13.1 miles of awesomeness later, I’m an Official Half Marathoner!

Have a Snickers protein bar folks, this post is a long one and it’s gonna be a while…but I’m too excited to not pack it all in here–I’m now an official half marathoner as of yesterday and am too pumped up to leave anything out!

You probably know I was nervous for this past weekend. Injuries kept sneaking up on me, I haven’t been running/training as much as I should have, and the last time I ran 13.1 miles was back in July.

The first time I relaxed enough to crack a smile.

Nonetheless, I packed up my stuff and the hubs and I headed towards the coast 3 hours southeast to Wilmington, NC. This race was going to happen no matter what so I might as well enjoy the ride!

before and after weight loss
Gorgeous water behind me! And THIS is why I wanted to race my first half in Wilmington. When I was last here 3 years ago, that’s what I looked like. Wanted to race in this city as the healthier, fitter version of myself. NEVER would have imagined that 3 years ago!

We stayed at the Hilton, right along the Cape Fear River and the boardwalk. Gorgeous! The weather was flippin’ fantastic–even better than I’m accustomed to this time of year in NC. But there was no time to get cozy in the hotel…the first order of business was to immediately walk down the street to the convention center to pick up my race packet.

The first time half marathoners got a special green bib and our shirts said “FIRST 13.1” on the sleeve. I love the color kelly green so this was awesome! I looked around the expo, put on by TrySports of Wilmington, but I pretty much had everything I needed. For once I didn’t buy anything!

Once I had the packet in hand, the hubs and I decided to head over to The Cotton Exchange to hang out for a bit. It was too early to have dinner, but not too early for some pre-race carbs in the form of beer!

paddy's hollow cotton exchange wilmington nc
Before we headed into Paddy’s Hollow, an Irish Pub, I asked hubby to take a picture of me in front of their entrance. I knew I had taken a picture in front of the pub a few years ago and I wanted to compare. These comparison pictures keep me going, y’all. I need to know where I started, see the pics often, and keep them as reminders to stay on task!!! Three years ago, I didn’t think it was possible to lose weight; I would just always look like I looked. If I only knew I’d be back three years later ready to run a half marathon. Haa!

the pilot house outside
After putzing around some more, and doing a lil shopping in the cutest bookstore ever, Two Sisters Bookery, we headed down the boardwalk. Our destination was The Pilot House. It is amazingly good food!! And the view along the outdoor seating is breathtaking. My picture doesn’t do it justice, but mind you, Wilmington is where they filmed Dawson’s Creek. Picture that!
pilot house dinner wilmington nc
I ordered shrimp & scallop linguini with olive oil something something {no cream sauce because I can’t stand cream sauces}. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I was happy. Ohhh, so happy!! I rarely order pasta at restaurants so this was a delicious carbtastic treat sprinkled with yummy protein.

After devouring our food and beverages and yes, dessert, which we split, it was time to head back to the hotel. We passed this three-mile marker sign along the way and that’s when the nerves finally came back to me. “Wow,” I said, “When I see this marker tomorrow I will STILL have 10 more miles to go?!!”

Back inside the Hilton, I put on my pjs, got my outfit ready for the morning, and worked in some necessary foam rolling. I wish having the extra hour of Daylight Saving Time would’ve been put to good use, but I swear I didn’t sleep a wink the whole night! I was too excited to sleep!!

pre race food
pre race fuel
At 6am the alarm went off. Again, I was pretty much awake, so “waking up” was just a formality. I went to the bathroom to get ready, gather my race fuel, dress, and scarf down my breakfast of coconut water and two untoasted mini bagels.

I was then ready to go. Feet don’t fail me now!! I took one last before pic in the bathroom mirror {in case anyone needed to know what I looked like before I passed out and fell into Cape Fear}.

I had to catch a water taxi a little before 7am so it could take me across the river to the Battleship NC for the start of the race. That was fun–the breeze coming off the water helped to calm me down. Hubby wasn’t allowed to ride the taxi until 8am with the other spectators, so I just hung out by myself for an hour. I saw many others with the green bibs so I knew it was their first time too, but I didn’t strike up any convos. I was uncharacteristically anti-social and just wanted to be in the zone, alone. I needed this “me” time to just chill out.

They had a table set up with bagels and bananas so I grabbed half a banana with about 10 minutes to go. You know I’m one of those that needs to run on a full stomach and my coconut water and mini bagels weren’t cutting it. I then went to line up and was finally in a chatting mood. The lady next to me told me that the longest run she’d done in weeks was 10 miles. Then a girl diagonal from us turned around to say she’d never run more than eight miles ever. Once I heard all that, I calmed the heck down. Why was I freaking? I had run this distance twice, even though it was months ago. I told myself to just run MY race. I could do it, even if I had to walk a little bit. I had done it before and I could do it again. My goal was to run it in under 3 hours. One, because that was just my goal, and two, because that was the cutoff. Haha, so I had to! And then, while I was lost in a conversation with myself, the announcer counted down. 3…2…1…GO!

I have no pictures of anything during the race. I wanted to take soooooo many pics because there was gorgeousness all around me. But I knew it would only slow me down to fiddle with my phone and I had no time for fiddling–there was a race to be run!!

I thought for sure all of my miles would be in the 11 something range. 12 at the worst. Haa!! I think I could have run faster, but I knew I didn’t want to go on for 13.1 miles on tired legs, so I severely paced myself, turtle-style. Here they go, a play-by-play according to my Nike+ GPS.

Mile 1 11:48 Everything felt okay. I didn’t think I was running fast OR slowly. It turns out this was my 2nd fastest mile. 🙁

Mile 2 11:57 All was still so far so good. We were on the highway for a bit and the roads weren’t closed. I made sure to stay inside the orange cone area, try to avoid road kill and not get my feet stuck in the grids as I ran across a bridge.

Mile 3 12:44 This bridge continued and while I was slow, I kept running–there was no need to walk at this point and I actually passed a few people. I smiled to myself. This was also where I passed the sign that I had seen the night before. I felt pretty good and ready for more. It was getting hot outside, so I took off my throw-away long sleeve black shirt and tucked it under the windshield wiper of hubby’s car. It was right along the course outside the hotel so that way I didn’t really have to throw it away. One lady thought I was stopping already when she saw me hop off course and told me not to quit. I was like, REALLY?! Umm, it’s Mile 3. I’m not. Ate a GU. Okay, back to running.

Mile 4 12:13 Yay! I got faster for a slight bit. This amazed me because I had to go up some crazy hill at this point. {LOTS of hills on this course. When they said it was a challenging course, they weren’t lying!!!} But I RACED up that hill like there was a zombie behind me. I think I’m starting to like hills. This gave me some oomph and carried me through the rest of the mile.

Mile 5 12:24 The only thing memorable here was that I also ran past the Mile 11 marker and saw a guy running in the opposite direction. I was like, “Awww, *bleep* no! Is he REALLY at Mile 11 al*bleeping*ready and am I really only at Mile 5?!! *BLEEEEEEP*!!! I wasn’t mad at him. I just can’t believe how fast some people are. Blows my mind. I kept running MY race and pressed on.

Mile 6 12:32 This was a halfway point in my mind. I don’t really count the last mile of the half mentally, so yes, mile 6 is halfway there to me. Nothing memorable here, other than a girl trying to run along with me–I’m kind of a solo runner. Okay, not kind of. I am. I’ve said it time and time again, it’s my ME time and I don’t really want to talk. I don’t want a running buddy. I’m rocking out to my music and pretending I’m on Star Search American Idol. And that’s all I want to do. Seriously, if a race won’t let me run with music, I can’t do it. Music is my EVERYTHING on a run. Totally inspires me and keeps me going. I need Prince, Eminem, Jay Z, Whitney, Britney and Christina. Not a buddy. Sorry. 🙁 Ate a GU.

Mile 7 12:30
Mile 8 12:26
Mile 9 12:15

I was feeling okay during these miles apparently as I was going a little faster. I think I was just ready to be done, lol. It was hot, I somewhat had to go to the bathroom {didn’t want to stop though}, and I wanted my free beer at the end. I kept trying to get away from another woman who had her music playing out loud. Argghh!! She was messing with my mental concert.  Ate a GU. I pressed on.

Mile 10 13:11 I was somewhere around two hours and 5 minutes I believe. I knew if I pushed myself, I could get done way under my goal of three hours and I had pretty much a 5K left to run. But my calves seemed to be having other thoughts. No major problems with them yet, just twinges.

Mile 11 12:59 Okay, yes, yes, I think I could do it. My new goal wasn’t 3 hours, it was 2 hours 45 minutes.

Mile 12 14:45 Holy slow mile Batman! I don’t know where this came from. I hadn’t run a mile taking this long in a while. My left calf was acting NUTS. I tried to slow it down, do some weird stretches as I was going and kept pressing on. Yup, still running this whole time though even though the calf wanted to stop me. But some grids on yet another bridge majorly slowed me down, too. I had to walk across them this time. A lady in front of me almost bit the dust and I didn’t want to be her.

Mile 13 11:47 This was my fastest mile and I think all the energy I had saved suddenly busted out. I ran as fast as I could at this point. I kept looking at my watch and knew I was so close to 2:45. I could SEE the finish line and my left calf struck again. ARGH. I thought I was going to have to walk across the finish. I think that’s when my hubby snapped a few pictures of me.

The cramp went away JUST as I was getting a few steps away from the line and I did manage a half-jog right across. And oooh weee, did the leg cramps take over then. This is one of the reasons I kept running! I knew once I stopped, that feeling would set in. But I didn’t care! I went over to a Marine–they were handing out the medals–got my bling, found hubby and proceeded to hug and snap pictures. I was a half marathoner!!!

My beautiful medal. 😀 It’s heavy!

Those Velcro knee braces are really hot. I know you wish you had ’em haa. Focus on the medal. Or the shirtless guy behind me. Errr, how about focusing on my time then….2:46:39!! Woohoo!! Under 3 hours and I’ll just aim for under 2:45 next time. I’m VERY pleased with that for my first official time. That’s better than the two times I ran it on my own in July. I came in 1051/1201 overall, but what really matters to me is that I finished and did it!!!

And my feet did not fail me–these Mizunos kept me going strong. Definitely a brilliant run, I’d say!

Finally I was able to get my beer! Thank goodness Bud Light was not the only choice {yes, I’m a beer snob}. We got Shotgun Betty and it was the best beer ever. I love what it says to the right of my head. Worth it, indeed!!

Hubby helped me back on the water taxi and back to the hotel we went. It was time to get a quick shower and head home in time to catch my Steelers game. Yes, it was race day, but I still don’t mess around with missing my team!! As you can see, I quickly put my 13.1 oval sticker on my Xterra. I love it!!

I went to bed AND woke up today with some sore legs. Ice has been my BFF. I can’t even think about foam rolling right now, so I’ve been trying to manually massage them. Barring that and the weird & painful burn my Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor left across my chest (I put a little flower over the boob area–was having a wardrobe malfunction) I’m feeling alright!

Thoughts: I feel awesome. I think had I not gone rogue and stopped training, I could have even done better. But again, this time is amazeballs to me considering where I started from!!! I ran MY race and this was good for ME. Could I have run another 13.1 after this? Heck no. But I wasn’t training for a full. Could I run a full someday? I think I could!! This race taught me a lot, I cried three times during it {because I miss my Mommy and wanted to call her after the race if only I could have}, but it proved to me that I can do that which I did not think I could. I like surprising myself like that. 😉 Thank you soooooo much to everyone that cheered me on! You rock!!!

Thank you for reading this and I hope you enjoyed that protein bar. Again, I warned you it was long, haha. Hopefully you thought it was worth it!

How was your weekend? Any first time racers out there?

Comments 29

  • SO PROUD OF YOU GIRL! You hit a huge milestone and worked so hard to get to where you are! Can’t wait to say I’m a Half Marathoner like you soon! WOOT WOOT! 😉

  • Awesome job Cherie! I’m so excited that you can ‘officially’ tell the lady talking shit about your first two 13.1 mile runs to suck it!

  • Woohoo! Congratulations! I love that you’re already talking about your next one–it’s addicting, isn’t it?!

  • I am super proud of you, Cherie. I knew you would do great. I was running with my running club while you were running and tried to send you positive vibes. You should definitely order one of the official race photos when they come out. Also, the before and after pics are great. Undeniable reassurance you are living your best life.

  • I really need your opinion. So what do you think about these running shoes? I just saw this Reebok commercial with J.Sparks, Lil Rel, and Ruben Studdard and they look really hip and comfortable. http://bit.ly/ZigLite

  • Congratulations! Amazing! Love that you stopped at some locations for some amazing after pictures as well! I love wilmington and would love to go back!

  • I cried big ole tears reading this!!! I am so freaking proud of you, Cherie! I knew you had it in you and I wish now more than ever that I had run it. I’m glad you enjoyed it…and glad to see you’re already thinking about the next one! 🙂 You’re awesome, girl!

  • It was long but so worth the read. I love the mile by almost mile replay. Congrats on your race and take it easy with the recovery. I ran my first half 3 weeks ago and I have to say I am still living off the high. I love your before and after pics by the way. Its great to look back and see how far you have come.

  • Fabulous recap! I’m glad to hear it went so well! You rock! 🙂

  • Go you! That medal is so cool! I did my first half in March and the time limit was 3:30. I was shooting for under 3 hours but my goal was just to FINISH it. And it taught me that I do not EVER want to do a full. lol

    We did the Color Run this weekend. It was my 18 year old daughters first 5k. We walked/jog because she’s nowhere near in any shape to run it, but she had a blast.

  • Congrats!! After I completed my first half, I never thought in my lifetime that I would be checking out other half marathons to enter within 24 hours of completing my first. I’ve definitely caught the bug :).

  • Congratulations!!
    Awesome job and a really cool, fun race recap.
    I love the “first timer” vests – such a cute idea 🙂 – and that medal. Wow, serious bling!

  • Great job!!! We love visiting Wilmington – what a beautiful city to run through 🙂

  • TEAM CHERIE! CHERIE! CHERIE! CONGRATULATIONS!!! You did it (three times now). I never doubted that you would, plus you beat your anticipated time. Great review – and it was not long at all. I wanted to read more. Great comparison pics! Great looking medal! Outstanding accomplishment! You DID IT!!!!

  • Congrats to you Cherie! You did AWESOME!
    I get that weird chafing from my HRM too. Body glide… it’s not just for inner thighs anymore.. lol 🙂

  • Thats awesome!!!! Congrats!111

  • Amazing!!! Congrats on a great 1st half marathon! But, yowsa! That chafing doesn’t look like it feels good.

  • Amazing! Congrats on a great first Half Marathon! But yowsa! That chafing doesn’t look like it feels too good.

  • Congrats!!! You did great! Also, that medal is super cool looking!

  • First of all HUGE congrats on finishing!! I just ran my first ever half a couple weeks ago. Reading your review so reminded me of myself. I had never run that distance. My time was very close to yours but I am with you in that just finishing is a huge accomplishment! 13.1 miles is no joke so congrats on doing it! I also wanted to say wow and congrats on the before and after shots. Those are awesome to see!

  • Awesome race, Cherie! Congrats. 🙂

  • Awesome job!!!! I’m a total beer snob too LOL. And ouchie on that strap. I’ve stopped wearing my garmin strap b/c I now have scars from that rub! (BTW, adding you to my way to go wednesday post tomorrow)

  • Congrats!!!!! Awesome awesome job!! I too remember seeing people already lapping mile 11 or the finish even and I was barely halfway! so maddening (in a funny way, not truly mad!) how fast some people are naturally! But you did awesome, great work!!!!

  • Totally worth it! Congratulations! Long distance running can be slow and painful and burning…and you smashed it!

  • You did AMAZING!!! I walked it, and am just at the beginning of my weight loss journey. I gave out at mile 12.5, when the cop told me I still had a mile and a half to go. no more asking race volunteers/ police officers, I’m getting me a GPS watch. Great job, awesome before and after pictures!

  • Congrats on finishing your first half!! Awesome time! My goal for my first half was also under 3 hours. I hope to finish in under 2:30 next year. But finishing at all is what counts! You rock!

  • You are all AMAZING for leaving me such sweet words of congratulations!!! Fabulously amazing. And I looooooved reading the comments about your own personal races!! You really made ME cry with these replies. Happy tears of course! And y’all have me thinking I could actually tackle a marathon one day!! 😀 Hmmm could it be?!

  • maybe I missed the post- but what training plan did you follow for this half?? I am determined to run one next year- probably either spring (if i am ready) or fall (because I hate summer races) and don’t where to begin- thanks so much!!
    great pictures from the race- and I love all the pictures from your time before and after- I am a huge picture person and love seeing all yours in posts.
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