburgh Marathon is my goal race, and The Race that I want to accomplish as my big fuck you to [Redacted]. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone but myself, and I am trying to prove that I am more than my faulty genes.

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Best Boyfriend Ever responded, “Go to Urgent Care.”

At Urgent Care, the PA listened to me breathing and took a look at my nostrils, saying immediately, “Whoa there, you have quite the sinus infection.” (Sigh.)  She then told me that based on the wheezing she heard, I definitely had bronchitis, likely from the sinus infection traveling downward.

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When I went back to work yesterday, I saw my discharge paper from Urgent Care. I noticed that I came in with a slight fever: 99.7. I got so used to feeling under the weather for the past month that I didn’t even realize I was running a mild fever.

I’m not a good sick person. I can deal with a chronic condition like [redacted] like a champ, with slight hiccups along the way. But, apparently, faced with a temporary illness, the personality traits I don’t necessarily care about myself come to the front: stubbornness.

My anxiety also manifests itself as not liking to rest. I constantly feel like I have to be doing something or training. It’s why I love running so much – it quiets my anxiety.  My anxiety is telling me that if I rest too long, I’ll screw up my training for the Pittsburgh marathon, and maybe I’m not really an athlete. I’m just a sickie sick person who does nothing but get sick.

I know it’s not rational, but [redacted] has instilled a sense of panic in me. How much time do I have until [redacted] comes roaring back? I feel like I’m on borrowed good health time, and I want to enjoy it and take advantage of it while I can. This is what goes in the mind of someone who’s already had cancer twice, a [redacted] diagnosis, and generalized anxiety disorder.

It’s why I’m not a good sick person. I have so much I want to get done. Good health is a gift, and I don’t want to waste a second.

2019

When a new year comes around, I really don’t like making New Year’s resolutions. I feel like most of the time, that’s setting myself up for disappointment because if I don’t hit every goal, I feel like a failure. I do make the same resolution each year: read more books. If I don’t meet that goal, it’s okay because it’s all about the pursuit (i.e., reading like a fiend).

This year, though, feels a bit different since my [redacted] diagnosis. While I am not sick again, there are preventative steps I need to take to ensure that I stay as healthy as I can be. [Redacted] rests for no one, and I have to stay ahead.

That being said, I feel a sense of urgency that I have never felt before. What if [redacted] means that sooner, rather than later, I cannot run or exercise like I can do now? What if the preventative steps I have to take negatively affects me both emotionally and physically? I have no idea what this damn diagnosis is going to do to me short term or long term.

Everything feels uncertain, hence the sense of urgency when it comes to my current state of health and physicality. How long is this going to last?

I have signed up for several races this year that I would have kept pushing off to “some day.”  I am signed up for the Pittsburgh Full marathon, Hyner 25K, and Glacier Ridge 30K. Best boyfriend and I also want to bike the Great Allegheny Passageway in the fall. To prepare for all of this, I have been running four days a week and doing a weights/core workout two days a week.

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I also want to find three or four half marathons to do this year. Five might be pushing it, but it’d be cool to reach 20 half marathons this year.

For the first time in my running career, I’m giving it 100 percent, which I am ashamed to admit. [Redacted] lit a fire in me that I didn’t know I had, which I am also ashamed to admit. I never wanted to be the person who waited until a medical diagnosis to change her life.

I think I can redeem myself by never allowing myself become inspiration porn. I hope my friends will stage a personality intervention if I whore myself out as some sickie who overcome obstacles inspiration for others. Ugh, no thank you. If I call this a journey, I want one of you to slap me in the face. Please and thank you.

I always, always, want to be known as some middle-aged woman who’s the #worldsokayestrunner.

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I plan to reach these goals with the same snark and self-deprecation that have defined my adulthood. It might not be pretty and involve a lot of cursing, and it will never involve inspirational quotes.  If that revs your engine, that’s awesome. I’m going to use spite, anger, and stubbornness to get me where I’m going.

[Redacted] has taken a lot from me, and it’s about time I take something the fuck back.

Half Marathon #15 – Richmond

The race that I have been training for has come and gone. Shortly after my [redacted] diagnosis and the depression that followed, I thought it would be best to drop down from the marathon to the half marathon. I was under a lot of stress, and the last thing I needed was self-inflicted stress while I dealt with medical issues.

Frankly, it was the best decision I have made recently. I felt a weight lifted off me, and I could start training again and focus on having fun.

Beloved boyfriend and I arrived at Richmond on Friday where we picked up my half marathon packet. When I had signed up for the full marathon, I had paid for them to pay for my bib and shirt to be mailed to my house. As such, I had a Richmond marathon shirt, not a half marathon shirt.

I brought it into the expo, and when I went to get my half marathon shirt, I tried explaining to two volunteers why I was giving back a shirt. “You … can keep the shirt,” the man responded after I explained why I was trying to give it back.

“I can’t wear a shirt of a race I didn’t do,” I said aloud, slowly feeling like a crazy person.

Another volunteer laughed and took the shirt. “I get it,” he promised me. I heard him say to the other guy, “Runners, man.”

On race day, I woke up feeling ready and confident. I began putting on the race outfit I laid out the day before… only to realize I had packed yoga pants, not running tights. What the hell, Huffman! I went through a momentary bout of panic because I hadn’t run in yoga pants since I started a couch to 5k.

I also thought I’d look like a total running hobbyist by running a half marathon in frickin’ yoga pants. Why do I own so many black running tights that I confuse them with my black yoga pants? Also, why don’t I separate yoga and running pants? Argh. Given that I had no other choice, I put my big girl pants on figuratively and put my actual pants on literally. I looked and felt like a jagoff, but I had nothing else to wear.

During the run, y’all, I felt mostly great. The weather was perfect running weather, and the course elevation was tame compared to Pittsburgh. During the 5th mile, I had to stop and adjust my right sock twice because it felt off. (Turns out, I was right because I had a giant blister on my big right toe. Guess I didn’t fix the sock problem.)

Throughout the run, I focused on my breathing, not shrugging my shoulders, and lifting my damn legs. I had to fight the urge to shuffle my feet and shrug my shoulders. I stopped at every water stop and drank water, or I stopped to eat the Gu chews. Hell, I walked a couple of spots just to get my heart rate back down.

The best part of the race had to be downhill finish. I know when I came to the end, I probably had a huge grin on my face. I hyped myself up and said, “Let’s do this, Huffman,” and I went flying down that hill. The first part of my final mile, I had to walk for 30 seconds. That makes that 10:17 mile at the end even more fist bump worthy.

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I’m happy with my time! I can’t remember the last time I had so many miles in the 10-minute pace. I didn’t have an overall time goal, only just to finish and have fun. Mission freaking accomplished.  I finished, and I’m proud of my time.

I went through a lot to get to this mindset and place. It took me awhile but I have stopped comparing myself now to what I used to be able to do. That never helped me and just made me feel angry at myself.  I’m looking at each training cycle in the present, and keeping the past (especially results before a 5-inch incision in my abdomen) in the past.

For my 15th half marathon, I listened to my coach and checked my pride at the door. I knew what I had been doing was wrong with a capital W, so I listened to the coaching and advice from Coach Dan. I’m glad I did because this is one of the best results I have had in a while.

Looking forward to half marathon #16 – maybe I”ll see the 2:10-19 range again…. that’s the beauty of running. There’s always the next race. [Redacted] will take a lot from me, but it cannot and will not take my running from me. I may have [redacted] but I am a mother-fucking runner.

Running

I signed up for my third marathon, which is going to take place in November. After Indianapolis, I had made a proclamation that I was going to stay away from marathons. I felt burnt out, and beyond discouraged. I added on 30 minutes to my first marathon time. Granted, I was coming back from a pretty extensive surgery, so I’m sure that played a big part.

This year feels different. I feel different. It’s like something finally clicked in my brain that if I want to yield different results (i.e., run faster and not be so burnt out), then I need to be different. For the past month or so, I have been doing track workouts on a regular basis.

Before this, I hadn’t done a track workout on a regular basis in years. When I ran with Fleet Feet, I would drive all the way from the North Hills to the South Hills to make the track workout. Given that I have turned into quite the pseudo-yinzer, I don’t like to go through a tunnel.  I got out of the habit of going to track workouts, and it takes me forever to get back into one.

I am so thankful for my current job, and the fact that it allows me to attend these toolbox runs. I can definitely I’m making progress because my pace is getting faster in certain stretches of my long runs. Yesterday, there was a half mile where I was flying! I looked at my watch and saw my pace was 9:30. Granted, I was going down hill but I was still flying.

Last week, I signed up for a gym membership because I’m determined to get stronger in areas where I am anything but. I love, love, love the feeling of my legs getting stronger, like tree trunks. I want to improve my time, of course, but most importantly, I just want to get stronger.

Stay tuned. Watch these progress reports actually… progress.

30 years

This month, it’ll be 30 years since my mother died. Gotta say, it feels surreal that she’s been gone for this long. My mom, she missed pretty much everything in my life, minus my birth. She was definitely there for that one. After that, my mother missed my First Communion, Confirmation, high school graduation, college graduation, first job, first heartbreak, buying my first house, so on and so on.

She wasn’t there when I had breast cancer. More than anything, I missed her while I was going through treatment. I wanted my parent there so badly. Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I don’t miss her and have a mom-shaped hole in my heart, which will never go away.

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This is what she just missed in my life. My two brothers, each of whom have kids, also missed out having our mother in their lives.

Metastatic breast cancer is a thief. It’s a dirty dirty thief. It stole my mother, and I’m doing something about it. Once again, I’m raising money for Metavivor. Every dollar you donate will go toward researching metastatic breast cancer. This year, I decided to run 30 miles this year – one mile for every year she has been gone.

That’s right – 30 freaking miles. I’m doing a marathon and then 3.8 miles before.  The date will be November 18 – be there or be square, and watch me hobble toward this bonkers goal of mine.

If you can donate, then you can do so here:

https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/larahuffman30

If you cannot, I understand and would be very appreciative of anyone who can share my story and my link.

Oops… I Did it Again

What did I do, you might be asking? Well, I signed up for my second marathon.  I signed for the Indianapolis full marathon in early November, and training for this race begins soon.

I swore up and down that my first marathon would be a one and done for me, but yeah. I decided to give it another go now that I got over the whole, “Can I even do this?” I know that I can, so the new question will be, “Can I learn from my mistakes?”

When I signed up for Columbus, my primary goal was just to finish and the secondary goal was to finish in five hours. Well, I finished the marathon in five hours and 55 seconds (give or take a second or five). I came super duper close to coming in less than five hours and that has been haunting me.

For weeks afterward, I would think about my time and think, “Oh man, if I had trained just a little bit harder, I could have persevered and ran a sub-5.” 

I barely cross trained. I didn’t do any toolbox runs (ie tempo runs or speedwork). I swear on my pretty bonnet that I am going to do these and work my approaching middle-age tush off.

Once again, I have enlisted the help of a coach to help me reach the finish line. It’s a different coach this time around. The coach I previously worked with was booked, and I wasn’t going to be a burden to a busy man. I’ll be working with Sara, and I’m very excited about this.

So despite being busy with work and finding time to spend with my favorite fella who makes me grin from ear to ear, I decided to give marathon number two a real honest go. This is important to me, so I’m going to make time and shuffle my prioritites. Less TV, more running.  I’m so glad my fella understands how much running is important to me. He has even offered to go with me to these races in different cities. How lucky am I?

I plan on writing more about my quest for sub-5. It’s going to happen, my friends.

 

Marathon

My first marathon

Y’all, I am a marathoner. Straight up, after months of training, self-doubt and eating more than someone probably should, I ran 26.2 miles a month ago, and I have the shiny medal to prove it.

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When I signed up for the marathon, I was apparently optimistic and slightly delusional about my projected finish time because I was assigned Corral C. I’m not a Corral C runner, more like a D or E. I probably annoyed the other Steel City Road Runners about my Corral place.  “Maybe I should be in Corral D? Or E? But if I’m in Corral C, is that okay?”

After patient reassurances, I went into Corral C. I moseyed on down to the back of Corral C, and I ended up starting with the beginning of Corral D.

At the beginning of the race, they had fireworks. Fireworks! I felt like a little kid. I may have even squealed.

Since this was the Nationwide Columbus Children’s Hospital Marathon, every mile had a patient child champion wearing oversized foam hands, like you would find at a football game. Despite not being someone who gives high gives, I high fived these kids whenever I could BECAUSE I AM NOT DEAD INSIDE.

One of the miles was a Memorial Mile, and another one was an Encore Mile, which featured children who were past patient child champions. I honestly thought I was going to lose it during the Memorial Mile when I saw all the families holding up posters of their deceased children but still cheering me on. We all had our names on our bibs, so these families were honestly going, “You are doing great, Lara!” “Way to go!”

During the encore mile, I high fived a bunch of these former child patient navigators, who were also cheering and telling me I was doing a great job. I fought the urge to cry like I do at videos of dogs reuniting with their owners after a long period of time. Ugly. Crying.

I know I have been through some shit with my own cancer. I am an adult, though, and these are children. These were children. They are innocent. When I got sick, it wasn’t pretty but it made sense. My mom got cancer young, and now so did I. When a young child is going through cancer, it’s just heartbreaking and shouldn’t be how the world works.  How do you explain when a child comes down with a life-threatening illness or injury? You can’t.

The first half of the marathon, I felt strong. Hell, I even had a mile where I averaged 8:45, like how is that even possible. Oh wait, adrenaline. When the half marathon and marathon split and most of the runners went left instead of straight, boy I felt a weird sense of dread, like shit just got real.

Around mile 21 or 22, that’s when the mind games with myself started showing up.

What happened? You were so strong in the half.

You are a sham of a runner.

Why are you doing this to yourself?

I was my own worst enemy and my greatest cheerleader.

It’s okay if you’re not as strong as you were in the first half. Give yourself a break.

No, Lara, you are awesome!

You’re doing this because not everyone can do this, but YOU can do this.

The last two miles were the worst. I had to stop and walk a handful of times. Every time I started running again, the words “mother fucker” escaped my lips. I had to psyche myself up before I could run again. I swear, I probably went through the five stages of grief during the marathon. Bargaining and denial did play a big part of the last couple of miles.

With less than a mile away, the 5 hour pacer ran by me as I was walking. I thought to myself, “I need to run harder and beat her!” (Denial.)

Ten seconds later as I huffed and puffed, I thought, “Don’t be stupid. Just finish.” (Acceptance.)

For some reason, I stopped about ten or so feet from the finish line. I didn’t cross the finish line all strong and yay, woman power.  It was more like I crossed the finish line all crying and hyperventilating. With my hand on my chest and my emotions boiling out of me, I walked over the finish line with two medics waiting for me.

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“Are you okay?”

Instead of responding, “Of course not, I just ran a marathon,” I replied, “I think I might puke.”

I didn’t puke, though. I just hyperventilated and cried, and let this young man escort me about 20 or so 30 feet as I walked to the best of my ability.

So, I did it. My official time was 5:00:58. Seriously. I was one minute away from seeing four at the beginning of my time. One freaking minute. Maybe if I didn’t stop short of the finish line to have a mini-panic attack or outpouring of emotion, then I could have been under 5 hours. I could have trained harder. I could have had a better diet and been stronger.

Who knows?

When I began training for this marathon, I was going through a breakup of my 7.5-year relationship. It set me back, of course. I bounced back in so many ways. At the beginning of my training, I was in a horribly dysfunctional relationship that had been dead in the water for two to three years.

Even during a short period of time, things can always change for the better. How do I know? At the end of the marathon and outside the athlete area, an amazing man who has made me so happy and treats me like I am the cat’s meow waited for me . . . with a big smile on his face and a congratulatory hug.

I was never an athlete as a kid. I stunk at soccer, basketball or softball. I would rather be reading a book or watching television. I never had a competitive streak as a kid. If me and someone else were going for the ball, my first instinct would be to go, “eh.”

Running just has me competing against myself, and right now, I will probably do another marathon . . . just so that I break sub-5 hours. I will do it, too.

Huffman rules.

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Pittsburgh Dick’s Half Marathon 2015: my fourth half marathon

When I began my training season for the Pittsburgh Half 2015, I had lofty goals and ambitions.  “I’m going to run the 15 mile race for Spring Thaw.”  “I’m going to run the Pittsburgh half under two hours.”  Boy, I thought highly of myself and greatly underestimated how much free time I actually had.  Neither of my goals happened and yet, I’m okay with it.

Given the sub-zero weather in February and its affect on my training, I only felt prepared to run the 10-mile race for the Spring Thaw.  If I had attempted to run 15 when my weekly mileage was as low as it was, then I would have injured myself.  When I crossed the finish line for the Spring Thaw and receive my 10-miler finisher’s medal, I vowed, “Next year, I’ll run the 15 mile race.”

For the half marathon for Just a Short Run in March, I treated it like a training run and not something I should attempt to PR (i.e., achieving a personal record).  The weather that morning was 15 degrees, and like everyone else, I was shivering and shaking.

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If it wasn’t for the fact I was running with a friend, I probably would have bowed out after the 8.1 mile mark.  My total time for Just a Short Run was 2:28, a minute longer than my first half marathon time, aka my worst time.  Even though I know the freezing weather played a huge part, I still felt disappointed at my time.

In the days leading up to the Pittsburgh Half, I was convinced that I was going to be lucky if I even beat my 2:27 time from last year.  I never made it to any speed workouts, and if you want to get faster, then a runner has to make it to the track.  I didn’t.  Life kept getting in the way.  I was beating myself up – figuratively, of course.

I ended up heading to the half marathon by my lonesome self since I hadn’t been in contact with my fellow West View Fleet Feet’er.  By the time I got downtown and my bag checked, I had missed my charity team’s group picture (boo).  I also didn’t make it to the Steel City Road Runners’ hospitality tent prior to the race.  Nothing really went as planned.

Before the race began, I only ran into one other person I know in my assigned corral.  Thanks to her, I had a before picture of me.  I was there!  (I have looked through many photographers’ marathon pictures and alas, I didn’t find me anywhere.)

Who wears short shorts?  I wear short shorts.

Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts.

It was around mile 9 when I realized, “Holy shit, I’m going to beat my time.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I was maintaining a pace of around 10:10 comfortably.  I made sure I took water at every fluid station and even took two water cups at a later station.  I took my Guu (aka Gewwww) every four miles.  The hotter temperature wore me down around mile 11, and I had to walk for about 15 seconds to get my hear rate back down.

I crossed the finish line at 2:14:02, beating my previous time by 13 minutes!

b03944a802a40aedce01c6dab24f7a6fNow I’ll definitely be making it to track workouts in the near future.  I’m signed up for three more half marathons, and come hell or high water, I will run a half marathon under two hours.  Just you wait.