Half Marathon #6 Race Recap: The One with 1,000 Hills & No Toilet Paper


Every so often you have a magical race where the stars align and everything goes exactly as you imagined. The weather is perfect, you're feeling good, and you wave in amazement as you fly past your time goal on glitter-covered angel wings.

Then there are the races where it's all you can do to not throw up all over the finish line.

Unfortunately for me, half marathon number six was the latter. I've alternatively named this race The One with 1,000 Hills and The One with No Toilet Paper. Both factors combined to make this race a battle like no other.

A few weeks ago I read an article about setting race goals. The author recommended having three: good, great, and awesome.

Good is your minimum goal. If nothing else, you can still have a good race if this happens. This type of goal could be finishing, not stopping to walk, or, in my case, having fun.

Your great goal is your second best. It's what you would be happy with if you started running and realized it just wasn't going to be your day. Mine was to finish under 2 hours.

The awesome goal is best-case scenario. This is what will happen if everything goes right. My awesome goal was a finish time of 1:55 or better.

I knew my awesome goal wasn't in me as soon as I had to make a port-a-potty stop at mile two. TWO. Oye.

The short story long is that earlier this week I received an unscheduled visit from my red dot friend. And I don't mean coupons in the mail from Target. So add that to race jitters, and I was already in trouble bathroom wise. I HAVE ISSUES! Someone tell me I'm not alone.

I went to the bathroom before I left the apartment but didn't go the bathroom in the port-a-potty once I got to the race because there wasn't any toilet paper. My nerves had abated, and I figured I would be okay. Almost as soon as I started running I knew I was not okay.

So I stopped at the first bathroom I spotted, which, ironically, had no toilet paper. Curse everything. I tried to be quick, but I probably wasted a full minute in there, after which I sprinted the rest of mile 2 because I was mad to be off pace so soon. That was when I promised myself I would always carry an emergency TP stash to races.

I feel like every time I talk about running I also tell a horrible bathroom story.

I arrived at mile 3 nursing a pretty serious side cramp from the furious sprinting. That's when I threw Awesome Goal out the window and set my sights on Great Goal while muttering, "You will have fun" to myself. When you have to tell yourself to have fun, you know you're having a good time.

It took at least half a mile to get rid of the side cramp. I just kept breathing really deep and trying to run as upright as I could. I read once that deep breaths help cramps, and it definitely works for me. 

Miles 4-10 were pretty good, and I actually did a decent job making up some time I'd lost. My pace was in the 8:30-8:40 range for the middle part of the race. I got into a groove while rocking out to my sweet tunes, and I actually was enjoying myself quite a bit. Good Goal success.

The hills.

When I say hills, I'm not talking about a straight road that sort of inclines. I'm talking a direct route to the sky. Just picture a vertical line. Then picture three of those, all in a row, taking up the greater portion of miles 11 and 12.

It. Was. Brutal.

I actually did stop to walk twice for maybe 5-10 seconds each. It was just so hard, and I was feeling super nauseous. I actually dry heaved a couple of times, which was really fun. Once was right in front of a photographer, so I can't wait to see that glorious picture.

There was no sprint to the finish because I was just trying to keep it together, and all I could think about was how embarrassing it would be to barf all over the finish line. I mean seriously. Has that ever happened at a race before? What would they do? Throw down a towel, I guess.

In any case, I didn't throw up, although as I hung over the fence after I finished I kept having flashbacks to watching The Biggest Loser contestants barfing in buckets after a hard workout. I don't know what the deal was. I've never felt like that after a race before. I think I just pushed really hard, and the hills were a killer.

My finish time according to the official results was 1:57:26, although that was gun time, not chip time, so my actual time is probably 20 seconds less. In any case, obviously I did not hit Awesome Goal, but I did hit Great Goal, which I am super proud of all things considered. And anyway, it's not realistic to expect to PR every single race. I'll just have to try again!

Besides the dry heaving and the lack of toilet paper and the suicide hills, there were some good things.

1. The weather was awesome! It was chilly at the start (35 degrees), but it wasn't a terrible kind of bone-chilling cold, and it felt great once I got started.

2. I wore the perfect outfit! This being my first really chilly run of the fall season, I had a hard time deciding what to wear. I finally ended up with a pair of leggings and my oiselle arm sleeves, which I LOVE. It sucks to wear the wrong thing for a race.

So there you have it! Half marathon number six is in the books. The Lady Okie over and out.

Distance: 13.1
Time: 1:57
Pace: 8:56 min/mile
Age group placement: 9/42
Female placement: 28/221
Overall placement: 80/344
Personal half marathon rank: 2nd fastest out of 6 run
Jen [wonderfully unkempt] said...

I'm sorry the race was so challenging! But your recap of it was hilarious! And how can all the porta potties be out of TP?? Outrageous!

Allison said...

Wow! Congrats on hitting Great Goal in the face of all of those obstacles! Way to go! Lack of toilet paper is honestly one of my stranger phobias. Also, thanks for sharing the good, great, awesome idea. That sounds like the perfect life strategy for someone (ahem, me) prone to setting unrealistic goals for herself. I love it!

Anglican Mama said...

Oh my goodness, hahahaha. You're an excellent writer. Direct route to the sky made me laugh out loud! I don't pity that race at all, even though you concluded it with the best attitude. I seriously wouldn't have known what to do with no TP. So you're a super hero in my book! :) A super hero who emerges victorious from porta-potties instead of phone booths. :)

Congrats on half-marathon #6!

Megan said...

I can't believe you still hit your GREAT goal with all these things working against you. That's GREAT! ;) Also, 9th in your age group? Holla for that! Awesome job, lady.

Stacia, Paper Swallow Events said...

I am sorry that it was such a rough day, but I love the way you recapped it. Also, I appreciated how you ended your post on an upbeat. Too often people tell stories about a bad day and leave it at that. I liked that you did find a couple of positive things to leave us with, which made me feel less bad for enjoying the humor contained within your post. :)

Curious Runner said...

Hilarious recap! Not so much for you though maybe... Hehe. Great time though, well done. I think that is awesome! Enjoy some nice rest days :)

Anonymous said...

A. In response to your question, you're not alone.
B. How in the heck does a porta-pottie run out of TP? I'm slowly designing a porta-pottie just for runners in races. Hahaha
C. You came sooo close to PRing even with the potty break and the hills. You rock! Congrats on meeting your great and good goals!


Lauren @ Love is the Point said...

FIrst of all, this: "...you wave in amazement as you fly past your time goal on glitter-covered angel wings." = hilarity. Bahahaha. Secondly, I am simply amazed by all people who can say things like "Miles 4-10 were pretty good, and I actually did a decent job making up some time I'd lost." No wait. Scratch that. I am just amazed at people who can say "Miles 4-10 were..." anything. They just amaze me. You're awesome. Yes, yes you are. And it sounds like your time was way awesome too, given these circumstances! To quote my own mother, "You go girl!"

I can't believe I just said that. But I totally meant it.

Sarah said...

Amazing work hitting your GREAT goal despite all those challenges. Such an accomplishment!!

Raige Creations said...

Hills suck! Why are they always at the END of a race?!?!?!?!
Congrats on a great race!
Good tip, bring TP. Got it.
I always bring tissues because after I run my nose is a waterfall, and tissues are never ever provided.

Betty said...

Well you deserve a big CONGRATS after finishing that race!! Lack of toilet paper is the worst (as is dry heaving and terrible hills). Way to go friend!

ramseygirl said...

I was just sitting here getting ready to run when your post arrived in my inbox. Wow...I laughed OUT LOUD. Your blog posts inspire me each day to go run despite my fibromyalgia. I am no where near race ready...but getting there 1 day at a time.Thanks for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly....it helps us newbies know that even the pros have their days! And PS...you are not alone in your issues with your non-Target friend. :)

Unknown said...

Holy moly! That's an amazing time (even if you don't deem it awesome)! Congrats!

Dude, that porta-potty situation is terrible. So unacceptable to not have TP.

Hahaha! "Direct route to the sky" I've been on hills like that. They are MISERABLE!

Despite the circumstances, congrats on a great race!

Unknown said...

Stats alone it looks like you had a great race! It seems like you overcame all the challenges in the end! Those side cramps are the worst though- I spent miles 13-26 at my first marathon with those, it was awful! (and I did puke!)

Unknown said...

Girl you did so good running that race! Good job. Do you by any chance eat gu and drink gatorade? I used to do that ant my stomach got the big 'd' every time. I have since learned to only eat 1 or the other and it saved my stomach.

Curly Pink Runner said...

GREAT work!! I'm a pansy, which means I won't run when I'm enduring my "you are a woman" reminder every month.
Loved reading your recap!

Unknown said...

you are incredible!! looks at those stat. You're such an inspiration

Niken said...

hey, you did it! despite all those obstacles.

Anonymous said...

Great job, Amanda! I'm impressed you still broke 2 hours in spite of everything you had to deal with. The day will come when you WILL reach your self-identified "awesome" time goal. In the meantime, WE all think you're awesome.

Kate said...

I have a fear that this, right here, will be the recap of my first half marathon. If my little red dot shows up that morning (like it probably is going to)? I'm doomed. DOOMED.

But you finished! And even though you didn't PR, you still had a GREAT time! I can only dream of keeping mine under 2 hours. :P

Sarah said...

Go you!! You did great, all things considering!! I love the ideas of those goals! And I think I need those arm sleeves for a race coming up!

Amber Marie said...

GO OKIE! :) You should be super proud of yourself for doing so well...doing GREAT...with all the challenges of that particular race. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

Tammy Jo said...

WOW!!!!! Sounds like a tough run but you did great with your time :)

Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You did amazing!!!! I hope you are very, very proud of yourself - because you should be. :)


Holly said...

Ok, sorry, I was laughing through the majority of this post. Because I can totally see that ALL happening to me!

But really, CONGRATS!! That's still an awesome race to me :)

Becky said...

I'm glad you could still achieve your GREAT goal! that is awesome :) Under 2 hours is my awesome goal for mine in a few weeks. Ugh I hate the red dot friend - I hate during my last half and while my cramps seem to go away when I'm running, it's just something else to worry about. Where's your headband from?!

Kerry @ Till Then Smile Often said...

With the bathroom break and the killer hills and you were still under 2 hours??? Girl you rocked it. Wish it was a little less challenging for you, but those always lead to the greatest sense of accomplishment!! Awesome job!

Breenah A said...

That's pretty awesome that your time was so good WITH the hills and potty issues. Also, who doesn't restock the TP in a portapotty???

Caroline @ In Due Time said...

Awesome, congrats!

Shaylynn... a girl, a story, a blog said...

Rock and Star per the usaul.

I HATE PERIODS. Almost as much as I hate people who have periods that require no fear of a scene. So I sympathize.

I once started on a mountain range, in a nation park, 5,500 hundred feet above my car. That was neat.

Jena Roach said...

Wahoo! You go girl! Two minutes off your goal is awesome. :)

I can't wait to start training again.

Michelle said...

You are so funny. Why in the heck was there no toilet paper? It sounds like you tried really hard to keep a positive attitude despite everything, which deserves a foot massage in itself seeing as it was Shark Week. Next time will be better!

Anonymous said...

Love it!! Laughed out loud! Great time despite the "technical" issues. :) You should put some hill workouts in your last few weeks before Route 66 - it will be a hilly course!

Jordan said...

This is amazing! I like the idea of having good, great, awesome goals. I've always set a minimum and a maximum goal when I try to do "longer" runs and it helps so much. Way to finishing within 2 minutes of that goal even with the bathroom conundrum/hills. That's a victory in my inexperienced runner's world!

Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife said...

I have major bathroom issues so I would just be proud I actually went into a porta potty let alone finish a race!

17 Perth said...

Wow! Congrats!! You did awesome!! (And as a runner on the GA coast--read i.e. no hills!--I am so impressed!)

Unknown said...

I have to say, I feel as if you mentioned the dry heaving just to sound hard core like me after I barfed when running. But, Reese, you're running a HALF MARATHON. That's hard core enough, sister. No competition.

J/K obviously. Awesome job keeping it together. If it was that painful running, I'm not sure I would finish. I really have a low threshold for pain/exercise.