Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hershey Half Marathon

WARNING: This is a long post (my first half was kinda a big deal to me ;)

My first half-marathon is DONE!! I still can’t believe I did it. Not that I can’t believe the weeks and weeks of training paid off, I just can’t believe it was a goal to even consider running a half-marathon! I NEVER would have imagined this when I first attempted to start running 3 years ago.

We (me, hubby Michael, son Ryan) left Friday afternoon to drive up to York, PA were my buddy Jeff lives who is also running with me (his first half too). Although not looking forward to a 7 hour drive, I had been excited about the race all week. I wore a pair of compression calf sleeves to help my legs for the long ride. I also had several Running World magazines to keep me busy. We ate lunch before leaving so we only made one quick stop for a bathroom break and refreshment…fro-yo!

Sweet Frog fro-yo is my fave!
We got to York around 8:30 or so and were ready for dinner. Jeff’s parents stopped by and we all went out to eat. Time to start carb loading. I had a yummy cheeseburger and fries, nothing like American classics! We chatted for a while at the restaurant and some more at Jeff’s house before calling it a night.

Saturday morning I had an easy 2-3 miles on the schedule. I wanted to get that out of the way before heading into Hershey for packet pick-up. After a banana for a quick breakfast, I went out and ran 2.5 miles. I actually didn’t go at the easy pace like I thought I would. Probably because Jeff took off like it was 5k race day! I kept my pace around 10:30 but it should have been around 11:30. The run was just supposed to keep my legs moving anyways. After everybody got ready we headed up to Hershey.

The race expo wasn’t super big. They had about 40 vendors and quite a few of them were local vendors. I was still excited since this was my first race expo! The bag was a nice reusable bag and had 2 tickets to Hersheypark After Dark, a piece of chocolate, pen, noise maker, and the race t-shirt. The main thing I wanted to get at the expo was the 13.1 magnet that has a Hershey Kiss where the "dot" is. But I also ended up buying these BondiBands. I’ll have to post a review on these after I have a chance to test them out.

Yes, it looks like I have a drinking problem, but these were funny to me!
After the expo we headed to the Under Armor outlet where Jeff’s girlfriend Laura works (we picked her up before the expo). The prices were somewhat less expensive in the outlet but with Laura’s additional discount, the prices were really good. But I didn’t find anything I really needed at the time. Next stop was lunch at Houlihan’s. It was very good. I got a grilled chicken sandwich with mashed potatoes (sounds odd but I wasn’t in the mood for fries again). The mashed potatoes were actually really good!

The day was flying by so when we got back to York, we decided to just make spaghetti at Jeff’s house instead of going back out to eat. We thought it would be best to just chill out and get some rest since race start was at 7:30am! Remember when I said the race sold out before we could get my hubby Michael registered? Well, all week he had been looking online at craigslist for race bibs. There were actually some out there but we never contacted the sellers. Thinking we may find one when we got here, Michael packed his running stuff just in case. He must have got a little excited after the race expo because all afternoon he kept trying to find a bib for sell online. Finally Saturday evening we found one and that meant he would be running his first half-marathon too! Who decides to run a half 12 hours before race start?!? Not me.

After dinner, I got my running stuff together and tried to relax but I was too anxious. I knew it was going to be tough to sleep especially since I had to wake up at 4:30am. I got some sleep but woke up around 3:45 and just stayed awake. I got ready and went to eat breakfast. A slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana seems to be the best pre-race fuel for me. It was cold and dark but we were on our way to Hershey. First we had to meet the people selling Michael the race bib. I’m sure we looked odd at 6am in a Wal-Mart parking lot doing a "race bib deal" but it was all good. The race organizers don’t transfer bibs but if someone gives you their bib it’s okay but you have to race under their name. So Michael’s name for the race was Tara Jo or TJ as we like to call him. He’s also a 30 year old female!

We got to the race site a little early and I’m so glad because we got a good parking spot and there were no long lines for the bathroom! It was still cold and dark. I planned on wearing a short sleeve shirt since the temps were supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny, but it was around 42 degrees at 7am and I was cold. We all decided to put long sleeves on over and we could just take them off if we got hot. I’m glad I packed extra "everything" just in case!

Pre-race me and Michael (aka TJ)

Jeff pre-race stretching

Me and Pat (Jeff's mom) she looks so warm!
We went to start lining up at our corrals and I felt like I wanted to make one more bathroom stop but the lines were crazy long! Like so long, there was no way that people were going to make it through before race start. Good thing I already went. I thought I would line up at the 10 minute mile pace even though I expected to be closer to 11 minute miles. But for some reason we all decided to line up together at the 9 minute mile pace. We weren’t going to run together since we were all different paces (them being much faster than me) but I think it helped being at the start together. Michael was thinking he would just run with me (maybe since his name wasn’t actually on record for this race, hmmm) but I told him that was crazy. He needed to run his own race I would be fine. Five seconds later, he was gone.

I guess nobody really lines up were they are supposed to because once we started, people were passing each other like crazy. Even I was passing people. They were even race walkers in front of me. I knew I was going to fast that first mile but I felt great. Coach Jen’s plan was to break the race up into thirds. Run the first 4 miles at a nice easy pace, next 5 miles more at a tempo run, and then the last 4 miles you run with all that you got, strider the last .10 (a strider is like a sprint). I tried to slow down but I couldn’t do it. My first mile was 10:01.

Right after we started the sun was out in full force! I wasn’t even done with the first mile before I got hot and took off my long sleeve shirt. I thought about tossing it (many other people we doing that) but decided to just tie it around my waist. If it bothered me too much I could toss it later. The first 2 miles were around Hershey Park and the stadium. The third mile was actually through some of the park which was kind of cool, although a bit crowded. You really had to pay attention or you could run into a park bench or tree or even a ride!

Once we made our way through the park the course went through downtown and into residential streets. It was so great to see all the crowd support. Lots of people were holding up signs and there was plenty of cow bell! One of my favorite signs was "Worst Parade Ever"! The miles were just going by and I was still feeling good. Although I did slow my pace down. I kept noticing that the mile markers were about .20 miles off from my Garmin. I factored that in when it was time to refuel at the halfway point. I ate 3 chews when my watch said mile 6 and by the time I was done, I was at the aid station for water.

Mile 7 was a little tough for me. The course was hillier than I thought it would be and I was starting to wear down a bit. I guess the chews hadn’t kicked in yet. Trying not to let negative thoughts into my head, I focused on the crowd and their cheers started to help. Then, one of my favorite songs ever came on my iPod, "These Days" by the Foo Fighters. All that helped me to refocus and pick up my pace. I wanted to enjoy the race and tried to take in all my surroundings. I loved the crowd support! Several spots had kids cheering us on and they would have their hand out so you could slap it as you ran by. There were a few country scenic areas that were so pretty with the fall leaves and bright sun.

When I got to mile 11 it really hit me that I was really going to finish and I started to get a little emotional. I was wondering if I would cry tears of joy when I crossed the finish line. Would people think I was crazy if I did? I was wondering about Michael and Jeff and how they finished. I decided to see if I could pick up the pace and started to think about a goal finish time. Finishing was all that really mattered but of course I still had an ideal finish time. Originally it was 2:15 but during the training I realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. Now at mile 11 I thought I may be able to do 2:20.

At mile 12 I looked up and saw a familiar shirt. It was Jeff. Something must have happened because he should have finished at least 15 minutes ago. I ran up beside him and asked him if he was ok. His foot had started hurting really bad around mile 7 and he had to run/walk ever since. I felt so bad that happened to him. We ran together for a little bit and then we got to another hill around the 12.5 mile mark and he needed to walk. I ran on because I was ready to get to the finish line and I thought I could make my 2:20 goal time.
I saw the stadium and there was one last killer hill. I thought we would be entering after that hill. No keep running down and around into the stadium. I was still expecting to see the finish line but didn’t. I heard a voice calling my name that sounded familiar. I looked up and saw Michael, Ryan and Pat (Jeff’s mom) cheering me on. Finally I saw the finish line. I threw my arms up as I crossed in excitement! I got my medal and started walking towards the recovery area. I got a bag with snacks, a foil thing to wrap up in, and water. I was feeling a little disoriented and my legs felt like jello. Michael found me and gave me a big hug and said how proud he was of me…awwww. Jeff finished right after me and once we got everybody together we headed to the field to recover.

Heading to the finish line
We ate some snacks, stretched for a bit and took a few pictures. I didn’t get a picture at the "official wall" and I wished I had. Michael said it was over there but I didn’t realize what he was talking about until we were gone. We stopped at a diner for some much needed blueberry pancakes, bacon and chocolate milk! Yeah, I was expecting chocolate milk at the finish but there was only water. Come on Hershey! After showering and resting for a few hours, we headed back out for more food and HersheyPark After Dark. Although we really didn’t feel like walking around an amusement park, this was the ONE thing we promised Ryan. It actually wasn’t so bad thanks to my compression socks! We rode a few roller coasters and walked around long enough to satisfy Ryan and called it a night. What a weekend!

Everybody with their medals!

Ryan still rocked the UNC sweatshirt even after their lost to Duke and in Penn St. country!
It feels so amazing to have completed my first half-marathon! My official chip time was 2:22. My Garmin actually had 13.33 miles, what?! Guess I didn’t efficiently run the tangents. I’m very happy with my time. I know I’m not fast. My two goals were to FINISH the race and to run the whole time. And I did both! I did take water at all the aid stations and slowed down to a walk for those but that was only for about 10 seconds so they don’t count! I had an ideal finish time and I came close to that. I am a little disappointed in the medal…a Reese’s cup? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Reese’s cup. But I was expecting a Hershey Kiss since that’s what I saw online. I guess that was last year’s medal…how dumb of me not to think they would change it!

We left PA Monday morning and on the ride home I was already thinking about which half-marathon is next! Maybe one at the beach on a nice flat course, that sounds nice!


  1. Awesome! I just finished this one as my first on Sunday. I have to say my Nike App also had me at a higher number of miles, but I am just proud to have finished. Thank you for this blog!


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