other than the fact that it sent my photo-fiending to a whooooole new level of lens-lusting, that is.

i gave my mother a crash-course in using a camera phone while i was scrambling to get in place at the starting line, and then made sure she followed me around like my own personal paparazzi when the race was done. clearly, i have the world’s most amazing, patient, loving mother.

but honestly, i emerged from this experience with so much more than a album-full of fun photos, and running this race definitely taught me some invaluable lessons to keep in mind as i (hopefully) continue running more races in the future.

1. don’t underestimate yourself. i definitely did this during my preparation, right up to the morning of the race. i freaked out about my injuries, hemmed and hawed over my sneaker choices, was sure i couldn’t run without music, and set myself an unimpressive goal of “not dying.” in actuality, i felt great the day of the race, managed to approach it with an entirely calm mentality (thank you God for that little surprise gift!), and ran so much better than i had during any of my training runs. i psyched myself out only to have an incredible race, and all that worrying left me with nothing but chewed fingernails. bottom line: train hard, of course, but believe in yourself. you’re capable of way more than you’d expect.

i didn’t even come CLOSE to dying, so thank goodness i beat that ridiculous goal.

2. running with a friend is fabulous. i could probably make that #s 2-5 and still not be able to stress it enough. i’ve always considered myself a solo runner, preferring to take off alone and have my “me” time. that, and i’ll admit i’ve also been afraid to run with people and discover i’m holding someone back, or have them be a “better” runner than i am. all of this silliness and insecurity went out the window immediately when the race began, and i discovered just how much i absolutely loved running with Krystle. we’ve never gone on a single run together before that day, and yet looking back, i honestly cannot imagine having run my first half marathon any other way than with her. we encouraged each other, chatted, sang, giggled, and had an absolute blast running the whole thing side-by-side. i’m 100% certain i wouldn’t have done as well, felt as great, or had such an incredible experience had i not been running it with her, and i’m now a firm believer in the power of a fabulous running partner.

3. slow & steady actually does pay off. we started off at a slower pace than i probably begin most of my longer runs with, and i am positive that contributed immensely to how strong we felt and to helping us beat our goal time of under 2 hours. if i’d pushed myself harder in the beginning, i’m sure my knee would have begun to ache long before mile 10, and i know i wouldn’t have finished as strongly as i did. going slower and maintaining a consistent pace throughout the race made it possible for me to pick up the pace for the last 3 miles, and i think my fastest mile was actually my final one. i felt amazing going across the finish line, and the comfortable beginning pace definitely is what made that possible.


4. vanilla bean Gu is a gift from the gods. i’ve only tried using Gu during 2 runs prior to my race (both over 10 miles), and i wasn’t entirely sure when i’d want to take it. around mile 6.5-7, i decided maybe i could use the little extra boost of caffeine and hoped that taking it before i felt tired would pay off — and it did. i certainly felt the Gu kick in and add a little sugar-jolting pep to my steps, and let me tell you — Vanilla Bean Gu tastes like a shot of vanilla icing. it was so delicious, i just make cupcakes this week so i have an excuse to try out a new frosting. (maybe i’tll catch on in the running community?) 
the only mistake i made was not washing it down with water, so i felt a little sugary-sick for a few minutes aftewards. next time, i’ll definitely time it so that i can hit a water station right after i take the treat.

5. drinking saves your life.
and herein lay my horrible mistake: i didn’t drink.
i guess those weeks of training in which i severely cut down my wine consumption to maybe one glass a week unfortunately carried over into my refusal to suck down water or gatorade during the race, because i was a silly girl and hardly drank a thing during those 13.1 miles. sure, i hydrated plenty the day before and drank some water that morning, but i just felt so great and so strong and so excited cruising through those miles that i barely wanted to pay attention to the water stations. oh, i grabbed a cup of water or gatorade at most of them, but i rarely did more than wet my lips and take one tiny sip before chucking it to the side. honestly, i didn’t think twice about this decision at the time…
and afterward,  i spent the entire day sick as a dog. i felt wonderful for the first two hours after the race, riding high on my post-run glow, but things went downhill quickly when i got home. i spent about 8-10 hours on the couch or in my bed suffering from severe dehydration, with my wonderful mom trying to coax me to drink water. i’ve never been dehydrated before, and i can’t remember the last time i felt that awful. soooooo dumb on my part to think i could run for two hours in bright sunlight and barely take in more than a few sips of liquid. whoops! lesson learned the hard way. water is like a magic potion to a runner.

6. bring your fan club. i can’t lie: having my parents there to cheer me on (at the beginning, a 2 different locations during the race, and at the ending) was sooooo encouraging and meant the world to me. my dad kept me laughing by making sure to tell me that “people have already crossed the finish line, you better hurry up!” multiple times, and my mom could spot me and start screaming my name from miles away. i felt super loved to have people cheering me on, not to mention all the friends who were praying for me and sending me texts, emails and messages that whole weekend. a big accomplishment is that much better when you can share it with the people you care about, and this whole experience wouldn’t have been as wonderful for me had i not been so supported by those in my life.
so THANK YOU, friends. i love you all!