Wow, you guys. I don’t even know where to start.

I honestly cannot believe that this half-marathon is now in the past. I RAN A HALF-MARATHON! Aaah! If it weren’t for the fact I’m still walking like an old grannie, I wouldn’t believe it myself.

I have a lot to share about the race day – probably more details than anyone else really cares about but these running updates have been like a journal to me detailing my journey that started all those months ago so it seems natural to end with this recap of the race.

We drove from Idaho to Utah Friday night (race was Saturday) and rolled into Provo just in time to pick up race packets and then head to Noodles & Company for a later dinner. I went for a pasta dish without any dairy or meat since I had heard that might be best. Despite my best efforts to get in bed early, it was after 11:00 p.m. by the time my head finally hit the pillow.

I was a little in denial when I had to set my alarm in the 3’s for the next morning. Painful. Very, very painful.

Screenshot of a phone showing a 3:30 am alarm.

My sister flew into town from Wyoming for the race and we met up with my cousin Alex at the shuttle station that early, early morning and rode the bus to the starting line up beautiful Provo canyon. Of course, we couldn’t see any of the beauty because of the ridiculous hour. It’s still very, very dark at 4:07 a.m. FYI.

Two women sitting on a bus together.

It was chilly up there, which we knew, so we spent our time hanging out by the smoky, not-very-warm fires, taking advantage of no lines at the porta potties…

Two women standing in front of a row of porta potties.

…and running (ha, no pun intended) into random people. Good family friends from Montana were there running/walking the race and amid the 1000+ runners, we found them. So fun!

Three ladies standing together at early dusk outside.

And another sweet cousin of mine was there with one of her good friends. Instead of sitting on the comfy asphalt road resting, we ended up laughing and talking for a good part of the hour and a half wait.

A group of woman at early dusk waiting to start a race.

I had been very, very nervous leading up to the race (as you know, I talked a lot about that here). But surprisingly the morning of, I was pretty calm. Having friends/family to talk to while waiting helped. My stomach was a little rumbly and worried and I was certainly anxious but the distractions helped and it was nothing like I thought it would be.

Many of you gave me advice about what (and what not) to eat the morning of and I decided on a banana (mostly so I could take ibuprofen without tummy upset). I ate the banana around 4:30 and took a couple ibuprofen around 5:00 a.m. And went to the bathroom at least six times. I’m not even kidding. I was glad for that when the lines at the bathrooms were insanely long at mile two already.

A group of people in a mountain setting waiting to run a race.

As it lightened up, the energy in the crowd of runners increased. We inched a little closer to the starting line and the last ten minutes seemed like an eternity. I just wanted to start! Look how happy we are. Wish I would have felt like this at mile 11.

Three women standing together ready to run a race.

And then! We were off running! The three of us had made a pact that we wouldn’t care if anyone felt like they needed to run faster and leave the others; no one wanted to be “that girl” that slowed down everyone else. We knew we’d love each other at the end regardless. Our goal was to start out moderately so we wouldn’t tank a few miles down the road. That proved a little more difficult because the first few miles of the course have downhill slopes that make you feel like you want to put the wings on and fly.

I don’t have pictures of any of the running. I’m not sure I would have had the energy to run and take pictures. I was pretty tired. The first few miles, even having downhill spots, were harder than I had thought they would be. I’m not sure if it was the increase in elevation (I live at about 2,500 feet and the race started at over 6,000 feet) or the fact I hadn’t run more than a couple times the week leading up to the race or just nerves. I don’t know. But I was a little worried at mile three because my legs were aching and tingly and every step felt like I was forcing it…and I knew I still had a long way to go.

I grabbed water at most of the aid stations until mile six. My sis and I had to stop and take a potty break there and I took some powerade. Which was a mistake. It made my mouth feel sticky and nasty until the next aid station two miles down the road – so I stuck with water after that. Just a few sips at each aid station.

By about mile six or seven, I felt like I had found my stride. The three of us were still running together and my legs had either gone numb (kind of teasing) or didn’t feel as achy as before (probably the ibuprofen as well as just getting a few miles under my belt). Around mile six, I put in one earbud and turned on my music – before that, I wasn’t listening to anything. The canyon (I wish I had a picture!) is so astonishingly pretty that I knew I’d enjoy running in the scenic mountains – and chatting here and there with Alex and Em when I could spare an extra breath – and I did enjoy it very much. The air was crisp and fresh and since I could spend the rest of my life people-watching, I got a kick out of observing all the other runners around us, the ones running at our pace and of course the ones blazing by us. Lesson learned: people watching makes running more bearable.

My cousin Alex shared one of her Gu pouches with me around mile eight and I took a few little sips and nibbles out of it but I could only choke down about a quarter of it before feeling like I was going to puke so it went into the next trash box I saw.

I can’t remember what mile brought us out of the shady, cool canyon (maybe eight or so?) but once we started on city streets, even though it was still early in the morning, the sun felt brutally warm. And of course all the downhill action stopped.

Remember how I expressed concern several times that I was afraid I’d never be able to run farther than ten miles since that’s the longest training run I did? And then you all chimed in and said “don’t worry, you’ll be fine” and I still worried that you were all wrong and I was right? Well, guess what. You were right.

Shocker, I know. I hit mile ten and amazingly, felt like I could keep running. In fact, I don’t know that I even consciously thought “here we go, this is gonna be rough.” I mean, I was definitely tired. All conversation between my sis and cousin had stopped at this point and I was half-listening to my one earbud of music. Probably right around 10 1/2 miles, I looked at Alex and said, “I’m going in the zone.” I had hit a mini-wall and knew that I needed a little motivation to keep me going. For me, it was music and the new songs I had added to my playlist the night before. I popped in the other earbud, cranked up the volume and went somewhere deep inside myself in order to finish.

Right about this time, I could see the blue finish line up ahead. Really, really far up ahead. At first it gave me energy and a desire to push it a little but that faded when it seemed like that tricky banner wasn’t getting any closer. By far, mile 11 was the most brutal part of the race for me. It seemed to last forever. Where was the blasted sign to say we had reached mile 12?? I was dying and honestly, if Emily and Alex hadn’t been hanging in there with me, I’m not sure if I would have made it through that mile.

Once we got into mile 12 territory, I think adrenaline and pure motivation to was the impetus that got my feet to keep going. Oh, and the occasional misters set up along the race course didn’t hurt either. I was like a 6-year old kid running through those things – they were awesome.

In the end, Em, Alex and I stayed between 9:35 and 10:30 minute miles throughout the entire race, leaning more toward the 9:55 pace for the majority of the time. It was much faster than I had anticipated running – the downhills certainly helped that – but it didn’t feel awful and terrible. It felt as natural as running 13.1 miles could feel. I didn’t really calculate finish time while running but as we ran up to the finish line and I saw the electronic timer, I couldn’t believe that we were finishing at 2:15! I had hoped for 2:30 and had no idea we’d be 15 minutes faster. I still insist I didn’t care about time, and truly I didn’t – I just wanted to finish, but there was a huge sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment seeing those numbers.

A woman who just finished a half marathon.

As I approached the finish line and headed into the narrow chute to cross, it was almost an out of body experience. My legs were sprinting faster than they ever have and I think I was laughing and kind of crying and trying desperately to find Brian in the crowd because I wanted to cross that line and jump in his arms (he’s been my very biggest supporter this whole time). My sweet mom was there watching the three littles and it was the perfect ending to cross that line and have them waiting there. The song that was blasting when I crossed? Fight by Rachel Platten. It was a new-to-me song and it couldn’t have come on at a better time. As cheesy as it sounds, those words seriously made me want to fight to the finish:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Now I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

I really couldn’t have finished this without these two girls by my side. Being quite the loner while running all these months (except for one or two long runs with friends), there was a different kind of energy and motivation running with these two during the race. I needed them!

Three woman with race medals around their neck.

As a sidenote: these three champs below ran the 10K and did awesome! In fact, Walker (9-year old), about halfway through, turned to Brian and asked if he could run faster and he ended up finishing almost 10 minutes ahead of the others. I was so proud of each of them!

A Dad standing next to his two sons in front of a group of runners.

After the race, the ultimate highlight was meeting so many of you. I can’t even being to describe what it means to me that so many of you stopped to say hello and give hugs (I was so gross – thank you for not caring or at least pretending not to care!). Those couple hours made my life. You made me laugh and cry and feel like I never, ever want to quit blogging. Thank you so, so much.

Group of people talking in an outdoor setting,

Here are just a handful of the awesome Mel’s Kitchen readers I met after the race!

Collage of pictures of people with medals around their necks that just finished a race.

I was able to reconnect with some old friends from high school and places we’ve lived over the last decade (and was surprised by one of my dearest friends who lives in Italy and showed up unannounced, causing me to shriek in surprise and then totally start to cry). It was priceless. I’m sorry to anyone who I was not able to meet or say hello to. If you waited and weren’t able to jump in, I’m so sorry! I appreciate all of you who made the effort to come and say hello. Seriously. I was grinning like a goober all day because of it.

Two ladies talking to each other under an outdoor tent.

During all the chatting, my brother-in-law managed to grab the winner of the full marathon, David Tuwei, and he was nice enough to snap a picture with us even though it was a slightly awkward experience (I think the poor guy had way better things to do with his time than meet a lady who likes to eat chocolate chip cookies). He clocked in a finished marathon time of 2:30. {Pause for dramatic silence} Which basically means he ran a full marathon in the time it took me to run a half. That’s so remarkable that I can’t even make a lame joke about him not being able to keep up with me. Amazing. Totally amazing.

A woman with a race medal standing next to the winner of the race.

I was on a total high from the experience (both running and meeting all of you) until about 3:00 that afternoon when I wanted to crash. I finagled a 30-minute nap but I don’t know if I’ve ever been that tired. No, not tired. Exhausted. Like, been-hit-by-a-bus exhausted. Now, a couple days later, I’m still walking with stiff legs and if I sit too long, it’s an interesting experience standing up without looking like a goofball, but I definitely think the ibuprofen at the starting line helped my hamstring issue that has been plaguing me for several months. Other than general soreness, I haven’t had any problem areas that are alarmingly painful. I am so grateful for that.

I feel like I’m forgetting so many things but I guess that’s the gist of it right now.

Oh, food. After the race, I had a mini Jamba juice from one of the stands at the finish line and was starving by the time we headed out about 2 1/2 hours later. I think I waited a little too long to eat or drink (I know, I know, feel free to lecture) because my stomach felt pretty queasy the rest of the day. I was just grateful it hadn’t felt like that at all during the race (except for that mandarin orange Gu disaster). Of course, it didn’t stop me from eating everything in sight the rest of the day. Based on your recommendations, we had decided to hit up 180 Tacos for lunch but it was closed. Bummer! So we grabbed a tri-tip sandwich at Cubby’s instead and oh my goodness, it was fantastic (of course mine was slathered with bacon and bleu cheese which didn’t hurt). The sweet potato fries there are magnificent, too.

That night we ate at Pizzeria 712 and it was also very, very good – followed up by some ice cream at Rita’s. There was lots of snacking and goodies mixed in all day which basically means it didn’t take me long to make up the calorie deficit of running that far. I wish I had another week to eat all the things in the Provo area (particularly some yummy Indian food and the Black Sheep Cafe which didn’t happen). But I also really want to sleep in my own bed so I’ll be content until next time.

Oh, you guy. I can’t believe this particular journey is at an end. I cannot even describe my gratefulness to all of you who took the time to check in on my running updates, who submitted inspirational running stories of your own, who supported me and gave me advice and made me feel like I could do this. I’m getting misty-eyed typing this out, I’m not even kidding, because I know, 100% for sure, I wouldn’t have stuck with it had it not been for you. Thank you. Thank you for boosting my confidence and motivating me to believe I could actually do this. I know it’s a short distance to many in the running world but to me it was everything. I never, ever, ever thought I would run a half-marathon. And I did. And I was actually  smiling at the end (and then crying, so there is that).

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’ll miss our weekly chats about running. I’ll miss them so, so much! For each of you who started exercising or walking or running, you keep going! Don’t stop. And know that I’ll be your biggest champion and supporter so email me in those low moments and keep sharing with me your accomplishments. I have loved every single minute.

Now. I’m going to peel myself off this chair and hobble to the kitchen for a handful of chocolate chips. Later skaters.