Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Victory: The Oakland Half Marathon

So, here it is... the long-promised half marathon post.

I won't lie.  The run was great.  I never, never, never thought I'd be one of those people who talks about fitness in general (or running in particular) as a good thing... as something I looked forward to... but things change.

I was totally anxious the morning of the run.  I stayed up way too late stressing about things like sunblock and Port-A-Potties.  My alarm went off at 5:30am and I had 1.5 hours to eat and drink water and get out the door for the 7am bus to the start line.  In typical Heather style, I used about 15 minutes of my prep time to actually prep (sunblock, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed) and the rest to read the latest edition of Vogue, start a new book, water plants and change my sheets.  Long story short, I missed my bus... my backup bus... and my backup-backup bus.*

I ended up walking 45 minutes to the start line, which was a good thing because by the time I reached the Starbucks in Uptown Oakland, I was ready for a bathroom break.  I was so thrilled to be able to use a bathroom with an actual sink and a toilet that flushed!  Port-A-Potties be damned!

I got to the start line about 20 minutes before we had to line up, which was just enough time to check my bag and down a banana (thank you, PointsPlus!  I might not have eaten this power food if I'd had to sacrifice 2 points for it!).

The next 2 hours and 20 minutes are sort of a blur.  I remember being really focused and humorless at the start line.  Other runners were cheering (doing actual cheers) and yelling (woo! yeah!) but I could not crack a smile.  All I could think was Do I need to pee?  I think I need to pee.  What if I have to pee while I'm running?  Did I put on enough sunblock?  Oh, God.  What if I get a cramp.  Or blisters.  What if I didn't train enough?  Can I still drop out?  Ugh.

Those anxious thoughts continued for about 8 miles, despite the fact that the lovely people of Oakland were out in full force cheering on their neighbors.  There were bands at every mile, plenty of water stops and a lot of stuff to distract anxious runners.  Still, I couldn't get out of my head until more than 1 hour in, when my iPod playlist landed on Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams".  I love that song.  It totally snapped me into the moment and, at the next mile marker, there was a group of about 20 members of the Raider Nation.  I high-fived a guy in a gorilla suit as a I ran by.  Friends, if there's anything that can snap you out of a funk, it's a group of guys in black and silver dancing to "Disco Inferno" while wearing gorilla suits and Afro wigs.  I wish I'd brought my camera so I could show you but I was way too nervous to worry about keeping track of a camera.

Miles 8-13.1 were much better than miles 1-8.  My friend Becca was standing at mile 9 to cheer and I saw her just when I needed a familiar face.  Miles 9-12 were around the lovely Lake Merritt, where I do my weekly runs, so I was on familiar turf.  At mile 10, I realized I was not in pain.  It dawned on me that I actually was going to finish, which was goal #1.

At around mile 12.5 or so, Becca was there to cheer again and my friend Carmel was with her!  What a great treat!  Seeing them kept me going until the finish line... where I saw them again! (They actually ran through a back street just so they could cheer for me... I love them.)  Carmel took this photo just a couple of blocks from the finish line.

People.  It was mile 13 and I was smiling.  Wild!

So, I finished in 2:21:02, which works out to 10:48 per mile.  That's a little slower than I'd hoped for -- I wanted to run closer to a 10:30 mile.  But I consciously took it easy because I wanted to run the whole way, without walk breaks.  I was also proud of my Nike+ stats for the run.  Pretty consistent pace!

Carmel took this picture after I crossed the finish line and got my medal.

After the run, Becca, Carmel and I walked to Becca's apartment.  As I freshened up, the girls made me the most wonderful brunch: goat cheese omelette/chicken-apple-cinnamon sausage/mimosa.  It was perfect.  And I slept like a baby when I crashed out at 9pm Sunday night.

It's wild to think how much you can change your life over the course of just one year.  Last March 27, I was miserable and felt trapped in a deep hole I didn't think I would ever be able to dig my way out of it.  I still have a lot of self-doubt, but that's what makes me such a planner and Weight Watchers is great for planners like me!

The next hurdle is another run this weekend in Washington, DC.  It's 10 miles so I feel confident about the distance... I just hope I'm not pushing myself too far.


*I missed the backup-backup because I walked into the rose garden while I waited and saw that new bushes have been planted, the fountains have been filled and a duck couple has moved in!  I took this photo as my backup-backup bus was pulling away without me.


  1. Heather you look fantastic!! Wish I was still in the Bay Area so some of your motivation would wear off on me, I need it! Take care!
    Karen Wulferdinger

  2. So you know what's annoying? I will never, ever look that good at the end of a long run. :) You still look so fresh and even your hair looks great (french braids are a brilliant idea, btw. i will be stealing that plan from you when i have a mudder in May). Congrats! And I know what you mean about the "how-is-this-my-life" moments - I can't believe that I regularly engage in exercise, much less actually compete in races and such. It'll be 10 years before the newness wears off for me.

  3. Yay + congrats!
    Let's go back there when the roses are in bloom!

  4. Heather - You look so good girl! I am so proud of you! I was about to start doing something myself. But, I got divorced and had to put down Kitty Cat Claude. So, depression and being poor (as I am now having to pay ALL the house bills) have made me lose 30 pounds!

    Love you lots! Keep it up!

    Shell (your friend in Austin)