Monday, May 2, 2011

Heels and Hills Half Marathon 2011

I don't even know where to begin.  For the past three months, I have been getting up at 6:00 AM every Saturday for my long runs.  On Tuesday nights, you could find me at the track in Valley Ranch doing speed work.  Once the weather warmed up, I would come home after work and run 3-4 miles around the neighborhood.  I ran somewhere between 175 and 200 miles preparing for my my first half marathon and now it is over...

I ran a Half Marathon and I have a medal to prove it! 

We checked into the Omni Mandalay Bay in Las Colinas on Saturday afternoon and immediately headed to the pool so the kids could go swimming.  After family time at the pool, I headed upstairs to get ready for the Team in Training (TNT) Inspiration Dinner.  It was a night full of excitement, lots of purple attire, plates piled high with pasta and special recognition of the Honored Heroes; those men, women and children who have fought or are still fighting against blood cancer.  After dinner, we decorated our purple TNT race jerseys with our names, pictures and ribbons.for our honored heroes.   

I headed upstairs to my hotel room with high hopes of getting a good night's sleep.  However, my stomach was full of nervous butterflies and my room was full of two energetic little kids who were excited to be sleeping away from home.  It took about an hour to get them settled down and I finally drifted off for about two hours before I woke up to go to the bathroom at 1:00 AM (that is what pre-race hydration will do to you)!  When my alarm went off at 5:30 AM, I had managed to get between 4 - 4 1/2 hours of sleep. 

My nerves were settled by the morning and I took my time eating breakfast (bagel thin with peanut butter and a banana) before getting dressed.  Even though I was trying to be quiet, the kids woke up just before I left and gave me good luck kisses before I headed downstairs to meet my TNT teammates in the lobby.  Unfortunately it was raining, so we covered our carefully decorated jerseys with trash bags and walked 1/2 mile to the starting line.  The sky cleared up a little so we took advantage of the sliver of sunshine to take a team picture.  GO DFW METRO team!

Since the kids were already awake when I left the hotel, Trey got them dressed and brought them to the starting line to see me.  This was a nice surprise because I thought they were going to stay at the hotel, eat breakfast, and be there to cheer me on at the finish line.  Too bad they were both a little camera shy at 7:30 in the morning.  Can you tell that neither of them wanted their picture taken?  Sad Sophia face :(

Right after this picture I panicked when I realized that the race was starting in four minutes!!!!  I did not have time to stop at the porta potty or even warm up.  The good thing is that I did not have time to get nervous either.  Trey was still strapping the kids back in the stroller as I ran to the staring line, found a place near the 2 hour (9:05) pace group, and the race began....

The first few miles were on surface streets in Las Colinas as we made our way from Williams Square to the Champion Trails of Irving.  Once we passed the first water stop just after mile two, it started raining.  HARD.  So hard that if felt like sleet, which really stung.  I was basically running with one eye closed, trying to stay in the middle of the trail and wondering how long I could keep up this pace in the rain.  After about 10 minutes the rain tapered off a little but we were still running into the wind, which was gusting up to 20 mph.  Because it was so early in the race, I did not get discouraged.  In fact, I decided to pull away from the pace group and turned on my Ipod for some musical inspiration.  Time for Gu and Gatorade.

Around mile 5, I started to settle into my stride and really enjoy the race despite the challenging weather.  Lots of spectators lined the route near the turn around point and one of my TNT coaches was there to cheer me on.. 

"You are doing great, Steph!" he shouted.  "You are right on pace. Sub-two, you GOT this!"

After making the loop at the turn around, I started passing lots of TNT members.  "GO TEAM!" we shouted every time we saw a purple jersey.  This was the BEST point of the race for me and with six miles to go, I knew that I could finish strong.  More Gu and Gatorade. 

A few miles later, I started to chat with the runners around me.
"What's your goal?" the guy next to me asked.  We both agreed that we wanted to finish under two hours.

Behind me, I heard a man's voice ask, "Who is Jacob Norvell?"

I was running this race in honor of Jacob Norvell, the grandson of my co-worker, Janet Norvell.  Jacob, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at age four, is now nine years old and has been cancer free for almost two years. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has been a huge blessing to the Norvell family and they are very grateful for the care that Jacob received while he was fighting Leukemia. 

I ended up running the next several miles with this gentlemen, who told me his name was "Spareribs".  Those who follow the running blog in the Dallas Morning News will recognize him by this nickname that he acquired in college.  Spareribs, who will turn 65 this year, told me he had recovered from an injury in February and ran the Boston Marathon in less than 4 1/2 hours just thirteen days ago.

At mile 12, he stopped for a water break and told me to run on ahead.  I knew the finish line was getting closer with every step and I had forgotten about the weather conditions... until I noticed the cops directing people off the trails and onto the street in front of me. Other runners noticed too and commented to the police who yelled back at us "Bad weather is coming, we have to END this race!"

Two things crossed my mind at this point:
1) There is NO way I am going to stop this race with less than one mile to go!!
2) There is NO way I am going to let those girls who cut in front of me beat me either!

So... I started running FASTER.  As fast as my legs could carry me after running non-stop for 12 miles.   

With the finish line in sight, I started scanning the crowd for my family.  Blue shirt.  Trey was wearing a blue shirt.  I finally spotted him on the left side of the street and started yelling and waving to get his attention.

That is me waving at Trey
 My family was there!  They were holding signs, waving and cheering as I passed them on my way to the finish line.  I glanced up at the race clock and saw 1:56:58.  I finished in under two hours!!!!!  After some young boy handed me my finisher medal, Trey came running up and gave me a big hug!  "I can't believe you made it so fast!" he said before adding, "I didn't expect to see you for another ten minutes!" 

There was no time to celebrate because a storm was headed our way and we needed to take shelter.  Official race times were not posted and I was not even sure if the race had been stopped at that point.  I later heard that some runners where stopped for about ten minutes before the race resumed.  The storm ended up dissipating before it reached Las Colinas, so all the runners were safe.

We headed back to the hotel for some post race pictures (Tallen still did not want to participate in the pictures), then I showered and we celebrated with a post race beer over lunch. 

My official time was 1:56:47 and I placed 8th out of 49 in the "Mom of Toddlers" division. 

My half marathon experience was wet, windy, cold, exciting, inspiring, tiring, exhilarating, and at times overwhelming.  I would definitely do it again!  Just as soon as I can walk and climb stairs again without pain.  I am so sore!!!
One more thing... GO TEAM!!!



zane hollingsworth said...


Trisha said...

Wow! Great Job Steph! I can't believe you almost got stopped because of the weather! Congratulations! :D

Nick said...

SO awesome!! congrats!!

Kristi Sewell :) said...

You just made me tear up! You always amaze me! I am SOO proud! :)