My First Half Marathon…

So to begin my first post in my new blog? I have had a blog before through another site but it got stale – I wasn’t on it much. Like the tag says this is my “mind palace.” This is where I will go to get away from the world. To let my mind flow and be well…be me.

So where to begin – that’s where we were, right?

How about this – a race recap of completing my first half marathon last Saturday at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

When I began officiating high school basketball here in Indiana in 2006 to stay in shape during the off season I would run on an elliptical or treadmill. In April – when getting back in shape finally clicked with me – I was getting frustrated with running on the treadmill at my gym because I either had to wait for one to become available, there was a half-hour time limit and some days I really wanted to run farther, and there sometimes was this one lady who needed a particular treadmill and if you were on it she stared you down or stood there tapping her foot until you were finished. I often refer to her as “Treadmill Nazi.”

Finally my friend, Colleen, bugged me enough that I was motivated to try running outside. I had never really run outside on a consistent basis since junior high school when I was on the track team. I ran some leading up to basketball season when I played and also before being a counselor at some Fellowship of Christian Athlete basketball camps. Other than that this running outside was all new to me.

My friend, Daryl, when we first met back in 1993 was constantly running. He never really pushed me to run outside with him. There were times when I wished he had. When I told him I was signing up to run the Indianapolis Half Marathon he signed up as well. Actually he signed up before me. Along with Colleen he would become one of my virtual training partners leading up to race day.

I didn’t realize I would like it so much. I seriously dread when there is bad weather this winter in Indiana and I will have to go to the gym. It’s either the treadmill or the elevated track on those days.

For several years now I have been wanting to race. My wife, Wendy, has always said it had to be for a great cause. She came home from church one night and said there was a meeting about running with a group called “Team World Vision” and getting donations for people to have clean water in Africa. If this was the only way I was going to get her blessing to run a race then I better do it.

I went to the meeting following service the next morning and was hooked. I looked at the running plan they passed out at the meeting and giggled. I had never ran a half marathon before but I have been around enough runners and listened to them to know the mileage this one gave was by no means one to use if I wanted to be competitive on Oct. 19.

I went to Barnes & Noble and bought three books and the latest edition of Runner’s World. When I got home I took one of our laptops and googled different sites and on the other one I had spreadsheets. My goal was to put a plan together for me that would make me competitive and have the best race possible.

After several hours of a closed door session in my office and a phone conversation with the Greenwood High School track coach, Tad Frahm, I had put together a plan. It was one I felt would make me as Tad would consistently say make me “racey on race day.”

Saturdays were the “long runs” with my “team” through Mount Pleasant Christian Church. To have watched a lot of us grow together and also improve is a great testament. To give you an overview of the training schedule – Sundays were rest days, Mondays and Fridays were easy run days, Tuesdays were my speed workout days, Wednesdays were hill workouts and Saturdays as mentioned were the long runs.

I went from running 22 miles a week – which is what I was running before the training began – and peaked at 39.1 two weeks before the race.

Some of the highlights and lowlights along the way

  • I got faster as the training began
  • my first hill repeat on Skyline Drive with the humidity about killed me but it made me stronger. I smile as I look from that first workout to the others the rest of the training cycle and see the improvement each week.
  • don’t only run – mix in strength training as well – not as much with the legs but upper body and not to bulk to mainly tone. I totally enjoyed doing the plank and side planks along with crunches and russian twists. Again from the Runner’s World books and magazine articles.
  • had two horrible head colds during training – one in July and then one two weeks before the race. Fortunately I recovered quickly and got back to the training schedule with ease.
  • I purposely made my 15-mile run three weeks before the race have as many inclines as I could – it paid off HUGE on race day!
  • I did pretty much every workout I read about in Runner’s World or in the Runner’s World’s book “Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training” to a “T” I also did several of the workouts on the website including “A Big Kick.”
  • To add to this always read the fine print – ie when Runner’s World profiles someone on its cover. Haley Higgings was on the cover of the half marathon issue. On the table of contents page in a box Higgings describes her “mailbox fartlek” I rotated those along with a pyramid and interval speed runs.
  • even with the gradual increase of mileage I never suffered any serious injuries. Of course I had the usual muscle soreness and I did take an occasional day off to rest.
  • I hated missing runs but life happens, right? Thankfully my job and schedule allowed me to re-arrange when I needed to get the most important long runs.
  • there was a lot of self doubt late in training especially as race day drew near. By posting my runs on Facebook and Twitter, people were constantly complimenting me and telling me how I was going to “rock” my half marathon. I wasn’t so sure and on some days pressed a little harder than I should have just to make sure I did have that speed.
  • my best run was by far the 15 miler two weeks before the race – it was perfect running weather – maybe a little too sunny if anything – it was 53 degrees when I began at my mailbox and was about 63 when I finished two hours later.
  • As hard as I tried to make getting to the start line injury free and finish strong my only goal about midway through the training I had two times I would like to make. One I knew would be obtainable – especially after running 13.1 miles a month before the race. The other time – one that EVERYTHING had to go right including how I felt on race day morning and also what the weather was like.
  • ALWAYS TRUST THE TAPER! Don’t fear it – EMBRACE IT!
  • I have to add this – one of the hysterical moments of training was while my family and I were in Louisville, Ky. I finished my run and went up the elevator. When the door opened I was greeted by three women and one man – all scantly clad and each carrying a champagne bottle and pretty sure they had taken a dip in the hotel pool. BTW – it was 6:45 AM!

So let’s get to the race…

I had begun watching the weather when the first 10-day forecast were reported. As each day passed the weather continued to look grimmer for race day. When I went to pick up my packet on Friday it was beautiful – sunny and about 60 degrees. Saturday was forecasted to be completely opposite. Cold and rain. When the horn went off to start the race at 8:30a it was supposed to be 38 degrees. I had taken the advice of others and ran in my “race day” set up on all of my long runs – Team World Vision tank, Brooks shorts, Brooks socks and Brooks Ravenna 4s and my Butler visor. I added the arm warmers from Team World Vision in September. I figured adding the 20-degree rule in would mean I was running as if it was 60 degrees. Basically what you see in my profile picture is what I wore on race day.

After the quick team meeting – rally clap, prayer and some inspirational words – it was time to head to the start line. It was still raining – not as hard as it was during my drive to catch the shuttle at the hotel but enough to notice and it wasn’t getting any warmer.

All training season it barley rained – maybe four times if that. The only significant rain of late was my last long run where I did miles four through nine with race pace. Just as I was about to finish my 9th during that run the clouds opened up. My wife text me to see if I wanted to come get me. I was in a subdivision next to where I grew up. I tried to type to reply but the rain kept hitting the keyboard too and it became worthless. Finally I decided not to answer and run/walk the rest of the way home. Other than about six days of really hot temperatures mixed with high humidity the weather was never a factor. Call it “Murphy’s Law” or God’s sick sense of humor, right?

Lauren from my MPCC team and I were in the same corral. We decided to start off together. We had run almost every Saturday together in our long runs and gotten to know each other fairly well. She is a former collegiate cross country and track runner and I could somewhat relate to it from long ago. I thought it would be a great way for me to break one of my fears of coming out of the gate too fast and then get into my race pace.

Mile 1: Lauren and I stayed together for the most part. We reached the 1 mile marker at 7:33 and my legs were suddenly chomping at the bit to go. I thought if I could stay somewhere around 7:30 pace for the first half and anywhere from 7:00 to 7:15 for miles 6-10 and then give everything I had left miles 11-13.1 I would be in good shape.

Mile 2: we were into the state park at this point and my legs were ready to go fast. I did what I could to corral them but the pace felt comfortable and I figured as long as I wasn’t hurting let’s settle in and enjoy it. I passed some people and some people passed me. I had lost all sight of Lauren. It was frustrating because I wanted to share the run yet it was like the all my other runs except for those Saturday runs with her – I was running alone.

Mile 3 – out of the state park and onto Boy Scout Road – the road wind and inclined. I began to wonder if I had come out too fast as other runners began to pass me that I had originally passed during mile 2. Then I remembered what I had told myself during the hill repeat workouts on Skyline Drive and when I ran my “hilly routes” on race day envision those roads and run like as if you were back training. It really began to feel normal as I continued up the incline to begin the fourth mile.

Mile 4 – one of the two big inclines I knew about from driving the course back on Labor Day and watching the video on the race’s website – up 56th Street back into Fort Ben. Still thinking about Skyline Drive I began to pick up the pace again. As I got up to the top of the incline there was a small section of people cheering and holding out their hands. I gladly gave a few high fives as I passed. The fourth mile finished just at the top of the incline and I was feeling good.

Mile 5 – finishing the incline and back through to Fort Ben. I believed I had settled into a pace – by now my phone had become drenched. The MapMyRun app was only going to be good to tell distance and time when I was finished – I wasn’t going to be able to hear “Jane” at all because the least bit of water gets into the headphone jack and makes sound useless. I also had already decided I wasn’t going to continuously  take my arm band off and on during the race. It was all by feel at this point and seeing what the clocks said at the remaining mile markers.

Mile 6 – felt as though I kept the same pace as mile 5 there was some incline as I continued on to the turn around at the VFW and into mile 7. It was at about this point I was passed by someone and it looked like they had settled into a pace that I decided I would follow as long as I could. Remember what I said about doing everything in Runner’s World’s issue on half marathon racing? Mile 6 in the “Rules” find someone and keep them close as your pacer. That’s what I had done with the last person who passed me and had settled into a pace for me to trail.

Mile 7 – included the turn around at the VFW and heading back down Lee Road and into the bike entrance of the state park again. As we headed south I continued to look for people I knew heading north to see how others were doing. I saw a few wearing “Team World Vision” shirts but none that belonged to my MPCC Team. The pace still felt good and I continued to press on knowing this was as flat as it was going to be for awhile especially when we got to mile 10-11. I wasn’t planning on “banking” time because of the hills to come. The goal on the hills wasn’t to speed up or slow down but to keep effort.

Mile 8 – into the state park  and there were gaps between several of the runners. Still the one who had passed me back during mile 6 I kept in sight. We were getting near the hardest part of the course I felt. I still felt good – I hadn’t hit a wall and was comfortable with the pace. It was also during this mile that the rain again began to pick up and the drops coming off the leaves hit a little bit harder as well. Thank goodness I wore my visor as suggested in the Runner’s World tool “What to Wear” off its website.

Mile 9 – this would be my fastest mile of the race! It didn’t feel any different than any of the other miles – it all felt like I was keeping a good pace throughout the race. My main concern was keeping the one runner slightly in front of me as much as possible. She didn’t look like she was going to pull away anytime soon. I wanted to keep her within striking distance for the last quarter of the race.

Mile 10 – some incline and now I could tell I slowed down. I had been told by others who were veteran half marathoners and had read – “Mile 10 is where the wall hits. Find a way to stay positive. Don’t let down.” This is also the stretch where toward the end of the mile you see others who are on mile 9. I saw Lauren. She smiled but I could tell she might be in some pain. I yelled back at her “Keep it up! You’re doing great!” My positive moment then came – “think as if you’re running on Saturdays with the group and how those went by so fast.”

Mile 11 – every race has it’s “Heartbreak Hill” I have been told. For the Indianapolis Half Marathon at Historic Fort Benjamin Harrison it is ALL of this mile.  This is the part of the race that every Wednesday I either did the hill-repeat workout on Skyline Drive or I ran my “hilly course” As I stated above I made that 15-mile-long run have as many hills as possible. It wasn’t originally supposed to be this way. I ended up doing it because to be honest I had originally missed my hill workout that week. When I woke up that Wednesday morning I couldn’t muster the motivation to run. Thus I felt like I had to make it up and throwing the inclines in would be the best solution. Skyline Drive was perfect because it goes up just like the beginning of this mile and as Skyline becomes Horizon Boulevard it also has smaller inclines until it ends at Stones Crossing Road. That is what I continuously visioned in my mind as I went up one hill to the next during this mile. It was this focus I believe that kept me strong throughout the entire race and thinking I was back on the paths I ran during training. During these hills I was stride for stride with one gentlemen and I asked him what the pace were were on and he said “7:19” During the first couple of hills we had taken turns passing each other. When I broke by him this time I wouldn’t see him again. Also on one of the hills I passed one of the youngest runners in the race – who was also a part of Team World Vision but with Northview Church. He was out of gas and had his hands on top of his head. The hills had gotten him. I silently said a prayer for him as I passed. I hoped he would regain his composure and be able to finish strong. Toward the end of the hills I caught up with my “pacer” more than I had since she passed me back before the VFW turn around.

Mile 12 – During my race preparation I vowed once through that final incline of mile 11 it would be “Big Kick” time for the final two miles. I meant to leave everything I had left on that course – why would I waste the previous 486.14 miles of training, right? This was it. The “pacer” was gliding along – and instead of about 20 feet away from her I was about five – especially after we had left the hills. We were again crossing paths with people heading north to mile 7 and the VFW turn around as we were heading south to the finish line. I could tell I had picked up my pace. I sensed I was getting ready to reel “pacer” in and finish strong through this last mile and half. Then as we approached the 12-mile marker “Pacer” did the unthinkable – she veered off the course and into the woods! WE HAD 1.1 to go and she left the course to go to the bathroom – I assumed. It startled me at first. My whole objective when she originally passed me and she settled into a pace was to A. keep her within reach; B. match her kick at the end; C. if she didn’t make a kick then I was to make my kick, reel her in, pass her and finish strong. Now I thought to myself “What do I do?” After the momentary lapse quite simply there was only one thing to do “Kick it!”

Mile 13 and 13.1 – with “Pacer” out of my sight it wasn’t a full-sprint to the finish line but it was kick it up a notch as best I could. I got to the marathon/half marathon split and knew all that was left was six-tenths of a mile. Again as I had done throughout the race I visioned parts of the routes I ran during the training as it pertained to that part of the race. This time I thought about coming out of the path in my subdivision onto Wakefield Road and then my own street as I did back on Sept. 21 when I ran 13.1 for the first time. As I turned on Lawton Loop East Drive I heard one of my favorite songs from Building 429 – “Where I Belong” – interestingly enough it was another Building 429 song “We Won’t be Shaken” which had kept me going during most of this race because I was not going to let rain and the cold break me after four months of training for this moment. I had heard a lot of people say they get emotional during that last mile of their first half. I was there. Hearing that song inspired me to go even faster as I then could see the finish line. I also thought about the last several years as I made the turn on Otis Avenue. The sudden deaths of my parents, not completing graduate school, falling short of my dream job, my wife’s emergency surgery back in June prior to beginning the training for this race and seeing a glimpse of what life would be without her and never wanting that lost feeling again. Thankful she gave me the support she did during this especially during those times when I felt I had reached my limit and wasn’t improving. I prayed silently that how hard I trained during these four months my four sons realize what happens when you work hard. Thankful God kept me injury free these four months – minus the occasional sore muscles from time-to-time. Blessed he gave me great weather for training and that I was going to finish the race injury free. Finally, thankful I was able to raise $1,510 for 30 people to have clean water in Africa for the next year. I crossed the finish line but for them they have a new beginning.

Crossed the line at exactly 1:35:00 – right in the middle of both my time goals! When I ran 13. 1 as previously mentioned I did it in 1:39:57 and felt like I still had a lot left in the tank after that run. I knew I could break 1:40:00 easily. If everything went right on race day I thought there could be an outside chance at – gasp – 1:30:00! But EVERYTHING had to go right. The weather threw my mind set off a little bit because of the conditions I gave up hope at that goal when I began seeing the forecast as the week progressed to race day.

Overall here’s the results:

Mile Splits:

Mile 1: 7:33

Mile 2: 7:06

Mile 3: 7:23

Mile 4: 7:06

Mile 5: 6:58

Mile 6: 6:57

Mile 7: 7:06

Mile 8: 7:01

Mile 9: 6:54

Mile 10: 7:22

Mile 11: 7:24

Mile 12: 7:07

Mile 13: 7:00

Placed 5th in my age group; 6th in Masters Division (it was a RRCA Championship Event); 31st male and 39th overall

Colleen ran the race as well. Her and I had become “virtual running partners” during the training. She finished with a time of 1:54:54; unfortunately because of the weather and me having to do somethings with Team World Vision after the race we didn’t meet up as planned along with her co-worker Matt, who also ran the race with her. It was great though because on the days when neither one of us felt like running we made sure to get something done. We both knew with one of the two of us running the other one would be burning not to get out there and do some sort of mileage that day even if it was a 5k.

Daryl had a rough go of it. He actually drew blood on the course. He tripped over a tree limb that was on the course. He about passed out at the sight of his own blood when he was being looked at by the medical team that was nearby where he fell. Bloodied but his pride was not bruised. Daryl would go on to finish the half – even if he made a wrong turn and was on the path for the 14th mile of the marathon and had to get somewhat redirected on the course to finish the race. Very proud that he got back out on the course and finished. Even prouder that he did the half marathon. I hope we can do some more races together again someday as well.

After the race I found Lauren at the tent. At about mile 7 she developed a horrible blister. I felt bad for her. She had done so well with her training. You could see in her eyes she was glad to be back running and for the cause of getting donations for clean water for Africa and for God to give her that opportunity. Lauren has raised $2,040 for Team World Vision!

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One of the signs along my “hilly route”

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Just some of the creatures I ran into during my training adventures

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this was one of those very hot days during training when after my run even my freckles were sore

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celebrating after receiving my medal – quite ecstatic with a 1:35:00 first half

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Lauren, Bruce and me in the Team World Vision tent after completing the Indianapolis Half Marathon at Fort Benjamin Harrison

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even though it was cold during the race after I got home and my family and I went to celebrate at Logan’s I came home and sat in an ice bath for 10 minutes

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the front of the coffee mug

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the back of it showing I finished as an age-group-award winner for the race

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my time slip

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closer look at the medal

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I officially belong to the 13.1 club – this sticker is on the back window of my truck

Ironically I found out the girl I made my “pacer” throughout most of the race – the one that went off the course with just a mile left – yep you guessed it – her name was Lauren. Go figure.

I was also proud of another one of my teammates – Bruce. He worked his way up through these 18 weeks. By reading his blog and also following his workouts when we didn’t run together on Saturdays you could see the improvement – at first weekly and then daily. It was amazing. I can’t express the words at all about him coming up to me and telling me he broke 2:00:00 on Saturday! 1:55:34! He’s also close to raising $5,000 for Team World Vision!

I was also glad to see Beth finish as well. She had worked hard to get back into running after being a premier sprinter in high school. She ran the half marathon with her daughter and they crossed the finish line together. She is such a remarkable individual and motivating and positive reinforcement as well.

Through it all this was one of most valuable experiences I could have ever been blessed through God to have. It was a great way for me to learn to Serve Others, Love Others and Reach Others.

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5 thoughts on “My First Half Marathon…

  1. Loved reading your post. So much of what you do in regards to training and preparing for a race sounds exactly like me. Congrats on your accomplishment and I look forward to reading more blog posts from you. God bless!!!

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  2. Way to go, Rob! So proud of you! Xoxo

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  3. Loved being your virtual running partner Rob. But mostly I’m just glad to have you as my friend. Excellent blog! Here’s to many more races in our future.

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  4. Brother, you are such an inspiration. I have been following you since you started with this training. I’m glad to call you my friend. Hopefully my knee issues are done, my weight will start coming off and I’ll be ready for my second half (my first to be ran). Thank you again Rob

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  5. Pingback: Rueff Report | RYAN YOU CAN DO THIS – LET’S GO RACING

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