I slepted early the day before and woke up at 5am. I was already dressed with my running shorts and shirt under my sweats. I just had to pin my bib number. I went outside my house and jogged for about 2 and a half miles to warm up. The morning was cold and my fingers were freezing. After my warm-up run I got into my car and drove downtown. I stopped by a 7-11 and got myself a donut and two redbulls. I actuallly finished the donut and the rebulls before I drove to the parking lot wich was about two stop lights away. By this time it was already 6:10 and I can see a large crowd at the starting line. I parked my car and headed out.
When I got to the starting line there were people stretching and warming up on one side and on the other there was a huge amount people waiting in line to use the restroom. I stretched a bit and did some sprints to warm up as the morning was cold. It was finally time to start. The announcer was talking about something, I wasn’t really paying attention, and I was just waiting for the race to start. Then finally, the announcer counted down and the race started. I was about 10 feet from the starting line as the runner’s up front are the pro runners which usually finish the race at a ridiculous time.
I started off nice and steady with a pace of 7:30 per mile which is about 5 seconds faster than last years average mile pace. I hit my pace near perfect as my first two miles times were 7:28 and 7:29. I continued on with my pace and I was on track. If I can finish with this pace I can definately beat last year’s time. I don’t usuallly drink any of the water at any of the stations until I start feeling a bit thirsty or dry. It wasn’t until about mile # 4 that I grabbed some water and a packet of energy gel. I sipped the water and threw the cup away. I was unaware how the cold was affecting my hands. I couldn’t pinch my energy gel and tear it open. My fingers were numb and curled up holding the energy gel. I had to hold the gel with the bottom of my palms and used my teeth to rip it open. I was successful, but I also squeezed half the gel onto my neck and shirt. The rest I was able to consume.
Things were fine and dandy. I was sipping water about every other water station till I got a major cramp in my left calf muscle at the begining of mile # 8. I was in pain and had to run on my left heel (keeping my toes pointing up) to keep the cramp from happening again. My mile time suffered and dropped to about a 10 minute pace. It took about a mile for my cramp to completely go away where I can resume my normal pace. Since I was so far behind in pace I couldn’t just pick it back up where I left off. I had to slowly gain my pace back. Around mile # 10 the motherload of cramps hit me like a Mack truck. My left and right calf along with my left hamstring and even my lower back cramped up all at the same time. I stuttered my step and was stumbling a bit. I slowed down to a jog of about a 12 minute pace. I was in pain and running slower was the only thing that lessened it. At one point I wanted to stop and just walk, but I promised my left I would never walk in any race.
I finished the race with the pain and cramps. When I crossed the finish line I fell to my knees. Both my legs were cramping so bad. Someone gave me a bottle of water and a cup of fruit smoothie (It was the best smoothie I’ve ever had). I was on my knees for a couple of minutes, but I finally managed to pull my self up and head towards the massage tables where I got a 20 minute massage (It was the best massage I’ve ever had). After the massage I headed over to the first aid station and got a bag of ice for my leg and sat on the cots and watched the other runners finish.
I’ve never experienced that kind of muscle cramping before. I probably didn’t drink enough fluids the days before. I hope this story doesn’t discourage anyone from running and everyone should definately give a half marathon a try. I’ll be doing it again next year hopefully sans the cramping.